Ambassador Johnson’s remarks at the Closing Plenary of the OSCE’s Human Dimension Implementation Meeting
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Other Business at the Closing of the Plenary Session)
The United States for several years has used this agenda item to follow up on the recommendations made by the fact-finding mission resulting from the invocation of the Moscow Mechanism. In April, the Moscow Mechanism was invoked concerning Belarus. Fourteen participating States took this unusual step due to the crackdown by the Lukashenka government following the election in Belarus on December 19, 2010.
We regret the Belarusian authorities’ refusal to comply with that country’s commitments by placing obstacles to implementation of the Moscow Mechanism. Notwithstanding this unwillingness to cooperate, sole rapporteur Professor Decaux, who ultimately constituted the OSCE’s fact-finding mission, was able to meet formally and informally with OSCE institutions and numerous diplomats and members of civil society, including representatives of NGOs from Belarus. His comprehensive report illustrates the seriousness, duration and scale of gross and systematic human rights violations that have taken place since December 19, 2010.
In particular, the report documents the non-compliance of the Lukashenka government—from the December 19 elections until early May—with Belarus’s OSCE commitments in the following areas: the conduct of the December 19th elections; harassment of candidates and their relatives since the election; restrictions on freedom of association, including registration requirements for political parties, NGOs and trade unions; restrictions on freedom of expression and media, including arrests and detentions of those exercising their right to freedom of opinion as well as harassment, arrests and detention of journalists as well as searches of their homes and offices; restrictions on the freedom of movement, right to peaceful assembly, and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention, including torture and ill treatment, and the right to a fair trial and the independence of lawyers. The government of Belarus must address the serious concerns raised in Professor Decaux’s report, and we urge the authorities to implement the recommendations.
We continue to be concerned about the situation in Turkmenistan. It has shown little progress since the Moscow Mechanism was invoked in 2003. Basic human rights and fundamental freedoms remain severely restricted. Turkmenistan remains the only OSCE participating State that officially has a one-party political system. There is virtually no space for civil society to operate. All media is tightly controlled by the government, and the Internet is censored and monitored. According to Reporters without Borders, journalists often were “summoned for questioning, threatened with prosecution, and fired from their jobs, while relatives are also exposed to the possibility of reprisals.”
We have commended Turkmenistan’s registration of the Catholic Church in 2010. However, there continue to be significant restrictions on freedom of religion. Several religious groups remain unable to register, and the government has placed restrictions on registered groups’ ability to own property and print or import religious materials. Current law prohibits foreign missionary activity and foreign religious organizations, and the private publication of religious literature. Freedom of movement also continues to be restricted.
We remain concerned about the lack of access to persons in prison, including political prisoners. Last fall, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention publicly released its opinion that the arrest and continued detention of journalists Annakurban Amanklichev and Sapardurdy Hajiyev violates international law, and that they should be released immediately. We have received no information about former civil activist Gulgeldy Annaniyazov, who was arrested in June 2008 after returning to the country from Norway, where he had received asylum. One very concrete step Turkmenistan could take that would be a clear signal of the government’s intention to move forward with reform would be to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and other independent observers’ access to prisons. Finally, as we have for the past seven years, we again request information about, and access to our former OSCE colleague, Batyr Berdiev. I last saw him in Vienna when the Austrian Foreign Minister honored him before his return to Ashgabat to take up his post as Foreign Minister in Turkmenistan. Many of us who have sat at this table have called him a friend. This organization bears a special burden to press for information about him, and access to him, since not so long ago, he was one of us.
The invocation of the Moscow mechanism remains an extraordinary measure, the use of which demonstrates extraordinary concern by a group of participating States for the situation in one of our countries. Belarus and Turkmenistan should follow-up on the recommendations made through this mechanism, and demonstrate their respect for their OSCE commitments, and, indeed, the OSCE process.
(As prepared for delivery at the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Session 11: Humanitarian Issues and Other Commitments Migrant workers, the integration of legal migrants; Refugees and displaced persons; Treatment of citizens of other participating States; Citizenship and political rights; Democracy at the national, regional and local levels)
The United States government remains deeply concerned about the vulnerability of migrants, refugees, and displaced and stateless persons within the OSCE region as we commemorate the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Recent political transitions in the Mediterranean and North Africa have resulted in close to a million displaced persons, with many fleeing to European borders by sea and other means. We support ongoing efforts by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to work with governments, including by providing migrants with the opportunity to seek and receive protection if necessary, and by assisting local maritime authorities to assist those in distress. We view such efforts as integral to support for democratic efforts taking place in the region and urge participating States to treat these vulnerable migrants with respect, compassion, and humanity.
The circumstances giving rise to refugees and displaced persons around the Mediterranean Basin remind us that the requirements of the Dublin Regulation place a disproportionate asylum burden on OSCE border countries with accompanying tensions in these countries. We must better address this continuing challenge in the context of our OSCE commitments. Specifically, at the Ljubljana Ministerial Council of 2005, the participating States committed to “. . . promote dignified treatment of all individuals wanting to cross borders, in conformity with relevant national legal frameworks, international law, in particular human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law, and relevant OSCE commitments.” The failure to distinguish asylum seekers from those migrating for other reasons and the increased use of detention, including for unaccompanied children, continue to be major obstacles for those seeking protection and hinder efforts to meet the expectations laid forth in Ljubljana.
The plight of refugees and displaced persons in the Western Balkans—numbering in the hundreds of thousands—remains a concern even as the countries move closer to European integration. Finding permanent solutions requires, first and foremost, addressing the still pervasive hostility toward returnees. Threats, harassment and even attacks on returnees and potential returnees must stop. Local authorities, particularly in parts of Croatia, the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and throughout Kosovo, have a responsibility to take action to counter anti-return sentiments. European countries outside the region who have hosted those who fled the conflicts of the 1990s must also ensure that the conditions exist for safe and sustainable returns. This particularly applies to the return of Roma to Kosovo. Helping local authorities in receiving and integrating those who return is not only a humane act but also one that serves the self-interest of all the parties involved. Without such assistance, returnees may feel compelled to leave their homes once again to seek greater security elsewhere in Europe. We welcome the decision in August of authorities in Baden-Wuerttemberg to suspend the deportation of Roma back to Kosovo. Although the GOK and partner organizations have improved their capacity and have more of the resources needed to reintegrate Roma, this group still faces fundamental challenges, including unemployment and inadequate housing.
On another issue in the Western Balkans, we encourage Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia to continue in their joint efforts, in coordination with the international community, to assure durable solutions for refugees and IDPs remaining from the displacement of 1991-1995.
We favor the protection of displaced populations in the South Caucasus and the provision of humanitarian assistance to address the needs that result from their displacement. In Georgia, we support a meaningful international presence that includes the OSCE and other international actors. This can play a valuable role in reducing tensions, facilitating humanitarian assistance, and monitoring and improving human rights and humanitarian conditions on the ground. We note, however, that the success of any international effort depends on unhindered access to the whole of Georgia, including the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
We are also concerned about continuing obstacles faced by persons displaced by the violence that took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. While temporary housing and building material has been provided by international donors, ongoing city redevelopment plans threaten long-term rebuilding efforts and property rights. Displaced ethnic Uzbeks have been disproportionately affected by such plans, and continue to face excessive bureaucratic obstacles in their efforts to recover property deeds or other documents or receive compensation for their losses. Kyrgyz authorities have done little to rebuild ethnic Uzbek businesses destroyed during the violence; instead there are credible and disturbing reports that ethnic Kyrgyz have expropriated ethnic Uzbek businesses through coercion or threats.
The United States remains concerned that government officials and political leaders in the OSCE region continue to contribute to a climate of xenophobia through anti-immigrant statements. In its worst instances, this can lead to bias-motivated violence against refugees, asylum seekers, and others. For example, the recent tragedy in Norway was inspired in part by misguided beliefs that Muslim migrants were destroying Europe, as well as the desire to stop politicians and others who were perceived as having facilitated entry into Europe for Muslim immigrants and their descendants and others.
Government officials and political and civic leaders should strive toward strategies that reduce racial prejudice and community tension around immigration issues, and maximize the human capital potential of those entering the country. We should use the ongoing debate regarding the expulsions of Roma from France and evictions of Roma in Italy and elsewhere to move us closer to those goals.
In this context we welcome the 2011 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Annual Session Resolution on “Strengthening Efforts to Combat Racism and Xenophobia and Foster Inclusion,” and look forward to follow up on it in the OSCE. We also commend the Council of Europe Report “Living together: Combining diversity and freedom in 21st-century Europe.”
Challenges also remain in our own country. We continue to battle negative views and actions towards migrants, including by collecting data on and responding to hate crimes directed against them.
