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Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century

Click for Video of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century,” at the Community of Democracies

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted to be here with all of you. And I thank my friend, Foreign Minister Sikorski, for hosting us here in this absolutely magnificent setting, and for an excellent speech that so well summarized what the agenda for all of us who are members of the Community of Democracies should be.

The idea of bringing together free nations to strengthen democratic norms and institutions began as a joint venture between one of Radek’s predecessors and one of mine: Minister Geremek and Madeleine Albright. And they were visionaries 10 years ago. And it was initially a joint American-Polish enterprise. And I cannot think of a better place for us to mark this occasion than right here in Krakow. Thank you, Madeleine, and thanks to the memory of Minister Geremek.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you heard from Foreign Minister Sikorski some of the reasons why Poland is an example of what democracies can accomplish. After four decades of privation, stagnation, and fear under Communism, freedom dawned. And it was not only the personal freedoms that people were once again able to claim for their own, but Poland’s per capital GDP today is nine times what it was in 1990. And in the middle of a deep, global recession, the Polish economy has continued to expand.

By any measure, Poland is stronger politically, as well. We all mourned with Poland in April when a plane crash claimed the lives of Poland’s president, the first lady, and many other national officials. It was one of the greatest single losses of leadership suffered by any country in modern history. But it is a tribute to Poland’s political evolution that, in the aftermath of that accident, the country’s institutions never faltered. And tomorrow polls will move forward with selecting a president through free and fair elections.

Now, I would argue that this progress was neither accidental nor inevitable. It came about through a generation of work to improve governance, grow the private sector, and strengthen civil society. These three essential elements of a free nation — representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society — work like three legs of a stool. They lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity.

Now, I would be the first to admit that no democracy is perfect. In fact, our founders were smart enough to enshrine in our founding documents the idea that we had to keep moving toward a more perfect union. Because, after all, democracies rely on the wisdom and judgment of flawed human beings. But real democracies recognize the necessity of each side of that three-legged stool. And democracies that strengthen these three segments of society can deliver extraordinary results for their people.

Today I would like to focus on one leg of that stool: civil society. Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Poland actually is a case study in how a vibrant civil society can produce progress. The heroes of the solidarity movement, people like Geremek and Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, and millions of others laid the foundation for the Poland we see today. They knew that the Polish people desired and deserved more from their country. And they transformed that knowledge into one of history’s greatest movements for positive change.

Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people. Not all of these organizations or individuals are equally effective, of course. And they do represent a broad range of opinions. And, having been both in an NGO and led NGOs and been in government, I know that it’s sometimes tough to deal with NGOs when you are in the government.

But it doesn’t matter whether the goal is better laws or lower crime or cleaner air or social justice or consumer protection or entrepreneurship and innovation, societies move forward when the citizens that make up these groups are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.

As we meet here on the eve of our American Fourth of July celebration, the day when we commemorate our independence, I want to say a word about why the issue of civil society is so important to Americans. Our independence was a product of our civil society. Our civil society was pre-political. And it was only through debate, discussion, and civic activism that the United States of America came into being. We were a people before we were a nation. And civil society not only helped create our nation, it helped sustain and power our nation into the future. It was representatives of civil society who were the first to recognize that the American colonies could not continue without democratic governance. And after we won our independence, it was activists who helped establish our democracy. And they quickly recognized that they were a part of a broader struggle for human rights, human dignity, human progress.

Civil society has played an essential role in identifying and eradicating the injustices that have, throughout our history, separated our nation from the principles on which it was founded. It was civil society, after all, that gave us the abolitionists who fought the evils of slavery, the suffragettes who campaigned for women’s rights, the freedom marchers who demanded racial equality, the unions that championed the rights of labor, the conservationists who worked to protect our planet and climate.

I did begin my professional life in civil society. The NGO I worked for, the Children’s Defense Fund, helped expand educational opportunities for poor children and children with disabilities, and tried to address the challenges faced by young people in prison.

Now, I would be the first to say that our work did not transform our nation or remake our government overnight. But when that kind of activism is multiplied across an entire country through the work of hundreds, even thousands of NGOs, it does produce real and lasting positive change. So a commitment to strengthening civil society has been one of my constants throughout my public career as First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State. I was able to work with Slovakian NGOs that stood up to and ultimately helped bring down an authoritarian government. I have seen civil society groups in India bring the benefits of economic empowerment to the most marginalized women in that society. I have watched in wonder as a small group of women activists in South Africa begin with nothing and went on to build a community of 50,000 homes.

President Obama shares this commitment. In his case, it led him to become a community organizer in Chicago. Both of us joined in the work of civil society because we believe that when citizens nudge leaders in the right direction, our country grows stronger. The greatness of the United States depends on our willingness to seek out and set right the areas where we fall short. For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens.

In fact, I want to recognize two women activists who are with us today from Afghanistan and Iran. If Faiza Babakan and Afifa Azim would stand up, I would just like to thank you for your courage and your willingness to be here.

(Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, it may seem to some of us like a very nice, but perhaps not essential presence to have just one woman from each country be here. But I can speak from personal experience that, just as civil society is essential to democracy, women are essential to civil society. And these women speak for so many who have never had a chance to have their voices heard.

So, along with well-functioning markets and responsible, accountable government, progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions. But when governments crack down on the right of citizens to work together, as they have throughout history, societies fall into stagnation and decay.

North Korea, a country that cannot even feed its own people, has banned all civil society. In Cuba and Belarus, as Radek said, civil society operates under extreme pressure. The Government of Iran has turned its back on a rich tradition of civil society, perpetrating human rights abuses against many activists and ordinary citizens who just wanted the right to be heard.

There is also a broader group of countries where the walls are closing in on civic organizations. Over the last 6 years, 50 governments have issued new restrictions against NGOs, and the list of countries where civil society faces resistance is growing longer. In Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, physical violence directed against individual activists has been used to intimidate and silence entire sectors of civil society. Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organizations working on sensitive issues like human rights. The Middle East and North Africa are home to a diverse collection of civil society groups. But too many governments in the region still resort to intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions on NGO registration, efforts to silence bloggers.

I hope we will see progress on this issue, and especially in Egypt, where that country’s vibrant civil society has often been subjected to government pressure in the form of canceled conferences, harassing phone calls, frequent reminders that the government can close organizations down, even detention and long-term imprisonment and exile.

In Central Asian countries, constitutions actually guarantee the right of association. But governments still place onerous restrictions on NGO activity, often through legislation or stringent registration requirements. Venezuela’s leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable. In Russia, while we welcome President Medvedev’s statements in support of the rule of law, human rights activities and journalists have been targeted for assassination, and virtually none of these crimes have been solved.

And we continue to engage on civil society issues with China, where writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence because he co-authored a document calling for respect for human rights and democratic reform. Too many governments are seeing civic activists as opponents, rather than partners. And as democracies, we must recognize that this trend is taking place against a broader backdrop.

In the 20th century, crackdowns against civil society frequently occurred under the guise of ideology. Since the demise of Communism, most crackdowns seem to be motivated instead by sheer power politics. But behind these actions, there is an idea, an alternative conception of how societies should be organized. And it is an idea that democracies must challenge. It is a belief that people are subservient to their government, rather than government being subservient to their people.

Now, this idea does not necessarily preclude citizens from forming groups that help their communities or promote their culture, or even support political causes. But it requires these private organizations to seek the state’s approval, and to serve the states and the states’ leaderships’ larger agenda.

Think for a moment about the civil society activists around the world who have recently been harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted, even killed. Why did they provoke such persecution?

Some weren’t engaged in political work at all. Some were not trying to change how their countries were governed. Most were simply getting help to people in need, like the Burmese activists imprisoned for organizing relief for victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some of them were exposing problems like corruption that their own governments claim they want to root out. Their offense was not just what they did, but the fact that they did it independently of their government. They were out doing what we would call good deeds, but doing them without permission. That refusal to allow people the chance to organize in support of a cause larger than themselves, but separate from the state, represents an assault on one of our fundamental democratic values.

The idea of pluralism is integral to our understanding of what it means to be a democracy. Democracies recognize that no one entity — no state, no political party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And, depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work toward and select their own solutions. Our democracies do not and should not look the same. Governments by the people, for the people, and of the people will look like the people they represent. But we all recognize the reality and importance of these differences. Pluralism flows from these differences. And because crackdowns on NGOs are a direct threat to pluralism, they also endanger democracy.

More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill came to the United States to warn the world’s democracies of an iron curtain descending across Europe. Today, thankfully, thanks to some of you in this room, that iron curtain has fallen. But we must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.

Today, meeting together as a community of democracies, it is our responsibility to address this crisis. Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies because they have elections. But, as I have said before, democracy requires far more than an election. It has to be a 365-day-a-year commitment, by government and citizens alike, to live up to the fundamental values of democracy, and accept the responsibilities of self government.

Democracies don’t fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate, to remind those entrusted with governance that they derive their authority from the governed. Restrictions on these rights only demonstrate the fear of illegitimate rulers, the cowardice of those who deny their citizens the protections they deserve. An attack on civic activism and civil society is an attack on democracy.

Now, sometimes I think that the leaders who are engaging in these actions truly believe they are acting in the best interests of their country. But they begin to inflate their own political interests, the interests of that country, and they begin to believe that they must stay in office by any means necessary, because only they can protect their country from all manner of danger.

Part of what it requires to be a true democracy is to understand that political power must be passed on, and that despite the intensity of elections, once the elections are over, whoever is elected fairly and freely must then try to unify the country, despite the political division.

I ran a very hard race against President Obama. I tried with all my might to beat him. I was not successful. And when he won, much to my surprise, he asked me to join his Administration to serve as Secretary of State. Well, in many countries, I learned as I began traveling, that was a matter of great curiosity. How could I work with someone whom I had tried to deprive of the office that he currently holds? But the answer for both President Obama and I was very simple. We both love our country. Politics is an important part of the lifeblood of a democracy. But governing, changing people’s lives for the better, is the purpose one runs for office.

