Promoting and Protecting Human Rights: A Re-Dedication to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Video Remarks

Good morning. And thank you, Ambassador Craft.

The United States is lucky to have a UN Ambassador who is such a stalwart champion of human rights – the cause that brings us together today.

The horrors of the Second World War made clear the duty of every sovereign nation to protect the dignity of all human beings. And so, in 1948, the UN General Assembly approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The first line of the UDHR reads, “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.”

Those words echo America’s Declaration of Independence, which states that the purpose of our government is to secure unalienable rights – the rights inherent in all persons.

The UDHR also drew on the wisdom of the Abrahamic faiths, Confucianism, Hinduism, and other religious, philosophical, and political traditions.

We must defend unalienable rights today, because the international human rights project is in crisis.

  • Authoritarian governments — from China, to Iran, to Venezuela — are depriving our fellow human beings of their basic rights.
  • Meanwhile, many multinational organizations have lost their way, focusing on partisan policy preferences while failing to defend fundamental rights.
  • And even many well-intentioned people assert new and novels rights that often conflict.

To uphold universal human rights, we should look to the framers of the UDHR, who identified a clear set of principles that apply to all people, everywhere, at all times. They stood unwaveringly in defense of the dignity of every human being.

So, too, should we.

To help us do that, I convened the U.S. State Department’s Commission on Unalienable Rights. The Commission found in the American constitutional tradition wide and deep support for unalienable rights.

We hope the Commission’s recently published Report will serve as an inspiration to other nations and peoples.

They should turn to their traditions and rededicate themselves to their moral, philosophical, and religious resources to affirm the rights inherent in all persons – the rights at the core of the UDHR.

This work is vital. We must rediscover the nature of human rights and the courage to defend them.

Your presence here today gives me confidence that we are up to the task.

Thank you, again, Ambassador Craft for convening us.

God bless you all.

