There is no more effective form of engagement than face-to-face communication. That’s a fundamental principle of our public diplomacy. And thanks to a strong friendship and understanding between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf , we have just signed an important agreement between the United States and Liberia.
One year ago, this month, Secretary Clinton traveled to Monrovia to attend the inauguration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf . At the time she said, “Democracy hasn’t just sprouted in Liberia, it has taken root.”
The relationship struck between Secretary Clinton and President Sirleaf — strengthened by their own personal narratives of empowerment and their mutual commitment to changing the lives of women and girls, peace-building, and strong ties between our countries — has also taken root. Today, the United States and Liberia are preparing to institutionalize their bilateral relationship by signing the intent to create a Partnership Dialogue to improve food security, agricultural development, energy and power infrastructure, and human development.
It was in Liberia a decade ago that women organized the movement for nonviolent protest to end the civil war. They marched, they sang, they prayed, and they succeeded. Today, Liberia still suffers from the lingering effects of civil war and economic, political and social upheaval, but there is hope and opportunity which the United States is committed to supporting, in solidarity with the people of Liberia.
The State Department has contributed much to the empowerment of women and civil society in Liberia. Following on their participation in the Office of International Visitors African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program (AWEP), Liberian alumnae established their own AWEP chapter. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other senior Liberian government officials attended the launch of this alumnae chapter. A grant of $200,000 to the Liberian chapter in December from the Chevron Corporation will support increased training for 750 women entrepreneurs across Liberia.
From sports exchanges to youth programs, Liberians and Americans continue to work together to close the mobile phone gender gap, to provide unemployed young women with new skills, to expand the access to clean water, and to benefit from public-partnerships that address basic issues like clean cook stoves to more technical issues like science, technology, engineering and math.
The year 2013 will bring more U.S.-Liberia connections. Liberian high school students are currently in the United States on the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study program. They are attending public high schools, living with host families, developing leadership skills, and participating in community service. Two Fulbright specialists are scheduled to be in Liberia; one to work on the agriculture sector; the other on applied linguistics. They join approximately 455 alumni who have participated in Educational and Cultural Affairs programs in Liberia.
English Access Micro-scholarships are in the second year of operation in Liberia providing English language skills for 50 economically disadvantaged youth. Our Information Resource Center at Embassy Monrovia draws some 4,000 students and young professionals each year to use the Internet, library, and advisory services. Supported by the Public Affairs Section, three American Corners, located in Buchanan, Kakata, and Zwerdu, hosted over 1,300 visitors and 35 programs in 2012.
Together, we will work to nurture the roots of democracy and to continue our people-to-people outreach to ensure that the educational, social, economic, and political future of Liberia will shine as brightly as that important friendship.
Cross posted from DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State