In the Community of Democracies, we have to begin asking the hard questions, whether countries that follow the example of authoritarian states and participate in this assault on civil society can truly call themselves democracies. And to address this challenge, civil society groups and democratic governments must come together around some common goals. The Community of Democracies is already bringing together governments and civil society organizations, some of whom are represented here. And it is well suited to lead these efforts. I know that the Community of Democracies working group on enabling and protecting civil society is already working to turn this vision into a reality. The United States pledges to work with this community to develop initiatives that support civil society and strengthen governments committed to democracy.

With the leadership and support of countries like Lithuania, Poland, Canada, and Mongolia, I believe that the Community’s 20th anniversary could be a celebration of the expanding strength of civil society, and the true institutionalization of the habits of the heart that undergird democracy. To make that happen, our joint efforts, I believe, should include at least four elements. First, the Community of Democracies should work to establish, as Radek recommended, an objective, independent mechanism for monitoring repressive measures against NGOs.

Second, the United Nations Human Rights Council needs to do more to protect civil society. Freedom of association is the only freedom defined in the United Nations declaration of human rights that does not enjoy specific attention from the UN human rights machinery. That must change.

Third, we will be working with regional and other organizations, such as the OAS, the EU, the OIC, the African Union, the Arab League, others, to do more to defend the freedom of association. Many of these groups are already committed to upholding democratic principles on paper. But we need to make sure words are matched by actions.

And, fourth, we should coordinate our diplomatic pressure. I know that the Community of Democracies working group is focused on developing a rapid response mechanism to address situations where freedom of association comes under attack. Well, that can’t happen soon enough. When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do. We can also provide technical training that will help activists make use of new technologies such as social networks. When possible, we should also work together to provide deserving organizations with financial support for their efforts.

Now, there are some misconceptions around this issue, and I would like to address it. In the United States, as in many other democracies, it is legal and acceptable for private organizations to raise money abroad and receive grants from foreign governments, so long as the activities do not involve specifically banned sources, such as terrorist groups. Civic organizations in our country do not need the approval of the United States Government to receive funds from overseas. And foreign NGOs are active inside the United States. We welcome these groups in the belief that they make our nation stronger and deepen relationships between America and the rest of the world. And it is in that same spirit that the United States provides funding to foreign civil society organizations that are engaged in important work in their own countries. And we will continue this practice, and we would like to do more of it in partnership with other democracies.

As part of that commitment, today I am announcing the creation of a new fund to support the work of embattled NGOs. We hope this fund will be used to provide legal representation, communication technology such as cell phone and Internet access, and other forms of quick support to NGOs that are under siege. The United States will be contributing $2 million to this effort, and we welcome participation and contribution from like-minded countries, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations.

The persecution of civil society activists and organizations, whether they are fighting for justice and law, or clean and open government, or public health, or a safe environment, or honest elections, it’s not just an attack against people we admire, it’s an attack against our own fundamental beliefs. So when we defend these great people, we are defending an idea that has been and will remain essential to the success of every democracy. So the stakes are high for us, not just them.

For the United States, supporting civil society groups is a critical part of our work to advance democracy. But it’s not the only part. Our national security strategy reaffirms that democratic values are a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Over time, as President Obama has said, America’s values have been our best national security asset. I emphasized this point in December and January, when I delivered speeches on human rights and Internet freedom. And it is a guiding principle in every meeting I hold and every country I visit.

My current trip is a good example. I have just come from Ukraine, where I had the opportunity not only to meet with the foreign minister and the president, but with a wonderful group of young, bright Ukrainian students, where I discussed the importance of media freedom, the importance of freedom of assembly, and of human rights. Tonight I will leave for Azerbaijan, where I will meet with youth activists to discuss Internet freedom, and to raise the issue of the two imprisoned bloggers, and to discuss civil liberties. From there I will go to Armenia and Georgia, where I will be similarly raising these issues, and sitting down with leaders from women’s groups and other NGOs. This is what we all have to do, day in and day out around the world.

So, let me return to that three-legged stool. Civil society is important for its own sake. But it also helps prop up and stabilize the other legs of the stool, governments and markets. Without the work of civic activists and pluralistic political discourse, governments grow brittle and may even topple. And without consumer advocates, unions, and social organizations that look out for the needs of societies’ weakest members, markets can run wild and fail to generate broad-based prosperity.

We see all three legs of the stool as vital to progress in the 21st century. So we will continue raising democracy and human rights issues at the highest levels in our contacts with foreign governments, and we will continue promoting economic openness and competition as a means of spreading broad-based prosperity and shoring up representative governments who know they have to deliver results for democracy.

But we also believe that the principles that bring us here together represent humanity’s brightest hope for a better future. As Foreign Minister Geremek wrote in his invitation to the inaugural meeting of the Community of Democracies 10 years ago, “Regardless of the problems inseparably associated with democracy, it is a system which best fulfills the aspirations of individuals, societies, and entire peoples, and most fully satisfies their needs of development, empowerment, and creativity.”

So, ultimately, our work on these issues is about the type of future we want to leave to our children and grandchildren. And anyone who doubts this should look at Poland. The world we live in is more open, more secure, and more prosperous because of individuals like Lech Walesa, Adam Michnik, others who worked through the solidarity movement to improve conditions in their own country, and who stand for freedom and democracy.

I think often about the role of journalists. Journalists are under tremendous pressure. But a journalist like Jerzy Turowicz, a son of Krakow, asked tough questions that challenged Poland to do better. And Pope John Paul II, who, as Stalin would have noted, had no battalions, marshaled moral authority that was as strong as any army. We all have inherited that legacy of courage. It is now up to us.

Every Fourth of July Americans affirm their belief that all human beings are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, as a community of democracies, let us make it our mission to secure those rights. We owe it to our forebears, and we owe it to future generations to continue the fight for these ideals.

Thank you all very much.

(Applause.)

 
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Secretary Clinton on Moroccan Elections

I congratulate the Moroccan people on the successful completion of Friday’s parliamentary elections where millions of Moroccans went to the polls to elect their new political leaders. Now, working with King Mohammed VI, the new parliament and civil society can implement the amended constitution as a step toward fulfilling the aspirations and rights of all Moroccans.

The hard work of building democracy does not end when the votes are tallied and the winners announced. As we have seen in so many changes underway across the region, political leaders will be judged not only by what they say, but what they do. The United States stands ready to work with the new parliament and the people of Morocco to strengthen the rule of law, raise human rights standards, promote transparent and accountable governance, and work toward sustained, democratic reform.

 
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White House Statement on Recent Developments in Egypt

Since the start of the Arab Spring, the United States has spoken out for a set of core principles that have guided our response to events, including opposition to the use of violence and repression, defense of universal rights including the freedom of peaceful assembly, and support for political and economic reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of ordinary people throughout the region.

In Egypt over the past several days, we have seen protesters demand the realization of these principles. We have condemned the excessive use of force against them and called for restraint on all sides. We deeply regret the loss of life, and urge the Egyptian authorities to implement an independent investigation into the circumstances of those deaths. But the situation Egypt faces requires a more fundamental solution, devised by Egyptians, which is consistent with universal principles.

The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately. We believe that Egypt’s transition to democracy must continue, with elections proceeding expeditiously, and all necessary measures taken to ensure security and prevent intimidation. Most importantly, we believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.

Egypt has overcome challenges before and will do so again. The United States will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they build a democracy worthy of Egypt’s great history.

 


Secretary Clinton on the Formation of New Libyan Cabinet

The formation of a new cabinet by the Transitional National Council is a significant step in Libya’s transition to a true democracy that is inclusive and representative of all Libyans. The United States looks forward to working with the new interim government to address the key challenges that remain, such as protecting and respecting the rights of all Libyans, consolidating control over militias, ensuring a functioning and credible government and preparing for the transition to an elected government. The courage of the Libyan people and their dedication to freedom has inspired us all, and we must continue to work and make their dream a reality.

 


Secretary Clinton on Democracy in the Middle East and North Africa

Thank you. Well, it’s a great pleasure for me to be here this evening. And I thank my friend and my predecessor, Madeleine Albright, for not only that kind introduction, but for her extraordinary leadership, and in particular of NDI. Thanks also to Shari Bryan and Ken Wollack for inviting me here today. And I want to begin by wishing an Eid Mubarak to Muslims here tonight and around the world.

I think it’s important to recognize that back when the streets of Arab cities were quiet, the National Democratic Institute was already on the ground, building relationships, supporting the voices that would turn a long Arab winter into a new Arab Spring. Now, we may not know where and when brave people will claim their rights next, but it’s a safe bet that NDI is there now, because freedom knows no better champion. More than a quarter-century old, NDI and its siblings in the National Endowment for Democracy family have become vital elements of America’s engagement with the world.

And tonight I want particularly to congratulate the winners of NDI’s 2011 Madeleine Albright Award, the women of Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development. Women risked everything to demand their rights for the Egyptian people, and they deserve those rights extended to them. And so we’re grateful for their work, and we hope to see the rights that they’ve fought for and advocated for enshrined in Egypt’s new constitution, and we’re proud to support efforts like these through our Middle East Partnership Initiative.

Now, tonight it’s also a singular, special honor for me to join with you in remembering three friends of NDI, three people I was lucky enough to call my friends as well: Geraldine Ferraro, a trailblazing pioneer, who lived to the fullest her conviction that women belong at the heart of democracy; Chuck Manatt, a passionate chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who understood that some things are too important to belong to any one party, and with his counterpart at the RNC, Frank Fahrenkopf, put together a bipartisan coalition to found the National Endowment for Democracy; and of course the indomitable, unforgettable Richard Holbrooke. Now, Richard has many reasons why those of us here tonight applaud and remember him. He died just four days before the desperate act of a Tunisian fruit vendor set the Arab uprisings in motion. And I often wonder what Richard would have made of all that has happened since. I’m sure he would have had a lot to say and even more that he wanted to do to promote the principles that we all cherish. And so these three individuals are very worthy of the awards that you have granted them this evening.

And what a year 2011 has been for freedom in the Middle East and North Africa. We have seen what may well have been the first Arab revolution for democracy, then the second, then the third. And in Yemen, people are demanding a transition to democracy that they deserve to see delivered. And Syrians are refusing to relent until they, too, can decide their own future.

