The State Department’s Office of International Labor Affairs (ILA) strengthens respect for labor rights and advances workplace democracy in the global economy. ILA initiatives further U.S. foreign policy goals related to human rights, democracy promotion, trade, and sustainable growth. The office, which is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), also helps to implement the agenda of the Department’s Special Representative for International Labor Affairs.
ILA efforts to promote worker rights focus on internationally recognized labor rights relating to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and the elimination of forced labor, child labor, and discrimination. In carrying out its work, ILA collaborates with NGOs, trade unions, companies, international organizations, and fellow U.S. federal agencies.
ILA helps to coordinate and support the work of Labor Officers and other staff covering labor issues in U.S. missions throughout the world. DRL sponsors an annual Award for Excellence in Labor Diplomacy, a two-week course at the Foreign Service Institute on Labor Officer Skills, and regional conferences. In 2010, ILA conducted training sessions for officers in Cairo, Bangkok, and Miami.
DRL provides millions of dollars in funding each year for projects that advance worker rights, build the capacity of independent unions, improve labor rights in supply chains, and promote dialogue among workers, employers, and governments.
For more information on the Office of International Labor Affairs, please check out their fact sheets below (in .PDF):
FACT SHEET: Department of Treasury and State Announce Sanctions of Iranian Security Forces for Human Rights Abuses
The Departments of the Treasury and State today imposed sanctions against three entities and one individual at the core of Iran’s security apparatus for being responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Iran since the June 2009 disputed presidential election. Today’s action targeted Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij Resistance Force (Basij), and Iran’s national police and its Chief – all of which share responsibility for the sustained and severe violation of human rights in Iran.
“Today’s action exposes Iran’s willingness to turn the machinery of the state, at its highest levels, against its own people to violently suppress their democratic aspirations,” said Office of Foreign Assets Control Director Adam Szubin. “As long as this denial of basic human rights continues, we will remain vigilant in our efforts to isolate those responsible from the international financial system.”
Today’s action was taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13553, signed by President Obama in September 2010, targeting human rights abuses engaged in by officials of the Government of Iran and persons acting on behalf of the Government of Iran since the June 2009 election. As a result of today’s action, any property in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons in which the designees have an interest is blocked, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. The designees, and all members of the designated entities, are also subject to visa sanctions by the Department of State.
State Department Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner added, “By designating the IRGC, the Basij and the national police, we demonstrate that law enforcement agencies not only have a responsibility to enforce the law but also live up to universal human rights commitments and Iran’s own constitution.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
Formed by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the IRGC was responsible for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country and safeguarding the nascent revolution. In recent years, however, the IRGC has increased its involvement with internal threats to the regime, suppressing political dissent since the contested June 2009 presidential election.
The IRGC is responsible for the serious human rights abuses that have occurred since the contested June 12, 2009, presidential election, including the violent crackdowns on protests and the mistreatment of political detainees held in a ward of Tehran’s Evin prison controlled by the IRGC.
The Treasury Department previously designated the IRGC pursuant to E.O. 13382 in October 2007, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their supporters.
The Basij Resistance Force
The Basij is a paramilitary force subordinate to the IRGC. As one of Iran’s primary guarantors of domestic security, the Basij has been heavily involved in the violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses occurring in Iran since the June 2009 contested presidential election. The Basij have been implicated in attacks on university students, abuse of detainees, and violence against peaceful protesters.
The Basij is also being designated today for being controlled by the IRGC. The United States designated Basij Commander Mohammed Reza Naqdi pursuant to E.O. 13553 in February 2011.
The Law Enforcement Forces (LEF)
Commonly referred to as Iran’s national police, the LEF is one of the Government of Iran’s main security apparatuses for maintaining domestic stability and played a key role in the government crackdown on protesters in the aftermath of the June 2009 election. Under the command of Ismail Ahmadi Moghadam, also designated today, the LEF was involved in the attack on the Tehran University dormitories in Tehran during which more than 100 people were wounded and subsequently transferred to a detention area where they suffered physical abuse at the hands of the LEF.
The LEF operated the notorious Kahrizak detention center, which was the site of serious human rights abuses against prisoners detained in the post-election protests, including assault and battery, and the deprivation of basic needs such as medical care, ultimately resulting in the deaths of three detainees.
Entity: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
AKA: Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps
AKA: Islamic Revolutionary Corps
AKA: Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami
AKA: Pasdaran-e Inqilab
AKA: Revolutionary Guard
AKA: Revolutionary Guards
AKA: Sepah Pasdaran
AKA: Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Enqelab-e Eslami
AKA: The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution
AKA: The Iranian Revolutionary Guards
Entity: Basij Resistance Force
AKA: Basij-e Melli
AKA: Mobilization of the Oppressed Organization
FKA: Sazman Basij Melli
AKA: Sazman-e Moghavemat-e Basij
FKA: Vahed-e Basij-e Mostazafeen
FKA: National Mobilization Organization
AKA: National Resistance Mobilization
AKA: Resistance Mobilization Force
Entity: Law Enforcement Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran
AKA: Iranian Police
AKA: Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces
AKA: Niruyih Intizamiyeh Jumhuriyih Islamiyih Iran
Individual: Moghadam, Ismail Ahmadi
AKA: Ahmadi-Moghaddam, Esma’il
AKA: Ahmadi-Moqaddam, Esma’il
AKA: Moghaddam, Esameel Ahmadi
AKA: Moghaddam, Ismail Ahmadi
POB: Tehran, Iran
The United States is pleased to announce a contribution of $126.8 million toward the 2011 operations of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The contribution, funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, will support UNHCR’s programs worldwide, including refugee returns to such places as Afghanistan and the Sudan; local integration and resettlement; and protection and life-saving assistance. U.S. funding supports the provision of water, shelter, food, healthcare, and education to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other persons under UNHCR’s care and protection in countries such as Iraq, Colombia, Thailand, Nepal, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda.
The contribution will directly support UNHCR’s Annual and Supplementary Program activities as indicated below.
|Africa||$ 39.9 million|
|Asia and Pacific||$ 23.0 million|
|Europe||$ 3.8 million|
|Global Operations||$ 7.9 million|
|Middle East||$ 49.4 million|
|Western Hemisphere||$ 2.8 million|
|TOTAL||$ 126.8 million|
With this contribution, the United States will have provided more than $285 million toward UNHCR’s 2011 operations so far this year.
We note that this year is the 60th anniversary of the Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
We salute the vital and courageous work of UNHCR, its many NGO partners, and refugee hosting countries in providing protection to vulnerable people around the world.
Childhood is a time that should be spent in classrooms and on playgrounds, but for 215 million children around the world, it is a time spent working, often in dangerous and deplorable conditions. And while reports indicate that child labor continues to decline, much work remains to be done.
I applaud my Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, who has helped increase our efforts to address child labor abroad and here at home. My Administration is committing $60 million this year to support efforts to reduce child labor around the world. The Department of Labor has also taken steps to improve protections for child workers in the United States, and we have dramatically increased our child labor law enforcement efforts. And this week the Department of State and the Department of Labor jointly hosted a conference on child labor that demonstrated our intention to take a whole of government approach to this issue. Participants from multiple federal agencies and the National Security Council, alongside NGOs and multilateral organizations, all reaffirmed a commitment to take action against child labor in the year ahead. We must address the root causes of child labor by ensuring access to education for all children and helping families to secure sustainable livelihoods and to overcome the poverty that contributes to child labor. On this World Day Against Child Labor, all of us must recommit ourselves to creating a world where our children have a brighter future, free of exploitive labor.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thank you, Madam Secretary. I want to just start by saying a few words of acknowledgement. As Secretary Clinton said, this is a mammoth undertaking. The report covers 194 countries in the world. It’s over 2 million words long, in excess of 7,000 pages. It’s the reflection of tens of thousands of hours of work by hundreds of people, both here in the Department and by human – by Foreign Service officers throughout the world. And I want to say a special thanks to the people in our bureau, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, who’ve worked so hard over many months to make the report as excellent as it is, and in particular the overall editor and chief architect of it, Steve Eisenbraun. For the last five years, Steve has really driven this process.
I want to just say a couple of words about the purpose of the report. Originally in the 1970s, two members of Congress, Don Fraser and Tom Harkin, now Senator Harkin, introduced legislation in Congress linking human rights to security and economic aid. The report came out of that, a desire to inform Congress of what’s happening in the world vis-a-vis these decisions about foreign assistance. Now it’s much more. It is the single most exhaustive report by human rights done by anyone anywhere in the world, and it is based on a notion of fidelity to the truth.