We encourage participating States to utilize the many resources the OSCE has developed that can assist us in implementing our commitments. We support the OSCE’s Annual Hate Crimes Report, new Training against Hate Crimes for Law Enforcement program and continue to support cooperative efforts to address the problem, such as the Memorandum of Understanding between UNHCR and ODIHR to further bolster existing cooperation in monitoring, reporting and capacity‐building related to hate crimes. We encourage the use of the OSCE/IOM “Training Modules on Labour Migration Management –Trainer’s Manual” in the development of migration programs and policies that will contribute to stability and security. We also remain supportive of efforts by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities that have focused on the integration of migrants and relieving societal tensions linked to migration.
As the United States noted at the Lithuanian Chairmanship’s timely Special Thematic Event on Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees, the OSCE has a unique role in fostering the capacity for the dignified voluntary return of displaced persons and finding durable solutions for refugees.
“This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
–President Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011
President Obama has made empowering the world’s women and girls a guiding principle of his Administration. At home and abroad, the President understands that the world can no longer afford to do without the full contributions of half of its population: women and girls. When social order breaks down, when natural and man-made disasters hit, when the world’s economy slows, it is women and girls who suffer most. At the same time, evidence shows that women’s empowerment is necessary to maintain international peace and security, to build stable, democratic societies, to grow vibrant market economies, and to address pressing health and education challenges.
That’s why the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps at home to empower women and girls to realize their full potential, and steps abroad to put women front and center in our diplomatic and development assistance initiatives.
Since the day he took office, President Obama has fought for American women and girls, achieving historic victories that give them the support they need to succeed, while ending the discrimination that holds them back. President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy. From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, to nominating two women to the Supreme Court, the Obama Administration has ushered in a new era of gender equality. And in March of 2011, the Council on Women and Girls published “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years. Over the past two and a half years, additional examples of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments in support of women and girls have included:
-Ensuring Equal Pay for America’s Women: The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law was Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination, including giving women who have been discriminated against in their salaries their day in court to make it right. And President Obama has convened an Equal Pay Task Force to ensure that existing equal pay laws are fully enforced. The President also continues to advocate for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that gives women the tools they need to fight pay discrimination.
-Securing Affordable and Accessible Health Care for America’s Women: For the first time, the Institute of Medicine has set forth guidelines for women’s preventive health care, and, as part of the Affordable Care Act, new insurance plans must cover these services, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, gestational diabetes, with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy, and it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
-Creating Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women: President Obama has taken a number of vital steps to ensure that women in America have true economic security. Just most recently he sent the American Jobs Act to Congress – a bill that would save 280,000 teacher jobs, modernize 35,000 public schools, extend unemployment insurance for more than 2.6 million women, support 900,000 women who own small businesses by cutting their payroll taxes in half, give companies incentives to hire the long-term unemployed including 2.8 million women, and create new job-training opportunities for women who want to break into traditionally male-dominated fields like construction.
-Preventing Violence Against Women: In July 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, bringing new tools and resources to tribal communities to address the high rates of violence committed against Native American women. In April 2011, Vice President Biden announced historic new guidelines for schools and universities about their responsibilities under federal civil rights law to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
-Integrating Women into U.S. Foreign Policy: The State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review prioritized the empowerment of women as a key element of U.S. foreign policy, and its implementation will institutionalize the integration of U.S. support to women across the Department and USAID.
-Promoting Women as Central to U.S. Development Efforts: Through the creation of a new Agency-wide policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment, USAID is ensuring better development results through enhanced attention to gender globally; and through the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, State, USAID, MCC and the Peace Corps are investing in women, families, communities, and nations.
-Advancing Women’s Economic Participation: As evidenced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s September 2011 Women and the Economy Summit, the first-ever high-level ministerial on women and the economy held in the United States and Chaired by Secretary of State Clinton, the United States is building consensus among regional partners to maximize women’s contributions towards economic growth.
-Advancing Efforts on Women’s Political Participation: From the Declaration on Women’s Political Participation signed by Secretary Clinton and other women leaders at the UN this week, to its actions in support of women as critical actors in conflict prevention and peacemaking, the United States continues to support efforts to elevate women’s leadership, to build the capacity of women legislators, to expand access to technology and the technology industry, and to increase the role of women in peace processes and democratic transitions.
Building on this knowledge and these efforts, in his Address today, the President challenged the assembled heads of state to announce, with him and in a year’s time, new steps that their governments will take to break down barriers and ensure women participate fully and equally in their countries’ economic and political spheres. Over the coming year, the Obama Administration stands ready to work with its partners in the international community, civil society, and the private sector, as well as with the UN and other international organizations, to broaden and deepen efforts to increase equal economic and political opportunity for women around the world. The President expects that this effort will take different forms in different countries, but may include commitments aimed at:
-Investing in women’s and girls’ health and education;
-Eliminating barriers that hinder women’s access to property, inheritance, capital and markets, while supporting women farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs;
-Implementing policies to ensure women are paid equal wages for equal work;
-Working to ensure that both men and women can contribute fully in the workplace while attending to family needs;
-Examining and amending discriminatory laws and practices;
-Reflecting on and revisiting attitudinal biases;
-Taking steps to increase women’s participation in elections and governance bodies;
-Enhancing the international community’s ability to respond effectively to the needs of women and girls in disaster and conflict-affected countries;
-Implementing steps to increase women’s participation in decision-making affecting peace and international security;
-Preventing sexual and gender-based violence; and
-Supporting UN Women and other national and international actors focused on women’s rights, protection, and empowerment.
In keeping with the President’s challenge, over the coming year, the White House Council on Women and Girls and National Security Staff will coordinate the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to support women’s political and economic empowerment at home and with partners abroad. President Obama looks forward to joining his fellow heads of state in jointly announcing progress made on these worthy efforts in the year to come.
Following is a joint declaration issued at the conclusion of the September 19, 2011 United Nations Women event on Women’s Political Participation.
We, the undersigned Heads of State and Government, Foreign Ministers, and High Representatives, affirm that women’s political participation is fundamental to democracy and essential to the achievement of sustainable development and peace.
We reaffirm the human right of women to take part in the Governments of their countries, directly or through freely chosen representatives, on an equal basis with men, and that all States should take affirmative steps to respect and promote women’s equal right to participate in all areas and at all levels of political life.
We stress the critical importance of women’s political participation in all contexts, including in times of peace, conflict and in all stages of political transition.
We recognize the essential contributions women around the world continue to make to the achievement and maintenance of international peace and security and to the full realization of human rights; to the promotion of sustainable development; and to the eradication of poverty, hunger, and disease. Even so, we are concerned that women in every part of the world continue to be largely marginalized from decision-making, often as a result of discriminatory laws, practices, and attitudes, and due to poverty disproportionately affecting women.
We reaffirm our commitment to the equal rights and inherent human dignity of women enshrined in the United Nations Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other relevant international human rights instruments. We call upon all States to ratify and fulfill their obligations under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and to implement fully Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women and Peace and Security and other relevant UN resolutions.
We call upon all States, including those emerging from conflict or undergoing political transitions, to eliminate all discriminatory barriers faced by women, particularly marginalized women, and we encourage all States to take proactive measures to address the factors preventing women from participating in politics such as violence, poverty, lack of access to quality education and health care, the double burden of paid and unpaid work, and to actively promote women’s political participation including through affirmative measures, as appropriate.
We reaffirm and express full support for the important role of the United Nations system in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and we welcome UN Women and its mandate in this regard.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Madam, Secretary, thank you very much for joining us. It’s a great pleasure to have you here with us this morning.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, truly thank you, and thanks to everyone who is here with us on such a beautiful day. I am very grateful to have this chance just to talk with you and to talk with the audience members.
MS. PAYZIN: By the way, what a beautiful color you have. Such a –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just saw your ring. (Laughter.) It’s one of my favorite colors. Absolutely.
MS. PAYZIN: Exactly. It bring a great luck.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s what I’m told. And I need all the luck I can get. So — (laughter).
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) We’re going to get some questions also from Peter and emails.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good.
MS. PAYZIN: So shall we begin?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, we shall.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have many questions, of course about women issues and social issues and also maybe sports, but let’s begin with the politics.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
MS. PAYZIN: You came yesterday for serious talks about Libya and have to end the conflict in this country, and you conveyed very important messages, too. But the situation in Turkey is, at the same time, pretty tense because 13 Turkish soldiers have been killed near Diyarbakir, and there is a huge, very strong angry reaction from the public against PKK. On the other hand, elected Turkish parliamenters are still boycotting Turkish parliament, and they called for autonomy in this region.
So from your perspective, what is your reaction? How do you see the situation? How do you view the situation in Turkey?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say how pleased I am to be back in Turkey. I have enjoyed coming here since the 1990s as a First Lady along with my husband and then as a senator and now as the Secretary of State. And I think the relationship between Turkey and the United States is so important because we have a lot of common concerns and also common shared values.
