Secretary Clinton to Address the Annual Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights Plenary Meeting
On March 23, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will deliver remarks to the annual Voluntary Principles (VPs) on Security and Human Rights Plenary Meeting, a multi-stakeholder forum comprised of companies, governments, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working to improve respect for human rights in the extractives sector, particularly in areas of conflict and civil strife.
Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner chairs the two-days of meetings on March 22nd and 23rd. This year marks the 11th anniversary of the VPs. The Voluntary Principles meetings are closed to the media.
Since its launch in 2000, the VPs has provided guidance to extractives companies on maintaining the security of their operations in a manner that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms. Currently there are seven member governments, 18 companies, nine NGOs, and three observers.
The United States is a founding member of the VPs and served as Government Chair of the organization this past year. As chair, the United States has worked to strengthen this multi-stakeholder effort, comprised of governments, companies and civil society organizations, and has led efforts to enhance its accountability and effectiveness.
The United States will remain committed to deepening the implementation of the VPs, broadening the participant base, and seeking more opportunities to expand dialogue and exchange implementation experiences among participants.
The United States publishes the Voluntary Principles text on the Department of State’s website at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/lbr/vp/.
Secretary Clinton’s two-day trip to Cambodia October 30-November 1 highlights the United States commitment to enhanced, sustained, and comprehensive engagement in Southeast Asia, as well as our desire to assist the Cambodian people in their efforts to recover fully from decades of conflict, to achieve political and legal reforms, and to strengthen economic development. This trip is the first Secretary of State visit to Cambodia since then-Secretary Powell visited in 2003.
The United States has a strong interest in a Cambodia that contributes to regional stability, upholds democratic values, and integrates fully into the international economy. Our wide-ranging assistance programs touch on all aspects of Cambodian life and affirm these strategic interests. Secretary Clinton will encourage Cambodia to continue its recovery from conflict and its progress on democratic development. She will stress the importance of a credible opposition and respect for human rights in a stable, well-functioning democracy and highlight our interest in seeing Cambodia continue to play a constructive role in regional stability. She will also express appreciation for the country’s rich cultural heritage and underscore the critical role Cambodia’s young citizens play in the country’s future prosperity and development.
Sustained and Deep Engagement with Cambodia: Our engagement with Cambodia achieves a variety of political, security and humanitarian objectives. The United States provided Cambodia more than U.S. $70 million in foreign assistance this year, which goes to addressing issues such as human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, corruption, maternal and child health, and humanitarian mine action. Our maturing security cooperation with Cambodia represents a joint commitment to ensuring international peace and security, and continuing the transformation of the Cambodian Armed Forces into a transparent, accountable, and professional military. The U.S. partnership with the Lower Mekong Initiative is another example of how we are engaging with Cambodia to promote a multilateral response to the transnational challenges we all share, such as climate change and infectious disease.
A Democratic, Secure, and Prosperous Future for Cambodia: Our commitment to a democratic, secure, and prosperous Cambodia is reflected in the nearly $7 million we have contributed to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Tribunal), which seeks to bring to justice the Khmer Rouge senior leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities of the late 1970s, while also serving as a model for Cambodian rule of law, judicial independence, and national reconciliation. While in Cambodia, Secretary Clinton will visit Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge torture and interrogation center, will emphasize the need to fight corruption and improve transparency in all parts of the government, and will meet with opposition leaders to highlight the importance of a vibrant political arena where all voices are heard.
The Role of Cambodia’s Youth: The Secretary’s participation in a town hall event will provide an important opportunity to have a free-flowing discussion with Cambodia youth about challenges and opportunities facing the country, and how the United States can help. In turn, her outreach to Cambodia’s youth will promote an even better understanding of the United States and our shared values.
I want to thank the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine for hosting today’s event and for inviting me to participate. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about the challenges faced by children caught in conflict and to share what the U.S. Government, and in particular the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), is doing to protect and assist populations that are affected by conflict around the world.
In the coming days, this conference will review global trends and the latest thinking about the mental health of children who have been affected by armed conflict, including sessions focusing on trauma, resilience, child soldiers, and rehabilitative and psychosocial support. During my time in the State Department and at PRM, I have seen how war deeply affects children. The topics on your agenda are all critical areas of discussion that will further our common understanding of how the international community can work together to more effectively respond to the mental health and psychosocial needs of conflict affected children.