This is not a policy-making document. It’s a document to give us a clear and honest picture of what’s going on and a basis for a range of decisions by this government and others in terms of how to address human rights challenges we face in the world. It doesn’t include a section on the United States, but we are committed, as Secretary Clinton has said many times, to lead by example on these issues. And just last month, Harold Koh, the legal advisor here, and one of my deputies, Dan Baer, were in Geneva to complete a six-month process of submitting the United States to a process called the Universal Periodic Review at the UN Human Rights Council, where, for the first time, we presented a comprehensive evaluation of U.S. progress and U.S. issues relating to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We did that after extensive consultation with our own civil society, took comments from a range of other governments, came back last month and provided a range of ways in which we’re addressing our own domestic situation.
I want to just say a couple of words, and then I’m going to take your questions, about the trends that Secretary Clinton mentioned. The restrictions against NGOs: In the last several years we’ve seen more than 90 countries impose new restrictions on nongovernmental organizations. These laws often are burdensome restrictions on registration or the right to receive foreign funding. This week, for example, we’re in a diplomatic negotiation with the Government of Cambodia, which is now considering adopting a new law to this effect, which would make it much more difficult for Cambodian human rights and other organizations to operate. In July last year, Secretary Clinton gave a speech on this at the Community of Democracies in Krakow. We’ve set up a fund calling the Endangered NGO Fund, and we’ve now gotten a number of other governments – the Dutch, the Poles, the Chileans, the Lithuanians – to join us in funding a collective effort to address this problem.
The second subject is internet freedom, and certainly if there are lessons from the so-called Arab Spring, it’s both that the internet and these new technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity for activists to communicate with each other, to mobilize, to organize, but also that there are risks attendant to these new technologies. Our internet policy is based on an open, neutral platform for communication, whether it’s by human rights activists, by commercial interests for innovation or whatever. But we also recognize that we need to do more diplomatically, through our funding and support for groups that are involved in human rights using the internet, and also to work with NGOs directly and with companies. We’re doing all of that through an internet freedom initiative that the Secretary announced in a speech in February. And I’m very proud of it. I think it’s one of the most important things we’re doing.
And finally, the third aspect of this report, the third trend that we talked about, the discrimination against vulnerable groups. What we’re seeing in many places in the world – Pakistan, she mentioned, in China, in Tibet, and Xinjiang with the Uyghurs, in places around Africa, where the LGBT communities are under threat, in places in Europe or the Middle East, where anti-Semitism still flourishes – we’re seeing that these issues of discrimination that divide often lead to conflict. And what we need to do and what we are doing is addressing these issues again by our diplomacy, our public diplomacy and privately, and also trying to focus particularly on education and on the media, which plays such an important part either in fueling these conflicts or trying to address them in constructive ways. Let me stop there, and I’m happy to take your questions, please.
QUESTION: Good morning. Sir, in your Near East section, you cover Iran, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, and Libya. But there is no mention of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. So do you believe that –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I’m sorry. No mention of –
QUESTION: There’s no mention of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. My question to you, sir, do you believe that Israel adheres to good or maintains good human rights practices toward the Palestinians? And conversely, does the Palestinian Authority maintain proper and good human rights practices toward its Palestinian citizens?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We, in fact – I guess you’re looking at the introduction. We have a section both on Israel and a separate section on the territories, and in the section on the territories, we comment both on human rights problems, violations by the Palestinian Authority, by Hamas, and by the Government of Israel. So yes, we’re very mindful of it. There are a range of issues, challenges on all of those fronts, and we continue to be very active in addressing those issues.
QUESTION: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the – that you did include the United States in last year’s report. Can you say why that was excluded this time?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: The report done last year on trafficking in persons included a U.S. section. We’ve never done it here.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: And what we’ve done, essentially, is to, instead, focus – at least for this year – on the Universal Periodic Review. We’re also going to be submitting, in the next couple of months, reports under a couple of treaties – the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights will come first, and then our report on the Convention Against All Forms of Torture.
QUESTION: And then just if I can –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: Separate topic, in a number of the cases, a number of the sections on countries that have seen uprisings this year, the first line is, “Inability to change their governments.” Can you kind of talk a little bit about how some of the conditions you saw last year may have led to what we’re seeing this year?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure. One of the things that I – one of the countries I’ve devoted probably more attention to than any is Egypt. I was there twice in 2010, in January and October, and commented on – publicly there – on a range of concerns we had about systemic human rights problems, including the state of emergency, including problems with state security police, including detention policy and the like. All of those things are documented in detail in this report on 2010. And obviously, those were some of the things – important piece of why people took to the square in January, and this led to change.
QUESTION: Thank you. I know the report says that you can’t generalize. A lot of the countries that were swept up with this in the Mid-East and North Africa are very different. But is there any type of overall trend that you – as you look at this now that could say a general improvement because of these revolutions? And bearing in mind, again, it’s a 2010 report, but you did have some new information.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. I guess I would say, first of all, I’m a chronic optimist. I’ve been in the human rights world for 30-some years, and I always believe that – I look for what’s possible. And what I see that’s possible and that is a trend in the Middle East is that you have individual citizens who have operated and lived in very closed societies who are demanding change. They’re demanding change in a couple of ways. They’re seeking more of a stake and a role in the governance of their country. They want to be involved more in the political side. And they’re also seeking greater economic opportunity. They want to live in dignity. They want to be treated fairly. Those are human rights aspirations. And although the particulars in the countries are very different, and the outcomes may be very different, what’s interesting is how much what started in Tunisia has now spread across the region, and in some cases, against all odds people have said, “We really want our voices to be heard.” I think that’s an optimistic trend, and again, we will wait and see how it turns out, but it’s certainly something we’re encouraging.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. This report has been coming out for the last 38 years. Millions of people now in China, including Tibetans and so many other minorities, are seeking and want to come out, but each time they are repressed, and because like you said, many societies are closed societies. China is maybe the most closed society on the globe. What message do you have those people who want to come out just like the rest of the world in the Middle East and Tunisia and also Libya? They want to come out, and they have been suppressed as far as their human rights and basic rights are concerned.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: One of the things that’s very interesting to me and important is the extent to which people around the world pay attention to what we say, and in particular, in these reports. We get – I think the State Department may get more traffic to these reports today and in the coming weeks than almost anything we produce. What that reflects is that people are hungry for the truth about their own societies and about what’s going on in the world. That’s why this report is so important.
The Chinese Government, as Secretary Clinton said earlier this week, arrested a renowned artist, Ai Weiwei. And yesterday in commenting on that case, they said, “Oh, this is not a human rights case. This has nothing to do with human rights.” No, it does. This is an individual, a peaceful dissenter who has been critical of the government. He’s a prominent artist and is well known not only in China but around the world. We’ve called for his immediate release. We will continue to do it.
We’ll continue to raise cases like Gao Zhisheng, the human rights lawyer who’s been missing for a year now, disappeared last April; like Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Prize winner who’s gotten an 11-year sentence. And people in China hear that. They know it. They find that out. It reinforces their own call for freedom.
And so we are not going to be shy about these things. Secretary – Assistant Secretary Campbell, Kurt Campbell, was in China yesterday. He had meetings with the foreign minister and at least a couple of other senior officials. He raised these cases. We’re going to continue to do that because this is what we consider an important part of our diplomacy.
QUESTION: One more just to follow.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Okay.
QUESTION: On Thailand, sir – thank you – in Thailand, millions of Hindus are under attack as far as human rights are concerned and now so many demonstrations have gone and thousands and thousands of people in Thailand on the streets and also here. In Maryland, they had a function at Hindu American Foundation. What they are asking is the Secretary should take action as far as human rights or the minority – especially Hindus in Thailand – and nobody is paying any attention.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, we are paying attention. The report reflects that. And it’s also, again, another example of a situation – there are many, many in the world where there are divisions based on ethnicity, religion, race, whatever. Again, these are things that fuel differences, fuel conflict. It’s the responsibility of governments everywhere to be trying to figure out how to mitigate those differences and how to create a human rights standard that allows people to be different but to coexist.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the situation – human rights situation in Russia that the Secretary mentioned, especially related to the upcoming elections in December? Some critics have argued that the reset is being conducted at the expense of human rights and democracy. And more specifically with regard to Belarus, which is also detailed, the U.S. has imposed visa bans on the most – on the senior human rights violators. Is the same measure possible and being considered towards Russian human rights violators?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. We are very mindful and very concerned about an increasingly negative human rights environment in Russia. My – one of my deputies, Tom Melia, was out there last week, in fact. Part of what we’re seeing is a crackdown on dissenters, the so-called Strategy 31 protestors, who every 31st – month go out and demonstrate in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other places. March 31st there were demonstrations in seven cities, and there was a crackdown, in particular, in St. Petersburg.
