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Who’s in charge of human rights at the State Department?

Michael Posner, President of Human Rights First, the man who could be Assistant Secretary

Michael Posner, President of Human Rights First, the man who could be Assistant Secretary

When Secretary of State Hilary Clinton went to China in February, there was much concern among activists that she had downplayed human rights. And this, undoubtedly, led to speculation that human rights would not be playing as critical a role in U.S. foreing policy as some advocates might have hoped. But many were encouraged when it was reported in February that Michael Posner, the President of Human Rights First, had been nominated to be Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor– a position created under a different name during the Carter Administration to institutionalize human right within the foreign policy process. Yet, despite these press reports, a search of the White House website reveals no presidential nomination. And if you explore the website for the Bureau of Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor, you find:

About the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

Leadership

Our bureau is led by an experienced team of public servants, dedicated to the U.S. mission of spreading democracy and respect for human rights globally. The biographies of each of our bureau’s senior staff display the diversity of experience and expertise currently benefiting the U.S. cause of promoting freedom around the world.

Vacant, Assistant Secretary of State

Karen B. Stewart, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

Kay Mayfield, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary

Bruce Connuck, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary

Michael Kozak, Senior Advisor

Vacant, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom

Vacant, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism

So what is going on? Is Posner being nominated? We need him– and the rest of the Bureau! I know that other areas of State are also in need of leadership, but at a time when the Administration is attempting to reaffirm America’s commitment to human rights, it is sad to see it taking so long to appoint people in this area.

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.