In doing so, we face many troubling challenges. Though children share many of the same protection problems as adults , they also have special protection needs, including against sexual and physical abuse and exploitation, separation from families, deprivation of education, forcible recruitment by armed groups, as well as protection against discrimination in the delivery of goods and services. Children are targeted by combatants and armed elements in conflict situations. They also face great risk of physical and sexual violence during displacement, and for each child killed or injured by physical violence, gunfire, or landmines, many more children are deprived of their basic needs. Gender-based violence, including the exploitation of women and children (and to a lesser extent men), continues to be a feature of virtually all recent armed conflicts. Sadly, sexual exploitation and abuse of children by the very peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers responsible for protecting them, continues to take place during humanitarian emergencies despite recent political commitments by governments and international organizations to tackle this problem.
Thanks to the work of academics, researchers, and humanitarians, we now know more about the lives and needs of children who have lived through conflict than ever before. For example, we are now much more aware that children are extremely vulnerable to forcible recruitment as combatants in conflict situations. The gravest cases, such as in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, involve national armies or guerilla groups deliberately pursuing a program of enlisting children to commit atrocities. After overrunning a village, for instance, a military or paramilitary group may abduct a child from his family. The group then instructs the child to kill, rape or maim someone in the community in order to sever that child’s natural ties to family and neighbors and replace this with a bond to the military force or armed group. The tragic abduction and coercion to servitude and violence of Ishmael Beah from Sierra Leone, is now well known around the world because of his incredible bravery and resilience. His story provides us with a case study of the effective brutalization of a child into a state of numbness, in which that child is capable of committing horrible crimes, in this case on behalf of the Revolutionary United Front. The Khmer Rouge used equally harsh techniques to create merciless young soldiers.
Slightly less severe, but also reprehensible, is the practice of exploiting children as unpaid laborers. In Burma, for instance, children are taken away from their families and forced to be porters for the Burmese military. These children are often from minority ethnic groups that are deemed inferior by the majority Burmese military. As porters, they are required to walk in areas littered with landmines, and are often killed or severely injured as a result.
You may have noticed that so far today I have only used masculine pronouns, but girls are also enlisted in conflict as combatants and porters, by both government and rebel groups. It’s widely known that in Uganda and parts of Sudan, the Lord’s Resistance Army drafts girls as sex slaves, cooks and servants – heinous practices that have persisted in that area for almost two decades. This trend is not limited to rebel groups, of course, and government forces are regularly responsible for such recruitment and exploitation as well.
Working to put an end to the abuse of the world’s most vulnerable is difficult enough, but perhaps even more challenging is the topic of your conference – the rehabilitation and reintegration of children affected by armed conflict. Given the wide scale of conflict throughout the world and the various ways that children can be implicated and abused, the international community often struggles to meet the needs of children after conflict has ended. Ideally, once peace has been attained, children and adolescents should be able to return home to be productive members of their communities and countries; after all, children represent the future of every nation. In addition to political reconciliation and economic development, promoting the mental health and well-being of the next generation is critical to reconciliation, consolidation of peace, and the transition of war torn societies from recipients of relief assistance to partners in the sustainable development of their countries. Failure to address the mental health needs of all children, particularly ex-child soldiers, could in many cases lead to either a return to war down the road, or result in other social ills, such as increased levels of violence and insecurity through the prevalence of gang activity and crime, as we have seen in Liberia.
The United States has been and continues to be a leader in protecting and assisting children affected by conflict, both by promoting humanitarian principles with partner governments and through our engagement with and financial contributions to international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations. Both President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made statements prioritizing children’s issues in U.S. foreign policy, and there are many government actors, including Congress, the Department of State, USAID, and others that are engaged in preventing and responding to these challenges.
Within the Department of State, PRM works to protect, assist, and seek sustainable solutions for the most vulnerable populations around the world – including refugees, conflict victims, stateless persons, and vulnerable migrants. In 2009, this was over 42 million people – the majority of whom are women and children. PRM promotes its goals through the inclusion of humanitarian priorities in diplomatic exchanges , through advocacy, and by providing financial support to international and non-governmental humanitarian responders. PRM also has the primary responsibility within the U.S. government for international population policy, including advocating for international child and maternal health initiatives. In FY 2009, PRM provided over $1.7 billion to international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) toward this end. In fact, the United States, through PRM, is the largest bilateral donor to international partners.