We continue to follow those cases. We raise concerns with the government as Tom did last week. We’re also concerned about some of the more public cases like Magnitsky, who died in prison. We continue to call for an investigation. Estemirova – Natalia Estemirova, who – in Chechnya, was monitoring what was happening and was killed because of her advocacy. So there are a range of concerns there, and we will continue to raise them.
In Belarus, you had an election last December, and Lukashenko crackdown arrested dozens of people, including five of his opposition candidates. There’s a very grim scene there now where it’s very, very difficult for people to operate, which is why we’ve enacted these sanctions. We continue to be very resolute. We’re working with our European allies on this. The human rights situation there is of grave concern to us.
QUESTION: Is it possible for (inaudible) to be (inaudible)?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I don’t – we have not discussed that.
QUESTION: Hi. You list a slew of human rights problems in Bahrain. I’m wondering how limited you think you are in your ability to influence Bahrain by the presence of the Fifth Fleet and the national security concerns.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We – I was in Bahrain with the Secretary in December. Again, one of my deputies, Kathy Fitzpatrick, was out there in January. We are very mindful of what has really been a deteriorating situation over months in terms of the climate for the kind of dialogue that the Crown Prince has asked for. We are very concerned about the continued arrest and detention of peaceful critics, including some leaders of the political opposition, the fact that some senior newspaper executives have been dismissed and the like. Those things, I think, make it harder for the dialogue to begin.
We’re also mindful that on the other side, it’s imperative that those who’ve been demonstrating not resort to violence themselves. But we’re at a point now where, as close as we may have come six weeks or two months ago to having that dialogue started, we really need people on all sides of this to begin thinking about what are the confidence-building measures that will bring people back into a dialogue. There are a range of very real issues that need to be addressed. They’re not going to be addressed only by security measures. And that message has been communicated by people here and in other parts of our government. We are eager to work with our allies in Bahrain, the government, but we’re also very mindful that the situation – the human rights situation is serious.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: Do they – do you get the sense that they are receptive to your message? I mean, they – you need them more than they need you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, I wouldn’t characterize it that way. And I also wouldn’t say that there’s necessarily a unified response in the government. I think there is a recognition, certainly by some senior people in the government, that where we are right now is not conducive to addressing the challenges. And it’s important that there be a resumption of, or a creation of an environment where there can be a dialogue to address the fundamental issues that people who took to the streets are asking about. There’s a – there are a set of issues that need to be discussed. They have to be discussed at a table where people are willing to come and really talk about differences and how to resolve them. We’re not there, but we’re certainly encouraging all sides to try to get there.
QUESTION: Can I ask you two quick questions? One, given the important role that the internet played in the revolutions in Northern Africa and the Middle East, are you worried that governments will crack down even harder on internet access? And secondly, if I may, separately, there have been reports of clashes near the Iraqi-Iranian border at Camp Ashraf. I’m sure you’re familiar with it. What have you learned about this and what can you tell us?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: On the internet question, we’re spending a lot of time trying to stay ahead of the curve here and trying to keep track of what governments are doing. Governments that seek control and that are nervous about dissent are increasingly looking for ways to control the internet. There’s a narrative, and it’s part of the history of this, that some governments – the Chinese would be an example, or the Iranians – put up a firewall; that’s true. And one of the things we’re doing is to support technologies, circumvention technologies that allow people to get access to the internet. In fact, we had some – review of some funding applications yesterday, and there are some fantastic technologies that we’re now supporting financially.
But the other piece, which I think has been underreported or under-understood, is that most governments aren’t going to shut down the internet; they’re simply going to go after the people who use it that are dissenters. So they hack into their computers. They take their cell phones when they’re arrested and they grab the list of names that are in their address book. They use every technical capacity they have to invade privacy, to monitor what these dissenters are doing. And in a lot of cases, people who are using the internet in these societies aren’t sufficiently mindful either of what their possibilities are technically to protect themselves or what the risks are. So we’re doing a huge amount of training. We’ve trained 5,000 people from every region of the world on what are the new opportunities and risks with the internet. I’m really excited about this. I think it’s one of the most innovative things we’re doing, and other governments are coming to us and saying, “How are you doing this? We want to be involved.” This is part of this internet freedom funding initiative.
On the – I’m sorry. The second question was about –
QUESTION: It relates to reported attacks in Iraq –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Oh. Oh, in – yeah.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: This morning, we got reports of further attacks at Camp Ashraf. Secretary Gates was in Iraq today, expressed concern about the violence. At this stage, I know our Embassy in Baghdad has been in contact with Iraqi officials, but I don’t have more details of exactly what happened or why. But I can assure you it’s something we’re very mindful of. And Secretary Gates, on the scene, was very quick to raise concerns about the loss of life.
Yeah. Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. How do you view the human rights record in Libya, Yemen, and Syria at this time? Not, as the report mentioned, for last year, 2010.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, each – let me take each of those. Libya, obviously, we have for the last 35 years reported on a pattern of human rights abuses by the Qadhafi government. And those abuses continued in 2010 and were part of what – I would say a large part of what led people to take to the streets and create the beginning of what’s now become a very violent and very dangerous situation. We continue to be, obviously, involved both on a military side through the no-fly and so forth, but also diplomatically. And I think our greatest hope is that, as Musa Kusa and other officials, senior officials, have started to bail out, we’re going to see other defections. And through some combination of the NATO operation and these various diplomatic initiatives, including by the Arab League, we’re going to see some resolution of this. It is not going to be easy, but we are, obviously, very mindful of the human rights consequences of this and the humanitarian consequences. There are very real risks to a large number of people in these areas where the fighting is going on.
In Syria, again, we have had decades of human rights violations, a very restrictive political environment, a very difficult security police, which has crack downed on dissent for many, many years. We had reports again this morning of some violence in Syria. We’re tracking that very closely. Our new ambassador there is raising these issues with authorities, but again, people in the country have said we want something different, and that’s part of what we’re facing there.
The third country you mentioned is Yemen, and there probably in the region outside of Libya is no country where we have greater anxieties over the violence, including violence perpetuated by government forces. That violence is not subsiding, and I can’t tell you that I have an answer for it, but we’re certainly tracking and monitoring what’s going on on an hourly basis.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. Please.
QUESTION: What are the most concerning facts in regards with human rights in Mexico, and how do you think the war on drugs is maybe deteriorating this situation of human rights?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I visited Mexico twice last year for bilateral discussions with the Mexican Government. A lot of the focus was on exactly that question. We met with senior military officials. One of the challenges Mexico faces in fighting the drug violence is – has been the relative weakness of local police, and therefore the army has come into play, in effect, a policing role in urban neighborhoods. I think it’s fair to say that the army is not thrilled to be in that role. And one of the challenges is for Mexico, I think, is over the medium and long-term, how to build up a stronger national police that have particular expertise in how to fight these very violent drug criminals and to allow the army to go back to doing what it was trained to do.
We have raised issues there about some of the excesses by the military. One of the things they’ve said to us is that local courts aren’t very effective in prosecuting people. And so there is a real set of challenges there and we – our Embassy there is very involved in these things. The only other thing I would mention that concerned me quite a bit is that a number of the human rights activists and monitors have themselves been targeted, and that’s a distressing signal. I think it’s really important you have a very vibrant local human rights community. Those people need to be able to continue to speak out forcefully, even if it’s critical of the government, along with the National Commission on Human Rights, which does a very good job, but we’re watching that very closely as well.
