On behalf of the American people, I congratulate the recipients of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee of Liberia, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen. Today’s award honors three extraordinary individuals, and sends a powerful message that the struggle for universal rights and human dignity can only be fulfilled with the full participation of women around the globe.
President Sirleaf has inspired the world through her journey from a prisoner to the first female President of her country. She has helped Liberia emerge from years of civil war and make great strides toward reconstruction and a democracy that values the contributions of all Liberians, including its women. As a warrior for peace, Leymah Gbowee led her fellow Liberian women as they bravely stood their ground against a brutal dictator in a non-violent struggle to bring peace to their country and realize a full voice for Liberian women. In Yemen, Tawakkul Karman and her fellow women activists were among the first to take to the streets this year to demand their universal rights, and despite the threats and violence waged against peaceful protestors, she has remained a powerful voice for non-violence in a country where guns outnumber people.
Each of this year’s Nobel recipients have their own story, but their lives reveal a fundamental truth. Nations are ultimately more successful when all of their citizens can reach their full potential, including women. When women and girls have access to proper health care, families are healthier and communities are less subject to the ravages of disease and hunger. When women and girls have the opportunity to pursue their education and careers of their own choosing, economies are more likely to prosper. And when women assume their rightful place as equals– in the halls of government, at the negotiating table and across civil society– governments are more effective, peaceful resolution of disputes are more lasting, and societies are more likely to meet the aspirations of all their citizens.
I commend President Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman for showing the world that the rights and voices of half of humanity cannot and will not be denied. And I reaffirm the commitment of the United States to advance the rights and role of women everywhere, in our own country and around the world.
Statement by Laurie Shestack Phipps, at a Session of the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee on Advancement of Women
(Remarks as delivered)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We are pleased that the Third Committee is devoting its attention to this important agenda item on the advancement of women, and we thank Executive Director Bachelet for her informative and insightful report. We send heartfelt congratulations to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Yemeni activist Tawakkul Karman, and Liberian peace activist Leymah Roberta Gbowee for the prestigious honor of sharing this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. As Secretary Clinton said last week, “They are shining examples of the difference that women can make and the progress they can help achieve when given the opportunity to make decisions about the future of their societies and countries.” We also express our sadness at the recent passing of Professor Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and we celebrate her life and accomplishments.
The United States has made the empowerment of women and girls a guiding principle both at home and abroad, and we continue to incorporate women’s empowerment into all aspects of our foreign policy and international development assistance. Today I would like to focus on two areas in which women’s empowerment has become increasingly critical: the need to ensure women’s full political participation, especially during times of transition; and the issue of women’s equal right to nationality.
While we celebrate the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winners and their achievements, we need to remember that across the globe, women’s voices in political decision-making are still muted. Discriminatory laws and practices persist. If women cannot be equal partners in the political process, especially in times of transformation, nothing less than the development, economic prosperity, and stability of their nations is put at risk.
Recently, in the Middle East and North Africa, women often risked their lives to lead street protests and call for an end to repression. But after pressing for democracy, some of the same women now face exclusion from key political negotiations.
In this context, we commend the UN’s work to highlight the costs of excluding women from the political process. UN Women did just this in the high-level event on “Women’s Political Participation” that it hosted on the margins of the General Assembly’s general debate last month. At that successful event, Secretary of State Clinton, alongside leaders from UN Women, UNDP, and a diverse group of countries, spoke out about the need to ensure women’s involvement in all aspects of political processes and decision-making. They also signed a Joint Statement on advancing women’s political participation, which President Obama highlighted in his address to the General Assembly last month. As President Obama said, “no country can realize its potential if half its population cannot reach theirs.” President Obama challenged all states, including our own, to announce next year the steps they are taking to break down the economic and political barriers facing women and girls.
UN Women, under Michelle Bachelet’s strong leadership, and other parts of the UN system also have a key role in helping to break down those barriers. This Committee can contribute to that effort. To that end, the United States, joined by cross-regional co-sponsors, will be tabling a resolution on women’s political participation, with emphasis on periods of democratic political transition, for this Committee’s consideration. The United States and the other co-sponsors welcome broad cross-regional co-sponsorship and support for the resolution, which builds on our previous resolution 58/142.
Another important aspect of women’s empowerment that deserves all of our attentions is the issue of women’s equal right to nationality. In particular, the consequences of nationality laws that discriminate against women are not sufficiently recognized. Such discriminatory laws have consequences that deprive women and their families of legal protections in their countries of residence, often for generations, and can ultimately lead to statelessness. In many cases, nationality laws permit only a child’s father to transmit his citizenship or discriminatorily limit the ability of the mother to do so. In some cases, nationality laws strip women of their citizenship upon marriage to a foreign spouse, or prohibit women’s foreign spouses from naturalization. Without recognition by any state, stateless persons typically lack identity documentation, and cannot register births, marriages, or deaths. Without such documentation, they often cannot work legally or travel freely. They cannot vote, open a bank account, or own property, and they often lack access to health care and other public services. Without birth registration or citizenship documents, children are often barred from attending school. For these reasons, stateless women and their families are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including gender-based violence, trafficking in persons, and arbitrary arrest and detention.
The United States is seeking to raise global awareness of this under-recognized problem for women’s rights and human rights—a problem that exists in as many as 30 countries around the world. Women’s nationality rights are a factor in determining their political, economic and social empowerment, and influence their ability to contribute to democratic governance, peace and stability, and economic development in their countries. The United States urges governments throughout the world to repeal discriminatory nationality laws, and commends civil society groups that continue to advocate for women’s equal right to nationality. We support the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ global mandate to prevent and reduce statelessness, including by providing technical assistance to eliminate discrimination against women in nationality laws. And we encourage other UN agencies, such as UN Women, UNDP, and UNICEF, to strengthen their work on this important issue.
Today I have focused on just two areas where together we can do much to empower women. Much remains to be done in other areas to advance women, including women’s health, violence against women, economic empowerment, and education for girls. The United States remains committed to working with all of you on these areas as well. Together, we can ensure that women can contribute fully to peace, security, development, and prosperity.
“This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
–President Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011
President Obama has made empowering the world’s women and girls a guiding principle of his Administration. At home and abroad, the President understands that the world can no longer afford to do without the full contributions of half of its population: women and girls. When social order breaks down, when natural and man-made disasters hit, when the world’s economy slows, it is women and girls who suffer most. At the same time, evidence shows that women’s empowerment is necessary to maintain international peace and security, to build stable, democratic societies, to grow vibrant market economies, and to address pressing health and education challenges.
That’s why the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps at home to empower women and girls to realize their full potential, and steps abroad to put women front and center in our diplomatic and development assistance initiatives.
Since the day he took office, President Obama has fought for American women and girls, achieving historic victories that give them the support they need to succeed, while ending the discrimination that holds them back. President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy. From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, to nominating two women to the Supreme Court, the Obama Administration has ushered in a new era of gender equality. And in March of 2011, the Council on Women and Girls published “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years. Over the past two and a half years, additional examples of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments in support of women and girls have included:
-Ensuring Equal Pay for America’s Women: The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law was Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination, including giving women who have been discriminated against in their salaries their day in court to make it right. And President Obama has convened an Equal Pay Task Force to ensure that existing equal pay laws are fully enforced. The President also continues to advocate for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that gives women the tools they need to fight pay discrimination.
-Securing Affordable and Accessible Health Care for America’s Women: For the first time, the Institute of Medicine has set forth guidelines for women’s preventive health care, and, as part of the Affordable Care Act, new insurance plans must cover these services, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, gestational diabetes, with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy, and it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
-Creating Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women: President Obama has taken a number of vital steps to ensure that women in America have true economic security. Just most recently he sent the American Jobs Act to Congress – a bill that would save 280,000 teacher jobs, modernize 35,000 public schools, extend unemployment insurance for more than 2.6 million women, support 900,000 women who own small businesses by cutting their payroll taxes in half, give companies incentives to hire the long-term unemployed including 2.8 million women, and create new job-training opportunities for women who want to break into traditionally male-dominated fields like construction.
-Preventing Violence Against Women: In July 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, bringing new tools and resources to tribal communities to address the high rates of violence committed against Native American women. In April 2011, Vice President Biden announced historic new guidelines for schools and universities about their responsibilities under federal civil rights law to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
-Integrating Women into U.S. Foreign Policy: The State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review prioritized the empowerment of women as a key element of U.S. foreign policy, and its implementation will institutionalize the integration of U.S. support to women across the Department and USAID.
-Promoting Women as Central to U.S. Development Efforts: Through the creation of a new Agency-wide policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment, USAID is ensuring better development results through enhanced attention to gender globally; and through the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, State, USAID, MCC and the Peace Corps are investing in women, families, communities, and nations.
-Advancing Women’s Economic Participation: As evidenced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s September 2011 Women and the Economy Summit, the first-ever high-level ministerial on women and the economy held in the United States and Chaired by Secretary of State Clinton, the United States is building consensus among regional partners to maximize women’s contributions towards economic growth.
-Advancing Efforts on Women’s Political Participation: From the Declaration on Women’s Political Participation signed by Secretary Clinton and other women leaders at the UN this week, to its actions in support of women as critical actors in conflict prevention and peacemaking, the United States continues to support efforts to elevate women’s leadership, to build the capacity of women legislators, to expand access to technology and the technology industry, and to increase the role of women in peace processes and democratic transitions.
Building on this knowledge and these efforts, in his Address today, the President challenged the assembled heads of state to announce, with him and in a year’s time, new steps that their governments will take to break down barriers and ensure women participate fully and equally in their countries’ economic and political spheres. Over the coming year, the Obama Administration stands ready to work with its partners in the international community, civil society, and the private sector, as well as with the UN and other international organizations, to broaden and deepen efforts to increase equal economic and political opportunity for women around the world. The President expects that this effort will take different forms in different countries, but may include commitments aimed at:
-Investing in women’s and girls’ health and education;
-Eliminating barriers that hinder women’s access to property, inheritance, capital and markets, while supporting women farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs;
-Implementing policies to ensure women are paid equal wages for equal work;
-Working to ensure that both men and women can contribute fully in the workplace while attending to family needs;
-Examining and amending discriminatory laws and practices;
-Reflecting on and revisiting attitudinal biases;
-Taking steps to increase women’s participation in elections and governance bodies;
-Enhancing the international community’s ability to respond effectively to the needs of women and girls in disaster and conflict-affected countries;
-Implementing steps to increase women’s participation in decision-making affecting peace and international security;
-Preventing sexual and gender-based violence; and
-Supporting UN Women and other national and international actors focused on women’s rights, protection, and empowerment.