Throughout the Arab world this year, people have given each other courage. Old fears have melted away and men and women have begun making their demands in broad daylight. They have given many of our diplomats courage, too, and I want to single out someone who is here with us tonight. When our Ambassador to Syria was mobbed, assaulted, and threatened, just for meeting with peaceful protestors, he put his personal safety on the line to let the Syrian people know that America stands with them. And he said he was inspired by their bravery. And as he drove into Hama, a city under assault by Asad’s regime, the people of that city covered his car with flowers. Please join me in giving our own warm welcome to Ambassador Robert Ford and his wife and fellow Foreign Service Officer, Alison Barkley. Thanks to you, Robert, and to you, Alison, for your dedicated service to our country.

Now, in Tunis, Cairo, and a newly free Tripoli, I have met people lifted by a sense that their futures actually do belong to them. In my travels across the region, I have heard joy, purpose, and newfound pride.

But I’ve also heard questions. I’ve heard skepticism about American motives and commitments, people wondering if, after decades of working with the governments of the region, America doesn’t—in our heart of hearts—actually long for the old days. I’ve heard from activists who think we aren’t pushing hard enough for democratic change, and I’ve heard from government officials who think we’re pushing too hard. I’ve heard from people asking why our policies vary from country to country, and what would happen if elections bring to power parties we don’t agree with or people who just don’t like us very much. I’ve heard people asking America to solve all their problems and others wondering whether we have any role to play at all. And beneath our excitement for the millions who are claiming the rights and freedoms we cherish, many Americans are asking the same questions.

Tonight, I want to ask and answer a few of these tough questions. It’s a fitting tribute to people like Gerry Ferraro and Richard Holbrooke and Chuck Manatt. They liked to pose difficult questions and then push us to answer them. And in Richard’s case, that meant even following me into a ladies’ room in Pakistan one time. As we live this history day by day, we approach these questions with a large dose of humility, because many of the choices ahead are, honestly, not ours to make. Still, it’s worth stepping back and doing our best to speak directly to what is on people’s minds.

So let me start with one question I hear often: Do we really believe that democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa is in America’s interest? That is a totally fair question. After all, transitions are filled with uncertainty. They can be chaotic, unstable, even violent. And, even if they succeed, they are rarely linear, quick, or easy.

As we saw in the Balkans and again in Iraq, rivalries between members of different religions, sects, and tribes can resurface and explode. Toppling tyrants does not guarantee that democracy will follow, or that it will last. Just ask the Iranians who overthrew a dictator 32 years ago only to have their revolution hijacked by the extremists who have oppressed them ever since. And even where democracy does takes hold, it is a safe bet that some of those elected will not embrace us or agree with our policies.

And yet, as President Obama said at the State Department in May, “It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and to support transitions to democracy.” We believe that real democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa is in the national interest of the United States. And here’s why.

We begin by rejecting the false choice between progress and stability. For years, dictators told their people they had to accept the autocrats they knew to avoid the extremists they feared. And too often, we accepted that narrative ourselves. Now, America did push for reform, but often not hard enough or publicly enough. And today, we recognize that the real choice is between reform and unrest.

Last January, I told Arab leaders that the region’s foundations were sinking into the sand. Even if we didn’t know exactly how or when the breaking point would come, it was clear that the status quo was unsustainable because of changes in demography and technology, high unemployment, endemic corruption and a lack of human rights and fundamental freedoms. After a year of revolutions broadcast on Al Jazeera into homes from Rabat to Riyadh, going back to the way things were in December 2010 isn’t just undesirable. It’s impossible.

The truth is that the greatest single source of instability in today’s Middle East is not the demand for change. It is the refusal to change. That is certainly true in Syria, where a crackdown on small, peaceful protests drove thousands into the streets and thousands more over the borders. It is true in Yemen, where President Saleh has reneged repeatedly on his promises to transition to democracy and suppressed his people’s rights and freedoms. And it is true in Egypt. If—over time—the most powerful political force in Egypt remains a roomful of unelected officials, they will have planted the seeds for future unrest, and Egyptians will have missed a historic opportunity.

And so will we, because democracies make for stronger and stabler partners. They trade more, innovate more, and fight less. They help divided societies to air and hopefully resolve their differences. They hold inept leaders accountable at the polls. They channel people’s energies away from extremism and toward political and civic engagement. Now, democracies do not always agree with us, and in the Middle East and North Africa they may disagree strongly with some of our policies. But at the end of the day, it is no coincidence that our closest allies—from Britain to South Korea—are democracies.

Now, we do work with many different governments to pursue our interests and to keep Americans safe—and certainly not all of them are democracies. But as the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt made clear, the enduring cooperation we seek will be difficult to sustain without democratic legitimacy and public consent. We cannot have one set of policies to advance security in the here-and-now and another to promote democracy in a long run that never quite arrives.

So for all these reasons, as I said back in March, opening political systems, societies, and economies is not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity. But we are not simply acting in our self-interest. Americans believe that the desire for dignity and self-determination is universal—and we do try to act on that belief around the world. Americans have fought and died for these ideals. And when freedom gains ground anywhere, Americans are inspired.

So the risks posed by transitions will not keep us from pursuing positive change. But they do raise the stakes for getting it right. Free, fair, and meaningful elections are essential—but they are not enough if they bring new autocrats to power or disenfranchise minorities. And any democracy that does not include half its population—its women—is a contradiction in terms. Durable democracies depend on strong civil societies, respect for the rule of law, independent institutions, free expression, and a free press. Legitimate political parties cannot have a militia wing and a political wing. Parties have to accept the results of free and fair elections. And this is not just in the Middle East. In Liberia, the leading opposition party is making unsubstantiated charges of fraud and refusing to accept first round voting in which it came in second. And this is already having harmful consequences on the ground. We urge all parties in Liberia to accept the will of the people in the next round of voting tomorrow. That is what democracy anywhere requires.

And that brings me to my second question. Why does America promote democracy one way in some countries and another way in others? Well, the answer starts with a very practical point: situations vary dramatically from country to country. It would be foolish to take a one-size-fits-all approach and barrel forward regardless of circumstances on the ground. Sometimes, as in Libya, we can bring dozens of countries together to protect civilians and help people liberate their country without a single American life lost. In other cases, to achieve that same goal, we would have to act alone, at a much greater cost, with far greater risks, and perhaps even with troops on the ground.

But that’s just part of the answer. Our choices also reflect other interests in the region with a real impact on Americans’ lives—including our fight against al-Qaida, defense of our allies, and a secure supply of energy. Over time, a more democratic Middle East and North Africa can provide a more sustainable basis for addressing all three of those challenges. But there will be times when not all of our interests align. We work to align them, but that is just reality.

As a country with many complex interests, we’ll always have to walk and chew gum at the same time. That is our challenge in a country like Bahrain, which has been America’s close friend and partner for decades. And yet, President Obama and I have been frank, in public and in private, that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away. Meaningful reform and equal treatment for all Bahrainis are in Bahrain’s interest, in the region’s interest, and in ours—while endless unrest benefits Iran and extremists. The government has recognized the need for dialogue, reconciliation, and concrete reforms. And they have committed to provide access to human rights groups, to allow peaceful protest, and to ensure that those who cross lines in responding to civil unrest are held accountable. King Hamad called for an independent commission of inquiry, which will issue its report soon. And we do intend to hold the Bahraini Government to these commitments and to encourage the opposition to respond constructively to secure lasting reform.

We also have candid conversations with others in the neighborhood, like Saudi Arabia—a country that is key to stability and peace – about our view that democratic advancement is not just possible but a necessary part of preparing for the future.

Fundamentally, there is a right side of history. And we want to be on it. And—without exception—we want our partners in the region to reform so that they are on it as well. Now, we don’t expect countries to do this overnight, but without reforms, we are convinced their challenges will only grow. So it is in their interest to begin now.

These questions about our interests and consistency merge in a third difficult question: How will America respond if and when democracy brings to power people and parties we disagree with?

We hear these questions most often when it comes to Islamist religious parties. Now, of course, I hasten to add that not all Islamists are alike. Turkey and Iran are both governed by parties with religious roots, but their models and behavior are radically different. There are plenty of political parties with religious affiliations—Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim—that respect the rules of democratic politics. The suggestion that faithful Muslims cannot thrive in a democracy is insulting, dangerous, and wrong. They do it in this country every day.

Now, reasonable people can disagree on a lot, but there are things that all parties, religious and secular, must get right—not just for us to trust them, but most importantly for the people of the region and of the countries themselves to trust them to protect their hard-won rights.

Parties committed to democracy must reject violence; they must abide by the rule of law and respect the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and assembly; they must respect the rights of women and minorities; they must let go of power if defeated at the polls; and in a region with deep divisions within and between religions, they cannot be the spark that starts a conflagration. In other words, what parties call themselves is less important to us than what they actually do. We applaud NDI for its work to arrive at a model code of conduct for political parties across the political spectrum and around the globe. We need to reinforce these norms and to hold people accountable for following them.

In Tunisia, an Islamist party has just won a plurality of the votes in an open, competitive election. Its leaders have promised to embrace freedom of religion and full rights for women. To write a constitution and govern, they will have to persuade secular parties to work with them. And as they do, America will work with them, too, because we share the desire to see a Tunisian democracy emerge that delivers for its citizens and because America respects the right of the Tunisian people to choose their own leaders.

And so we move forward with clear convictions. Parties and candidates must respect the rules of democracy, to take part in elections, and hold elective office. And no one has the right to use the trappings of democracy to deny the rights and security of others. People throughout the region worry about this prospect, and so do we. Nobody wants another Iran. Nobody wants to see political parties with military wings and militant foreign policies gain influence. When members of any group seek to oppress their fellow citizens or undermine core democratic principles, we will stand on the side of the people who push back to defend their democracy.

And that brings me to my next question: What is America’s role in the Arab Spring? These revolutions are not ours. They are not by us, for us, or against us, but we do have a role. We have the resources, capabilities, and expertise to support those who seek peaceful, meaningful, democratic reform. And with so much that can go wrong, and so much that can go right, support for emerging Arab democracies is an investment we cannot afford not to make.