QUESTION: Do you believe the military in Mexico must be more open and transparent in regards with the information about the way that is processing the people? And maybe do you believe the militaries that occur in these type of violations must be trial in civil courts?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. Well, part of our dialogue – and I was part of some of these and a counterpart in DOD has also gone. I think there have been three or four of these meetings – is exactly on those issues. We are encouraging greater transparency in looking at the particular cases where violations have been alleged. And obviously, you want to break any notion of a cycle of impunity and make sure that there are prosecutions or discipline where excessive force has been used. That’s the debate, but again, I’m not going to go into more detail than that.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’d like to go to Turkey, if it’s possible. It seems that it – Turkey case needs someone like you, a chronic optimist, to look to freedom of press issues in a better lens. My question is only freedom of press in this Turkey report about 4 to 6 page, about 8, 9 pages, and in recent weeks there are nothing in this report that other events happened, confiscate a draft book or other issues. Would you please comment on Turkey’s situation this year? Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. Again, the report, I think, presents accurately a mixed picture in Turkey, as it should. As you suggest, in the early months of this year there have been the arrests of several well known Turkish journalists in connection with Ergenekon trial, and we are – we’ve expressed concern to the Turkish Government of that. We’ll continue to do so, and those events will be reflected in our 2011 report.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) sits a journalist only arrested because of anti-terror laws, and Turkish authorities just yesterday in the town was rejecting any kind of suggestion to change this kind of law. Is –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, we’re – there’s – the anti-terror law has both some provisions that cause us concern but also some things that we’re pleased about. For example, it’s resulted in the release of hundreds of young people from jails. So this is a new law, enacted last year, being implemented. And we’re going to, again, communicate with the government that we are both trying to encourage the aspects of it that are reform oriented and also be mindful of the things that restrict basic human rights.
In the back, please.
QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Posner, what the U.S. expect should happen with the release of this report in the countries that were, like, highlighted for not respecting the human rights?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Well, I guess I would say three things. One is that the report itself gives our diplomats an opportunity to go into other governments and engage in a conversation. We do it all year, but here we’re now putting out a sort of comprehensive list of things that are the subject of diplomatic bilateral discussion, point one.
Second thing, it is for us then, as I said at the outset, a baseline to begin to figure out what are the things throughout the year that we need to do on a bilateral basis and a multilateral basis. We haven’t talked very much about the multilateral side. But we are increasingly involved at the UN Human Rights Council, in various other intergovernmental bodies. These reports are also a basis for those international organizations, and we can use them to that effect.
And then the third piece, which I think in some ways may be the most important, is that this – these documents, this report, gives people outside of government – whether they’re journalists or human rights activists or others – an opportunity to basically take information that’s been digested and analyzed by the U.S. Government and use it in ways that will help reinforce a human rights agenda. The fact is that we – for all the work that goes into this report, the U.S. Government is an important audience, but there are many, many other audiences. And I think people around the world increasingly find these reports as a very useful departure point for their own advocacy.
What’s interesting also is that a lot of – clearly, a lot of governments don’t like this report. They don’t like the criticism. We stand by the facts. This is a report based on facts. And when governments come back and they say you’ve got a fact wrong, we stand ready to correct it. But it’s very rare that that happens, which is, again, a credit to Steve Eisenbraun and the team that works on it. We’ve worked very hard to get just the facts and get them straight. And it provides, I think, as I say, for the range of audiences a chance to figure out what do you do based on these facts.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on North Korea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure.
QUESTION: Would you say that the situation there has improved or gotten worse over time? And what can the U.S. do to help the situation, considering the lack of diplomatic presence there and information on the ground?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: The situation in North Korea is grim, grim, grim. It is a highly controlled, closed society where any notion of dissent, any notion of public debate, any notion of free press or free assembly is simply not tolerated. I don’t know that I would say it’s better or worse. It’s poor. It’s poor. It’s dismal. If there are some positive developments, they’re minor. We are really dealing there with a government that has really tried to shut itself off from the world, and, in large measure, succeeded. And so it’s one of the places – when you read these reports, it’s one of the places – I look at it and I go, “We really have not made much progress.”
Please, in the back.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate a little bit about the 40 countries that started restricting the use of media inside the country, what Secretary Clinton mentioned earlier? How many countries? Or, like, can you elaborate a little bit more what the list of countries that –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. I don’t have the list in front of me, but it ranges from governments that are using laws and regulations to restrict media or internet, and countries, through these various technical means, either the firewall or through imposition on people’s privacy, are really, in a systematic way, trying to limit free expression, free assembly, free association.
Again, our view is that there ought to be an open internet, a neutral platform available to everybody in the world. And there are many, many governments that are threatened by that, and –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Please.
QUESTION: No. Can I say – that includes China and North Korea and the Middle East countries?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: It includes all of those and then some.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah.
QUESTION: On Burma, after the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the elections there, do you see any changes in the human rights situation in that country, or is just like North Korea?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We are – we continue to be very concerned about the situation in Burma, especially, I would say, the continued detention of more than 2,000 political prisoners – we continue to call for their release – but also the very harsh and unreasonable restrictions on Aung San Suu Kyi and her party. So we have a long way to go there. As you know, under the JADE Act, we are supposed to be appointing a special representative, and I think that’s about to happen, although it hasn’t been formally announced. But that, I think, will be a signal of a kind of renewed effort on our part to revisit some of these questions and figure out where to go from here.
QUESTION: And on India (inaudible), your report, detailed report, does mention about the Gujarat (inaudible) rights in 2002, and this also has a passing reference about the Chief Minister Narendra Modi. What is U.S.’s stance on it? Do you consider him personally responsible for those rights, a violation of human rights in Gujarat?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I don’t think I have anything to add to what’s in the report on that, honestly.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Every year, you present this report which brings a lot of cases of violations that should be condemned. But every year, this report is questioned by many countries because there is no chapter about United States violations, and I could mention as an example Guantanamo – it’s a real example. And the other point is the legitimacy of the United States to bring the world this type of document, this question also, because most of the countries say that it’s (inaudible) of United States about this subject, human rights.
I wanted to ask you, what should you say about today’s points, and I would like to ask you about the situation of Brazil in this topic.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: On the first question, as I said at the outset, the absence of a U.S. chapter on this report in no way suggests that we’re not willing to be scrutinized or to scrutinize ourselves.
Last year, I led an effort here to undertake the first-ever look at the United States through this UN Universal Periodic Review. We went to 16 cities, 18 sessions. We talked to probably a thousand activists. We went to the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan. We went to the border states to talk to Mexican Americans. We talked about prisons. We talked here with the national security advocates about Guantanamo and about detention issues at Bagram and so forth. And we produced a report, which I think is as good as any government’s done. We subjected ourselves in November – I was there – to questions from a range of countries. We’ve come back and answered them.
So we are not in any way unwilling to hold ourselves accountable. I worked outside of government for a lot of years, and I was one of those very critical of Guantanamo and of the torture policies. Inside the government, I continue to be one, along with President Obama, who says we’ve got to close Guantanamo. We’ve ended the policy of enhanced interrogation techniques. We’re very mindful.
And as, again, Secretary Clinton has said, we are determined to lead by example. If somebody else would do this report, the United Nations or some other agency, and do it comprehensively and do it with the same commitment to the truth, we would be delighted. Frankly, it would free up a lot of time in my office for us to do other things. But nobody else is doing it. And this is a valuable, valuable piece of work that provides information that otherwise wouldn’t exist. It helps us do our work. It helps our government make intelligent decisions. And until somebody else figures out how to do it, we’re going to keep doing it.
QUESTION: And what about Brazil?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: On Brazil, I –
QUESTION: And the last question –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Again, the report, I think, reflects a mixed picture – a central government, a newly elected president with a clear commitment to these issues, but at a local level, a range of issues that still need to be resolved.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: The last question on close allies. Pakistan is a close ally of the U.S. We were here last year and we are here today. A governor has lost his life, a minister has lost his life, and thousands of people. What are we going to do? We have been pumping billions of dollars, so next year, again, we’ll have a report. Do you have anything about –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. I –
QUESTION: — talking – walking the walk instead of just talking the talk?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: No. These are – the issues you raise are of great concern. I was in Pakistan in January. I met with Governor Taseer’s family three weeks after he was assassinated, continue to be in contact with them. I met with Minister Bhatti there and again here. Secretary Clinton and I met him together several weeks before he was killed. The issues of intolerance in Pakistan trouble us greatly, and I think they trouble most Pakistanis. I am particularly concerned about the Urdu press and the role it plays in that. Again, we can’t force that change, but we are very mindful – our Ambassador Cameron Munter is very, very attuned and very sensitive to the real challenges that we and the Pakistani Government face in trying to tamp down the intolerance that now is so pervasive.
QUESTION: And now another ally –
QUESTION: A clarification, if I may interrupt, because you mentioned something on –
MODERATOR: I think that’s enough for today. Assistant Secretary Posner is going to have another media engagement this afternoon, so if you have follow-up (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to ask (inaudible).
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. I’m here today to present the 35th annual report to Congress on the state of human rights around the world. The struggle for human rights begins by telling the truth over and over again. And this report represents a year of sustained truth-telling by one of the largest organizations documenting human rights conditions in the world, the United States State Department.
