Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here with you all for the celebration of International Right to Know Day.
As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.
The Open Government Partnership — or OGP — has had a big month. In fact, with its formal launch just over a week ago, I’d venture to say that everyone who believes in the principles of open government has had a big month.
Last Tuesday, President Obama joined world leaders from forty six nations to launch OGP in a historic demonstration of commitments from governments to improve the way they do business in the service of their people.
This partnership was born out of President Obama’s 2010 speech to the UN General Assembly — just one year ago — in which he called on governments around the world to recommit to transparency and accountability, to increase civic engagement, and to harness new technologies in the pursuit of better governance and a better world.
But it was also born out of two decades of increasing attention and demands from civil society and government champions — many of whom are on the agenda here today — for governments to recognize that open is not scary or unattainable; but instead that open is good for everyone and well within our reach.
So here we are, one year later, and the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership — the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, and Norway — we have welcomed no less than thirty eight countries as they join us in stretching the traditional notions of government in twenty first century.
Let me just say that again; because I think it’s remarkable. Thirty eight governments — in addition to the eight founding countries of OGP — have committed not only to open government in name and theory but also in action. Forty six total governments that, with the help of civil society and the private sector, will take concrete steps to make their governments work better, respond better, and serve better.
The really phenomenal point — even beyond the sheer number of countries — is that they have signed up voluntarily, entirely out of appreciation for OGP’s founding premise: that open is good for all of us, and that the tools of our digital, globalized age make it easier than ever for governments to be more accountable, more transparent and more engaged with citizens.
In President’s Obama’s words, open government is the essence of democracy. And we are seeing around the world how governments are returning to that essence. Many of you are familiar with the stand-out examples that are demonstrating what is possible through open government:
To start with, we celebrate today the fact that more than 85 countries now have government transparency laws, guaranteeing citizens the right to seek information.
One of those countries is Kenya, which is using technology to increase civic participation, to support innovation, and to make development more participatory and transparent. Earlier this summer, it became the first African country to launch an online portal that gives citizens access to government data.
In Latvia, citizens can introduce proposals to their parliament by collecting signatures through an online petition. The United States just launched a similar tool — “We the People” — as part of our OGP country action plan.
Another ground breaking example is Iceland, which this year updated its constitution by “crowd sourcing” the changes directly with citizens over social media.
And in Brazil, the expenses of government officials are posted online within 24 hours — meaning extravagant purchases will not go unnoticed and officials are sticking to honest, official expenses.
Thanks to the leadership of OGP’s steering committee — which itself is a partnership between governments and civil society — we are seizing the opportunity before us, and setting a new affirmative agenda for countries to follow suit. Let me outline the three ways we are doing this:
1. Through the OGP declaration — available on OGP’s new website — we affirm that openness can help us do our jobs better in serving and responding to our people.
2. Through country action plans that are informed by civil society, we are grounding this commitment in concrete steps. These plans will continue to evolve, but I can tell you that they are already making governments think, talk and act in new ways.
3. And we are generating momentum for a race to the top in good governance. The thirty eight countries we welcomed last week will now begin the development of their own action plans; and we look forward to welcoming more countries to the Partnership in the coming weeks and months.
As OGP continues to grow and develop, it will remain a unique international initiative for two reasons that I think are worth mentioning.
First, it is unique in that it relies on productive collaboration with civil society — from the Steering Committee itself, to the development and assessment of country action plans. As President Obama said last week, “our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government…our civil society representatives [are a part of OGP] not as spectators, but as equal partners in this initiative.”
And second, OGP is unique in that it strengthens government accountability, not between OGP and a member country, but between the member country and its people — where accountability is most important. Through OGP, 46 nations are now committed their respective members of civil society to improve transparency, openness, and civic engagement.
Of course, just because we’ve set the process in motion, with great momentum, does not mean the path is fully forged. Governance will never be simple or easy. Many governments, including the United States, are still learning. Our country action plans may evolve as time goes on. But with the Open Government Partnership, we have taken a big step towards our shared goal of improving lives through better governance.
So I want to thank you for your support and look forward to working with you as we make governments more open around the world.
Good morning. Thank you Alfred, for your generous hospitality today as we celebrate this momentous occasion: the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership. It’s wonderful to be here.
I especially want to thank Ginny Hunt, Michelle Rosen-Sapir, Phase One Consulting, and Julie McCarthy for putting together this top-notch event. We have a full day of the finest minds and people in this space, all of whom are in high-demand, not to mention during the UN General Assembly week. So it’s an honor to have you with us. I especially want to recognize and welcome President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines. Thank you for being here.
As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.
Today is a big day for us. Just one year ago, President Obama called on governments around the world to recommit to transparency and accountability, to increase civic engagement, and to harness new technologies in the pursuit of better governance and a better world.
And one year later, the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership welcomes no less than thirty eight countries as they join us in stretching the limits of government in twenty first century.
Let me just say that again; because I think it’s remarkable. Thirty eight governments—in addition to the eight founding countries of OGP—have committed not only to open government in name and theory but also in action. Forty six total governments that, with the help of civil society and the private sector, will take concrete steps to make their governments work better, respond better, and serve better.
The really phenomenal point — even beyond the sheer number of countries — is that they have signed up voluntarily, entirely out of appreciation for OGP’s founding premise — that open is good for all of us.
We are seeing this around the world:
Technology and social media are opening communications channels, increasing awareness and dialogue in every corridor of society.
Open source innovations are introducing new solutions to old bureaucracies, resulting in more access and knowledge between a government and its people.
And as we know, information is power. In the hands of citizens and officials alike, open information can mean change and progress.
Thanks to the leadership of OGP’s steering committee—many of whom are in this room—we are setting a new example for governments around the world.
We are demonstrating by our commitment to the OGP declaration—launching today on our new website—that openness can help us do our jobs better in serving and responding to our people.
We have crafted ambitious action plans grounded in concrete steps and informed by civil society. These plans will continue to evolve, but I can tell you that they are already making governments think, talk and act in new ways.
We have told the world about what we’re doing—and the world has responded. This afternoon, we will welcome those thirty eight countries to OGP not just in their commitment to open government but in their promise to work with civil society to develop their own plans towards greater openness.
Governance will never be simple or easy. But good governance should the foundation upon which we address the world’s problems. Today, with the launch of the Open Government Partnership, we embrace openness as one lever to our success, and we do so in the good company of those of you in this room.
So, thank you for your support and for your ideas. I wish you the best today and look forward to hearing from our distinguished panelists and speakers.
Now, it is my pleasure to turn it over to my co-chair, Minister Jorge Hage, Comptroller General of Brazil and lifelong advocate of transparency anti-corruption causes.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here at the Women in Security Network of the Peace Research Institute.
This is an important time for organizations such as yours. The events of recent months—from the democratic revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa to the earthquake in Japan—remind us of the gravity of transnational security challenges. Whether motivated by the need to respond to natural disasters or democratic aspirations, governments and civil society must work together in order to promote peace and security locally and around the world. And of course, the role of women—as leaders, first responders and victims—is key to our progress.
Tonight, I’d like to share with you how the United States is elevating civilian security—and the role of women in security— in our own foreign policy, and more specifically, how we see women figuring largely in the equation to peace and security.
In the United States, we recently completed the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, which builds on existing mechanisms in the US government to elevate critical elements of civilian power, particularly at the State Department and our sister agency USAID.
By refining and strengthening our civilian tools, the US government will better advance our foreign policy goals in concert with our military. Leading through civilian power means:
directing and coordinating the resources of all America’s civilian agencies to prevent and resolve conflicts;
helping countries lift themselves out of poverty into prosperous, stable, and democratic states;
and build global coalitions to address global problems.
As part of the changes underway, I will oversee the reorganization of Department of State entities united under the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights to:
Prevent and respond to crisis, conflict and instability;
Promote rule of law through security and justice sector reform;
Manage refugee and humanitarian crises;
Counter transnational threats such as narcotics, crime, and insurgency;
Promote effective, accountable democratic governance and vibrant civil societies; and
Advance human rights.
Among all of these difficult challenges, we are especially focused on our ability to prevent conflict in the first place. Once conflict has begun, intervention carries extraordinary costs. Late assistance limits options and extends the conflict.
So, much of what we will be doing in focusing on countries and regions that are on the brink of instability, and helping provide the tools that establish peace and growth.
For example, in Southern Sudan, seven teams of United States conflict prevention officers engage daily with the local government and others in order to influence conflict dynamics. In Kyrgyzstan, a conflict expert led a field based analysis in the south, the site of large scale ethnic violence last June, to inform thinking about USG strategies to support peaceful democratic transition. And in Central America, we are working on civilian security by addressing the underlying causes of social dislocation and discontent that leads to violence, drug abuse, and corruption. This means investing in institutional frameworks that foster greater trust and justice in society.
Of course, no matter where our civilian security efforts take place, we are ever mindful of the role of women. Whether we are facing political repression, war, climate change, or natural disaster, women and young people are on the front lines—as both victims and first responders. Despite bearing the brunt of society’s political and economic challenges, they continue to drive democratic change and social equality.
Last October, I participated in “The Role of Women in Global Security” Conference in Copenhagen. Participants in the conference observed that ten years after the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1325, some improvements have been made, but women remain underrepresented in public office, at the negotiating table, and in peacekeeping missions.
So we need to be doing a better job of incorporating women into our peace building efforts at every step of the way, including in post-conflict disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR), security sector reform, and the rule of law activities. Because, as we pave a path for women to become change agents in their own societies, we tip the balance away from more violence and towards more equitable and positive solutions.
The conference in Copenhagen suggested best practices for increasing women’s participation in conflict prevention efforts, including:
deployment of gender-balanced peacekeeping units,
including more women in security sector and judicial reform,
and more intentional solicitation of the input of women at the community level on priorities for national budgets and international programs.
The United States is currently in the process of developing its national action to implement many of these recommendations as part of UNSC 1325. We are impressed with the work that Norway has done on its national action plan and I look forward to learning more about the details during my meetings with the MFA tomorrow.
So let me close by saying that the United States’ increased focus on civilian security, conflict prevention—and the role of women in both—is an important opportunity for increased collaboration between our country and Norway.
As President Obama emphasized earlier this year, we must confront the challenge of citizen security together, and from every direction. As we invest in the judicial systems that form the backbone of every society, so too must we invest in a future that honors all members of society and empowers the youth of our region. The violence and insecurity we face today should not cripple our hope for a better future. With that, I thank you for all that you do, and for inviting me to be here with you today. Thank you very much. I’ll open the floor to any questions you may have.
First, thank you for including me on today’s panel. I commend the Wilson Center and International Crisis Group for taking on this difficult and critical topic. The mass rape of well over 100 women just days ago in South Kivu is a disheartening reminder that despite international efforts, we still have a very long way to go before we can claim any success. Thank you to Dr. Mukwege for your inspiring work.
When Secretary Clinton traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 2009, she said that she saw humanity at its worst – and at its best. At its worst was the use of rape and sexual terror as a tactic of war. But, she said, Dr. Mukwege represents “humanity at its best.” He has given himself unstintingly to the work of Panzi hospital. He does heroic work every day to repair the mutilated bodies of the survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. Not only does Dr. Mukwege save lives, but he also helps survivors rehabilitate back into society.
Sexual violence used as a tactic of war is threat to international peace and security. The international community recognized this when it adopted the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, beginning with Resolution 1325, in the year 2000.
President Obama’s National Security Strategy recognizes 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.”
Secretary Clinton has noted that where women are oppressed and marginalized, societies are more dangerous and extremism is more likely to take hold. The suffering and denial of women’s rights and instability of nations go hand in hand.
No where do we see that more starkly than in the DRC. In her 2009 visit to the region Secretary Clinton highlighted the devastating role of sexual violence as a strategic weapon in armed conflict. We have since increased efforts to respond and prevent SGBV in the DRC and around the world.
In 2009, the United States introduced Security Council Resolution 1888, which created a UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, and ensured that a team of experts would be deployed to conflict situations where sexual violence is likely to occur, in order to help governments strengthen the rule of law, improve accountability, and end impunity.