In keeping with the President’s challenge, over the coming year, the White House Council on Women and Girls and National Security Staff will coordinate the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to support women’s political and economic empowerment at home and with partners abroad. President Obama looks forward to joining his fellow heads of state in jointly announcing progress made on these worthy efforts in the year to come.
The Obama Administration has dramatically changed America’s course at the United Nations to advance our interests and values and help forge a more secure and prosperous world. We have repaired frayed relations with countries around the world. We have ended needless American isolation on a range of issues. And as a consequence, we have gotten strong cooperation on things that matter most to our national security interest.
What the President calls a “new era of engagement” has led to concrete results at the UN that advance U.S. foreign policy objectives and American security. The dividends of U.S. leadership at the UN are tangible – the stiffest UN sanctions ever against Iran and North Korea, renewed momentum to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, strong sanctions and an unprecedented mandate to intervene and save lives in Libya, support for the historic and peaceful independence of Southern Sudan, vital UN assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq, vigorous defense of our staunch ally Israel, lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable in the Horn of Africa and initial progress in improving the flawed UN Human Rights Council. In a world of 21st-century threats that pay no heed to borders, rebuilding a strong basis for international cooperation has allowed the United States to work together with others to solve common problems at the United Nations, making the American people more secure.
The President’s vision for a world without nuclear weapons includes a realistic path to get there. Several significant milestones on this important Administration priority have taken place at the UN.
UN Security Council Resolution 1887: In September 2009, the United States held the presidency of the UN Security Council, and President Obama chaired an historic Council Summit on nonproliferation and disarmament, culminating in the unanimous passage of Security Council Resolution 1887. This U.S.-drafted resolution reaffirmed the international community’s commitment to the global nonproliferation regime based on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, supported better security for nuclear weapons materials to prevent terrorists from acquiring materials essential to make a bomb, and made clear that all countries need to comply with their international nuclear obligations.
Iran: In June 2010, the United Nations Security Council voted overwhelmingly to put in place the toughest UN sanctions regime ever faced by the Iranian government for its continued failure to live up to its obligations, sending an unmistakable message about the international community’s commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. The new sanctions in Resolution 1929 impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, its ballistic missile program, and its ability to acquire certain conventional weapons. They put a new framework in place to stop Iranian smuggling and crack down on Iran’s use of banks and financial transactions to fund proliferation. They also target individuals, entities, and institutions -– including those associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps –- that have supported Iran’s nuclear program and prospered from illicit activities at the expense of the Iranian people. The U.S. continues to ensure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced, just as we continue to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran alongside those of our friends and allies.
North Korea: In response to North Korea’s announced 2009 nuclear test, the United States secured the unanimous adoption of Security Council Resolution 1874, which put in place a tough array of sanctions, including asset freezes, financial sanctions, a broad-based embargo on arms exports and imports, and an unprecedented framework for the inspection of suspect vessels. Since the adoption of Resolution 1874, countries have intercepted and seized tons of contraband cargo. These interdictions show that countries are taking seriously their obligations to enforce these tough new measures. The United States will continue to press on sanctions implementation until there is concrete, verifiable progress on denuclearization.
NPT Review Conference: In May 2010, NPT parties adopted by consensus a Final Document that advances a realistic path towards a world without nuclear weapons. This document includes calls for strengthened verification and compliance, recognizes the New START agreement and the need for deeper reductions of nuclear weapons, and calls for the entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the immediate start of talks on a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty. It also supports efforts to pursue international fuel banks and related mechanisms to broaden access to peaceful nuclear energy without creating new proliferation risks. This major achievement is a vindication of the broad thrust of U.S. efforts to inject new energy and renewed effort into stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.
UN Security Council Resolution 1977: In April 2011, the Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1977, underscoring the vital importance of the Committee established pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 1540 by extending its mandate for an additional ten years. The 1540 Committee is charged with assisting UN Member States in the implementation of UNSCR 1540’s obligations to take and enforce effective measures against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their means of delivery, and related materials, important elements in achieving U.S. nonproliferation objectives. The United States is making a $3 million donation to the United Nations trust fund for global and regional disarmament to help the Committee in its implementation efforts.
Bolstering Progress in Afghanistan and Iraq
Afghanistan: Since 2009, the United States has pursued a strategy in Afghanistan that places much greater emphasis on the role of international civilian assistance, while our troops work to secure the country and transition to a mission in support of Afghan security forces taking responsibility for their own security. To support this goal, the United States has worked to ensure that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has the resources and political support to carry out its vital mission to lay the foundation for a sustainable peace and a prosperous future, including providing assistance with security, elections, governance, economic development, and humanitarian assistance. The United States will continue to work to strengthen all aspects of the UN presence in the country so that UNAMA can best complement efforts to support the Government of Afghanistan by the United States and the International Security Assistance Force and better coordinate donor support.
Iraq: The United States and the international community are keeping their commitments to the Government and the people of Iraq, and as the United States is completing the withdrawal of U.S. forces, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) continues to play a critical role. The United States strongly supports the work of the UNAMI as it continues to provide important technical assistance to the Government of Iraq, assists displaced persons in Iraq and provides humanitarian assistance. Additionally, the United States played a key role in the passage of three resolutions that mark an important milestone in normalizing Iraqi ties to the international community that were significantly limited when Iraq was ruled by Saddam Hussein. The Security Council, in a special session chaired by Vice President Biden, passed Resolutions 1956, 1957 and 1958 to help return Iraq to the legal and international standing it held prior to the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Promoting American Values
Protecting Civilians in Libya: In March, the United Nations took unprecedented quick and strong action to protect civilians in Libya. Resolution 1973 provided legal authority for the international community to intervene to save lives in Libya. The resolution authorized states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians and enforce a no-fly zone, saving countless lives. The Security Council also imposed on the Qadhafi regime and on Libya’s major financial institutions a sweeping regime of financial sanctions and other measures to pressure the Qadhafi regime to end its brutal crackdown on demonstrators. Among other things, Resolutions 1970 and 1973 provided for an arms embargo, a ban on flights by Libyan-operated aircraft and asset freezes and travel bans on Qadhafi and his inner circle. These measures helped to isolate the Qadhafi regime from the international financial system, restricting its ability to fund military operations and to maintain support in Tripoli.
The people of Libya are now taking the initial steps to rebuild their country and transition to an inclusive democracy. There are still many issues to be resolved in the coming days, but the United States is very encouraged by early the steps the TNC has taken. The United States, the United Nations, and our international partners are helping the TNC build a government that reflects the aspirations of the Libyan people. The United States and our partners have worked through the United Nations to unfreeze billions of dollars in order for Libya to get access to their state assets to meet critical humanitarian needs. The United States will continue to work with the TNC to ensure that these funds are disbursed in a transparent, accountable manner. The United States is also providing over $90 million to UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs to address humanitarian needs generated by the crisis in Libya.
Moreover, the Security Council has adopted a new resolution to promote Libya’s recovery from its recent conflict and support its transition to a free society. This resolution mandates a new, three-month UN mission that will assist Libyan efforts to restore security and the rule of law, protect human rights, and undertake an inclusive political dialogue towards establishing a democratic government. It also begins the process of unwinding the UN sanctions that were imposed last spring. Although some measures will remain in place, ensuring that funds previously frozen are released in a transparent and responsible way, the Libyan authorities are now able to pursue a reenergized Libyan economy.
Promoting a Peaceful Transition to South Sudan Independence: On July 9, the Republic of South Sudan celebrated its independence. This action took place following months of intensified diplomatic efforts in the lead up to the historic, peaceful referendum on independence in January. Much of this work was accomplished working within or alongside the United Nations, including last year’s high-level meeting at which President Obama delivered remarks to galvanize international action to ensure a credible and timely referendum.
The United States continues to work closely with the UN and other international partners to support full implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and improve the humanitarian situation on the ground. In June, the Security Council created UNISFA, a UN peacekeeping force that will monitor the redeployment of armed forces from the Abyei area and that is authorized to use force to protect civilians and humanitarian workers. In July, the Security Council created UNMISS, a new UN peacekeeping force in the Republic of South Sudan, to consolidate peace and security and to help establish conditions for economic and political development.
The United States continues to work to end genocide and conflict in Darfur, including by supporting the joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission (UNAMID), and calling for the Government of Sudan to end aerial bombardments, improve conditions and freedoms on the ground, and allow humanitarian access.
Horn of Africa Famine: With more than 13.3 million people—primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia—in need of emergency assistance in the Horn of Africa, the United Nations is at the forefront of a large-scale international response, and the United States is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to the region, providing over $600 million in life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in need. Much of this funding is funneled through various UN agencies and supports humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and other drought affected populations.
Additionally, the United States helped garner international support for the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), including by supporting UN funding to keep international peacekeepers in the country. The United States has been a strong supporter of recent efforts to augment the number of troops deployed in AMISOM, which now has a force of nearly 9,600. Since AMISOM’s deployment in 2007, the United States has obligated more than $258 million in assistance to AMISOM and over $85 million to the Somali transitional government’s National Security Force.
Standing up for Israel at the UN: The Obama Administration has consistently and forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system. President Obama has pledged that we will “continue U.S. efforts to combat all international attempts to challenge the legitimacy of Israel — including and especially at the United Nations.”
When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it. When the 2009 Durban Review Conference advanced anti-Israel sentiment, we withdrew. When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate. When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself. When anti-Israel resolutions come up at the UN Human Rights Council, the General Assembly, UNESCO, and elsewhere, we consistently oppose them.
