SECRETARY CLINTON: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Let me tell you how pleased I am to be back in Santo Domingo. And I am grateful to our hosts, the Government, and people of the Dominican Republic for the leadership in making the Pathways to Prosperity ministerial a success. I’m also pleased to be here with our ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who understands firsthand how important it is that we continue to stress our efforts to help people escape poverty, achieve prosperity, and build better lives for themselves and their families.
And through the Pathways program, that is exactly what we are doing, by sharing best practices, by embracing good policies, by making it clear that we are going to close the inequality gap in this region, that we’ve had good economic growth, but it hasn’t done enough to lift the many millions of people who are still living in poverty into a better life. We have refocused our objectives. We’ve strengthened our partnerships. We’re working with the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.
Today at the ministerial, we have adopted a declaration and a plan of action that clearly lay out both the mission of Pathways and the concrete steps we are taking, and we are looking forward to meeting next year in Colombia. We have four pillars for our work: empowering small businesses, facilitating trade, building a modern workforce, and promoting sustainable business practices and environmental cooperation. And I applaud those nations who are serving as co-chairs for these pillars: the Dominican Republic, Chile, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Peru, and Uruguay.
We are going to keep working together to translate our intentions into actions. And to help make that progress, earlier today I announced that the United States will commit up to $17.5 million to fund projects that foster inclusive economic growth in the Americas. We already dedicated $5 million during the past year to support a number of successful projects under Pathways. And we’re going to work to increase trade, which is why just a few days ago President Obama submitted to Congress three pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea. We are hopeful that the Congress will act swiftly to approve them, along with trade adjustment assistance.
Well, we know what works. We’ve got the models that are proving themselves. Now we have to replicate, adapt, and expand those to all of our citizens.
Again, let me say how good it is to be back in the Dominican Republic. I am blessed to have a number of friends here. And this country is a close partner and friend to the United States. We work together closely to pursue our shared security and prosperity through Pathways, the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, the Open Government Partnership, and so much else. This is a relationship we highly value. So again, I am pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to make progress together on our shared goals.
Now I would be happy to take some questions. So, Mike, let me turn it over to you.
MR. HAMMER: We have time for two questions from the U.S. side and two questions from the Dominican side. Is Brad Klapper from the AP – pose the first question.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, could you describe your feelings after Russia and China vetoed the UN resolution condemning Syria last evening in New York? I wonder if it’s particularly disappointing to you after the lobbying effort you pushed with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And with this route effectively blocked off, where do the United States and its international partners go from here to stem the bloodshed?
SECRETARY CLINTON:Well, Brad, frankly, we believe that the Security Council abrogated its responsibility yesterday. It has a responsibility to protect international peace and the security of civilians. The resolution voted on yesterday represented the bare minimum that the international community should have said in response to the months of violence that the Asad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people.The countries that chose to veto the resolution will have to offer their own explanations to the Syrian people, and to all others who are fighting for freedom and human rights around the world. We note the striking distinction between those Syrians who stand peacefully for change every day in cities across their country and those countries that would not stand with them on even one day in one city yesterday. So the United States and our European allies have made very clear where we stand on this issue, and we think that the people who joined with us from four continents to express our condemnation and call for an end to the violence, and to begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic, non-sectarian Syria are on the right side of history.
In the meantime, those countries that continue to send weapons to the Asad regime that are turned against innocent men, women, and children should look hard at what they are doing. Those nations are standing on the wrong side of history. They are protecting the wrong side in this dispute, and the Syrian people are not likely to forget that, and nor should they.
MR. HAMMER: All right. The next question (in Spanish).
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say that every country in our region is unfortunately affected by the scourge of drug trafficking and the criminality of drug traffickers. No country is immune, and every country must do more to prevent the spread of drug trafficking and the criminal elements who profit from the misery of people.
So we work closely with our colleagues and counterparts in the Dominican Republic. We will continue to do so. Strengthening security for citizens and against criminal elements remains a very high priority. That’s why we are working together in the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. We are partnering with the Dominican Republic’s military to help strengthen its ability to combat narco-trafficking, and we will be very clear about what our expectations are because we know that the people of the Dominican Republic deserve to lead safe, secure, peaceful lives free of the terrible violence that drug traffickers inflict.
We also know that drug trafficking goes hand-in-hand with corruption. And corruption is a cancer in any society. It needs to be addressed and eliminated. So we do support the Dominican Republic’s participatory Anti-Corruption Initiative, which is the kind of program that can help to strengthen governance and increase transparency and improve the institutional capacity of the security forces in the Dominican Republic to defeat the challenge posed by drug traffickers.
