Current Issues

The protection of fundamental human rights was a foundation stone in the establishment of the United States over 200 years ago. Since then, a central goal of U.S. foreign policy has been the promotion of respect for human rights, as embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United States understands that the existence of human rights helps secure the peace, deter aggression, promote the rule of law, combat crime and corruption, strengthen democracies, and prevent humanitarian crises.

Religious freedom is a core objective of United States government’s foreign policy.  Repression, violence, and discrimination are daily realities for millions of believers and non-believers in every region of the world.  In many cases, their human rights are limited or restricted entirely.  Religious liberty and tolerance are bulwarks against the forces of extremism — the foundation of peace and security.  History has shown that governments and societies that champion religious liberty are safer, more prosperous, and secure.  The U.S. government monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide and recommends and implements policies in respective regions or countries, and develops programs to promote religious freedom.  In particular, the U.S. Government seeks to:

  • Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries;
  • Assist emerging democracies in implementing freedom of religion and conscience;
  • Assist religious and human rights NGOs in promoting religious freedom;
  • Identify and denounce regimes that are severe persecutors on the basis of religious belief.

For more information on the U.S. Department of State’s role in promoting religious freedom, please visit the Office of International Religious Freedom’s website.

Trafficking in persons victimizes millions of men, women, and children worldwide. Although precise numbers are unknown, recent estimates of the number of people enslaved in sex or labor exploitation range from 12 to 27 million. Human trafficking is an egregious violation of human rights that reduces human beings to the status of commodities to be bought and sold. It is fueled by demand for prostitution and cheap labor.

The United States government firmly believes that when women do better, countries do better.  Governments that respect and protect religious freedom often have greater protections and opportunities for women.  The human rights of women and religious freedom operate in concert with all other human rights – universal, indivisible, and interdependent.  However, harmful practices and traditions affecting women and girls cannot be accepted as legitimate, including those performed in the name of religion.

The challenges and obstacles women and girls face in many countries hold them back from full and meaningful participation in all parts of society.  The U.S. is committed to the protection and advancement of the rights of women and girls through its foreign policy and sees this as an essential component to global peace, prosperity, and security.

The State Department has an office devoted to women’s issues that serves as a resource for U.S. diplomats in Washington and around the world.  It also leads on the Department’s priorities around gender equality, including gender-based violence, women’s economic empowerment, women’s participation in peace and security, and adolescent girls.

On key issues, such as global health, development, peace, and security, faith communities are able to mobilize their members and supporters, shift opinions and work for the common good. To find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, people of different faiths can and must work together.

International terrorism threatens the United States, its allies and interests, and the world community. Defeating those who seek to do us harm requires sound policies, concerted U.S. Government effort, and international cooperation. The first step to defeating terrorism is promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity. Preventing terrorist access to or use of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems, related materials, and advanced conventional weaponry, is one of our government’s highest priorities. The U.S. will continue to work with its allies and partners globally to eliminate the incentives of extremism and defeat terrorists who wish to harm us. In addition, we will continue to work to resolve situations in the Middle East and elsewhere that threaten peace.

The United States government believes in the dignity and potential of every human being. The U.S. remains the global leader in providing assistance to developing nations, and is working around the world to create conditions that eliminate the need for such assistance. The U.S. government is committed to improving the lives of people worldwide by combating global hunger, promoting global health, and supporting growth through development in agriculture and other industries, education, and trade.