MS. FULTON: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Today, to address the emerging humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa, we have four briefers to speak to you today about a number of areas and initiatives. We have with us Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson, who is the assistant secretary for African affairs. We have Dr. Reuben Brigety, who is the deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. We have Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg from the U.S. Agency for International Development. And we have Nancy Lindborg, assistant administrator for the Bureau of Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the bureau – excuse me, at the Agency for International Development. Nancy is an addition to the lineup, so an extra special guest we have with us today.
I’m going to turn it over to each of the speakers in that order to give remarks, and then we’ll open it up for questions following that. So I’d like to turn it over to Assistant Secretary Carson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Thank you. Good afternoon. We in the United States Government have been responding to the evolving humanitarian situation in the Horn of Africa for some time, and my colleagues and I will provide you with additional details on this situation.
However, I wanted to underline the importance that we attach to providing an appropriate and timely response in full partnership with the international community. Severe drought, poor infrastructure and insecurity have had a debilitating impact on the welfare of millions of people in this region, especially in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. This crisis has resulted in severe malnutrition, acute hunger, and rising levels of starvation. It has generated extraordinary refugee flows across thousands of miles in East Africa.
The current crisis in the Horn has long-term and short-term implications. It threatens the lives of those at risk, especially young children and women. And it also endangers the hard-won development gains and the future prospects of millions of people throughout East Africa and the Horn. Today, over 11 million people are in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa. In Kenya, an estimated 3.6 million people have been affected. This includes refugees, rural pastoralists, and urban poor who are unable to buy adequate food because of escalating prices.
In Ethiopia, at least 4.5 million people are in need of assistance. Almost 3 million people need assistance in Somalia. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees already in Kenya and in Ethiopia, new arrivals are coming in at staggering daily rates. Many of these most recent refugees are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition, and there may be many more in need of assistance in Eritrea, where a repressive regime fails to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people. The free flow of information is what allows people to make early choices that can help avert catastrophe. We urge the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the UN agencies and other international organizations to address the issue of hunger and food shortage in that country.
The State Department and USAID have been working with the international community and governments in the region to respond to food, water, shelter, and sanitation needs of affected populations. As we work to address the short-term immediate needs in the region, we will continue to implement our Feed the Future initiative as part of our long-term strategy to mitigate the effects of prolonged drought and food shortage in this area in the future. The Feed the Future program is intended to increase agricultural productivity, shift away from rain-fed agriculture, promote better storage techniques, employ modern farming methods, and utilize science and technology to assist populations in adapting to increasing erratic weather patterns throughout the Horn of Africa. By investing in and working closely with regional governments, we hope the Feed the Future program will help reduce regional vulnerabilities to these types of humanitarian crises in the future.
An especially complex and difficult component of the Horn of Africa’s humanitarian crisis is the high number of Somali refugees flowing into both Ethiopia and Kenya. This is a result of three overlapping and intersecting problems. The first is the extreme climate-induced drought that has prevailed intensely for the past two years and cyclically for more than 50 years. The second is the absence of a functioning central government in Somalia for over two decades. And the third is the presence of the anti-Western terrorist organization Al-Shabaab in south central Somalia. Al-Shabaab’s activities have clearly made the current situation much worse. In January 2010, Al-Shabaab prohibited international humanitarian workers and organizations from operating in their areas of control. And its continued refusal to grant humanitarian access has prevented the international community from responding to and mitigating some of the cumulative and most disastrous consequences of the drought in south central Somalia.
We have seen the recent reports that Al-Shabaab claims that it will finally allow international humanitarian aid into areas under its control. We are consulting with international organizations that have worked in these areas to verify if there has been any real change in Al-Shabaab’s policies that would allow us and others to operate freely and without taxation imposed for humanitarian deliveries. Al-Shabaab’s current policies are wreaking havoc and are not helping Somalis living in the south central part of that country.
The drought and humanitarian crisis in the Horn will not end next week or next month. As this crisis and its humanitarian needs expand, the international community and host governments will be called upon to do more to respond to the immediate and critical humanitarian assistance needs in the Horn of Africa. We recognize the measures that the countries in the region are putting in place, and we applaud our partners who have already responded generously to the appeals for assistance. As we look for ways to implement more comprehensive approaches, we hope potential donors will increase food, shelter, and financial contributions as part of a focused campaign to meet the critical needs of the region.
I will now turn the podium over to my colleague, Dr. Reuben Brigety. Thank you.
DR. BRIGETY: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. My name is Reuben Brigety. I’m the deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for the State Department’s refugee programs in all of continental Africa. Thank you for coming today.
I returned Sunday night from Kenya and Ethiopia, where I visited the refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya and in the Dolo Ado region of Ethiopia. In both countries, the State Department arranged for representatives of other embassies to accompany us, reflecting not only the high-level attention that our government is giving this emergency but also the multilateral approach we take to assisting refugees. These efforts are critical to saving lives and maintaining access to safe asylum in the neighboring countries of Somalia, even as they themselves struggle with the drought that may indeed be the worst in 60 years.
You have undoubtedly heard about the staggering rates of malnutrition amongst new arrivals in the refugee camps, up to 50 percent global acute malnutrition in Ethiopia, for example, reflecting the even more grim state of affairs for children inside Somalia. Humanitarian assistance experts expect this crisis to get worse before it gets better.
We have heard troubling reports from inside Somalia that the combined daily arrival rates of 3,200 new refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya could rise still more dramatically as the situation in Somalia grows increasingly desperate.
With enough human and financial resources, however, the international community can together address this refugee emergency. During my visit to Dadaab, the prime minister of Kenya announced that the government would open the already completed extension of one of three Dadaab camps to new refugees. It is the strong view of the Ethiopian and the Kenyan governments that the international community must do more to deliver food and other humanitarian assistance inside Somalia. The Kenyans and Ethiopians see this as a means of stemming the refugee flows even as they insist that they will not prevent anyone fleeing Somalia from crossing their borders. We understand the urgency of providing assistance to people inside Somalia and we welcome the continued generosity and support of the governments in the region that continue to host refugees in need.
Thank you very much, and I am pleased to turn the podium over to my colleague, Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg.
MR. STEINBERG: Thanks, Reuben. I too am just returning from the Horn of Africa, where I had a chance over the past week to visit Djibouti, Sudan, and Ethiopia to review the response of the United States Government and the rest of the international community to the tragedy of 100,000 Somali men, women, and children who are driven from their homes and in the refugee camps in Ethiopia, driven there by drought and violence.
We witnessed the sight of families stumbling into the camps through the bitter Ogaden desert and receiving their first nutritious meals in months. In most cases, that exodus took a week to ten days of walking through the desert. It was heart-wrenching. These numbers that we’re describing in Somalia are amplified by even greater numbers of people fleeing to Kenya in search of food, water, and security as their crops and their livestocks wither and the longstanding conflict continues.
As Johnnie said, the number of people in the Horn of Africa affected by this tragedy is staggering – more than 11 million in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia in need of emergency life-saving assistance. The international community has responded to this recent surge. We are racing to keep up.
But at the same time, it’s important to remember that we’ve long been preparing for this tragedy. As long ago as last summer, USAID-supported Famine Early Warning System Network, which we call FEWS NET, predicted this crisis, and in August of last year we started pre-positioning food and other supplies in Djibouti, in South Africa, and elsewhere in the region. Since October of last year, the United States Government has provided assistance to 4.4 million affected people, a total of $383 million of life-saving food, supplies, and other necessary aid, including 348,000 metric tons of food.
As we look ahead, the USAID response along with our partners in a whole-of-government effort, is focused on three interlocking challenges. In the short run, we’re going to continue our support of an aggressive and coordinated international response to the immediate humanitarian emergency. I am going to London tomorrow – actually, this evening – to coordinate with all of the major donors who are operating to respond. We’re having a meeting where we’re going to be discussing this issue and seeing what more we can do.
At this very moment, Raj Shah, the administrator of USAID, is on his way to Kenya, where he will visit the Dadaab refugee camp as well as the Wajir region in northern Kenya that is equally suffering from these problems.
Our response, again, is going to be primarily focused on food and water, but at the same time, we’re focused on health and disease so that we can prevent outbreaks in the refugee camps and other areas.
Our second prong, however, is to help communities confront the drought and extreme food insecurity. In Ethiopia, for example, we’re providing a safety net program that provides cash and work for food. And the work involves digging wells, creating medical clinics, nutrition education and sanitation. As a result of those programs, about 7.5 million Ethiopians are not among those who are currently in need of international aid.
Equally important, we are working throughout the region to create sustainable food security by strengthening agriculture and rural development. President Obama’s innovative and forward-looking Feed the Future initiative, which Johnnie Carson has described in detail, is already at work improving agricultural production, boosting markets, building infrastructure, bringing innovation, addressing the entire value change, and bringing women into the process of development. American food security and emergency assistance experts with vast experience in the region are working together with our international counterparts to pursue a coordinated, aggressive, and comprehensive response to the short-, medium-, and longer-term approaches. Again, the 11 million people in need of assistance in the eastern Horn deserve nothing less. And with that, I’d like to ask our assistant administrator for democracy, conflict, and humanitarian assistance, Nancy Lindborg, to say a few words.