So we will continue to work together, but we will also continue to expect that those who are on the front lines of protecting the people of the Dominican Republic or anywhere in the region, are held to a high standard of accountability. Otherwise, we will not be successful.
MR. HAMMER: All right. The next question goes to Andy Quinn of Reuters.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, UNESCO said today that it will allow its full membership to vote on a Palestinian bid for membership later this month, which some say could be a back door to UN recognition of their statehood. Do you think the U.S. should withhold its funding for UNESCO or even drop out of the organization if this happens?
And we are now almost halfway through the one-month timeline that the Quartet gave for resuming direct peace talks. Do you have any reason to be optimistic now that the Israelis and the Palestinians will make that deadline?
SECRETARY CLINTON:Well, first, with regard to the action in UNESCO, I have to state that I find it quite confusing and somewhat inexplicable that you would have organs of the UN making decisions about statehood or quasi-statehood status while the issue has been presented to the United Nations. I think that that is a very odd procedure indeed, and would urge the governing body of UNESCO to think again before proceeding with that vote because the decision about status must be made in the United Nations and not in auxiliary groups that are subsidiary to the United Nations.Having said that, you know where I stand. It is unfortunate that there is a policy to pursue recognition of whatever sort through the United Nations rather than returning to the negotiating table to resolve the issues that will result in a real Palestinian state, something that the United States strongly supports and wants to see as soon as possible. But we know that there cannot be a state without negotiations.
What is the boundary of this state that is being considered by UNESCO? What authorities does it have? What jurisdiction will it be endowed with? Who knows? Nobody knows because those are the hard issues that can only be resolved by negotiation. And unfortunately, there are those who, in their enthusiasm to recognize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, are skipping over the most important step, which is determining what the state will look like, what its borders are, how it will deal with the myriad of issues that states must address.
With respect to the question about the United States’s response, we are certainly aware of strong legislative prohibition that prevents the United States from funding organizations that jump the gun, so to speak, in recognizing entities before they are fully ready for such recognition. So it is still our hope and our strong recommendation that we take this to the appropriate forum, which is the negotiating table, and take it out of international organizations that are basically engaged in actions that are not going to change the lives of the people that deserve a state of their own, namely the Palestinians.
MR. HAMMER: Okay. The last question (in Spanish).
QUESTION: (In Spanish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that we should start with the recognition that the Dominican Republic was extraordinarily generous and helpful to Haitians after the terrible earthquake. The Dominican Republic, both through the government, through its military, through its private sector, through private citizens, was one of the earliest responders to the terrible tragedy that befell on the Haitian people. So we know that in its most terrible time of need, Haiti received help from the neighbor who shares this beautiful island with it.
I’m well aware that there are very serious concerns about the human rights of Haitians, and in particular those who have been here long enough to be – to have been born here and lived here. And we don’t dispute that every nation has a right, a sovereign right, to establish the laws concerning its border security, concerning its nationality, but we also believe that every nation has an obligation to protect the human rights of migrants. And therefore, there must be a resolution that recognizes those human rights, and we hope that we can encourage the Government of the Dominican Republic to look for ways to resolve these outstanding issues of residency and citizenship.
I know there’s a debate about what would happen to migrants who were stripped of their naturalized residency rights. I know that the Haitian constitution seems to suggest that once a Haitian, always a Haitian, and always the right to be considered a citizen of Haiti. So these are very difficult, complex issues, and the United States is a friend to both Haiti and to the Dominican Republic, and we want to encourage the fair resolution of these issues so that people’s rights are recognized, but also a nation’s right to control its borders and its internal laws is also respected. Thank you.
MR. HAMMER: That concludes our press conference.
QUESTION: And joining us now is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Madam Secretary, good morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, Erica.
QUESTION: The state visit, as we know, gives China the recognition and really a little bit of the pomp and circumstance that it’s been craving. It’s now the world’s second-largest economy, obviously a crucial partner for the U.S. I know it’s a relationship that the Administration has been working on. But you also said very clearly last Friday that distrust lingers on both sides. How will this state visit work to eliminate some of that distrust?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Erica, it’s a great question, and I have to say that even though we live in a world of virtual reality a lot of the time where people communicate with the flick of a mouse or the touch of a screen, we believe strongly that you still need to have face-to-face, relationship-building opportunities. And I have seen that so clearly in the last two years as Secretary of State. We’re proud to welcome President Hu Jintao for a state visit to Washington. It is the continuation of two years of the Obama Administration’s efforts to build a positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship with China. And we think it is one of the most consequential relationships for the future of our country and the future of the world.
