Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to the Republic of Korea and Burma, November 30 – December 2, 2011.
Secretary Clinton will travel to Busan, Republic of Korea November 30 to attend the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Secretary Clinton’s participation reflects the United States’ strong political commitment to development as key pillar of global security, prosperity, and democratic progress. The Busan Meeting represents a landmark opportunity for world leaders to take stock of recent changes in the development landscape and chart a new course for global cooperation. Her visit also underscores the breadth and depth of the U.S.-ROK partnership.
Secretary Clinton will then travel to Nay Pyi Taw and Rangoon, Burma, from November 30 – December 2. This historic trip will mark the first visit to Burma by a U.S. Secretary of State in over a half a century. Secretary Clinton will underscore the U.S. commitment to a policy of principled engagement and direct dialogue as part of our dual-track approach. She will register support for reforms that we have witnessed in recent months and discuss further reforms in key areas, as well as steps the U.S. can take to reinforce progress. She will consult with a broad and diverse group of civil society and ethnic minority leaders to gain their perspectives on developments in the country. Counselor Cheryl Mills, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma Derek Mitchell, and Policy Planning Director Jake Sullivan will accompany her.
Deputy Spokesperson Toner on the Interim Report of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran
We welcome the first interim report by the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, and take note of his assessment regarding the Iranian government’s “pattern of systemic violation” of its citizens’ rights. The UN Secretary General’s report on Iran’s human rights situation also described an “intensified” campaign of abuses.
Under international law and its own constitution, Iran has committed to protect and defend the rights of its people, but officials continue to stifle all forms of dissent, persecute religious and ethnic minorities, harass and intimidate human rights defenders, and engage in the torture of detainees.
Iran’s brutal repression continues unabated despite repeated international condemnation and increasing isolation: opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, now entering their ninth month under house arrest without charges, are being held virtually incommunicado, while journalists and student activists are targeted for their “anti-regime” activities. Dr. Shaheed and the Secretary General both expressed alarm over the growing use of the death penalty for minor crimes, against minors and without due process.
We are particularly concerned that Iran has ignored its UN obligations and refused to cooperate with Dr. Shaheed. We call upon Iran’s government to allow the Special Rapporteur immediate access to the country.
We note that Iran has refused entry for any UN Special Rapporteur since 2005 in a blatant attempt to prevent the world from bearing witness to the abuses against its own people.
The United States stands by the Iranian people, who wish nothing more than to make their voices heard and hold their government accountable for its actions. We call upon the international community to use the occasion of these reports to redouble its condemnation of Iran’s disgraceful abuse of the human rights of all its citizens and demand a change.
Ambassador Kelly’s Response to the Report by the Head of the OSCE Mission in Kosovo Ambassador Werner Almhofer
The United States joins in welcoming Ambassador Almhofer back to the Permanent Council and we thank the Ambassador for his comprehensive report.
Given recent events, it is clear that major transitions are still underway in Kosovo. These transitions present challenges for the international community and demand that our respective roles continue to adapt and evolve. It is also clear that the OSCE Mission in Kosovo plays an important role in engaging communities, supporting democratic development, and promoting a functional state, including in the north of Kosovo.
We commend the work done by the Mission in partnership with Kosovo institutions and NGOs and are confident that this will continue to foster transparency and accountability through good governance. We are pleased to hear of the positive work done on the ground by OMIK field operations during and after the most recent incidents on Kosovo’s border with Serbia. The staff has gained the trust of both the people and the government, a notable success.
I visited your offices in Pristina and Mitrovica and I was deeply impressed by your staff’s dedication and hard work.
Unfortunately, the situation in northern Kosovo is unsustainable. We need to support OMIK’s great work in the field and call for a renewed commitment to community and confidence building efforts among different ethnic groups throughout the country. The work of the Mission in the areas of democratization and communities remains critical to future development. We would advocate increased coordination between OMIK and OMIS in Belgrade to that end. Both OSCE Missions have strong relationships with government institutions as well as various local communities. This is the OSCE’s value added in the region, and we should capitalize on this strength.
