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Uzra Zeya

Under Secretary Of State For Civilian Security, Democracy And Human Rights

Uzra Zeya has worked for the U.S. State Department for almost three decades, where she has previously served as senior advisor, chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Paris; acting assistant secretary at the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and in numerous other roles. Throughout her career, Zeya has signaled strong support for reproductive and LGBTQ rights and gender equality.

On January 17, 2021, Uzra Zeya Was Reported To Be Biden’s Nominee For Under Secretary Of State For Civilian Security, Democracy And Human Rights

The Associated Press Reported Uzra Zeya Was President Biden’s Nominee For Under Secretary Of State For Security, Democracy, And Human Rights. “Among the others are...former senior diplomats Bonnie Jenkins and Uzra Zeya, to be under secretary of state for arms control and undersecretary of state of democracy and human rights, respectively.” [AP, 1/16/21]

Zeya Has Signaled Support For Reproductive And LGBTQ Rights

Zeya Has Signaled Support For Reproductive Rights

Zeya Liked Secretary Of State Antony Blinken’s Tweet Supporting The Restoration And Prioritization Of Reproductive Health And Rights As An Essential Part Of U.S. Foreign Policy.

[Uzra Zeya Twitter, 4/27/2021]

Alliance For Peacebuilding, An Organization Formerly Led By Zeya, Has Endorsed The Global HER Act, Which Would Permanently Repeal The Global Gag Rule. “The Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights (HER) Act would permanently repeal the global gag rule. Passage of the Global HER Act is urgently needed to ensure that qualified foreign non-governmental organizations can partner with the U.S. to transform health care access abroad without fear that the policy will be reimposed by a future president. The Global HER Act is endorsed by over 100 diverse organizations…The Global Health, Empowerment and Rights (HER) Act of 2021 is endorsed by...Alliance for Peacebuilding” [Planned Parenthood, 1/19/2021Planned Parenthood, 4/29/2021]

Former Secretary Of State John Kerry Praised Zeya For Her Work On The Annual Country Reports For Human Rights. “I’m delighted to be here this morning for the second Human Rights report that I have issued as Secretary, and I’m particularly pleased to be here with our Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Uzra Zeya, who as I think all of you know, is performing these responsibilities in the capacity as an interim assistant secretary but who has done just a spectacular job and has led the Department in a year-long process to track and make the assessments that are reflected here. So I thank her for a job particularly well done on this year’s Human Rights Report…This is the most comprehensive, authoritative, dispassionate, and factual review of the state of human rights globally, and every American should be proud of it. That’s why Acting Assistant Secretary Zeya of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and our embassies and consulates around the world have spent countless hours researching and writing these reports, engaging activists, talking to governments, and analyzing NGO and media reports.” [U.S. Department of State Archives, 2/27/2014]

While Zeya Worked On The State Department Human Rights Reports, They Contained A Section On Reproductive Rights. “2013 Human Rights Report: Appendix A -- Notes on Preparation of Report…The subsection ‘Women’ discusses societal violence against women, such as dowry deaths, ‘honor killings,’ wife beating, rape, female genital mutilation on those over age 18 (for younger girls it is covered in the subsection on ‘Children’), and government tolerance of such practices, as well as the extent to which the law provides for, and the government enforces, equality of economic opportunity for women. A paragraph on reproductive rights reports on the basic right of couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children.” [U.S. Department of State Archives, 2/27/2014]

Zeya Has Signaled Strong Support For Protecting And Promoting LGBTQ Rights Abroad