One of our shared concerns is about terrorism, and the United States has strongly supported Turkey in the efforts to try to eliminate terrorism, like the terrible attack on the soldiers the other day. I condemned it yesterday and I condemned it the day before when it happened. I think the key for both of our countries is to maintain our strong, vibrant, democratic institutions, our pluralist societies, our respect for the wonderful differences among us that make life interesting, but to give no quarter to terrorists. I mean, if people want to participate in the political system and they wish to put forth ideas that I may not agree with or you may not agree with, but they do it peacefully within a democratic process, that’s the way democracy should work. But they must give up violence and they must denounce it, and they cannot be associated with it if they expect to be part of the political system.
So certainly these are all decisions for the Turkish people to make, but I have been involved in many conflicts around the world in working for peace, in working to bring differences together over the divides that too often separate us. And I think we have to draw a very, very sharp line between peaceful protest, political participation, and use of violence and terrorism. And that is just absolutely something that has to be condemned and outlawed and punished very strongly.
MS. PAYZIN: Is there any official stand regarding this declaration of autonomy in this region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No.
MS. PAYZIN: United States has any reaction to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, that’s something that is certainly – that’s totally a Turkish domestic matter.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So I’ve got many questions about, actually, U.S.-PKK relations. Somehow, even though you’ve made several declarations and remarks about the issue, Turkish public has still doubts about U.S. stands towards PKK. They believe that you are supporting or you are not doing enough — you are not putting enough efforts to stop PKK. What would you say that? How would you answer to those questions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s absolutely untrue. And perhaps we need to do a better job of describing the very close cooperation that exists between the United States military and intelligence services with the Turkish military and the Turkish intelligence services. We have cooperated very closely in Iraq. We continue to provide intelligence whenever we get it. We were very grateful that Turkish authorities broke up an al-Qaida plot that was aimed at American targets in Ankara just a few days ago. We are in constant communication, and the United States put the PKK on our terrorist list, which is the most public way we can condemn the PKK.
So I really hope to disabuse anyone of thinking that. It’s just absolutely not true. But Åžirin, you raise a question that I really want to address because I get the feeling sometimes that we don’t do a good enough job communicating between our two countries and that there are some beliefs or opinions that Turkish people have that are just not true. And so part of the reason I wanted to come here today and especially to address young people who are the future of Turkey and the future of our relationship is to get those questions so that I can do the best possible job in trying to respond to them. So I thank you for asking it because I want to make it absolutely clear we condemn PKK, we do not support PKK, and we’re working with Turkish authorities to prevent any violence that they might wish to inflict upon the Turkish people.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. Now questions. Who wants to start? Yes, the gentleman who is behind. Microphone. Your name and favorite question, please.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). Madam, do you have — does America have the solution to the matters like — solution proposal like Cyprus any plans, like a solution made by (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: For the Kurdish matter?
QUESTION: Like, do you have a solution for Kurdish matter, like put forth by (inaudible) for Cyprus?
MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) plan.
SECRETARY CLINTON: So do we have a solution for the Kurdish matter, like a proposal that was made for the Cyprus matter?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. First of all, I think it’s important for me to say that we respect and support the Turkish Government in how it deals with the internal matters related to the Kurdish people within Turkey, and we support the democratically elected Iraqi Government in dealing with Kurdish matters within Iraq. But I will make a general point about how to deal with these historical and seemingly intractable problems, because I know that there are people from all parts of Turkey here today. And I am a very strong believer in opening up the political process as widely as possible, in respecting the cultural differences that exist between us, but doing so in a way that promotes a strong, unified, democratic society.
Now, that’s perhaps because I come from a country where everybody comes from somewhere else, and I am privileged to work with people and have always been involved with people who come from all over the world who maintain their religion, maintain their cultural ties, maintain their often family ties with their homelands. So I think that moving toward the broadest possible democratic participation so that Kurdish Turks can feel fully a part of Turkey while still believing that they can maintain those aspects of their Kurdish identity that are important to them, and again, I would stress, drawing the line at any violence or terrorism, because that is not the way you make change in democratic societies.
I spent many years along with my husband working on the problems in Northern Ireland and how to get more participation and involvement in both the political process and the labor market for Catholics who lived in Northern Ireland. Now, it was not easy and it is still not done, but we’ve made progress. Similarly, as I look around the world, I see other countries that are struggling. So I don’t have any plan, because it’s really up to the Turkish people, but I think there are certain principles that can be the guiding lights that are rooted in democratic values and that draw the line at violence. And I would certainly urge that people here in Turkey look at that.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay, a very brief follow-up. Are you disappointed by this action government because they slow down towards democratization?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, I mean, I’m not here to judge the Turkish Government. That’s up to the Turkish people. You just had a very vigorous election and the election was, from everything that I read about it and watched of it, a hard-fought election. And I think it was another strong validation of the vibrant democracy that Turkey has.
But I believe that any government has to be held accountable, has to be transparent. You need a strong opposition in any government. You need checks and balances. Those are the things that I believe in because that’s the way our American system has been successful. And yet I know people looking from the outside at our system sometimes don’t understand it and think, “What are they doing? Why are they so difficult in making decisions?” So every system is unique, but there are, again, certain values that we have learned over time are essential for a democracy. And I know you’re thinking about doing a constitutional reform process, and I strongly believe in protecting people’s rights in constitutions, because there is so much diversity in Turkey. It’s one of the things that is so attractive about Turkey, and you don’t want to do anything that undermines or denies that diversity.
So I think what Turkey has accomplished in the last several decades is remarkable, and I just want to see Turkey get stronger and more prosperous and have your democratic institutions be even more durable and be an example for so many of the countries that themselves are trying to figure out how to make political and economic reforms.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary, for being here with us. My name is (inaudible), expert from (inaudible) agency. I’ve got two short questions. First is Turkey have recorded an 11 percent of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2011 and have been enjoying an outstanding performance in economic and financial issues lately. Then what’s your estimation of Turkish economy in following 20 or 30 years? And the second is regarding foreign trade. Turkey’s main trading partner is the EU constituting almost 50 percent of our foreign trade. So on the other hand, the trade volume between Turkey and the U.S. is still very low. Why is it so? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, I think it’s absolutely exciting the way Turkey has grown, and its 11 percent growth rate is phenomenal. It’s one of the highest in the world. It’s higher than what China has posted, as you know, for this similar period. And I imagine that Turkey will continue to grow, but I think the political environment in which Turkey’s growth has occurred has been absolutely critical. I mean, an open economy, a labor market that welcomes everybody into it, an effort to try to develop many parts of the country that historically have been poorer, so there’s a lot of inward investment as well as exporting that has gone into that 11 percent growth. And that is, to me, the right balance. I think Turkey’s combination of internal and external growth is a much stronger foundation than some other countries that are growing very fast but are largely export driven. You have a growing consumer base. You have a growing middle class. That’s what will enable Turkey to continue that growth over the next 20, 30, 50 years.
And what I hope is that Turkey will be an engine for economic growth in the region, particularly to the east and to the south. I am working hard to increase trade and investment between the United States and Turkey. I think there has been a natural relationship between Turkey and the European Union, and of course, the United States strongly supports Turkey’s accession and membership in the EU. But historically, there’s been all of those ties. What I would like is to see more business men and women from the United States seeking investment, seeking partnerships, seeking joint ventures here with Turkish businesses. I just came from a group that has started here in Turkey called Partnerships for a New Beginning, which the United States is working with in order to really create more linkages between American business and Turkish business, and we are very encouraging of Turkish investment in the Middle East, in North Africa, because we think Turkish businesses have a lot to teach as well as to contribute to the economic growth in other countries as well as your own.
MS. PAYZIN: Especially in the region.
SECRETARY CLINTON: In the region, absolutely.
MS. PAYZIN: Have you seen those changes? I mean, you said that you came before here with your –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I have.
MS. PAYZIN: Are you (inaudible) those changes around?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I find Turkey one of the most exciting places in the world.
MS. PAYZIN: (Inaudible) I don’t know. I mean –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, when I first came in the ‘90s, it was really at the beginning of the economic takeoff. And there were some businesses that had historically always done well. There were a group of wealthy Turks, like there are wealthy people anywhere in the world, but the base of economic growth has exploded in Turkey in the last 20 years. And I’ve seen that with my own eyes, and I’ve not only seen it in the statistics, which the young man just quoted, but I’ve seen it in the day-to-day life. And certainly, as I interact with Turkish business leaders, Turkish academics, Turkish media people, as well as Turkish Government officials, there is just a confidence about your future that I think is important, because that confidence should be a base for maybe some of the tough decisions about how you integrate Kurds, for example, how you develop other parts of the country. There is such a strong economic impetus to continue the political development that they really go hand in hand. So I’m excited by what I have seen.
MS. PAYZIN: We have one guest, actually, from Gaziantep, so –
QUESTION: From Karaman.