In support of Women, Peace and Security, the United States has also developed a comprehensive strategy to address SGBV in the DRC. In partnership with the Congolese government and civil society, the USG’s four key objectives in this strategy are to: 1) reduce impunity for perpetrators of SGBV; 2) increase prevention of and protection against SGBV for vulnerable populations; 3) improve the capacity of the security sector to address SGBV; and 4) increase access to quality services for SGBV survivors.
Across the USG, we are working with international and local NGOs, multilateral organizations and other donors to achieve these objectives. Since 2002, the USG has obligated nearly $150 million towards combating SGBV in the DRC.
USAID-funded programs have provided care and treatment services for over 100,000 SGBV survivors, including access to medical care, counseling and family mediation, social and economic reintegration support, and legal aid.
We are working with UNHCR and ICRC, as well as NGO prevention and response activities to help for returned refugee populations and internally displaced persons, many of whom are SGBV survivors.
We are also working to promote human rights, provide legal services to SGBV survivors, and build the capacity of local NGOs, justice sector and law enforcement personnel, and the media.
In the judicial and police sectors, we are providing assistance to the American Bar Association in order to increase access to justice for victims of SGBV, while at the same time increasing public awareness to the severity of these crimes and the avenues available to seek justice. INL also works with the International Organization for Migration to train members of the border police to recognize and investigate SGBV.
U.S. Africa Command has a small but growing commitment to assist in the prevention of SGBV and to help survivors. DOD funds are also being committed to provide infrastructure upgrades to facilities used by other service providers, to conduct research on SGBV, to train military officers and judicial officials on human rights and investigating war crimes, and potentially in future years to conduct SGBV prevention training with civilians as well as militaries.
Responding to, and preventing if possible, SGBV is one of the most difficult challenges that UN peacekeepers face in a situation like the DRC. We commend MONUSCO for taking on this issue more aggressively. In the case of the South Kivu rapes this month, which MONUSCO has quickly sent a mission to investigate, it was some two weeks before word of the tragedy reached outsiders, demonstrating once again that we need to find a way to communicate about such attacks in a much more timely way. And to communicate about early warning signs in a way that connects the dots and helps with prevention. The desertion of the alleged perpetrator of these rapes from the FARDC earlier in June is in retrospect a key warning sign.
We remain committed to working with the DRC government, the United Nations, and other international and local partners to strengthen the DRC government’s capacity to prevent SGBV, address the threat from illegal armed entities (including through their link to conflict minerals), and break the cycle of impunity for war crimes affecting innocent men, women, and children. In addition, we are committed to supporting the full inclusion of women in the country’s economic and political development. That is why it is critical that we promote women’s access to small grants and skills training, which is essential to civil society’s ability to effectively impact the DRC’s growth and stability.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton are fully committed to advancing the agenda of women as agents of peace and security because women are critical to solving every challenge we face. No country can get ahead if it leaves half its people behind.
Women are a powerful voice for peace and an instrument of development when given the opportunity. Investing in women is not only the right thing to do; it’s the smart thing to do.
Good evening, and welcome to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department. It is a distinct honor to have you all here with us this evening.
I am Maria Otero, the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.
I should start by saying that Secretary Clinton was planning on being here tonight, but was called away to attend the funeral of our former First Lady Betty Ford. And since the Secretary counts ‘First Lady’ among her former titles, it was particularly important that she be there to honor the wonderful life of Mrs. Ford.
This morning, Secretary Clinton joined Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, in announcing a new multilateral initiative — The Open Government Partnership — which brings together governments and civil society organizations to improve governance in the 21st century.
Now, many in this room have just come from a full day of thought-provoking presentations and discussions on open government. But before I attempt the difficult task of summarizing such a dynamic day, let me take a step back and say a word about why we are here.
There is no question that, in the 21st century, the tenants and aspirations of democracy are bolstered by the tools and technologies at our disposal. Communication technology and other innovations are knocking down the walls that once kept populations from reaching their elected officials and from influencing public discourse. Never before in the history of self government have we been quite so capable of enhancing transparency, increasing accountability, and promoting civic engagement. And governments around the world are responding in kind:
This morning, we heard about how the government of Iceland is using social media sites to engage citizens in the rewriting of their Constitution.
In Latvia, average citizens can propose ideas for consideration by Parliament, where innovation is translated into legislative reality.
Just last week, the government of Kenya moved bureaucratic mountains by launching a first class open data website. Brazil and South Africa are both pioneering innovative tools to promote budget transparency and foster citizen engagement in budget decision-making.
And around the world, more than 80 countries now have freedom of information laws, a vital step towards open government — up from only 13 in 1990.
Additionally, civil society groups are complimenting and in many cases fueling government efforts towards open government. NGO projects in Tanzania, Uganda, Indonesia, and the Philippines are proving we can decrease the likelihood of corruption in vital government services by encouraging citizens to monitor the disbursement of government funds.
It is this critical exchange and interaction between civil society and governments that makes the Open Government Partnership unique. In addition to being a new partnership among developed and developing nations from every region in the world, OGP is a collaboration between governments and civil society organizations that are committed to making democracies work better for the people. And we are proud that at today’s meeting, well over 60 civil society organizations were represented alongside high-level representatives from nearly 60 nations from every region in the world, all here to address issues of corruption, lack of transparency and lagging civic engagement.
What has become clear, over the course of the past several months and through the discussions here today, is that we are on the leading edge of a new chapter in governance — in which a growing chorus of citizen demands can be met with the tools and processes to answer them.
Gone are the days when mountains of paper files obscure the path to government transparency. Countries from Kenya to Estonia are clearing miles and years of bureaucracy by digitizing citizen records. In Honduras, the government has increased public participation in their budget process by holding public meetings with civil society and high-level government representation throughout the country. And in Mongolia, their Independent Agency Against Corruption is keeping government officials and processes accountable to the people they govern.
These are just a few examples of many in this room tonight. And, though not all countries are as far along as others, we know that a country’s ability to rise to this challenge has little to do with the number of years it has been a democracy. Even the youngest democracies are equipped to join the movement towards open government. Because at its foundation, the Open Government Partnership is nothing more, and nothing less, than the commitment of governments to serve citizens, using the best tools and practices at our disposal in this new era.
Now, let me be clear: this is not just about technology. It is about the responsibility of governments to their citizens. It is about creating organizational change. It is about building on existing practices, expanding them and refining them — so that we are cataloging and communicating in ways that befit the 21st century. It is about a dialogue between government and civil society specifically about opening up governments to its citizens.
I am pleased that several countries have already expressed their strong interest in joining the inaugural members of the Open Government Partnership, including Kenya, Chile, Thailand, Liberia, Moldova, Canada and Israel. Together with our civil society partners, The OGP community of nations will share best practices with one another, as we face shared challenges. Additionally, the Open Government Partnership will advance open government efforts by matching government needs to private sector providers. We are doing this through a new networking mechanism, developed by our partners Global Integrity and the World Bank Institute, which will connect member nations of OGP to private sector experts and resources.
Before I close, I do want to recognize the Steering Committee of the OGP and express our collective thanks. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is collection of extraordinary leaders in open government and I want to thank them for driving this effort forward.
But tonight is not just about the accomplishments of the steering committee. Instead, it is a call to action: To all the countries in this room and beyond who are seriously committed to improving their most basic functions, we invite you to join us.
As Minister Hage reminded us at lunch, democracy means more than regular elections. It also means active citizens; a free press; an independent judiciary and legislature; and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly. None of this is easy. And it is always a work in progress. But by committing together to developing new, better standards of democratic, open governance, we will strengthen our own democracy and do a enormous favor to future generations.
MS. BENTON: Hello, and welcome to the U.S. Department of State. This is Conversations with America, a discussion between a top State Department official and an NGO leader, where you can watch and participate in the dialogue. My name is Cheryl Benton, and I’m the Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Public Affairs.
On July 12th, the United States will host a multinational meeting to discuss ways to bring greater openness to more nations. This will be followed by a September gathering of governments in New York for the launch of the Open Government Partnership. We’ve received questions and comments on today’s topic from around the world through our blog, DipNote, and have selected several for this broadcast.
Now, let’s meet our guest. Maria Otero is the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs at the Department of State. She oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign relations on a variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights, labor, environment, oceans, health and science, population, refugees and migration, and monitoring and combating trafficking in persons. That’s a lot. (Laughter.) Thank you for being with us, Under Secretary.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: My pleasure.
MS. BENTON: Thank you.
Warren Krafchik is Director of the International Budget Partnership, or IBP. His organization collaborates with civil society around the world to analyze and influence public budgets in order to reduce poverty and improve the quality of governance.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Thank you.
MS. BENTON: And thank you for joining us. Tell us more about the work of your organization. I wanted to get to that question pretty quickly, but before we do that, I really wanted to know from the Under Secretary, exactly what is open government? I mean, I think people just don’t know.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, that’s a very good place to start. Really, open government is based on three principles. The first one is the principle of transparency, the way in which a government can provide information to its citizens about what it’s doing. That is the first principle that we believe is important in open government.
The second one is civic engagement, civic participation. That is really having the public contribute ideas, expertise, other areas, in order to be able to help their governments make policies and develop their programs.
And both of these first principles — of transparency and [civic] engagement — then feed into the third principle, which is accountability. Accountability basically means that governments are responsible for their decisions or for their actions, and that they are able to respond to their citizens on that behalf.
Open government is really a powerful tool. It’s not an end in and of itself. It’s a way in which governments can become more effective, they can be more efficient, and ultimately can govern better. And governments around the world are noting that this is a very important way to proceed.
MS. BENTON: Very good. I think that was a great way to start. And now, Warren, tell us a little bit about what you do, what your organization does, and then I think we have the perfect setting to begin the conversation.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Sure. Our organization starts from the belief that government budgets are citizens’ budgets. The government receives its money from citizens and it spends its money on citizens. And so it’s vital in the area of public budgeting that there’s a dialogue created between governments and citizens. Now that kind of a dialogue around public budgeting is, I think, exactly the type of engagement that Maria was talking about.
For me, I would agree a hundred percent with you, Maria. It’s transparency, civic engagement, and accountability. For me, underneath open government, there’s a very humble and liberating principle, liberating for governments and for civil society. And that principle is that no one actor in society has all of the information, not government nor citizens nor the private sector. And open government is a tool to help create a dialogue between citizens and government. At its best, open government leads to an improvement in the quality of life for citizens, particularly poor citizens. And in the process, I think it has the ability to create greater capability and trust in government.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, the issues that you’re bringing up also remind me of the fact that – you ask why now?
MR. KRAFCHIK: Right.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Why are we concerned with this issue today? Well, I think we’re seeing several things really come together. One is on the one hand there is some decline in the trust in governments, and we see that around the world. And we see governments themselves, in the developed world, in the developing world, taking measures and looking for ways in which they can be more accountable and they can govern better.
And this is also a time when we’re seeing huge increases in technology, and that has given citizens enormous access, to be able to interact with government and to be able to influence government. We’ve seen this over and over again as we have seen the way in which even the Arab Spring took place, the way in which other ways in which citizens are themselves making use of this social media, so to speak, in order to be able to participate. And government, therefore, if it’s innovative, if it’s creative, can use this technology to make information more available and to be able to engage its citizens in the way that it makes decisions.
MR. KRAFCHIK: I think that that’s right. And I think it’s almost as if, at the moment, we’re reaching something of a tipping point, that we’re used to stories and we can easily quote statistics about how poor government services are and transparent governments are, how much corruption there is in many countries. But I think what we’re seeing at the moment is the beginning, perhaps, of a reversal of that, or at least some signs of hope of that. We have governments, particularly governments from the south, that have shown amazing capability to innovate and to provide services more effectively, to provide budget information online, to pass freedom of information acts.
There are definitely several governments, not only rich but many poor governments in many poor countries as well, that are part of this trend. And I think in complement to that, we have – you mentioned Arab Spring, but that’s one example of so many countries and regions at the moment where citizens, legislatures, and auditors are becoming much more active in civic engagement. And I think that’s exactly the kind of interactive dynamic democracy that is at the heart of open government.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: We’re seeing governments try to do – we’ve seen three different ways in which they’re trying to do this. One, if you – as you mentioned, is to really look for open information. And right to information type laws have now been enacted by more than 80 countries. So we see the interest on the part of governments to be able to make information available.
