Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the work being done by the State Department, and specifically by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, in promoting freedom around the world.
Four weeks ago, Secretary of State Albright came here to seek your support for the President's FY 1999 international affairs budget. My role here today is to expand upon one aspect of the Secretary's remarks by highlighting the Administration's work to promote democracy and human rights around the world, particularly through our foreign assistance programs.
Mr. Chairman, the promotion of human rights and democracy is one of the fundamental goals of our foreign policy, a goal that reinforces the objectives of preserving America's security and fostering our prosperity. As Secretary Albright has noted, the United States has a vital strategic interest in strengthening the international system by bringing nations together around the basic principles of democracy, open markets, and the rule of law.
The past decade has been a tumultuous one for human rights and democracy. From the collapse of the Berlin Wall to the fall of the Soviet Union, from the successful campaign for democracy in Chile to the transition to multiracial democracy in South Africa, it has produced events of wonder. Yet these successes must not blind us to the reality that the world today faces fundamental challenges to the protection of human rights. From Bosnia to Rwanda, from Kosovo to Algeria, the haunting images of cruelty and violence remind us that the denial of basic human rights continues to threaten international peace and stability.
Mr. Chairman, in determining how we respond to these challenges, we must acknowledge the changes that have taken place in the international system since the end of the Cold War. The old conceptual framework of three "Worlds" -- West, East and South -- no longer works. Instead, as Secretary Albright has stated, it is now possible to identify four categories of nation-states. The first is made up of those countries that participate as full members of the international system. The second consists of those that reject the rules upon which the system is based. The third contains those that are in transition from authoritarian rule and seek full participation. The fourth includes those that are unable -- whether because of under-development, catastrophe or conflict -- to enjoy the benefits and meet the responsibilities that full membership entails.
In the first category are the world's democracies, our partners and friends. In the second category are the world's pariah states, the focus of sanctions and other negative measures designed to limit their ability to disrupt the international system. In categories three and four are countries in transition that could become either partners or pariahs. Their future path will determine whether Americans will live in a world that is peaceful, prosperous and free. As such, they are the focus of our assistance efforts.
The best way to assure that these countries become full members of the international system prepared to respect and uphold basic human rights is to facilitate the growth of democratic government, civil society, and the rule of law. History demonstrates that free and democratic nations are better partners both in terms of maintaining peace and conducting commerce. Democracies that protect human rights and respect the rule of law are more likely to avoid internal conflict, protect the environment, embrace market economics, and provide a fair and level playing field for American companies. That is why it is in our national interest to support those who struggle for democracy abroad. We could not assure our own security and prosperity without it.
In the recent past, Mr. Chairman, the Executive Branch has not programmed funding designed exclusively to protect human rights and promote democracy. When the United States had to respond to human rights and democratization crises around the world, this shortcoming often resulted in an urgent, ad-hoc reprogramming of funds. The Secretary of State should have the capacity to respond flexibly to assist countries emerging from underdevelopment, catastrophe, or conflict, and should supply support to those countries in transition from authoritarian rule to democracy.
To that end, the Administration has designed a series of mechanisms that combine policy formulation with innovative funding programs that assist the development of democracies and expedite their transition to full membership in the international system. I will devote the balance of my testimony to examining the policy and program components of our work, and then provide you with specific examples of how these new initiatives have allowed us to respond rapidly and creatively to a variety of human rights and democratization concerns and crises.
Within the Department of State, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor takes the lead in formulating and coordinating U.S. policy on democracy and human rights promotion. Our tools include the Human Rights and Democracy Core Group, the G-8 Democracy Initiative, and the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad.
Established in 1996, the Human Rights and Democracy Core Group is a small, high-level, inter-agency council that meets to develop guidance for the Secretary on human rights and democracy-building policy and programs in crisis countries, particularly those emerging from conflict. As Co-Chair of the Core Group, my bureau sets the agenda, but other members may bring issues to the table and set out options to focus Core Group deliberations. The Core Group includes representatives of foreign affairs government agencies and State Department bureaus with global mandates. Relevant State Department regional bureaus are included as Co-Chairs for particular countries.
