Human Rights and National Security
Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski

Washington, DC—On January 29, 2015, Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski addressed WFPG on Human Rights and National Security. Malinowski outlined the Bureau’s priorities and his role. He also addressed the allegation that the US has a double standard for human rights, and spoke about the role of authoritarian regimes in threatening human rights and national security. The event was moderated by WFPG President Patricia Ellis.

Malinowski transitioned from an advocacy role to join the Department, noting that he’s now the one who has to follow through as a representative of the US government, rather than pushing for action from the outside. Each day brings a new human rights challenge, which makes prioritizing difficult. The worst human rights abuse cases come first. At the time of Malinowski’s talk, the two top priorities were Syria and Ukraine; the continuation of either conflict is a threat to the norms and architecture of human rights protection. Malinowski stressed the United States’ promotion of good governance as an important security measure. Poor governance can lead to insecurity and conflict between a government and its people. He also emphasized the US’s priority to build civil society and facilitate the spread of information.

The US has been accused of having a double standard for human rights, especially in countries of strategic interest. The Assistant Secretary acknowledged that the US does not have a perfectly consistent record of supporting human rights in our foreign policy, however, he stated that the US does best over time when it acts in a way that’s consistent with both its values and interests, citing President Obama’s trip to Saudi Arabia as a recent example. Although the President didn’t raise all of the human rights violations, by virtue of his presences, others did.

Authoritarian regimes the world over have been using media crackdowns and exploiting extreme nationalism and religious divisions to control their populations. The conflicts stemming out of Russia/Ukraine and Syria are examples of authoritarian regimes’ oppressive measures leading to security threats. North Korea, the most extreme example of authoritarianism, has shown that media crackdowns aren’t ultimately successful. Information still has a way of getting in and to people. Good governance and a strong civil society can help combat these authoritarian strategies, which is why they are a priority for the Obama administration. Malinowski makes it a priority to meet with civil society groups on his overseas travel. He stressed the importance of anti-corruption measures are important in weakening authoritarian regimes.


alt alt alt

Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski speaks to
WFPG about human rights and national security


WFPG President Patrica Ellis, Tom Malinowski,
and WFPG Board Chair Ann Stock

alt alt alt

Ambassador Claudia Fritsche of Liechtenstein and
Ambassador Jadranka Negodić of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Ambassador Julia Chang Bloch
asks a question

alt alt alt

Jessica Menasce of the Interdisciplinary
Center Herzliya during Q&A


WFPG Board Members Marlene Johnson and
Dawn Calabia listen to the discussion

alt alt alt