George Lister, senior foreign policy adviser for the Department of State, told GW students he was optimistic about combating human rights violations around the world at a lecture at the International Human Rights Dinner Tuesday.
Lister said his main goal was to eliminate of misconceptions about the human rights policies of the State Department and the United Nations.
“We, the human race, are in this together,” he said.
He said a human rights policy designed by the United States and the United Nations does not imply the United States is morally superior to other countries.
Lister said human rights improvements began in 1973 when the United States began reviewing its policies.
U.S. foreign policy is focused on relationships with the people of different countries as opposed to their governments, Lister said. When governments do not focus on the impact of their policies on the people, they are missing the point, he said.
Lister said two basic human rights are paramount to the success of other human rights efforts around the world – the freedom of speech and equal rights for women.
He said communication is the key to continuing to make improvements.
“I’ve learned a hell of a lot more by listening than by talking,” he said.
Lister cautioned that human rights violations occur daily but said he was optimistic about the future.
. “This is the best chance the human race has ever had,” Lister said.
Amina Chaudary, vice president of the Muslim Student Association, said the event was the second annual human rights dinner her organization sponsored. She said it is important to focus on human rights violations.
“Not a single human is allowed to deny another human their basic right to live,” she said.