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    Research conducted at Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) labs led to 4,446 U.S. patents owned by the agency covering a range of inventions from 1980 through 2019. During that period, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had 93 patents—2 percent of the total—that contributed to the successful development of 34 drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and brought to market, including vaccines and treatments for cancer. These 34 drugs were developed by pharmaceutical companies and were associated with 32 licenses granted to them by NIH. As shown in the figure, these licenses have generated up to $2 billion in royalty revenue for NIH since 1991, when FDA approved the first of these drugs. Three licenses generated more than $100 million each for the agency. Royalties from NIH Licenses of Inventions Associated with FDA-Approved Drugs, 1991 to February 2020 When licensing its inventions, NIH prioritizes the likelihood that the licensee can successfully develop a drug by considering such factors as technical expertise and the ability to raise capital. Consistent with federal interpretation of technology transfer statutory authorities, NIH does not consider the affordability of the resulting drug. NIH provides limited information to the public about its licensing activities. For example, the agency does not report which of its patents are licensed or release metrics that would enable the public to evaluate how licensing affects patient access to resulting drugs. Increasing the transparency of its licensing activities could improve the public’s and policymakers’ understanding of NIH’s management of its intellectual property. HHS monitors for unauthorized use of its inventions (infringement) and has taken steps to protect its rights. HHS relies primarily on inventors at its labs to monitor for potential infringement and generally encourages potential infringers to license the inventions. If cases proceed to litigation, HHS relies on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to protect its rights. Since 2009, HHS has worked with DOJ to defend its intellectual property in several cases in the U.S. and abroad and has referred one case to DOJ for litigation against an alleged infringer. HHS labs conduct research that can contribute to the development of new life-saving drugs. HHS may grant rights to its inventions by licensing the patents to pharmaceutical companies that conduct the additional development activities and testing necessary to bring drugs to market. Public health experts and patients’ rights advocates have raised concerns about the prices of drugs developed with federal support. GAO was asked to review HHS’s management of its intellectual property. This report examines (1) the extent to which HHS-owned intellectual property has contributed to the development of FDA-approved drugs, (2) what is known about the licenses associated with FDA-approved drugs, (3) factors NIH prioritizes when licensing its inventions and information about licensing it makes public, and (4) steps HHS has taken to protect its rights. GAO reviewed relevant laws and agency documents, analyzed patent and licensing data, and interviewed HHS officials, academic experts, industry representatives, and nongovernmental organizations. GAO is making two recommendations, including that NIH provide more information to the public about the licensing of its intellectual property. HHS concurred with GAO’s recommendations. For more information, contact John Neumann, (202) 512-6888, NeumannJ@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Reaches Settlement with the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, to Resolve Allegations of Discrimination Against Homeowner with Disability
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that the Town of Irmo, South Carolina, has agreed to pay $25,000 to a homeowner with a disability as part of a settlement agreement resolving the government’s Fair Housing Act (FHA) lawsuit. 
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  • Performance and Accountability Report Fiscal Year 2020
    In U.S GAO News
    Presented is GAO's Performance and Accountability Report for fiscal year 2020. In the spirit of the Government Performance and Results Act, this annual report informs the Congress and the American people about what we have achieved on their behalf. The financial information and the data measuring GAO's performance contained in this report are complete and reliable. This report describes GAO's performance measures, results, and accountability processes for fiscal year 2020. In assessing our performance, we compared actual results against targets and goals that were set in our annual performance plan and performance budget and were developed to help carry out our strategic plan. An overview of our annual measures and targets for 2020 is available here, along with links to a complete set of our strategic planning and performance and accountability reports. This report includes A Fiscal Year 2020 Performance and Financial Snapshot for the American Taxpayer, an introduction, four parts, and supplementary appendixes as follows: A Fiscal Year 2020 Performance and Financial Snapshot for the American Taxpayer This section provides an overview of GAO's performance and financial information for fiscal year 2020 and outlines GAO's near-term and future work priorities. Introduction This section includes the letter from the Comptroller General and a statement attesting to the completeness and reliability of the performance and financial data in this report and the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting. This section also includes a summary discussion of our mission, strategic planning process, and organizational structure, strategies we use to achieve our goals, and process for assessing our performance. Management's Discussion and Analysis This section discusses our agency-wide performance results and use of resources in fiscal year 2020. It also includes, among other things, information on our internal controls and the management challenges and external factors that affect our performance. Performance Information This section includes details on our performance results by strategic goal in fiscal year 2020 and the targets we are aiming for in fiscal year 2021. Financial Information This section includes details on our finances in fiscal year 2020, including a letter from our Chief Financial Officer, audited financial statements and notes, and the reports from our external auditor and Audit Advisory Committee. This section also includes an explanation of the information each of our financial statements conveys. Inspector General's View of GAO's Management Challenges This section includes our Inspector General's perspective on our agency's management challenges. Appendixes This section provides the report's abbreviations and describes how we ensure the completeness and reliability of the data for each of our performance measures. For more information, contact Timothy Bowling (202) 512-6100 or bowlingt@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
