US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton believes it’s important for governments to respond to criticism and not repress it.
Speaking in DCU last Wednesday during her two day visit to Ireland, Secretary Clinton addressed the front lines of human rights in an address titled ‘Front Lines and Frontiers: Making Human Rights a Human Reality.
She said human rights issues don’t always occupy the headlines, but they do lie behind them and human rights can’t be disconnected from other priorities.
Addressing the importance of internet freedom, Secretary Clinton said free and open debate will lead to reform and stability if governments are willing to accept it. She said by cracking down on critics online, governments would only face more criticism. She said there is a need to protect human rights online; “Freedom is freedom, online or off.”
On the issue of religious freedom and the rights of religious minorities, Secretary Clinton said people around the world should be able to think what they want and say what they want without governments stopping them. She believes there is a need to reach out to better understand religious groups to avoid violence.
Secretary Clinton said respecting the human rights of women and girls is the “unfinished business of the 21st century”. She believes if women were treated the same as men in certain countries, it would lead to economic growth and “the world would be more prosperous and able”. She said there is a need to improve health programmes to help women and girls around the world that are dying unnecessarily.
She said we have a responsibility to implement our own commitments to human rights and help others do the same.
Addressing the young people in the audience, which included DCU students from all faculties, Secretary Clinton said they had what they needed to fight for human rights; “your voice; your vote; your intellect and education; your compassion and conscience”.
She said the fight for human rights was their fight and that it would continue to be theirs.
Secretary Clinton said she understood the painful sacrifice Irish families are currently having to make in the economic crisis, however she pointed out that we are a resilient nation and said it is important that we stand up for our values.
Two DCU students presented Secretary Clinton with the inaugural Concern Fr. Aengus Finucane Award for her services to humanity during her term as US Secretary of State following her speech.
Clinton told the audience in The Helix this would be her last official visit to Ireland as US Secretary of State.
A number of government ministers, including Minister for Education, Ruairi Quinn, attended the speech, as well as other distinguished guests, members of DCU staff and DCU students.
Image Credit: Adam Higgins