MS. PAYZIN: From Karaman. Sorry. (Laughter.) It’s about women issue, maybe — women matter.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I am (inaudible) from Karaman (inaudible). I am president of the woman commission in (inaudible) and the part of Turkish (inaudible). I have –
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: I have two short questions. (Inaudible) yesterday you made a statement about developing business between United States and Turkey. Does it have to increase women in entrepreneur in Turkey? As you know (inaudible) labor force is very low comparing with woman population, and (inaudible) on development of economic (inaudible) woman rights. Would you like to say something about this? And other one is we have heard from the President global entrepreneurship of the State Department has started in Turkey. Could you please tell us a bit more about this initiative? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, and thank you for both of those questions. Well, first of all, I have spent most of my adult life working for women to have the equal opportunity to participate in societies based on their choice. And I am strongly in favor of women and men making responsible choices. And so for women who need or wish to participate in the labor market because they need to help support their families and their children, or because they want to pursue a career, I think the more open a society can be to that, the more successful the economic growth of that society will be. There is just so much evidence, from the World Bank and the IMF and the United Nations that where women are able to participate fully, to have access to credit, to start their own businesses, to be given the opportunity to not only get a full education all the way through university or even graduate programs, but then to be welcomed into the workforce, there’s just a higher rate of productivity for the entire society. And it is also very beneficial to the woman and her family. So I am a strong believer in that.
Now, how do we do that? Well, obviously, the first step is to make sure there are no laws that prohibit women from having access. And I think Turkey has made enormous amounts of changes in laws over the last 20 years, so I don’t know enough to have an opinion whether there are still some barriers that are legal barriers or not, but clearly it’s imperative that there be no barriers, that women who can compete in the economic arena be permitted to do so.
Secondly, there are also still attitude problems in my society and in any society, whether women are encouraged to participate in the economy or not. And that is something that needs to be approached in the informal society. It’s not something you can pass a law about, but you have to be encouraging of girls to get the best education that they can get and for them to be able to participate and to try to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination or stereotyping that still exist in, as I say, every society.
Part of what we’re trying to do with the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that is coming to Turkey this fall is to build on an initiative that President Obama started to encourage entrepreneurship for men and women, because we know that 60 percent of the population is under 30 in Turkey. Isn’t that right?
MS. PAYZIN: Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And 60 percent of the population in the world is under 30, and some societies have an even higher percentage. So we have this enormous mass of young people, and we have to look at how we can create more economic ladders. There will not be enough gainful employment in government jobs. There will not be enough gainful employment in traditional corporations and businesses. There has to be an emphasis on creativity and innovation, and that means entrepreneurial energy. And we want to share ideas that we’ve learned over time in the United States by bringing entrepreneurs from the United States to meet with Turkish entrepreneurs, and to bring in young people, so that good ideas have somewhere to go, and they don’t just die or get shelved. So this Entrepreneurship Summit will be – I’m not – we don’t have the exact date yet, but it will be in fall. I will be sure – we’ll get the names of everybody here. We’ll be sure that you all are given notice of it through our Embassy.
But I think it’s important as I look out at all of you and I see a group of very energetic and affluent and educated young people here in Turkey to be thinking about what do we do with all these millions of young people who are not educated, young women who don’t feel confident enough or encouraged enough to get into the job market. That’s a ticking time bomb, as we say. If we don’t have jobs – you saw what happened in Egypt – that was as much an economic revolution as a political revolution. You saw what happened in Tunisia. Turkey is a great example, so the more Turkey can demonstrate entrepreneurial activity, the more others can learn from you. And I think that’s something that we want to work with you on behalf of that partnership.
MS. PAYZIN: Yes, yes. And there are many questions also from internet. Here’s the one. (Inaudible) and is asking you if you really believe that Turkey is the new leader of Middle East, and what do you think – do you really think that Turkey – there is a shift for Turkey from West to East?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think there’s any reason for Turkey to shift from West to East. Turkey is so strategically located between East and West; there isn’t a country in the world that literally straddles both continents the way Turkey does. So as an outsider, I’ve always thought that the debate, do you look East, do you look West, is kind of a – it’s a debate without real meaning to it, because why would you give up one for the other when you can do both? I mean, Turkey is so well positioned. Part of the reason you’ve got this 11 percent growth rate and more to come is because of your strategic geographic position, but more than that because of a mental mindset. You can look both ways, and to me, that is an incredible advantage in the world in which we find ourselves.
So I think Turkey is a regional and global leader. Turkey is a member of the G-20. Turkey has made a very strong commitment to working with not only regional problems but even global problems. And that’s, to me, the direction Turkey should go. I think that there is no sense in saying it’s either/or; it should be both/and.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. We have two new guests. (Laughter and applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, hi. (Laughter.) So we have the kitty questions coming up.
MS. PAYZIN: Do you like cats?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do. I do.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay. So — they’re lovable. (Laughter.) Okay. Since we are talking about Middle East, maybe we can – I know that there are many questions about Arab things especially, so the gentleman behind in the white shirt.
QUESTION: I am okay?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) My name (inaudible) University, department of sociology (inaudible). My question will be about Arab Spring. First of all, I want to learn that — give the U.S. credit or (inaudible) this Arab Spring. If (inaudible) indicate this. And in this context, what do you think about alternative scenario if you think hypothetically? What will be the situation of Syria after Bashar Asad, and what – how do you think the Turkish role will be in this situation? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t know anyone who predicted the exact events that happened during the Arab Spring, but many of us had predicted at some time the situation in a lot of the countries in North Africa and the Middle East were not sustainable. In fact, I gave a speech in Doha at a conference in early January this year in which I said that leaders had to be more accountable, they had to fight against corruption which we eroding the base of trust that people have to have with their government officials, and that there was going to be some kind of event, but I had no idea that it would be happening so quickly as it is now. So I don’t think that certainly the United States or any country that I’m aware of officially predicted this. It’s caught people by surprise in terms of the timing, but not in terms of the inevitability that there would have to be changes, either forced upon a society or made from within.
And what we are now all working on, and I’ll be meeting – I met, as I said, with the president last night, I’ll be seeing the foreign minister and prime minister today. What we are all working on is how we can be supportive as these countries make their democratic transitions. They have to do it themselves. People from the outside, whether American or Turkish, we can’t come in and tell people what to do. There has to be an internal process. But we have a lot of lessons to share. I mean, the Turkish economic success is something that would benefit all of these countries if they would come to you and say, “How did you do it?” The political and democratic progress that you’ve made would be another way to help.
So we are working with not only Turkey but other countries to try to be available to offer financial help, to offer technical expert help in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Jordan. And we’re working to try to get a peaceful transition in Yemen, which is difficult – the efforts being led by the Gulf Cooperation Council. We’re trying to encourage dialogue in Bahrain. So there’s a lot going on.
But certainly, what’s happening in Syria is very uncertain and troubling, because many of us had hoped that President Asad would make the reforms that were necessary without seeing what we’re now seeing in the streets of Syria, which are government tanks and soldiers shooting peaceful demonstrators. And I said — I know that the Turkish Government has also said — that the brutality has to stop. There must be a legitimate, sincere effort with the opposition to try to make changes. I don’t know whether that will happen or not.
And none of us really have influence other than to try to say what we believe and to encourage the changes that we hope for. I know that the Turkish Government is sheltering about 8,500 refugees from the violence across your border, and I know that the Turkish Government has tried to influence some of the decisions that were being made and encourage the government to stop the violence. But I think we don’t know how this is going to end yet, and it’s a very important outcome for Turkey because you share a 900-kilometer border with Syria. And stability inside Syria is important for Turkey, but the right kind of stability – a transition to democracy – is what would be best for Turkey and even more importantly what would be best for the Syrian people.
QUESTION: Very briefly, we know that Turkish Government and U.S., they were pretty much different when it comes to Middle East policies, especially about Syria and Iran. Now can you say that you are much more closer about Syrian issue and also Iran because Turkey basically didn’t give you enough support at the UN about nuclear issue? So what is the situation right now? How would you describe it? Closer, very close, or still distant?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, I think it’s very close and I think that I really believe that Turkey and the United States share a very similar strategic assessment about what we hope to see happening regionally and globally. We do not always agree on tactics. I don’t know two countries that always agree on tactics. I don’t know two people who always agree on tactics. And of course, we did have our differences over the vote in the United Nations, but our shared view that we want to do everything we can together to convince and prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon, which would be very destabilizing in the region, there is no daylight at all between us. And we talk about it and we work on it every single week together.
I was saying, actually, to President Gul last night that we – I think in the last two and a half years we have proven, number one, that we weather our differences. We are friends, we are partners, we are NATO allies, and we recognize that we will not always decide to do things exactly the same, but we share this strategic vision about where we would like to see the world go. And we have built a lot of trust. I’ve spent a lot of my own time visiting with the high-level Turkish officials. President Obama has developed a very good relationship with Prime Minister Erdogan. They talk on the phone. They meet frequently. And they have the kind of talks that is not formalistic and is not just polite and diplomatic. They say, “Well, why do you think that,” or, “Why do you believe that,” or, “Why are you doing this?” They have a very open exchange. That is how people who are honest with each other, who value each other, who respect each other treat each other.