Strengthening UN Peacekeeping and Conflict Prevention Efforts
Improving Peacekeeping Effectiveness: In his first visit as President to the United Nations, President Obama hosted the first-ever meeting with the leaders of the top troop-contributing nations to UN peacekeeping operations, underscoring America’s commitment to this vital tool, which allows countries around the world to share the burden for protecting civilians and supporting fragile peace processes in societies emerging from war. The U.S. continues to advance initiatives to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities, including by seeking to expand the number, capacity, and effectiveness of troop and police contributors, helping secure General Assembly approval for vital peacekeeping reforms, and working with fellow Security Council members to craft more credible and achievable mandates for operations in Haiti, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and several other current operations.
Haiti: After the devastating earthquake of January 2010, which claimed the lives of over 100 UN personnel and the UN Mission’s leadership, the United States worked extremely closely with the UN to help the Government of Haiti ensure security and deliver vital humanitarian relief to the people of Haiti. Tens of thousands of U.S. forces were able to withdraw from Haiti within a few months, as countries from Latin America and around the world moved quickly to share the burden and augment the UN peacekeeping presence. In addition, the total U.S. 2010 and 2011 humanitarian assistance funding provided is $1.2 billion for the earthquake and $75 million for cholera.
Liberia: The United States built an international consensus to maintain a robust UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) peacekeeping operation for an additional 12 months, ensuring continued support for the 2011 elections. Security Council resolution 2008, which was adopted unanimously on September 17, also calls for a technical assessment mission in spring of 2012 to evaluate potential reductions in UNMIL’s authorized strength.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): The United States continues to champion improved protection of civilians, especially by demanding an end to the epidemic of rape and gender-based violence. The United States has worked successfully to secure new Security Council sanctions against key leaders of armed groups operating in the DRC, including one individual linked to crimes involving sexual and gender based violence and child soldier recruiting. Additionally, the United States led the adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that supported, for the first time, due diligence guidelines for individuals and companies operating in the mineral trade in Eastern Congo and agreed to practice due diligence when considering targeted sanctions.
Ivory Coast: In April, the United States welcomed the end of former President Laurent Gbabgo’s illegitimate claim to power in Ivory Coast, following robust implementation of Security Council Resolution 1975, which demanded that Gbagbo step down as President, imposed sanctions on him and his close associates, reaffirmed the international recognition given to Alassane Ouattara as President of Ivory Coast, and reiterated that the UN Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) could use “all necessary means” in its mandate to protect civilians under imminent threat of attack. Early in the conflict, the United States worked with partners to renew UNOCI’s mandate and increase its ranks by 2,000 troops, further bolstering the mission’s ability to protect civilians.
The United States supports accountability on all sides for atrocities committed during the electoral crisis, and we will continue to support UN efforts in Ivory Coast as the nation recovers from this crisis. The Ivory Coast has accepted the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, and President Ouattara requested that the Prosecutor open an investigation into the most serious crimes committed in during the post-electoral crisis.
Eritrea: In 2009, the United States supported the African Union’s call to sanction Eritrea for that country’s role in destabilizing Somalia and the region and its failure to comply with Security Council Resolution 1862 concerning Eritrea’s border dispute with Djibouti. As a direct result of U.S. and African leadership, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1907 to impose an arms embargo and targeted financial and travel sanctions on Eritrean officials. Eritrea is paying a price for its sponsorship of foreign extremist groups. The Security Council, with the support of the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, continue to review additional measures to respond to Eritrea’s acts to destabilize its neighbors.
Protecting and Empowering Women and Girls
Women, Peace and Security: The United States continues to lead efforts across the UN focused on women’s important roles in preventing, managing, and resolving conflict, as well as ending conflict-related sexual violence. In 2009, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presiding, the United States led the Security Council in unanimously adopting Resolution 1888, which strengthens the international response to sexual violence in conflict by establishing a dedicated UN Special Representative and creating of a team of experts to assist individual governments in strengthening their capacities to address sexual violence in conflicts within their borders.
Building upon this success, during the 2010 U.S. presidency of the Security Council, the United States supported the adoption of Resolution 1960, which expressed deep concern that violence against women and children in situations of armed conflict continues to occur. The resolution also improved reporting mechanisms on gender-based violence in conflict. On the margins of this year’s General Assembly, Secretary of State Clinton will join other women leaders from across the world in spotlighting the importance of women’s political participation in times of peace, conflict, and transition. And in the year to come, the United States will continue to lead efforts to support women’s decision-making in matters of conflict prevention and international security by releasing its National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security.
UN Women: The United States was also instrumental in the establishment of a new UN agency called UN Women. This vital new organization combines four separate UN offices into one stronger, streamlined and more efficient entity working in support of women around the world. UN Women will work to elevate women’s issues within the UN system, on the ground in member states, and on the international stage. The United States is working very closely with Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the first head of UN Women. In addition, when elections were held for the 41-member Executive Board, the United States secured a seat and supported other countries with strong records on women’s rights, while successfully leading efforts to block Iran’s bid for membership.
Promoting Human Rights
Human Rights Council: At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the United States made the decision to join the Human Rights Council, and that decision has paid real dividends for oppressed people around the world. Though the Council remains flawed, the United States has worked tirelessly to create the political will necessary for the Council to realize its full potential. While much work remains, in particular ending the Council’s excessive focus on Israel, the Council has taken great strides in speaking up for those suffering under the world’s cruelest regimes and focusing on the major human rights abuses worldwide.
In the past two years, the United States has spoken out on serious human rights abuses in Iran, Burma, Sudan, China, Zimbabwe, Venezuela, Syria, Yemen, Russia, Sri Lanka and elsewhere. With active U.S. leadership, the Council authorized international mandates to closely monitor and address the human rights situations in Iran, Libya, Syria, Ivory Coast, Burma, North Korea, Cambodia and Sudan. With U.S. engagement, Council members also voted to keep Iran and Syria from gaining seats on the Council.
We have also worked cooperatively with governments such as those of Haiti, Somalia, Kyrgyzstan, Guinea and Tunisia, as they experienced crises and sought help from the Council to strengthen their human rights capabilities and help their countries rebuild. For example, last year the United States partnered with the government of Afghanistan to build international support for efforts to prevent attacks on Afghan school children, especially girls, who seek to be educated.
In 2011, the United States has shown leadership that has led to additional concrete results. On Iran, the Council took assertive action to highlight Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation by establishing a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation in Iran. In June, the Human Right’s Council appointed Ahmed Shaheed to serve as Special Rapporteur. He will serve as a voice for all those Iranians who have suffered egregious human rights violations. This is the first new country mandate established since the Human Rights Council was formed in 2006.
U.S. leadership has led to two Special Sessions on the situation in Syria, sending President Assad a clear message that the world is watching what he does and that atrocities and human rights violations would not go unnoticed. At the most recent special session, the Council established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all violations of international human rights law by Syrian Authorities and help the international community address the serious human rights abuses in Syria and ensure that those responsible are held to account.
The United States also played a pivotal role in convening the Council’s Special Session in February 2011 during which the Council condemned the human rights violations and other acts of violence committed by the Government of Libya, and created an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate those violations. Additionally on March 1, 2011 the General Assembly unanimously suspended Libya from the Human Rights Council because of the atrocities the Libyan authorities are committing against its own people. This was the first time that either the Human Rights Council or its predecessor, the Human Rights Commission, suspended any member state for gross violations of human rights.
In March 2011, the Council took an important step away from the deeply problematic concept of defamation of religion by adopting a constructive new resolution that promotes tolerance for all religious beliefs, promotes education and dialogue and is consistent with U.S. laws and universal values. Previous resolutions adopted under the concept of defamation of religion have been used to rationalize laws criminalizing blasphemy, and challenging widely held freedoms of expression and the press, rather than protecting religious freedom and human rights.
In June, the Human Rights Council took historic, bold and assertive action to highlight violence and human rights abuses faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons around the world by passing the first UN resolution solely focused on LGBT persons. The United States co-sponsored, strengthened, and gained support for a South African initiative, which was ultimately joined by countries from every UN geographic region and paves the way for the first UN report on the challenges faced by LGBT people and sustained Council attention to LGBT issues.
Along with our international partners and the NGO community, the United States has made important initial steps toward improving the work of the Council. The United States will run for re-election next year so that we can continue the progress the Council has made over the last two years.
LGBT Rights: In a reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, the United States supported a landmark General Assembly declaration condemning human rights violations based on sexual orientation. The United States also spearheaded an effort that led to a decisive victory in the United Nations Economic and Social Council, which voted to grant consultative status to the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission (ILGHRC), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that does invaluable work around the globe to protect basic human rights, combat discrimination, and fight against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. When a committee vote removed a reference in a resolution condemning extrajudicial killings based on sexual orientation, the United States led a successful campaign to reinstate that reference in the final General Assembly resolution. And the United States joined the LGBT core group in New York for the first time.
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: On behalf of the President, Ambassador Rice signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century.
DRIP: In another important reversal of the previous Administration’s policy, President Obama announced U.S. support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (DRIP).
Health Security: The United States has taken a multi-faceted approach to dealing with infectious diseases, whatever their cause, through fora such as the UN Security Resolution 1540, the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC), and World Health Organization (WHO). The BWC Review Conference in December offers an important opportunity to revitalize international efforts against these threats, helping to build global capacity to combat infectious disease, and prevent biological weapons proliferation and bioterrorism. This week the United States is signing an agreement with the WHO on “Global Health Security,” affirming their shared commitment to strengthen cooperation on common health security priorities. Improving global capacities to detect, report and respond to infectious diseases quickly and accurately lies at the heart of the WHO’s International Health Regulations. The U.S. is committed to have in place these vital IHR core capacities as soon as 2012.
Reforming the United Nations
UN Arrears: Working with the U.S. Congress, the Administration cleared hundreds of millions in arrears to the United Nations, which accumulated between 2005 and 2008, and is now working to stay current with payments to the Organization.