Now, of course, we have to be smart in how we go about it. For example, as tens of millions of young people enter the job market each year, we recognize that the Arab political awakening must also deliver an economic awakening. And we are working to help societies create jobs to ensure that it does. We are promoting trade, investment, regional integration, entrepreneurship, and economic reforms. We are helping societies fight corruption and replace the old politics of patronage with a new focus on economic empowerment and opportunity. And we are working with Congress on debt relief for Egypt and loan guarantees for Tunisia so that these countries can invest in their own futures.

We also have real expertise to offer as a democracy, including the wisdom that NDI has gleaned from decades of working around the globe to support democratic transitions. Democracies, after all, aren’t born knowing how to run themselves. In a country like Libya, Qadhafi spent 42 years hollowing out every part of his government not connected to oil or to keeping him in power. Under the Libyan penal code, simply joining an NGO could be punishable by death. When I traveled last month to Libya, the students I met at Tripoli University had all sorts of practical, even technical, questions: How do you form a political party? How do you ensure women’s participation in government institutions? What recommendations do you have for citizens in a democracy?

These are questions NDI and its kindred organizations, many of whom are represented here tonight, are uniquely qualified to help new democracies answer. NDI has earned a lot of praise for this work, but also a lot of pushback that stretches far beyond the Arab world. In part, this resistance comes from misconceptions about what our support for democracy does and does not include.

The United States does not fund political candidates or political parties. We do offer training to parties and candidates committed to democracy. We do not try to shift outcomes or impose an American model. We do support election commissions, as well as nongovernmental election monitors, to ensure free and fair balloting. We help watchdog groups learn their trade. We help groups find the tools to exercise their rights to free expression and assembly, online and off. And of course we support civil society, the lifeblood of democratic politics.

But in part, the pushback comes from autocrats around the world wondering if the next Tahrir Square will be their capital square, and some are cracking down when they should be opening up. Groups like NDI are no strangers to pressure, and neither are the brave local groups you partner with. And I want you to know that as the pressure on you increases, our support will not waver.

And I want to offer a special word of thanks for NDI’s efforts to empower women across the Middle East and beyond. Just last week, the World Economic Forum released a report on the remarkable benefits countries see when they bridge the social, economic, and political gap separating women from men, and helping them get there is a priority for the State Department and for me personally. Graduates of NDI training programs designed to help women run for office now sit in local councils and parliaments from Morocco to Kuwait.

But we all know a great deal of work lies ahead to help all people, women and men, find justice and opportunity as full participants in new democratic societies. Along with our economic and technical help, America will also use our presence, influence, and global leadership to support change. And later this week, I am issuing new policy guidance to our embassies across the region to structure our efforts.

In Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, we are working to help citizens safeguard the principles of democracy. That means supporting the forces of reconciliation rather than retribution. It means defending freedom of expression when bloggers are arrested for criticizing public officials. It means standing up for tolerance when state-run television fans sectarian tensions. And it means that when unelected authorities say they want to be out of the business of governing, we will look to them to lay out a clear roadmap and urge them to abide by it.

Where countries are making gradual reforms, we have frank conversations and urge them to move faster. It’s good to hold multi-party elections and allow women to take part. It’s better when those elections are meaningful and parliaments have real powers to improve people’s lives. Change needs to be tangible and real. When autocrats tell us the transition to democracy will take time, we answer, “Well, then let’s get started.”

And those leaders trying to hold back the future at the point of a gun should know their days are numbered. As Syrians gather to celebrate a sacred holiday, their government continues to shoot people in the streets. In the week since Bashar al-Asad said he accepted the terms of an Arab League peace plan to protect Syrian civilians, he has systematically violated each of its basic requirements. He has not released all detainees. He has not allowed free and unfettered access to journalists or Arab League monitors. He has not withdrawn all armed forces from populated areas. And he has certainly not stopped all acts of violence. In fact, the regime has increased violence against civilians in places like the city of Homs. Now, Asad may be able to delay change. But he cannot deny his people’s legitimate demands indefinitely. He must step down; and until he does, America and the international community will continue to increase pressure on him and his brutal regime.

And for all of Iran’s bluster, there is no country in the Middle East where the gulf between rulers and ruled is greater. When Iran claims to support democracy abroad, then kills peaceful protestors in the streets of Tehran, its hypocrisy is breathtaking and plain to the people of the region.

And there is one last question that I’m asked, in one form or another, all the time: What about the rights and aspirations of the Palestinians? Israelis and Palestinians are not immune to the profound changes sweeping the region. And make no mistake, President Obama and I believe that the Palestinian people—just like their Arab neighbors, just like Israelis, just like us—deserve dignity, liberty, and the right to decide their own future. They deserve an independent, democratic Palestinian state of their own, alongside a secure Jewish democracy next door. And we know from decades in the diplomatic trenches that the only way to get there is through a negotiated peace—a peace we work every day to achieve, despite all the setbacks.

Of course, we understand that Israel faces risks in a changing region—just as it did before the Arab Spring began. And it will remain an American priority to ensure that all parties honor the peace treaties they have signed and commitments they have made. And we will always help Israel defend itself. We will address threats to regional peace whether they come from dictatorships or democracies. But it would be shortsighted to think either side can simply put peacemaking on hold until the current upheaval is done. The truth is, the stalemate in the Arab-Israeli conflict is one more status quo in the Middle East that cannot be sustained.

This brings me to my last and perhaps most important point of all. For all the hard questions I’ve asked and tried to answer on behalf of the United States, the most consequential questions of all are those the people and leaders of the region will have to answer for themselves. Because ultimately, it is up to them. It is up to them to resist the calls of demagogues, to build coalitions, to keep faith in the system even when they lose at the polls, and to protect the principles and institutions that ultimately will protect them. Every democracy has to guard against those who would hijack its freedoms for ignoble ends. Our founders and every generation since have fought to prevent that from happening here. The founding fathers and mothers of Arab revolutions must do the same. No one bears a greater responsibility for what happens next.

When Deputy Secretary Bill Burns addressed the National Endowment for Democracy over the summer, he recounted the story of an Egyptian teenager who told her father a few years back that she wanted to spend her life bringing democracy to Egypt. “Good,” her father said, “because then you will always have a job.”

Now, we should never fall prey to the belief that human beings anywhere are not ready for freedom. In the 1970s, people said Latin America and East Asia were not ready. Well, the 1980s began proving them wrong. In the 1980s, it was African soil where democracy supposedly couldn’t grow. And the 1990s started proving them wrong. And until this year, some people said Arabs don’t really want democracy. Well, starting in 2011, that too is being proved wrong. And funnily enough, it proved that Egyptian father right, because we all still have a job to do.

So we have to keep at it. We have to keep asking the tough questions. We have to be honest with ourselves and with each other about the answers we offer. And we cannot waver in our commitment to help the people of the Middle East and North Africa realize their own God-given potentials and the dreams they risked so much to make real.

And on this journey that they have begun, the United States will be their partner. And of the many tools at our disposal – the National Endowment and NDI and all of the family of organizations that were created three decades ago to help people make this journey successfully – will be right there.

I heard Madeleine say when she introduced me that I defend NDI. Well, I do. And I also defend IRI. I defend those organizations that we have created, that the American taxpayers pay for, who try to do what needs to be done to translate the rhetoric and the calls for democracy into the reality, step by step. And we have to be reminded from time to time that it truly is – or at least can seem to be – a foreign language. Like some of you, I’ve met with the young people who started these revolutions. And they are still passionate, but perhaps not clear about what it takes to translate that passion into reality within a political system.

So there are going to be a lot of bumps along this road. But far better that we travel this path, that we do what we can to make sure that our ideals and values, our belief and experience with democracy, are shared widely and well. It’s an exciting time. It’s an uncertain time. But it’s a good time for the United States of America to be standing for freedom and democracy. And I thank you all for making that journey possible. Thank you very much.

 
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President Obama on the Death of Muammar Qaddafi

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. Today, the government of Libya announced the death of Muammar Qaddafi. This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya, who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya.

For four decades, the Qaddafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist. Basic human rights were denied. Innocent civilians were detained, beaten and killed. And Libya’s wealth was squandered. The enormous potential of the Libyan people was held back, and terror was used as a political weapon.

Today, we can definitively say that the Qaddafi regime has come to an end. The last major regime strongholds have fallen. The new government is consolidating the control over the country. And one of the world’s longest-serving dictators is no more.

One year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible. But then the Libyan people rose up and demanded their rights. And when Qaddafi and his forces started going city to city, town by town, to brutalize men, women and children, the world refused to stand idly by.

Faced with the potential of mass atrocities — and a call for help from the Libyan people — the United States and our friends and allies stopped Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks. A coalition that included the United States, NATO and Arab nations persevered through the summer to protect Libyan civilians. And meanwhile, the courageous Libyan people fought for their own future and broke the back of the regime.

So this is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted. And with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility — to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Qaddafi’s dictatorship. We look forward to the announcement of the country’s liberation, the quick formation of an interim government, and a stable transition to Libya’s first free and fair elections. And we call on our Libyan friends to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials, and to respect the human rights of all Libyans –- including those who have been detained.

We’re under no illusions — Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy. There will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people. You have won your revolution. And now, we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity.

For the region, today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end. Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their human dignity will not succeed.

For us here in the United States, we are reminded today of all those Americans that we lost at the hands of Qaddafi’s terror. Their families and friends are in our thoughts and in our prayers. We recall their bright smiles, their extraordinary lives, and their tragic deaths. We know that nothing can close the wound of their loss, but we stand together as one nation by their side.

For nearly eight months, many Americans have provided extraordinary service in support of our efforts to protect the Libyan people, and to provide them with a chance to determine their own destiny. Our skilled diplomats have helped to lead an unprecedented global response. Our brave pilots have flown in Libya’s skies, our sailors have provided support off Libya’s shores, and our leadership at NATO has helped guide our coalition. Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end.

This comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world. We’ve taken out al Qaeda leaders, and we’ve put them on the path to defeat. We’re winding down the war in Iraq and have begun a transition in Afghanistan. And now, working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century.