MS. LINDBORG: Thanks, Don. And good afternoon. I want to underscore that, as I think all of us know, drought is not new for this region. This region suffers cyclical droughts and through the years have – it has experienced significant suffering. However, 20 years ago we established something that Don mentioned called FEWS NET, the Famine Early Warning System. And this is – which is a USAID funded initiative – works closely with the UN to identify in advance rainfall conditions, does extensive analysis of historical and current rainfall cropping patterns, livestock health, market prices, and malnutrition rates. As a result, this enabled us to know as early as last October that we would be facing record low rainfalls. And we along with the international community, were able to preposition supplies and prepare to respond.
In addition, there has been significant work in the – particularly in Ethiopia that has enabled communities to be much better prepared to withstand severe drought. And as a comparison, in 2002, 2003, which was the last time Ethiopia had a serious drought, there were 15 million Ethiopians who required humanitarian assistance. This year it’s 4.5. As serious as that number sounds, it represents a significant step forward in establishing community resilience. This ability to be better prepared and to have those early warnings, coupled with, as Don described, the Feed the Future initiative that builds productivity, will continue to enable that region to withstand the ravages of drought.
Specifically, however, in Somalia, we’ve been unable to reach some of the most affected populations. We have, however, been able to reach 1.5 million people in the more accessible areas of Somalia and been able to move forward with significant aid that provides therapeutic feeding, critical health treatments, clean water, proper sanitation, hygiene education, and supplies to help the prevention of disease. I traveled to Hargeisa at the end of May both to underscore our commitment to the people of Somalia as well as ensure that we were providing as much assistance as we could.
We know that there’s a severe and unabated humanitarian crisis in southern Somalia, and aid workers are unable to reach reliably 61 percent of people in need due to the risk, the insecurity, and the inaccessibility through the presence of armed groups, like Al-Shabaab. As you know, since January 2010, the United Nations World Food Program has unable – has been unable to operate in southern Somalia because of the extremely dangerous conditions. This is true for other international and nongovernmental organizations as well. It’s no coincidence that the Somalis who have the greatest need are living in the areas that are the most insecure. We are, however, as Ambassador Carson noted, very encouraged to hear that aid groups are now being asked to help in some of these insecure areas.
We are working aggressively with other donors and the humanitarian community to test the possibility of delivering assistance in these previously inaccessible areas and are working closely to identify means of assistance. We call on the international community to continue to step forward with the assistance needed throughout the region. As Don said, we expect the conditions to deteriorate, especially if the fall rains are not as good as they need to be, and this requires all of us to be working aggressively to meet the needs of the region. Thank you.
MS. FULTON: Okay. I’d like to open it up for questions. If you would help our briefers out, please just identify yourself and let us know who it is that you would like to ask the question. Do you want to go first, Michelle?
QUESTION: Yeah. I have two questions. Michelle Kelemen, NPR. The first one for Dr. Brigety. You talked about this extension at that one camp, but the Kenyans have been reluctant to open this, they’re worried about the influx of Somalis, they talk about concerns about terrorism. What are you telling them about that? Are you offering them any sort of assurances? And then I have one other question following up either for you, Ms. Lindborg, or for Johnnie Carson about whether U.S. sanctions on Al-Shabaab are complicating. I know you talk about the complications coming from the Al-Shabaab and the insecurity, but are U.S. sanctions preventing USAID agencies in going in?
DR. BRIGETY: Michelle, thank you very much for that question. As of last Thursday, the Government of Kenya has publicly decided to open the second camp. The camp is called Ifo II. I was standing next to Prime Minister Raila Odinga as he made that announcement to an international press gathering in Dadaab last Thursday. This is – as you’ve mentioned, this is a development that the international community has been requesting for some time. We welcome the Kenyan Government’s decision to open that camp. It is our understanding that while previously, the Government of Kenya saw opening the camp as essentially a security risk, only inviting more refugees in, they have recognized that, certainly over the last year or so, that there have been flows of refugees that have come unabated and, as they say, in increasing numbers just in the last several weeks.
Thus what has developed over the last several months is essentially a series of spontaneous settlements on the outskirts of the camps of Ifo, where refugees are settling in an unorganized way, in a way in which they aren’t properly registered. And that was seen by the Government of Kenya finally as an even greater security threat, having these large numbers of people that are coming in an unorganized way and filling them in an unorganized way, which is part of the reason why they decided to open up Ifo II.
We continue to work with the Government of Kenya. We are – continue to be strong partners with them. We welcome, as I say, this decision to open a camp and we look forward to their increasing cooperation as this crisis unfolds. Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: In response to the second question, U.S. sanctions are not the issue or the problem. The issue and the problem is Al-Shabaab. International organizations such as CARE, Save the Children, UNICEF, the WFP, don’t have sanctions. But it is those organizations that have been equally denied an opportunity to operate in south central Somalia. We call on all of those in south central Somalia who have it within their authority to allow refugee groups and organizations to operate there to do so. But the issue is Al-Shabaab. It’s not sanctions. Organizations do not – such as the ones I just mentioned – don’t have sanctions, but they’ve also been barred.
MS. FULTON: Thanks. Next question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Jill Dougherty from CNN. I wanted to follow up on the – testing the possibility of – excuse me – delivering this aid. Can you give us a better idea, Ms. Lindborg, of how this is being done? Do people go into the field? Are they talking to Al-Shabaab? What exactly is going on?
MS. LINDBORG: Under the auspices of the UN, they are testing what might be possible. The – clearly, what we all are hoping for is the ability to deliver assistance without some of the punitive conditions and the insecurity that have resulted from the Shabaab control over the last year or year and a half. So there are probes already being made, there are discussions underway, and we hope to have more information in the next week.
QUESTION: The probes? Is that discussion or –
MS. LINDBORG: Well, I think you saw in the media that UNICEF went last week with an expedition into the Baidoa. There are opportunities to work in select areas where there isn’t the impediments created by tolls, by taxing, by threats of insecurity, and by kidnapping. So where one is able, where we as the international community are able to provide assistance and ensure that it’s reaching those who are desperately in need, we are fully prepared to do so.
MS. FULTON: Next question. Right here.
QUESTION: Yeah. I will have – one question with – for – to Mr. Carson. You know Somalia – in 1992, there was a similar situation and the international community, including the United States, responded in a bigger way. What’s the next plan, apart from sending some donations to Somalia? Is there any other plan from the U.S. Government toward Somalia? Is there any (inaudible) you are going to provide Somalia?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Let me say that the Horn of Africa has faced over the years a number of cyclical droughts. And indeed, back in the late 1980s, we saw another major drought situation occur. After that, I think my colleagues have pointed out that the FEWS NET program was established to be able to monitor and to warn about droughts. We also started working with various governments to improve their ability to adjust to extreme climatic conditions, to change crops, to be able to store and protect more food and to do a number of other things. The United States over the last decade has been one of the largest and continues to be one of the largest suppliers of humanitarian support and assistance to the region. We continue to work with governments throughout the region, and we hope that our Feed the Future program will contribute to better protection of people against droughts in the future.
MS. FULTON: Next question?
QUESTION: Another question for Assistant Secretary Carson. George Zornick from The Nation magazine. Last week our magazine reported on the existence of a CIA-run prison in Mogadishu. Is this something that you or the State Department was aware of, the existence of this prison?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I will not comment on any issues related to the CIA or to intelligence matters.
QUESTION: Can you say whether you’ve been working with the recognized officials of Somalia to brief them on what’s happening there?
MS. FULTON: We’re going to stick to briefing on the situation – the emerging humanitarian situation in the Horn today. So next question in that vein.
QUESTION: The World Health Organization yesterday issued a warning that 9 million people are at risk of cholera and measles outbreak in the region, and it has been aggravated by fast movement of the people who are exposed to the drought. And is there a clear picture that what has been done?
MS. LINDBORG: Hi. I – also in response to the previous question, we’ve looked very closely at the famine in ’92, and what we’ve learned is that there are several very important and critical steps that we, the international community, need to take. And the first is ensure that we’re able to address public health issues more effectively, including exactly the kind of communicable diseases that are most prevalent, especially when you have populations that are moving and populations that are malnourished. So it’s cholera, it’s measles, it’s diarrhea, it’s all these diseases that we need to effectively address and very quickly enable vaccinations and health treatments to reach.
Secondly, we need to ensure that there’s improved access of food. There are – there is availability of food in some of the markets. The inflation rate is so high that those – many families are unable to afford the food. And thirdly, one needs to get food in, especially therapeutic food for those who are at most risk, through high malnutrition, of reaching fatalities. We remain very concerned about the situation and are working very closely with the international community to ensure that we get the right approaches in quickly, based on what we know from past famines and past drought situations.
MS. FULTON: I think we have time for about two more questions.
QUESTION: Camille Elhassani from Al-Jazeera English Television. I had a question about Eritrea. You – Mr. Carson, you’ve called for them to provide the data so that you know what the situation is there. Has there – have you seen refugees from Eritrea moving into neighboring countries, and do you have an expectation that they are going to cooperate so that you and the other international community can help them?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Eritrea is a closed and increasingly reclusive country, and its government has not been particularly helpful in sharing data and information about the severity of the food shortages or the drought in its country. Because it is a part of the Greater Horn of Africa, we assume that conditions in Eritrea are probably quite similar to the drought conditions that we are seeing in other places – in Ethiopia and in Kenya, Djibouti, and in Somalia. Because we don’t know what’s happening, our understanding of the situation is limited, but we encourage them to be more open about their needs and the needs of their population.
MS. FULTON: Thank you. Last question, Brad.
QUESTION: Yes. I think for Mr. Steinberg. You said you’re going tomorrow to a donors conference in London. Could you just explain what you aim to accomplish there? Will there be new funding talked about, new plans about reaching new groups? What is this consolidated approach going to be?