Budget Discipline: As the largest financial contributor to the UN, ensuring that U.S. funds are spent wisely and not wasted is vital. The United States has worked to contain the growth of the UN budget and consistently pressed the issue of efficiency and accountability in our discussions with the UN, pushing for a focus on results. In 2009, the Administration successfully negotiated an agreement that held constant the share of U.S. assessed contributions to the United Nations.
UN Peacekeeping: In 2011, the United States rallied major financial contributors to thwart an effort by troop-contributing countries to impose a 57% increase in the reimbursement rate for troops in peacekeeping missions, which would have cost the organization well over $700 million annually. The United States was able to insert a new provision to prevent reimbursement for troops who have been repatriated for disciplinary reasons, including violation of the UN zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.
U.S. leadership was instrumental in ensuring adoption of the Global Field Support Strategy, a sweeping reform of how the UN undertakes administrative and logistics support for UN field operations. This initiative will improve the quality, consistency, and efficiency of service delivery by capturing efficiencies within peacekeeping operations and improving the UN’s capacity to support complex field missions.
Oversight and Accountability: The United States advocated and supported adoption of key elements of an accountability framework for the UN. The United States has also blocked attempts to curb the authority and operational independence of the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) and succeeded in March 2010 in preserving OIOS’ existing mandate and authority, allowing OIOS to fill many long-vacant positions.
The United States has consistently and aggressively supported OIOS to be a strong and independent watchdog so that U.S. taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and UN programs are managed effectively. And, while OIOS has provided valuable recommendations to improve the UN’s effectiveness and served as a deterrent in the area of waste, fraud, and sexual exploitation and abuse, it has fallen short, especially in the area of investigations. The United States has pushed hard for improvements in that function so that OIOS can more vigorously pursue fraud and misconduct. The United States was pleased to see quick action by Carman LaPointe, the Head of OIOS, in filling several leadership positions in that critical office. The United States was successful in ensuring that the position of Director of Investigations, vacant for almost two years, was filled by a qualified candidate who is tasked, among other things, with reigniting the former financial crimes unit of OIOS.
Transparency: The United States has promoted transparency throughout the United Nations system for many years. We have pushed for the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Funds and Programs to take a number of important steps toward public disclosure of all internal audit, oversight and financial reports, and have seen significant progress. For example, Carman LaPointe has announced that she will post internal audits of the UN Secretariat on her website for public viewing starting in January 2012. Additionally, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Development Program (UNDP), the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) gave access to internal audit reports to the Global Fund and other intergovernmental donors. All of these organizations also voted to let governments who fund their programs – like the United States – read audit reports remotely from all over the world, instead of keeping audits under lock and key in New York. This September, leaders at all of these New York based funds and programs announced their support for full public disclosure of internal audits on the internet. Every agency in the UN system is a public institution and should open its doors to public scrutiny.
Human Resources Reform: In December 2010, the United States pushed through reforms that led to harmonization of conditions of service for staff serving in the most difficult locations in the world, eliminating disparities in practices between organizations—including reducing the unreasonably high levels of allowances paid by some organizations—to ensure a balance between fiscal responsibility and ensuring that the organization is able to attract and retain the most qualified staff for service in hardship locations.
The United States also demanded a review of the recent action by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) to increase the post (cost of living) adjustment for staff in New York, in light of the ongoing pay freeze in the U.S. federal civil service—whose salaries and benefits serve as the basis for those of professional staff at the UN—and the difficult international economic climate.
Remarks delivered during a side event at the 18th Session of the Human Rights Council:
“Applying a Human Rights Based Approach to Efforts to Eliminate Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity”
Thank you to all of the esteemed speakers here today. The United States is proud to be one of the co-sponsors of this side event on eliminating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity. More than a decade after the UN established Millennium Development Goals concerning maternal and child health, global maternal and child mortality rates remain too high.
The means exist to save the lives of women and children. Strengthening health systems to better respond to the needs of women and girls must be a political priority.
The Human Rights Council is one of several UN bodies which has demonstrated the political will to address this issue. We thank Colombia and New Zealand for their leadership on initiating that resolution. In June 2009, HRC member states adopted by consensus a resolution on “Preventable Maternal Mortality and Morbidity and Human Rights.” As a member of the HRC coalition supporting this initiative, let me mention some key examples of U.S. actions to combat maternal mortality domestically and globally. Within the U.S., new health care reform legislation expanded coverage and improved access to preventative care. Programs such as “Healthy Start” provide primary and preventative care to high-risk pregnant women.
On our international efforts, the United States has been working to provide technical leadership in this area of family planning. In FY 2010, a total of $648.5 million was appropriated for U.S. assistance for family planning and reproductive health programs. The FY 2011 budget included $615 million in funding for family planning and reproductive health, including $40 million designated for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Through the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. commits billions of dollars to improving global health, including efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality; prevent millions of unintended pregnancies; and thwart millions of new HIV infections. Through the Global Health Initiative, we provide a range of integrated, essential services for women and their children: skilled care during pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period; family planning; prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria; and child health interventions.
During the 2010 Commission on the Status of Women session, 15 years after the Beijing Women’s Conference, the U.S. was part of a cross-regional group of co-sponsors who introduced a resolution on “Eliminating maternal mortality and morbidity through the empowerment of women.” While progress has been made on the Beijing agenda, much more remains to be done.
The U.S. looks forward to continued partnerships to improve maternal and child health and contributing to progress in this area where we can.
Good morning. It is such a delight for me to be back in the Netherlands. Your country and mine have enjoyed close ties for more than 400 years when Henry Hudson first landed in Manhattan and we had very strong diplomatic ties going back to the earliest days of the United States. We have worked together bilaterally to address a range of global challenges and we have worked together multilaterally to address peace and security around the world. So it is so fitting that we come together today to address another extremely timely and important subject.
But before I add my comments, I want to thank Ambassador Hartog-Levin for the extraordinary service she has rendered on behalf of us in your country for the last two years and for bringing us all together this morning. And I know from my conversations with her, that it is very difficult for her to take leave of a place she loves. I know she will take a good chunk of your country home with her. So thank you, Ambassador Levin.
I also want to thank Foreign Minister Rosenthal for his comments today and for his leadership. We had a very excellent meeting yesterday and he conveyed to me personally much of what he said this morning.
And I want to mention the two Palwashas who are with us today. One, Palwasha Kakar, is in her government as a deputy minister and is doing excellent work. The other Palwasha is Palwasha Hasan – she is with the Afghan Women’s Network. She is an exceptional leader in civil society. And I think the two Palwashas represent a kind of coming together of women leaders in powerful positions, one in government and one in civil society. They are making a strong difference for their country, particularly in these times. And I want to add my acknowledgement to the Atlantic Commission for its great leadership in co-hosting this session.
Now in the aftermath of 9/11, the world’s eyes focused on Afghanistan and we made collective efforts to root out al-Qaeda, to overthrow the Taliban and to usher in peace, stability, and a better life for the people of that country. And I also want to add my acknowledgment to the role that the Dutch have played as a partner in Afghanistan, especially your contributions to security, stability, humanitarian relief, reconstruction and development in Uruzgan Province and more broadly across the country. You have been a key partner in organizing elections, fighting the epidemic of opium production and trafficking, and assisting aid organizations with clearing away deadly land mines. And this summer you have launched the initiative that the Foreign Minister talked about this morning in the northern providence of Kunduz to better equip Afghan police forces with training that they need to strengthen the rule of law and assist in the very hard work of reconciliation. You have understood both in your development work broadly and in your engagement specifically in Afghanistan that the future of Afghanistan depends, in many ways, on the degree to which women have an active role, a power sharing role in participating in the political process – certainly in re-integration and reconciliation – and are fully engaged in the economic sector and and have their rights protected. Investing in women and girls is one of the most effective investments that can be made for poverty alleviation, for security, for a country’s prosperity – and even to decrease corruption. Yes, there are studies that show as women’s roles increase in government decision making, corruption decreases.
Now I have read about your government’s recently propagated policies on development cooperation and your focus on the four areas in which the Netherlands can bring special value. And I am pleased that Afghanistan will continue to be one of your partner countries in that work. I was also pleased that the Dutch government launched the Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women fund – (the acronym, FLOW, I like the sound of that) – to promote security, economic opportunity, and political participation. You’ve clearly been guided by the research and the data which documents the soundness of these priority investments. I couldn’t agree more with your Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation, Minister Knapen, who said, “Investing in women and girls is smart politics, smart economics, and smart security.” The concept of women as agents of peace and stability is also embodied in President Obama’s national security strategy, which says in part, “countries are more peaceful, more prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunities.”
And Secretary Clinton has echoed this view countless times. “The status of women,” she said, “is not only a matter of morality and justice, as important as that is – but is also a political, economic and social imperative. Put simply, the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls in the 21st century are denied their rights and left behind.”
Following their bilateral meeting a few months ago in Washington, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rosenthal issued a joint statement on supporting women’s political empowerment in emerging democracies. Their statement said, “Experience shows that integrating women into transition, reconciliation and peace-building processes from the start helps to promote long-term peace and stability by ensuring a focus on critical broader priorities and needs.” They went on to say, “Where women are oppressed and marginalized, those societies become more dangerous and breed intolerance. The subjugation of women is a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations goes hand in hand.” The United States is implementing this understanding in our strategy in Afghanistan – and obviously the Netherlands is also. We agree that Afghan women need to be involved in every step of securing and rebuilding their country.
Now let me turn for a moment to the continuing commitment of the United States to Afghanistan in this time of transition and add to what Ambassador Hartog- Levin has said this morning. In a recent address in India, Secretary Clinton described the Obama administration’s policy. “The United States is committed to Afghanistan and to the region. We will be there. Yes, we are beginning to withdraw combat troops and transfer responsibility for security to the Afghan people, a process that will be completed in 2014, but drawing down our troops is not the same as leaving or disengaging. We and the Afghans are making progress on a new strategic partnership declaration that will define our relationship after 2014. And through that partnership, we will continue to assist the Afghan army and police and the Afghan Government. And we will do everything we can to help the Afghan people rebuild after decades of war. At the same time, we are pursuing an active diplomatic effort with all the countries in the region toward two goals: First, a responsible political solution in Afghanistan, and second, stronger economic ties through South and Central Asia so that goods, capital, and people can flow more easily across borders.”