The engagement of the ethnic Serb community in Kosovo’s politics and municipal administrations is a critical element for the development of a prosperous, multi-ethnic, democratic state in which minority communities can build a sustainable future through improved local governance and services. Therefore, we strongly support the resumption of the EU-facilitated dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade and remain hopeful that they can establish a condition of positive reciprocity at the border through which people and goods can move freely in both directions between Kosovo and Serbia. We call on both sides, in line with their European aspirations and the economic interests of their countries and the greater region, to resolve this impasse and end their respective trade restrictions.
We expect both to work in good faith and to cooperate on resolving customs and other key practical issues that will improve the lives of people on both sides of the border and help realize both countries’ European perspectives.
On another note, we welcome the progress made by the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX) in securing the necessary personnel, facilities and equipment for its task force investigating the serious allegations contained in Special Rapporteur Dick Marty’s report to the Council of Europe. The selection of Clint Williamson as lead prosecutor, an eminently qualified and experienced prosecutor and former U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, underscores the seriousness with which the United States and EU are approaching the task force’s work. The task force has the full support of the United States, the European Union and EU Member States. We expect a thorough investigation, conducted with transparency and with the full cooperation of local authorities. We welcome pledges made by the governments of Kosovo, Albania and Serbia to cooperate fully with the EULEX investigation.
The development of a multi-ethnic democracy in Kosovo, which protects minority rights and religious freedom, and which has government institutions that can deliver stability and prosperity for its people, is a goal that we should all support, and in our view, the Mission of the OSCE in Kosovo is an important component of the ongoing work toward this goal. The United States will continue to strongly support and assist Kosovo. Continued international engagement in Kosovo will help facilitate its integration into European and regional institutions, such as the OSCE. This will help secure the future for Kosovo and its citizens and will contribute to stability for its neighbors in Europe and the wider OSCE region.
The United States is eager to work constructively with all participating States to identify ways the OSCE can continue to contribute to Kosovo’s stability and the welfare and security of its people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We warmly welcome Ambassador Vollebaek back to the Permanent Council and we thank him for his comprehensive report.
The treatment of minorities is at the heart of many of Europe’s potential, current, and continuing conflicts. As you noted, your work plays a critical role in conflict prevention, particularly in providing early warning. The persistence of tension and conflict over minority issues should compel us to do even more to address not only the causes, but also the conditions that can exacerbate conflict.
This applies most urgently in the case of Kyrgyzstan. President Otunbayeva recently spoke in the Permanent Council about the ongoing challenges her country faces, which are rooted in high levels of nationalism and intolerance. We share your concerns that persistent nationalism will undermine stability in southern Kyrgyzstan, particularly during the upcoming Presidential election.
We believe that the OSCE, together with the international community, must redouble efforts to help restore rule of law and ensure the safety of all persons. We welcome your recommendations for continued OSCE engagement on understanding the June 2010 events, policy reforms affecting minority rights, and police training. We also hope to see the important work of your office to aid in the process of mediation and reconciliation desperately needed in Kyrgyzstan.
We strongly support your continued engagement in Georgia, where your efforts to call attention to the rights and needs of ethnic minorities and internally displaced persons (IDPs) are particularly important. We share your concern over the deteriorating situation in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and continue to urge full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. We continue to call for a greater international presence throughout Georgia, to include the OSCE and other international actors.
Over the years, the situation for minority populations has generally improved as democratic norms have taken hold. Unfortunately, however, the situation for some minorities – including Roma and Sinti – has deteriorated, sometimes significantly. Protecting and promoting the human rights of Roma everywhere has long been a personal commitment for Secretary Clinton and, under the Obama Administration, it is a stated priority of the United States. Like all people, ethnic Roma should have the opportunity to live free from discrimination, enjoy equal access to education, healthcare and employment, and pursue their full potential.