Zeya Spoke In Favor Of LGBTQ Rights At The 2014 Equality Convention Of The Human Rights Campaign.“Recently, there have been long overdue advances for the rights of LGBT persons in the United States thanks in large part to the advocacy and steadfast determination of groups like the Human Rights Campaign, and for that, I applaud you. We view HRC as a vital partner as we work to advance equality for all and look forward to strengthening this partnership. Of course, the positive momentum we are witnessing in this country is not free of hurdles, and indeed, as we look beyond our border, notably in Russia, Nigeria, and Uganda, governments are cracking down on the ability of LGBT persons to live their lives with dignity, safety, and freedom. Today, I’d like to tell you about the Department of State’s work to protect human rights for all, globally. I couldn’t think of a better group to address on this issue than HRC; a group of Americans who are staunchly committed to equality in our own country. This commitment to promoting human rights is deeply rooted in our country’s founding principles, was further championed by Eleanor Roosevelt at the United Nations resulting in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and reinforced recently by President Obama in his naming of openly-gay and lesbian American athletes to the U.S. delegation to the Sochi Olympics.” [U.S. Department of State Archives, 3/15/2014]

Zeya Condemned Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ Law As “Very Regressive” And “Very Disturbing.” “Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday expressed the United States’ ‘deep disappointment’ with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni over his decision to sign his country’s so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law…Uzra Zeya, acting assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, described the law as ‘very regressive’ and ‘very disturbing’ during an interview with the Washington Blade on Friday. ‘It complicates our relationship with Uganda,’ said Zeya. ‘We have deep concerns about the law posing a threat to the safety and security of the LGBT community, but also the safety and protection of all Ugandan citizens.’” [Washington Blade, 2/28/2014]

Zeya Spoke In Support Of LGBTQ Rights In Europe By Praising The Legalization Of Same-Sex Marriage In France And The United Kingdom And Condemning Russia’s Anti-LGBTQ Laws. “[T]he most important thing to understand about the work of the U.S. government is that protecting and promoting the human rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is a foreign policy priority…The fundamental principle that guides our LGBT work is that the human rights of LGBT persons are not different than or separate from the human rights of everyone else. All people deserve to be treated with dignity no matter who they are or who they love. Looking across the region over 2013, there is a lot to be excited about. Both France and the UK have legalized same sex marriage and more countries are taking steps to make sure that LGBT persons can make the choices that work for them and their families. It is also encouraging to see new anti-discrimination and hate crimes legislation specifically including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories. But the United States remains extremely concerned about negative trends in a number of countries. The anti-gay propaganda law in Russia and the proposed law to strip gay parents of their parental rights are alarming...Laws that validate discrimination, as we have seen in Russia, can lead to an increase in violence and harassment.” [Obama White House Archives, 10/24/2013]

 

Zeya Has Signaled Strong Support For Women’s Empowerment And Diversity And Inclusion

Zeya Has Signaled Strong Support For Women’s Empowerment And Gender Equality In Various Policy Fora

During Her Confirmation Hearing, Zeya Called For Increased Women’s Participation In The Afghanistan Peace Process. “I think the Afghanistan example is critical as you discussed with Ambassador Nuland. I would say from my own perspective, I think it's very important with this decision for the U.S. to continue to strongly support increased women's participation in the peace process. As you're well aware, women's participation in peace processes, most of which fail, you know by record of history, makes them 35 percent more likely to last 15 years or more.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/15/2021]

Zeya Pledged To Integrate Gender Equality Within The Purview Of Her Office If Confirmed. “So if confirmed, I would certainly seek to further integrate gender equality across the full spectrum of J family activity, obviously on democracy and human rights, but also on issues like counterterrorism, counternarcotics and quite obviously trafficking in persons. So this work is too important. It's too enormous for any one office to accomplish alone.” [Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 4/15/2021]

Zeya Helped The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) Create Recommendations To Improve Diversity And Inclusion At The State Department. “The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) and Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS) shared recommendations with Secretary of State Antony Blinken to help realize his goal to ‘invest significantly in building a diverse and inclusive State Department.’ The recommendations were informed by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, and Uzra Zeya—all of whom have been confirmed or nominated for diplomatic posts in the Biden Administration.” [Georgetown University, 2/26/2021]

