Ambassador’s Remarks for Human Rights Week, December 6, 2023
President Osmani, Prime Minister Kurti, Executive Director Marigona Shabiu, distinguished guests.
I’m honored to participate in the 10th edition of this Human Rights Week conference here in Kosovo.
And I’m proud that the U.S. Embassy has supported the Youth Initiative for Human Rights for the past five years.
This week gives us an opportunity to remember and reaffirm our commitment to human rights.
Human rights are at the center of President Biden’s domestic and foreign policy agenda.
This includes expanding protections against discrimination, stigma, and violence; promoting economic and social inclusion; and advancing gender and racial equity and equality.
On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, affirming that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
This year, we mark the 75th anniversary of this declaration and its proclamation that human rights must be universally protected.
All persons have these rights and should be free to exercise them, without discrimination, no matter what they believe, whom they love, or where they live.
All means all – because human rights are universal. They aren’t defined by any one country, philosophy, or region. They apply to everyone, everywhere.
The United States, like Kosovo, has enshrined human rights in law and in our constitution. Both our countries have made a commitment to protect all citizens’ rights without regard to ethnicity, religion, race, or gender.
Kosovo’s Constitution sets the bar high for what every leader – every citizen must strive for.
It says, “human rights and fundamental freedoms are indivisible, inalienable and inviolable and are the basis of the legal order of the Republic of Kosovo […] Human dignity is inviolable and is the basis of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The United States remains Kosovo’s steadfast partner in its democratic journey.
But ultimately, the people of Kosovo must ensure that all Kosovans are recognized and treated as equal members of society.
We hope we can share lessons learned from our own struggles over the past 246 years – our failures, our successes, and our ongoing, necessary work to ensure legal protections for all individuals.
However, there is still much work to be done. Now more than ever, we need to work together and continue to advocate for human rights of LGBTQI+ people, people with disabilities, members of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities; women and girls; and all marginalized populations and people in vulnerable situations.
The United States will continue to support rule of law reforms as a key tool and mechanism to advance human rights in Kosovo because rule of law is fundamental to protecting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
We have a shared interest in striving for a world where all people, of all nations, enjoy human rights, peace and security. History has shown us the dire results when these values are violated.
I also want to note that today marks the successful conclusion of our five-year INL program supporting the Youth for Human Rights Initiative, Youth for Justice Program.
Youth for Justice has engaged tens of thousands of Kosovans on the importance of human rights, improved access to justice, and helped citizens hold government institutions accountable.
We’re proud of your work and commend your achievements.
Thank you for your contribution to Kosovo and thank you for inviting me to speak today.