So we will be working to find common ground wherever we can to enhance cooperation, but there will remain differences. Obviously, first and foremost, I stand for America’s interests, Americans’ values, America’s security; the Chinese stand for theirs. And we do not always see the world the same way, which is to be expected, since we have very different histories and cultures. But it is imperative that we work not only government to government, but people to people, to build a foundation of better understanding and trust so that where we can agree, we will do so and work together.
QUESTION: One of those major issues, and especially for a lot of the American people as they look at this, is, of course, human rights, which you also brought up as you were speaking about – in fact, referencing specifically Liu Xiaobo from talking about the Nobel Prize, and you said – and I’m quoting here – talking about how that chair remaining empty at the ceremony in Oslo was a symbol of a great nation’s unrealized potential and unfulfilled promise. China, though, has repeatedly dismissed U.S. calls for greater human rights as interference. How do you work on that issue of human rights while also balancing out the need for working on things like trade agreements?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Because we want a comprehensive relationship in which these various issues are not eliminated because they are troubling, but are wrapped into our overall strategic and economic dialogue. I think everyone in the world knows that the United States and China have differences when it comes to human rights. That doesn’t prevent us from raising it in private and public, and it – and the fact that we have these differences doesn’t prevent us from working together on the economic prospects for the global economy.
So what I believe is that the United States must always stand for our values, and therefore, we must raise human rights, which remains at the heart of American diplomacy. But we cannot say that that’s all we’re going to be talking about, or the fact that we disagree there eliminates the need for us to work together on climate change, North Korea, Iran, and so much else.
QUESTION: You mentioned North Korea there, and the Korean Peninsula seemed to be on the brink of war not very long ago with, of course, the attack on a South Korean island and then South Korea’s military maneuvers that we saw. Will you and will the President be speaking with – and as you speak with your counterpart, your Chinese counterpart, asking them to be more firm when it comes to North Korea?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are engaged in an ongoing discussion with the Chinese, as well as the South Koreans and the Japanese and the Russians, all who are members of the so-called Six-Party Talks, about what we must do in order to restrain North Korea’s nuclear program and end its provocative behavior. China was helpful in this last series of incidents in helping to restrain North Korea in responding to what was a legitimate exercise by South Korea to demonstrate its defensive capacity. And we’re going to continue to work with our Chinese counterparts.
The fact is that a stable, nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is in both Chinese and American interests. Now, how we get to where we want to end up is what diplomacy is about. So we have an ongoing discussion and we are looking for the best way forward, and I believe we will have some productive talks about North Korea during the state visit with President Hu Jintao and his delegation.
QUESTION: The benefit, again, of those face-to-face meetings.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s right.
QUESTION: There is so much attention, of course, on China and on the state visit, but there are other pressing issues at this point across the world. And last week on Thursday, you talked about the Middle East and stagnant governments there and you warned that the region’s foundation could be sinking into the sand. On Friday, we saw the president of Tunisia, President Ben Ali, who had been in power for 23 years, flee the country. Do you believe that that situation is serving, perhaps, as a wakeup call to other nations in that region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that certainly is what I’m hearing from my counterparts throughout the region. And as I said in the meeting in Doha, in the 21st century where people communicate constantly with one other, the old rules are not going to work. You can’t keep people in the dark, because everybody has a cell phone or a PDA. They have a way of communicating what they see going on and taking their own video and posting it to the internet.
Governments have to be aware that the rules have changed. And the best way to deal with the pent-up desires on the part of the huge number of young people in the world today, and particularly in the Arab world who don’t have jobs, who feel that they aren’t given neither economic nor political freedom, is to begin to look at how you create inclusive, participatory government that can deliver results for people. And of course, I understand the legitimate concerns of many of the governments which say if we open up, it’s the extremists who are going to rush in. And my response to that is: Not if you are giving support to NGOs and others who are looking for democratic participation where voices are heard, not silenced the way the extremists eventually choose to do. So this is a delicate, difficult time of change in much of the world, and particularly in that part of the world.