We also share your concerns over persistent violations of minority rights in other OSCE states. It is clear from your report that, while definite advances have been made, there are still significant problems related to minority education in the OSCE area. The divisive education policies observed in several participating States, including restrictions on the ability of persons belonging to national minorities to have adequate opportunities to be educated in their mother tongue, are cause for concern. Such restrictions are always worrying, but particularly so when they take place in separatist areas such as Abkhazia and Transnistria, where the situation is already tense.
We agree with the High Commissioner that such restrictions have the potential to further increase tensions in the region.
Ambassador Vollebaek, your efforts play a crucial role in reducing tensions within and among states through addressing sensitive issues related to national minorities. We are encouraged by the interest expressed by the governments of a number of participating States to implement your recommendations.
We continue to support you and your team, your persistent and even-handed focus on improving education, participation by minorities in public life, the conditions of Roma and Sinti in the OSCE area, and relations between states and minorities in neighboring states with whom they share affinities.
We also look forward to continuing discussion of these issues at the upcoming Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much. It really is an honor and a pleasure for me to be back in Sarajevo, particularly with so many good friends and colleagues in the room. This conference comes at a very timely moment. I am glad to see Bosnia and Herzegovina getting the high-profile attention it deserves and to be able to lend the voice and perspectives of the United States to the discussion.
Let me begin by thanking the conference hosts for having me here and for organizing this conference: The Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University SAIS, especially Executive Director Dan Hamilton, and the America-Bosnia Foundation, especially President Sasha Toperich. CTR and the America-Bosnia Foundation are uniquely equipped to put on such a conference and they have done a superb job of assembling an outstanding group of scholars and practitioners. I would also like to thank the conference sponsors, including the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo, led by Ambassador Patrick Moon, who is also here today. Indeed, it is a tribute to the importance and timeliness of this conference that in a difficult economic climate, so many internationally renowned foundations – 15 in all from the United States and Europe – have so generously contributed. Finally, let me thank Mike Haltzel, not just for organizing this conference but for his long and constant dedication to Balkans issues, first in the United States Senate and more recently in his role at SAIS.
I first visited Sarajevo in 1994, at a time when Bosnia and Herzegovina was still in the grips of the terrible war that would take the lives of over 100,000 people and displace millions of others. I don’t need to remind this audience of the horrors that took place during those dark years or of all the hard work Bosnians have done since then to rebuild this country. The United States and NATO, particularly, made an enormous investment in peace and stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And with our help, but mostly as a result of your own efforts, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come a long way since.
For the United States, our commitment to Bosnia and Herzegovina is an integral part of our long-standing commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, democratic, and at peace. We believe strongly in the idea that all of Europe must join the Euro-Atlantic institutions and realize the benefits of stability and prosperity. The Balkans are a critical part of Europe—historically, geographically and culturally and its future lies within the Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States will always support an open door to the European Union and to NATO and we will always be ready to help countries to walk through that door.
As part of this commitment, we take pride in what we have done with and for the Bosnian people. And our commitment continues in the Obama Administration, as demonstrated by the persistent diplomatic attention that Bosnia and Herzegovina receives. Vice-President Biden came here on one of his very first trips as Vice President, in May 2009; Secretary of State Clinton traveled here this past October, and Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg has visited this country six times during his tenure, more than any other country in the world except Japan. Congress also takes a deep interest in developments here, as the frequent Congressional delegations to Sarajevo will attest.
Many officials in this administration have deep a personal connection with Bosnia. Our professional identities, our understanding of international diplomacy, and even our careers were forged in the crucible of the Balkans War of the 1990s. Over the years, the United States has sent tens of thousands of American soldiers and diplomats to establish and keep the peace. We’ve invested roughly 1.5 billion dollars to help rebuild, strengthen public institutions, foster better education and promote economic development. We provide $300 million a year to help Western Balkans countries meet EU and NATO requirements. We are deeply and personally invested in the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In short, we have been your friends. And friends sometimes need to speak to each other bluntly. Bosnia and Herzegovina has made great progress since the horrors of the 1990s. But it in the last four or five years, it has not moved in the right direction. There has been a dangerous rise in nationalist rhetoric. The institutions of the state and the Dayton settlement have been brazenly challenged. There have been attempts to roll back the reforms that are necessary for Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the EU and NATO. In general, Bosnian politicians have been too willing to stoke ethnic fears and to privilege their own personal political interests over the needs of the people they are supposed to represent.