Those unambiguous redlines that Ambassador Hartog-Levin laid out, including she said, ensuring that the rights of women will be protected as the Constitution of Afghanistan provides – and let me say clearly that those rights include the right to an education, to participate politically and economically in their country’s public life, to be free from violence in their homes, workplaces and communities.
Now no one wants to see the conflict end more than the Afghan women and I have spent much time with many of them and you will hear from them again this morning. They have suffered unspeakable atrocities under the Taliban. So they want this conflict to end and they want a better life for themselves and their country but they want to be part of the process to ensure that the eventual peace agreement is sustainable. They want to be part of that power sharing that the Foreign Minister discussed this morning. This is not a favor to the women of Afghanistan. It is not just a nice thing to do. It is a necessity. Because any potential for peace will be subverted if women’s voices are silenced or marginalized. The United States will not abandon our values or support a political process that undoes the progress that has been made over the last decade. Secretary Clinton also noted that the diplomatic and political effort will only succeed if it is paired with a strategy to increase economic ties in all the countries of the region. None of us can provide aid forever. It is critical that Afghanistan’s economy gets going in a very strong way, that it achieves trade and investment. An Afghanistan firmly embedded in the economic life of the region would be able to attract new investment and connect to markets abroad. This is the vision of a new Silk Road – a 21st century regional economic network that enlists the international community and private sector to ensure a sustainable, economically viable future for Afghanistan.
I had a glimpse of what is possible just a few weeks ago because the State Department sponsored as significant coming together, a conference for female entrepreneurs from Central Asia and Afghanistan that took place in Kyrgysztan. It was called “Invest in the Future.” The women were so eager to accelerate their economic journey together, across borders, in order to grow economic opportunity. As a result of the conference, the United States, multilateral organizations and the private sector have committed resources to provide women with greater opportunity for success. So simply put, neither reintegration and reconciliation nor the promotion of economic opportunity can succeed without Afghan women’s full participation.
The United States, like the Netherlands, has been committed to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. It links women with peace and security. It says that we must ensure justice for acts of violence against women and ensure that women’s participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and strengthening the conditions for lasting peace and prosperity, are real. Evidence shows that integrating women into peace building processes helps promote long-term peace by ensuring that a broader set of critical priorities and needs are on the table and addressed. Moreover, women’s leadership in peace processes positively correlates with a reduction of violence and armed action, the sustainability of those peace agreements and post conflict political frameworks, as well as the evolution of democratic systems of governance.
Women have been distinguishing themselves in Afghanistan. As you heard from the Foreign Minister, the role they’re playing in Parliament, ministries and in the provincial government – and they also need to be fully included in the peace and reconciliation process as it moves forward. We and your country have advocated for their inclusion, as we have for women’s participation in the London Conference that the Foreign Minister mentioned, Kabul conference, in the Consultative Peace Jirga where the women so distinguished themselves several months ago and where they constituted roughly 20 percent of the participants, and now the High Peace Council – the lead Afghan body guiding the ongoing reintegration and reconciliation process. This has to take place on all levels – the national, provincial and local level, where real reconciliation will have to take place if the prospects for peace will truly take hold.
This is also true for the Bonn conference that will take place in December. The Afghan Women’s Network has described this as a step toward defining a vision for Afghanistan beyond 2014 and the transition. But for women to be included in the Bonn II conference, it will be up to the Afghan government, because they are in the chair of the conference and they will be putting together the Afghan delegation. And prior to Bon II, there will be a civil society meeting and it is our hope that representatives from the civil society discussion will also participate in the Bonn conference.
Countries that exclude women do so at their own peril. No country, especially one emerging from war, can afford to exclude and suppress the vital driver of economic growth that women represent. For every dollar a woman earns, up to 90 percent of it is spent reinvested in to her family and in her community. When girls go to school, even just for year, their income dramatically increases after they finish, their children are more likely to survive their families more likely to be healthier for years to come. Women’s capacity to participate and contribute economically is directly correlated to their ability to exercise equal rights, inheritance rights, land rights bear particular significance. Ultimately, access to equal economic opportunity for women and men form a very integral dimension of lasting stability and prosperity.
One of the key sectors for women’s economic participation is agriculture. I know that the Dutch, as has been said, have a great deal of expertise in this sector, as well as water management. And you are the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural goods. You have also developed a robust educational and training system for agriculture that offers so much to places like Afghanistan, which is traditionally an agricultural society. According to USAID, agriculture represents one third of Afghanistan’s economy and 75 percent of its population is engaged in farming – and that includes between 30 –60 percent of women, depending on the region they are from and what the season is. They are involved in farming, herding or otherwise connected to the agriculture industry. Women are playing an extremely important role in all dimensions of agricultural production. Increasingly their role is growing in livestock production and processing of dairy products. They make major labor contributions to a number of the marketed products. Fewer women own either land or livestock because of cultural subordination, traditions, pressure of women to cede inheritance to a relative, lack of credit, and like factors that diminish their prospects.
I remember on an early trip to Afghanistan, I had heard about how the country was importing chickens and I couldn’t understand how, when there was so much potential, that was the case. However, over time I have seen great expansion of poultry programs, through business trainings and other projects. One woman commented that she was now able to open her own poultry business. She said: ”It is unbelievable for all of us how soon our family life changed from misery to prosperity. Many chicks have grown, laid eggs. We are selling eggs, using them as a source of our food for our family and our lives are completely transformed.” And today increasing numbers of women are being trained in veterinary fields as more and more Afghans own their own livestock. The United States development and agriculture programs have focused on improving food security, increasing agricultural productivity and rural employment and to improve family incomes and well being. And this factor is particularly important for the livelihood and security of women. All of this also has a profound impact also on peace and stability. Our agriculture development programs have also focused on the high value fruit and nut production which Afghanistan has always enjoyed an extraordinary reputation. And we are working to train farmers in improving crop yields and business skills, to enable Afghan traders to expand their export markets which will be absolutely critical in the months to come.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) devoted this year’s study – they do an annual study on food and agriculture – on the vital role that women play in the agricultural sector. What the study showed is that there is a very strong economic argument for focusing on investing in women in agriculture. Yet women farmers do not have equal access to resources and this significantly limits their potential in enhancing productivity. They are often at a severe disadvantage when it comes to securing land tenure rights or owning land outright, owning livestock, accessing credit which is a major issue in Afghanistan, receiving the kind of extension training and resources that will grow her output. The FAO study shows that when women are provided with equal resources they can produce yields equal to those of men, if not greater. But because there is a gender gap in access to resources in everything from seeds and fertilizer to training, the opportunity to improve overall productivity has been limited.
We also know from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Gender Gap Report that in the countries that are closer to closing the gap between men and women on 4 metrics, including economic empowerment, those countries are far more economically competitive and prosperous.
When I was at the FAO I participated in a dinner with the Afghan Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. He described the progress that was taking place in Afghanistan in his sector and he also described some of the key challenges that Afghanistan confronts. And he said that it is absolutely vital to the future success of agricultural production that women play a greater role. His ministry has adopted a gender mainstreaming policy and strategy. However because of a lack of capacity, it has not been implemented to the degree that it needs to be.
Unleashing women’s potential by closing that gender gap in the agricultural sector is a win-win strategy. We all need to do better in our collective efforts to focus on women in the agricultural sector, as well as to ensure that they are getting a greater percentage of resources than they are currently.
Let me just say that to visit Afghanistan, whether in the capital, big cities or in the provincial and rural areas, one is immediately struck by the number of strong, courageous and capable women, many of whom are risking their lives every day in order to work as they do – alongside the men – to create a better life for themselves and their country. One evening when I was in a discussion with some Afghan women, the session opened by one pleading, “Do not look at us as victims but as the leaders that we are.” Afghan women’s contributions are critical, whether in the peace process or advancing economic opportunity and greater productivity in the agricultural sector. They are leading the way. And with our support, they can go that much farther and do that much better.
A friend gave me a small calendar that has a quotation for every day of the year and I think the quotation for today says a great deal about the collaboration between the United States and the Netherlands. It is from an African proverb that says, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk with others.” And your country, together with mine and so many others, are walking the distance, walking together to make a difference for peace and progress in Afghanistan and for a better world for everyone. I thank you for this and I thank you for all the things we are doing together.
Dean Hudgins, thank you for that introduction. I greatly appreciate this opportunity and want to thank the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, its College of Liberal Arts and Department of Political Science who are the hosts of this event. I also want to thank Professor Dr. Joanne Goodwin for participating in this event, and for the important role she is playing here at UNLV and as the Director of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada.
It is truly an honor for me to be in Las Vegas and to share the Obama Administration’s far-reaching efforts to support the empowerment of women and girls globally. It is also an honor to be with Representative Shelley Berkley who has been a tireless advocate for the advancement of women and girls internationally. Congresswoman: I want to thank you and your colleagues in Congress for supporting our bilateral and multilateral efforts to address critical issues that impact women, girls and families around the world.
As Secretary Clinton and officials across this Administration have stated repeatedly, the major security, governance, environmental, and economic challenges of the 21st Century cannot be solved without the participation of women and girls at all levels of society.
We know that empowering women globally – including farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, women de-miners in Sri Lanka, a legislator in Afghanistan or a recent college graduate protesting in Tahrir Square in Egypt – is one of the surest ways to create favorable outcomes in poverty alleviation, economic growth, and a country’s general prosperity. In fact, we know that as women progress, everyone in society benefits, including men and boys.
That is why the United States and our international partners are invested in an historic effort to empower women globally. It is clear that tapping into limitless potential of women and girls is not only the right thing to do but it is the smart thing.
As the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs responsible for U.S. engagement across the United Nations system as well as with other multilateral institutions, I want to focus my remarks today on how the U.S. is working to lift up millions of women and girls across the world through robust engagement multilaterally.
But first, I want to touch briefly on the importance this Administration has placed on our engagement at the UN and other organizations.