QUESTION: Extra, extra delicate, as you point out. I do want to ask you as well about former Haitian dictator “Baby Doc” Duvalier, who, of course, has reemerged at this point, coming out of exile. The State Department is saying it was surprised by his return. Will the State Department put – push, rather, for prosecution?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are very clear going back many years about the abuses of that regime. And certainly, we believe that his record is one of repression of the Haitian people. Ultimately, a decision about what is to be done is left to the government and people of Haiti. But we’re focused on trying to maintain stability, prevent chaos and violence in this very unpredictable period with his return, with cholera still raging, with the challenges of reconstruction, with an election that’s been challenged. It sometimes seems as though the Haitians just never get a break; they just don’t get enough of a period where they can regroup and take the necessary actions that will give them a stronger future.
So we stand with the Haitian people and with their aspirations, and we hope that we can get through this difficult period and get back to a more stable relationship within Haiti and between Haiti and the rest of the world.
QUESTION: Lastly, before we let you go, of course, the campaign season is already heating up for 2012. I know you’ve said that you plan to stay in your current position at least through this first term. Any thoughts, though, on ever looking again at perhaps running for an elected office?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I’ve been very clear that I think that is part of my very happy past, where I had a wonderful opportunity to serve the people of New York, to work beside my husband when he was president, to run for president myself, but I feel very good about the service I’m rendering now and will continue to do that.
QUESTION: And what about those rumors that we could see you over at the Department of Defense?
SECRETARY CLINTON: As far as I know, those are just rumors. I’m happy where I am, and I’m doing everything I can to persuade Bob Gates to stay as long as he can where he is.
QUESTION: All right. Secretary Clinton, thanks so much for your time this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Great to talk to you, Erica. Thank you.
Office of the Spokesman
The Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (G/TIP) announces the additional award of $4.75 million to ten grantees to strengthen Haitian institutional and civil society capacity to identify and respond to human trafficking. The funding stems from the U.S. Congress under the Supplemental Act, 2010.
The grantees include: Catholic Relief Services, Free the Slaves, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, International Association for Women Judges, International Organization for Migration, SHARE Institute/Survivors Connect, University of San Francisco Center for Law and Global Justice, and the Warnath Group LLC.
The award of ten additional grants signifies the United States’ continued commitment to rule of law and the protection of children in Haiti as well as strengthening law enforcement responses against traffickers taking advantage of vulnerable persons in a post-disaster situation. ”
The grantees will work with local partners to help draft anti-trafficking legislation, support direct services for victims’ recovery, and prevent human trafficking and gender-based violence in the internally displaced persons camps. Additionally, grantees will increase the capacity of targeted law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases and social welfare agencies to recognize human trafficking and make referrals for services.
As the issue of involuntary child domestic servitude under the ‘restavek’ system continues to be a high priority, grantees will also increase public awareness about it. The 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that 225,000 children were enslaved before the earthquake.
Anti-trafficking experts were part of the emergency response and the planning to rebuild in Haiti. Following the earthquake last January, G/TIP funded nearly $1 million in new grants to respond to the heightened risk of trafficking of Haitian children. This included assistance to restore the lives of child trafficking victims through the provision of nutritional, medical, psychological, and educational assistance; a safe shelter; and reintegration assistance. It also enabled the screening of children at all four designated border crossings between Haiti and the Dominican Republic – a process never before conducted at the border. Children identified as suspected victims of trafficking are now registered, transferred into the care of the appropriate Haitian Government agency and, when possible, reunified with their families.
Bureau of International Organization Affairs
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
I find it hard to believe that a year has already passed since I assumed leadership of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Before another year rushes by, I wanted to take just a moment of your time to thank you for all the valuable insight, guidance, and feedback I have received over these months, and to offer you a quick update on some of the Bureau’s most recent activities.
Dominating that category in recent weeks has of course been the continuing international response to the tragedy in Haiti. At the end of March, Secretary Clinton co-hosted an International Donors’ Conference at UN Headquarters to focus attention on the resources needed for Haiti’s long-term recovery and reconstruction. The conference, which featured the participation of Haitian President René Préval and the UN Secretary-General, resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of global support, to the tune of nearly $10 billion in pledges.
I was profoundly affected by the scene in New York, where representatives from the widest spectrum of nations stood shoulder to shoulder with the Haitian people. Maintaining that degree of support in the coming years will be crucial, as will ensuring that pledged support is applied in the most effective, coordinated, and transparent manner possible.
The IO Bureau will play an important and ongoing role in the U.S. response to the crisis in Haiti by working closely with the United Nations and other international organizations engaged there, and I would of course welcome your thoughts as that effort unfolds.