If this does not stop – and again I owe it to my friends here to be blunt – then Bosnia risks being left behind, as the rest of the region moves forward.
We can already see this happening. With the help of the international community, many states in this region are making progress: Slovenia joined the EU in 2004; Albania and Croatia joined NATO in 2009; Croatia’s EU candidacy is steadily advancing, following the favorable recommendation by the European Commission just last week. Macedonia will join NATO as soon as its name dispute is resolved. Kosovo recently celebrated the 3rd year of its independence and continues to progress as a multi-ethnic democracy. Montenegro, only five years since independence, already has EU candidacy status and is a full participant in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. Serbia has applied for EU candidacy and is making progress along that path, including through the recent arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic.
Of course, all of these countries still have a lot of work to do to realize their aspirations: Serbia and Kosovo particularly need to advance in their dialogue and to work creatively to resolve their differences before they can move much further along their path to EU membership. Throughout the Balkans, people are free from violence, but they often do not have jobs. Hatreds have eased but dangerous nationalism and prejudice persists.
So Bosnia is hardly the only country in the region to face major challenges. But whereas other countries in the region are managing to make progress, however halting, in their efforts to join Europe—Bosnia and Herzegovina is not.
To get back on the right path, Bosnia must be able to function as a state that can deliver results for all of its citizens. Reforms are needed for their own sake, but they are also necessary to meet EU requirements and the country’s international obligations. Only greater integration into Europe will provide the stability and opportunity that the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina want for their children.
Bosnia’s leaders specifically need to make progress in three areas: government formation, respect for state institutions and the Dayton Framework, and governmental reform.
The first is state-level government formation. It has been eight months since the elections and this country still does not have a state-level government. Without a broad-based coalition government, Bosnia cannot make the decisions necessary to progress on the Euro-Atlantic reform agenda.
Efforts in the parliament to start the process for appointment of Chairman of the Council of Ministers are a step in the right direction. But it is disappointing that we still have not seen a serious initiative from any political party leader to form a governing coalition.
There is no time to lose. Unless a government is formed soon, the economic consequences will be felt far and wide. Moody’s has already downgraded the country’s credit rating from “stable” to “negative” due to the stalemate. Deficit spending will result in budget shortfalls in both entities later this year, but the IMF and other international financial institutions have made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina will not be able to access additional lending until a new state government is in place. Pensioners, veterans and other vulnerable groups whose benefits have already taken a hit will see deeper reductions.
Every day that passes without a government Bosnia and Herzegovina falls further behind its neighbors and increases the risk that Bosnia and Herzegovina will fall off the European path. In this context, it is irresponsible for any party to block formation of a government based on maximalist demands, be it a claim on a certain number of positions in the Council of Ministers or for a specific ministerial appointment. All must be prepared to compromise. Those who refuse to consider any compromise are playing into the hands of those who seek to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capacity to function as a state. I will be meeting this afternoon with some of the major party leaders and will be looking forward to hearing from the constructive ideas about how to form a state-level government in the very near future.
The responsibility to form a government that can advance the well being of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina should supersede any personal or political concern.
Respect for State Institutions and the Dayton Framework
Second, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians need to demonstrate their commitment to the Dayton Framework and their willingness to abide by the decisions of state institutions.
Like other members of the international community, the United States has repeatedly reaffirmed our support for the Dayton framework – one state, two vibrant entities, three constituent peoples – to reassure all the peoples of the country that their future is secure within Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that the goal is a more functional — not a more centralized — country, capable of meeting European integration requirements.