MR. STEINBERG: Yeah, indeed. Once a year, the major development ministers from the OECD countries get together to coordinate to talk about larger development issues, to reflect on the state of what we’re doing. We have decided, as of yesterday at the request of the United States Government, to use that as an opportunity to draw us together to talk frankly about two issues – one, the situation in Southern Sudan and how we can promote an aggressive comprehensive response to the very exciting events in Juba with its independence, but secondly, to address the situation in the Horn of Africa.
We suspect that a number of ministers will come with new ideas, with new proposals for assistance. This is, as we’ve said, a rapidly changing environment, and we’ve already received very strong indications of international support coming together. We will also, in the Horn with Administrator Shah’s visit there, be coordinating with our partners UNHCR, OCHA, UNICEF, the World Food Program in particular, to ensure a coordinated and comprehensive response to what is, at present, one of the true impending disasters that we’re all facing.
QUESTION: Can I ask a Sudan question while we have Johnnie Carson here?
MS. FULTON: If you want.
QUESTION: There’s – I mean, there’s a letter going around today with a lot of activists talking about much tougher action against Sudan, including the possibility of drone strikes or cruise missile strikes to prevent ethnic cleansing going on in Southern Kordofan and Abyei, and I wonder if you’ve received these recommendations, whether you have any concerns about – what are your latest concerns about what’s going on in those two regions?
MS. FULTON: Would you indulge us?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Just –
MS. FULTON: Thank you.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: — very, very briefly, only to say that we remain very focused on Sudan and the need to encourage both parties, North and South, to complete all of the elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that have not yet been resolved. These issues are Abyei, they are also oil and transitional financial arrangements, they also include the need to resolve issues related to citizenship, and five, issues related to border demarcation. It is important that both sides resume their discussions as quickly as possible to move towards a resolution of all of these issues.
We also remain deeply concerned about the continuing violence that we have seen in Southern Kordofan, and we urge the Government of Sudan to move as quickly as possible to stop the violence that is being perpetrated by its soldiers, and to align itself, again, with its commitments under the global – under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
MS. FULTON: Thank you.
MR. STEINBERG: Can I –
MS. FULTON: Oh, yes.
MR. STEINBERG: — just comment very, very quickly? Because USAID is indeed launching, in a whole-of-government approach, a very aggressive response to the humanitarian crisis that we’ve talked about here with about 180,000 people driven from their homes, both from Abyei and from South Kordofan. We do, as Assistant Secretary Carson said, have a very serious access problem, and in – especially in the Nuba Mountains. And we have called aggressively, both bilaterally but also multilaterally, on the Government of Sudan to open up access to those regions, to allow humanitarian workers in, to, as Assistant Secretary Carson said, to cease the violence that is occurring now, and to reach a permanent solution to the question of the SPLM’s North role in that region.
MS. FULTON: Okay. With that, I’d like to thank our briefers and thank you, everyone, for joining us today.
MS. NULAND: Good morning, everybody. As you know, this Saturday, July 9th, the Republic of South Sudan will celebrate a ceremony to mark its independence, culminating a six-year peace process. The U.S. presidential delegation to the ceremony will be led by our Ambassador to the United Nations, the Honorable Susan Rice. And the delegation will travel to Juba to attend this historic event today. We are very pleased this morning to have Ambassador Rice as well as several members of the delegation to talk to you about this trip. We also have Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development Don Steinberg.
Welcome, Ambassador Rice.
AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you. Good morning, everybody. I’m very honored to lead the delegation that will travel on behalf of the United States to Juba to welcome the new Republic of South Sudan into the community of sovereign nations.
As you know, the delegation will also include Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Brooke Anderson, the Deputy National Security Advisor and Chief of Staff and Counselor at the National Security Staff; General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Deputy Administrator of USAID Don Steinberg; Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, who is the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, and formerly chairman of that subcommittee; Ambassador Princeton Lyman, who of course is our Special Envoy of the President to Sudan; Barrie Walkley, who is the U.S. Consul General in Juba; and Mr. Ken Hackett, who is president of Catholic Relief Services, an NGO that’s been very active for many years throughout Sudan.
I’m particularly honored, in addition, that we’ll be joined on the delegation by General Colin Powell, who as you all know, along with one of my predecessors, John Danforth, worked so hard to lay the groundwork for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And obviously, General Powell did that while he served as Secretary of State.
So as you can see, this is a very strong and bipartisan American delegation. It reflects the President’s deep commitment to developments in Sudan and to supporting the new Republic of South Sudan. And we will be active, all of us, all members of this delegation, in our time in Juba, pushing forward on the issues that are so important and remain to be resolved.
Let me just say a few more words about what we’ll be doing, why it’s important, and what message we’ll be bringing on behalf of President Obama. Our trip will, of course, focus on the celebration of the independence of the Republic of South Sudan. Our day will include, in addition to the ceremonies, a meeting with President Salva Kiir and a ribbon-cutting to officially transform the U.S. Consulate in Juba into the U.S. Embassy to the new Republic of South Sudan.
As you know, this independence celebration is a deeply significant event for the people of South Sudan, who, after a half century of war and more than 2 million people lost, finally will have the ability to determine their own future. By any standard, this is a historic moment, and the fact that it’s occurring as a result of a democratic exercise through a referendum that occurred peacefully and on time is itself all the more remarkable.
The United States has worked tirelessly to help make the promise of this moment a reality. First, it would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership and personal engagement of President Obama, who raised his voice consistently and eloquently as he did before what was a historic gathering at the United Nations last September, where he spoke in support, quote, “of a future where, after the darkness of war, there can be a new day of peace and progress.”
Our efforts have also been championed by Secretary of State Clinton and bolstered by the hard work of General Scott Gration, Ambassador Princeton Lyman, Ambassador Carson, and many others who have logged dozens of trips to the region and countless sleepless hours on the phone and around the negotiating table. Thanks to these efforts and the hard work of many others in the international community and at the United Nations, the moment is approaching when a future of peace is finally possible.
But let’s be absolutely clear: This is a fragile and fraught moment as well. It cannot and must not be taken for granted, least of all by the Government of Sudan and the Government of the Republic of South Sudan, who will have to still work exceptionally hard to achieve an enduring peace and enable the emergence of two viable states that are peaceful neighbors.
A number of core issues remain to be resolved. A permanent resolution of Abyei’s status is still elusive. And the situation there, in spite of an agreement on temporary security arrangements signed on June 20th and the imminent deployment of a UN interim security force for Abyei, is still extremely volatile. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Abyei.
And meanwhile, of course, we’ve seen brutal fighting in the northern border state of Southern Kordofan between Sudanese armed forces and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army North troops who come from that state. And the Sudanese army continues to carry out aerial bombardments that are hitting civilians. And on June 28th, the government and the SPLM North agreed to a framework of political and security principles for Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, but they haven’t agreed yet to any cessation of hostilities.
The United States clearly has condemned the escalating violence, especially by the Government of Sudan against civilians, and the detention and targeting of UN national staff and the deliberate obstruction of access for humanitarian agencies. In light of this situation, the United States is extremely concerned by the government’s decision to compel the departure of the UN mission in Sudan from Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states and elsewhere in the North on July 9th. It’s vital that the United Nations be allowed to maintain a full peacekeeping presence in these areas for an additional period of time in order to facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid, support the implementation of any cessation of hostilities agreement, and vitally, to protect civilians.
Furthermore, we’re concerned that the parties haven’t finalized arrangements on major outstanding CPA issues, including the border, citizenship, and oil. We believe the parties need to urgently resolve these remaining issues. In the meantime, it’s critical that the parties cooperate on such key issues as oil and citizenship in order to avoid major economic shocks or social upheaval. Allowing these issues, including the final status of Abyei, to linger without resolution for any length of time could swiftly destabilize the future relationship between these two states. So for our part, the United States will continue to be extremely active in supporting the implementation of the CPA in all of its stages, as we have since its inception, and particularly over the last 12 months. And we will continue to deliver the same consistent message on behalf of President Obama.
Saturday’s celebration is above all a testament to the people of South Sudan and secondly to the parties to the CPA. But as we’ve made very clear, the success of the CPA and the resolution of the larger issues in Sudan, including in particular Darfur, will remain a strong and consistent focus of the United States. As we mark progress for the Republic of South Sudan and an important new chapter in the history of what has been a very troubled region, the United States will remain resolute and clear-eyed about the road ahead.
Thank you, and I would now hand it over to Ambassador Carson.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Ambassador Rice, thank you very, very much, and I am very pleased and honored to be joining you on this presidential delegation to South Sudan. July 9 marks the technical conclusion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, an accord that ended over two decades of conflict and suffering in Southern Sudan. The people of South Sudan can now look forward with great hope and expectations to the future, despite the enormous challenges that still must be addressed to secure the peace and to preclude another outbreak of conflict.
The United States remains deeply committed to helping South Sudan achieve its political and development goals, as well as working constructively with the government of Khartoum to improve and normalize our relations. To realize their dreams of peace and stability, we believe the leaders of both South and North will need to collaborate intensely and sincerely to achieve these goals. This means a reinvigoration of their efforts to ensure that their separation is characterized by dignity and mutual respect and in a manner that strengthens the continued viability, security, and economic prosperity of each of the two states.