Together, we are particularly engaged in:
· the legal, physical, and social protection of children, including unaccompanied or separated children;
· expanding the prevention of and response to gender-based violence in all its forms, and promoting psychosocial programming that directly targets children as well as adults;
· working to prevent children from becoming soldiers and providing rehabilitation for those who have been recruited or detained.
PRM works through international partners such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and other international agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide protection for children who are vulnerable to forcible recruitment into armed conflict, as well as to rehabilitate children who have been, literally and figuratively, through the war. PRM contributions to UNHCR and UNICEF makes programs possible in places like Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan for displaced children that focus on physical protection, education, health, and gender-based violence. PRM insists on the broadest possible implementation of UNHCR’s Guidelines on the Protection and Care of Refugee Children in international organizations working with refugees, their implementing partners, and USG-funded organizations. PRM also worked with UNHCR to develop and roll out its best-interest determination process for unaccompanied minors, and supports UNHCR’s five priorities for refugee children: education, prevention and response to sexual exploitation and abuse, separation from families and caregivers, military recruitment, and special needs of adolescents.
PRM’s contributions to the International Committee of the Red Cross allow it to play an important, even unique role in organizing training courses for the armed forces, police and weapon bearers to promote knowledge of international humanitarian law and other fundamental standards. ICRC regularly reminds armed groups and government authorities and forces of the ban on the recruitment of child soldiers, as well as other obligations. ICRC has been able to secure the demobilization of many children, especially in Asia and Africa. For these demobilized children, ICRC does its utmost to trace family and facilitate family reunification -IF the security situation allows and IF it is in the child’s best interest.
In addition, PRM’s funding also supports the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which resettled over 74,000 refugees to the United States in FY 2009, including many families and hundreds of unaccompanied refugee minors. Though resettlement is not a perfect solution, and is not available in all situations, it significantly improves the physical and legal protections of children affected by conflict who have access to the program.
PRM also partners with NGOs and international organizations to provide specialized programming for children and adolescents. In recent years this programming has included school rehabilitation, education, psychosocial care, youth groups, livelihoods training, health programming, and other activities. PRM is also working with NGO partners to implement an action plan on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse of beneficiary populations in order to increase the accountability of our partners and support their commitment to this important issue. PRM expects its partners to comply with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. This handbook is a very useful tool for ensuring a minimum set of multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve the mental health and psychosocial well being of children and other conflict affected populations.
More broadly, the U.S. continues to view the use of child soldiers as intolerable, and the Department addresses the issue frequently, in its annual human rights reports and in various multilateral fora. Our goal is to see the use of children in armed conflict become the exception in all situations, and never the rule. At our embassies in Sri Lanka, throughout Central Africa and in other regions where children are often pulled into war, we monitor the situation and urge governments to prevent the conscription of children. It is easier, of course, to shame other governments into doing the right thing than to convince rebel groups, who usually have far less to lose. But increasing the social sanction worldwide against the use of children in armed conflict is an important step toward reducing the problem. Recently we began referring to child soldiers as another type of child laborer – indeed one of the very worst forms. As countries worldwide realize the need for investing, protecting and caring for their youth, we hope that this will reduce the frequency with which children are drafted into battle.
We know child soldiers can be rehabilitated successfully and the US government has funded many initiatives to reintegrate former child soldiers. Societies emerging from violent conflict need stability, and diminishing the threat of armed, disenfranchised youth is essential. Last year the Department of Labor funded programs in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo that successfully reintegrated child soldiers through educational and vocational programs. And in Liberia, USAID conducted an assessment of the needs of child soldiers and women combatants. They have begun a labor-intensive public works program to provide education, skills and employment to ex-combatants and other war affected groups.
Landmines and unexploded munitions can also continue to pose a serious humanitarian risk to communities long after conflicts end. Since 1993, the United States has been the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action, providing more than $1.5 billion in aid to 47 countries toward efforts by partner nations and more than 60 NGOs working on the ground from Iraq and Afghanistan to Angola, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and beyond. My colleagues in State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs work closely with the Department of Defense, USAID, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this effort to support land surveys and clearance operations, educate children and families about mine risks in their communities, and fund medical assistance, rehabilitation and other services for victims of landmine injuries and their families, among other services.