It’s – for us, when President Obama came into the presidency, one of the first things he did was talk about open government, and he put forth executive memorandums and actions in this regard. And one of the things that has happened since in this country, just in this area, is that close to 400,000 databases have been made available to the public that weren’t available, through data.gov. And those give you information on auto safety, on air travel, on nutrition, on health, on a variety of different areas that before you didn’t have.
This is an example from our country, but we see many other countries doing this. We also see countries simply making open the management of their resources, how are we delivering services to the public, and engaging the public in doing that. I mean, we’ve seen, as you mentioned, Uganda, Tanzania, Philippines, Indonesia. These countries are actually asking the public to say how are we delivering services? But they are also finding that this is one way to decrease and to discourage corruption, because certainly transparency addresses that question as well.
And then finally, you see governments are really looking carefully and using innovative ways to engage people – everything from town hall meetings to a variety of other events that take place that allow the public to be able to feed information into the government.
MR. KRAFCHIK: I think often people are a little perplexed by this topic and they wonder what exactly is this about, what does it mean on the ground. And I think that you’re starting to give some real substance to what this means on the ground.
And talking from a civil society perspective, I think that we’ve shown – we’ve seen so many examples now of how civil society, citizens in civil society and the private sector, can contribute to good governance. And there were three factors that I thought, three ways in which civil society helps to do that, and you’ve talked about the first one at the moment.
The first one I was thinking about is citizens are on the ground, they’re watching, projects, they’re watching services being delivered. They’re recipients of those services. It’s very easy for them to be able to see where things are not going right, where there might be leakages or where there might be corruption.
There’s a fascinating story in India at the moment, the government passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. It provides – it’s a landmark policy providing 100 days of guaranteed employment to all rural families. The problem is that just like in other large decentralized country, providing those finances from the national govern through to rural villages to individual citizens, there’s much that can go wrong. Many can be leaked, there’s over-invoicing, under-invoicing, the ghost workers, et cetera.
So what the government of Andhra Pradesh has done is they work together with citizens and have trained thousands and thousands of citizens to monitor whether this policy’s being implemented properly, and they go household to household and essentially conduct audits. The Indian state minister for rural development in Andhra Pradesh estimates that over the last five years, they’ve saved over or retrieved $20 million in corruption and 4,600 government employees have been fined or face some kind of disciplinary action — the accountability you talked about. So citizens can watch and can help make sure that there are more resources available for development.
The second point is that if you talk to citizens, I think it’s likely that you will very frequently get an improvement at how services are delivered, and the most obvious example is to say, if you’re an engineer and you have the responsibility for drilling a well in a rural village, if you don’t speak to the women in that village about where to put the well, it’s likely that you’re going to be building a white elephant rather than a sustainable public resource. And these kind of informal citizen monitors that are helping to track textbooks in the Philippines, working with the Boys and Girls Scouts; monitor public road projects in South Africa; monitor school capitation grants in Uganda. And at each point, they’re feeding information to government.
And there was one other final point I wanted to make, and that is that civil society often has analytical capacity, independent analytical capacity, and that can help contribute to these issues, to these problems. The one case I was thinking was in Mexico, where the government provided new subsidies to farmers, who they thought might lose out as a result of the implementation of NAFTA. So in response to the Freedom of Information request, the government put up online all of the subsidies, who received them, and how much they received. But they were put online in way that was inaccessible to citizens — it was too technical. It was too complicated. It was up too late, et cetera.
So a local organization, a partner of us, Fundar, worked to take that website, take the information, and over a year create a website that’s accessible and useable. And the first citizens and organizations that used it found that there were problems with the policy. Ten percent of the richest farmers were claiming over 50 percent of the funds.
Now this information and analytical capacity helped Fundar to approach the government, have a discussion, and that led to substantially improvements in the policy, and that’s the dialogue. For me, that’s exactly the open government dialogue.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Those are excellent examples. And you’re reinforcing the way in which this event that Cheryl has said is going to take place July 12 –
MR. KRAFCHIK: Right.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: — is structured, because the open government partnership, which is the event that the United States is hosting, is really one that brings together governments that are – that believe that open government is an important way in which they want to proceed and brings together civil society organizations also and engages them in a discussion in a way of addressing the issues related to open government. So on that – in that event, which is going to be chaired, co-chaired by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota from Brazil,– what countries are doing is really – at that event, we’re going to look at ways in which we can strengthen the norms related to open government among countries that are interested, with input from civil society. We’re going to look at ways in which we can showcase some of these examples that you are putting on the table and some of the other ones that exist around the world, because we are beginning to see best practice here. We’re beginning to see examples, which countries can use that other countries have already shown are successful.
It’s also an opportunity for these countries to then – it’s a way to secure commitments from them to do, if you will, an action plan. In fact, at this event, we really are looking for the countries to begin putting together the principal ideas of what a national action plan towards open government would be. And it’s also a way to then engage with the innovation that’s coming out, not only of the sort of civic society but also the private sector. Because the private sector’s an important player in this area and can bring great –
MR. KRAFCHIK: Absolutely.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: — great ingenuity and great ways of utilizing these things. So we’re really seeing the event on July 12th as one way to very concretely have countries be able to address these issues. So we’re going to spend that afternoon in what we’re calling the “Innovation Alley,” which is really nothing more than a way to – for the people that are here from the countries, and this is a ministerial-level meeting, to be able to really see and have an applied opportunity to look at the different ways in which technology is being used to make this innovation possible.
One additional thing I would say about the meeting on July 12th is that this is not an event that’s being driven the United States, by any means. It’s an event that is multinational. It’s being driven by a steering committee of nine countries that have come together with civil society in that steering committee and have organized this. And they – this goes back really to when President Obama sort of charged everyone to do this last September at the UN General Assembly meetings. And so from that has come this effort now that countries, both from the north and from the south, are bringing forth.
So we are excited about this meeting on July 12th. We think it’s going to be very useful for countries and it’s going to lead us to the meeting at the UN General Assembly this coming September in which President Obama and other heads of states can address this issue, can also themselves explain how far they’ve moved in this area of open government, and we can this as a way to really energize countries to almost enter into a new narrative in the way in which you begin to address this. It’s sort of a fresh conversation to address issues that have been really stumping government for years – corruption, inefficiency, bad use of resources. So that’s what we’re looking to do as a way of putting this in place, and you’re part of it. So it will be really good.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Well, I really liked the last thing you – I like all that you said, but particularly the last point that you were making. Because I – we do have major long-term, what seemed like intractable problems, poverty and inequality just being two – one of the greatest of these.
And I think – so what do you do in a situation where nobody is actually the expert? You can’t – any one of agency or party can’t solve the problem. The best you can do is bring together all of the agencies, all of the stakeholders that are responsible or that are invested in this issue and have them work together in dialogue to create, as you say, a new best practice. And that’s important for the countries. And I really hope through the open government partnership it becomes part of an energized global movement towards open government.
MS. BENTON: One of the things I was curious about and wondered if this factored into it, people can say is this just another way for the developing countries to direct and take over some of the underdeveloped countries, what they’re doing? Is this just another way for them to kowtow to us? We’ve heard that challenge, and I wondered if that was in any way true or impactful.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, it would be wonderful to hear from Warren being from a citizen working with a civic organization, but also being from South Africa and being able to address that. But certainly from the perspective of the United States, this is really a reflection of a growing number of countries’ interests in addressing these issues. And these are countries in the north and in the south.
Some of the examples that are hearing are very innovative examples that are very useful in the south and that are designed by people who understand how things operate in those countries. There are a number of governments that are particularly concerned about issues that have to do with corruption that are very difficult, issues that have to do with transnational crime, that have to do with the different ways in which they are being effective in just the area of governance.
So there is no question that this effort now – and this is why I said it’s timely and there’s momentum behind it – is because there are countries that are already doing it. And bringing them together to be able to exchange information is important.
I should add that really this effort is for countries that are interested in this. Nobody’s being pulled into this. There are no restrictions or any instructions that are being given that you have to participate in this for – this really is coming from each country. And in fact, these countries have to demonstrate that they were already working in this area before they can really begin to participate actively in this. So, I see it as a new way to address these issues and to address it in a more global way than we have in the past.
MR. KRAFCHIK: I think that’s completely right. I mean, your question leads to the many examples we have had over decades, hundreds of years, where development hasn’t taken the ownership of developing countries in particular into account. We have many, many examples of this around the world. But I don’t believe that this is one of those examples.
MS. BENTON: Good.
MR. KRAFCHIK: I think the most important point is that the incentives to be part of this process, the open government process, is really one of a choice in countries. It’s about a country saying, we would like to be part of this process, we would like to commit ourselves to participating and shaping how open government takes shape around the world. That’s the most important.
And I think the guarantee that we have of genuine southern leadership and involvement, together with northern leadership and involvement, is really, as Maria says, that some of the best practice examples, some of the most dynamic and innovative work in this field is happening in developing countries. And Maria mentioned – Maria, you mentioned South Africa.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Yes.
MR. KRAFCHIK: The one example that just comes immediately to my mind, having lived through that period, is that in 1994 South Africa was probably one of the most closed countries in the world. Its budget system was entirely closed. There was no role for citizens, the legislatures, and the audit function was severely compromised. That was 1994. By 1999, 2000, South Africa was amongst the leading nations in the world in preparing accessible, timely, and useful budget documentation. So a very short period of time with a relatively modest investment of resources completely shifted the way that public finance government – governance happens in South Africa. And South Africa is not the only country.
MS. BENTON: Right.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Poland, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, all of these countries are leading in that field.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: I would just add to that that one of the things that these countries have in common and that is an essential component here is political will, is absolutely the need of a government to want to be able to take this issue forward. And from our perspective, it is also, therefore, an issue that we can elevate high in the agenda of meetings like the G-20 or of regional meetings like the Summit of the Americas or other meetings, because the interest in this area is not the United States pushing it; it is really one that is shared by many countries. In the Summit of America, Brazil started to take really a leadership role in this area and started implementing many of the types of examples that you given. So this question of political will really does have to come from the government before it really allows and enables far more open civic engagement in this work.
MS. BENTON: One question pops to my mind, Maria, for you, is how is this effort funded? Do we have a way of knowing how we are going to finance this?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, the event itself is – each country that wants to participate in it is clearly covering their cost for sending their ministers and their high-level officials.
But to go beyond that, we certainly recognize the interest on the part of countries to be able to address issues of good governance, to try to address issues that have to do with corruption, and so on. And so we make, through AID and through the State Department, funds available either for building capacity, which tends to be a big bottleneck or to carry out a variety of other activities that countries want to put in place, including the introduction of technology in certain areas. In 2009, we provided nearly $1 billion globally for funding projects related to – you could say, issues related to corruption or lack of transparency, all the way across to improving the governance of governments.
So from our perspective, some of the resources that are needed are part and parcel of what we are engaged with in the countries that we’re working in.
MS. BENTON: Good deal, good deal. So how were the countries selected for this July 12th event?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: You might want to address that (inaudible).
MR. KRAFCHIK: And let me address it by following on from an earlier point, is that first, it’s the government’s choice and a reflection of their political will –
MS. BENTON: Gotcha, gotcha.
MR. KRAFCHIK: — to be involved. But that doesn’t mean that involvement is going to be easy. I think part of the principle of the program is that we’re asking governments to stretch themselves, to think very hard about what are the areas and the types of commitments that would really make a difference in their country. But how do you know that a government’s ready to make this kind of commitment? And that’s a difficult question, and one we have to resolve in fairly short order. And so the method that we do is we try to rely on an as objective a set of indicators as we can, indicators that say something about whether a government publishes its budget, whether it publishes the reports of the auditor general.
And we’ve used six indicators, objective indicators, along those lines to get a sense of whether a government might be interested and might already have the capability to contribute. The next choice, then, is up to the government. At that point, we’ve invited the governments, “Would you like to be part of this initiative?” And the meeting that we’ve got next week is indeed for the governments to learn about how to do that. If they are to succeed and if this project is to succeed, I really think what’s vital is for governments to think very hard about what’s going to be meaningful in their countries and how they can develop and implement those commitments in a way that fully involves civil society, citizens, and the private sector in that effort. That’s the spirit of the meeting.
