Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said countries could learn lessons from the Irish on building peace and that, despite the economic crisis, Ireland is a resilient nation.
The former first lady spoke of the need to better protect the human rights of women as well as religious minorities globally.
Mrs Clinton also described the support needed for activists and communities in repressive nations as well as the importance of giving those citizens access to the internet.
During a wide-ranging speech on human rights in Dublin City University, Mrs Clinton spoke of ties between Ireland and the US, such as efforts to battle global hunger.
She praised Ireland’s peacekeeping work abroad as well as its efforts to get through the economic crash.
“So I know that Ireland is going through hard times now. I understand the painful sacrifice that so many families have had to make. But I want you to know that, not just in the United States, but people everywhere look to Ireland and see a resilient nation,” she said.
However, Mrs Clinton focused most of her speech on what she called the four frontlines of human rights.
She emphasised the importance of protecting religious minorities, particularly in the Middle East, North Africa, and Burma. She said the US was closely monitoring recent unrest in Cairo, and wanted all sides to engage in dialogue rather than violence.
Mrs Clinton also stressed the importance of internet freedom as a human rights issue.
Mentioning Russia and China, she said that nations should respond to criticism and not attempt to repress it.
“The internet is the public space of the 21st century. As the internet has grown, and as citizens turn to it to conduct important aspects of their lives, repressive governments have worked harder and harder to limit people’s freedom online, just as they do offline.”
She said some governments were scrubbing websites of content and censoring emails, adding: “They’re reading political blogs, then showing up at the homes of bloggers and arresting them.”
The US had spent €100m funding internet groups in repressive nations, she said.
Mrs Clinton warned of nations cracking down on activists and journalists, and said there were even examples of this in Europe and Eurasia. There had also been attacks on lesbian and gay movements, which was an increasing problem globally.
Mrs Clinton emphasised the importance of empowering women and girls around the world, and said it was an unfinished task in some places where they were still treated as second-class citizens.
“They are subjected to terrible violence. Their health, even their lives, are disregarded. They are forced into marriage or forced labour as if they were property instead of people.”
Mrs Clinton said she had no doubt that if women everywhere were treated as equal that the world would see economic and political progress come to places that are now teetering on the edge.
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