The Human Rights and Democracy Core Group analyzes developing situations and proposes programs that are short-term and high-impact. Thus, its approach complements USAID's sustainable development programs, which operate over the medium- and long-term. Among the issues on which the group has deliberated over the past year are post-election U.S. policy and assistance in Albania; U.S. policy and programs in Cambodia; support for democracy and human rights institutions in Bosnia; support for new justice and reconciliation initiatives in the Great Lakes region of Africa; and transition assistance to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burma, and Nigeria. I will discuss some of the specific programs initiated or overseen by the Core Group later in my testimony.
While the Core Group coordinates policy among different actors and agencies within the U.S. government, the Denver Summit Democracy Initiative seeks to coordinate democracy- and human rights-promotion assistance among the Group of Eight. Last fall, I chaired an experts meeting in Washington that developed information on how each of the G-8 governments promotes democracy, both bilaterally and multilaterally. The meeting identified areas of common interest in our individual and collective efforts, and made recommendations on how G-8 governments could better coordinate their efforts. Four areas of emphasis were targeted: assistance for civil society development; support for women's political participation; business and labor support for human rights and democracy; and promotion of good governance and the rule of law. I am submitting for the record the G-8 report, a summary of which will be incorporated into the Birmingham Summit.
In addition to these recommendations, the experts group also made plans to hold an unprecedented multilateral workshop-style conference on democracy and governance assistance in Africa that will be co-sponsored by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Global Coalition for Africa. Scheduled to take place next month in Bamako, Mali, the workshop will be patterned on the "partnership" theme of President Clinton's Africa trip, and will bring together donor and recipient partnership governments, NGOs, and multilateral donor organizations to discuss the development of a new model of partnership for democratic development. The conference, which will be chaired by Mali's President Konare, is being organized in cooperation with the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Economic Commission for Africa, and the United Nations Development Program. Participating "pilot" countries include Benin, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, and Uganda.
The results of the workshop are potentially far-reaching. At stake is whether donor and recipient countries can reach broad agreement on the process as well as the substance of democracy and governance assistance. In addition, the workshop will offer NGOs in developing democracies an unprecedented opportunity to influence development policy and inform decisions at international fora such as the upcoming Birmingham G-8 Summit and the OECD.
The present challenge for the U.S. is to ensure that the G-8 sustains the momentum of the Washington experts meeting and the Bamako workshop. Specifically, it is important that we further develop our initial agreements and then devise an action plan to implement them. To that end, we are working toward committing the G-8 at the upcoming Birmingham Summit to act on the recommendations made by the experts in Washington and the participants in Bamako.
In addition to these broader policy initiatives, the Administration also has undertaken new measures designed to integrate specific human rights and democratization concerns into our foreign policy. For example, the Administration has publicly affirmed its commitment to advance religious freedom abroad. It is a subject of our bilateral and multilateral policy and dialogues. Secretary Albright has instructed our embassies around the world to pay special attention to religious persecution. Last year, the State Department prepared an unprecedented report in response to a request by your committee that focused exclusively on global religious persecution. It was entitled, "US Policies in Support of Religious Freedom: Focus on Christians."
In December 1996, the Secretary of State established the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, a distinguished panel of twenty religious leaders who represent millions of Americans of all major faiths and denominations, and scholars who have dedicated their professional lives to the study of religious liberty and other human rights. The Committee, which I chair and for which my staff provides the support, is responsible for advising the Secretary of State and the President on the ways and means of integrating the protection and promotion of religious freedom abroad into our foreign policy. In its first fourteen months, the Committee has heard the testimony of experts, government officials and victims of religious persecution. Committee members have discussed concerns, presented diverse viewpoints, and learned much from one another.