The governments of North and South Sudan still need to reach agreement on critical issues from the CPA that have not yet been resolved. These are, among others, oil and transitional financial arrangements, citizenship and citizens’ rights, the resolution of the five areas along the North-South border, and the future status of Abyei. We also expect Sudanese leaders to implement fully their June 20 agreement on Abyei, which includes a full withdrawal of Sudanese armed forces from that territory.
We also expect the North to fulfill its obligations to hold and conclude in a timely manner meaningful popular consultations in Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. It will be critical for the parties to work together to resolve the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis that now exists in Southern Kordofan. The current situation is deeply troubling. We call on the parties to reach agreement on and immediately implement a cessation of hostilities and allow for aid workers to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians affected by this conflict.
After years of fighting, the people of South Sudan have earned their right to peace. Their children deserve a more promising future that leaves the conflict of generations of the past behind. We hope that their leaders will seize this unique opportunity to establish a durable and self-sustaining peace that will provide a solid foundation for two viable states sharing a prosperous and stable future in which their people can realize their long-delayed hopes and aspirations.
The United States, acting in concert with the United Nations, the African Union, and the European Union and other international partners, will continue to play its part in assisting the new state of South Sudan to strengthen its sovereignty, build its capacity for enlightened governance, and contribute to its economic development. This will be a challenge for all of us. The United States stands ready to work with the people of South Sudan to meet that challenge. Thank you.
I’d now ask Ambassador Steinberg.
AMBASSADOR STEINBERG: We have a real challenge ahead of us in supporting the process of a new state in Africa, and the United States has had a long history of supporting South Sudan both before the completion of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and subsequently. At the explicit instructions of President Obama, we have worked to provide the people and the Government of South Sudan with the tools that they need to build a nation. And we often shy away from the phrase “nation building,” but in this case it is particularly appropriate.
Ambassador Carson spoke of the expectations of the Sudanese people, and indeed they have high expectations for what peace will mean for them. And already over the course of the last few years, we have worked with the Government of South Sudan to move themselves from a concept into a viable, functioning government. We’ve helped provide a million people with access to water. We’ve helped expand from school enrollment rates of about one in five to now 68 percent. We have financed the construction of roads, bridges, electrical power stations. And perhaps equally significant, we supported the January 2011 referendum on self-determination, which was overwhelmingly in support of independence.
In this effort, we’re working in partnership with a variety of agencies, the World Bank, our Troika partners, the United Kingdom and Norway on developmental and humanitarian assistance. And in that regard, we are prepared to host in September an international conference that will draw together the international community with the Government of South Sudan as a platform to demonstrate their vision and their future for their country and to engage with the international community. That will be held here in Washington towards the end of September.
In line with that effort, we have identified four key pillars for USAID and the whole of government to engage in, and these pillars are the following: to create an enabling environment for the promotion of private investment in South Sudan; to strengthen the agricultural sector to become a true engine of growth for South Sudan; to develop a common platform in institutional structure for the international community to engage in this new country; and to build the human capital necessary to govern and deliver services.
And it’s important to remember that this is a facilitative role, largely, that we’re performing. South Sudan has ample resources from its petroleum reserves and other assets to provide the basic needs for its development. However, in order to make sure that occurs they need the governmental capacity to ensure that resources are well used, that corruption doesn’t take place, and that bottlenecks and other impediments to development don’t occur.
I need to highlight as well that we’re responding to large humanitarian needs throughout South Sudan, and in particular now in Southern Kordofan, in Abyei, where we’re seeing probably a total of about 200,000 people displaced by recent fighting. Many of those are traveling to the South, and we are working with the Government of South Sudan to provide resources to them. I myself was in South Sudan about six weeks ago and met with a variety of Northerners who had come south and who were looking for a new life in the South but had very high expectations for what that life would provide to them. We’re concerned about their safety. We’re concerned about the citizenship questions in the North, which need to be resolved, otherwise we may see a massive flood of new IDPs coming South. And as Ambassador Rice said, we continue to press for humanitarian access to assist those in need in places where access is restricted, especially South Kordofan, the Nuba Mountains, and Darfur.
So we’re very excited about the future. As of July 9th we will have a full USAID mission in Juba along with a mission in Khartoum. And we are delighted to be pursuing the vision of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to help this country emerge as a prosperous and free country.
MS. NULAND: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Ambassador Rice – and maybe, Ambassador Carson you can weigh in – I have a wider question that maybe we can go a bit narrow as well – about your support for this referendum and for the independence of Southern Sudan has been very public and very emphatic. And I’m wondering whether you think – where this leaves the relationship with the North? And whether the people – whether you feel there’s – the North now feels any kind of stigma because of your strong support for Southern Sudan? Even in some of the comments, I mean, that – I think the Northerners feel that – and just from some people we’ve talked to, the Northerners feel now that you’ve chosen kind of Southern Sudan over the North. And the relationship with the government now, how do you – now that they feel that they’ve fulfilled their commitments on Southern Sudan, how do you, as you say, get them to continue to fulfill their commitments on Darfur, on some of these other things while managing their expectations on things like the terrorism list and such?
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well first of all, what we have favored is faithful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which the two parties signed of their own volition, presumably because they determined it to be in their own – each of them in their own interest. So there’s no choosing of sides in that regard. And clearly, with the referendum having been held and the people of South Sudan stating their preferences clearly and overwhelmingly, we and others in the international community – indeed the entirety of the international community, every member state on the Security Council, every member state in the United Nations is committed to supporting and welcoming the Republic of South Sudan into the community of nations.
That said, obviously we have a vital interest in the success of peaceful and mutually beneficial relations between the government of the South and the government of the North. We want very much, as I think you’ve heard many of my colleagues say and Ambassador Carson just reiterated, to be in a position to build a more normal and more constructive relationship with the government in Khartoum. But for that to occur, as we have discussed on numerous occasions directly with them, we need to see full and final implementation of all aspects of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and clearly there are some important elements that remain unresolved.
We have also, from the very beginning, been very plain about the United States’ deep concern about what is transpiring in Darfur and now more recently in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Our interest, however, is seeing those issues resolved, the conflict end, political processes put in place that would meet the aspirations of the people of those regions within the country of Sudan, and that’s what we’ll work to continue to do.
We have many facets now to our relationship with the government in Khartoum. There is great potential for that relationship to deepen, but that depends on progress, as I’ve described, and progress in the roadmap that we have discussed over the course of the last many months with the government.
QUESTION: But they’re expecting – just a quick follow-up – they’re expecting now that they’ve signed this agreement, the South Sudan is an independent country, “It’s time for you to take us off the terrorism list.”
AMBASSADOR RICE: Well, in fact, the government in Khartoum knows exactly what to expect because they have heard it very precisely and directly from Ambassador Lyman and from many other senior American officials. There should be no confusion or ambiguity about expectations. We have been as plain as it’s possible to be in black and white, and we are fulfilling our side of the bargain. And as the government fulfills its commitments, as we hope it will under the CPA, we will be in a position to make the progress that we hope to make.
Johnnie, do you want to add anything to that?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: Just – thank you. Just one brief comment, and that is to say that the long-term political and economic success of the South is dependent upon having a strong, politically stable, and economically viable partner in the North. And the long-term viability of Khartoum’s government is dependent upon having a politically stable and economically prosperous partner in the South. Both of these countries will, in fact, remain very, very dependent upon one another for a long period of time. It is in their mutual interest, it is in our mutual interest to see two stable, viable, and strong economic states next to one another, and we hope that that message also gets out.
QUESTION: A question for whoever can answer it: The Southern Sudanese have said that the biggest and best present that the United States could give them on their birthday would be lifting the sanctions, and that if they don’t do that, that their oil-based economy just simply won’t be viable. So my question is: Are you – is the United States prepared to either split off South Sudan from existing sanctions on the whole of Sudan or lift sanctions on all of them as part of your efforts to get them kind of up and running?
And a second question is: What prospects are there for extending UNMIS given that, as far as I understand, its mandate sort of ends on July 9th under the CPA? How can you get them to keep them on?
AMBASSADOR RICE: I will take the second one. Do you want to –
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: I’ll go check.
AMBASSADOR RICE: The sanctions that have been in place on Sudan – there are different sorts and different types going back to 1993. They would not bear on and be a legacy that will be the responsibility of the Republic of South Sudan. So there are technical aspects to that, but the intent of the sanctions would not be consistent with that.
QUESTION: So that’s not – just so I’m clear on that – that they will no longer be subject to those sanctions as they emerge as a new country?
AMBASSADOR RICE: I mean, there are technical steps that would need to be taken to accomplish that, but the sanctions were imposed for the behavior of a government that is not the Government of the Republic of South Sudan. So we will make accommodation for that reality.
With respect to the United Nations presence, there are multiple aspects to this. In the first instance, we – the United Nations Security Council expects to adopt a resolution as early as Friday, which will establish a new UN mission for the Republic of South Sudan. It is a mission that will have various aspects to it, from security support to protection of civilians to support for building the institutions of the state. And a substantial share of the current UN presence or force in Sudan will shift over and become part of this new mission for the South. And there will ultimately be some troops that leave, some that come in, a different-sized civilian component, et cetera.
In the North, the portion that is above the 1156 border, which includes Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile but not limited to it, there are also currently several thousand UN forces under the current mission UNMIS. The government, very regrettably – and as I mentioned in my comments, to our grave concern – has indicated that it will insist that the UN terminate its mission in the North, effective on the 9th. The United States has been using all of our diplomatic and other instruments, as have the other permanent member of the Security Council and I think indeed many members of the Security Council, to try to persuade the leadership in Khartoum that it is not in their interest that the UN be compelled to leave abruptly or prematurely while key CPA issues remain unresolved and while, in particular, there is an issue with the common border, and a particularly volatile and grave humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and potentially Blue Nile state.