As many of you know, our engagement at the UN and across the multilateral system has been a top priority for this Administration, particularly as we face increasingly difficult global challenges including, continued economic instability, famine in places such as the Horn of Africa, complex security challenges such as terrorism and non-proliferation, and breathtaking transformation in North Africa and Middle East. Time and again, we have found that multilateral tools at the UN and elsewhere have been essential for the United States in achieving our foreign policy goals, enhancing our security, and advancing our values.
The UN and multilateral organizations provide the means of cooperation and partnership to find common solutions to complex problems; they offer fora through which the international community can set global norms and standards; and they help states achieve them.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has sought to strengthen the United Nations and other aspects of the international architecture to respond better to the challenges of our rapidly changing world. That includes leveraging multilateral tools and mobilizing the international community in a coordinated, focused, and concentrated way to empower women and girls globally.
We realize that in the 21st century, the weight and scope of these issues are too great for the U.S. to carry the water alone, and that is why we have strengthened old alliances and built new partnerships – locally, nationally and internationally – to address the challenges of our day.
When you look solely at the breadth of challenges facing women and girls globally – including the lack of education and basic literacy skills, sexual and gender-based violence, rampant discrimination, the lack of economic opportunities and political participation we can understand why institutions like the UN are essential. We can exchange ideas and best practices and rally support to address hard problems.
For example, the United States is working the specialized agencies such as United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to expand girls’ and women’s access to education.
Today, women, mainly in the world’s poorest communities, represent about two-thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate adults around the world. Seeking to end this imbalance, Secretary Clinton spoke at to UNESCO in May to launch the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. In Paris, she joined UNESCO’s Executive Director Irina Bokova, world leaders, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, including American companies, in pledging to support education for women and girls.
As the Secretary pointed out at the Global Partnership launch, “No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs.” We know that opening the door for women and girls to greater education leads to more choices, opportunities, and useful information in how to live their lives. Indeed, we also know that birth rates, HIV infections, incidents of domestic violence and female cutting all decline when education rises.
That is why we are deeply committed to the Partnership because it has the power to transform the lives of women. Together, we are working to ensure that money and resources are best used to promote basic literacy training and secondary education for girls around the globe. Working together with other governments, NGOs, and private partners also allows us to multiply our impact, reaching more women and girls in meaningful ways than if we acted alone. It is because of the power of these partnerships that we have been at the fore-front of bringing together diverse groups of governments, foundations, and corporations.
For example, the United States helped broker an agreement between Procter and Gamble and UNESCO to fund literacy training for girls in Senegal. Today only 33% of Senegalese women are literate. This modestly funded agreement will impact 40,000 women in Senegal enhancing their literacy and increasing their income and quality of their environment.
We also have partners, like Nokia, with whom we work in multiple venues. Nokia is a partner in the UNESCO Global Partnership, but they are also one of our partners in the mWomen program, an initiative led by the Cherie Blair Foundation and the mobile industry association GSMA which aims to reduce the gender gap in access to mobile technology of 300 million in the developing world, by 50 percent, in the next three years. By increasing women’s access to cell phones, the programs enables them to gain access to mobile education and mobile banking, which are critical tools for girls and women to strengthen their education and participate in developing markets.
The Obama Administration has also focused on the number of women holding leadership positions. We know there has been progress on this front; year after year we see more women entering government and taking on senior positions, including heads of state, yet the road forward has at times been rocky and the numbers disproportionate given that women make half of the global population. When women are not serving in governments, when their voice and experience are muted, when they are not at the negotiating table their absence has direct impact on society, on peace and security, on strengthening democracy in the communities, nations and world in which we live.
The Administration is implementing policies and programs to bolster women’s leadership capacity in all areas of political participation and decision-making. To that end, we have worked to strengthen the institutional arrangements and mechanisms at the UN for support of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Indeed, we were at the forefront in 2009 and 2010 in leading efforts at the UN to support the consolidation of the UN’s existing gender-related institutions into a single more effective women’s agency. It was our goal at the UN to elevate women’s issues to their rightful status.
I am pleased to report that our efforts were successful. UN Women formally began operations on January 1, 2011 with a comprehensive mandate to work on all issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Its Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, is an impressive leader, as you know she is the former President of Chile.
UN Women has several strategic priorities, one of which is expanding women’s leadership and participation. The events of the Arab Spring have focused international attention on the importance and fragility of women’s political participation. In some cases, gains previously made by women in the Middle East and North Africa are being challenged, and women who had taken part in democracy movements are now excluded from negotiations on future systems of government. These trends jeopardize political stability, economic security, and human rights in countries undergoing transition.
To address these concerns, UN Women, in conjunction with the United States and other partners, will hold a high-level roundtable discussion during the upcoming UN General Assembly in September to examine the role of women during periods of political transition, like in the Middle East and North Africa. There will be senior-level participation from UN Women, the United States, Brazil, the European Union, and other member states.
Additionally, the Administration supports UN Women efforts to advance women’s political participation through technical assistance, research, and training, with a focus on countries in transition, including countries in the Middle East. We hope to complement ongoing UN Women projects aimed at greater political participation for women in Latin America and in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Another UN Women strategic priority is enhancing women’s economic empowerment. Executive Director Bachelet has often said that women’s economic security is a precondition for further improvements in their lives.
Every day, women are starting their own businesses. Between 1997 and 2008, women-owned businesses in the U.S. grew at twice the national average for all other business types. An estimated 10.1 million companies, 40% of all privately-owned firms, were owned by women as of 2008.
What we know is that women-run small and medium sized businesses in the U.S. and internationally accelerate economic growth, and many countries have made progress on laws and regulations concerning inheritance and property ownership, working hours, and retirement ages. Yet women face barriers in the U.S. and globally starting these businesses, including challenges connected with access to training, mentors, finance, technology, and markets. These challenges need to be addressed in order for women to fulfill their potential to increase their livelihoods and contribute to the broader economy.
To study these barriers and identify solutions, the U.S. supported the launch of the OECD’s Gender Initiative earlier this year. This initiative will create indicators for measuring women’s economic empowerment, and offer a toolbox of policy options by which member states can unleash the potential of millions of women through education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The OECD is piloting this approach with its Women’s Business Network for the Middle East and North Africa, which is co-chaired by the United States and Jordan.
The United States is also playing a leading role, along with international partners, in supporting empowerment of women, within the UN system, through our participation in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The theme of the spring 2011 UN Commission on the Status of Women session was “Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.”
At that Commission meeting, the U.S. pointed out that the emerging green economy is shaping employment opportunities, and women can gain a stronger position in the workforce through green jobs. The Department of Labor is leading efforts domestically along with policy-makers, employers, workforce professionals, educators, and trainers to focus their efforts on having women participate in and benefit from the new green economy. Women have made great strides in some male-dominated occupations, but still make up only a small portion of the workers in these jobs.
At the Spring session, and with the goal of further advancing the capacity of women in addressing climate change policy, our delegation led by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, announced a new international exchange program, which will target women climate leaders from the developing world and the critical role they play in developing climate-related policies.
Participants will travel to the United States for three weeks to learn about the development of new policies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as information about cutting edge small scale clean technologies and how to promote women’s entrepreneurship opportunities and markets for them in their countries.
Building on the Administrations’ strong commitment to expand educational exchanges and new opportunities in entrepreneurship and science, the U.S. established the TechWomen Program in 2010 to promote professional development and sustainable relationships for women technology leaders from the Middle East and North Africa. Some of the most prominent U.S. technology companies are committed to participating in the program. This summer we saw the first graduates from this program, thirty-seven women from places such as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza. Building on the success of the TechWomen program Secretary Clinton recently announced a similar initiative called TechGirls that will bring teenage girls from the Middle East and North Africa for educational programming in the United States.
Before concluding, I want to highlight the Administration’s continued effort to work multilaterally including through the UN to address some of the most vexing challenges facing women and girls, including the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women, the role of women in peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building and combating sexual and gender-based violence.
This Administration is deeply committed to increasing women’s representation at all levels of conflict resolution, including in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. It is a priority for the U.S. in areas of post-conflict and transition, to ensure that participate in peace processes, political transitions, new constitutions, and the electoral process. Thus, we have been blunt in urging others join us in implementing the series of UN Security Council resolutions on these topics, including those we have taken leadership on, such as Resolutions 1325, 1888 and more recently 1960.
Resolution 1888 was a major achievement for the Administration because it established a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict as well as a team of experts to support accountability mechanisms targeting impunity for rape as a weapon of war. The Special Representative position is currently held by Margot Wallstrom.
Resolution 1960, passed at U.S. urging last December, further empowered the UN to address sexual violence in armed conflict by establish monitoring, analysis, and reporting arrangements.
Today we are continuing to work hand in hand with Special Representative Margot Wallstrom to lead and coordinate efforts to end conflict-related sexual violence against women and children.
Additionally, as the Secretary of State promised during the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 last October, the U.S. is developing a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security that will guide our approach to this issue in the coming years. While making this promise, the Secretary also committed nearly $44 million in U.S. funding to a set of initiatives designed to empower women, with a large share of the funding to support civil society groups that focus on women in Afghanistan. The U.S. has been adamant that rights of Afghan women will not be sacrificed.
President Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy recognized that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”
That’s why the Obama Administration is firmly committed to working with the United Nations and with international partners, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector, to advance women’s rights, freedoms, and opportunities. We know our goal to empower women and girls is an historic effort that will not be achieved overnight. It will require persistence and a long-term commitment of the United States and international community to realize the lasting change we seek for women and girls on a global scale.
I will end there. I look forward to your questions and comments.
QUESTION: I know it’s a strange question, but may I ask you to start by introducing yourself to BBC listeners?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am Hillary Rodham Clinton. I’m the 67th Secretary of State for the United States of America, serving in the Administration of President Barack Obama.
QUESTION: Okay. We’re in Dubai because we had a little problem with your plane.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: Now, what does that say – (laughter) – about American power, because it’s not the first time your plane breaks down?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it says that we prioritize. So the President’s plane, Air Force One, is absolutely impeccable. Our fighter jets are the best in the world. Others of our Air Force are first-rate. But I think there’s a long line ahead of the plane that I’m in, which I share with the Vice President and other high officials. So we’ve had our ups and downs, as you might say, with this airplane.