While acknowledging the progress that has been made, we still have much more to do, which is why conferences like this gathering are so critical to advancing our understanding of both the challenges we face and how, working together, we can improve our programs, policies, and engagement. While our ultimate goal will continue to be the prevention of conflict and protection of children, one of our most daunting current challenges continues to be the rehabilitation and reintegration of children affected by conflict so that countries can successfully transition to development without relapsing into violence. PRM is keenly interested in hearing about any outcomes or recommendations from your meetings. I thank you for your efforts, and wish you a very productive conference.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Five years ago this week, the longest running war in Africa came to a close. The signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Sudan ended a stubborn and violent civil conflict between North and South and offered fresh hope of real peace for the Sudanese people. This historic achievement was shepherded and encouraged by the international community, but it could not have happened without the leadership and political will of the parties in Sudan.
Since 2005, the ceasefire has, for the most part, held. Northern troops have pulled out of the South and a new government of national unity was formed in Khartoum. A regional government of Southern Sudan was created in Juba. Oil wealth has been shared with the South. The parties have made progress on some of the disputed border areas of Abyei and have passed legislation to prepare for elections and the 2011 referenda on self-determination.
Now, these are positive steps, but they are not enough to secure lasting peace. Threats to progress are real, reform of key institutions has been sporadic, and true democratic transformation – envisioned in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement – remains elusive. Violence in the South is rising and tensions continue in border areas. So today, the parties in Sudan have a choice. They can revert back to a dark era of conflict or they can move forward together toward a lasting peace.
In April, Sudan will hold its first national elections in 24 years. Less than a year after that, the people of Southern Sudan and Abyei will determine whether to remain part of Sudan or form an independent country. These elections are important milestones in Sudan’s evolution, and the parties should be commended for overcoming major hurdles to get to this phase. But now they must work to ensure that the elections and referenda take place on time, with their outcomes respected.
The parties in the international community have barely begun to grapple with the potential outcomes of this historic upcoming vote, so we must work diligently together over the next year to prepare Sudan and the region for all potential scenarios.
I’m very pleased to be releasing a joint statement with Foreign Minister Store and Foreign Secretary Miliband from Norway and the UK pledging the commitment of our respective governments to helping bring peace to Sudan. Among areas of concern will be the impact of the election decision on Darfur, where human suffering continues on a mass scale and a six-year-old conflict remains unresolved.
Let me reiterate what I have said before, that the conflict in Darfur and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement must be seen in tandem. The United States continues to push the Government of Sudan and the Darfur rebels to facilitate the work of aid agencies in the region and to allow full access for UNAMID. We continue to encourage mediation in all parties to find a solution to choose to participate for the Darfuris in the elections, preventing their further marginalization. We are concerned by the potential increase in violence if the status quo remains.
In the months ahead, strong leadership will be even more essential, especially in light of setbacks that have already occurred during this pre-election process, so there’s serious work to be done by everyone.
In Southern Sudan, no matter the outcome of the referendum, Southern Sudan must increase its institutional capacity and prepare to govern responsibly, whether as a semiautonomous region within Sudan or a newly independent nation.
I have been tracking the increasing interethnic and tribal violence in the South over the course of 2009, and I share the concerns raised in recent reports that highlight the death of more than 2,500 people and displacement of more than 350,000. These stark figures illustrate the need for the Government of South Sudan to improve governance and security in the South with the assistance of international partners, including the United States.
The National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement must be willing to make the compromises and commitments necessary to build mutual confidence and achieve stability and lasting peace. Specifically, the National Congress Party must recognize that, as the dominant political party, it bears greater responsibility in ensuring the full and successful implementation of the CPA.
The NCP, therefore, must use its executive order to suspend elements of the national security and public order laws that are incompatible with free and fair elections. There must be no efforts to restrict freedom of speech and assembly. And there must be no prohibitions on peaceful protests. There must be sincere efforts to appoint members of the two referenda commissions and determine criteria for voter eligibility. And both parties must begin immediately on negotiations on the critical issues surrounding the parties’ relationships and use of shared wealth and resources after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement expires in July of next year.