So this is something we’re very concerned about, we’ve been focused on for quite some while. It’s not just the United States; it’s all of the leading members of the United Nations and others beyond that. And we will continue to do what we can to underscore to Khartoum that it is in their interests and the interests of the region that they not take this step. But they seem thus far to be quite determined, and this poses a great deal of worry for the security of people in Southern Kordofan for the common border, for humanitarian access, and a number of other important issues.
MODERATOR: I’m cautious of the schedule of our principals, so we have time for two more (inaudible).
QUESTION: Two quick ones. You say that it’s very obvious for the government of Khartoum what they need to do to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. But I was wondering if you could specify what exactly you expect next of them. I mean, I think they could argue that you keep changing the goalposts, and I was wondering whether you could be a little bit more specific.
And then on the conference that you mentioned for the end of September, could you tell us a little bit more about what kind of conference it is? Is it a pledging conference? Is it a brainstorming conference about how to take this further?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY CARSON: As Ambassador Rice has indicated, the United States has laid out a very clear and specific roadmap for the government of Khartoum that would lead to a clear improvement in relations and include the removal of Khartoum from the state sponsor of terrorism list. That roadmap was originally conveyed to the government of Khartoum by Senator Kerry, and it has been reiterated over the last five or six months in numerous diplomatic dialogues, initially by Ambassador Scott Gration and now by Ambassador Princeton Lyman.
Clearly, the first step that must be done is the full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. What we will see on Saturday with the independence of South Sudan is only one element of the full implementation of that agreement. As many of you may recall, that the CPA called for a resolution of both the problems in the South as well as in Abyei. There were supposed to be, on January 9, two referenda. One took place in the South; the other one was supposed to but did not take place in Abyei. As we have all mentioned, the issue of Abyei has not been resolved. In fact, since May 19th, the situation on the ground became worse and is only now returning to the status quo ante. It is imperative that the government of the North remove all SAF troops from Abyei, live up to its commitments in an agreement made with the South on June 20th with respect to Abyei.
But beyond that, the post-referendum issues that require immediate attention and completion are issues related to oil and transitional financial arrangements. There must be a resolution of the five remaining border disagreements along the South. There must be clarity on the issue of citizenship as well.
In addition, we have indicated to the government of Khartoum that we are prepared to review and look at the removal of state sponsor of terrorism designation from that country. But we have said that any removal of Khartoum from that list must be accompanied by full implementation of Abyei and must, in fact, meet all the criteria for the removal of the state sponsor designation under existing laws.
We are working as hard as we can with the authorities in Khartoum to make progress on these issues, but we are not yet at the end of the line with respect to full implementation of the agreement. We have not moved the goal posts. The government is clearly aware based on our verbal and written transmissions to them of exactly what is required.
AMBASSADOR STEINBERG: On the conference, the Government of South Sudan asked us to hold this conference as an opportunity for them to, two and a half months into their tenure, to show the international community a variety of commitments they’re prepared to make to be good development partners and good partners for the private sector. And so they have asked for the opportunity to present their development plans, to talk about what they’re going to be doing to keep corruption under control, to talk about how they’re going to be creating a conducive environment for the private sector, and a variety of other issues.
We’ve been working with the World Bank, with the African Union, with Norway, the United Kingdom, with Turkey and a variety of others to hold that as a two-day program. The first day is going to focus on what I’ve just described. The second day will focus on the private sector, and we’re working with the Corporate Council on Africa to put together a wide variety of opportunities for foreign investors. Again, this is a unique situation. There will be resources that are available from the Government of South Sudan, so this isn’t a question of having to need tremendous inflows of outside capital, but they do need help in this regard.
The other thing I would say is that it will also be an opportunity for us in the U.S. Government to announce some deliverables, some steps that we’re prepared to take in order to encourage South Sudan. As you may know, last year we provided some $300 million worth of assistance to South Sudan in the areas of education, housing, health care, and a variety of other areas. We’ll be announcing new plans at that point.
The other aspect I wanted to highlight vis-à-vis this conference but also more broadly vis-à-vis our development efforts in South Sudan is our emphasis on gender; our insistence that the government incorporate women into not only the delegations that they’re sending to these missions but also fully integrate gender considerations into all of their development efforts. And this is something that we stress very strongly with the government.
QUESTION: Just to go back about the designation on the terrorism list, is it under review at the moment or has the review not started yet, if there could be clarification on that? And if I could ask the same question about Darfur, how important is it to see some movement on Darfur? There is some fear that the focus on South Sudan and South Kordofan and Abyei is having less focus on Darfur. So what are your expectations from the government of Khartoum on that?
AMBASSADOR RICE: We initiated the process of examining Sudan’s status under the state sponsor of terrorism designation following the referendum. But as Ambassador Carson said repeatedly, there can be no lifting of that designation unless and until Khartoum fulfills its obligations under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as we outlined very clearly and specifically in the U.S. roadmap that Ambassador Carson described. So that’s where we are.
With respect to Darfur, the United States has been for many years and remains deeply focused on the horrible humanitarian situation that persists in Darfur. We have been very active in every respect, most directly and consistently through the efforts of Ambassador Dane Smith to try to address and resolve not only the humanitarian but the political and security issues that remain of grave concern in Darfur. In the United Nations, we are very much focused on Darfur, on efforts to negotiate various aspects of resolution of the disagreement through Doha and other means. We have a large UN peacekeeping force on the ground in Darfur with a robust mandate to protect civilians, and we are urging that it do all it can within its capabilities to fulfill that mandate.
So by no means has Darfur been sidelined or fallen off the radar screen; quite the contrary. Unfortunately, now there are several other hot areas that require attention in parallel, but not to the exclusion of Darfur. And certainly, as we have elaborated with great specificity and in great detail, the roadmap for improved relations between the United States and the government in Khartoum, there are different stages and different elements to it, and the situation in Darfur is an important component. It is not the component that has immediate bearing on what we have been discussing, the state sponsorship designation. That’s tied to the criteria in the law, as Ambassador Carson said, as well as to performance on the CPA obligations. But there are other aspects of normalization and improvement, major aspects of normalization and improvement, that do depend on progress in Darfur.
QUESTION: Can you perhaps clarify that? Because I was under the impression – maybe it was from the last administration and maybe it’s a little bit different now.
AMBASSADOR RICE: It’s been a lot.
QUESTION: But I was just under the impression that Darfur was an issue in the terrorism list, kind of, criteria that obviously CPA was very important but that there was going to be no lifting of Sudan from the terrorism list until the situation improved in Darfur. Now, maybe it’s improved to the point where that’s not part of the criteria anymore?
AMBASSADOR RICE: I stand by what I just explained.
MS. NULAND: Good. Thank you very much to our briefers. Safe travels to Juba, and thanks to all of you.
AMBASSADOR RICE: Thank you.
Jon Tollefson, President of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies: Good morning.
Good morning and welcome to the Dean Acheson Auditorium here at the U.S. Department of State and welcome to one of GLIFAA’s annual pride month celebrations.
We’re very excited that you could all be here to celebrate with us and to join in this discussion on the human rights of L.G.B.T. people abroad.
We have with us to start today a very exciting panel and then the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will join us in a little while, in about 45 minutes time.
And so we’re going to have a discussion to begin this event on the status of L.G.B.T. people worldwide and we have with us some of our foremost experts on human rights in the Obama Administration and we’re very excited to here them speak about L.G.B.T. issues.
GLIFAA is the L.G.B.T. organization of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies and that includes the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and other foreign offices of U.S. agencies, many of which now serve abroad.
So we’re quite a wide organization and we represent the L.G.B.T. interests and family member issues at all of our agencies and so we’re very excited to be getting more into the policy realm as we expand our activities within the building and abroad.
GLIFAA members both here in Washington and throughout the world play a role in supporting LGBT advocates and advancing L.G.B.T. equality.
Just yesterday at embassy Islamabad in Pakistan, charge d’affaires ambassador Richard Hoagland held the first embassy pride event there and many embassies are doing that around the world.
In Chennai India the GLIFAA group marched behind the GLIFAA banner the local pride parade and these are examples that the whole world is seeing now and we’re asking all GLIFAA members, no matter where you are, to start engaging, if you haven’t already, with L.G.B.T. activists and sporting the embassy in their agency as well.
So let’s get started with the panel.
[TRUNCATED: INTRODUCTION OF MODERATOR MARIA OTERO, UNDER SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND PANELISTS MIKE POSNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR; DON STEINBERG, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR OF USAID; DAN BAER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHS AND LABOR.]
Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs: Thank you, thank you so much.
This is really a wonderful way to begin the week and an actually wonderful way to really bring to closure the L.G.B.T. Pride Month that we have been celebrating.
As I sit here and listen to Jon talk about the efforts that we’ve been putting forward, it’s actually really hard to believe that it’s been a year since Secretary Clinton said gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
And in fact we really have made quite a lot of advancements in this past year and I would start by commending GLIFAA for the leadership that they have given, because they’ve really looked not only of policy issues but also with personnel issues and they’ve had a very important impact in, for example, including gender identity in the State Department’s EEO policy.
And being able to also address not only make June pride month very successful but also make this an annual event.
And they also were very important in putting… helping put together the video that the Secretary did called “It Gets Better.”