I want to thank Assistant Secretary Mike Posner and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and our hundreds of colleagues and embassies around the world for working so hard to make this report an honest compendium of global human rights issues. I also want to thank the many people around the world who monitor and fight for human rights in their own societies, and from whose information and recommendations we greatly benefit.
In recent months, we have been particularly inspired by the courage and determination of the activists in the Middle East and North Africa and in other repressive societies who have demanded peaceful democratic change and respect for their universal human rights. The United States will stand with those who seek to advance the causes of democracy and human rights wherever they may live, and we will stand with those who exercise their fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly in a peaceful way, whether in person, in print, or in pixels on the internet. This report usually generates a great deal of interest among journalists, lawmakers, nongovernmental organizations, and of course, other governments, and I hope it will again this year.
As part of our mission to update statecraft for the 21st century, today I’m also pleased to announce the launch of our new website, humanrights.gov. This site will offer one-stop shopping for information about global human rights from across the United States Government. It will pull together reports, statements, and current updates from around the world. It will be searchable and it will be safe. You won’t need to register to use it. We hope this will make it easier for citizens, scholars, NGOs, and international organizations to find the information they need to hold governments accountable.
Here at the State Department, human rights is a priority 365 days a year. It is part of the mission of each of our ambassadors. It is on my agenda or on Under Secretary Otero’s or anyone else’s who meets with foreign leaders. And it is a core element of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, because it actually is in line with our values, our interests, and our security. History has shown that governments that respect their people’s rights do tend, over time, to be more stable, more peaceful, and ultimately more prosperous.
We were particularly disturbed by three growing trends in 2010. The first is a widespread crackdown on civil society activists. For countries to progress toward truly democratic governance, they need free and vibrant civil societies that can help governments understand and meet the needs of their people. But we’ve seen in Venezuela, for example, the government using the courts to intimidate and persecute civil society activists. The Venezuelan Government imposed new restrictions on the independent media, the internet, political parties, and NGOs. In Russia, we’ve seen crackdowns on civil society groups turn violent with numerous attacks and murders of journalists and activists. In China, we’ve seen negative trends that are appearing to worsen in the first part of 2011.
As we have said repeatedly, the United States welcomes the rise of a strong and prosperous China, and we look forward to our upcoming Strategic and Economic Dialogue with Beijing and to our continued cooperation to address common global challenges. However, we remain deeply concerned about reports that, since February, dozens of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, intellectuals, and activists have been arbitrarily detained and arrested. Among them most recently was the prominent artist, Ai Weiwei, who was taken into custody just this past Sunday. Such detention is contrary to the rule of law, and we urge China to release all of those who have been detained for exercising their internationally recognized right to free expression and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all of the citizens of China.
Beyond a widespread crackdown on civil society activists, we saw a second trend in 2010 – countries violating the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association by curtailing internet freedom. More than 40 governments now restrict the internet through various means. Some censored websites for political reasons. And in a number of countries, democracy and human rights activists and independent bloggers found their emails hacked or their computers infected with spyware that reported back on their every keystroke. Digital activists have been tortured so they would reveal their passwords and implicate their colleagues. In Burma and in Cuba, government policies preempted online dissent by keeping most ordinary people from accessing the internet at all.
The third disturbing trend of 2010 was the repression of vulnerable minorities, including racial and ethnic and religious minorities along with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. In Pakistan, for example, blasphemy remains a crime punishable by death. And the blasphemy law has been enforced against Muslims who do not share the beliefs of other Muslims, and also against non-Muslims who worship differently.
In the first two months of 2011, two government officials in Pakistan who sought to reform the law, Governor Taseer and Minister Bhatti, were targeted by a fatwa and assassinated. Also, in Iraq, Egypt, and Nigeria, violent attacks by extremists have killed dozens of people who have been peacefully practicing their religions, Christians and Muslims alike. In Iran, we have multiple reports that the government summarily executed more than 300 people in 2010. Many of them were ethnic minorities. For example, in May, four Kurdish men were hanged in Evin Prison. They had been arrested in 2006 for advocating that Iran should respect human rights. They were reported to have confessed to terrorism under torture. And because I believe, and our government believes, that gay rights are human rights, we remain extremely concerned about state-sanctioned homophobia. In Uganda, for example, homosexuality remains illegal, and people are being harassed, discriminated against, threatened, and intimidated.
But the news is, of course, not all bad. We have seen improvements in the human rights situations in a number of countries, and we’ve also seen the uprisings of the past months in the Middle East and North Africa, where people are demanding their universal human rights. In Colombia, the government began consulting with human rights defenders. It is supporting efforts to stop violence. It has passed a law to restore land and pay reparations to the victims of the very long civil conflict that occurred in Colombia. Guinea held free and fair elections and inaugurated its first democratically elected president. And Indonesia boasts a vibrant free media and a flourishing civil society at the same time as it faces up to challenges in preventing abuses by its security forces and acting against religious intolerance.
Societies flourish when they address human rights problems instead of suppressing them. Freedom from fear makes economies grow as citizens invest, innovate, and participate. Where human rights matter, children grow up with the precious belief that they matter, too; that they should be able to live in dignity and shape their own destinies. People everywhere deserve no less. And we hope that this report will give comfort to the activists, will shine a spotlight on the abuses, and convince those in government that there are other and better ways.
And we want to see progress. We started doing this report 35 years ago because we believed that progress is possible. And certainly, if you were to do a chart from 35 years ago to today, you would see a lot of progress in a lot of places. But at the same time, we must remain vigilant, and this report is one of the tools that we use to be that way.
Thank you all. Now, Assistant Secretary Mike Posner.
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
The values the United States embraces – the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – are grounded in a universal truth. They are not an American inheritance, but are the birthright of every woman, man, and child.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices are an essential element of the U.S. effort to promote respect for human rights worldwide. They inform U.S. Government policymaking and serve as a reference for other governments, international institutions, non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, and journalists.
The Country Reports aim to advance worldwide efforts to end abuses, to help strengthen the capacity of countries to protect the human rights of all, and to shine a spotlight on countries that fail to live up to international human rights commitments and obligations. The Country Reports assess each country’s situation independently against universal human rights precepts, during each calendar year, and each Country Report is intended to stand on its own. Countries are not compared to each other or placed in any order other than alphabetically by region.
Human Rights in the United States
America’s open, democratic system allows people here at home and around the world to comment on U.S. policies without fear. The American system of government is not infallible; it is accountable. The U.S. democratic system provides a variety of self-correcting mechanisms, such as a robust civil society, a vibrant free media, independent branches of government – including the courts – and a well established rule of law.
The focus of the Country Reports is on the human rights performance of other governments. However, the United States does examine its own human rights record against its international obligations and commitments in many other fora pursuant to our treaty obligations. For example, we file reports on our implementation of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture.
The United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process evaluates the human rights records of each of the 192 UN member states once every four years. The U.S. UPR report was submitted in 2010, following a rigorous consultation process with civil society and Native American leaders around the country. Our UPR report discusses existing laws, policies, and other measures established to ensure respect for human rights in the United States. We participate in the UPR process because we believe human rights conditions in any country are a legitimate topic of discussion and concern in the international community.
Notable trends in the 2010 Country Reports:
• Governments continued to restrict the ability of members of civil society to organize and operate.
• Governments threatened freedoms of expression and association, both online and off.
• Specific populations, including women, children, religious and ethnic minorities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons remained at particular risk of human rights abuses.
Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State
Cheryl Mills, Counselor
Dean Acheson Auditorium
MS. MILLS: Good morning. Wow, this is fabulous, most particularly because it’s someone else that the Secretary gets to play with nonstop now that you guys are here.
First of all, I want to say good morning and welcome to the first Global Chief of Mission Conference. We are so delighted you are here, and more importantly than saying welcome to the conference, welcome home. It is so nice to see so many of you. My name is Cheryl Mills. For those of you all who I haven’t had the chance to meet personally, I’m the Counselor and Chief of Staff here at the Department.
And we have really been looking forward to this. We have been looking forward to this not only because we would like to sleep after it’s over, but because this really has been something that has been critical to the Secretary for some time. She really wanted to have the opportunity for all of us to be able to gather in one place so we could talk about what it is and how we can build on the things that we do well, what are the opportunities to improve those things that we think we really could do better, and most importantly, what are we missing and what are the ways in which we can identify those things we are missing in a fashion that means we are all more effective on behalf of the country that we are privileged to serve.
