Human Rights Day on December 10 provides an opportunity to consider 2023, a year with many positive and negative milestones. For instance, this year marks the 75th anniversary of landmark documents establishing the international human rights legal order. But 2023 also witnessed mass atrocities, political and religious repression, inter and intra-state conflict, and other evils. With the stark reality of ongoing human rights abuses, we should not walk away in hopeless antipathy but rather recommit to defending fundamental freedoms for all, drawing strength and inspiration from the work of preceding generations.
The historic city of Prague recently hosted diplomats, civil society activists and religious leaders from 60 countries around the shared goal of global religious freedom. Convened by the Czech government, it was the fifth gathering since the United States launched the ministerial process in 2018. As persecution continues worldwide, victimizing individuals from all faiths and none, the timing was right to gather those committed to promoting freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief for all.
The ever-growing list of conflict zones in which sexual violence has been reported globally this year, including in Israel, Ethiopia, Sudan, Ukraine, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti, underscores the persistent horror of this scourge. Acts of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) violate not only the physical and mental integrity of the victims but also breach international humanitarian law and human rights principles.
During and after the Vietnam War, up to 500,000 “children of war” were born to foreign soldiers and local women in Vietnam. Amerasians — children of war fathered by U.S. soldiers — and adoptees raised abroad are now reclaiming their narratives and healing journeys.
In just 28 months, the Taliban have dismantled Afghan women’s and girls’ rights — imposing draconian restrictions regarding their education, employment and freedom of movement. Any perceived violation of these oppressive policies is often met with harassment, intimidation, and verbal and physical abuse orchestrated by the Taliban’s Ministry of Vice and Virtue. And when women are detained by authorities, they have been subjected to cruel treatment, including torture.
Since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in fall 2022, there has been a tremendous amount of global attention on the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence (AI). With so many unknowns about the capacity of private companies and governments to harness this technology for peace and security, it is difficult for the public and private sectors to identify a clear and straightforward path on addressing AI’s challenges. In this evolving environment, peacebuilding organizations can and should play a critical role in engaging with companies, multilateral institutions and governments on AI development and application to advise and shape its uses to advance peace and mitigate societal harm that could contribute to conflicts.
Guatemala’s fragile democracy faces its greatest test since the end of the conflicts in the late 20th century. Ongoing efforts to impede or derail the transfer of power to the newly elected president of Guatemala put at risk the country’s security, social and economic development, and international relationships. This will encourage large numbers of Guatemalans to continue to flee their country.
Last week, I had the privilege of meeting 12 female legal professionals from across Ukraine who were visiting Washington. They ranged from a prosecutor with the anti-corruption bureau to a supreme court judge, all eager to rebuild their country, making it stronger than before the war. One participant asked rhetorically: “What is peace? Is it the absence of war? Or is it something more — the prospect for justice? The ability to pursue prosperity?” I’ve been thinking about those words — and their implications for how the world should respond now to the Russian assault on Ukraine as it enters its second, hard winter.
On November 17, Maldives inaugurated its new president, Mohamed Muizzu. Muizzu’s election followed a narrow presidential race between him and incumbent president, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. USIP Visiting Expert Nilanthi Samaranayake weighs in on what to expect in the early days of Muizzu’s presidency, how the new president may navigate ties with China and India, and the implications of his election for Indian Ocean security.
The passing of Henry Kissinger signifies the end of an extraordinary era in world politics and the closing of a momentous chapter in U.S. foreign policy. His life and legacy are being remembered in many countries, but perhaps nowhere as poignantly as China.