Of course, above all, today belongs to the people of Libya. This is a moment for them to remember all those who suffered and were lost under Qaddafi, and look forward to the promise of a new day. And I know the American people wish the people of Libya the very best in what will be a challenging but hopeful days, weeks, months and years ahead.

 
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Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril

PRIME MINISTER JIBRIL: (Via interpreter) In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful, it is with great delight that we are honored to meet the U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, and the high-level U.S. delegation accompanying her. This is the first visit for Secretary Clinton after the fall of the previous regime. We appreciate it a lot. We appreciate what the U.S. has provided during all this time, during all the time of our blessed revolution of February 17th, where the U.S. has offered also support for advocating for (inaudible).

(Inaudible) discussions today touched on several issues. We discussed the way of forming a high committee for the U.S.-Libyan relationship on a new track that aimed at achieving the interests of both countries. This committee, I hope that it will be announced soon, will contribute to developing the political, economic, social, and cultural relationship between the two countries.

We talked about the possibility to create a common joint scientific authority to discuss the scientific research between the U.S. experts and the Libyan researchers for an alternative economic promising future for Libya.

We also spoke about the immediate help in – for the injured of the Libyans, transferring them from the front, especially from the Sirte front.

We also talked about the issue of chemical material, and we value tremendously what the U.S. has provided in support and technical assistance in this issue.

Also we discussed the issue of the security today in Libya and how we can use the U.S. expertise in this field.

I look very much forward to a closer relationship among our nations and stronger relations from mutual respect on sovereignty and from the mutual respect and mutual common interest for the two countries. I thank Secretary Clinton again, and on behalf of my colleagues, I thank her high-level delegation for this visit that can build for a stronger relationship in the future.

Thank you, Madam Secretary.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Prime Minister Jibril. I want to express my appreciation to you and to Chairman Jalil and to all of the officials with whom we met today. I appreciate greatly the leadership that has been provided over the course of this remarkable year as the Libyan people demonstrated their bravery and determination. And I am proud to stand here on the soil of a free Libya.

And on behalf of the American people I congratulate all Libyans. It is a great privilege to see a new future for Libya being born. And indeed, the work ahead is quite challenging, but the Libyan people have demonstrated the resolve and resilience necessary to achieve their goals.

Think about what has been achieved already. In crowded squares and mountain passes, Libyans stood up against a dictator’s aggression, and claimed the rights and dignity of a free people. Libyans were called rats by their own leaders and they were confronted by every possible tactic to break your spirit. But no threats dimmed the courage of the Libyan people. The United States was proud to stand with you, and we will continue to stand with you as you continue this journey, respecting your sovereignty and honoring our friendship. This is Libya’s moment. This is Libya’s victory and the future belongs to you.

The United States knows something about revolution and liberty. That is how our nation was born more than 230 years ago. And we know that democracy takes time; it will not be easy or quick. But we are filled with admiration for what you have already accomplished and confident in your ability to move forward.

Now, we recognize that the fighting, the bloody fighting, continues. We know that Qadhafi and those close to him are still at large. But the NATO and international coalition that came together on your behalf will continue to protect Libyan civilians until the threat from Qadhafi and those who hang to the past is ended.

In our meetings today, the chairman, prime minister, and their colleagues shared with us their plans for establishing an inclusive democracy in Libya. We agreed that the Libyan people deserve a nation governed by the rule of law, not the whims of men. We believe you deserve a government that represents all Libyans from all parts of the country and all backgrounds, including women and young people. We believe you deserve a transparent and fair judicial system. We also are convinced that revenge and vigilantism have no place in the new Libya.

And we believe you deserve an economy that delivers jobs, dignity, and opportunities to all Libyans – not just to the powerful and connected. We also share your concern about caring for the wounded and the families of the fallen, about securing weapons that may have gone missing, about integrating all the various revolutionary forces into a new and unified Libyan military.

Libya is blessed with wealth and resources, most particularly the human resources of the Libyan people. And there is a pressing need, as I was told today, for international expertise and technical assistance. That is why we welcome the idea of a joint committee between Libya and the United States to look at the priorities that the Libyans themselves have.

I am pleased that we are working together to return billions of dollars of frozen assets and that we have reopened our Embassy. We will stay focused on security: I am pleased to announce that we are going to put even more money into helping Libya secure and destroy dangerous stockpiles of weapons. And the Administration, working with Congress, is going to provide $40 million to support this effort. We will also work with Libya to destroy chemical weapons stocks.

We want to expand our economic cooperation with Libya, to create new educational and cultural exchanges and deepen our engagement with civil society. First, we will launch this new partnership to provide care to your wounded. It deeply moves us that so many people dropped whatever they were doing to fight for their freedom – engineers and teachers, doctors and business leaders, students, and so many others. We plan to evacuate some of the most seriously injured to specialized medical facilities in the United States. We want to help you care for your patients here in Libya, so we will work together to establish a modern medical management system and to provide needed supplies and equipment.

We are also very focused on the young people of Libya who have the most to gain from this new freedom. And today I am pleased to announce we are resuming the Fulbright program and doubling its size to permit even more Libyan students to study and train in my country. We will also open new English language classes across Libya for young people and provide special training for Libyan veterans with disabilities because of their combat experience.

We are increasing grants and training to new civil society organizations and working with Libyan women to make sure they have the skills and opportunities to participate fully in the political and economic life of their countries.

And as with the transitions in Tunisia and Egypt, we will partner with Libya to create new economic opportunities and broader prosperity by boosting trade and investment, increasing tourism, building ties between Libyan and American businesses, and helping to integrate Libya more closely into regional and global markets.

This list is just a beginning, because we want to hear from the Libyan people, from the new government that will be established after Libya is fully liberated. But we think we share a lot of the same aspirations for our families and our countries and that we have a lot to learn from each other and give to each other.

Later, I will be meeting with students and civil and society leaders at Tripoli University, talking and listening to the young people of Libya, because it is to all of them that we dedicate our efforts on your behalf.

So again, prime minister, let me thank you for your warm welcome, and thanks to the people of Libya. And we give you our very best wishes and promise our best efforts as you undertake this journey to a new democracy. (Applause.)

PRIME MINISTER JIBRIL: Thank you, your Excellency.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) The first question is for Dr. Jibril. The first question goes to Dr. Jibril.

QUESTION: A question for Dr. Jibril and Secretary Clinton. Secretary Clinton told you, Mr. Jibril, that there is large scale cooperation with Government of Libya. Do you think that you will be the prime minister of that government? Or in the past, you said that you will not share any other transitional government (inaudible).

A question for Secretary Clinton, who was one of the first voice (inaudible) for human rights and liberties. And you were an attorney and a successful lawyer. Today you are as successfully as Secretary of State. My question is: Do you see what is happening to the women in Saudi Arabia and in the eastern region of (inaudible)? Do you think that it is unsuitable to demand Saudi Arabia from bringing freedom just like you are asking Syria to be free, et cetera? And also Yemen – your position from Yemen is not very clear.

PRIME MINISTER JIBRIL: (Via interpreter) I will not be part of the upcoming government. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me begin by saying that I personally and the Government of the United States supports human rights everywhere for everyone. And we advocate that not only to governments but also through civil society and work to try to support the opportunities and aspirations of every individual to live up to his or her God-given potential. So we have spoken out. We will continue to speak out.

But different circumstances demand different kinds of responses, and the opportunity now in Libya is to not only chart a new future for Libyans but to stand as a model for democracy and freedom that was won with the blood of your martyrs is an extraordinary chance that comes perhaps only once in human history. So we think that what Libya has before it, the opportunity to make good on the promise of the revolution, is of the utmost importance, and that is why we are standing ready to work closely with the new Government of Libya and with the people of Libya.

We have and will continue to speak out to our friends, who we believe should do more on behalf of women and women’s rights – and I have said that many times – and with those with whom we have very serious differences, who are preventing the full aspirations and freedom of their people to flourish. But today, I am here to talk about Libya and Libya’s future and the hope that not only the United States but the world has invested in the future that Libyans will make for themselves.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) The question is to Secretary of State Clinton.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Mister Prime Minister, how concerned are you about the possibility of civil war here, or any lengthy ongoing conflict with pro-Qadhafi forces? And also, could you both comment on what you believe should happen to the convicted Lockerbie bomber? Should he go back to prison?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think, first of all, we are encouraged by the commitment of the Transitional National Council to taking the steps necessary to bring the country together. National unity is one of the highest priorities that Libya faces right now. And we discussed the process of forging a new democratic interim government that is transparent, inclusive, and consultative. And how that is done will, of course, depend upon the decisions that the Libyan people themselves make.

But from long experience, one factor we know must be confronted is unifying the various militias into a single military that represents the Libyan people and government. And the Transitional National Council is very focused on doing just that. They want to get all the militias under national command. They want to prevent reprisals and secure the stocks of weaponry that have come off the battlefield or have been discovered from the previous regime. And we think that the programs that the Transitional National Council have outlined to pay to the families of the fallen martyrs, to prepare programs and treatment and training for those who have served, are exactly what will be needed. Getting a national army and a police force under civilian command is essential. And the United Nations, the United States, and other partners stand ready to do that. But we are still at the point where liberation has not yet been claimed because of the ongoing conflicts that persist, and of course, the continuing freedom of action of Qadhafi and those around him.

So the Transitional National Council has to put security first. There has to be a resolution of the conflict before many of these programs can actually be put into action. And I really believe that all members of all militias must see the benefit of joining the new government, of pledging allegiance, as we say in my country, to the new government.

You know, I come from a very diverse country. We fought a civil war, and it was horrible. It was the war in which more Americans died at each other’s hands than any other, and we lived with the consequences for decades afterwards.

In today’s world, in the 21st century, that will just throw a people further behind history. So I know that the leadership understands that. They are focused on doing everything they can to end the fighting, to declare the liberation of the country, to form a new government, and to begin to pull the entire country together. So we will do everything we can to respond to that.

And we have made, of course, our strong views known about Megrahi, and I have said, many times, that we believe that he should never have been released. I raised this issue again with the leadership here. We – and we recognize the magnitude of all the issues that Libya is facing, but we also know the importance of the rule of law, and they have assured us they understand how strongly the United States feels about this and all the sensitivities around this case. We will continue to pursue justice on behalf of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing. This is an open case in the United States Department of Justice, and we will continue to discuss it with our Libyan counterparts.