MS. BENTON: Okay.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: And one thing that I would add to that is that in determining what those indicators were and in determining which countries fulfill those indicators, that decision was made by this steering committee that I referred to –
MR. KRAFCHIK: Yeah.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: — which is made up of countries from the South and from the North, and also some NGOs, other organizations that are working on these issues. So really, the decisions were made by a multinational group of governments that are, one could say, taking the lead in this area, and can themselves demonstrate through their own action plans how they’re proceeding on this. So I think it’s important that that’s how the process is started.
MR. KRAFCHIK: And as you say, the process of designing and implementing the open government partnership is a microcosm of the type of dialogue that we hope will happen in each country and between countries, that multi-stakeholder, multinational character.
MS. BENTON: Yeah. Very good. I’m glad that you both touched on the Freedom of Information Act, because I think there was – is confusion about what’s open government, what’s freedom of information, and how do they align, and I think you addressed that quite nicely.
What happens after July 12th? You have September; you go to the United Nations General Assembly. Are there meetings on the margins or is that also a big bona fide meeting?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: These would be meetings on the margin and – but it would be at the highest levels possible, we hope.
MS. BENTON: Okay. Right.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: And one of the challenges related to open government is that it is very much a process that a government has to undertake, and it – we would envision that from this meeting to September and moving forward beyond September, governments would proceed in a process of putting together action plans. And those action plans would begin with consultations with the public that the governments would hold in their own countries, bringing together citizens to talk about different issues. And using what comes out of those conversations is something that would then inform the plan that they put together, much like what Warren was saying at the very beginning. And we would envision that they would spend a good deal of time putting this together.
Now, we use this phrase called “grand challenges” in this because we know that all governments are facing challenges, serious challenges – and governments know this – in transparency, in accountability, in delivering services in a variety of other areas. And so part of this process asks governments to really choose a grand challenge and address it. We’re not looking for governments to address every imaginable question.
We’re also looking for them to think about whether they want to address this at the national level, at the state level, at the local level, because this is quite complex. But certainly, from the perspective of our own country, what President Obama has done since the beginning of the Administration in creating open government, we have seen huge advances – and I gave some of that information – but also in the way in which freedom of information is addressed and how quickly those answers are made available, the way in which budgets are made available to the citizens so they can understand them, and so that they can give some feedback.
There’s many different ways in which President Obama and his leadership has provided in this area of open government. And so what we are doing also feeds into this and we know that we can learn a good bit from what other countries are doing in this process. So we envision that this open government partnership is really an ongoing effort. We would even see that we would have yet another meeting next March, most likely hosted this time by Brazil. So these are some of the plans of the way in which we’re moving. And we are also hoping that more and more countries will join and see this as something that is a useful way to proceed and a group that they want to be part of. It’s almost a bit of a peer-to-peer issue here. And the countries that are coming to the meeting on July 12th are almost 50 countries, so we are – already have considerably robust effort in moving this forward.
MS. BENTON: And will the countries represent the Middle East, Africa, just all over the globe?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: We have wide representation from everywhere.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Yeah.
MS. BENTON: Okay. Okay. Good deal.
MR. KRAFCHIK: And that’s been really important.
MS. BENTON: Yeah, I think that is important.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: That’s right.
MS. BENTON: Now, Warren, with your organization, what will actually be your hands-on role at the July 12th meeting?
MR. KRAFCHIK: Well, my role as part of the steering committee has been to lend a civil society voice to help design this process, help think about how to do it best, how to ensure that there’s good country ownership, how to ensure that there’s good multi-stakeholder participation. That’s really the process. What I’m looking forward to on July the 12th is have the opportunity to talk to governments and civil society from the world and around the world, and help say something to them about why this is such an exciting moment and why this is such an important development, and how they can join this development. That’s really, I think, the role that I’m going to play at that meeting.
MS. BENTON: Good. So, now, where is the July 12th meeting?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: It’s right here.
MR. KRAFCHIK: Right here.
MS. BENTON: Oh. Okay. We want people to – (laughter).
MR. KRAFCHIK: You’re in the right place.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Right here in the Department of the State. And it will be – as I said, it will be hosted by Secretary Clinton and the Foreign Minister of Brazil.
MS. BENTON: Right. That’s the highest level of participation and leadership, and I think it speaks and bodes well for what we hope will be the outcomes for this.
There has been a lot of discussion with the departure of Vivek Kundra and the gutting of open data initiative budgets, that open government is either dead or dying in the United States. How do you respond to that?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, I think it’s really important to look at some of the mandates and directives that President Obama has put forth from the very beginning, because that commitment to open government, from his perspective, it’s not really only a statement of aspiration –
MS. BENTON: Right.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: — but it is very concrete. And so much is being done right now in many different ways to be able to provide information to the public. Some of the examples that I gave earlier – for example, the example of opening up almost 400,000 databases, which anyone can access through this website, is one way not only to make information available in a wide range of issues to the public that weren’t available before. But it’s also been a way to sort of tap into the ingenuity of the private sector, and so we’ve seen several apps developed that relate to some of these areas that have come up through this more – through this information from the database.
And so this is very interesting because it also shows that the private sector can even develop some businesses around this, and so you also then begin to see some potential for some economic growth as you are developing this area. And this is also relevant to the way things would evolve and have evolved in other countries around the world. So there is nothing but total commitment to this topic, also followed by their concrete action that we are seeing.
MS. BENTON: That’s very good.
MR. KRAFCHIK: I think I would just add – not being a U.S. citizen, so looking somewhat from the outside – I think I would add that introducing open government, the process, the tools of open government is a very ambitious effort. And what it’s trying to do is change the culture and the incentives around government and governance, and I think that we need to have patience, that it takes considerable time for those kinds of macro-shifts to take place. And in the process, in the hustle and bustle of everyday government, you’ll find successes and you’ll find areas where there’s less success.
And I think what’s important is that there’s a government that’s looking and learning every day about how to do this and how to improve and refine practices over time, because there isn’t a prayer book, there isn’t a hymn sheet, there isn’t a song to sing.
MS. BENTON: Right, right. Very good. The discussion is great, but I wanted to make sure that we had a chance to take some questions that have come in and been submitted by – over our DipNote, our blog. We have Flavio in Brazil who writes, “Corruption is the major cause of underdevelopment and lack of access to basic resources. How the U.S. is contributing to fight corruption and how this policy is being implemented?” So how is that happening?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: You’re talking about corruption –
MS. BENTON: Yes, corruption, yeah.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: — and how the U.S. is addressing this issue?
MS. BENTON: (Laughter.) That’s a big one.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: I mean, there is no question that corruption is a topic that – I don’t think there’s a single country that I travel to that it doesn’t come up as a major concern. And governments know that corruption not only decreases the resources available for the development of the country, but it also decreases the effectiveness of the government and it increases the distrust that people have in government, and in democratic institutions. And clearly, it opens up space for what we talked about early – transnational criminals and even terrorism.
So the corruption issues we understand as ones that are enormously important, and we want to be very supportive to governments in addressing it. One of those ways is through the issues related to the resources that we’re making available in order to be able to make sure that governments improve their own capacity and are able to develop their own ways to combat corruption. Certainly, transparency is a very important one of those. We’re also raising this issue in regional meetings, in high-level meetings as I described.
But additionally, the U.S. Government itself is taking steps to be able to address corruption. Certainly, the Department of Justice and the Security Exchange Commission have put forth about a hundred or more enforcement actions against bribery cases that have come up. And that has resulted in criminal penalties and civil penalties that have actually resulted in resources for our own government as well.
We’ve also, in many cases, put on a variety of different ways in which we can work to address corrupt officials – for example, revoking visas or not providing them with visas when we know that they are engaging in corrupt practices. And Congress just passed recently a law called Publish What You Pay, which is really asking companies in the extractive industries – oil, gas, minerals – to be able to really publish what payments they’re making to U.S. Government officials or to foreign government officials.
MS. BENTON: Interesting.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Again, all these mechanisms to be able to discourage corruption and to be able to move beyond just saying this is such a big problem that we can’t do anything about it. There is – to overcome that sense of cynicism and – that exists, that it’s bigger than something that we can handle.
MS. BENTON: Right.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: So these are some of the ways in which we’re addressing it directly.
MS. BENTON: Very good.
MR. KRAFCHIK: What the open government partnership does is it tries to work on some of the causes of corruption, and I think that’s important because corruption is an enormous problem, it’s hard to tackle. But what’s driving it? And three of the issues that help create a system, a set of rituals, a culture of the lack of corruption is making information available to everybody. Sunshine is the best – sunlight’s the best disinfectant. If people know what’s going on, they’ll take advantage and they’ll use that information.
Secondly, you need to create opportunities for people to monitor corruption themselves, to involve themselves in governance. And through those – that interaction of government and citizens, we get closer to the accountability that we’re trying to get to. So I think it’s important to recognize that governments have a fundamental role to play in addressing corruption. There’s a very important role for aid agencies and aid providers and there’s a fundamental role for citizens.
Ultimately, I think what you’re trying to do is we’re trying to create democratic environments where not only the government is responsible for solving every problem. These problems like corruption are society’s problems. And by creating spaces for citizens, for the public, for civil society to engage, you’re arming a country against corruption. You’re arming corruption – you’re arming countries against a major security threat. And open government is, I think, the best chance we have at the moment of doing just that.
MS. BENTON: Exactly. I think with the collision of government NGOs, private sector, civil society, that is practically the only way you can move a large agenda that involves so many countries and so much effort.
We’re actually coming to the close of our conversation, and I did want to thank you so much, both of you, for coming here and just talking to the American public about another great new initiative that is being created – has been created by the Obama Administration, has been carried out by the Secretary of State and the under secretary, as well as all the cooperation that goes along with carrying this across the board.
You know what? This really actually concludes our session of Conversations with America. I’d like to thank you, Under Secretary Otero –
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you.
MS. BENTON: — and Warren Krafchik –
MR. KRAFCHIK: Thank you.
MS. BENTON: — for sharing your work and knowledge on this issue with all of us. Also, I’d like to thank each of you for joining us. Please note the video and transcript will be available on state.gov very shortly. We hope that Conversations with America will continue to inform citizens about the Administration’s efforts to address the challenges of the 21st century. We look forward to engaging with you again very soon. Thank you.
Jon Tollefson, President of Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies: Good morning.
Good morning and welcome to the Dean Acheson Auditorium here at the U.S. Department of State and welcome to one of GLIFAA’s annual pride month celebrations.
We’re very excited that you could all be here to celebrate with us and to join in this discussion on the human rights of L.G.B.T. people abroad.
We have with us to start today a very exciting panel and then the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will join us in a little while, in about 45 minutes time.
And so we’re going to have a discussion to begin this event on the status of L.G.B.T. people worldwide and we have with us some of our foremost experts on human rights in the Obama Administration and we’re very excited to here them speak about L.G.B.T. issues.
GLIFAA is the L.G.B.T. organization of the U.S. foreign affairs agencies and that includes the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps and other foreign offices of U.S. agencies, many of which now serve abroad.
So we’re quite a wide organization and we represent the L.G.B.T. interests and family member issues at all of our agencies and so we’re very excited to be getting more into the policy realm as we expand our activities within the building and abroad.
GLIFAA members both here in Washington and throughout the world play a role in supporting LGBT advocates and advancing L.G.B.T. equality.
Just yesterday at embassy Islamabad in Pakistan, charge d’affaires ambassador Richard Hoagland held the first embassy pride event there and many embassies are doing that around the world.
In Chennai India the GLIFAA group marched behind the GLIFAA banner the local pride parade and these are examples that the whole world is seeing now and we’re asking all GLIFAA members, no matter where you are, to start engaging, if you haven’t already, with L.G.B.T. activists and sporting the embassy in their agency as well.
So let’s get started with the panel.
[TRUNCATED: INTRODUCTION OF MODERATOR MARIA OTERO, UNDER SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND PANELISTS MIKE POSNER, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS AND LABOR; DON STEINBERG, DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR OF USAID; DAN BAER, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHS AND LABOR.]
Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs: Thank you, thank you so much.
This is really a wonderful way to begin the week and an actually wonderful way to really bring to closure the L.G.B.T. Pride Month that we have been celebrating.
As I sit here and listen to Jon talk about the efforts that we’ve been putting forward, it’s actually really hard to believe that it’s been a year since Secretary Clinton said gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.