In that vein, I do want to talk about the fact that this really is designed to be the best opportunity not only to share information with you, but also to listen and learn from you. And that really is an invitation that you should just walk right through the door of. I hope you take it very seriously because at bottom, what we’re really trying to reduce, if I’m being quite selfish, is the number of times we get a call saying, “Why is Washington doing this?” And invariably, you all have better ideas and better thoughts about how we could do it better and well. And so it would be great if we were limiting the number of those and increasing the number of times we actually were doing the right and smart thing with the benefit of your guidance and your leadership and your participation. So that’s our goal, and I hope that you all help us reach our goal.
So before I introduce the Secretary, I do want to thank, as my family always says, the hands that prepared it, and in this case, the hands that have been helping to prepare for this conference. And they include many people, but I particularly want to make sure I thank Shawn Baxter and Bernadette Meehan, Marguerite Coffey, Ruth Whiteside, Leslie Moeller, and of course, the incomparable Pat Kennedy and Steve Mull who have been working tirelessly to help bring all of this together. I also want to thank everybody else who has been helping to make this successful.
Now, with that, it is my pleasure to introduce the woman who has been really looking forward to seeing you, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. Good morning. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Thank you. It is such a pleasure to welcome all of you back to Washington for the first ever, in American history, all-hands-on-deck ambassadorial conference. Chiefs of Mission from every corner of the world who may not ever get a chance to meet each other or exchange ideas are here today for the gathering that we have been looking forward to.
We’ve wanted to do this for some time. We figured early February would be quiet, not much going on. (Laughter.) What better time to pull you from your posts and responsibilities? And, of course, Margaret Scobey from Egypt is not here. But I am very grateful that we’re going to have a chance for you to interact with the senior leadership of the Department. I will be back tomorrow afternoon for a Q&A session, and I want everybody to be fully prepared. Today, you will have a chance to hear from Mike Mullen – Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs at lunch – who will make remarks and do a Q&A. And we have some other surprises along the way.
It is, for me, a great honor to look out and see a lot of faces that are familiar to me from the traveling that I’ve already done as Secretary of State, and of course, the traveling that I did in my prior lives. And the level of professionalism and commitment is never-endingly impressive. And as we see with what’s going on today, recent events in Egypt and certainly in that broader region, remind us all how crucial it is to have top-notch leadership on the ground, and how quickly that ground can shift under our feet. So whether your mission is large or small, whether you’re a political appointee or a career diplomat, you are all on the front lines of America’s engagement with a fast-changing world. And that’s why we think this conference is so important.
It goes without saying – but I will say it anyway – that this is a critical time for America’s global leadership. We have spent two years renewing our alliances, forging new partnerships, and elevating diplomacy and development alongside defense as pillars of American foreign policy and national security. Now, as we look to the next two years, it is time to build on that progress and deliver results – results that are expected from ourselves and certainly from the Congress and the American public.
We’re going to be looking to see how we can advance America’s interests and values on security, on climate change, on boosting exports and rebalancing the global economy on all of our core priorities. But I will hasten to say we face a very difficult budget climate and we face an increasingly complex, no easy answers if there ever were any, diplomatic and development environment. From the theft of confidential cables to 21st century protest movements to development breakthroughs that have the potential to change millions of lives, we are all in uncharted territory, and that requires us to be more nimble, more innovative, and more accountable than ever before.
That is why we launched the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the so-called QDDR. Now, many of you participated in this process and you contributed valuable suggestions and ideas, your staffs were deeply involved, and we consulted not only thousands of people within State and USAID directly and indirectly, but also hundreds of experts outside government. And the result is a sweeping report that we hope will fundamentally change the way we do business.
The reason I decided to direct us to undertake the difficult challenge posed by producing the first-ever QDDR is because as a senator, I served on the Senate Armed Services Committee. And every four years, the Pentagon would produce the Quadrennial Defense Review. And it was a very effective organizing tool for the Pentagon because it set forth what their assessments were and what their commitments were in a way that kind of guided the legislative and appropriations process.
At the same time, both from my years as First Lady and as Senator, I often saw State and USAID coming in on separate tracks, making different arguments, fighting over scarcer resources, not coming up with the kind of organizing blueprint that would move people into a decision process that would benefit our immediate and long-term goals. So the QDDR is a first-time effort, but it is a blueprint and it is a blueprint as to how the United States can lead in a changing world through the use of what I call civilian power. That is the combined force of all the civilians across the United States Government who not only practice diplomacy and carry out development projects, but who act to prevent and respond to crisis and conflict.
You know very well, because you practice it every day, how crucial civilian power is to America’s leadership in the world and to our national security. I don’t need to tell this audience what I tell other audiences all the time – that it is our diplomats and development experts who can diffuse crises before they explode, who can create new opportunities for economic growth, who can stand up for universal values and human rights, who can help us find partners to advance economic growth that is inclusive and prosperity-producing.
We can come up with solutions that might otherwise require or suggest military action. And where we work side-by-side with our military partners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other fragile states around the world, we can be the partner that our military needs and deserves. And that’s what Admiral Mullen will speak to. Admiral Mullen and Secretary Gates have been two of our biggest boosters and advocates. Secretary Gates gave a now very well-received and even famous speech about the need for enhancing our diplomatic and development posture. And they have joined with me in asking the Congress for the funds that we need for the missions we’ve been given.
But this is not just about Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s not just about Egypt or Yemen. It’s not just about China or India. It is about every nation that you represent our country in. Because as chiefs of mission, you are at the heart of the QDDR’s vision for the future, and you will be at the core of its implementation. Let me be clear. This Department, USAID, I, our deputies, our under secretaries, assistant secretaries – we cannot do this from Washington. This has to live and breathe in you and through you. And that is what we are hoping to advance together.
Now, I know that some of you have concerns about the changes we are proposing and others of you may be skeptical about whether they can be implemented. Part of the reason for this conference is to hear those concerns and that skepticism. That’s the only way we can either answer them, do something about them, or, frankly, shift direction to take them into account. Nothing will get done by sitting on the sidelines. So I strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to put aside our normal diplomatic niceties and really engage in an open and candid discussion about the challenges we face and must meet. And you will have that opportunity in the public sessions we’ve arranged and in private encounters with any of the leadership or myself during the next two days.
Now, the QDDR covers a wide range of reforms, including a reorganization here in Washington, that will encourage us to be more cross-cutting and results-oriented and, frankly, significantly expand our capacity to prevent and respond to crises and conflicts. You’ll also hear from Ambassador Melanne Verveer about how we are attempting to integrate women into everything we do. That is not just a pet project of mine. That is rooted in decades of evidence about women being partners and participants in peacemaking, in economic opportunity, in participatory governance, and it’s something that we want to really understand how better to promote.
We are also making it easy to pursue new public-private partnerships. And our Special Representative for Global Partnerships Kris Balderston is here and we’re looking forward to talking with you. We’re doing a lot in that area. We would never have been able to participate in the Shanghai Expo – it would have been the United States and Andorra who did not have exhibit halls if we had not had exhibit halls if we had not had a public-private partnership that we jumped into as soon as I realized how embarrassed we were going to be, and we pulled it off.
We’re also driving a new innovation agenda. And Special Advisor Alec Ross will have more to say about that tomorrow. We call it 21st century statecraft. It is, by no means, a hundred percent clear that social media, technology, is going to make things better. But one thing we know for sure, it’s going to change things. And if we’re not on top of it and driving a message and responding as effectively as we can, we’re going to be left behind.
These and other changes are coming, some, including Administrator Raj Shah’s USAID forward agenda, is already well underway. Others are going to take time, and in each case, we look to ensure that we have the maximum impact here in D.C. and out in the field. We will be appointing an experienced FSO to work with Deputy Secretary Tom Nides to drive our implementation, and we will try to set deadlines and create some benchmarks as we go forward.
Now let me give you one example that we identified early and have been working on, which has now come to public attention. All too often, you and your officers are tied to desks fulfilling hundreds of reporting requirements mandated by both Congress and the Department. A new report from the Inspector General just underscored this problem. We believe this can and must change. So as part of the QDDR, we are consolidating or eliminating duplicative reports, making reports shorter and streamlining workloads. In a move sure to make Tom Nides popular with many of you, Tom has already signed off on a long list of reports that will either be eliminated or cut back in length.
When I realized – and I have to confess, as a senator, when in doubt, order a report. (Laughter.) When I saw the results of that, I was appalled; nothing like sitting in a different seat to see things from a different perspective. So we are doing everything we can. We intend to go to the Congress and instead of three reports on either the same or basically the same issues, see if we can’t drive it down in length. I want to adopt the George Marshall rule, which is that no report or memo should be more than two pages. So, we’re going to try to free up your teams to engage more actively – (applause) – with the world outside the embassy walls. And of course, the sad part is most of these reports are never read. So we are going to do our best to try to remedy that.