So I think we are very close, but that doesn’t mean we’re always going to agree and it doesn’t mean that the media won’t take one disagreement out of a hundred agreements and say, “Oh my gosh, they’ve disagreed.” But I think both of us understand over the long run we are on the same page moving toward the kind of world we want, which is more peaceful, more prosperous, more respectful, more enabling and empowering of people to make their own decisions within a democratic context.
MS. PAYZIN: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Secretary, my name is (inaudible) and I work for (inaudible) foundation in Turkey. I am also the vice chair of an organization I think you know well, ICNL that work on nonprofit law reform.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: And we commend your leadership on legal reform for civil society in the region and in the world, and I would like to ask you – you talked about Turkey being a good example. Turkey did undergo such reforms two years ago – I was honored to work on some of them – in which we now have much more democratic laws for civil society. And I wanted to know what’s the case that you could make to governments in the region and elsewhere in the world in which we could make the case for a more legally enabling environment for civil society. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your work. And I view society as being like a three-legged stool, where you need an honest, effective, accountable, transparent government that delivers results for people within a democratic structure; where you need a free market economy that unleashes people’s entrepreneurial energies and provides enough of a protective framework so that people are not exploited when they deliver their labor for an honest day’s paycheck; but the third leg of that stool is civil society. It’s where we live most of our lives. It’s how we associate with each other. It’s volunteer activities. It’s religious and expressive activities. And so I believe strongly that as democracy develops, strengthening civil society is essential to protecting the other two legs of the stool. And what you’ve done with the changes you’ve made in Turkey is a very strong case for that.
I think we always have to be monitoring to assure that civil society is given the room, the space it needs, to operate. But I really respect the changes that you have made. Now I would like other countries, other societies, to look to see the importance of civil society, and for governments not to be afraid of civil society. I think that’s such an important lesson that we all have to learn. I’ve been in both sides. I’ve been in civil society for many years of my life as an advocate for women and children, and I’ve been in government. And when I’m in government, I sometimes get annoyed at my friends in civil society because they’re criticizing what I do or they’re publishing reports that say that we’re not doing enough. But then I remember I used to be there. And if I hadn’t been there, we wouldn’t have made the changes that actually help the people that we care about.
So it has to be a partnership. And oftentimes, there’s tension in it because if you are in civil society, you’re going to be pushing the government to do more, and you’re going to be pushing the economy to do more. That’s the way it should be. That’s a good balance.
MS. PAYZIN: Madam Secretary, I have a bad news. Well, actually it’s a bad news for us because you have another seven minutes to go.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, dear.
MS. PAYZIN: So very brief questions.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’ll try to give briefer answers, I promise.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Okay. (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: Hi, (inaudible) law firm. My first question is notations on criminals of speech and freedom of press. I have debated in (inaudible) several columnists and writers are under arrest. In addition, as of August the law requires ultimate offense for internet users. What would you advise citizen living in such a country? Should we be quiet in silence or should we — I mean, even through big names are in prison, or should we raise our voice? Or what is your comment?
My second question is a personal question to you. Instead of being a member of U.S. Government, let’s assume that you are a member of Turkish Government. What would you change first in Turkey? (Laughter) And what would you highlight to attract U.S. investors into Turkey? Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Well, first of all, if there is an area that I am concerned about with recent actions in Turkey, it is this area that you have raised. It’s the area of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. I do not think it’s necessary or in Turkey’s interest to be cracking down on journalists and bloggers and the internet, because I think Turkey is strong enough and dynamic enough with enough voices that if there are differences of opinion, those will be drowned out by others who can debate it in the marketplace of ideas. So I do think this is an area that deserves attention from citizens, from lawyers – which you said you were – because it seems to me inconsistent with all the other advances that Turkey has made. And so therefore, as someone looking at it from the outside, I don’t understand it, because, of course, I come from a country that has very, very broad protections for the media. And I know that a lot of times people on the outside do not understand that, because people say or do things in my country that personally I find just offensive and unpatriotic and anti-American, and it makes my blood boil. But we know that over time that basically gets overwhelmed by other opinions, and so you then get to a point where you’ve got a much clearer idea of what the basis of opinion and change might be.
So I would, if I were in the Turkish Government, which I am not – and I say this very respectfully – I would be standing up for freedom of expression and freedom of journalism – (applause) – and freedom of bloggers and freedom of the internet, because I think in today’s world information is so broadly available that it’s going to get out there anyway. And –
MS. PAYZIN: Will you mention this to the prime minister this afternoon when you’re going to meet him?
SECRETARY CLINTON: He and I have talked about it before, and –
MS. PAYZIN: But any new — because more and more journalists right now and Kurdish Turkish vote.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
MS. PAYZIN: So will you again mention –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I will, because I do think – I mean, as I say, this is an area where I don’t understand because I don’t think it’s necessary. I think Turkey is strong enough, I think the Turkish character, the Turkish people are strong enough that they can take whatever opinion is out there. But that’s my view of it.
MS. PAYZIN: I know there are many questions, but I have one picture to show you. This is important. This was a huge debate in Turkey, actually. I wish you could explain us — (laughter) — what you’re feeling –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I know.
MS. PAYZIN: — when you’re watching the operation against bin Ladin.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
MS. PAYZIN: Could you share with us your feelings on how was –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as you might guess, this was a very, very small group of us at the highest levels of our government who were aware of and planning this operation against bin Ladin. And it was a very tense time. It was also the height of the Washington allergy season. So I cannot tell you exactly what I was thinking at that moment, because there’s no way I can reconstruct it.
MS. PAYZIN: But it’s lovely because everybody says that this woman. She is expressing her feelings. That’s how women are in politics. Is that –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would hope you would have feelings, because I can’t imagine not having feelings about really everything we do. Because what we are trying to do has real impact on people’s lives. And this for me was a very intense experience, because I was a senator from New York on 9/11 so I knew many of the families who lost their loved ones in the attack on 9/11, and as you remember, nearly 3,000 people, but they were from all over the world. They weren’t just Americans. And so it was a – as I am sitting there and we’re watching what we could see of the operation, this was a very emotional experience. And it was also, as I’ve said, I had also been sucking on lozenges and taking all kinds of allergy medicine. So it was a combination of all kinds of feelings and activities going on at the same time.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) lawyer, me too. (Laughter.) And I want to follow up on his point. Unfortunately, you mentioned that you don’t understand the situation with respect to press freedom in Turkey, because I think you think it’s an aberration of the system; it’s the exception. But unfortunately, it is not, Madam, right now, just over five years in Turkey, the number of those who are detained without conviction has doubled in this country. We’ve got many people from a position who are detained on shaky evidence. We would like very much you to see — we would like to see you very much to raise these issues with our government. Maybe they will listen to you more than they listen to us, and we would very much like to see you mention –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
QUESTION: — especially, two names I would say, Nedim Sener and Ahmet Sik. These are two prominent journalists of this country, and they are in prison on very shaky evidence. This is unfortunately the situation of the Turkish democracy right now. We can give many more examples along these lines. And why when we’ve got such a record in human rights –
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.)
QUESTION: — how can you project Turkey an example of democracy in the region?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. As I’ve said, I have raised this before. I will certainly be raising it again. But let me just say that I think it’s very important for citizens like yourself to raise it. I’m here for two days and then I’m gone, and I think it’s important that any imperfections in your democracy – and every democracy has imperfections – I mean, on balance, Turkish democracy is a model because of where you came from and where you are. That doesn’t mean you don’t have work to do. I mean, we still have work to do. We have problems that we have to continue to try to overcome.
So I would urge that people who have such a stake in the future of Turkey, as all of you do, raise this in a way that can get the attention of authorities without being immediately dismissed because, actually, this will strengthen Turkish democracy, in my opinion.
MS. PAYZIN: One question, one last question from the internet again (inaudible) is asking you if there will be a ground operation against PKK in coming days towards northern Iraq, what would be the reaction of Washington?
SECRETARY CLINTON: So we have supported the Turkish military and we will continue to support the Turkish military in going after PKK terrorists. And we are well aware of how dangerous terrorism is, and one of the issues we are discussing with the Turkish Government is, as you know, the United States has had military forces in Iraq – we are withdrawing those forces – whether or not there is some decision made for us to leave some forces. The fact is we are drawing down the vast majority of them, and those forces were in partnership with the Turkish Government to make sure we could do whatever possible to support the Turkish effort against the PKK. So we are working to see what else we can do once we withdraw from Iraq to provide that support.
MS. PAYZIN: Well, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, this is — oh, my goodness.
MS. PAYZIN: We have many, many questions, but unfortunately, I’m sure that you have a very –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I wish I could stay.