In January, the Committee released its Interim Report and Recommendations, a copy of which I am submitting for the record. This report is of great significance. It supports the expansion of our work as a government in promoting and defending religious freedom and provides specific recommendations for additional government action. It represents the consensus of a wide array of religious groups from American society on how best to promote religious freedom. As we go forward in formulating strategies to address the many foreign policy and human rights challenges involving religious freedom, the Committee's report and its forthcoming work will assist us in understanding the religious dimension of these problems and in engaging religious communities and leaders to address them.
The Committee's report made a wide variety of practical recommendations on U.S. policy. Among these is the recommendation to establish a senior position in the Department of State to coordinate, integrate and implement policies that advance religious freedom internationally. I am pleased to say that Secretary Albright has requested the immediate implementation of this recommendation. We anticipate being able to announce her choice in the very near future. In the meantime, the Committee is continuing its work, with the assistance of my staff, with the purpose of offering more detailed recommendations at the end of the year. Their focus this year is on integration of religious freedom concerns into U.S. assistance and training programs; the use of specific foreign policy tools to promote religious freedom; refugee and asylum procedures; and dialogue with religious NGOs, businesses and other communities.
In addition to these policy coordination mechanisms, the Department of State intends to work within the U.S. Government and with NGOs to help better coordinate U.S. policies that guide a wide range of rule of law programs in democratizing countries. Such programs include training judges, prosecutors, law enforcement officers, and defense attorneys; developing law school curricula; providing technical assistance to efforts to revise commercial laws and combat corruption; and helping NGOs and the media make better use of the legal system to protect and promote human rights. These measures have a direct impact on a wide variety of U.S. foreign policy interests. For example, programs that promote greater transparency in government decision-making can help forestall regional economic crises. Rule of law programs are a major component of almost every one of our democracy-building efforts. A range of U.S. agencies and State Department bureaus, as well as a number of NGOs, play an active role in developing and implementing these programs. Coordinating these efforts is a priority for Secretary Albright. Closer inter-agency coordination on rule of law programs would more closely tie together our diplomacy to our use of foreign assistance in promoting democracy around the world.
Mr. Chairman, in addition to designing and implementing mechanisms to coordinate U.S. democracy and human rights policy within the Department, between agencies, and among our allies, my bureau also is responsible for oversight of specific programs designed to promote democracy and, when necessary, to respond rapidly to democratization and human rights crises. These efforts often evolve from recommendations by policy mechanisms such as the Human Rights and Democracy Core Group. Many are in countries where USAID does not have a resident mission and where specific, targeted assistance can have an immediate human rights impact. Others are directed at human rights crisis situations where my bureau can act quickly and flexibly. USAID and the State Department regional bureaus are integral parts of the process by which these high-impact democracy and human rights programs are allocated.
My bureau, together with the Department of State regional bureaus and USAID, exercises oversight over that portion of Economic Support Funds (ESF) devoted to building democracy and promoting human rights. Funds are administered in one of three ways: 1) through the management of the new Human Rights and Democracy Fund; 2) through the co-management with the regional bureaus of Regional Democracy Funds; and 3) through the administration of specific projects within these regional funds.
Established in FY 1998, the Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF) is in many ways the programmatic complement to the Core Group's policy focus. As a funding instrument, the HRDF enables the U.S. to respond to human rights or democratization crises, and is used primarily when no other appropriate sources are available. By responding rapidly and decisively to emergencies as they develop, the Fund enables the United States to minimize human rights abuses. For example, deploying teams of human rights monitors into an area where abuses are occurring can help deter further atrocities and gather reliable information upon which to base further action.
Funding is considered on a case-by-case basis. I review program proposals put forth by an intra-bureau program committee and consult with other relevant bureaus and agencies. Congress is notified of allocation decisions in those cases when specific programs have not been included in the Congressional Presentation Document.
In FY 1998, the Administration requested $8 million for the Human Rights and Democracy Fund. In FY 1999, we have requested $9 million.