QUESTION: On the other hand, you actually have an airplane that you can commandeer to go wherever you want when needed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s exactly right. So I have no complaints. And if we were to just chart the hundreds of thousands of miles that I have traveled, the mechanical problems, or in the case of volcanic ash clouds or rocks on runways, have been relatively few.
QUESTION: Does the plane feel like a home away from home, an office with wings?
SECRETARY CLINTON: It feels like an office, not a home, because it is an office. It has secure communications, it has a very able civilian and military team, we get a lot of work done on the plane, but it’s a little challenging jet lag-wise, mileage, dehydration, all of the problems that come with spending a lot of time in the air. So I am always happy to be home once we finally land.
QUESTION: How do you handle jet lag? I mean, I travel with – I’ve traveled with you quite a bit, and at the end of the trips, I’m exhausted and I take a few days off. You go back to the office the next day. How do you do it? Do you do yoga, a special diet, what’s the secret?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I sleep a lot on the plane. I know that some people think you should stay up for a certain period of time and not sleep on certain legs, but since I am perpetually tired, I figure make up for the lost hours of sleep while flying. Also, I know very simple things – drink a lot of water, deep breathing, try to get a little bit of sunshine if you can every day. But I don’t know that there’s any magic formula. Because I, too, often am tired; there’s no doubt about it. But I’m exhilarated at the same time. I love what we’re doing, I’m honored to represent our country everywhere we go, and I feel like we are making a difference. So that is enough to keep me going.
QUESTION: I want to take you back to our stop in Shannon when we were on our way here. You took me outside to talk to those two Irish guys. Tell me about them. You seemed to have a very nice conversation with them. Are they always there to welcome you when you land?
SECRETARY CLINTON: They work at the airport, so they and a few others are usually always there. They’re combination security and welcoming, and I have gotten to talk with them over the years, stopping, going from Shannon. And I love Ireland, so it was great because we were there while it was still light out, and actually, I had slept till about five minutes before we were going to take off again. So I wanted to get a little air and a little bit of sun, and they kindly accommodated me.
QUESTION: When we travel with you, we are in what is known apparently as the bubble. How would you describe the bubble?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think of it so much as a bubble. I think of it as more of a caravan going from place to place, and sometimes the dogs bark, but we still move on. And it is for me a moveable adventure. No day is the same, in part because the places, the issues, the leaders, the people, the food are enough different still in our increasingly interconnected world that there’s always something new to see or hear about or discover. But it is true that when we’re traveling, we are focused on where we have been, are, and intend to go. So a lot of what happens back in the United States has to take second priority to what we are actually focused on. But there is no escaping the constant stream of paper, which is never ending. And I keep up with that on the road. So I don’t feel like I’m cut off in any way. I assume it would have been quite challenging, but such different times you would not maybe have noticed, 50 or 100 years ago when travel was much slower, communication was either so slow or nonexistent. So we live in this 24/7 media environment. So I’m always kept up to date, but I try to keep my attention on what we’re doing.
QUESTION: But do you ever wish you could break free of the caravan and go explore on your own? Where would you go?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I do wish that, and I’ve been fortunate because I’ve traveled before this current job where I had the opportunity to explore, wander, walk anonymously, and even in –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Anonymously in those days. (Laughter.) That was a long time ago. So I would have felt very sad if I hadn’t had that experience before I – before my husband was president, certainly before I was a first lady, a senator, or a secretary. I went to a lot of places, and that gave me a familiarity. But even on these trips in the last two and a half years or so, every once in a while I will go for a walk and just get away. I remember when we were in Wellington, New Zealand and we were on the water, and there was a great walkway. I walked for probably an hour, and it’s just so rejuvenating to me. It’s my favorite thing to do. So I don’t get enough time to do that, but I try to fit it in.
QUESTION: If I’m not mistaken, your Secret Service code when you were first lady was Evergreen, and it’s stayed. And in hindsight, it’s quite a fitting name – (laughter) – because you’ve renewed yourself, reinvented yourself so often and so well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Apparently – well, apparently so. I had no choice. I was just given the name. My husband was Eagle. My daughter was Energy. And I think those are all fitting code names. But I have been lucky. I’ve been so fortunate to have been given these opportunities in my life over the course of a long time now. And I never take it for granted. I’m never complacent about it. I’m always energized by it because I think it’s important. I think the work that we’re trying to do, especially in this time of such tumultuous change, is going to set the template for the rest of this century.
QUESTION: It is a very tumultuous time in the Arab world and in many other places, and you have to meet a lot of leaders around the world. Some of them you like; some of them perhaps you like a little bit less. What is it like to have to shake hands with an autocrat, with somebody whose values you don’t really share? It can’t be easy to smile for the cameras all the time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: It isn’t, and I have had to do it quite a bit over the course of the last 20 years. But I try to remember why I’m there and why I’m doing it. The United States has relationships with every country just about. There are a few exceptions that we don’t, obviously, but we are everywhere in the world, and we have a great mission to protect our security and advance our interests and promote our values. We see that very clearly. So with some you can work on all three, and some you can work on two or one of the three, and we’re always looking for those moments. I also try to be sensitive to the historical, experiential, cultural, religious, social differences that exist that make life so intriguing on this planet we share. But there have been times when I have left a meeting or an encounter, and it’s been very difficult to smile for the cameras, as you say. But some of what you do you do because of the goal that you are trying to achieve. And you cannot get from point A to point B without working with leaders and regimes that you don’t have much in common with or, frankly, who you disagree rather significantly with.
QUESTION: When a foreign minister travels to a foreign country, they’re usually – they usually only get to meet their direct counterparts, the foreign minister of that country. When an American secretary of state travels, when you travel, you get to meet with presidents and kings. Why is that? What does it say about America?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think it says a lot about America and about our great reach and the relationships that we have. I also know many of these people from my prior incarnations, so I have personal relationships with them, which I have certainly called upon in this role. So I find it very helpful to meet with, as you say, kings, presidents, and prime ministers.
QUESTION: But they also open the doors to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they do.
QUESTION: They wouldn’t do that for the foreign minister of another country, for example.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I can’t speak to that, but I know that because of my prior relationships, which are often on a long-standing personal basis, they would see me under any circumstances. They saw me when I was a senator, they saw me when I was a First Lady, so they continue to see me in my current role, and then I do think that as Secretary of State of the United States, there is a lot of business to be done, and some of that business is not only in the foreign ministry.
QUESTION: What’s your favorite story from your time – (laughter) – as a secretary of state?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, my gosh, Kim. I have too many. I’ll probably save them for my next book if I ever get around to writing it, but there have been wonderful moments, and then there have been moments of high comedy and even some quite difficult times. But the few times when I really feel like we’re making a difference are the best times because for me it’s mostly about the work when I travel. I mean, I don’t try to think too much about what else is happening, and I haven’t had too many difficult experiences. So I’m not looking back on it and rolling my eyes or anything, but I think I’ll probably wait until I can really think that through. Certainly, the last time I was in South Africa, getting to see Nelson Mandela, which for me has always been important personally, was very gratifying because he’s an international treasure. But there’s too many stories to tell.
QUESTION: And what was your biggest challenge or your worst moment? I mean, we’ve been on some very interesting trips.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, you have. I think that first trip to Asia was maybe one of the most consequential because there was a feeling in Asia that the United States had abandoned its role as a Pacific power, and that’s why I decided to go, but we did not know what would await us. And I heard a lot from the leaders there about our economic crisis, the global recession, whether the United States was going to remain a player in the region. So that very first trip for me was a real baptism by fire, so to speak.
QUESTION: You were practically mobbed by adoring fans, and you were greeted like a rock star everywhere. Two and a half years into your job, do you think people still look at you as a rock star, a celebrity, or do they see you more as part of the Obama Administration?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a great question. I actually think it’s both. I mean, I was just walking through the mall here and had some young women come up and shout at me and tell me how much they appreciated me. And I think for young women and not so young women, there is a connection. They know that I’ve spent a lot of time working on women’s issues and they care about what I’m doing and what it might mean for them. So I still encounter that a lot. And so that’s kind of my independent role. But also as someone who ran against Barack Obama, and you’ve heard me say, ran very hard and didn’t make it, but then supported him and much to my amazement was asked to be Secretary of State. That is a very powerful story around the world.
I started telling that story on that first trip to Asia, and I could see people just nodding, little light bulbs of thinking and recognition going off about, oh yeah, that did happen there, and we have politics where basically we try to kill each other. And so people do see me connected with the Obama Administration. I often encounter very positive personal responses in the town halls, the townterviews kind of programs that we do, and then an interviewer or an audience member will mention President Obama’s name and people will break into applause. So I think there’s still a very good feeling about what the President and what this Administration are trying to do.
QUESTION: Do you ever wake up in the morning think, oh, I’m too tired to go to work today?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I really don’t. I wake up and say I’m tired so I better get up and get going. But no, every day is fascinating to me because I really don’t know what’s going to happen during the day. I am very aware of how much energy this takes because, clearly, it’s a nonstop marathon. But let me knock on wood here, I have been lucky with health, stamina, and all that goes with it. So no, I won’t lie to you. I’m tired. My friends call and email saying, “Oh, my gosh, I saw you on television. You looked so tired.” (Laughter.) Which I send back saying, “Gee, thanks a lot.” But I know, because if you work around the clock like we do, that’s just inevitable. So I do try to take some time, long weekends, take some deep breathing. I do exercise, yoga, those kinds of things. But no, I’m never tired about the work. It’s just the physical challenge.
QUESTION: You have an incredible amount of people you know around the world. You must have the biggest Rolodex in town. (Laughter.) How many contacts do you have in your Blackberry that you can just call up like that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, thousands. Really, thousands. And it’s the right kind of contacts, because they are people who have some connection with me.
QUESTION: Somebody’s calling you right now. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Somebody’s calling me right now, so if somebody else will, I hope, answer it and see what they want. But that – you timed that question. Is that one of your colleagues calling and saying, “Oh, my goodness”?