QUESTION: Does the United States –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Will you talk in the microphone so the press can hear you, sir? Thank you.

QUESTION: You hear me now?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from Libya Al Hurra TV. Will the United States consider cooperating with the Libyan Islamists on delivering political process for Libya? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: The democracy that takes root in Libya must be reflective of the aspirations of the people of Libya, not the desires or dictates of any outside group. So with respect to Libyans themselves, we will support a process of democratizing that respects the rule of law; that respects the rights of minorities and women and young people; that creates independent institutions, like a free press and an independent judiciary. Groups and individuals who really believe in democracy should be welcome into that process. But groups that want to undermine democracy or subvert it are going to have to be dealt with by the Libyans themselves.

There are people – and I’ve been working in this area for many years, even as a private citizen and as a United States senator. There are many people who say they support elections, but only if they get elected. They want one election, one time, and then if they are elected no more elections. So these are all the kinds of challenges that Libyans will face in putting together their democracy. But people must renounce violence, they must give up arms, they must be committed to a democracy that respects the rights of all. And then, of course, you have an inclusive democracy that includes people, but they must be committed to the goals of a true democracy.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I’d like to take you a bit east of here. Today, Gilad Shalit has returned home after more than five years in captivity, and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners have been released as well. I was wondering whether you could give us your reaction to the deal struck between Israel and Hamas and how that fits in, if at all, with your wider efforts to resume peace talks, for example, in the Middle East. And also slightly connected to this, we are hearing reports that the American Israeli citizen, Ilan Grapel, who’s been detained in Egypt on charges of spying, may be released. I was wondering whether you could confirm that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well first, we are pleased that a long ordeal, being held five years as a hostage, has ended for Gilad Shalit and he’s been released and finally reunited with his family. He was held for far too long in captivity. And we are also hopeful that Ilan Grapel will similarly be released. We see no basis for any legal action against him.

And of course, we are hopeful that there will be a return to negotiations by the Israelis and the Palestinians by the end of this month, as outlined by the Quartet statement.

So we continue to be very focused on working toward a two-state outcome that would give the Palestinian people the same rights that the Libyan people are now obtaining to chart their own destiny and make their own way in life with their own goals and aspirations being fulfilled, and that Israel would have secure borders and could contribute to the prosperity of the larger region. So we remain focused on that and we’ll continue to work toward those outcomes.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) The Libyan woman is absent from the political scene, especially at the ministries, and in the current TNC all the ministers are males. Are you going to offer support so the women can participate in the development of Libya? And also to the election, how do you see the women of Libya in the future?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Prime Minister Jibril is smiling because I have raised it every time I have seen him and every time that I have seen Chairman Jalil and all of the Libyan officials with whom I have met over the last many months.

I would make three points. First, no country can become a democracy, no economy can develop as fully as it could, if half the population is not included. And the women of Libya have the same rights as their brothers and their husbands and their fathers and their sons to help build a new Libya. So we are very committed and very outspoken about what we hope will be the full inclusion of women in a democratic future.

Secondly, women also sacrificed in this revolution. Women were in the streets. Women were supporting the fighters. Women were sending their sons and their husbands off to an uncertain future, and many will never see them again. So women have sacrificed. They may not have been on the front lines holding a weapon, but they were holding together the society and supporting those who were fighting for Libya’s independence. So they have earned the right to be part of Libya’s future.

And finally, there is an opportunity here that I hope Libya will seize. I believe because you have won your freedom – no one handed it to you, you fought for it and you won it – that you will find it in your hearts to demonstrate to the entire world that Libya is not only free, but Libya is equal, Libya believes in the rule of law, Libya will educate all of their boys and girls to take their rightful places in the world. I would hope that I could come back to a free, democratic Libya in a few years, and it would be a shining example of what is possible when free people make their own choices.

So I cannot imagine how that could come to pass if women are not given the right to serve their country, to run their businesses, to be educated to the best of their abilities. So I will certainly look to ways that the United States can support the women in Libya to be able to take their rightful places in this new democratic future.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, my friend.

 


Secretary Clinton at a Town Hall Meeting With Youth and Civil Society

Secretary Clinton talks with Libyan student during a town hall meeting with Youth and Civil Society at Tripoli University in Libya, Tuesday, Oct.18, 2011.

Secretary Clinton talks with Libyan student during a town hall meeting with Youth and Civil Society at Tripoli University in Libya, Tuesday, Oct.18, 2011.

SECRETARY CLINTON:I know that more than 30 years ago students from this university came to this very spot to engage in historic protests, and their voices were crushed by the Qadhafi regime. But today, because of the courage of the Libyan people, we can be here together to have a conversation about what you hope for your futures and what partnership the United States can offer. So on behalf of all of the people of my country, I congratulate all of the people of the new Libya. Libya, (in Arabic.) It is wonderful to be here. (Applause.)

The last seven months have been historic, not only for Libyans, but indeed for the world, because you have faced your challenges and conducted your revolution with courage and commitment. You demanded the rights and the dignity of a free people, and you withstood the brutal assaults from those who were only wedded to the past. And now we have a new era. There will be new stories written about Libya in the history books.

But what will that story be? That, to me, is the question of the day. If you are committed to a new Libya, then how will you make your contributions? The structures of oppression have been torn down, but new structures are only being imagined now. So what – excuse me – (coughs) – I talk way too much. (Laughter.) What we all have to determine is how you turn to reconciliation and create an inclusive Libya that guarantees human rights and dignity, that delivers jobs and opportunities, that governs itself under respect for the rule of law.

Now, every democracy reflects the unique choices and passions of its people. That is one of democracy’s great strengths. We do not expect your democracy to be exactly like our democracy. We come from different backgrounds, we have different histories, and yet there are certain fundamentals about democracy that we think are more likely to produce a better outcome.

A democracy makes a virtue of the diversity of its people. No democracy can function effectively unless every group contributes. So Libya will need the talents of all of its people, young people, women, people from every part of the country. I feel strongly that in the weeks and months ahead, as you make these decisions about how to shape your democracy, women need to be part of that decision making. Because women defied Qadhafi’s troops, women supported the revolution.

I was struck by a quote that I read of a woman who was asked by a reporter why she took such great risks to be part of this revolution, and she responded by saying, “For God, for tasting freedom, for our land, for our liberty, for the future.” Well, that is what people who fight for their freedom believe, and women must be part of the new Libya.

The same is true for young people. This rising generation here at the university has given so much, and I agree with the president that you expect so much as well. And those expectations are warranted, but it will take time, effort, and some patience to achieve the goals that you seek.

We will be here as your partner. We will continue to emphasize the importance of the rule of law, respect for human rights, trade and investment, and the importance of civil society, academic institutions, and learning. We want to provide care and treatment for Libya’s war wounded, and we want to increase our educational exchanges. We will be funding English classes for disabled war veterans. We will resume educational exchanges and institute, once again, the Fulbright Program. In fact, we will double the numbers of those who will come to the United States to study. Through our Middle East Partnership Initiative, we want to connect up young Libyans from one end of your vast country to another.

There are so many possibilities and there are so many challenges. And what I want to do for my time with you is to hear from you, hear what you would like from the United States, hear what you would like from your new government. We have members with us from the Transitional National Council, who I know are interested as well in hearing from the young people of their country.

So with your permission, I would like to turn now to soliciting your views and your questions, and I will, to the best of my ability, respond to any question that is directed at me. So how shall we proceed? Shall I call on people, and you will bring them the microphone? Is that appropriate? All right. So who would be the brave person who wants to go first?

Yes, I saw your hand right there, the young women in the second row. And if your question is in Arabic we will have it translated before I try to answer it so I know what it was.

QUESTION: Hi. (Inaudible) organization for women and children. I’d like to welcome you to Libya. I hope you enjoy it.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.

QUESTION: My question, Libyan women went through tough times throughout this revolution. (Inaudible) – she got tortured, arrested, she lost her son, brother, and husband. What is the message you would like to send to Libyan women, and as a woman would you like to – do you hope to see a Libyan woman as a foreign minister or a president maybe of this country? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that Libyan women have the same rights as Libyan men. I would hope for a future of democracy and equality and opportunity for all. And I say that for these reasons: First, it is hard to imagine how Libya – the new, free Libya – will become a democracy and leave out half of the population. That doesn’t add up to me. That’s not what I hear or see from the Libyans who have so bravely fought for their freedom. And I don’t know any country that can succeed to the extent expected if half of the population is denied the opportunity to participate. So in this new democracy, I would hope to see the rights and responsibilities of women be given full inclusion.

Secondly, women did suffer during this revolution, as you yourself have just said. And we know that from the reports that came out of Libya, that are still coming out of places like Sirte. Women suffered because they demanded their own rights and were personally mistreated, and women suffered because they sent their sons and their husbands and saw their fathers and their brothers go off to fight for their freedom. So I think women in Libya have earned the right to be given the same opportunity to help build a new Libya.

And finally, I have had the privilege of traveling to over 90 countries as Secretary of State. I’ve been in all kinds of countries with all kinds of governments, and I have seen the very significant contributions that women can make. I just met – for example, you said foreign minister – I just met with the foreign minister of Bangladesh, who is a woman. I was in Indonesia recently and meeting with the finance minister of Indonesia, who is a woman. I’ve been in Malaysia and met with the governor of the Central Bank in Malaysia, who is a woman. Many of the countries that are Muslim majority and democratic, such as the three I just named, have recognized the importance of including women and giving women the opportunity to serve their country, to start businesses, to teach in universities, and to pursue their own God-given potential.

So I believe strongly that this will be important for women, but it will be equally important for men in a new Libya. And the United States will support organizations that are committed to ensuring that women can become active, responsible participants in Libyan society. I met two young women, as I was walking in, who are from a new organization called Voices of Libyan Women. And I thank them for taking on this important responsibility, and we will look forward to assisting you.