Similar efforts at reassurance have been made by some politicians in Sarajevo, including by President Bakir Izetbegovic, who has made conciliatory statements and offered greater flexibility on key reforms required by NATO and the EU. In return, others have intensified separatist rhetoric and sought to undermine Bosnia and Herzegovina’s state institutions and OHR.
One of the most recent challenges to the state was the April 13 decision by the RS assembly to call a referendum on High Representative decisions and on the legitimacy of the BiH Court and Prosecutor’s Office.
The RS decision to step back from a referendum has headed off an immediate crisis. I hope that the leadership in Banja Luka uses this opportunity to reevaluate its approach—the challenges made by the RS assembly to the Dayton Framework are not acceptable. They are incompatible with the goal of European integration. The leaders and the people of the RS need to decide whether they want to have a relationship with the United States and with Europe or not.
Those who think they can outwait us and our Allies on the Peace Implementation Council Steering Board are wrong. As I have already made clear, the United States has a significant personal and political investment here. We will not give up on Bosnia and Herzegovina or its people.
We will continue to defend and strengthen existing state institutions, like the BiH State Court and Prosecutors Office, which are doing critical work to combat terrorism, organized crime and to bring war criminals to justice; and the Indirect Tax Administration, which had ensured a dedicated revenue stream for the BiH government.
We will continue to promote further reforms, including of the constitution, as are necessary for a functional state and for Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet EU accession requirements. And we will stand behind the High Representative and his decisions. We will not permit the closure of the Office of the High Representative until the agreed reform agenda is completed.
We also welcome the EU’s determination to play a leading role in supporting positive change and protecting against threats to stability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. EU High Representative Ashton has named Peter Sorensen, a senior diplomat with 15 years of experience in the Balkans, to lead this EU effort. As Secretary Clinton wrote last week in an article co-authored with UK Foreign Secretary Hague, the United States “will be strongly supportive of Ambassador Sorensen, using all of the levers available to achieve progress, while working in close partnership with the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative.”
And we will be prepared to take measures against any individuals and organizations that threaten to undermine the stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. All levels of government in Bosnia must accept and respect Dayton.
Finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina must move forward with the governmental reforms necessary for NATO and EU integration.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future lies in its integration into Europe, specifically membership in NATO and the EU. Once the state level government is formed, we expect Bosnia and Herzegovina to move forward quickly to resolve the defense property issue so that it can participate in NATO’s Membership Action Plan. The EU has made clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina must take three steps in order to be considered for candidate status: establish a serious process to change the constitution to accommodate the Sejdic-Finci decision, act on state aid provisions, and conduct a census. In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina needs a well-functioning government at the state level that will have the power to engage effectively with Brussels and to participate effectively in the EU accession process.
We are convinced this is possible while protecting and preserving the decentralized government structures established in the Dayton constitution.
But it will require reform, including of the constitution. The most immediate change necessary to comply with basic EU human rights standards following the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdic-Finci case. And there will need to be additional changes over the longer term to ensure the state has sufficient functionality and decision-making capacity to comply with EU and NATO standards. Although the EU accession process will be difficult, it is the only viable alternative for this country. Threats to abandon the process or not participate are incompatible with the needs of the people.
Reform is also imperative in the entities. The Federation has far more government than it can afford. Years of mismanagement, corruption and political infighting by the previous government have exacerbated the problem. Last year the government had to adopt emergency austerity measures just to avoid bankruptcy and the new Federation government still faces serious funding issues. The most recent EU progress report singled out the Federation in particular as being incompatible with EU accession criteria.
The new Federation government has gotten off to a good start. It has a fresh opportunity to make progress on privatizations, which have languished for years due to corruption and political infighting, as well as on education and economic reforms.
We regret that the HDZ parties declined to accept a compromise that would have included them in the coalition. No political party can claim the exclusive right to represent an entire ethnic group.
