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December 10, 1998

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That is why, today, we are presenting the first Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights to four outstanding Americans -- not only for their own efforts, but because we know that, by working together, we can do more. From different backgrounds and generations they stand, all, in the great tradition of Eleanor Roosevelt, pioneers in the fight to expand the frontiers of freedom.

President Bill Clinton

Today, President Clinton will commemorate Human Rights Day and the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at a White House ceremony. At the event, the President will announce policy initiatives to advance the cause of human rights at home and abroad and honor outstanding American human rights leaders.

Honoring Heroes Of The Struggle For Human Rights. This year's commemoration of Human Rights Day will mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the UN General Assembly declaration affirming universal standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Adoption of this declaration was led by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. To honor her commitment to the principles of the Declaration, the President has approved the establishment of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights. The President will honor the four distinguished Americans as the inaugural recipients of this new award:

  • Representative John Lewis, life-long civil rights leader;
  • Bette Bao Lord, human rights activist, China scholar and novelist.
  • Robert Bernstein, founder of the Fund for Free Expression and well as Human Rights Watch; retired Chairman of Random House.
  • Dorothy Thomas, women's rights activist responsible for groundbreaking research and advocacy on violence against women around the world.

A Presidential Commitment To Human Rights. In addition to issuing the inaugural Eleanor Roosevelt Awards, the President will also announce several new human rights initiatives, including:

  • A Human Rights Executive Order, which strengthens our efforts to implement human rights treaties, and creates an Administration working group to coordinate these efforts;
  • Establishment of a Genocide Early Warning Center which will focus intelligence resources on situations that could potentially lead to genocide;
  • Enhancing our response to human rights emergencies by providing up to $8 million over the next five years to non- governmental organizations to develop rapid response capacities;
  • Increased assistance to victims of human rights abuse through the funding of several non-governmental organizations s assisting human rights victims, including Afghan women and survivors of genocide, as well as an increase in contributions to the UN Voluntary Fund for Torture;
  • Combating child labor by contributing $30 million this year to the International Labor Organization's International Program on the Elimination of Child Labor;
  • Protecting abused workers in the U.S. by putting forward a legislative proposal to permit illegal aliens who are the victims of serious abuses in the U.S. (e.g., forced labor, forced prostitution) to gain lawful status if they cooperate with authorities in identifying abusers;
  • Preventing youth hate crime through the Department of Education publication of a guide for schools entitled
  • Issuance of new asylum guidelines for children who seek asylum in the United States.

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