And in fact we really have made quite a lot of advancements in this past year and I would start by commending GLIFAA for the leadership that they have given, because they’ve really looked not only of policy issues but also with personnel issues and they’ve had a very important impact in, for example, including gender identity in the State Department’s EEO policy.
And being able to also address not only make June pride month very successful but also make this an annual event.
And they also were very important in putting… helping put together the video that the Secretary did called “It Gets Better.”
So I do want to commend you for all the leadership you’re giving in this area and certainly for this work.
One of the things that was mentioned as we were introduced was the degree of interest around the world that is arising on this issue.
I was just in Norway a couple of weeks ago — and this is a really good example of how we are looking to elevate and advance gay rights as part of our overall human rights priorities.
In Norway, I led with the US-Norwegian global issues dialogue.
And under the human rights agenda– because it’s basically a dialogue that covers a variety of different issues– but under human rights it was very important that we really focused on two issues, one was gender-based violence as a very important issue and L.G.B.T. issues were the primary issues we focused on.
The thing that was very interesting about that is that we also learned that Norway is working very closely with Brazil on this issue and we are working very closely with Brazil on this issue so we began to see countries coming together in looking at ways in which they can all work together.
So I’m really very pleased that we have this opportunity to discuss the progress that we’re making around the world to ensuring that human rights are universal.
I think we have moved past the argument of whether L.G.B.T. people are entitled to human rights.
That is not an argument any longer – is an accepted truth.
But what we need to turn our discussion to now is how we can best protect those rights and work internationally in order to make that happen.
I think most of you know that a little bit over a week ago the U.N. human rights council passed the first historic resolution on human rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
This was a historic moment and it highlights, really, the progress that we made.
I’m sure we will hear a great deal more about it during the panel discussion and I hope that we do.
And what the resolution does is really affirm that human rights are universal and no one can be excluded from freedom, from dignity, from opportunity just simply because of their sexual orientation or the gender identity.
So I welcome our panelists and really turn it over to them so that they can in brief words, you know, maybe keep it under ten minutes, speak a little bit to some of the things that they want to highlight.
Let me start with Mike Posner, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.
Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I’m going to stand.
Well, thank you, Maria.
It’s really a pleasure, an honor to be here.
I want to, just if I can, make three points and the first is to elaborate on something that Secretary Clinton said a year ago I think at this event which is that for this Administration and this government, for our country, gay rights are human rights and we view these discussions very much in the context of our commitment to promote a universal standard of rights.
Those that come out of the Universal Declaration of human rights, which was adopted in 1948, very much a product of U.S. leadership. Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the Human Rights Commission in the 1940s which led to the creation, the drafting and then adoption of the Universal Declaration.
And the Universal Declaration is an important document because it was the first time that the world coming out of the Holocaust and World War II said that individuals have rights not because of where they live or where they’re citizens or what their governments say but by virtue of their humanity.
It’s an inclusive document.
It says that by virtue of being a human being you’re entitled not to be discriminated against and it doesn’t delineate categories but clearly in the context in which we’re here today, the L.G.B.T. community is entitled to the protections of the Universal Declaration to live their lives freely and without discrimination.
Secretary Clinton has said again that we are going to uphold these universal standards, one set of standards for the entire world, and we’re going to lead by example.
And that’s very much what we’re trying to do with respect to advancing the L.G.B.T. set of initiatives.
The second point is that President Obama has talked about principled engagement in the world.
What it means is that in every country where we do business, where we have diplomatic relations and every country in the world, we are both looking at and promoting various economic, political, strategic interests, but human rights, including the rights of L.G.B.T. people, are part of that discussion.
It’s simply now what we do.
And we do it on several levels.
We do reporting.
We do an annual report on human rights, which covers 194 countries in the world.
The focus increasingly is on… we are increasingly attentive to, and embassies are paying attention to, discrimination, violence, et cetera, directed at the L.G.B.T. community in those countries.
Secondly is our bilateral diplomacy.
We will talk, I’m sure, in the coming minutes about some of the particular places, but one we’ve had a range of challenges throughout the African continent and Uganda in some ways has been a flash point where proposed legislation would have not only criminalized gay sex but also made it a capital offense in some cases.
We push very hard across the board, Dan Baer visited Uganda, as did Maria, and we’ve been thus far successful in stemming the tide of that legislative effort.
There are many, many other examples, specific examples of countries.
This is part of our civil society initiative.
Secretary Clinton last July in Krakow as part of the community of democracies gave a landmark speech, really talking about restrictions on the ability of civil society, N.G.O. activists, to organize, to operate freely.
And these… these rights, again, apply very much to the community, the L.G.B.T. community and countries who are often denied the ability to speak out, to assemble, to associate, to advocate, on behalf of their community.
And finally, we are involved in a multilateral set of activities.
Maria mentioned the U.N. human rights council resolution, actually a South African initiative that was adopted just several weeks ago.
We’ve come a huge way in the last four or five years since I think the French first proposed or began initiating some discussion of these issues, even in the last year there’s been a dramatic step forward and I’m really proud to say that we in this Administration have taken a lead in, again, trying to get a global consensus or a global initiative, particularly here addressing violent activity directed against the L.G.B.T. community.
To say the least, we’ve made progress, but there’s a long way to go.
So for me in the broader context of a human rights policy of the United States, these are cutting-edge issues in the 21st century, human rights issues.
They’re issues in which I’m proud to be associated with an administration that unambiguously is saying this is part of what we do in promoting human rights around the world.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Mike.
Let’s proceed, then, and have Don Steinberg, the deputy administrator for U.S.A.I.D. proceed to the podium.
Ambassador Donald Steinberg: Thank you, Maria.
It really is a great pleasure to be here today.
This is, indeed, an exciting moment for those of us who are committed to these issues.
I don’t think we can overstate the impact of the U.N.’s resolution last week from the human rights commission, which has the acronym H.R.C. and for the first time I’m realizing that is “Hillary Rodham Clinton” and it is fully reflective of her views.
This was a very exciting moment.
Our administrator, Rod Shaw, was so excited that he tweeted 100,000 people to endorse what had been done.
Pointing out that the rights of the L.G.B.T. community are rights that we all support, we all defend, and we all highlight.
For me, however, at U.S.A.I.D., this isn’t just a question of fairness or equity or even human rights.
It is a question of how we do our development policy.
Effectiveness and efficiency.
We recognize at U.S.A.I.D. that our development efforts won’t be successful unless they’re inclusive and are drawing on the full contributions of the entire community that we’re dealing with, including the L.G.B.T. community.
So we have four pillars that we’re focused on at U.S.A.I.D. in this regard first we’re ensuring that in our specific projects we engage in efforts to enhance the political, economic, and social development of the L.G.B.T. community.
Including through our direct programming and through our partnership arrangements.
In terms of our partnerships, we’re developing templates that incorporate bans on bias that comes against sexual and gender identity for our agency but also for our development partners.
We are ensuring that we’re involving the L.G.B.T. community as planners, as implementers, and as beneficiaries of our programs based on the principle “nothing about them without them.”
We’re trying to build viable civil society institutions capable of defending the rights and promoting the interests of these individuals and this community.
Most importantly, our mission must be to promote social and legal equality for the L.G.B.T. community through our conversations, our advocacy and our programs.
A couple of examples are our work with professional associations here in the United States to encourage them create equitable, professional and expert service deliveries to L.G.B.T. communities in developing in transitional countries as well as funding of U.S.A.I.D. sensitivity training to create a welcoming and comfortable environment for L.G.B.T. clients for our activities.
Secondly, we need to recognize that the protection and participation of L.G.B.T. community is essential during times of conflict or emergencies.
It’s during these periods that marginalized communities are most vulnerable.
We often say let’s just get the job done, let’s get food, let’s get water, let’s get health services, we’ll worry about these issues later.
But, indeed, that misses the point.
We have been involved personally in my case with efforts to expand the protection of rights and the security of the L.G.B.T. populations in the context of population displacement, especially refugee camps and I.D.P. camps.
Indeed, we must go beyond the concept of viewing this community as victims and see them for what they are: Vital contributors to a holistic strategy.
Third, we need to ensuring the issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity are fully mainstreamed and integrated into our broader programming as a cross cutting theme.
We need to recognize that the success of our efforts to ensuring food security or democracy and good governance, economic growth and perhaps most significantly global health rests in large part on our capacity to harness and to create space for all countries to draw on the talents and the contributions of this community.
I’m just returning this week from discussions in Istanbul and Paris to set an agenda for developing countries for the conference on aid effectiveness toward the end of this year.
And I’m pleased that the United States was able to promote concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity to be addressed in the basic documents that we will be adopting at this that point.
Finally but certainly not least we must ensuring that we’re walking the walk in house.
We need to ensure that our own practices, attitudes, and actions related to sexual orientation and gender identity reflect the values of democracy, human dignity, diversity, and inclusion.
This means carefully looking at our recruitment, our promotion, and our evaluation policies and practices to ensuring that they’re both free of discrimination and dedicated to the career advancement of all of our staff both in Washington and abroad.
We are conducting trainings for every incoming official in our development leadership initiative on the issues of L.G.B.T. rights and practices and we’re conducting listening sessions where administrator Shaw and myself hear the concerns directly from individuals who are either working on these issues or have personal interest in them.
In order to highlight these concerns, I’m pleased to announce that U.S.A.I.D. will shortly name a senior coordinator for sexual orientation and gender identity who will be responsible for advising the U.S.A.I.D. Administrator on this agenda.
And further, we’re establishing an agency policy coordinating committee to perform such functions as information and knowledge exchange, consensus building, sharing and documenting of best practices and advising on policy and strategy gaps.
This committee will begin with the so-called landscape analysis to assess where we are right now on the four pillars I’ve described before, including our U.S.A.I.D. foreign development assistance strategy.
In order to complete all of this work, we NEED to draw on you, both members of GLIFAA as well as individuals who care about these issues as well as individuals who work on these issues.
We are open to your comments, we are open to your criticisms and we look forward to working with you on this vital agenda.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Thank you, Don.
Let’s proceed, then, with Dan Baer who is the deputy assistant administrator for the bureau of democracy, human rights, and labor.
And Dan, if you would proceed.
Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: I feel like a trend has been started and so I have to continue it.
I would be happy to sit down but I’ll be brief since I’m a pinch hitter here and pinch hitters should be brief.
But I just want to say thanks again to John and GLIFAA for organizing this event.
I think it’s really… this is a landmark event as well and it’s really a testament to your leadership and everybody in GLIFAA who has contributed to this so thank you very much.
The leadership of the people within our diplomatic corps, within our development professionals community is really important to our making progress as a whole on these issues and it’s really been outstanding over the last year and a half and obviously the support from the top is great but it’s also a bunch of people working everyday to move these issues forward that makes a difference.
So thank you very much.
I just want to say a few quick things.
One, the resolution that everybody has talked about already.
It really was… I was on the floor in the human rights council when it passed, it really was a momentous occasion.
The vote was 23-19.
And, of course, one wants these things to be consensus and they will be consensus someday because even if it was 23-19, everybody on both sides of that vote knew that it was a watershed moment.
And it was really, really impressive to hear the South African ambassador stand up and give a rousing address about the importance of L.G.B.T. human rights within the context of the human rights struggle of his own country was a truly inspiring and, frankly, a moment that even six months ago I would have bet a lot of money against.
So it was a really special time.
When I talk about what kind of comes next in terms of making progress on L.G.B.T. human rights around the world I often talk about busting three myths.
Three myths that you encounter on a regular basis as you work on these issues around the world and the first myth is that L.G.B.T. issues are a western thing and that problems that L.G.B.T. people face are a non-western thing.
And the fact is that that’s not true on either count.
L.G.B.T. issues are not a western thing.
L.G.B.T. people are not a western phenomenon.
And the problems that L.G.B.T. people face they face everywhere, including in the west.
And so rejecting the idea that this is somehow a particular phenomenon that applies to one part of the world or one culture is the first myth.
The second is rejecting the idea that L.G.B.T. rights are special rights.
You know, as secretary Clinton’s words made clear with regard to women, this was also a… something that was asserted with regard to women’s rights and the power of the statement that women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights was to say these aren’t special, these are part and parcel of the universal standards that Mike talked about.