So I do want to commend you for all the leadership you’re giving in this area and certainly for this work.
One of the things that was mentioned as we were introduced was the degree of interest around the world that is arising on this issue.
I was just in Norway a couple of weeks ago — and this is a really good example of how we are looking to elevate and advance gay rights as part of our overall human rights priorities.
In Norway, I led with the US-Norwegian global issues dialogue.
And under the human rights agenda– because it’s basically a dialogue that covers a variety of different issues– but under human rights it was very important that we really focused on two issues, one was gender-based violence as a very important issue and L.G.B.T. issues were the primary issues we focused on.
The thing that was very interesting about that is that we also learned that Norway is working very closely with Brazil on this issue and we are working very closely with Brazil on this issue so we began to see countries coming together in looking at ways in which they can all work together.
So I’m really very pleased that we have this opportunity to discuss the progress that we’re making around the world to ensuring that human rights are universal.
I think we have moved past the argument of whether L.G.B.T. people are entitled to human rights.
That is not an argument any longer – is an accepted truth.
But what we need to turn our discussion to now is how we can best protect those rights and work internationally in order to make that happen.
I think most of you know that a little bit over a week ago the U.N. human rights council passed the first historic resolution on human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
This was a historic moment and it highlights, really, the progress that we made.
I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about it during the panel discussion and I hope that we do.
And what the resolution does is really affirm that human rights are universal and no one can be excluded from freedom, from dignity, from opportunity just simply because of their sexual orientation or the gender identity.
So I welcome our panelists and really turn it over to them so that they can in brief words, you know, maybe keep it under ten minutes, speak a little bit to some of the things that they want to highlight.
Let me start with Mike Posner, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I’m going to stand.
Well, thank you, Maria.
It’s really a pleasure, an honor to be here.
I want to, just if I can, make three points and the first is to elaborate on something that Secretary Clinton said a year ago I think at this event which is that for this Administration and this government, for our country, gay rights are human rights and we view these discussions very much in the context of our commitment to promote a universal standard of rights.
Those that come out of the Universal Declaration of human rights, which was adopted in 1948, very much a product of U.S. leadership. Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Human Rights Commission in the 1940s which led to the creation, the drafting and then adoption of the Universal Declaration.
And the Universal Declaration is an important document because it was the first time that the world coming out of the Holocaust and World War II said that individuals have rights not because of where they live or where they’re citizens or what their governments say but by virtue of their humanity.
It’s an inclusive document.
It says that by virtue of being a human being you’re entitled not to be discriminated against and it doesn’t delineate categories but clearly in the context in which we’re here today, the L.G.B.T. community is entitled to the protections of the Universal Declaration to live their lives freely and without discrimination.
Secretary Clinton has said again that we are going to uphold these universal standards, one set of standards for the entire world, and we’re going to lead by example.
And that’s very much what we’re trying to do with respect to advancing the L.G.B.T. set of initiatives.
The second point is that President Obama has talked about principled engagement in the world.
What it means is that in every country where we do business, where we have diplomatic relations and every country in the world, we are both looking at and promoting various economic, political, strategic interests, but human rights, including the rights of L.G.B.T. people, are part of that discussion.
It’s simply now what we do.
And we do it on several levels.
We do reporting.
We do an annual report on human rights, which covers 194 countries in the world.
The focus increasingly is on… we are increasingly attentive to, and embassies are paying attention to, discrimination, violence, et cetera, directed at the L.G.B.T. community in those countries.
Secondly is our bilateral diplomacy.
We will talk, I’m sure, in the coming minutes about some of the particular places, but one we’ve had a range of challenges throughout the African continent and Uganda in some ways has been a flash point where proposed legislation would have not only criminalized gay sex but also made it a capital offense in some cases.
We push very hard across the board, Dan Baer visited Uganda, as did Maria, and we’ve been thus far successful in stemming the tide of that legislative effort.
There are many, many other examples, specific examples of countries.
This is part of our civil society initiative.
Secretary Clinton last July in Krakow as part of the community of democracies gave a landmark speech, really talking about restrictions on the ability of civil society, N.G.O. activists, to organize, to operate freely.
And these… these rights, again, apply very much to the community, the L.G.B.T. community and countries who are often denied the ability to speak out, to assemble, to associate, to advocate, on behalf of their community.
And finally, we are involved in a multilateral set of activities.
Maria mentioned the U.N. human rights council resolution, actually a South African initiative that was adopted just several weeks ago.
We’ve come a huge way in the last four or five years since I think the French first proposed or began initiating some discussion of these issues, even in the last year there’s been a dramatic step forward and I’m really proud to say that we in this Administration have taken a lead in, again, trying to get a global consensus or a global initiative, particularly here addressing violent activity directed against the L.G.B.T. community.
To say the least, we’ve made progress, but there’s a long way to go.
So for me in the broader context of a human rights policy of the United States, these are cutting-edge issues in the 21st century, human rights issues.
They’re issues in which I’m proud to be associated with an administration that unambiguously is saying this is part of what we do in promoting human rights around the world.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Mike.
Let’s proceed, then, and have Don Steinberg, the deputy administrator for U.S.A.I.D. proceed to the podium.
Ambassador Donald Steinberg: Thank you, Maria.
It really is a great pleasure to be here today.
This is, indeed, an exciting moment for those of us who are committed to these issues.
I don’t think we can overstate the impact of the U.N.’s resolution last week from the human rights commission, which has the acronym H.R.C. and for the first time I’m realizing that is “Hillary Rodham Clinton” and it is fully reflective of her views.
This was a very exciting moment.
Our administrator, Rod Shaw, was so excited that he tweeted 100,000 people to endorse what had been done.
Pointing out that the rights of the L.G.B.T. community are rights that we all support, we all defend, and we all highlight.
For me, however, at U.S.A.I.D., this isn’t just a question of fairness or equity or even human rights.
It is a question of how we do our development policy.
Effectiveness and efficiency.
We recognize at U.S.A.I.D. that our development efforts won’t be successful unless they’re inclusive and are drawing on the full contributions of the entire community that we’re dealing with, including the L.G.B.T. community.
So we have four pillars that we’re focused on at U.S.A.I.D. in this regard first we’re ensuring that in our specific projects we engage in efforts to enhance the political, economic, and social development of the L.G.B.T. community.
Including through our direct programming and through our partnership arrangements.
In terms of our partnerships, we’re developing templates that incorporate bans on bias that comes against sexual and gender identity for our agency but also for our development partners.
We are ensuring that we’re involving the L.G.B.T. community as planners, as implementers, and as beneficiaries of our programs based on the principle “nothing about them without them.”
We’re trying to build viable civil society institutions capable of defending the rights and promoting the interests of these individuals and this community.
Most importantly, our mission must be to promote social and legal equality for the L.G.B.T. community through our conversations, our advocacy and our programs.
A couple of examples are our work with professional associations here in the United States to encourage them create equitable, professional and expert service deliveries to L.G.B.T. communities in developing in transitional countries as well as funding of U.S.A.I.D. sensitivity training to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for L.G.B.T. clients for our activities.
Secondly, we need to recognize that the protection and participation of L.G.B.T. community is essential during times of conflict or emergencies.
It’s during these periods that marginalized communities are most vulnerable.
We often say let’s just get the job done, let’s get food, let’s get water, let’s get health services, we’ll worry about these issues later.
But, indeed, that misses the point.
We have been involved personally in my case with efforts to expand the protection of rights and the security of the L.G.B.T. populations in the context of population displacement, especially refugee camps and I.D.P. camps.
Indeed, we must go beyond the concept of viewing this community as victims and see them for what they are: Vital contributors to a holistic strategy.
Third, we need to ensuring the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity are fully mainstreamed and integrated into our broader programming as a cross cutting theme.
We need to recognize that the success of our efforts to ensuring food security or democracy and good governance, economic growth and perhaps most significantly global health rests in large part on our capacity to harness and to create space for all countries to draw on the talents and the contributions of this community.
I’m just returning this week from discussions in Istanbul and Paris to set an agenda for developing countries for the conference on aid effectiveness toward the end of this year.
And I’m pleased that the United States was able to promote concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity to be addressed in the basic documents that we will be adopting at this that point.
Finally but certainly not least we must ensuring that we’re walking the walk in house.
We need to ensure that our own practices, attitudes, and actions related to sexual orientation and gender identity reflect the values of democracy, human dignity, diversity, and inclusion.
This means carefully looking at our recruitment, our promotion, and our evaluation policies and practices to ensuring that they’re both free of discrimination and dedicated to the career advancement of all of our staff both in Washington and abroad.
We are conducting trainings for every incoming official in our development leadership initiative on the issues of L.G.B.T. rights and practices and we’re conducting listening sessions where administrator Shaw and myself hear the concerns directly from individuals who are either working on these issues or have personal interest in them.
In order to highlight these concerns, I’m pleased to announce that U.S.A.I.D. will shortly name a senior coordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity who will be responsible for advising the U.S.A.I.D. Administrator on this agenda.
And further, we’re establishing an agency policy coordinating committee to perform such functions as information and knowledge exchange, consensus building, sharing and documenting of best practices and advising on policy and strategy gaps.
This committee will begin with the so-called landscape analysis to assess where we are right now on the four pillars I’ve described before, including our U.S.A.I.D. foreign development assistance strategy.
In order to complete all of this work, we NEED to draw on you, both members of GLIFAA as well as individuals who care about these issues as well as individuals who work on these issues.
