January 18, 2001
President-elect George W. Bush
Dear Mr. President-elect:
Congratulations on your election. Human Rights Watch looks forward to working with you and your administration in promoting the enjoyment of human rights in the United States and around the world. While we recognize that, on some issues, our points of view may differ, we believe there are many areas where we agree and can make good progress together.
Human Rights Watch is the largest U.S.- based organization monitoring human rights throughout the world. It is known for its impartial and reliable reporting on more than 70 countries. We hope that you will find our reporting, as well as our unique perspective on human rights related issues, helpful when confronted with the difficult domestic and international affairs decisions that you will surely face in the years ahead.
You have defined the overriding goals of U.S. foreign policy in the coming years as the pursuit of the national interest and the promotion of the highest of America's ideals. We believe that support for human rights in the world is firmly in the U.S. national interest and directly reflects the nation's highest ideals. The superpower standing of the United States also assigns it unique opportunities and responsibilities to uphold human rights.
Governments that resort to abuses to maintain their rule make unreliable partners. U.S. policies that promote universally recognized human rights, good governance, and the rule of law are consistent with U.S. interests because they can help foster truly stable societies that, in the long run, offer greater opportunities for peace, security, economic growth, and development. They also help create the level playing field in terms of respect for basic labor rights on which Americans are more likely to support enhanced global trade.
To this end, the United States government should, on the one hand, seek sustainable long-term improvements through assistance programs which promote human rights, the rule of law, free and vigorous civil societies, democratic development and gender equality, and, on the other hand, use active diplomacy--including frank exchanges with the governments concerned, and unilateral and multilateral public criticism--to address human rights violations. When diplomatic pressure fails to curb egregious abuses, the United States andother nations should be ready to employ limited and targeted sanctions to express their condemnation of violations, press for a change in abusive government policies, and avoid complicity in abuses. Prompt response to signs of abuse can serve the interests of the United States and the international community by promoting an environment of respect for human rights, and by helping to prevent a worsening of repression and resulting disorder which can create destabilizing refugee flows or the need for outside intervention.
The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, the rule of law, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. For decades, however, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. Their ability to mount these challenges is one of America's strengths. We hope your administration will also address these concerns--both because the government owes it to the American people, especially the most vulnerable, to eradicate any official practices that violate human rights, and because the United States cannot effectively champion human rights abroad if it ignores them at home.
With these remarks in mind, we present you with a proposed human rights agenda highlighting short- and long-term priorities for your administration. We look forward to meeting with senior members of your team to discuss this agenda. Also enclosed is our most recent World Report analyzing human rights trends and developments worldwide over the past year.
Thank you for your consideration.