The Foreign Service Journal, June 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JUNE 2020 31 An overarching human rights strategy to support the “globalization of freedom” is needed. BY HAROLD HONGJU KOH T he United States is founded on the simple, radical idea of universal human rights. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” our Declaration of Inde- pendence says, that just by being born human, a person gains rights that no one—including her own government— can violate without accountability. The Bill of Rights spells out rights to due pro- cess of law, free expression, religion, freedom of the press and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures and cruel and unusual punishments. These freedoms made the United States Constitution, in its time, into the world’s leading human rights instrument. Harold Hongju Koh is Sterling Professor of Interna- tional Law at Yale Law School. He has served as the State Department Legal Adviser (2009-2013) and as assistant secretary of State for the Bureau of Democ- racy, Human Rights, and Labor (1998-2001). FOCUS ON HUMAN RIGHTS Why U.S. Leadership Matters for the Global Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights But these rights were not conceived as just an ideal for the good times. Before the world’s most cataclysmic war, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made clear that America was fighting for the “Four Freedoms”—freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from fear and want. In the war’s bloody aftermath, his widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, helped draft and promulgate the Uni- versal Declaration of Human Rights, which more than 70 years later remains the seminal articulation of basic human rights. That declaration recognizes that equal and inalienable rights for “all members of the human family [are] the foundation of free- dom, justice and peace.” These universal human rights include a wide range of rights, consistent with both the principles on which our country was founded and the more equal and inclu- sive rights that our Constitution has evolved to represent. In these challenging times, at home and abroad, what should be the United States’ priorities for promoting and defending human rights? Historically, the United States has been a global leader in the creation and promotion of human rights. American diplomats, scholars, activists and nongovernmental organiza- tions have all contributed to the dramatic global embrace of