In addition to the HRDF, my bureau oversees the administration of a series of Regional Democracy Funds that provide elections-related assistance; encourage criminal justice reform and judicial training; support the establishment of truth commissions and other national reconciliation efforts; and promote the development of civil society, especially independent media institutions, the growth of human rights organizations, and women's political participation. Whereas the Human Rights and Democracy Fund focuses primarily on countries emerging from catastrophe or conflict, the Regional Democracy Funds tend to focus more on countries in transition to democracy. Another important difference is that the Regional Democracy Funds are designed to respond flexibly to ongoing policy developments, while the Human Rights and Democracy Fund addresses immediate or emerging issues. The Regional Democracy Funds thus are able to provide more intensive and in-depth non-emergency technical assistance, whereas the Human Rights and Democracy fund is better suited to respond to crises in regions where Regional Funds may be limited.
An interagency group, chaired by my bureau, and including the regional bureaus and the USAID Democracy Center, manages regional democracy funds in the Middle East, Africa, East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean. In consultation and cooperation with USAID, we recommend projects based on proposals submitted by our embassies, our Washington offices, or U.S. democracy-promotion NGOs. The Assistant Secretaries of the regional bureaus and I then jointly make final recommendations to the Under Secretary for Security Affairs.
Most of these projects are implemented through agreements with U.S. NGOs undertaken by USAID's Center for Democracy and Governance and its field missions, or through memoranda of agreement with the Department of Justice for training and technical assistance. In the event that no other U.S. agency is able or willing to carry out a particular agreement, my bureau's Program Office has the ability to work directly with U.S. NGOs. Our partners in the regional funds currently include the National Endowment for Democracy and its four institutes; the International Foundation for Electoral Systems; Yale University; and the Asia Foundation.
For FY 1999, we are requesting a total of $39.75 million for the Regional Democracy Funds: $4 million for the Middle East, $15 million for Africa, $5 million for East Asia and the Pacific, $2.75 million for South Asia, and $13 million for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Translating Policy and Programs into Targeted Assistance
Mr. Chairman, I now would like to offer some examples of how we have translated these policy and funding mechanisms into assistance to those countries emerging from catastrophe and conflict as well as to those in transition from authoritarian rule. These states often require our help to facilitate or consolidate fragile democratic processes, sometimes on an emergency basis.
In Bosnia, the Democracy Core Group has recommended funding three efforts critical to the Dayton peace process. The United States coordinates support for the peace process with our European partners. For example, we have developed a strategy, supported by the European Union, that was announced at last fall's US-EU summit and has tightened economic assistance conditionality and linked it to the turnover of indicted war criminals.
Through the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, the United States provides assistance to the Annex Six Human Rights Commission, the human rights arm of the Dayton peace process ($1.25 million in FY 1998). Our aid has permitted an internationally-appointed Human Rights Ombudsperson to investigate cases of human rights violations, and a Human Rights Chamber, composed of eight international and six Bosnian judges, to adjudicate the cases and offer legally-binding judgments.
Through the Human Rights and Democracy Fund, the United States also supports the International Commission on Missing Persons, a major U.S. initiative to support the peace and reconciliation process in the former Yugoslavia ($2 million in FY 1998). Currently chaired by Senator Bob Dole, the Commission applies political pressure to the regional parties in the former Yugoslavia to expedite resolution of missing persons cases; provides assistance to families of the missing; and supports the exhumation process and identification of remains where possible.
Finally, the Human Rights and Democracy Fund supports the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ($1.27 million in FY 1998). Established in 1993, the Tribunal is mandated by the UN Security Council to investigate and prosecute persons who committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in the former Yugoslavia. The Dayton Agreement binds the parties to cooperate with the Tribunal and transfer indictees.
