After watching the citizen uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, millions of citizens in other countries have also expressed their dissatisfaction with governments that fail to deliver results to their people. the State Department said Thursday as it released its annual human rights report.
"Whether in grand movements or small acts, people in countries around the world are standing up and demanding their universal rights, dignity, greater economic opportunity, and participation in their countries' political future," the report said.
The change, however, often creates instability before it leads to greater respect for democracy and human rights.
"Transitions are times of uncertainty. They can be chaotic, unstable, and at times violent. And even when they succeed, they are rarely linear, quick, or easy. The challenge during these transitions is to keep societies open to political debate," the report said. "Protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms ensures that negotiations over a country's future can take place without fear or intimidation, and that anti-democratic forces do not snuff out genuine political participation."
Thousands of citizens were killed across Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria last year during the turmoil of the uprisings and many others were abused by security forces.
The power of social media has transformed the way people around the world are connected, the report said.
"As we consider the implications of connective technologies on human rights and democracy, we realize that technology itself does not usher in progress on human rights. People do," the report said. "The Internet does not bring people into the street. Grievances do. The Internet did not spark the Arab Spring. Injustice did."
The report highlighted the changes in Myanmar, where the government has taken a number of steps toward political reform and reconciliation. The success in Myanmar offers hope that could inspire changes in places such as Iran, North Korea, Uzbekistan, Eritrea, or Sudan, the report said.
Colombia, Zambia and Tunisia were offered as examples of countries that have made some progress on human rights but still have many challenges. In Colombia, the government worked last year to address a climate of harassment, intimidation, and killings of human rights workers, journalists, teachers, and trade unionists. In Zambia, "free, credible and orderly" elections were held last fall. Tunisia is rewriting its constitution after elections last September.
Negative developments last fall include electoral irregularities in Nicaragua, continued persecution of religious minorities and an increase in discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexuality and disability.
The State Department said overall human rights conditions remained extremely poor in many countries, including Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Syria, Belarus, and China.