You are also well aware that the IO Bureau plays a leading role in U.S. participation on the UN Human Rights Council. We’ve been a member of the Council for less than a year, but have nonetheless worked with great energy to promote a vision of the Council as a more credible and effective force on behalf of human rights. In assuming a seat on the Council, we understood that political and institutional dynamics would pose considerable challenges to realizing that vision.
I am pleased to report, however, that the most recent session of the Council, which ended just a few weeks ago, resulted in significant, though incremental, accomplishments toward that objective. Of particular note in that regard was our effort to steer the Council toward a more productive approach in combating issues of racial and religious intolerance.
As you are already well-aware, there has been a deeply troubling effort at the UN in recent years in support of banning speech that might prove offensive to religious groups. While we share concerns about racial and religious understanding, such an approach is unlikely to be effective and would impose unwarranted infringements on freedom of speech.
In an effort to begin redirecting this energy toward more constructive paths, the United States was vocal on this issue at the Council and in capitals around the world. The result of that effort was a significant shift of support away from the annual resolution on defamation – a trend we will strive to extend and strengthen in the coming months.
This and other successes were the product of a concerted effort by the United States, an effort immeasurably strengthened by the arrival in Geneva of our Chief of Mission, Ambassador Betty King, and U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe.
Finally, just a quick note on a recent event that I believe captures the true essence of the President’s “Era of Engagement.” A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to join the U.S. delegation to UN-Habitat’s 5th World Urban Forum (WUF). The U.S. and Brazil co-chaired the Forum, which focused on the urgent importance of addressing the impacts of rapid global urbanization.
By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities, most of them in the developing world. This fact could have very real implications for U.S. national security, and certainly will have implications for the global economy and the wellbeing of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.
As the United States addresses the domestic phenomenon of growing urbanization — with issues as varied as affordable housing, water and sanitation, and mass transportation — we must concurrently seek means of addressing similar phenomena across the globe.
Once again, my sincerest appreciation to all for your interest in and commitment to multilateral engagement and foreign affairs. I look forward to sending you occasional updates in this format as a means of keeping you abreast of the Bureau’s activities. I would also encourage you to register for our IO Summaries, which capture major IO activities, UN actions of note, public statements, and more.
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback to the IO Mailbox.
With Highest Regards,
Friends and Colleagues:
It’s been a very busy two months in the multilateral world since my last letter, and I am pleased to once again share with you some recent highlights.
To begin, I want to make note of the President’s recently-released National Security Strategy, and encourage you to give it a close look in the context of the Administration’s multilateral objectives. Doing so, you will see how central our engagement with the UN and the international system is to the foreign policy of the United States under the Obama Administration. The NSS lists as one of four enduring U.S. national interests “an international order advanced by U.S. leadership that promotes peace, security, and opportunity through stronger cooperation to meet global challenges.” It reinforces again and again the impossibility of divorcing our national security priorities from the sort of robust, sustained multilateral engagement envisioned by the President. Of course, the commitment by President Obama and Secretary Clinton to a strong international order makes now an especially exciting time to lead the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, as on a daily basis we undertake the very ongoing and comprehensive engagement that is envisioned by the National Security Strategy.
Consider for a moment some of the key focal points in the strategy – nonproliferation, peace and security, economic cooperation, human rights, food security. Addressing any one of these issues will require energized engagement with international organizations, as clearly expressed in the Strategy:
“…we have an interest in a just and sustainable international order that can foster collective action to confront common challenges. This international order will support our efforts to advance security, prosperity, and universal values, but it is also an end that we seek in its own right. Because without such an international order, the forces of instability and disorder will undermine global security. And without effective mechanisms to forge international cooperation, challenges that recognize no borders – such as climate change, pandemic disease, and transnational crime – will persist and potentially spread.”
The necessity of such investment is at times all too apparent. In the case of Haiti, the crucial role of international organizations in the emergency response is significant. You will recall that much of my last message focused on the crisis in Haiti and the mounting international response effort. That effort has been a continuing priority for me and the Bureau, and I took a recent opportunity to visit Port-au-Prince to assess first-hand the ongoing response and recovery efforts of the UN and larger international community.
Prior to arriving in Haiti, I stopped in Miami to call on the leadership of the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Of course you know of the crucial role played by SOUTHCOM in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake and the weeks that followed. Its Joint Task Force Haiti was a critical player in the emergency response, and an essential partner to the State Department, the UN, and the many other responding agencies and organizations. The Joint Task Force concluded its operations in Haiti as of June 1, and I join innumerable voices in expressing my sincerest appreciation for its extraordinary efforts.