Funds ($275,000) have permitted the U.S. to deploy to the Hague a team of international attorneys and translators to review on an urgent basis the backlog of dossiers of alleged war criminals provided by the Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian governments, helping the tribunal decide whether any should be prosecuted internationally. We also provide support ($400,000) that furnishes translation assistance and have funded ($1 million) the construction of a second courtroom so that the Tribunal can handle simultaneous trials of the many new indictees who have been brought into custody over the last year.
Working through the Human Rights and Democracy Core Group, my bureau has helped coordinate the Administration's commitment to bring to an end the genocide, civil conflicts, and human rights abuses in the Great Lakes region of Africa. During her 1997 trip to Africa, the Secretary announced a $30 million ($25 million in ESF) Great Lakes Justice Initiative, which is designed to help build institutions for the rule of law, human rights, and ethnic reconciliation in order to end the reign of impunity and cycle of violence in Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The importance of this Initiative was underscored by the President in his speech last week in Rwanda. The United States is undertaking this and other efforts in the region in coordination and consultation with our African partners, other donors and NGOs.
The Great Lakes Justice Initiative will work in partnership with Africans to identify and fund projects that reform the courts, prosecutors, police, and prisons; build institutional capacity; and train personnel. It also will assist professional associations, universities, and other components of civil society to formulate improved laws and practices and support reform in governmental institutions of justice. Finally, it will address the role of the military by providing technical assistance to increase adherence to international human rights standards in the military court system and facilitating the demobilization of child soldiers.
U.S. human rights and democratization funding in the region is not limited to the Great Lakes Justice Initiative. Through the Africa Regional Democracy Fund ($500,000 in FY 1997), the United States is providing support to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish the UN investigative team in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and enlarge the human rights monitoring operations in Rwanda. We also are working with our partners in Europe to coordinate assistance to the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda so that it may conduct speedier trials and establish a witness protection program.
In coordination with the State Department regional bureaus, my bureau also provides assistance to countries in transition from authoritarian rule or countries moving toward broader democratic participation. In Mexico, for example, the Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Democracy Fund ($700,000 in FY 1997 and $1 million in FY 1998) augments other U.S. Government support of NGO programs that combat pre-election fraud and promote free and fair elections. Justice reform also remains an important objective. The United States will sponsor an exchange program that brings together senior Mexican and U.S. judges; provide technical assistance to strengthen court management and reduce caseload backlogs; and support NGO activities to increase protection of victims' rights. The U.S. also is providing assistance to local-level officials and NGOs to manage resources and stimulate local democracy under the Mexican Government's plan to decentralize governance. Finally, the U.S. is providing technical assistance to support reform of the Mexican Congress by improving independent Congressional budget oversight and legislative skills.
In Liberia, the Africa Regional Democracy Fund ($1 million in FY 1997) facilitated the successful completion of the first competitive multi-party elections since the end of the civil war. The July 1997 elections were considered credible and fair by both international and domestic observers, and have paved the way for Liberia to establish a viable, democratic system of government.
In Yemen, the NEA Regional Democracy Fund ($275,000 in FY 1997) supported a wide-ranging technical assistance program during the highly-successful April 1997 parliamentary elections. Through grants to the National Democratic Institute and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the fund helped train elections officials, provided technical assistance on ballot design, and supported election-day ballot monitoring.
The Bureau also administers a grant ($1 million in FY 1997) to the Yale Cambodia Genocide Program, which was initiated in 1994 through an Act of Congress. The program assembles evidence concerning the leadership of the Khmer Rouge and provides documentation of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It has established a Documentation Center in Cambodia, which conducts research and provides the public with a record of the horrors of the Pol Pot Regime. Although the events of last July were a major setback to the international effort to promote a stable and democratic Cambodia, programs such as this will help Cambodians continue their struggle to overcome the catastrophic results of Khmer Rouge rule.
