We strive constantly to improve our human rights practices and policies. America's aim is to help to build a world in which universal rights give strength and direction to all nations and institutions. As President Barack Obama has underscored, U.S. action in the world rests on commitment to "the inherent rights and dignity of every individual." The United States is not exempt from these ideals, and understands that the standards of membership at the council require that we live up to these standards.
In our first term at the council, the United States focused energy on creating a credible body capable of responding to the urgent human rights crises of our time. To a large degree, that vision is now being realized. The most egregious and urgent human rights crises now top the agenda. Voices of human rights defenders are amplified. Cross-regional partnerships based on shared human rights commitments are no longer the exception, but the rule. And the council has found a new ability to rapidly confront urgent human rights crises in real time. In sum, the Human Rights Council's relevance and effectiveness have increased dramatically, in part because of active U.S. engagement.
An important case in point is the crisis in Syria, where the council has been on the frontlines, first dispatching a fact-finding mission that focused international attention on the nascent crisis and then creating an international Commission of Inquiry to document systematic and gross violations by the Bashar al-Assad regime. In the past 18 months of this conflict, the Human Rights Council is arguably the only international entity that has lived up to its responsibility, by creating a record that can ensure justice and accountability will be available for the Syrian people.
Despite resistance from some undemocratic governments, the United States helped strengthen core values such as women's equality, freedom of expression, and human rights of LGBT people. And we have helped restore confidence in the council's ability to address politically difficult thematic and country-specific situations.
When President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton decided to join the council, they had deep confidence that U.S. leadership would advance individual liberty around the globe. The record shows that their confidence was well placed. Protection of human rights is not only central to what the United States is as a nation but also as a foundation for our security. The United States must not retreat from the defense of the fundamental freedoms we hold so dear. If we are to live up to our responsibilities as a global leader, we must continue to invest, lead, and fight for human rights at the council.