During my consultations with SOUTHCOM leaders, I was repeatedly struck by their firm resolution to build upon this experience by strengthening their coordination mechanisms with the United Nations – coordination that could further improve future crisis response efforts. It was clear to me that the SOUTHCOM Commander, General Fraser, and his leadership team understood the need for close cooperation and coordination with the wide range of UN and other international actors involved in the earthquake response, and how well SOUTHCOM’s core missions fit within the President’s vision for U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century.
I then traveled to Port-au-Prince for a brief visit that left me deeply affected. The scale of the devastation, of the human suffering, is difficult to absorb. As I noted, I viewed this trip as an opportunity to take stock of the many and varied efforts being undertaken by the United Nations and other international organizations, to explore the coordinating role being played by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), and to meet with key UN, U.S., and Government of Haiti officials.
I enjoyed a series of very productive meetings while on the ground, including with Edmond Mulet, the head of MINUSTAH (with whom I had met on several occasions in New York and Washington as part of our regular contact with UN leadership), and his top civilian, military, and police deputies. In these and other meetings, I gained additional perspective on the challenges facing the Haitian people and the agencies and individuals working hard to address the many urgent needs. Among the many issues discussed, I explored the progress being made to rebuild the Government of Haiti’s capacity, the continuing shelter and basic services emergency, and the evolving role of the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission, co-chaired by Bill Clinton and Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive.
I returned from Haiti with renewed motivation and bolstered conviction that despite the daunting challenges and the continuing obstacles, the combined energy and determination of the Haitian people and the international community is having a real impact, and I am committed to monitoring that impact in the context of U.S. support for the UN and other international organizations.
In other important news, in May the United States announced its decision to join the UN Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends. This important, voluntary initiative aims to improve understanding and cooperation among nations and peoples, and across the world’s many cultures. The U.S. decision to join the Alliance’s Group of Friends complements President Obama’s vision of vigorous U.S. engagement with other nations, other cultures, and international organizations to advance American security interests and meet the global challenges of the 21st century.
In late May I led the first-ever official U.S. delegation to an Alliance of Civilizations Forum – this one in Rio de Janeiro. Several heads of state, foreign ministers, and other dignitaries, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the Alliance’s High Representative Jorge Sampaio, spoke at the opening session about the Alliance’s laudable goals. Over the three-day gathering, our delegation took every opportunity to engage, listen, and converse on the scope and scale of the Alliance’s activities, which encompass educational and cultural exchange programs, youth outreach, media development, and much more. I also enjoyed meeting with U.S.-based organizations participating in the Forum. In the coming weeks and months, the United States will be exploring potential paths of interaction with the Alliance, and your thoughts and comments in that regard are most welcome.
Of course, much work has gone into the UN Security Council’s recent decision to impose tough new sanctions on the Iranian government. The Council’s action underscores the profound concern of the international community regarding Iran’s nuclear program, its determination to hold Iran to its obligations and responsibilities, and its shared committed to a diplomatic solution. As President Obama stated after the Security Council’s action, we recognize Iran’s rights to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, but those rights come with responsibilities. For multilateral diplomacy to be truly and enduringly effective, all parties must take seriously just such responsibilities.
Finally, the fourteenth session of the Human Rights Council concluded earlier this month, and during the session the United States again exercised leadership to increase the world’s attention on very real and serious human rights situations and demonstrate that the Council can contribute to effective protection of human rights. Among the key achievements during the session was a statement, co-sponsored by the United States and endorsed by 56 countries, expressing concern at the lack of progress on human rights in Iran. We also secured the passage of a resolution on the urgent human rights situation in Kyrgyzstan, as well as a resolution co-sponsored with the government of Afghanistan that condemned attacks targeting children. We supported the deepening of the Human Rights Council’s engagement in addressing grave human rights concerns in Somalia, and worked toward the successful extension of the mandate of two rapporteurs focused on human rights in Sudan and on freedom of religion. Through this latest session, we continued our efforts to transform the Council into an effective entity, by bridging divides across traditional blocs and strengthening the Council’s tools to address pressing human rights situations.
Once again, I extend my sincere thanks for your feedback, your suggestions, and your support. I look forward to using this format from time to time to share thoughts and discuss key initiatives, and I always welcome and appreciate hearing your voices in response.
With warm regards,