The Regional Democracy Funds also are intended to provide issue-specific assistance for activities in several countries in a given region. In FY 1997, for example, my bureau directed $500,000 to the Asia Foundation for a program that helps women in Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Mongolia, the Pacific Islands, the Philippines, and Thailand challenge economic, social, and political discrimination. Working with women activists, women's NGOs, human rights groups and the media, the program supports the training of women to conduct public education campaigns on women's rights; the design of country-specific action plans targeted toward the removal of discriminatory laws and policies; and the holding of regional conferences to share successful strategies. In addition, the program supported the work of local groups and activists to combat violence against women.
My Bureau also is funding the development of an ASEAN human rights network ($500,000 in FY 1997). This program will assist the efforts of the ASEAN Human Rights Working Group to develop more formal and regularized mechanisms for human rights cooperation in the region. It also supports efforts to develop effective national human rights organizations and strengthen existing human rights NGOs in ASEAN member-states as part of an overall strategy to increase the attention of ASEAN governments to human rights.
Assistance to Those Opposing Authoritarian Rule
Mr. Chairman, most of our efforts to promote human rights and democracy focus on those countries most likely to make the transition to full partnership in the international system. But we also are working to assist those who seek to promote democratic progress and human rights in authoritarian countries. In these cases, our focus is on supporting NGOs that seek to facilitate a peaceful transition to democracy and legal institutions that may one day create a foundation for the rule of law.
In the case of Cuba, the United States is providing assistance to U.S.-based NGOs to support individuals and organizations that promote peaceful democratic change and the strengthening of civil society ($1.5 million in FY 1997 and $2 million in FY 1998). Funded programs disseminate information to the Cuban people, support the development of civil society, and assist human rights groups and victims of state-sponsored repression. Programs are conducted pursuant to the authorities and purposes of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act of 1996.
In Burma, my bureau directly administers Economic Support Funds ($2.5 million in FY 1997 and $5 million in FY 1998) that are divided between democracy-building assistance through a grant to the National Endowment for Democracy and humanitarian assistance through the International Rescue Committee and World Concern Development Organization. Supported activities include pro-democracy work by such organizations as the Free Trade Union of Burma; efforts by the National Coalition for Democracy to focus international concern on Burma; the publication of pro-democracy journals; and the broadcast of independent voices via radio.
In China, there are major obstacles to the development of a justice system that protects and promotes the rights of the individual. As our most recent human rights report noted, China's Constitution provides in theory for an independent judiciary. In practice, however, the judicial system is subject to the "policy guidance" of the Chinese Communist Party and continues to deny defendants basic legal safeguards and due process because authorities attach higher priority to maintaining public order and suppressing political opposition than to implementing and enforcing legal norms. Security police and personnel have been responsible for numerous human rights abuses. Arbitrary arrest and detention remain major systemic problems.
Yet China has made some progress on legal reform. Legislation passed in recent years includes a number of laws with a potentially positive impact on citizens' rights. For example, the revised Criminal Procedure Law, which came into effect in January 1997, provides for a defendant's right to legal counsel, an active legal defense and other rights recognized in international human rights instruments. If fully implemented, the law would bring China's criminal law system closer toward compliance with international norms. The recent commitment by the Government of China to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights also is a positive step. Accession to the Covenant requires the Chinese to adhere to international standards on torture, arbitrary detention, fair trial, and freedom of expression and association, to name but a few. It creates a tool with which the international community can measure the Chinese Government's commitment and adherence to international standards.
To facilitate promotion of the rule of law in China, the United States proposes to use Regional Democracy Funds to implement the October 1997 summit agreement between the United States and China to cooperate on rule of law issues. This agreement, reached between President Clinton and China's President Jiang Zemin, presents an opening to improve basic legal institutions in China -- the judiciary, the administrative process, the legal profession, law schools and legal information systems.
Proposed activities include expanded exchanges of legal experts, training of judges and lawyers, the exchange of legal materials, sharing ideas about legal assistance for the poor, working on administrative procedure reforms, and strengthening commercial law and arbitration. No U.S. funds would directly fund institutions of the Government of China. For the most part, they would go to U.S. governmental and non-governmental actors with a proven track record of promoting the rule of law, including in China. Many of these organizations have expressed interest in such a project. For example, the American Bar Association, whose exemplary work in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has made significant contributions to the rule of law in that region, has proposed to launch a similar program on China.