Yes.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Here comes the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you. My name is (inaudible). I – first of all, I would like to welcome you here, and I volunteer with the university to help rebuild this university. I would like to ask you, many people feel that the U.S. had taken the backseat in terms of helping this revolution. Would you see the U.S. taking the lead on terms of rebuilding this country and helping? And if so, what kind of resources would you be providing and the most suitable tools to help rebuild this country?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I think it’s fair to say that the United States played a unique leadership role in what happened in Libya, because we wanted to be sure, number one, that there was an international coalition in support of Libya. And I’m very pleased that there was. It was quite historic that you had the UN passing strong resolutions, which the United Nations was on the lead on, and then you had NATO coming together to protect civilians, and the Arab League, which had called for action, actually having member states participate in that coalition, the no-fly zone, the maritime embargo. The United States was actively involved, but we also thought it was important that there be a broad base of support for the Libyan revolution, and indeed, there has been. So we are very pleased by that.

We also have said – and part of the reason for my trip is to emphasize our commitment to helping Libya navigate through this next period of your history. Now, unlike many countries in the world that find themselves free of a dictatorship, Libya is blessed with natural resources and human resources that you don’t often find in many other countries. Yes, you do have oil, and now maybe that oil can be used for the benefit the Libyan people, not to enrich a relatively small group of powerful people.

And you have human resources. This great university is a testament to that. You have a lot of expertise within the Libyan people themselves, and certainly the Libyan Diaspora that came back to help win your freedom. So I don’t know that it’s so much, in Libya’s case, a question of money as it is getting expertise, technical assistance, and support for what you already intend to do. And I told both Chairman Jalil and Prime Minister Jibril we intend to support you on that. So I really believe that Libya is as well positioned as any country in recent history to make this journey to democracy successfully.

Now, that’s not to say it’s going to be easy, because it will not be easy. You have to unify your country. You know what people say. People say, “Well, Libya can’t be unified. You have the east, you have the west, you have the south. You have only six million people in this huge country. You have unprotected borders. You have so many different tribal interests.” Well, I don’t believe that. I think that you have enough of a commitment to your future to bring people together and to create that national unity, and you all will have to work on it.

I think there are several dangers, and the president referred to one. Everybody wants what they want, and they want it now. I mean, if I had a magic wand, I would have brought it with me, and I would leave it here, but I do not. And that means that it is going to take longer than anybody wants it to take. But you have to start on this journey step by step, and you have to be somewhat patient with each other as you try to work out how to organize yourselves.

But I have every confidence you will be successful, and the United States will help you. We’ll help you with resources, with technical expertise, with any kind of support for elections and for economic opportunities. You name it; we are ready to be helpful to you, but want it to be your priorities, not anybody else’s.

So many hands. How about this gentleman in the third row? Right there.

QUESTION: Hi. My name is (inaudible). I’m at the (inaudible). And thank you for every word that you said to encourage and support our revolution here. My question is: One of my goals in Libya is helping more young people to become part of the global community. What steps do you think Libyan youth should be begun with after the work to become effective partners in the global community?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s a very important question, because the more Libya gets integrated into the regional and global community, the stronger Libya will be. Now, I know that you have communicated with one another and with people around the world through the internet, which is one way of being connected up to the global community. I read an interesting story about a young man here, I think, at the university, who was working to contact people in other countries that had gone through similar transitions to ask for their personal advice, and I think that kind of outreach is very important. So I would encourage you to do it, and maybe even in an organized way, to create a site where people around the world who want to help Libya, who want to contribute to Libya, who believe strongly in what you’re doing, can find a way to be of assistance. So it’s a two-way street; you’re not only reaching out, but people are reaching in.

I think when it comes to economic integration, this part of the world, namely all of North Africa, in fact, most of the African continent and the Middle East, have not been as open economically as I think would benefit you. So when you think about integrating into the global economy, think about how you can tear down barriers so there can be more trade, more commerce, more activity coming and going. Because right now, there isn’t as much as there should be, and I think there could be a lot more that would benefit Libya.

One idea that I know people in Libya are exploring is: How do you make sure that the money you earn from your oil goes to benefit the Libyan people? And there are several examples. Norway, for example, has the money from the oil industry in a trust fund, which they use for certain common purposes. You talk about rebuilding this great university. Well, there needs to be some recognition that your natural resources should be used to benefit all Libyans. And that’s another way to promote national unity, to tell people in every part of Libya, “You’re not going to be forgotten. You’re not going to be cut out. You’re going to be part of Libya’s future, because we’re going to protect the oil revenues – a certain percentage of it – for benefitting all of Libya.” There are ideas out there like that, that if you reach out, you can find out more about.

So I would encourage you to look at all kinds of possibilities for better organizing and communicating from Libya to the rest of the world, and then look at ways to integrate you, particularly economic, and then look at ideas that you can transplant and bring back to Libya to benefit the Libyan people.

Yes, this young woman right there in the second row.

QUESTION: Hello, welcome to Libya. My name is Sarah Spani. I’m an honors graduate from this university, the school of engineering, and I’m a member of women organization, name is (inaudible) Women’s Association. My question is for the last four decades, Qadhafi didn’t give any chance for Libyan people, women as well as men, to participate in any type of political or civil activities, yet we have no political parties. What is the best strategy, in your point of view, and fastest strategy to encourage our people to involve more in the political life, considering that we have elections in a matter of two years or less and we have to elect our parliaments and our president. How do we do that? How to encourage our people in the fastest time? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That is an excellent and very important question, because it is, as you say, absolutely essential to create political parties, to create political agendas and platforms so people know what you stand for and what they would be getting if they vote for you. And the United States has for many years provided support to other countries that are going through this process. We don’t have any intention of picking winners or losers, but how do you do it? How do you create a political party? How do you create a political platform? How do you campaign? What are the techniques that are most useful to reaching people?

And we have several NGOs that do this all over the world and are certainly more than ready to help. So do the Europeans. They have a lot of groups that do the same. And even Latin American countries that have thrown off dictatorships in the last 20-30 years and are now democracies are ready to help.

So we can certainly, through our Embassy and our Ambassador – Gene Cretz is here with us – we can provide you with information and we can also connect you up to groups in our country and help you access groups in other places that can give you the kind of advice that you’re looking for.

I think that some of the experiences that are more recent, particularly in Latin America, maybe Central and Eastern Europe, in countries like Malaysia, Indonesia – Indonesia has been a democracy for 10 years now – could be of great benefit to you. They’re very vibrant democracies. They have political parties. Men and women run and get elected. And I think that would be one of our principal objectives, which is to help you look for and find the best ways to organize.

I want to emphasize how important it is that you organize. I mean, what often happens post-revolutions is that people are exhausted. I mean, it’s a terribly traumatic experience for a country and for people to go through. And a lot of people want to just go home, they want to get back to their jobs, back to their studies – totally understandable. And the political process they will leave to somebody else. But in a democracy, the best political process is the one that involves the most people and gets people to feel strongly about their choices and what they want from their leaders.

So I hope that you and all the young people here will get into the political system, learn how to form parties, how to make coalitions, recognize that in democracy compromise is essential. Because people do come, they get elected from different places with different ideas, and they have to then kind of work out what’s the best solution to reach. And we have a lot of experience in this and we’d be more than happy to provide some of that expertise.

Let me go way back to the gentleman sitting way back there. I don’t want to forget the people in the back seats here. This man, right here on the aisle. Yeah.

QUESTION: Hi (inaudible) graduate from dentist school. I’m trying – I’m asking is there a possibility for making a program for dentists who can train and do their internship in the USA, since here in Libya it doesn’t have the dental equipment and to make better future dentists. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will look into that. I think that’s an excellent suggestion. I will speak with our dental association when I get back to the United States and see if we couldn’t work out some kind of exchange program that would assist you. I thank you for raising it.

And then the gentleman behind there in the first row.

QUESTION: Ask by Arabic?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. My interpreter is here.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) The United States of America supported the right of the Libyan people to self-determination and supported also the project for the Libyans to defend themselves. What are the Libyan people able to prove in a short time in order to get all that support from the United States, from everywhere, and the Palestinians were not able in over 50 years to achieve it? What is that the Palestinians need to do in order to get such a support like the one you gave to the Libyan people?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We need to negotiate a state that will meet the needs of the people. There are many examples around the world where, through negotiations with both sides, we were able to set forth a pathway to full statehood. It just happened in Sudan, not far from Libya, about – starting about 10 years ago, ending in 2005. There was a negotiation and resulted in a referendum and it resulted in a new state.

There is no shortcut to that, because all of these very complex issues have to be resolved. And I take this very, very seriously, very personally. You might remember when my husband was president, they got very close but didn’t succeed. And it’s something that I am very committed to following through on and intend to do everything I can to try to bring about the negotiations, because otherwise you can’t declare it, you have to achieve it through negotiations. That’s the only way that it will actually be real.

So let’s see, this gentleman right there in the middle. Yes. Here comes the microphone.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Hello, Madam Secretary. I’m Hiba Aboreg. Welcome to Libya. I’m Hiba Aboreg. I’m a medical student in this university, and what I wanted to ask you is about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech is very important to the American way of life, and we are very new to this democracy, so what I was wondering was what steps do you think we, both as a government and as a people, can take to – sorry. I’m kind of nervous.

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, you’re doing very well.

QUESTION: What do you think we can – what steps do you think we can take to root the freedom of speech into the Libyan identity? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I do believe very strongly that freedom of speech is absolutely essential to any democracy, so I think there has to be a guarantee of freedom of speech in your constitution and in your laws, which your new government will begin to pass, once you have your parliament, and that there has to be also a respect imbued in the people for freedom of speech. Because people in my country say things all the time that I disagree with and that I think are wrong, but we believe that more speech is the best answer to speech you don’t agree with. So you make your case, you publish articles, you go on the radio or the TV, now you go on the internet, and you make your position known. So we hope that freedom of speech will be respected and legally protected in the new Libya.

Oh my goodness, too many hands. I can’t – I don’t want to leave people out in the back, because I always feel bad about that. The man in the white shirt.