And so we need to reject the idea that they’re special rights, as Secretary Clinton did last year.
And the third is that… the idea that advancing human rights for L.G.B.T. people is the job of L.G.B.T. people only.
The fact is that if these are universal rights, they are the universal job of all of us, of all of us who are committed to human rights.
And so these are… just as women’s rights aren’t women’s work, L.G.B.T. rights aren’t the work of the L.G.B.T. community, they are the work of all of us and all of us should be committed to doing that.
As we go forward, you know, as… as Mike and Don Steinberg have alluded to, there are ways in which our government is already engaging on this and I want to just say a couple things.
First, we have to do more than lip service.
Events like today are great, they get us inspired, they get us on the same page, they tell us about the job ahead, but there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on that’s day-to-day work that really does make the progress.
There’s engagement both with government leaders that our diplomats around the world are engaging in at the direction of the secretary.
I myself have been in meetings where we’ve raised L.G.B.T. human rights concerns with the foreign minister, justice minister, or Prime Minister of over half dozen African countries and that kind of work is going on around the world and it’s really important.
It’s work that probably wasn’t happening not so long ago.
And it’s an important way that we’re engaging.
We’re also engaging with civil society and with activists and we’re engaging in a way that is more than just the first order engagement of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups but really recognizing as deputy administrator Steinberg talked about the kind of second-order issues are involved in this problem.
So, you know, in many cases sex workers and L.G.B.T. issues, the marginalization of L.G.B.T. people leads many of them to find themselves in the position of being sex workers and you can’t actually make progress if you’re not willing to engage.
I had lunch in Turkey about six months ago with a trans sex worker who is an activist there and as I sat there, her and her knee high black vinyl boots and fish net stockings and a tube top and me in my U.S. State Department diplomatic attire, I thought you know this weren’t normal a while back and I’m not sure… I may be the first person to have lunch with a transvestite sex worker for a legitimate business purpose.
And so we’re engaging not only on the first order issues but on the second order issues.
And lastly, one of the things we’re trying to do as Deputy Administrator Steinberg mentioned is we’re looking for the right ways to support people who are working on the ground to make progress around the world.
And one of the things DRL has done in the last 18 months is set up a fund that is basically an emergency support fund for those who get in trouble because of their advocacy on L.G.B.T. issues and over the last year we’ve helped dozens of people in a variety of countries when they’ve come under threat because of the work they’re doing.
So I’ll stop there and leave us some time for questions.
Thanks very much, again, to everybody for being here today.
Maria Otero: Thank you, Dan.
And you were pinch-hitting but I’d say he hit it out of the ballpark.
I think he did a pretty good job.
I think we’ve heard from different perspectives, just the ways in which we are addressing this issue and certainly as Dan mentioned, for those of us that worked on gender issues– and that goes back into the 1970s, when I was 12–
We… these were some of the same questions that came up and some of the factors that made it important for us to push forward.
And what we have heard from here is not only that we’re working at the diplomatic level and that we are engaging in our own diplomacy and our own reporting and our own work, but we are also training our own people in order to be able to do this and we are funding as we look at the many different ways to address it.
But just gathering from the different presentations where we’ve seen the recurrence of different words such as “inclusive,” “partnering.”
Words related to the kinds of very important issues or events such as the human rights council event that are marking the way we’re moving this forward.
One of the things that I wanted to ask particularly, Mike, is the degree to which as you’re looking at gay rights being human rights and you discussed universal declaration of human rights. It’s always wonderful to have Mike on a panel because he will always go back to the source of everything, which is terrific.
But can we frame this a little more in international human rights and think also of international human rights law as we see it more broadly speaking?
Mike Posner: Thanks, Maria.
Yeah, I think it is a logical evolution of all of the work that’s been done over the last 60 some years in fleshing out the standards articulated in the universal declaration and the two covenants, civil and political rights and economic, social, and cultural rights.
And it is for me also taking a look at the various practical ways that the State Department, a.i.d., work on any number of issues, going from principle to practical applications.
So what I see happening– and it’s happening at a very quick pace– is that everywhere from the recruitment and training of new foreign service officers, civil servants, these issues are now part of the landscape and so it’s a sensitizing and educational process.
It’s the reporting of these acts of discrimination in the context of our annual human rights reporting.
Again, drawn from the covenants and the international standards, how are governments doing against an international frame?
It’s funding, what Don described so well– and Dan– the defenders fund that we have in DRL it’s diplomatic engagement as we do on a whale range of issues.
This is now part of the menu when Secretary Clinton or Dan or I are out in the world, these are the… part of the sets of issues that we discussed in the frame of international human rights standards.
And it’s public diplomacy.
What’s been so striking to me is how often Secretary Clinton has gone out of her way to raise these issues even when they’re not asked.
She’s making a point– and Cheryl Mills does this, too– of saying this is something that we’re going to be out front on so that the public knows this is not something that’s happening behind the scenes.
We are framing these publicly as human rights issues.
And finally it’s a whole of government approach.
It’s not enough just for DRL at State or AID to be doing it, it’s important that PRM is figuring out what are the particular vulnerabilities of L.G.B.T. refugees.
It’s important that we also go beyond state and look at what’s the rest of the government is doing and finally it’s important as we did with the universal periodic review last year that we lead by example.
This is not just about the rest of the world, it’s about those universal standards being applied in the United States as well and our really being a leader and saying these rights apply at home as well as abroad.
Mario Otero: Thinking about all those different ways in which we’re operating, what you bring to the center stage is the fact that we are now interacting with advocates with whom we really didn’t have a lot of interaction, as Dan said, before.
But many of these advocates are not operating in countries where they have this kind of coverage or this kind of support.
In fact, many of them they are on the ground and they’re in volatile sometimes very vulnerable situations.
So Dan, maybe we can talk a little bit about as you meet with these folks or as we interact with them, they themselves– we know, we’ve been in meetings like this– are… even when they come out really put themselves in considerable danger, especially in some countries that have enormous resistance to this issue.
How do we interact with them then?
How do we provide protection in what do we do in order to make sure that we’re not just exposing them in a way that we are not exposed because we’re protecting them.
Dan Baer: I think that a really important point to make.
It’s not just L.G.B.T. activists who we meet with who may be put at risk by their association with the U.S. government so we’re always trying to be careful, I’m sure, all of us on this panel are trying to be careful and one of the first principles is you don’t force people to meet with you.
You let them decide and you try to help them make sure that they are aware of the risks that they may be taking on by meeting with us.
And try to adapt the situation in a way that best protects them.
My own experience is that by and large the vast majority of people do feel that going to a U.S. embassy, especially those who are already beleaguered and out and advocating, et cetera, going to a U.S. embassy actually does help shine a spotlight on their work.
The moral authority of the United States government and of our embassies and missions around the world is powerful and most of them, I think, feel like it gives a bit of protection, a measure of protection, as well as being an opportunity for us to engage.
But I think one of the things that we can continue to do is not only meet with these people but also one of the things that I’ve been focusing on is, you know, when I travel I often meet with L.G.B.T. activists, I also usually meet with a range of human rights activists and one of the things I’ve been focusing on lately is really encouraging the kind of established leaders of established human rights organizations generally to do their part in terms of reaching out to L.G.B.T. groups.
And often it’s women’s groups who are most willing to do this or general human rights organizations, N.G.O.s, et cetera.
They need the support of their local civil society partners as well.
So one of the things that we can do is encourage that kind of support so that they’re less isolated, less standing out on their own, less vulnerable.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Does anybody else want to add to that?
Don Steinberg: Just very briefly.
When I was American ambassador in Angola and someone would step forward on one of these issues, whether it was a question of gender, ethnicity, or L.G.B.T. issues, I would have our human rights official quietly call that person and say “do you want a meeting at the embassy with the ambassador?
Do you want the American flag wrapped around you?”
And frequently they would say yes.
Equally frequently they would say, “Are you kidding”?
That’s the last thing I want.
But, indeed, it is really up to them to make the decision as to whether a connection with the United States is going to be protection or a threat and I think we need to respect that.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Mike Posner: Maria, if I can just add a word to follow up on something that Dan said.
Before coming into government I worked with an N.G.O. and we had a big campaign looking at discrimination and it was in the context of the O.S.C.E., the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
And I went to a meeting in Brussels where the discussion was about violence borne out of hate.
Hatred of vulnerable or marginalized populations.
And one of the things that was really striking to me, that was group there with the Roma community, that was group of Jewish activists concerned about anti-Semitism, a group of Muslims in Europe concerned about their situation, L.G.B.T. activists, African refugees.
Each one of the groups felt marginalized and isolated and they were all in effect fighting the same forces or many of the same forces.
And it was so difficult for them to think, oh, my God, we’re not alone, there’s actually others in the same boat if we can only get ourselves together.
So I think that’s one of the things… one of the challenges for us, frankly, is to try to create an organic whole recognizing that these vulnerable groups are often times weaker standing alone, stronger coming together and being part of a larger discussion that we all universal human rights.
Maria Otero: Good.
As you talk about particularly vulnerable groups, I’m reminded also that one set of vulnerable L.G.B.T. population are in the refugee community, those that are especially in situations of conflict, as was mentioned, and themselves become far more exposed when they’re either in a refugee situation or in an asylum-seeking situation.
And through our Population Refugee and Migration bureau I thought it would be good to mention since Assistant secretary Schwartz is not here, I think he would like us to be able to include in this discussion the work that we’re doing in order to address this issue among refugees.
We ourselves have developed a comprehensive strategy for how it is that we would work with refugees in this situation and we are also working with U.N.H.C.R., the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, so that they themselves provide training for their staff who are working refugee camps and who are developing ways in which they can make sure that this population is not discriminated against, is not persecuted but is actually protected effectively.
This is one of the areas that is important and interestingly our Department of Health and Human Services is developing the same thing for those refugees that are asylum seekers who are L.G.B.T. refugees.
Because they themselves also are entering a new community can suffer considerable discrimination.
So I think these are some of the ways in which we’re trying to address this.
And I’m sure AID is doing some of this as well.
And maybe if you… as you address this, it might be also interesting to hear a little bit more from you about the way in which you’re providing funding or how it is that you are really funding activities that are directly related to L.G.B.T.
Don Steinberg: I just wanted to pick up on your other point, though, because if it’s true for refugees it is true in spades for internally displaced people.
In 2005/2006 I was a fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and spent the year going around the world living in I.D.P. (internally displaced persons) camps from Sri Lanka to Sudan and other places and you always found it was marginalized communities who had been marginalized during peacetime who were most vulnerable during that period as well.
And I believe that in general we have pretty good guidance from the interagency steering committee of the United Nations, that we’ve been participating in how to address both sexual violence and other issues of marginalization.
But this is the one issue where the guidance is faulty.
The L.G.B.T. parts of the I.A.S.C. guidance for U.N.H.C.R. is just not sufficient and we are committed to working with P.R.M. as well as ourselves to bring that guidance up to speed.
Maria, in terms of the funding side, the real question here for me is institutionalization of these efforts.
I mean, if we can not achieve results when we have Barack Obama as President and Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State yourself, Michael Posner in senior positions here, Rajiv Shaw and Barry Wells over at U.S.A.I.D., if we can’t achieve results during this period we’ll never be able to do it.
But the question is: Are we institutionalizing this?
Are we creating new points that any future administration will not be able to roll back?
And for me that means building institutions within developing countries in particular where much of the prejudice and discrimination occurs so that these institutions are stronger.
It means developing systems, codes of conduct.
We just adopted a code of conduct for trafficking in persons that provides tough new standards not only for U.S.A.I.D. but for U.S.A.I.D.’s development partners overseas.
We need to do the same in this area.
We need to build partnerships with the American community that cares about these issues and, frankly, has resources to devote to it.
So that long-term relationships are built.
It’s all about sustainability of these actions and about country ownership.
We need also to be looking at second order issues.
Are financial systems prejudiced against the L.G.B.T. communities such that they cannot get financing for entrepreneurships and other considerations.
And so in the whole range of food security, global health, climate change, democracy and governance, economic growth and other areas where we’ve prioritized, these issues have to be in our D.N.A.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
Anybody else want to address this mainstreaming challenge that exists?