The parties of Sudan cannot afford to delay and there can be no backtracking on agreements already reached. The risks are too serious: Renewed conflict between North and South would prolong human suffering and threaten stability and peace throughout the greater region.
Because Sudan is at a critical juncture after almost a half century of conflict, we hold all parties accountable if progress is impeded. The lives and futures of 40 million people are at stake. The United States is committed to helping the Sudanese parties and most particularly the Sudanese people to achieve a real and lasting peace that is long overdue. We will continue to provide leadership and mobilize international coordination in support of peace in Sudan.
I’d like now to ask our Special Envoy Scott Gration, who has been working tirelessly over the last year, to come forward, make a few comments, and answer any of your questions, and I will be seeing all of you later for a press avail.
MR. GRATION: Thank you very much. I’d like to start by just giving you a brief overview of what has happened in the last year and then tell you a little bit about the future and then take your questions.
This last year has had some highs. We’ve seen progress on Abyei when the ruling was handed down from the Court of Arbitration at The Hague. That was rather successful. We’ve seen the relationship between Chad and Sudan improve, and that, we believe, will help the security in Darfur. We’ve seen the registration for elections be pulled off, really in many ways better than what we expected; 79 percent of the eligible voters registered. That was almost 16 million people out of the 20 million eligible voters.
There are, however, things that need to be fixed. We’re very concerned about the situation in Darfur. The security situation continues to be bad. People continue to live in situations that are dire. They are fearful of their lives in some areas, and certainly they’re fearful of being harassed and some folks with sexual-based violence. We have got to make a bigger difference in the security there.
We’re also very concerned about the security in the South. You’ve all seen the numbers. The trend is up, and we’re very concerned that the security issues, the tribal fighting, the inter-community conflicts that are taking place, could be factors that make it more difficult to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and, if the South chooses to secede, will make it more difficult to birth that nation.
At this point, I’d like to take your questions on any topic.
QUESTION: Andy Quinn from Reuters. I have a question. When the policy review was announced late last year, some analysts and activists criticized it as too much carrot and not enough stick. And the Secretary talked about setbacks that have happened since that review was unveiled, which may indicate that this idea of engaging Khartoum more isn’t really bringing the results. So my question to you is: What is the current state of discussions about what happens to the Khartoum government and the NCP if they don’t deliver on these areas of progress that the Secretary outlined – public security, the election law, all of these things? And what are you saying to them will happen if they don’t make the progress that you’re demanding?
MR. GRATION: What we’ve seen is that there have been some progress in terms of passing the laws. As you know, the referendum law for Southern Sudan was passed, as was the referendum law for Abyei . The Popular Consultations Law, the National Security Act, and the Trade Union Law and a variety of other laws were passed by the end of the national assembly period that ended at the end of last year. So there have been some progress.
And what we’re taking a look now is taking a look at those areas where there’s been progress and taking a look at those areas where there hasn’t been progress, where we need to have more push and more pressure. And right now, we’re getting ready for a review at the deputies committee level that will be happening at the end of this month, and at that point the deputies will consider the facts on the ground and they will take a look at these based on benchmarks and ideas that we’ve put forth in the classified working papers, and then we’ll proceed.
QUESTION: Is there some secret annex about – there’s all this debate about – I mean, are there pressures ready, at the ready, to employ? And also, you know, you said they passed these laws, but at the end of the year there was – the congress – the parliament changed some of the wording of this. I mean, are you really satisfied?
MR. GRATION: Yeah, let me just (inaudible) tell you about the working papers. There are working papers that were developed in the course as we were preparing the Sudan strategy that we laid out for you in October. Those working papers are NSC working papers, but they do outline a system of pressures and incentives that can be used to push or pull the situation in Sudan to get those things accomplished that the international community believes should be accomplished.
In terms of those laws, you’re correct that the national assembly made some modifications to the laws. The – specifically, the Southern referendum law. That law was reintroduced into the national assembly and it was passed without amendment and it was passed in the way that President Bashir and Vice President Kiir had agreed on the 13th of December. So all those annexes and changes and amendments were not part of the final bill that was approved by the national assembly.
So what I’m trying to tell you is that both the SPLM and the NCP agreed with the wording on the 13th of December, and that wording is the wording that was passed at the end.