I’m lucky. I know a lot of people. Now, they’re not close friends, but I have become friends with a number of the leaders with whom I do work. And I have found over this 20 years of high-wire American and international activity, people do not end up in the positions they hold by accident. There is a reason. Even in authoritarian, dictatorial systems, there is something that has set them apart. And it’s always fascinating for me to figure it out. Because from afar, you can say how did that person end up as prime minister, president, whatever? But then you work with them and you – and there’s an intelligence there, there’s a savvyness, there’s a sense of survival. It’s really, for me, not just diplomatic. It’s political, psychological.
I remember very well when – on my first trip to Africa and I went to Kenya, and it was shortly after they’d had this terrible violence after their prior election, and I delivered a really tough message. And they were taken aback by it, but I felt strongly that here was a country that had so much going for it. And we slowly saw some changes. I had very open, honest conversations with some of the leaders there. The President followed up because, of course, his deep interest in Kenya, with his father. And then two years later, we were at a democracy conference in Poland, and Kenya had been invited. They had taken some rather significant steps, including reforming their constitution. And the spokesman who came from the government started off by saying to me – I was in the audience – that you came and you really spoke very truthfully to us, and we have tried very hard to change. And that’s worth it to me. That’s worth all the travel.
I have no illusions about how hard this is to create strong democracies, to build free market economies, to stand against a culture of corruption, and all of the things that I talk about endlessly. But when I see progress being made against the odds, I say okay, this is really worth it, because we’ve been at independence for 235 years this year. We’ve had our own ups and downs and our own difficulties, including a civil war and so much else. But it’s the intention and it’s the direction. And when I see positive intentions matched with a commitment to a path that could lead in a positive direction, I just am going to stand up and say hooray, and the United States will be with you, we’ll support you, we’ll do everything we can to help you.
QUESTION: You are still very popular, both in the United States and abroad. In fact, I think you’re skyrocketing in polls. But some of your critics say that they can’t quite put their finger on what it is that you are trying to achieve as a Secretary of State. What is the issue that you are trying to get your hands on and bring to fruition? Is it Middle East peace? Is it Afghanistan? Is it Pakistan? What is – what do you want to be remembered for as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t see it that way, especially at this time. I think there are so many converging challenges that are interconnected in ways that we could not have imagined 25, 50 years ago, that what we’re trying to do is restore America’s leadership in the world, because I fervently believe American leadership is essential for the promotion of human rights and dignity, freedom, economic opportunity.
And I am well aware that for the years prior to this Administration, there were a lot of questions about what we were doing. And of course, there are those who say, well, history will look back and see Iraq as a great success, and I hope that’s the case. But I think much of what we did was because we were attacked on 9/11, and I think we made fiscal and budgetary decisions that undermined America’s strength at home and abroad.
So what we’re trying to do, and what I am personally am committed to doing, is moving on a very steady path toward restoring America’s influence and leadership. That’s why going to Asia was important. That’s why continuing to pay attention to Latin America and Africa, working with regional institutions that can espouse the same values that we think are the best way to live and for societies to flourish.
Now, when I took this job, people said, well, you can either try to do that or you can pick one or two or three things. I don’t think this is a time to pick one or two or three things. And I’m well aware of – others might well choose a different perspective, but that’s how I see what I’m doing.
QUESTION: Do you think you are on the right track in terms of restoring American leadership? Some people argue that, in the Middle East, America is becoming irrelevant.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just don’t believe that for a minute. I think that it’s nothing we can take for granted. We can’t be complacent and we certainly can’t walk away. I have fought hard within the Administration for a significant economic program for both Egypt and Tunisia, because I think that the revolution of expectations in both countries was as much economic as political, because it wasn’t only the freedom to vote or the freedom to speak, but the freedom to work and to increase your standard of living and to see your life improve.
And I think that we are still looked to, sometimes begrudgingly and critically, but there is no doubt in my mind that people still care very much what the United States says and does. And what I worry about is the contrary, that it’s not what people around the world think about our role, but at home people who rightly are concerned about our own domestic economic situation, our own federal budget deficit, who are saying enough with the foreign involvements; let’s just do nothing but stay right here and tend to our own garden. That would be, in my view, a great mistake.
So part of what I’m trying to do is speak and work on behalf of America’s influence and leadership in a way that my own country understands, so that people who are unemployed auto workers in Michigan or struggling small businesspeople in California can say, “Yeah, I really want the President, the government, to pay attention to me, but I get it. I know why we’re working to make sure Egypt and Tunisia turn out well. I know why we still put money into developing agriculture and fighting HIV/AIDS in Africa, and all the other things that we are working on.”
QUESTION: And a final question, to wrap up on a lighter note. Tell us something about yourself that BBC listeners don’t know. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I sometimes think I’m the best-known unknown person. I’m always amazed when people – and sometimes interviewers but sometimes just citizens around the world – will say something to me about me that I think, well, no, I didn’t do that or I didn’t say that or I don’t like that. So I’m always amused by that. But there’s – look, I don’t think anybody in the public eye can ever be totally known. That’s a misnomer, even though people are constantly in the press and therefore, you think you know them.
But I think that I am a pretty normal, average person, despite all of the hype. And I am very interested in spending time with my friends and my family and not being on the merry-go-round all the time, which is one of the reasons why I have decided that I will move on and return to private life at the end of what will be a very intense period of activity and work in the next 18 months. But I just – I believe what I say and I work to try to see life improve, particularly for women and girls, and I love what I’m doing.
QUESTION: I think one thing that people don’t know about you is that you have a great sense of humor. (Laughter.) You (inaudible) I think.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you’ve got to have a little bit of fun doing these kinds of jobs, Kim, as you know. And thank you for all of your good work.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The United States believes everyone benefits when we invest in education. Education transforms individual lives: empowering people to pursue their dreams of a better life and expand their human potential. One extra year of schooling increases individual earnings by 8.3% on average. More education also empowers women: giving them the skills and earning potential they need to help support their families, build businesses, and send their own children to school. But the advantages extend beyond individuals. More education, especially for women, promotes healthier societies. Fully one half of the drop in child mortality between 1970 and 1990 can be attributed to increased education for women and girls.
The United States is committed to promoting education because it is in our interest as well. More education — and the accompanying economic growth – is linked to decreases in conflict. These factors are also crucial to successful transitions to democracy, and the ability to sustain democratic governance after the transition. Education also empowers people, including women, to fully participate in their societies, becoming citizens in the truest sense of the word.
Our position as one of the largest donors to education reflects this commitment. Bilaterally, our Overseas Development Assistance for education is higher than ever. Over the last decade, we have increased our education aid over 1000% for a total of $1.2 billion in 2010. We are using this aid to help countries all over the world meet the Millennium Development Goals and the Education for All Goals. USAID’s new Education Strategy sets three goals: by 2015, we will to improve reading skills for 100 million children worldwide in primary grades, improve tertiary and workforce development programs to better generate skills relevant to each country’s development goals, and to increase equitable access to education in conflict and crisis situations for 15 million learners.
We are also supporting these goals through our work with multilateral partners. In May, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined UNESCO Director General Bokova to launch a new Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. We are also working together with multilateral agencies on the ground: With UNICEF, we are training teachers in Benin and building sanitation facilities for students in refugee camps in Cameroon. With UNICEF and the Government of Jordan, we are working to integrate Iraqi refugees into public schools.
Over the last decade, the international community has made great progress in education. Since 1999, the number of out of school children has dropped by more than a third, and the number of girls out of school is decreasing even faster. Yet there are great challenges ahead of us. There are still 796 million illiterate adults in the world, almost two thirds of whom are women. While access to primary education has improved, quality education and access to secondary education remain a problem, especially for girls.
Today, everyone is feeling the constraints of limited budgets, but we cannot lose sight of the importance of education. Even in these times, there are ways that we can all strengthen our commitment to education.
First, we can all share our experiences on making education delivery stronger and more cost-effective. The United States has lessons to learn about building a better teacher workforce from others. At the same time, we can help other countries as well. For example, we can assist other nations develop stronger technical and vocational education programs, an area we have excelled in. We want to initiate and continue more of these dialogues.
Second, we can include the private sector and other non-traditional partners in our conversations. Look, for example, at UNESCO’s new Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education, which mobilized millions in new investment in education. In the United States, organizations – such as the Lumina Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – have made huge investments in making classrooms more effective. These lessons can also be shared.
Finally, we need to be proactive about setting the agenda for the future. Both the MDGs and EFA Goals will end in 2015, but some challenges – like illiteracy – will continue beyond 2015. This is not a reason to give up the fight. Instead, it is a reason to redouble our efforts to promote literacy, strengthen secondary education, and ensure that all children – both girls and boys – have a chance for a quality education.
The State Department and National Science Foundation joined forces with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on June 13 to sponsor a groundbreaking symposium entitled “Changing Mindsets to Promote Women and Girls in Science”. The symposium, a commitment under the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), brought fifteen women scientists from Benin, Jordan, Burkina Faso, Mongolia, Brazil, India, Tanzania, The Gambia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iraq, and the West Bank together with more than 100 scientists, educators, and representatives from the private sector and foreign governments.
Participants examined programs and policies that are making a positive impact on attracting girls to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, keeping them interested in STEM through college, and providing concrete tools to retain women scientists at every level of their scientific careers.
At the symposium the OIC announced that it will host a visit by RAISE Project leadership in OIC member states within the coming months. The visit will offer opportunities to adapt RAISE programming in OIC nations. The RAISE Project, sponsored by the Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR), is a campaign to increase the status of professional women through enhanced recognition of their achievements in science, technology, engineering, medicine, and mathematics. Its searchable database of professional awards is an invaluable resource for scientists wishing to nominate women for professional recognition.
At the conclusion of the symposium, the State Department and the OIC agreed to hold a similar symposium in the Middle East/North Africa region.
The symposium was supported by additional partners, including NASA, the National Institutes of Health, USAID, the Iraqi Women’s Fellowship Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences, and Novus International.