Not only will the initiative create significant opportunities for improving China's legal system, it also will further a broad range of American interests and values. I must emphasize, however, that these programs are not a replacement for our human rights policy on China. We will continue to pursue vigorously our human rights objectives in China through existing diplomatic and policy tools. That said, I feel that rule of law activities can make a significant contribution to the improvement of Chinese legal institutions in a way that, over time, is likely to improve the legal protections guaranteed to all Chinese citizens.
Mr. Chairman, my testimony today has focused on the variety of policy and funding mechanisms that my bureau has developed in order to enable the United States to respond quickly to a variety of humanitarian, human rights and democratization problems and crises. But it would be a mistake to conclude without reviewing briefly my bureau's other, equally important activities, about which I have recently testified before the House International Relations Committee.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has as one of its primary missions the spotlighting of human rights abuses in all countries of the world. It does so primarily through the preparation and release of the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. We disseminate these Reports in 193 countries to governments, media and citizens. We express our positions vigorously and publicly. Almost daily, the Department speaks out on human rights. Speaking truth to power is always an important weapon against oppression and injustice.
But it is only one weapon. Our arsenal for promoting human rights objectives is an increasingly broad one. We employ it actively. It includes both traditional diplomacy and a range of new approaches that we continue to expand and develop.
We support INS Asylum Officers and Immigration Judges by providing them with expert advice on human rights conditions and recent political developments overseas. For the past year we have placed our emphasis on improving the quality of this information, particularly by strengthening our "Profiles of Asylum Claims and Country Conditions Reports" and by paying increased attention to issues of religious persecution. In the coming year, we plan, for the first time, to create a full-time permanent staff that will have responsibility for both commenting on asylum applications and preparing the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. We believe having the same professional staff work year-round on issues of persecution and mistreatment will strengthen both our advice to asylum adjudicators and our annual Reports.
We support the efforts of free trade unions around the world to become more effective defenders of worker and human rights. Free trade unions played a critical role in promoting and defending democracy in the Cold War era. They play an equally important role today by working to eliminate child labor and bring about more equitable distribution of economic benefits. In line with the Administration's Model Business Principles, my bureau supports the joint efforts of union and employer groups to promote the adoption of corporate codes of conduct that strengthen democratic values in the workplace.
We work closely with non-governmental organizations to promote core human rights principles, including religious freedom and women's rights. During my tenure, I have facilitated broad and regular communication between the human rights community and the Department of State. The Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad is only one example of that effort.
Through bilateral measures, we address democracy and human rights concerns in all our relationships. In addition to assistance programs and diplomatic engagement, we employ a wide variety of other measures, including sanctions and restrictions on international financing, arms sales and visas. The President, the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State all repeatedly raise specific human rights cases and our work to promote democracy in their meetings with foreign leaders. For example, President Clinton has raised human rights and democratization concerns at every stop during his trip to Africa, emphasizing particularly his commitment to strengthen international efforts to prevent genocide. Secretary Albright's deep personal commitment to these issues makes her a particularly forceful and effective advocate. She has instructed our ambassadors on dozens of occasions to raise specific human rights issues with their host governments.
Finally, we work closely with Congress to coordinate our efforts and develop a consensus on the best means and direction for United States policy in the field of human rights, democracy and labor. I would like to offer my thanks to the Members of Congress and in particular to the Members of this Committee for their strong support of our efforts to promote and protect human rights and democracy around the world. Your support has been bipartisan and bicameral, and we have worked together to address the challenges of the post-Cold War world. Our goal is to expand the community of democratic nations so that the world will be better-equipped to confront the dangers and challenges of under-development, conflict, catastrophe, or authoritarian rule.