MS. PAYZIN: (In Turkish.) Last words? I mean, anything you (inaudible) this visit and –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would like to continue this. I’m sorry that time doesn’t permit. But I would offer the invitation to those of you who had your hands up who didn’t get to ask questions to send me the questions to the American Embassy.
MS. PAYZIN: Yeah. Many questions about visas, especially, also possible investment possibilities, and social media, also women issues because –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will answer every question that you send to me. And I really have enjoyed this and I would love another chance to continue it, so maybe we’ll have chapter two sometime in the future.
MS PAYZIN: You are most welcome. Any time you like.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And finally, how many of you participated in the Turkish-American exchange program? Because – (laughter) — oh, because I announced that when I came in 2009, and now it’s really working and I can put real faces with the program. And we’re going to continue that. I would like to expand it even, if I can. But I really invite you to please give me your thoughts, your questions, your constructive criticism, because I want not only to represent my government but to represent my country, and to have not just government-to-government relations but people-to-people relations, which I will do everything I can to support.
MS. PAYZIN: Okay, very brief. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) is asking will you be the next and first female president of the United States?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, no, no. I won’t. I won’t.
MS. PAYZIN: Any hope for women? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, well, look, I mean, I know that Turkey had a woman prime minister some years ago, so you’re ahead of us.
MS. PAYZIN: Not that (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, I don’t think so. I think, though, that I will support – hopefully in my lifetime, I will see a woman president, because I believe in equal rights and equal opportunities and equal responsibilities. So I think that would be something to look forward to.
MS. PAYZIN: Well, Madam Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all.
MS. PAYZIN: Thank you. (In Turkish.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. I would like to thank you and the Members of the Commission for holding this important and timely hearing on the human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify.
Mr. Chairman, I ask that my full statement, and the written testimony, be made part of the record.
Mr. Chairman, as you are aware, the Government of Syria continues to carry out a pattern of gross human rights violations despite promises to stop. As Secretary Clinton said yesterday, from the U.S. perspective, President Assad “has lost legitimacy.” She said: “President Assad is not indispensible, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power. Our goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.”
Let me begin with an overview of how the protest movement in Syria and the ensuing crackdown have evolved.
Large scale demonstrations started in mid-March in the southern town of Daraa, when security forces fired upon demonstrators calling for the release of children being held for weeks for writing political graffiti. That brutal act sparked the collective will of the Syrian people oppressed for decades. In response, average Syrians organized peaceful demonstrations on the streets of towns, villages, and cities throughout Syria which are now entering the fourth month.
President Assad and his regime responded to the Syrian people’s peaceful protests with gunfire, mass arrests, torture and abuse. Human rights organizations report that over 1,300 — and as many as 1,600 — Syrians have been killed, thousands jailed and the Syrian people are held hostage to a widening crackdown by security forces.
But the Syrian people have lost their fear. They are not backing down in the face of continued brutality. They are continuing to take to the streets to demand freedom, respect for their basic rights, and a transition to democracy.
Syrian military and security forces have besieged communities, cut off water, internet and telephone services, conducted mass arrests, targeted emergency medical responders, and shot peaceful protestors with impunity. As the Syrian government largely barred independent media from Syria, these crimes have been reported mainly though images and videos taken by brave demonstrators and smuggled out.
Last week, President Assad sacked the governor and ordered his troops and tanks to surround the central city of Hama, where at least 10,000 Syrians and perhaps many more perished at the hands of his father, Hafez Assad, in 1982. Despite the city’s tragic history, and despite provocations, the demonstrators in Hama have remained peaceful.
As you know, on July 7th and 8th Ambassador Ford visited the central city of Hama, where for six weeks demonstrators have been bravely protesting in a peaceful fashion to express their dissent. Ambassador Ford toured the city and reported seeing no protestors carrying weapons, nor damage to government buildings. There have been no attacks on government buildings, soldiers or government officials. However, the government has carried out sweeps and arrested dozens of peaceful demonstrators without judicial authority to do so and without due process. These roundups are contrary to the promises from President Assad that proper judicial procedures would be followed in dealing with the unrest.
Ambassador Ford traveled to Hama to demonstrate our solidarity with the people of the city, and our firm support for their right to assemble and express themselves peacefully. The lack of unfettered international media access in Syria has made the Ambassador’s personal observations particularly important to Washington policymakers.
While the Syrian government accused Ambassador Ford of “gross interference” in internal Syrian affairs, the Ambassador was greeted with flowers and cheers by city residents.
Yesterday, a mob began assaulting the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. They smashed windows, threw rocks, raised the Syrian flag, and scrawled graffiti calling Ambassador Ford “a dog.” The Marine guards and our regional security officers reacted quickly and prevent the attackers from breaking into compound buildings or injuring embassy personnel. The attackers then moved on to the French embassy, whose ambassador had also visited Hama. Some used a battering ram to storm that embassy. Syrian security forces did not intervene in a timely fashion to stop these attacks.
The United States strongly condemns this outrageous violation of diplomatic protocol and has demanded that Syria uphold international treaty obligations to protect foreign diplomatic missions.
We view these incidents as further evidence that President Assad’s government continues to be the real source of instability within Syria. He has promised reforms but delivered no meaningful changes. He talks about dialogue, but continues to engage in violence that proves his rhetoric hollow. Even as he talks about dialogue, his security forces started new arrest sweeps in the third largest city, Homs where there also have been months of protests. Assad has made clear that he is determined to maintain power regardless of the cost. And the human toll is mounting.
Amnesty International has reported killings and torture by security forces in the town of Tell Kalakh near the Lebanese border in May. Residents reported seeing scores of males including some elderly and under18 being rounded up. Detainees who were released and interviewed by Amnesty in Lebanon described brutal torture, including beatings, prolonged use of stress positions and the use of electric shock to the genitals. Relatives who were ordered to a military hospital to collect the corpses of eight detainees reported that the bodies bore the marks of torture.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 50 witnesses to the weeks of violence in Daraa, and reported that member of various branches of the mukhabarat security forces and snipers on rooftops deliberately targeted protestors and that victims had lethal head, neck and chest wounds. Among the deadliest incidents Human Rights Watch reported were an attack on protestors in al-Omari mosque from March 23-35, 25 demonstrators killed during two protests on April 8, and at least 34 people during a protest and funeral procession in the town of Izaraa on April 22 and 23.
There are also numerous reports of attacks on and killings of children. Perhaps the best known is the case of 13-year-old Hamza Ali Al-Khateeb, whose tortured and mutilated body was returned to his family by Syrian security forces after he was rounded up on April 29 in a village near Daraa.
THE U.S. GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
Mr. Chairman, we denounce these horrific abuses in the strongest possible terms and call on the international community to do the same.
On May 19, President Obama said Assad could either lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. Hundreds of needless deaths later, it is now perfectly clear that a huge portion of the Syrian population perceives that Assad cannot or will not lead. If he has any respect for the people he purports to govern, he will stop his government’s lawless, violent behavior. The government must stop shooting demonstrators, allow peaceful protests, release political prisoners, stop unjust arrests, give access to human rights monitors, and start an inclusive dialogue to advance a democratic transition.
Instead, however, President Assad and his leadership have apparently chosen to emulate the repressive tactics of Iran, and have received material help from Iran in doing so. We have condemned this course of action in the strongest terms, and have imposed sanctions on those responsible for the violence.
The United States has repeatedly raised our concerns about human rights to Syrian officials. From the moment he arrived, Ambassador Ford began raising the significant number of cases of prisoners of conscience with President Assad when he presented his credentials and then constantly with the Syrian Office of the President. Several prominent human rights defenders have since been released. They include Haythem Maleh, an 80-year-old former judge who was imprisoned for charges of “spreading false news that could weaken the national morale” and Muhannad Hassani, a former president of the Syrian Human Rights Organization. However, we are deeply concerned about the treatment of the thousands of detainees who remain in custody.
Amb. Ford also repeatedly pressed Syrian officials to allow the opposition freedom to operate, highlighting for example, the importance of the June 27th meeting of the opposition, which was permitted to take place.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to note that Ambassador Ford’s steadfast commitment to human rights and his ability to press for change and report on developments like the situation in Hama underscores the value of having a U.S. Ambassador in the country, now more than ever.
U.S. GOVERNMENT SANCTIONSinternational community.”
President Assad’s future is the hands of the Syrian people. And the proper role for the United States and the international community is to support the Syrian people in their aspirations for political reform.
On May 18, President Obama signed an Executive Order imposing sanctions against President Assad and senior officials of the government responsible for human rights abuses. In addition to President Assad, the sanctions designated the Vice President, Prime Minister, ministers of interior and defense, the head of Syrian military intelligence, and director of the political security directorate. Other U.S. sanctions targets President Assad’s brother and two cousins, the Syrian military and civilian intelligence services, its national security bureau and the air force intelligence, as well as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and senior Quds force officers.
These individuals and entities were selected because they bear direct responsibility for crimes against their own people. The European Union and other nations have enacted similar sanctions on these key regime figures to hold Syria’s leaders accountable for the violence.