We are open to your comments, we are open to your criticisms and we look forward to working with you on this vital agenda.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Thank you, Don.
Let’s proceed, then, with Dan Baer who is the deputy assistant administrator for the bureau of democracy, human rights, and labor.
And Dan, if you would proceed.
Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I feel like a trend has been started and so I have to continue it.
I would be happy to sit down but I’ll be brief since I’m a pinch hitter here and pinch hitters should be brief.
But I just want to say thanks again to John and GLIFAA for organizing this event.
I think it’s really… this is a landmark event as well and it’s really a testament to your leadership and everybody in GLIFAA who has contributed to this so thank you very much.
The leadership of the people within our diplomatic corps, within our development professionals community is really important to our making progress as a whole on these issues and it’s really been outstanding over the last year and a half and obviously the support from the top is great but it’s also a bunch of people working everyday to move these issues forward that makes a difference.
So thank you very much.
I just want to say a few quick things.
One, the resolution that everybody has talked about already.
It really was… I was on the floor in the human rights council when it passed, it really was a momentous occasion.
The vote was 23-19.
And, of course, one wants these things to be consensus and they will be consensus someday because even if it was 23-19, everybody on both sides of that vote knew that it was a watershed moment.
And it was really, really impressive to hear the South African ambassador stand up and give a rousing address about the importance of L.G.B.T. human rights within the context of the human rights struggle of his own country was a truly inspiring and, frankly, a moment that even six months ago I would have bet a lot of money against.
So it was a really special time.
When I talk about what kind of comes next in terms of making progress on L.G.B.T. human rights around the world I often talk about busting three myths.
Three myths that you encounter on a regular basis as you work on these issues around the world and the first myth is that L.G.B.T. issues are a western thing and that problems that L.G.B.T. people face are a non-western thing.
And the fact is that that’s not true on either count.
L.G.B.T. issues are not a western thing.
L.G.B.T. people are not a western phenomenon.
And the problems that L.G.B.T. people face they face everywhere, including in the west.
And so rejecting the idea that this is somehow a particular phenomenon that applies to one part of the world or one culture is the first myth.
The second is rejecting the idea that L.G.B.T. rights are special rights.
You know, as secretary Clinton’s words made clear with regard to women, this was also a… something that was asserted with regard to women’s rights and the power of the statement that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights was to say these aren’t special, these are part and parcel of the universal standards that Mike talked about.
And so we need to reject the idea that they’re special rights, as Secretary Clinton did last year.
And the third is that… the idea that advancing human rights for L.G.B.T. people is the job of L.G.B.T. people only.
The fact is that if these are universal rights, they are the universal job of all of us, of all of us who are committed to human rights.
And so these are… just as women’s rights aren’t women’s work, L.G.B.T. rights aren’t the work of the L.G.B.T. community, they are the work of all of us and all of us should be committed to doing that.
As we go forward, you know, as… as Mike and Don Steinberg have alluded to, there are ways in which our government is already engaging on this and I want to just say a couple things.
First, we have to do more than lip service.
Events like today are great, they get us inspired, they get us on the same page, they tell us about the job ahead, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that’s day-to-day work that really does make the progress.
There’s engagement both with government leaders that our diplomats around the world are engaging in at the direction of the secretary.
I myself have been in meetings where we’ve raised L.G.B.T. human rights concerns with the foreign minister, justice minister, or Prime Minister of over half dozen African countries and that kind of work is going on around the world and it’s really important.
It’s work that probably wasn’t happening not so long ago.
And it’s an important way that we’re engaging.
We’re also engaging with civil society and with activists and we’re engaging in a way that is more than just the first order engagement of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups but really recognizing as deputy administrator Steinberg talked about the kind of second-order issues are involved in this problem.
So, you know, in many cases sex workers and L.G.B.T. issues, the marginalization of L.G.B.T. people leads many of them to find themselves in the position of being sex workers and you can’t actually make progress if you’re not willing to engage.
I had lunch in Turkey about six months ago with a trans sex worker who is an activist there and as I sat there, her and her knee high black vinyl boots and fish net stockings and a tube top and me in my U.S. State Department diplomatic attire, I thought you know this weren’t normal a while back and I’m not sure… I may be the first person to have lunch with a transvestite sex worker for a legitimate business purpose.
And so we’re engaging not only on the first order issues but on the second order issues.
And lastly, one of the things we’re trying to do as Deputy Administrator Steinberg mentioned is we’re looking for the right ways to support people who are working on the ground to make progress around the world.
And one of the things DRL has done in the last 18 months is set up a fund that is basically an emergency support fund for those who get in trouble because of their advocacy on L.G.B.T. issues and over the last year we’ve helped dozens of people in a variety of countries when they’ve come under threat because of the work they’re doing.
So I’ll stop there and leave us some time for questions.
Thanks very much, again, to everybody for being here today.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Dan.
And you were pinch-hitting but I’d say he hit it out of the ballpark.
I think he did a pretty good job.
I think we’ve heard from different perspectives, just the ways in which we are addressing this issue and certainly as Dan mentioned, for those of us that worked on gender issues– and that goes back into the 1970s, when I was 12–
We… these were some of the same questions that came up and some of the factors that made it important for us to push forward.
And what we have heard from here is not only that we’re working at the diplomatic level and that we are engaging in our own diplomacy and our own reporting and our own work, but we are also training our own people in order to be able to do this and we are funding as we look at the many different ways to address it.
But just gathering from the different presentations where we’ve seen the recurrence of different words such as “inclusive,” “partnering.”
Words related to the kinds of very important issues or events such as the human rights council event that are marking the way we’re moving this forward.
One of the things that I wanted to ask particularly, Mike, is the degree to which as you’re looking at gay rights being human rights and you discussed universal declaration of human rights. It’s always wonderful to have Mike on a panel because he will always go back to the source of everything, which is terrific.
But can we frame this a little more in international human rights and think also of international human rights law as we see it more broadly speaking?
Mike Posner: Thanks, Maria.
Yeah, I think it is a logical evolution of all of the work that’s been done over the last 60 some years in fleshing out the standards articulated in the universal declaration and the two covenants, civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.
And it is for me also taking a look at the various practical ways that the State Department, a.i.d., work on any number of issues, going from principle to practical applications.
So what I see happening– and it’s happening at a very quick pace– is that everywhere from the recruitment and training of new foreign service officers, civil servants, these issues are now part of the landscape and so it’s a sensitizing and educational process.
It’s the reporting of these acts of discrimination in the context of our annual human rights reporting.
Again, drawn from the covenants and the international standards, how are governments doing against an international frame?
It’s funding, what Don described so well– and Dan– the defenders fund that we have in DRL it’s diplomatic engagement as we do on a whale range of issues.
This is now part of the menu when Secretary Clinton or Dan or I are out in the world, these are the… part of the sets of issues that we discussed in the frame of international human rights standards.
And it’s public diplomacy.
What’s been so striking to me is how often Secretary Clinton has gone out of her way to raise these issues even when they’re not asked.
She’s making a point– and Cheryl Mills does this, too– of saying this is something that we’re going to be out front on so that the public knows this is not something that’s happening behind the scenes.
We are framing these publicly as human rights issues.
And finally it’s a whole of government approach.
It’s not enough just for DRL at State or AID to be doing it, it’s important that PRM is figuring out what are the particular vulnerabilities of L.G.B.T. refugees.
It’s important that we also go beyond state and look at what’s the rest of the government is doing and finally it’s important as we did with the universal periodic review last year that we lead by example.
This is not just about the rest of the world, it’s about those universal standards being applied in the United States as well and our really being a leader and saying these rights apply at home as well as abroad.
Mario Otero: Thinking about all those different ways in which we’re operating, what you bring to the center stage is the fact that we are now interacting with advocates with whom we really didn’t have a lot of interaction, as Dan said, before.
But many of these advocates are not operating in countries where they have this kind of coverage or this kind of support.
In fact, many of them they are on the ground and they’re in volatile sometimes very vulnerable situations.
So Dan, maybe we can talk a little bit about as you meet with these folks or as we interact with them, they themselves– we know, we’ve been in meetings like this– are… even when they come out really put themselves in considerable danger, especially in some countries that have enormous resistance to this issue.
How do we interact with them then?
How do we provide protection in what do we do in order to make sure that we’re not just exposing them in a way that we are not exposed because we’re protecting them.
Dan Baer: I think that a really important point to make.
It’s not just L.G.B.T. activists who we meet with who may be put at risk by their association with the U.S. government so we’re always trying to be careful, I’m sure, all of us on this panel are trying to be careful and one of the first principles is you don’t force people to meet with you.
You let them decide and you try to help them make sure that they are aware of the risks that they may be taking on by meeting with us.
And try to adapt the situation in a way that best protects them.
My own experience is that by and large the vast majority of people do feel that going to a U.S. embassy, especially those who are already beleaguered and out and advocating, et cetera, going to a U.S. embassy actually does help shine a spotlight on their work.
The moral authority of the United States government and of our embassies and missions around the world is powerful and most of them, I think, feel like it gives a bit of protection, a measure of protection, as well as being an opportunity for us to engage.
But I think one of the things that we can continue to do is not only meet with these people but also one of the things that I’ve been focusing on is, you know, when I travel I often meet with L.G.B.T. activists, I also usually meet with a range of human rights activists and one of the things I’ve been focusing on lately is really encouraging the kind of established leaders of established human rights organizations generally to do their part in terms of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups.