QUESTION: Maldrew Abdulli from Libya Times magazine. I would like to ask you, the United States has been supporting Libya since the beginning of this revolution. There are two things that the Libyan people now are in need of it. The injured fighters, which already have been now in hospitals and everywhere – would the United States be interested to cure somehow the injured fighters which are in hospitals now, or at least support them with medical equipment or medical staff? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. And we will do both, and I thank you for asking that. We have told the Transitional National Council that we will transport some of the most seriously wounded to hospitals in the United States. We will provide medical equipment and material that is needed to operate your surgeries and other equipment that is required for the care of your wounded. And we will work with other countries to make sure that their needs are met.

And it’s not only the physical wounds, but we know that there are also traumas, psychological problems that people who are in combat experience. And that’s especially true when the people who won this revolution were not professional soldiers. They came from all walks of life. They had – many of them never fired a gun before, and they are thrust into the bloodiest of conflicts, close quarter combat in places throughout the country.

So we feel very strongly that we want to support taking care of the injured, the wounded, in body and mind, and we want to work with Libya to be able to care of your own people. So that’s one of my pledges to you.

My goodness. Yes, young woman right there. Second in, yes.

QUESTION: Hello. I’m Mana Whity, student in athletics department at Tripoli University. I would like to thank you for coming here. I’m a bit nervous. I got a question for you: To my knowledge, the Qadhafi regime has been created under Libyan (inaudible) and under support of some Western countries. What measure the United States will present to us to prevent such a regime to be created again – sorry – especially in Libya?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that, certainly, the most important thing now is to make sure that Qadhafi and his regime are finally prevented from disrupting the new Libya. And as you know, we had a very hostile relationship with Qadhafi over many years because of his behavior and because of his actions, both inside of Libya and outside of Libya. We did appreciate the decision that he made a few years ago to do away with his nuclear program, because that made it possible for the world to be safer and eventually for you to be more secure in your revolution.

So we want to do everything we can to prevent him from causing trouble for the new Libya. We want to make sure he’s brought to justice, along with the people around him, his family members and others who are still supporting him. And that’s what we intend to do to try to help protect civilians from any reprisals by Qadhafi coming out of anywhere. We don’t know where he is, but we hope he can be captured or killed soon so that you don’t have to fear him any longer, and then you have to move forward.

One of the problems you will face is how to reconcile different people, how you will bring people into a new Libya and not spend your time trying to settle scores from the past. That will be very hard. Countries that have succeeded, like Chile or South Africa, have been incredibly successful. Even Rwanda, where 800,000 people were killed, has kept its eye on the future. Countries that keep looking over their shoulders toward the past and they want to find the guy who did the bad thing to their family 20 years ago and they want to do this and they want to do that find it difficult to move forward. There’s a saying in my country: “You can’t drive forward if you’re looking in the rearview mirror.” So how do you overcome all of those terrible experiences and feelings and stay focused on the future? That will be a hard task for Libya. But I know you can do it.

Oh my goodness. Let’s see, how many more questions do we have? Let me see here. I want to be sure to be fair in getting as many as possible. Let me – this man right there, yep, and then I’ll come to you next, okay?

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) from the library and information section (inaudible) from the removal of (inaudible) that caused disturbance not only to Libyans, but to the entire world because I did the documentation and archivals. My question is: What can be a helpful exchange between our two countries, especially with information management and libraries, and indexation such as for instance having something like the Library of Congress is very famous in the whole world, such (inaudible) has to do with all the departments of a university. How can you help us with this kind of expertise? And thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Could you repeat the question?

INTERPRETER: Yes. The question pertains, Madam Secretary, to his field. He works in the archival and library and information management of libraries. He’s very fascinated with the Library of Congress type of proto model and was wondering how could the United States help his university, his section – he’s with the entire university – how could the United States offer such expertise to this field, which is very important in information management and libraries and index section.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I will look into that. I think it’s a very good question, and I will, again, take it back to the United States. I will speak with our archivists and our library experts. You’re right that the Library of Congress is a magnificent institution, and we’ll see if we can provide some specific support for your information systems here. So I hope that you will contact – I hope that the young dentist and I hope you, sir, will come down and introduce yourself to our ambassador so we can follow up with each of you, okay? Good.

And yes, uh-huh.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think she’ll wait, and then once you’ve asked the question, she’ll translate the whole question so we can hear it more easily.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary, my question that pertains to the following: We believe that there is a new political philosophy for our country, that is, what is referred to usually as a liberalcrat or something to that effect. Do you believe that such a philosophy can happen here, and how can we promote it and make it happen?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am not an expert on any particular new philosophy, so I cannot address the specific question you asked me. I can only tell you that I think there will be room for many philosophies in the new Libya, because people will present points of view and you will be able to test them and argue about them and present your case about them. And I think through that kind of exchange of views in the political process, in the media, in the university, you can come to what are the best answers for Libya.

So you may have one philosophy and someone sitting over here may have a different philosophy, but the two of you together perhaps can come up with ways of presenting your views that will help move Libya forward. And I think that should be the goal of everyone. What will make – at the end of your efforts, are the people of Libya better off when you stopped than when you started? Is the country coming together or pulling apart? Are you creating a political and economic model that will be sustainable over the generations?

Those should be the questions I would hope you would keep in mind. Are we making lives better through what we are doing? Are we bringing people together? Are we creating systems that will truly stand the test of time? And I think every philosophy should be judged against those kinds of questions.

Yes, young woman right there? Yeah.

MODERATOR: We will have one more time for questioning.

SECRETARY CLINTON: This – okay, I’ve called on this woman, the second row, second seat here. There you go.

MODERATOR: Will you please pass the –

QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible) from the Voice of Libyan Women. I was wondering, as a woman who fought her way into politics on your own, what’s your opinion about quota?

SECRETARY CLINTON: About what?

QUESTION: Quota.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Quotas. That’s never been an issue in my country, but it has been an issue in many countries and I think that there are many systems where quotas have been absolutely necessary in order for women to get their foot in the door. So I would suggest that you and your colleagues look at all the different kinds of quota systems. There are quota systems in India, there are quota systems in many countries in Africa, in other places in Asia. So there are many countries which made the decision that in order to ensure that women were – women’s voices were at the table, there had to be seats set aside for women. And I think that makes a lot of sense in many different countries.

So I would urge you to do a study, look at what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, and where the results have made it possible for more women to participate in political life. And it very well might work here in Libya because you’re starting from a new system and nobody is an expert in it. It’s going to be brand new. And I think you want to be sure that women’s voices are not eliminated from the very beginning of your democratic process because it would be hard to catch up.

So I think I would favor some form for Libya to start with, but I don’t have an opinion about what that would look like. You would have to design it.

QUESTION: I have a question.

You know what? There are so many hands that are up and –

MODERATOR: Sorry about that.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me, if I may, Mr. President. If you will do this, Ambassador Cretz, will you stand up and will people who work with you at our Embassy, will you raise your hand? Any of our people from the Embassy, if you give your question to any of these men and women who work at our Embassy, I will answer your question and they will get the answer back to you, but – and I know there are about a hundred left, so I will do that to all of you. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Okay. We would like to thank very much, Your Excellency. Time is running out. And welcome back again to Libya. Thank you so much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: I hope to come back to the new Libya. Thank you. (Applause.)

MODERATOR: Okay. This is a promise. This is a promise, okay? (Applause.)

Thank you very much, President Krekshi and to all the deans and faculty and students of Tripoli University. Good afternoon. I am deeply honored to be here with you today. I appreciate greatly the president’s kind words about the support that our government provided. But the victory is yours, the future is yours, and it is a personal honor to be here in the heart of a liberated Tripoli, speaking to a brave generation of Libyans.

 


Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Robbins on the Invitation by the Russian Federation for International Observers for the Duma Elections

The United States welcomes the timely invitation by the Russian Federation Central Election Commission for international observers, including an Election Observation Mission from OSCE/ODIHR and Parliamentary Assembly, for the December 4 State Duma elections.

Free and fair elections that adhere to international standards are a necessary part of a healthy democracy. OSCE’s participating States have an obligation to ensure that elections throughout the region meet these standards and that citizens have the freedom to cast their votes. We are committed to the support of free and fair electoral processes that allow political parties to operate freely, that allow citizens to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protest, that enshrine the importance of an independent media, and that enjoy the protections of an effective judicial system.

All OSCE participating States have committed themselves to the implementation of free and fair elections. As set forth in the 1990 Copenhagen Document—and reaffirmed at the Astana Summit—this includes universal and equal suffrage; secret ballots; and non-discriminatory access for parties to the media.

Domestic and foreign observers play a critical role in documenting that these principles are upheld during elections, and ODIHR has become the gold standard for election observation.

We urge all participating States to support the secondment of long-term observers to follow the elections process throughout Russia and to contribute to the provision of short-term observers to follow Election Day proceedings. We would also welcome robust participation by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. We urge the Russian Federation to facilitate timely visa issuance to all Mission members.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 


Statement by Chargé d’Affaires Robbins on the Convictions of April 2 Protesters in Azerbaijan

The United States deeply regrets the recent convictions of a number of opposition activists who participated in peaceful demonstrations on April 2. These rulings include:

The October 10 verdict of the Nasimi District Court to convict four activists- Ahad Mammadov, Ulvi Guliyev, Elnur Medzhidli, and Rufat Hajibeyli – on charges of actions disturbing public order and/or resisting police;

The October 3 ruling of the Sabail District Court to convict four activists—Arif Hajili, Tural Abbasli, Mahammad Majidli, and Fuad Gahramanli—on charges of conspiracy to violate public order for planning and organizing pro-democracy protests that took place on April 2;

We further regret decisions by the same court on August 25 to convict six other activists on similar charges.

We note that the October 11 spot report from the OSCE Office in Baku, which states that a total of 14 political activists have now been convicted as a result of the April 2 demonstration. We encourage the Office to continue its close monitoring of the court proceedings, including any related appeals.

The United States recalls the Government of Azerbaijan’s obligations under its Constitution and its OSCE commitments to respect the rule of law and the rights of all its citizens to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. Accordingly, we call upon Azerbaijan’s judicial authorities to ensure that any appeals of these convictions are reviewed in accordance with Azerbaijan’s constitutional and international commitments, which exist to help all Azerbaijanis advance democratic culture, processes, and institutions in their country.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

 
 

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