U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday officially launched an advisory panel to re-evaluate the role of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.
Pompeo said, “Every once in a while we need to step back and reflect seriously on where we are, where we’ve been and whether we’re headed in the right direction.”
Speaking at the briefing, the U.S. Secretary of State said he is happy to announce the formation of a Commission on Unalienable Rights. He recalled his address at the Claremont Institute in May that called for “A foreign policy from the founding.”
“I made clear that the Trump administration has embarked on a foreign policy that takes seriously the founders’ ideas of individual liberty and constitutional government,” said Pompeo.
He continued, “Those principles have long played a prominent role in our country’s foreign policy and rightly so.” But as that great admirer of American experiment Alex (Alexis) de Tocqueville noted, “Democracies have a tendency to lose sight of the big picture in the hurly-burly of everyday affairs.”
The U.S. secretary of state spoke how in our modern society, “the language of human rights has become the common vernacular for discussions of human freedom and dignity all around the world.”
Although these “are truly great achievements,” Pompeo said “We should never lose sight of the warnings of Vaclav Havel, a hero of the late 20th century human rights movement that words like rights can be used for good or evil.”
“They can be rays of light in a realm of darkness but they can also be lethal arrows,” said Pompeo who continued, “An American commitment to uphold human rights played a major role in transforming the moral landscape of international relations after World War II something all Americans can rightly be proud of.”
He said, “The leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the 1948 Universal Declaration on Human Rights ended forever the notion that nations could abuse their citizens, without attracting notice or repercussions.”
During the briefing, Pompeo said organizations that set up to defend human rights have drifted from their mission. He warned, “We must therefore be vigilant that human rights discourse not be corrupted or hijacked, or used for dubious or malignant purposes.”
Pompeo said it is sad that “more than 70 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, gross violations continue throughout the world sometimes even in the name of human rights.”
The U.S. secretary of state named Harvard Law professor Mary Ann Glendon, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, to lead the 10-member Commission on Unalienable Rights.
Glendon thanked Pompeo for “giving a priority to human rights at this moment when basic human rights are being misunderstood by many, manipulated by many and ignored by the world’s worst human rights violators.”
In addition, she said the mission of the commission is “a challenging one.” “You’ve asked us to work at the level of principle, not policy, and you’ve asked us to take our bearings from the distinctive rights tradition of the United States of America, said Glendon, as she continued, “A tradition that is grounded in the institutions without which rights would not be possible: Constitutional government and the rule of law.”
Pompeo said the 10 members of the commission come from diverse backgrounds and comprised “human rights experts, philosophers, and activists.”
The U.S. secretary of state said, “Republicans, Democrats, and Independents of varied backgrounds and beliefs” would be providing him me with “advice on human rights grounded in our nation’s founding principles and the principles of 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
It is anticipated that the work of the newly launched commission will be closely watched.