And often it’s women’s groups who are most willing to do this or general human rights organizations, N.G.O.s, et cetera.
They need the support of their local civil society partners as well.
So one of the things that we can do is encourage that kind of support so that they’re less isolated, less standing out on their own, less vulnerable.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Does anybody else want to add to that?
Don Steinberg: Just very briefly.
When I was American ambassador in Angola and someone would step forward on one of these issues, whether it was a question of gender, ethnicity, or L.G.B.T. issues, I would have our human rights official quietly call that person and say “do you want a meeting at the embassy with the ambassador?
Do you want the American flag wrapped around you?”
And frequently they would say yes.
Equally frequently they would say, “Are you kidding”?
That’s the last thing I want.
But, indeed, it is really up to them to make the decision as to whether a connection with the United States is going to be protection or a threat and I think we need to respect that.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Mike Posner: Maria, if I can just add a word to follow up on something that Dan said.
Before coming into government I worked with an N.G.O. and we had a big campaign looking at discrimination and it was in the context of the O.S.C.E., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
And I went to a meeting in Brussels where the discussion was about violence borne out of hate.
Hatred of vulnerable or marginalized populations.
And one of the things that was really striking to me, that was group there with the Roma community, that was group of Jewish activists concerned about anti-Semitism, a group of Muslims in Europe concerned about their situation, L.G.B.T. activists, African refugees.
Each one of the groups felt marginalized and isolated and they were all in effect fighting the same forces or many of the same forces.
And it was so difficult for them to think, oh, my God, we’re not alone, there’s actually others in the same boat if we can only get ourselves together.
So I think that’s one of the things… one of the challenges for us, frankly, is to try to create an organic whole recognizing that these vulnerable groups are often times weaker standing alone, stronger coming together and being part of a larger discussion that we all universal human rights.
Maria Otero: Good.
As you talk about particularly vulnerable groups, I’m reminded also that one set of vulnerable L.G.B.T. population are in the refugee community, those that are especially in situations of conflict, as was mentioned, and themselves become far more exposed when they’re either in a refugee situation or in an asylum-seeking situation.
And through our Population Refugee and Migration bureau I thought it would be good to mention since Assistant secretary Schwartz is not here, I think he would like us to be able to include in this discussion the work that we’re doing in order to address this issue among refugees.
We ourselves have developed a comprehensive strategy for how it is that we would work with refugees in this situation and we are also working with U.N.H.C.R., the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, so that they themselves provide training for their staff who are working refugee camps and who are developing ways in which they can make sure that this population is not discriminated against, is not persecuted but is actually protected effectively.
This is one of the areas that is important and interestingly our Department of Health and Human Services is developing the same thing for those refugees that are asylum seekers who are L.G.B.T. refugees.
Because they themselves also are entering a new community can suffer considerable discrimination.
So I think these are some of the ways in which we’re trying to address this.
And I’m sure AID is doing some of this as well.
And maybe if you… as you address this, it might be also interesting to hear a little bit more from you about the way in which you’re providing funding or how it is that you are really funding activities that are directly related to L.G.B.T.
Don Steinberg: I just wanted to pick up on your other point, though, because if it’s true for refugees it is true in spades for internally displaced people.
In 2005/2006 I was a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent the year going around the world living in I.D.P. (internally displaced persons) camps from Sri Lanka to Sudan and other places and you always found it was marginalized communities who had been marginalized during peacetime who were most vulnerable during that period as well.
And I believe that in general we have pretty good guidance from the interagency steering committee of the United Nations, that we’ve been participating in how to address both sexual violence and other issues of marginalization.
But this is the one issue where the guidance is faulty.
The L.G.B.T. parts of the I.A.S.C. guidance for U.N.H.C.R. is just not sufficient and we are committed to working with P.R.M. as well as ourselves to bring that guidance up to speed.
Maria, in terms of the funding side, the real question here for me is institutionalization of these efforts.
I mean, if we can not achieve results when we have Barack Obama as President and Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State yourself, Michael Posner in senior positions here, Rajiv Shaw and Barry Wells over at U.S.A.I.D., if we can’t achieve results during this period we’ll never be able to do it.
But the question is: Are we institutionalizing this?
Are we creating new points that any future administration will not be able to roll back?
And for me that means building institutions within developing countries in particular where much of the prejudice and discrimination occurs so that these institutions are stronger.
It means developing systems, codes of conduct.
We just adopted a code of conduct for trafficking in persons that provides tough new standards not only for U.S.A.I.D. but for U.S.A.I.D.’s development partners overseas.
We need to do the same in this area.
We need to build partnerships with the American community that cares about these issues and, frankly, has resources to devote to it.
So that long-term relationships are built.
It’s all about sustainability of these actions and about country ownership.
We need also to be looking at second order issues.
Are financial systems prejudiced against the L.G.B.T. communities such that they cannot get financing for entrepreneurships and other considerations.
And so in the whole range of food security, global health, climate change, democracy and governance, economic growth and other areas where we’ve prioritized, these issues have to be in our D.N.A.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Anybody else want to address this mainstreaming challenge that exists?
Dan Baer: It’s related to that but also to where Mike left off in terms of our example in leading by example.
I thought it might be fun to share a couple vignettes of times where this that’s really been driven home in the last year.
One was I met with activists in St. Petersburg and for those of you who have been following the news over the weekend, St. Petersburg Pride parade was disturbed and people were arrested.
I met with folks last summer as they were starting to plan this and I met with this lesbian activist at my hotel, she came to my hotel and the first thing she did was pull out a button that she had been so excited to give me which was a “Harvey Milk for Supervisor button.”
And she talked about how watching that movie had inspired her to become an activist in her community.
And that American story had inspired her… I mean, the ironies of my getting a button from a Russian activist about a San Franciscan who… but it was a… and she teared up as she gave it to me and told me the story.
It reminded me of the power of our example, the way that we institutionalize our commitments and how that has not only had an affect on how we do things but how others do.
And the other more recent story, Mike and I were in Beijing for the Annual China Human Rights Dialogue, the U.S. government’s annual human rights dialogue and I met with a group of L.G.B.T. activists there and they are planning a Pride celebration for later this summer.
It’s really impressive.
They have a great web site, actually.
And one of them told me that they are working on putting together… launching an “it gets better” campaign and that they had seen Secretary Clinton’s and President Obama’s videos and that that was part of their inspiration to try to do the same sort of viral video campaign within China.
And so the ways that we lead do replicate themselves in ways big and small and I think the power of our example is really important to remember.
I also– before giving up the mic– I want to say that I just want to recognize that the Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary have come in since we’ve started and both of them have been… we’ve talked about some of the successes that the Administration has had in this area and both of them have been on the front lines of that and have been crucial to it and I want to recognize them publicly for their work.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
I think we’re about closing up the panel, as we know we are all anticipating the arrival of the Secretary.
But, you know, one of the… I would just put this forth as one of the final questions for consideration.
As we talk about leading with example, we also know that in our own country there’s still a great deal of work to be done and that this effort has to be addressed.
And as we also work in other countries, we are confronted with the social, the cultural, the religious concerns that exist related to L.G.B.T. people.
That governments themselves and that civil society attempt to deal with and that private sector should also be addressing.
So I just wonder if we can just say a few words to close this discussion about how it is that as we look at this governments themselves, the way that we are putting this forth in the Obama Administration could themselves play a role, I think we’re beginning to see this effort take place.
I mentioned Brazil.
Brazil is a very good example of a country that’s not only leading by example but also leading in the region.
So if we could just address that a little bit in the way in which we are all surrounding our own work.
Whoever wants to address it, yes.
Mike Posner: Well, just a couple of things on that as you were speaking.
I was thinking about the role of the private sector and one of the things that’s really been quite striking is how much in the last ten or 15 years we’ve begun to think about the private sector, the corporate sector in particular, as another piece of the puzzle in terms of how we advance our rights agenda abroad.
In the labor area, for example, my bureau does democracy, human rights, and labor.
And one of the things we are now very actively looking at and working on is how to use the global manufacturing supply chains as a way to advance some of our notions about minimal labor rights standards.
Using the American and European companies as a wedge or as a piece of influence, a part of the influence.
So there are American labor practices, we applied them at home.
What does it mean for the American manufacturer when they go to China or India or Bangladesh to produce their products?
There is now a growing body of evidence or body of work that says their responsibilities follow their product line and their brand reputation depends on their having a global strategy for making sure that things produced under their banner are produced in accordance with some universal or international standards for labor rights.
I think the same strategy ought to be implemented here.
As American companies take on greater responsibility with respect to these rights and they operate abroad, we ought to be thinking of them as a natural partner to try to push this universal set of rights not just through the government, but through the private sector.
Maria Otero: Good.
Don Steinberg: If we here in the wrap-up stage, I just wanted to add one thing.
And that is we’re all talking as if we’ve got these answers here.
The truth is we have to have a lot of modesty here.
We don’t really know as well as we should what the issues at play are.
We haven’t even really done the environmental analysis, if I can say that, within U.S.A.I.D.
Right now Claire Lucas and Urvashi Vaid are involved in trying to do an analysis… a landscape analysis at U.S.A.I.D. to see exactly where the gaps are, where the opportunities are, where we’re doing well, but where the challenges are.
And, again, for that purpose we really need the community to help us.
And so this is both a reassertion of our modesty but also a request for your help in guiding us as we move ahead on this important agenda.
Maria Otero: Well, thank you very much.
I think we’ve had an opportunity to cover a great number of issues.