QUESTION: Sir, your own plans for travel to Sudan?
MR. GRATION: Yes, I will be going to Kenya and Uganda beginning on the 26th and then I’ll end up at the Africa Union summit at the beginning of February. I do plan to go back into Sudan in the middle of February. The reason for the delay is there’s a couple things that we’re working through, and just because I’m not there doesn’t mean we’re not coordinating. We work via email, video teleconference and teleconference on the phone lines almost on a daily basis.
Right now we’re in contact with President Mbeki and we’re seeing how the Africa Union and his new role with the high-level panel and his involvement in the CPA implementation and in Darfur. We’re also taking a look at what Mr. Gambari will be doing. We’re also supporting what is happening in Doha as civil society and the rebels will come together around the 21st of this month for continued negotiations.
So there’s a lot of issues that we’re working hard, but it makes sense for me to go back in February. Again, as I pointed out, my focus will be on security in Darfur because I believe that if we can fix the security, the lawlessness, the banditry, the carjackings, the hijackings, if we can get that kind of thing taken care of, the rest of issues that have to do with humanitarian access, eventual voluntary return, and the other issues that are looming out there can be taken care of. But they cannot be taken care of with the current situation that we have, where local rule of law is not sufficient and where local criminal elements rule the day.
And in the South, we’ll continue to work on issues like conflict mitigation, working between the tribes to make sure that they have adequate security forces and that we can stop the crises before they turn into violence.
QUESTION: Are you planning to meet with President Bashir (inaudible)?
MR. GRATION: No, I have no plans to meet with President Bashir, nor have I met him in the past.
QUESTION: Do you feel that the conditions currently exist on the ground today for elections to be free and fair?
MR. GRATION: I believe that we are working hard on processes that will allow credible elections to be had in April. The one thing that you must remember is that these are the first elections that have been held since 1986, so we have a gap of almost 24 years since we’ve had this kind of transformation that we’re seeing right now.
We believe that the elections are important for several reasons. One is, is that it allows all the parties of Sudan to participate in the process. They will each have an opportunity to put their candidates up against the legislative seats, and if they want to they can put up candidates against the governmental seats at the state level and at the national level. So this gives an opportunity for all parties to play, not just the SPLM and the NCP.
Number two, it is a process that we’re seeing has a lot of momentum. We didn’t expect that almost 79 – four out of five people would go out and register to vote. This is huge, and we’re excited about that opportunity, and we would like those elections to take place in a way that the people’s will can be made known and that they can learn how to participate in the government process.
The other thing that’s important for us is that – the timing of the election. We would like those elections to take place in April because the rains start right after that. And we believe that if they are delayed, the rains will be a problem. In some areas the rains, as you know, will keep people from being able to get to the polling places.
The other thing is that we start registration for the referendum in Abyei and in the South in July, and it would be good if we cold separate those two events. We believe that the election gives us an opportunity to practice those elements that will be so important in the referendum. If we can get it right on how to do voter education, get the laws passed, get the commissions up and running and funded, to get the processes out just in terms of the logistics and admin of printing ballots, making sure that the system has security so people can come and go freely, to make sure it’s transparent, and to make sure that those results are passed out in a way that everybody recognizes that this is credible. That is so critical, not only to the election but to the referenda that will be taking place in January of 2011.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GRATION: Thank you very much.
Today, the United States is honored to join the international community in commemorating the first World Humanitarian Day. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2008 to increase public awareness about humanitarian activities around the world, World Humanitarian Day is also an occasion to honor aid workers who labor every day on behalf of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. This day marks the sixth anniversary of the Canal Hotel bombing in Baghdad in which 22 people were killed, including Sergio Vieiro de Mello, the Secretary General’s Special Representative in Iraq.
Sadly, situations of dire need exist in every region of the world. The success of our collective response to humanitarian crises rests on the selfless commitment and dedication of professional humanitarian aid workers. Increasingly however, aid workers themselves are targets of attack – in 2008 alone a record 260 humanitarian aid workers were killed, kidnapped or seriously injured in violent attacks. We call upon all governments and parties in conflict to give their highest attention to the safety and security of humanitarian personnel. We are inspired by these workers’ personal dedication to humanitarian principles, especially in the face of grave danger. We honor their service, and we congratulate their successes.