Dan Baer: It’s related to that but also to where Mike left off in terms of our example in leading by example.
I thought it might be fun to share a couple vignettes of times where this that’s really been driven home in the last year.
One was I met with activists in St. Petersburg and for those of you who have been following the news over the weekend, St. Petersburg Pride parade was disturbed and people were arrested.
I met with folks last summer as they were starting to plan this and I met with this lesbian activist at my hotel, she came to my hotel and the first thing she did was pull out a button that she had been so excited to give me which was a “Harvey Milk for Supervisor button.”
And she talked about how watching that movie had inspired her to become an activist in her community.
And that American story had inspired her… I mean, the ironies of my getting a button from a Russian activist about a San Franciscan who… but it was a… and she teared up as she gave it to me and told me the story.
It reminded me of the power of our example, the way that we institutionalize our commitments and how that has not only had an affect on how we do things but how others do.
And the other more recent story, Mike and I were in Beijing for the Annual China Human Rights Dialogue, the U.S. government’s annual human rights dialogue and I met with a group of L.G.B.T. activists there and they are planning a Pride celebration for later this summer.
It’s really impressive.
They have a great web site, actually.
And one of them told me that they are working on putting together… launching an “it gets better” campaign and that they had seen Secretary Clinton’s and President Obama’s videos and that that was part of their inspiration to try to do the same sort of viral video campaign within China.
And so the ways that we lead do replicate themselves in ways big and small and I think the power of our example is really important to remember.
I also– before giving up the mic– I want to say that I just want to recognize that the Undersecretary and Assistant Secretary have come in since we’ve started and both of them have been… we’ve talked about some of the successes that the Administration has had in this area and both of them have been on the front lines of that and have been crucial to it and I want to recognize them publicly for their work.
Maria Otero: Thank you.
I think we’re about closing up the panel, as we know we are all anticipating the arrival of the Secretary.
But, you know, one of the… I would just put this forth as one of the final questions for consideration.
As we talk about leading with example, we also know that in our own country there’s still a great deal of work to be done and that this effort has to be addressed.
And as we also work in other countries, we are confronted with the social, the cultural, the religious concerns that exist related to L.G.B.T. people.
That governments themselves and that civil society attempt to deal with and that private sector should also be addressing.
So I just wonder if we can just say a few words to close this discussion about how it is that as we look at this governments themselves, the way that we are putting this forth in the Obama Administration could themselves play a role, I think we’re beginning to see this effort take place.
I mentioned Brazil.
Brazil is a very good example of a country that’s not only leading by example but also leading in the region.
So if we could just address that a little bit in the way in which we are all surrounding our own work.
Whoever wants to address it, yes.
Mike Posner: Well, just a couple of things on that as you were speaking.
I was thinking about the role of the private sector and one of the things that’s really been quite striking is how much in the last ten or 15 years we’ve begun to think about the private sector, the corporate sector in particular, as another piece of the puzzle in terms of how we advance our rights agenda abroad.
In the labor area, for example, my bureau does democracy, human rights, and labor.
And one of the things we are now very actively looking at and working on is how to use the global manufacturing supply chains as a way to advance some of our notions about minimal labor rights standards.
Using the American and European companies as a wedge or as a piece of influence, a part of the influence.
So there are American labor practices, we applied them at home.
What does it mean for the American manufacturer when they go to China or India or Bangladesh to produce their products?
There is now a growing body of evidence or body of work that says their responsibilities follow their product line and their brand reputation depends on their having a global strategy for making sure that things produced under their banner are produced in accordance with some universal or international standards for labor rights.
I think the same strategy ought to be implemented here.
As American companies take on greater responsibility with respect to these rights and they operate abroad, we ought to be thinking of them as a natural partner to try to push this universal set of rights not just through the government, but through the private sector.
Maria Otero: Good.
Don Steinberg: If we here in the wrap-up stage, I just wanted to add one thing.
And that is we’re all talking as if we’ve got these answers here.
The truth is we have to have a lot of modesty here.
We don’t really know as well as we should what the issues at play are.
We haven’t even really done the environmental analysis, if I can say that, within U.S.A.I.D.
Right now Claire Lucas and Urvashi Vaid are involved in trying to do an analysis… a landscape analysis at U.S.A.I.D. to see exactly where the gaps are, where the opportunities are, where we’re doing well, but where the challenges are.
And, again, for that purpose we really need the community to help us.
And so this is both a reassertion of our modesty but also a request for your help in guiding us as we move ahead on this important agenda.
Maria Otero: Well, thank you very much.
I think we’ve had an opportunity to cover a great number of issues.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: What a great room. Wonderful. Good afternoon, welcome, and thank you all for being here. My name is Maria Otero, and I am the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. My role at the State Department is to oversee our foreign policy on a wide array of transnational issues, including protection of human rights, the promotion of democratic principles, and of course, our efforts to combat trafficking in persons.
The progress that we have made in the last decade in the fight against modern slavery is chronicled in this report, which I can barely hold. (Laughter.) Many of you in this room have played a role in all of the accomplishments that we are able to talk about today, whether you come from an NGO that is helping restore survivors who have been victims, or whether you are a U.S. Government official who is helping a country pass an anti-trafficking law, or if you’re opening new shelters. It doesn’t matter whether you are one of these or if you are one of our TIP heroes who are here, but you are showing a real difference in the commitments that can be made, the individuals that can make a difference. Each of you every day, here today, is helping us sustain this drive and this movement forward.
In a moment, we’re going to honor those heroes that are seated here to my right, but I’d like to just take a moment to acknowledge the two heroes that are standing here to my left. We have today, marking the 11th annual TIP Report, because over 10 years ago then First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton provided the instrumental leadership to help garner the support we needed to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. It’s this congressional mandate that is giving us the drive for our diplomatic efforts today, but it was her leadership a decade ago that moved the United States to renew its commitment to fight slavery and to deliver the promise of freedom. Now, her leadership as Secretary of State has made this a priority issue in our foreign policy today. And it’s her leadership that will continue to guide as we enter what in this report we are calling the decade of delivery in our fights against modern slavery.
As a prosecutor of the Justice Department, Luis CdeBaca spent years putting traffickers in prison. He was there at the earliest moments in this effort, helping to shape the laws, helping to develop the tools, helping to take the work that was needed to tackle this enormous challenge. He now applies that expertise on the world stage with passion, with determination, and he is our ambassador-at-large, directing the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, and it’s an honor for me to be able to work with him. So it’s my pleasure to introduce Ambassador Lou CdeBaca. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you, Madam Under Secretary, and thank everyone for being here with us today. This 11th Trafficking in Persons Report is a snapshot, it’s a diagnosis. But we’re not just looking at a government report. We’re looking at a history book, one that starts much longer than 11 years ago.
Yesterday, The New York Times reprinted a story from June 27th 1861 about escaped slaves seen walking openly in the daylight in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “It seems that less than three months into the Civil War the Underground Railroad was emerging, if not into broad daylight,” the article read, “at least into the pale summer dusk.” The three men trudged along with their heavy bundles, unmolested by the slave catchers, for that era, truly newsworthy. Legally, emancipation wouldn’t come for another 18 months, but on their walk to freedom they made their own dream come true.
Today, 150 years later to the day, we deliver just a little bit more on the promise of freedom that motivated those men to walk North, the promise articulated by the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, written in blood and tears, enshrined in our values and in such symbols as the Lincoln Memorial and the Statue of Liberty. As I look at this report, which calls for a decade of delivery, I can’t help but think how far we have come in this modern chapter of our abolitionist fight.
But it also makes me think of the people. I think of a 16-year-old boy begging for change on a New York City subway. Jose wasn’t begging because he was trying to get something to eat. He was begging because he was a slave, and the price for not meeting his quota was a beating or a chaining or the stun gun. Exploited, isolated, he couldn’t cry out for help. He couldn’t even know if someone else on the subway platform was offering to help him because he was deaf and far from home. He didn’t even speak American Sign Language. He didn’t even know what to do or what would happen to him, and, like most trafficking victims, whether male, female, young, or old, the last thing he wanted was for anyone to know how scared he was.
When I met him, I was a young prosecutor, and like Jose, the last thing I wanted anyone to know was how scared I was. I didn’t know how to take care of 56 deaf Mexicans. I didn’t know where they’d sleep or how we’d feed them. I didn’t know how to get them the services they needed or even how to talk to them. Frankly, I didn’t know whether or not justice would prevail, because at that time,we didn’t have a 3P Paradigm, we didn’t have a comprehensive law. We had a set of old laws, good people, and a shared conviction that slavery was as worth fighting then as it was in 1861. Mayors, judges, motel owners, subway riders, immigration and FBI agents, and NGO social workers, an entire city that had missed the slavery right underneath their noses every day for two years came together to try to make it right. Together, by hook and by crook, we got housing and schooling, language training, immigration services for Jose and his friends, and we got prison for his traffickers.
The traffickers lured their victims to the United States by going to deaf schools in Mexico with photographs of a better life, photographs of landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. Think about it. They used our very own symbols of freedom to lure their victims into servitude. But freedom, when given a chance, whether it’s a walk north 150 years ago or now, can prevail. Somehow, after months of secretly and painstakingly writing a note, Jose and his friends made it out, got that note to a police station, and made their dream come true. Like those men in Harrisburg, they made their walk. It was up to us then to honor their bravery through our response.
In that case and other cases in the 1990s, we reacted as best we could. We cobbled together a victim-centered approach of goodwill and common values and a lot of hard work to vindicate this critical civil right. And yet we knew that America owed victims of modern slavery much better than an ad hoc, modern underground railroad. Luckily for us, so did the White House. Coming out of Beijing and through the President’s Interagency Council on Women, a bipartisan consensus and an international paradigm emerged, the famous Ps – prevention, prosecution, protection, and now partnerships – as Secretary Clinton said last year, “a fundamental governmental responsibility to act.” A lot has changed in the last decade. The fight against trafficking has become a social and a cultural imperative.
If you go to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center today, you’ll see an exhibit on modern slavery and how it affects you because they realize that the walk to freedom didn’t end 150 years ago; it’s a journey that someone is having to take every day. And just like the editor of that Harrisburg newspaper, the folks at CNN know that this fight is newsworthy, having aired dozens of stories in the last few months through their innovative Freedom Project. The fight has changed governments with almost 150 signatories to the UN Protocol and over 130 countries with comprehensive laws. At the United Nations with Goodwill Ambassadors like Mira Sorvino, who joins us today, and others, the work is happening in a multilateral fashion.
And in New York, things have changed as well. Most of the deaf Mexicans chose to stay in the United States and have good jobs. There’s now not just federal laws in New York, but a cutting-edge state statute and local task forces and victim protections. And that scared boy, Jose, is now grown up. Last year, he was named employee of the year by the folks that he works for as a janitor. His responsibility every day is to take the ferry across, put on his uniform, and clean the Statue of Liberty. (Applause.)
We know that around the world, there are still tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, to take that walk, 27 million of them. That’s the story of this report. The rankings are critically important, but it is the truths in these country narratives that drive us to action, to seize the opportunity of the moment, to finally make good on the promises so dearly won.
Just like the walk north to freedom so many years ago took leaders and guides, fighting modern slavery does not happen by accident. It too takes leaders like Richard Holbrooke, to whom this year’s report is dedicated, who always reminded us of the fact reflected on page 3 of the report that slaves are first and foremost people, people just like us; leaders like a first lady who ignited a global understanding that this scourge still persists in the modern era, that every survivor deserves a recovery and rehabilitation, and that every trafficker deserves free room and board courtesy of the government for a very long time. (Laughter.) Leaders like a senator from New York, who supported this cause through the last decade of development, and now, as Secretary of State, leads us into the decade of delivery, a promise fulfilled so that that statue in the harbor, a beacon of freedom for Jose and so many others, stands not just for what we aspire to be, but who we actually are.
It is my honor to introduce that leader, our own Lady Liberty, the Secretary of State. (Applause.)
*Awards are presented to the TIP heroes.
*Sheila Roseau gives remarks on behalf of the TIP heroes.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Well, I want to thank Shelia for sharing not only her remarkable story but certainly for sharing with us some of the things that are being done. And I want to thank all of you for being here today.