In a Special Session in April, the UN Human Rights Council condemned the ongoing violations by the Syrian authorities. The Council called on Syrian authorities to release prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained, and to end restrictions on Internet access and journalists. It also established an international investigation led by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In the June Human Rights Council session, the United States joined Canada and more than 50 other countries in a forceful joint statement that again condemned violations committed by the Syrian authorities and called for credible, independent, and transparent investigations into these abuses, accountability for those who perpetrated such abuses, and unfettered access to the UN High Commissioner’s mission to investigate the many allegations of human rights abuses. The High Commissioner will present a report on the human rights situation in Syria in the September session. However, President Assad continues to refuse to allow the monitors mandated by the Human Rights Council to enter Syria.
The United States continues to work with our partners on possible U.N. Security Council action condemning the Assad regime.
Inspired by the protest movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere, Syrian people are demanding their universal rights and rejecting a corrupt government that rules through fear. Syrian officials continue to complain about foreign influences. But as Secretary Clinton said yesterday, “They are clearly trying to deflect attention from their crackdown internally and to move the world’s view away from what they’re doing.”
It is true that some Syrian soldiers have been killed. We have reports of about 200 such deaths. We regret the loss of those lives too. But the vast majority of casualties have been unarmed civilians. By continuing to ban foreign journalists and observers, the regime seeks to hide these facts.
A Syria that is unified, pluralistic, and democratic could play a positive and leading role in the region, but under President Assad the country is increasingly becoming a source of instability. UNHCR and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC) last week estimated there were about 30,000 internally displaced Syrians because of the ongoing unrest. Almost 12,000 Syrians fled the violence to Turkey in the end of June and over 8,500 still remain in six camps run by the Red Crescent.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear time and again that respect for human rights and pursuit of national security interests are not in conflict; to the contrary, they are best advanced in tandem. A strong and prosperous Syria, governed with the consent of all of its people, would be a positive influence on the stability of the region.
The Administration has been clear since the protests began that Syria is headed toward a new political order — and the Syrian people will shape it.
There are growing signs that civil society and opposition groups inside and outside Syria are becoming more organized. However, minority populations, including Christians, Druze and Kurds, have legitimate concerns that uncertainty and insecurity surrounding a fall of the Assad regime could endanger them. A peaceful democratic transition will require the participation of and respect for all of Syria’s ethnic and religious groups. We want to see a Syria that is unified and where tolerance and equality are the norm.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Syrian people have shown they will not cease their demands for dignity and a future free from intimidation and fear. The Syrian people deserve a government that respects its people, works to build a more stable and prosperous country, and doesn’t rely on repression at home and antagonism abroad to maintain its grip on power. They deserve a government that serves them.
That would be good for Syria, good for the region and good for the world.
In the meantime, the United States will continue to press for an immediate end to all violence and the beginning of a peaceful democratic process.
It is important for the United States that the Syrian people succeed in this endeavor, and we will support their efforts to build a peaceful and prosperous future.
وزارة الخارجية الأميركية
شهادة مايكل أيتش. بوزنر
مساعد وزيرة الخارجية لشؤون الديمقراطية، وحقوق الإنسان، والعمل
بيان أمام لجنة توم لانتوس لحقوق الإنسان في مجلس النواب
12 تموز/يوليو 2011
حقوق الإنسان في سورية
أسعدتم صباحاً، السيد الرئيس والأعضاء المحترمين في لجنة توم لانتوس لحقوق الإنسان. أود أن أشكركم وأشكر أعضاء اللجنة على عقد هذه الجلسة الهامة في وقتها المناسب حول وضع حقوق الإنسان في الجمهورية العربية السورية، وإنني أقدر هذه الفرصة للإدلاء بشهادتي.
السيد الرئيس، أطلب أن يُشكِّل بياني الكامل، وشهادتي المكتوبة، جزءاً من السجل.
السيد الرئيس، كما تدركون، فإن الحكومة السورية مستمرة في تنفيذ نمط من الانتهاكات الجسيمة لحقوق الإنسان على الرغم من الوعود بالتوقف عن ذلك. وكما صرحت وزيرة الخارجية هيلاري كلينتون أمس، من وجهة نظر الولايات المتحدة، “إن الرئيس الأسد قد فقد شرعيته.” وأضافت: “الرئيس الأسد ليس شخصاً لا يستغنى عنه، ولم تستثمر فيه أي شيء على الإطلاق لكي يبقى في السلطة. هدفنا هو أن نرى تحقق إرادة الشعب السوري للتغيير الديمقراطي.”
اسمحوا لي أن أبدأ بتقديم نظرة شاملة عن تطور حركة الاحتجاجات في سورية والإجراءات العميقة الصارمة التي أعقبت ذلك.
بدأت المظاهرات الواسعة النطاق في منتصف شهر آذار/مارس في بلدة درعا الجنوبية، عندما فتحت قوات الأمن النار على المتظاهرين المطالبين بالإفراج عن الأطفال المحتجزين منذ أسابيع بسبب قيامهم بكتابة شعارات سياسية على الجدران. وأثار هذا العمل الوحشي الإرادة الجماعية للشعب السوري المضطهد منذ عقود. رداً على ذلك، نظم السوريون العاديون مظاهرات سلمية في شوارع البلدات، والقرى، والمدن في مختلف أنحاء سورية، وقد دخلت هذه المظاهرات الآن شهرها الرابع.
وردّ الرئيس الأسد ونظامه على احتجاجات الشعب السوري السلمي بإطلاق النار، والاعتقالات الجماعية، والتعذيب، وإساءة المعاملة. وقد ذكرت تقارير منظمات حقوق الإنسان أن ما يزيد على 1300 – وحتى ما يصل إلى 1600 – سوري قد قتلوا، وأن الآلاف قد سجنوا، وأن الشعب السوري هو الآن رهينة في سياق حملة الإجراءات الصارمة المتوسعة التي تقوم بها قوات الأمن.
لكن الشعب السوري لم يعد خائفاً، ولم يتراجع في وجه الوحشية المستمرة. فهم مستمرون في النزول إلى الشوارع للمطالبة بالحرية، واحترام حقوقهم الأساسية، والتغيير الديمقراطي.
وقد قام أفراد الجيش السوري وقوات الأمن بمحاصرة المجتمعات الأهلية، وقطع المياه، وخدمات الإنترنت والهاتف، وتنفيذ اعتقالات جماعية، واستهدف المسعفين الطبيين للحالات الطارئة، وقتل المتظاهرين المسالمين وتمكنوا من الإفلات من العقاب. ونظراً لأن الحكومة السورية منعت إلى حدٍ كبير وسائل الإعلام المستقلة من الدخول إلى سوريا، فقد تمّ الإبلاغ عن هذه الجرائم، وبصورة رئيسية عبر الصور وأشرطة الفيديو التي صورها المتظاهرون الشجعان وهربّوها إلى الخارج.
في الأسبوع الماضي، أقال الرئيس الأسد محافظ مدينة حماة وأمر قواته والدبابات بتطويق وسط المدينة، حيث قُتل ما لا يقل عن 10,000 سوري، وربما أكثر بكثير، على يد والده حافظ الأسد في عام 1982. وعلى الرغم من تاريخ المدينة المأساوي، وعلى الرغم من الاستفزازات، بقيت المظاهرات في مدينة حماة سلمية.
كما تعلمون، زار السفير فورد في 7 و8 تموز/يوليو وسط مدينة حماة، حيث احتج المتظاهرون سلمياً بشجاعة لستة أسابيع للتعبير عن معارضتهم. جال السفير فورد في المدينة وذكرت التقارير انه لم يشاهد أي متظاهرين يحملون أسلحة أو أضرار لحقت بالمباني الحكومية. لم تكن هناك أي هجمات على المباني الحكومية أو الجنود، أو المسؤولين الحكوميين. ومع ذلك، قامت الحكومة بعمليات تمشيط واعتقلت العشرات من المتظاهرين المسالمين دون إذن قضائي للقيام بذلك، ودون اتباع الإجراءات القانونية الواجبة. تتعارض عمليات الاعتقال هذه مع وعود الرئيس بشار الأسد في أن يتبع الإجراءات القضائية السليمة في التعامل مع الاضطرابات.
لقد سافر السفير فورد إلى حماة لإظهار تضامننا مع شعب المدينة، ودعمنا الثابت لحقهم في التجمع والتعبير عن أنفسهم بشكل سلمي. وكان غياب وجود وسائل الإعلام الدولية في سورية قد جعل مشاهدات السفير الشخصية مهمة بشكل خاص لصنّاع القرار في واشنطن.
في حين أن الحكومة السورية اتهمت السفير فورد بما سمته “تدخلاً سافراً” في الشؤون الداخلية السورية، استقبل سكان المدينة السفير بالورود والهتافات.