But we also recognize the concerns of those citizens who feel that the new government does not include representatives that they elected or who are committed to representing their interests.
It is incumbent upon the new government to demonstrate that it is acting in the interests of all of the entity’s citizens. It is understandable that Bosnian Croats, as the least numerous of the three constituent peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, are concerned about their status within the Federation. But redrawing new internal boundaries to add a new entity or other layers of complexity to an already overly complicated government is unrealistic. We welcome recent steps by HDZ parties to participate actively in the Federation parliament.
The Republika Srpska faces its own serious economic challenges. The entity has exhausted all of its reserves from the RS telecom and oil refinery privatizations and now faces a $500 million deficit. Last year the RS economy grew at an anemic 1 percent. The forecast for this year is not much better. Provocative political rhetoric and attacks on the independence of the state judiciary is driving away foreign investment, which is a tenth of what it was just three years ago. The Republika Srspka would be much better off if its leaders focused more improving the economy and thus on serving the needs of the citizens rather than on promoting greater division within the country. A positive step would be to discuss with the Federation ways to harmonize their regulations and to promote inter-entity economic cooperation.
The Path to Europe
These steps together constitute a path toward Europe. If Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians make the necessary choices and compromises, we will be there to help with resources and political support. As Secretary Clinton said here in October, “The bonds between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the United States have been forged through harsh trials and historic triumphs and today we remain committed.”
But you should understand that our commitment will mean little if Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot summon the will to help itself. We stand ready to advise, assist and support, but we cannot do it alone. We need partners who share this vision and who are prepared to compromise for the greater good.
The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve better; they deserve a Euro-Atlantic future. The young people of this country, particularly, want and deserve to join the European mainstream, to travel and work abroad, and to take advantage of all that the modern world has to offer. There are courageous actors in this country, many of whom are represented at this conference, who understand what needs to be done. Each of you has responsibility to work in interests of all Bosnians and Herzegovinians, to work across ethnic lines, and to avoid feeding ethnic fears. We are confident that, in so doing, you can overcome your divisions and build a European state, just like so many other Europeans before you.
No one can do this for you. But I can tell you that if you try, the United States will be with you every step of the way.
Thank you very much.
Thanks to the support provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Colombian Ombudsman’s Office, the final round of the Seventh Human Rights’ University Contest will take place today in Santa Marta. This contest seeks to promote the inclusion of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (IHL) into the country’s undergraduate academic curricula and encourage university students’ commitment to the respect, legitimacy, and guarantee of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.
Participants who made it to the finals are students from Universidad EAFIT in Medellin and the Universidad Libre in Pereira. The judges of the contest are two auxiliary magistrates from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights: Horacio Guerrero-Garcia, Delegate Defender for Indigenous Affairs and Ethnic Minorities and Congresswoman Orfinia Polanco-Jusayú, Representative for the Indigenous constituency. Also on the judges panel is Tatiana Rincon-Covelli, Consultant for the Ombudsman’s Office and Human Rights Specialist.
The winning university will receive two tickets to send a couple of students from the winning team to the Annual Human Rights Inter-American Contest organized by the American University in Washington D.C., two internships at the Ombudsman’s Office (either at central or regional levels), and a collection of books on human rights and IHL.
Participants who make it to the finals will have to analyze, under the supervision of a mentor, a hypothetical case of a human rights violation involving government officials. The contest includes mock trials to promote students’ capacity for analysis and investigation, the quality of the written material and how they argue their cases. This year’s hypothetical case issue will involve the rights of indigenous communities. There will be 73 teams from around the country a 46% increase from last year’s event.
The protection and defense of human rights is a priority for the U.S. Government and, in Colombia, it does not focus exclusively high-level dialogues with the Colombian Government, but it seeks to promote academic spaces where these issues may be discussed more thoroughly. The U.S. Embassy supports this contest as a valuable opportunity to raise the level of awareness among young people on the importance of defending human rights.