Now, nearly all of the most significant themes of the QDDR relate directly to you, chiefs of mission. As the President’s representative, you are responsible for directing and coordinating all U.S. personnel in your countries. And to effectively manage increasingly complicated operations with personnel drawn from all across the government, you have to truly be CEOs of multi-agency missions.
Now you’ve probably heard that phrase already, and some of you may be asking what it really means, especially those of you who acted as CEOs in your previous lives. I know the metaphor is imperfect, and I understand the limitations that you face on everything from personnel to planning to policy to budget, but we may not be under any illusions about the challenges you face, but we want to up our game, because we want the State Department and our chiefs of mission to claim the ground of being the leaders and coordinators of U.S. Government presence in every country where you serve. That is easier said than done. But I still think the CEO model is critical, because we’re really talking about leadership, especially interagency leadership.
As you know better than anyone, your embassies and consulates are increasingly staffed by experts from a wide range of U.S. agencies. Others operate in your countries with little contact with the embassy, and all of this creates bureaucratic headaches and sometimes real problems.
So what we are looking for is to work with you and hear and learn from you how we can better imbue you with the leadership, the position, the skills needed to take that chief of mission across the U.S. Government role and title seriously and implement it. And that means that each agency’s priorities have to be integrated into a single mission that inspires support and partnership.
To help you do that, we are clarifying reporting structures and allowing you to participate in performance reviews for all personnel at your mission regardless of agency. We’re going to offer new training in interagency cooperation, and going forward, we will prioritize interagency experience and talents as criteria for choosing and training chiefs of mission and deputy chiefs of mission. We also intend to increase your involvement in high-level policy deliberations here in Washington. Whenever possible, we want you to be able to participate via videoconference in deputies committee meetings, in the Situation Room, and in senior meetings here in the Department. It goes without saying, but your on-the-ground insights are invaluable, and it’s our loss if that perspective goes unheard.
We will also change the budget and planning process. Each chief of mission will be responsible for overseeing an integrated country strategy that will bring together all country-level planning processes and efforts into one single multiyear overarching strategy that encapsulates U.S. policy priorities, objectives, and the means by which diplomatic engagement, foreign assistance, and other tools will be used to achieve them.
I know it’s common practice just to roll over last year’s budget with a small increase. But you have not only the opportunity, but also the responsibility to rethink and reimagine your strategy, to advise us about where to invest in programs that work and end efforts that don’t, and to align your funding priorities with what is actually happening on the ground. You’ll hear from Judith McHale and our public diplomacy team, and some of you know from firsthand experience they have been working very hard to shift resources and positions out of countries where they are no longer needed to places where they are desperately required. I really know this is hard, but we have to do it.
When I became Secretary of State and we looked at what was going on in Pakistan, we did not have enough voices to be able to push back on every kind of outlandish, outrageous accusation that was made against the United States by the Pakistani media on an almost daily basis. In looking across the world, we saw countries that we’ve been at peace with for decades who had far more resources in a far easier, more permissive environment. And I want to commend the chiefs of mission who are here who worked with us to basically cut your own resource base. Because you understood that it wasn’t just better organizing and focusing what you were doing inside your own country of responsibility, but what we needed to do across the world to promote American values and interests.
Now, no one will get everything he or she wants; that’s a given. And we face the most difficult budgetary environment. This month, even though we are submitting an FY 2012 request that is a lean budget for lean times, we don’t even know what our 2011 levels are. And there is a great deal of push coming from the new Congress, particularly the House, to cut State and USAID to 2008 levels despite the fact that we are about to inherit an overwhelming responsibility in Iraq, which, if you did the math, the military would not be spending $41 billion and we would be asking to increase our budget by 4 billion, which sounds to me like a pretty good tradeoff. But the problem is that even if the Congress decides, “Okay, we’ll fund you for your overseas contingency operations, but we’re going to cut the base, we’re going to cut operating dollars,” we are going to be in a very difficult position.
Now, we have scrubbed our budget for every dollar of savings, and we have made very hard choices, and I ask you to help us. You can save money in your mission. You can change the way you’re doing things to be more efficient and cost-effective. We have shifted funds into programs that save money such as stronger monitoring and evaluation systems, efforts to consolidate information technology, procurement reform at USAID, targeted investments in innovative development programs. But we have to keep doing more and more to keep up with what will be a very tough set of choices coming out of congressional appropriations.
We are pressing ahead with requests for new positions and investments in our core priorities, because we are convinced that effective civilian power ultimately does save lives and money, and we need your help. And many of you either have already gone or will be going to the Hill, and I ask that you, in addition to talking about the particular situation in your country that is of interest to the member of Congress or senator or committee that has asked you to come forth, you make the case for how we need to be positioned to compete diplomatically and developmentally.
It is clear that we have some tough competition, and if we are not going to keep up with that competition, we are going to cede a lot of ground to others who are more than happy to occupy it. So what this is all about is not only talking at and with you, but hearing from you about what you think we all can do better. We really want to enhance the culture of leadership here in the Department to help you deal with the very real challenges you face.
I can remember traveling in the ‘90s and during the time I was a senator and often being at a mission and having people coming into a room representing the United States Government that was presided over by the chief of mission or the DCM, and people had never met each other. They had no real incentive or requirement to cooperate together. We had multiple procurement efforts running. We had duplicative equipment and materials. Those days are over. If we intend to do our job and sustain the support of the Congress, we have to be ahead of what will be a continuing drumbeat.
We know that there are those in the Congress who have even advocated eliminating all foreign aid, eliminating AID, and it’s going to take some outreach and education to discuss with them and lead them through our rationale. But I and we need to be in a position where we can say, “Look, we hear you. We grew quickly in the last two years, which we needed to do. We’d been stagnant. We didn’t have the resources, particularly the personnel. We needed to the jobs we were being asked to do, but we are extremely cautious and conscious about every dollar we spend.” And when we say that, we need to mean it, and we need to be able to back it up.
I hope that each and every one of you knows how much we value what you do every single day. And I hope you each know how important we believe what you’re doing is not only to fulfilling the work of the Department or AID, but of really representing, protecting, furthering American leadership. I am a big and – a big believer and a strong advocate of American leadership. I think that we have a tough road ahead, but it’s one we ought to be able to navigate together. I don’t think it is time for us to sort of pull in, but instead to push forward. And it really is going to be up to you.
You often are the people that brief the members of Congress who come to your countries. You often are the people who carry out our diplomacy. You are the people who oversee our foreign assistance and our USG efforts, and that’s why only you can take the priorities and objectives that we have set forth and formulate a coherent strategy.
I’m looking forward to continuing to work with you. I’ve had the privilege of being with many of you as I’ve traveled the last two years and look forward to even more in the two years ahead. But please help us make the most of this time.
I remember when I showed up at the White House, one of the long-serving butlers said to me, “Well, presidents and first ladies come and go, but butlers stay forever.” (Laughter.) And I know many of you will be serving with distinction long after I’m gone, and long after President Obama’s second term is gone. But we can’t just do it the way we’ve always done it. There are too many forces at work, some of which we are only beginning to understand – too many crosscurrents and complexity, which is why you’ve been chosen to do this job at this moment in American history.
So help us institutionalize the changes we need, change the structures that will support the kind of diplomacy and development our country deserves, help us to be sure we sustain American leadership and values, and we will do a great service on behalf of the country we love and serve together.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Thank you very much, Madame Chairman, and congratulations on your assuming this post. And I want to thank you publicly for traveling to Haiti with our team on behalf of the efforts that the United States is pursuing there. And I also want to thank the Ranking Member for his leadership and support over these last years.
Late last night, I came back from round-the-clock meetings in Geneva to discuss the unfolding events in Libya. And I’d like to begin by offering a quick update.
We have joined the Libyan people in demanding that Qaddafi must go – now, without further violence or delay – and we are working to translate the world’s outrage into action and results.
Marathon diplomacy at the United Nations and with our allies has yielded quick, aggressive steps to pressure and isolate Libya’s leaders. USAID is focused on Libya’s food and medical supplies and is dispatching two expert humanitarian teams to help those fleeing the violence and who are moving into Tunisia and Egypt, which is posing tremendous burdens on those two countries. Our combatant commands are positioning assets to prepare to support these critical civilian humanitarian missions. And we are taking no options off the table so long as the Libyan Government continues to turn its guns on its own people.