Even though Shelia was trying to give credit to a lot of people and say that these heroes were not really the ones that make things happen, in fact, I think these TIP heroes are shining examples of what a single person can do and the tremendous impact that they can have. And as we look to the future of this struggle, which will continue to have many challenges for us, this idea is one that helps us carry forward. It’s going to be critical for governments to enforce laws. It’s going to be critical for us to be able to have more structural changes, strong partnerships that are going to change the way in which human trafficking is taking place. We’re going to need more collaboration with the government, with civil society, with the private sector. Everyone will need to join forces. We’re going to need to be more innovative in order to bring solutions to this fight.
But in addition to that, all of us are going to have to hold ourselves accountable to this, because in some ways, each of us contribute to it. If you stop and think a little bit about whether the shrimp that you ordered for dinner was cleaned by an enslaved child in some processing plant or the coffee that you drank was picked by a woman whose boss has confiscated her passport and has withheld her wages, it becomes clear that modern slavery is not something that is distant and remote and far away from us, but it is something that knocks at our very doorstep.
So part of our responsibility is also to spread the knowledge, to spread this acting with responsibility. It’s something that will ensure that we will make progress, that we will not lose the momentum that we have as we are entering a decade of delivery, and that we won’t be slowed in the work that we are doing. So for the millions of the victims who live as victims, all of what we are doing will make a difference.
So again, I want to thank all of you for being here, for advancing freedom, for advancing dignity, and for helping remove modern slavery from the face of the earth. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
(Applause.) Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you all, and good afternoon and welcome to the State Department. It is truly wonderful to see the Ben Franklin Room packed as it is today. I especially want to welcome all the ambassadors who are here. I know many of you and I’m delighted that you could join us for this important event.
I want to thank Under Secretary Maria Otero for her leadership on this and so many of the global, transnational, cross-cutting issues that she is responsible for. And I think you certainly got a small taste of the passion and conviction that Ambassador Lou CdeBaca brings to this work. He is tireless and he, with his wonderful team, are working around the clock and around the world to heal wounds and to save lives, and I’m very grateful to Lou for his leadership and deep, deep commitment.
And because human trafficking unfortunately hurts women and girls disproportionately, Lou has worked closely for over a decade with Melanne Verveer, our Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. This is a natural partnership because trafficking isn’t just a problem of human bondage; it fuels the epidemic of gender-based violence in so many places – here in our country and around the world. So I thank our team at the State Department that has done so much to continue this work, and to make sure that we not only issue a report, which as Lou said, is just one part of the work. The report itself is a tool, and what we’re most interested in is working with countries around the world and working across our own government to get results. The decade of delivery is upon us.
And I know it’s not just our State Department and not just our Congress, but many of you in this room, many of you from other governments who have taken on this issue, many of you from the NGO community that have been on the frontlines standing up for millions of victims. Last year, I visited in Cambodia a place of healing and support, a shelter for survivors. I met with dozens of girls, most of them very young, who had been sexually exploited and abused. They had been given refuge at the shelter and they were learning valuable skills to help them reenter society. These girls wanted the same thing that every child wants – the opportunity to live, to learn, a safe place, people who cared about them. And not too long ago, a shelter like this would not have been available. The idea of trafficking in persons was as old as time. And it wasn’t particularly high on the list of important international issues. And certainly, speaking for my country until relatively recently, we were not investing the resources or raising the visibility of these issues, of these stories, of these young girls. There were so many attractive children at that shelter; lots of liveliness. There were some very withdrawn and set apart from the others.
And there was one little girl who had the biggest grin on her face, and then when I looked into that face, I saw that one of her eyes was badly disfigured. She had glasses on. And I asked one of the women running the shelters, I said, “What happened to her?” And she said, “Well, when she was sold into a brothel, she was even younger than she is now, and she basically fought back to protect herself against what was expected. So the brothel owner stabbed her in the eye with a large nail.” And there was this child whose spirit did not look as though it had been broken, who was determined to interact with people, but whose life had only been saved because of a concerted effort to rescue girls like her from the slavery they were experiencing.
The world began to change a little over 10 years ago, and certainly, I’m grateful for the work that my country has done, but I’m also very grateful for the work that so many of our partners have done as well. When my husband signed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, we did have tools – we had tools to bring traffickers to justice and tools to provide victims with legal services and other support. Today, police officers, activists, and governments are coordinating their efforts so much more effectively. Thousands of victims have been liberated around the world, and thanks to special temporary visas, many of them are able to come to our country to have protection to testify against their perpetrators.
Every year, we come together to release this report, to take stock of our progress, to make suggestions, and to refine our methods. Today, we are releasing a new report that ranks 184 countries, including our own. One of the innovations when I became Secretary was we were going to also analyze and rank ourselves, because I don’t think it’s fair for us to rank others if we don’t look hard at who we are and what we’re doing. This report is the product of a collaborative process that involves ambassadors and embassies and NGOs as well as our team here in Washington. And it really does give us a snapshot about what’s happening. It shows us where political will and political leadership are making a difference.
Take the case of Bangladesh, for example: The minister of home affairs and joint secretary have drafted progressive legislation that promises to confront the traffickers behind thousands of Bangladeshi migrants to the Middle East and North Africa. Or the United Arab Emirates, where leaders are advancing initiatives to improve protections for migrant workers in the Gulf region. Or the case of Taiwan, where the director of immigration has taken steps to ensure that victims of trafficking are identified, provided immigration relief and work permits, and have the opportunity to recover from their ordeals.
Now, these achievements and so many more, which we highlight in the report, are certainly worthy of the recognition that they are given, but we all have to do more. Unfortunately, because of the ease of transportation and the global communications that can reach deep into villages with promises and pictures of what a better life might be, we now see that more human beings are exploited than before. There are as many as 27 million men, women, and children.
And governments have taken important steps, but we have to really mix the commitments with actions in order to get results. For example, the number of prosecutions worldwide has remained relatively static. And so the measure of success can no longer be whether a country has passed laws, because so many have in the last decade; now we have to make sure that laws are implemented and that countries are using the tools that have been created for that. And governments should work more closely with the private sector and use new supply chain monitoring techniques to let consumers know if their goods and services come from slavery-free, responsible sources. In partnership with the NGO community, we have to develop new mechanisms for shielding potential victims and bringing more perpetrators to justice.
Now it’s only fair that countries know why they have a certain ranking, and that we, then, take on the responsibility of working with countries to respond. So we are issuing concrete recommendations and providing technical assistance. This week, U.S. diplomats around the world will be meeting with their host country governments to review action plans and provide recommendations when needed. And I’m instructing our embassies and the trafficking office to intensify partnerships in the coming months so that every country that wishes to can improve its standing.
So while this report is encouraging more countries to come to the table, none of us can afford to be satisfied. Just because a so-called developed country has well-established rules, laws, and a strong criminal justice system, does not mean that any of us are doing everything we can. Even in these tight economic times, we need to look for creative ways to do better. And this goes for the United States, because we are shining a light on ourselves and we intend to do more in order to make our own situation better and help those who are interested in doing the same.
Our TIP – our TIP heroes today show us that individual action can lead to some astounding results. For example, in Singapore, Bridget Lew Tan has dedicated her life to protecting migrant workers. And Singapore, albeit a small country, has more than 800,000 immigrants. And she has been volunteering with a local archdiocese. And while there, she met 30 Bangladeshi men assembled behind a coffee shop in the middle of the night, and she helped to set up shelters – one for men and one for women – to provide refuge to migrant workers who had been abused.
Or take Mexico, where Mexico City Attorney General’s Office Deputy Prosecutor Dilcya Garcia tried a case in 2009 that resulted in the first trafficking sentence in Mexico. Since then, she has developed indictments against more than 100 alleged traffickers, and forged partnerships to provide comprehensive victim protection services.
Stories like these and the others you will hear about our TIP heroes give us hope, because they inspire us, but also tell us very practically what we can do to make a difference. And the story of all the victims really is one that should motivate all of us. And when we hear the stories of the TIP heroes, we know that it’s not hopeless, we know that it is not overwhelming, we know that person by person, we can make a difference.
I think a lot about that little girl that I met who finally was rescued. I don’t know what will happen in her life in the future. But many of the adult women who were working there themselves had been rescued, and now they were passing on to the next generation the support that they themselves had received. And the children that I met with, when I asked them, “What do you want to do when you grow up,” they wanted to do what children everywhere want to do – they wanted to be a teacher, they wanted to be mothers, they wanted to be the best that they could be. And that’s what we want for all of the world’s children.
So I am honored to be here with you. I thank all the countries who are here today. I thank all the leaders around the world who recognize that we can make progress by working together to end modern day slavery. And I particularly thank our heroes who have showed us it is possible despite the odds.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
Thank you. It is indeed a pleasure to be here, in this beautiful building which I had the honor of seeing first as a blueprint while I was on the board of USIP—and now I see as a neighbor from across the street.
This is a timely conference for my office and for the United States Government. With the completion of the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, conflict prevention has taken on new precedence within our broad scope of foreign policy priorities.
Even in the absence of active conflict, weak and failed states present acute security challenges. And of course, once conflict has begun, intervention carries extraordinary costs. Assistance delivered late limits our options and extends the timeline to reach stability. Recognizing these factors, the QDDR recommends strengthening the US government’s ability to prevent conflict—particularly using the civilian resources and expertise in our foreign policy toolkit.
Our approach to conflict prevention spans a wide-array of government activities, often executed in concert with the private sector. Through democracy assistance, security sector reform, and social-economic development activities, we work to create space for local-level actors to play an assertive role in the interest of muting the threat of violence before, during and after it is happening.
It is fitting that I am sitting next to Nancy Lindborg on this panel, who oversees the significant operations of USAID in conflict prevention. Part of our mandate from the QDDR is to better align the work that Nancy directs at AID, and the work that I direct at State. In order to strengthen our conflict prevention operations, there is no doubt that we must more effectively coordinate and implement all of these resources—and those of our sister agencies in the field—recognizing the unique contribution that each government agency brings to this work.
In order to unite and streamline the State Department’s capabilities, the Office of Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs will become the Office of Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Human Rights and Democracy, and my role will include overseeing:
the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs;
the new Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations;
the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration;
the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and
the Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons.
It will also potentially include other offices, such as the Office of War Crimes Issues.
This new configuration will provide a cohesive and expansive approach to our conflict prevention activities, including the protection of human rights, the reform of rule of law and judicial sectors, the promotion of inclusive, democratic institutions, and the pursuit of economic and environmental security. Each of these aspects reinforces the next, all of them forming the strong fabric of national and global security that we seek through strong civilian power.
But the QDDR also takes this work one step further, by elevating the significance of crisis and conflict prevention and resolution, especially in fragile states. As part of our core mission, we will promote sustainable, responsible and effective security and governance. And we will seek to more effectively foster security, rule of law, and reconstruction in the aftermath of conflict. As we’ve seen in recent weeks and months, our world is ripe for this effort.
Let me share several examples of how the State Department is contributing to U.S. conflict prevention efforts in the field:
In Southern Sudan, seven teams of conflict prevention officers and an analysis unit in Juba engage daily with local government and civil society actors. These teams observe and report on local conflict trends, providing diplomatic and programmatic recommendations to USG leadership, to help us reshape conflict dynamics.
In Kyrgyzstan, we’ve addressed conflict prevention and response as part of an unbroken arc, linking humanitarian assistance to our development work. In the south, a conflict expert led a field-based analysis at the site of intense but brief violence in June 2010, which then informed US government strategies to support reconciliation and peaceful democratic transition. We also worked closely with the international community and local NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations while rebuilding trust in local communities. And we are supporting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as it provides preventative “protection by presence,” including a highly visible office in Osh and a 24 hour call center where victims can report human rights violations.
And, based on the experience of police abuse during the revolutions in the Middle East, we are supporting police and criminal justice sector reform—as opposed to basic train and equip programs.
Of course, challenges remain—foremost among them the need to better systematize knowledge and operations across government and beyond, especially on the causes and dynamics of conflict where multiple efforts are underway.
We also need to prioritize new innovations in prevention operations, including linking early warning systems to prevention planning and response, increasing flexible spending and making conflict assessments a standard component to long-range planning.
So, let me close by saying that we look forward to working with all of you to address conflict prevention as an imperative and priority for this Administration.