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An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

This is a guest post by Peter Tatchell

Dear President Barack Obama,

Congratulations on the occasion of your inauguration.

On this special day, the hopes of billions of people across our precious planet are vested in your presidency. They look to you to show practical and moral leadership in resolving the great challenges that face humanity.

You have a historic opportunity to give new expression to the United State’s founding ideals of liberty, justice and equality, by defending and protecting human rights, in the US and worldwide.

There are many new policies you can initiate, at relatively little cost, which will greatly extend the realm of justice and freedom and rebuild the moral stature of the US across the globe:

Propose a new UN International Human Rights Convention, enforceable worldwide.

Recognise and support the International Criminal Court, to bring to justice the perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Instruct the State Department to compile a Global Index of Human Rights, measuring the record and ranking of every country on key human rights issues. Raise abuses of these rights in the UN and with offending states, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Israel, China, Sudan, Uganda, Iran, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Burma, Afghanistan, Russia, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

Make US foreign aid conditional on countries achieving significant progress towards upholding human rights.

Show the way by ending the US use of detention without trial, torture and extraordinary rendition, and by closing down Guantanamo Bay.

Cease propping up corrupt, pro-western human rights abusers, such as the governments of Uganda and Nigeria.

Use the network and resources of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to train human rights defenders and support human rights organisations, especially in poorer developing countries.

Press for the worldwide decriminalisation of same-sex acts.

Seek the universal abolition of capital punishment, and give a lead by ending the death penalty in the US.

Withdraw diplomatic, economic and military support from tyrannical regimes like Saudi Arabia that persistently deny freedom to their own people and oppress their own citizens, on grounds such as gender, race, nationality, religion or belief, language, sexual orientation, transgender identity and so on.

Pull out from Iraq and renounce the US policy of selective and unilateral military intervention to overthrow foreign dictatorships, like the Saddam Hussein regime, in favour of a policy supporting democratic and humanitarian civil society organisations within those countries, in order to empower the victims of oppression to liberate themselves.

Prioritise peace with justice in the Middle East, to secure a permanent negotiated settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict, including Israel’s withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders and the creation of a viable, independent, democratic, secular Palestinian state, where everyone enjoys full and equal human rights.

Devise a new, more just international economic framework, where the common good, environmental protection and global equity take priority over private privilege, corporate greed and national self-interest. A fairer, sustainable, regulated and accountable international economic system is our best hope to safeguard jobs, homes, savings, public services, welfare provision, the environment and to bridge the chasm of inequality between the global north and south.

Take action to save the lives of the 1.5 billion people on our planet who are malnourished and without safe, clean drinking water. What is the point of securing human rights if millions of people are left to die of starvation and disease?

Lobby for a UN Convention Against War and Poverty, whereby the nations of the world, including the US, agree to cut their annual military expenditure by 10% and to divert the $100,000 million saved into a ‘Marshall Plan 2’ for the total eradication of hunger, malnutrition, dirty drinking water, poor sanitation and preventable illnesses by the year 2025.

Act now to halt the single greatest threat to the future of humanity: climate chaos. It is more of a danger than terrorism and war, and threatens the survival of all species and all races, nationalities, faiths and sexualities. Democracy and human rights mean nothing if we don’t have a planet where we can enjoy these freedoms. Preserving our fragile biosphere is the precondition for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – for every human being.

Destiny awaits you, Mr President. The hopes of humanity are in your hands. May you rise to greatness as a progressive and unifying leader who shapes a freer and fairer future – not just for the American people but for the people of the whole world.

Yours with best wishes for a more peaceful, just and green planet,
Peter Tatchell