  • GIWPS Recommended A Diversity And Inclusion Committee, Employee Training Programs, Diverse Hiring And Promotion Practices, A Zero-Tolerance Policy For Harassment And Bias, And Support For Women And LGBTQ Foreign Service Officers. “The Deputy Secretary of State should establish a committee that includes the Chief Diversity Officer, the Director General of the Foreign Service and Civil Service, the Chief Human Relations Officer, and the head of Foreign Service Institute…Diversity training should be instituted at all levels of the leadership structure and at each step in the promotion process…The recruiting force should comprise of employees from diverse backgrounds, and should seek out and recruit from diverse pools of candidates…Selection boards overseeing employee promotions should consider at least one woman and one non-white candidate in their pools for each promotion…Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and bias, both words and actions…Investigate issues that make life more difficult for Foreign Service Officers, especially women/minorities, including unaccompanied assignments, lack of employment opportunities for spouses, and difficulties obtaining visas for same-sex partners, and put more effort into easing these burdens.” [Georgetown University, 2/26/2021]

As Acting Assistant Secretary For Democracy, Human Rights, And Labor, Zeya Launched The Gender-Based Violence Emergency Response And Protection Initiative, A Public-Private Partnership Between The State Department And NGOs. “Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will launch the Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Emergency Response and Protection Initiative on March 20, 2014, at the Department of State. This first of its kind, global emergency response program will provide fast, flexible, and immediate assistance to address the urgent needs of survivors of severe gender-based violence, as well as individuals under credible threat of imminent attack due to their gender. The program will also work to improve the implementation of anti-GBV laws through the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women…This State Department-sponsored program will be managed by a consortium of NGOs and international organizations who are experts on GBV issues in various fields and led by Vital Voices Global Partnership. The Avon Foundation for Women supports Vital Voices and is sponsoring the launch event.” [U.S. Department of State Archives, 3/17/2014]

Zeya Criticized Trump’s State Department For Its Politicized Approach To Human Rights And Its Lack Of Diversity

Zeya Criticized Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo For Focusing On The Human Rights Abuses Of American Adversaries Only And Not Adopting A Universal Approach. “’I consider it a missed opportunity to focus only on U.S. adversaries and not underscore the universality of human rights obligations for all nations,’ said Uzra Zeya, who oversaw the annual report’s research and release as an acting assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration. She said the cases Mr. Pompeo cited in China, Cuba, Iran and Venezuela ‘were certainly legitimate.’ ‘But it’s the focus — only on those examples, without suggesting concerns elsewhere — that I think undercuts the message,’ Ms. Zeya said.” [New York Times, 3/11/2020]

Zeya Authored A POLITICO Op-Ed Titled “Trump Is Making American Diplomacy White Again” And Criticized The State Department’s Lack Of Diversity. “In 2017, as the media ran out of synonyms for ‘implosion’ in describing Rex Tillerson’s tenure as secretary of state, a quieter trend unfolded in parallel: the exclusion of minorities from top leadership positions in the State Department and embassies abroad. This shift quickly became apparent in the department’s upper ranks. In the first five months of the Trump administration, the department’s three most senior African-American career officials and the top-ranking Latino career officer were removed or resigned abruptly from their positions, with white successors named in their places. In the months that followed, I observed top-performing minority diplomats be disinvited from the secretary’s senior staff meeting, relegated to FOIA duty (well below their abilities), and passed over for bureau leadership roles and key ambassadorships.” [POLITICO, 9/17/2018]

Zeya Left The Trump Administration Due To Discriminatory Employment Practices At The State Department.“In my own case, I hit the buzz saw that Team Trump wielded against career professionals after leading the U.S. Embassy in Paris through three major terrorist attacks over three years and after planning President Trump’s Bastille Day visit. Upon returning to Washington, as accolades for the president’s visit poured in, I was blocked from a series of senior-level jobs, with no explanation. In two separate incidents, however, colleagues told me that a senior State official opposed candidates for leadership positions—myself and an African-American female officer—on the basis that we would not pass the ‘Breitbart test.’ One year into an administration that repudiated the very notion of America I had defended abroad for 27 years, I knew I could no longer be a part of it, and I left government earlier this year.” [POLITICO, 9/17/2018]

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