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Public Papers - 1991 - July

Proclamation 6319 -- Helsinki Human Rights Day, 1991

1991-07-31

By the President of the United States

of America

A Proclamation

In 1975, when the United States, Canada, and 33 European states joined in adopting the Helsinki Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, we affirmed ``the close link between peace and security in Europe and in the world as a whole.'' Signatories to the Helsinki accords also recognized that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms is essential not only to achieving lasting peace among nations but also to promoting their social and economic development. During the past 16 years, the CSCE process begun at Helsinki has played a leading role in building mutual confidence, reducing the risk of conflict, and enhancing the growth of democracy and openness in Europe. This year we welcome Albania's entry into the CSCE community and its commitment to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms that this symbolizes.

The tremendous changes that have swept central and eastern Europe underscore the CSCE's effectiveness in advancing the goal of universal compliance with the Helsinki accords. At their meeting in Paris last November, CSCE members welcomed the emergence of a new transatlantic partnership of nations based on a mutual commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law. In signing the Charter of Paris for a New Europe, members added to existing CSCE principles new and sweeping commitments to political pluralism, free elections, free enterprise, and the rule of law. New CSCE institutions established at the Paris summit -- such as the Office for Free Elections in Warsaw, the CSCE Secretariat in Prague, and the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna -- strengthen the CSCE's ability to help consolidate and to build upon recent gains. The United States encouraged and welcomed these developments as evidence that the CSCE can serve not only as a catalyst for change but also itself change to reflect the demands of an evolving Europe.

During the June meeting of CSCE foreign ministers in Berlin, the Conference endorsed the report of the Valletta Meeting on the Peaceful Settlement of Disputes and agreed to designate the Conflict Prevention Center in Vienna as the nominating institution to help settle disputes. Members also agreed on a mechanism for holding emergency official-level meetings of the CSCE, which has first been called into action in the current Yugoslav crisis.

As the Yugoslav crisis demonstrates, major challenges remain. The United States will continue to suggest that the CSCE strengthen its capacity to address the political sources of conflict. One area of special concern to us is the persecution of ethnic minorities. Ethnic tensions in Europe provide a solemn and urgent reminder that we still have much work to do in achieving universal compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the Helsinki accords. The United States has sought to lead other member-states in exploring ways that the CSCE can help reduce those tensions and fulfill the promise of a Europe that is whole and free, and at peace with itself.

As an expression of the special importance that the United States continues to attach to the CSCE in a changing Europe, the Congress, by House Joint Resolution 264, has designated August 1, 1991, as ``Helsinki Human Rights Day'' and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of this day.

Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim August 1, 1991, as Helsinki Human Rights Day and reaffirm the United States dedication to the principles of human dignity and freedom -- principles that are enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act. As we Americans observe this day with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities, let us call on all signatories of the Final Act to fulfill their obligation to respect the rights and dignity of all their citizens.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of July, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-one, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and sixteenth.

George Bush

[Filed with the Office of the Federal Register, 10:37 a.m., August 1, 1991]

Note: The proclamation was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 1, and published on August 6.

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