Brief from Engaging Asia

Recommendations for the 116th Congress on Human Rights Issues in the Asia-Pacific

Francisco Bencosme
February 19, 2019

This is part of the brief series “Key U.S. Policy Issues in the Indo-Pacific for the 116th Congress.” The purpose of these briefs is to provide members of Congress and their staff with a concise, readable primer on what are likely to be among the key U.S. policy issues in the Indo-Pacific for the 116th Congress. This is not a comprehensive compendium. Rather, the briefs aim to raise the issues that will likely occupy Congressional interest over the next two years.

Executive Summary


The deterioration of human rights in the Indo-Pacific directly affects U.S. national security interests. As the U.S. National Security Strategy states, the United States is competing in a geopolitical environment that involves not only military and economic dimensions but also ideas and values. If the United States does not support human rights through political initiatives, the “free and open Indo-Pacific” risks becoming another hollow concept. The key countries that will likely draw the most attention on Capitol Hill are China, North Korea, Myanmar, and India.

  • Establish a $5 million fund to support Indo-Pacific human rights defenders.
  • Follow through on the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act to train a new, young generation of activists in the Indo-Pacific human rights community and increase their networks.
  • Support digital journalism both by protecting journalists and by building broadcasting programs that focus on digital content and social media to appeal to the younger generation in Asia.
  • Integrate human rights into every level of the U.S. bureaucracy that manages the Indo-Pacific policy, and increase congressional engagement with regional leaders on human rights issues.

Francisco Bencosme is the Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager at Amnesty International USA (AIUSA). Before AIUSA, he served as a professional staff member on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where he assisted Democratic Senators on issues related to East Asia/Pacific, South Asia, and State Department/USAID oversight. He is a Truman Security Fellow and a Penn-Kemble Fellow. He received his Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and his BA from Wake Forest University.