    A Dallas-area man was charged in an indictment filed Thursday for his alleged participation in a scheme to file fraudulent loan applications seeking approximately $24.8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Former Elkhart, Indiana Resident Sentenced to Over Six Years in Prison for Financing of Terrorism
    In Crime News
    Samantha Marie Elhassani, aka Samantha Sally, 35, formerly of Elkhart, Indiana, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Philip P. Simon to 78 months in prison and three years of supervised release after pleading guilty to Financing Terrorism, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana Thomas L. Kirsch II, FBI Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division Jill Sanborn, and FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Indianapolis field office Paul Keenan.
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    In U.S Courts
    Federal judges are creating opportunities throughout May for critical thinking and candid conversations with students about the rule of law, as part of the Judiciary’s annual observance of Law Day.
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    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division, seeking to bar an Irwinton, Georgia, tax return preparer from preparing tax returns for others.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced a settlement with the City of Killeen, Texas, to provide equal access in its programs, services, facilities and activities to individuals with disabilities, including veterans.
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  • Colorado Springs Agrees to Improve Stormwater Management in Settlement with the United States
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    The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act with respect to the City’s storm sewer system.
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  • Used Motor Vehicle Dealers Sentenced in Odometer Tampering Scheme
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, in federal court in Brooklyn, Shmuel Gali was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kiyo A. Matsumoto to 60 months’ imprisonment for his role in a long-running odometer tampering and money laundering scheme and ordered to pay $3,936,000 in restitution. The defendant pleaded guilty in August 2020 to conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit odometer tampering, making false odometer statements and securities fraud.
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    In Crime News
    A New York man was sentenced today to 20 months in prison for failing to collect and pay over to the IRS $732,462 in employment taxes.
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    In Crime News
    A former Kansas bank executive was sentenced to 60 months in prison today for his role in carrying out a bank fraud scheme to obtain a $15 million construction loan from 26 Kansas banks.
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    In Crime News
    The United States Department of Justice announced today that it has obtained a Temporary Restraining Order in federal court to combat fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The enforcement action, filed in Tampa, Florida, is part of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts prioritizing the detection, investigation, and prosecution of illegal conduct related to the pandemic. The action was brought based on an investigation conducted by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), in coordination with the Vietnam Ministry of Public Security.
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  • Home Foreclosure Sales: FHA, Rural Housing Service, and VA Could Better Align Program Metrics with Their Missions
    In U.S GAO News
    By 2019, the number of foreclosed properties—known as real estate-owned (REO) properties—that federal entities owned declined to historically low levels because of the housing market recovery and the sale of many of the properties (see figure). Real Estate-Owned Properties of Selected Federal Entities, 2004–2019 Note: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the government-sponsored enterprises shown here. Data for the enterprises and FHA are calendar year; for VA and RHS, fiscal year ending September 30. The entities GAO reviewed each have processes to oversee their REO maintenance contractors' activities and performance, including internal and external performance reviews and on-site inspections. Entities generally have standardized maintenance policies for REO properties across the country, such as emergency repairs for broken windows and routine maintenance requirements for the frequency of cutting grass. GAO found that the performance of contractors whose documentation GAO reviewed generally met entities' standards and requirements. However, entities' oversight of contractors identified instances of underperformance in maintenance. For instance, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) recouped almost $3 million from seven property maintenance contractors for work below quality standards from 2017 to 2020. The REO program metrics of FHA, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) focus on required financial goals, such as minimizing losses, but do not always align fully with other program goals or agency missions. For example, FHA does not collect comprehensive information on REO property sales to public-sector homeowners or local nonprofits—missing an opportunity to measure the extent to which its REO program supports its goal to strengthen neighborhoods and communities. Similarly, VA and RHS lack metrics that would show whether their REO programs align with their broader agency missions to serve veterans and rural homebuyers, respectively. Incorporating additional metrics could help FHA, VA, and RHS ensure that their REO programs assist in meeting their agencies' missions. Poor maintenance of foreclosed properties can negatively affect communities and threaten neighborhood stability. FHA, VA, RHS, and Freddie Mac are among the federal entities owning foreclosed properties through REO programs. GAO was asked to review how these federal entities monitor REO property conditions. The objectives this report examines include trends in the number of REO properties; oversight of maintenance contractors; and whether metrics used to assess REO program performance align with entities' missions. GAO reviewed and analyzed reports and data on the number of REO properties and documentation on FHA, Freddie Mac, VA, and RHS oversight of REO property maintenance from 2017 to 2020. GAO also analyzed data on REO reimbursements to contractors for maintenance activities. GAO recommends that FHA, VA, and RHS consider additional REO program metrics that measure how the programs support their respective missions of strengthening communities and serving veterans and rural homeowners. The entities generally agreed with the recommendation. For more information, contact John H. Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or pendletonj@gao.gov.
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