The entire region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response is essential. In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy, or it could face protracted civil war, or it could descend into chaos. The stakes are high. And this is an unfolding example of using the combined assets of smart power – diplomacy, development, and defense – to protect American security and interests and advance our values. This integrated approach is not just how we respond to the crisis of the moment. It is the most effective – and most cost-effective – way to sustain and advance our security across the world. And it is only possible with a budget that supports all the tools in our national security arsenal – which is what we are here to discuss.
The American people are justifiably concerned about our national debt. I share that concern. But they also want responsible investments in our future that will make us stronger at home and continuing our leadership abroad. Just two years after President Obama and I first asked you to renew our investment in development and diplomacy, we are already seeing tangible returns for our national security:
In Iraq, almost 100,000 troops have come home, and civilians are poised to keep the peace. In Afghanistan, integrated military and civilian surges have helped set the stage for our diplomatic surge to support Afghan-led reconciliation that can end the conflict and put al-Qaida on the run. We have imposed the toughest ever sanctions to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions. We have reengaged as a leader in the Pacific and in our own hemisphere. We have signed trade deals to promote American jobs and nuclear weapons treaties to protect our people. We have worked with Northern and Southern Sudanese to achieve a peaceful referendum and prevent a return to civil war. We are working to open up political systems, economies, and societies at a remarkable moment in the history of the Middle East, and to support peaceful, orderly, irreversible democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.
Our progress is significant, but our work is far from over. These missions are vital to our national security, and I believe with all my heart now would be the wrong time to pull back.
The FY 2012 budget we discuss today will allow us to keep pressing ahead. It is a lean budget for lean times. I did launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review to help us maximize the impact of every dollar we spend. We scrubbed this budget and made painful but responsible cuts. We cut economic assistance to Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia by 15 percent. We cut development assistance to over 20 countries by more than half.
And this year, for the first time, our request is divided into two parts. Our core budget request of $47 billion supports programs and partnerships in every country but North Korea. It is essentially flat from 2010 levels. The second part of our request funds the extraordinary, temporary portion of our war effort the same way that the Pentagon’s request is funded: in a separate Overseas Contingency Operations account known as OCO. Instead of covering our war expenses through supplemental appropriations, we are now taking a more transparent approach that reflects our fully integrated civilian-military efforts on the ground. Our share of the President’s $126 billion request for these exceptional wartime costs in the frontline states is 8.7 billion.
Let me walk you through a few of our key investments. First, this budget funds vital civilian missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, al-Qaida is under pressure as never before. Alongside our military offensive, we are engaged in a major civilian effort that is helping to build up the governments, economies, and civil societies of both countries and undercut the insurgency.
Now, these two surges, the military and civilian surge, set the stage for a third: a diplomatic push in support of an Afghan process to split the Taliban from al-Qaida, bring the conflict to an end, and help stabilize the region. Our military commanders are emphatic they cannot succeed without a strong civilian partner. Retreating from our civilian surge in Afghanistan with our troops still in the field would be a grave mistake.
Equally important is our assistance to Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation with strong ties and interests in Afghanistan. We are working to deepen our partnership and keep it focused on addressing Pakistan’s political and economic challenges as well as our shared threats.
And as to Iraq, after so much sacrifice, we do have a chance to help the Iraqi people build a stable, democratic country in the heart of the Middle East. As troops come home, our civilians are taking the lead, helping Iraqis resolve conflicts peacefully and training their police.
Shifting responsibilities from soldiers to civilians actually saves taxpayers a great deal of money. For example, the military’s total OCO request worldwide will drop by $45 billion from 2010 as our troops come home. Our costs, the State Department and USAID, will increase by less than 4 billion. Every business owner I know would gladly invest $4 to save $45.
Second, even as our civilians help bring today’s wars to a close, we are working to prevent tomorrow’s. This budget devotes over $4 billion to sustaining a strong U.S. presence in volatile places where our security and interests are at stake. In Yemen, it provides security, development, and humanitarian assistance to deny al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula a safe haven and to promote the kind of stability that can lead to a better outcome than what might otherwise occur. It focuses on these same goals in Somalia. It helps Northern and Southern Sudan chart a peaceful future. It helps Haiti rebuild. And it proposes a new Global Security Contingency Fund that would pool resources and expertise with the Defense Department to respond quickly as new challenges emerge.
This budget also strengthens our allies and partners. It trains Mexican police to take on violent cartels and secure our southern border. It provides nearly $3.1 billion for Israel and supports Jordan and the Palestinians. It helps Egypt and Tunisia build stable and credible democracy, and it supports security assistance to over 130 nations.
Now, some may say, well, what does this get us in America? Let me give you one example. Over the years, these funds have created valuable ties with foreign militaries and trained, in Egypt, a generation of officers who refused to fire on their own people. And that was not something that happened overnight. It was something that happened because of relationships that had been built over decades. Across the board, we are working to ensure that all who share the benefits of our spending also share the burdens of addressing common challenges.
Third, we are making targeted investments in human security. We have focused on hunger, disease, climate change, and humanitarian emergencies because these challenges not only threaten the security of individuals – they are the seeds of future conflicts. If we want to lighten the burden on future generations, we have to make investments that makes our world more secure for them.
Our largest investment is in global health programs, including those launched by former President George W. Bush. These programs stabilize entire societies that have been and are being devastated by HIV, malaria, and other diseases. They save the lives of mothers and children and halt the spread of deadly diseases.
Global food prices are approaching an all-time high. Three years ago, this led to protests and riots in dozens of countries. Food security is a cornerstone of global stability, and we are helping farmers grow more food, drive economic growth, and turn aid recipients into trading partners.
Climate change threatens food security, human security, and national security. Our budget builds resilience against droughts, floods, and other weather disasters; promotes clean energy and preserves tropical forests. It also gives us leverage to persuade China, India, and other nations to do their essential part in meeting this urgent threat.
Fourth, we are committed to making our foreign policy a force for domestic economic renewal and creating jobs here at home. We are working aggressively to promote sustained economic growth, level the playing fields, and open markets. To give just one example, the eight Open Skies Agreements that we have signed over the last two years will open dozens of new markets to American carriers. The Miami International Airport, Madam Chairman, which supports nearly 300[i] jobs –including many in your district – will see a great deal of new business thanks to agreements with Miami’s top trading partners, Brazil and Colombia.
Fifth and finally, this budget funds the people and the platforms that make possible everything I’ve described. It allows us to sustain diplomatic relations with 190 countries. It funds political officers who are literally, right now, out working to defuse political crises and promote our values; development officers who are spreading opportunity and promoting stability; and economic officers who wake up every day thinking about how to help put Americans back to work.
Several of you have already asked our Department about the safety of your constituents in the Middle East. Well, this budget also helps fund the consular officers who evacuated over 2,600 people thus far from Egypt and Libya – and nearly 17,000 from Haiti. They issued 14 million passports last year and served as our first line of defense against would-be terrorists seeking visas to enter our country.
I’d like to say just a few words about the funding for the rest of 2011. As I told Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, and many others, the 16 percent cut for State and USAID that passed the House last month would be devastating for our national security. It would force us to scale back dramatically on critical missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
And as Secretary Gates, Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus have all emphasized to the Congress, we need a fully engaged and fully funded national security team, and that includes State and USAID.
Now, there have always been moments of temptation in our country to resist obligations beyond our borders. But each time we have shrunk from global leadership, events have summoned us back, often cruelly, to reality. We saved money in the short term when we walked away from Afghanistan after the Cold War. But those savings came at an unspeakable cost – one we are still paying, ten years later, in money and lives.
Generations of Americans, including my own, have grown up successful and safe because we chose to lead the world in tackling the greatest challenges. We invested the resources to build up democratic allies and vibrant trading partners. And we did not shy away from defending our values, promoting our interests, and seizing the opportunities of each new era.
I have now traveled more than any Secretary of State in the last two years, and I can tell you from firsthand experience the world has never been in greater need of the qualities that distinguish us: our openness and innovation, our determination, our devotion to universal values. Everywhere I travel, I see people looking to us for leadership. Sometimes I see them after they have condemned us publicly on their television channels and then come to us privately and say we can’t do this without America.
This is a source of great strength, a point of pride, and I believe an unbelievable opportunity for the American people. But it is an achievement. It is not a birthright. It requires resolve and it requires resources.
I look forward to working closely together with you to do what is necessary to keep our country safe and maintain American leadership in this fast-changing world. Thank you, Madam Chairman.