أمس، بدأت زمرة من الرعاع بالاعتداء على السفارة الأميركية في دمشق. حطموا النوافذ، وقذفوا الحجارة، ورفعوا العلم السوري، وكتبوا على الجدران كتابات تدعو السفير فورد “بالكلب”. فما كان من حراس قوات مشاة البحرية وضباط الأمن الإقليمي في سفارتنا إلا أن تحركوا بسرعة ومنعوا المهاجمين من اقتحام حرم السفارة أو إصابة موظفي السفارة. ثم انتقل المهاجمون إلى السفارة الفرنسية، التي كان سفيرها قد زار حماة أيضاً. استخدم بعضهم مدماك معدني ثقيل لاقتحام السفارة. أما قوات الأمن السورية فلم تتدخل في الوقت المناسب لوقف هذه الهجمات.
الولايات المتحدة تدين بشدة هذا الانتهاك الفاضح للبروتوكول الدبلوماسي وتطالب سوريا الالتزام بواجباتها بموجب المعاهدات الدولية لحماية البعثات الدبلوماسية الأجنبية.
ونحن نرى في هذه الحوادث دليلاً إضافياً على أن حكومة الرئيس الأسد لا تزال المصدر الحقيقي لعدم الاستقرار داخل سورية. وقد وعد بالإصلاحات، ولكن ذلك لم يقدم أية تغييرات ذات معنى. وهو يتكلم عن الحوار، ولكنه لا يزال يرتكب أعمال عنف تثبت خطابه الأجوف. حتى وهو يتحدث عن الحوار، بدأت قوات الأمن التابعة له بحملة اعتقالات جديدة في حمص ثالث أكبر مدينة في سوريا حيث تشهد احتجاجات ومظاهرات منذ عدة أشهر. من الواضح أن الأسد مصرّ على التمسك بالسلطة بغض النظر عن التكلفة. أما الخسائر البشرية فإنها تستمر في الارتفاع.
أفادت تقارير منظمة العفو الدولية عن عمليات قتل وتعذيب على أيدي قوات الأمن في بلدة تل كلخ قرب الحدود اللبنانية في أيار/مايو الماضي. وذكر السكان أنهم شاهدوا اعتقال العشرات من الرجال، بمن فيهم بعض كبار السن وشبان تحت سن 18. ووصف المعتقلون الذين أُطلق سراحهم والذين قابلتهم منظمة العفو الدولية في لبنان التعذيب الوحشي، بما في ذلك الضرب والإبقاء لفترة طويلة في أوضاع مؤلمة، واستخدام الصدمات الكهربائية على الأعضاء التناسلية. أفاد الأقارب الذين أُمروا بالذهاب إلى مستشفى عسكري لاستلام جثث ثمانية معتقلين أن أجساد هؤلاء كانت تحمل علامات التعذيب.
أجرت منظمة هيومن رايتس ووتش مقابلات مع 50 شاهد عيان لأسابيع من العنف في درعا، وأفادت أن عناصر من مختلف فروع قوات الأمن والمخابرات والقناصة انتشروا على أسطح المنازل واستهدفوا المتظاهرين عمداً وأن الضحايا تعرضوا لإصابات قاتلة في الرأس والعنق والصدر. وأفادت المنظمة ان من بين الحوادث الأكثر دموية كان الهجوم على المعتصمين في المسجد العمري من 23 آذار/مارس، حيث قتل 35 و25 متظاهراً خلال مظاهرتين في 8 نيسان/أبريل، وقتل أيضاً ما لا يقل عن 34 شخصاً خلال احتجاج وجنازة في بلدة إزرع في 22 و23 نيسان/ابريل.
هناك أيضاً العديد من التقارير عن هجمات وأعمال قتل أطفال. ولعل أشهرها مقتل حمزة علي الخطيب ابن ال 13 عاماً، الذي تعرض للتعذيب وتشويه جثته والذي أعيد إلى عائلته من قبل قوات الأمن السورية بعد اعتقاله في 29 نيسان/أبريل في قرية بالقرب من درعا.
رد الحكومة الأميركية
السيد الرئيس، نحن نستنكر هذه الانتهاكات المروعة بأقوى العبارات الممكنة، وندعو المجتمع الدولي إلى أن يحذو حذونا.
في 19 أيار/مايو، قال الرئيس أوباما إن بامكان الأسد إما أن يقود الانتقال الديمقراطي أو يبتعد عن طريق هذا الانتقال. وبعد مئات الوفيات غير الضرورية التي حدثت لاحقاً، أصبح من الواضح جداً الآن أن جزءاً كبيراً من الشعب السوري يدرك أن الأسد لا يستطيع أن يقود هذا الانتقال او أنه لا يريد ذلك. فإذا كان لديه أي احترام للشعب الذي يعتبر نفسه حاكماً له، فإنه يجب ان يوقف أعمال حكومته الخارجة عن القانون، وسلوكها العنيف. يجب على الحكومة وقف إطلاق النار على المتظاهرين، والسماح بالمظاهرات السلمية، وإطلاق سراح السجناء السياسيين، ووقف الاعتقالات الظالمة، والسماح بدخول مراقبي حقوق الإنسان، والبدء بحوار شامل لدفع عجلة الانتقال الديمقراطي.
بدلاً من ذلك، فقد اختار الرئيس الأسد وقيادته على ما يبدو، اتباع الأساليب القمعية لإيران، وقد تلقوا مساعدة مادية من إيران للقيام بذلك. ولقد قمنا بإدانة هذا العمل بأشد العبارات، وفرضنا عقوبات على المسؤولين عن العنف.
لقد أثارت الولايات المتحدة مراراً قلقنا بشأن حقوق الإنسان لدى المسؤولين السوريين. ومن لحظة وصوله إلى سوريا، بدأ السفير فورد بحث العدد الكبير من قضايا سجناء الرأي مع الرئيس الأسد، وذلك عندما قدم أوراق اعتماده ومن ثم واصل ذلك مع مكتب الرئيس السوري. ومنذ ذلك الحين أطلق سراح عدد من المدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان البارزين، منهم هيثم المالح البالغ 80 عاماً وهو قاضٍ سابق سُجن بتهمة “نشر أنباء كاذبة من شأنها أن تضعف المعنويات الوطنية”، ومهند الحساني، وهو الرئيس السابق لمنظمة حقوق الإنسان السورية. ومع ذلك، فإننا نشعر بقلق بالغ إزاء معاملة آلاف من المعتقلين الذين ما زالوا رهن الاحتجاز.
وضغط السفير فورد أيضاً مراراً على المسؤولين السوريين للسماح للمعارضة بالعمل بحرية، ملقياً الضوء، مثلاً، على أهمية اجتماع المعارضة في 27 حزيران/يونيو، والذي تم السماح له بالانعقاد.
السيد الرئيس، أود أن أشير إلى أن الالتزام الثابت للسفير فورد بحقوق الإنسان وقدرته على الضغط من أجل التغيير والإبلاغ عن التطورات مثل الوضع في حماة، يؤكد على قيمة وجود السفير الأميركي في هذا البلد، والآن أكثر من أي وقت مضى.
عقوبات الحكومة الأميركية وحكومات المجتمع الدولي
مستقبل الرئيس الأسد هو بين أيدي الشعب السوري. والدور الصحيح للولايات المتحدة والمجتمع الدولي هو دعم الشعب السوري في تطلعاته للإصلاح السياسي.
في 18 أيار/مايو، وقّع الرئيس أوباما أمراً تنفيذياً بفرض عقوبات ضد الرئيس بشار الأسد وكبار موظفي الحكومة المسؤولين عن انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان. بالإضافة إلى الرئيس الأسد، حددت العقوبات نائب الرئيس، ورئيس الوزراء، ووزيري الداخلية والدفاع، ورئيس الاستخبارات العسكرية السورية، ومدير الأمن السياسي. وهناك عقوبات أميركية أخرى تستهدف شقيق الرئيس الأسد واثنين من أبناء عمه، وأجهزة الاستخبارات السورية العسكرية والمدنية، ومكتب الأمن الوطني، واستخبارات سلاح الجو، علاوة على ضباط الحرس الثوري الإيراني، وفيلق القدس، وكبار ضباط قوات القدس.
وقد تمّ اختيار هؤلاء الأفراد والكيانات لأنهم يتحملون المسؤولية المباشرة عن جرائم ضد شعبهم. وقد أقرّ الاتحاد الأوروبي ودول أخرى فرض عقوبات مماثلة على موظفي النظام الكبار هؤلاء لإخضاع قادة سوريا للمساءلة حول العنف.
في دورة استثنائية في نيسان/أبريل، أدان مجلس حقوق الإنسان الانتهاكات المستمرة للسلطات السورية. ودعا المجلس السلطات السورية لإطلاق سراح سجناء الرأي والمعتقلين تعسفاً، وإنهاء القيود المفروضة على الدخول إلى شبكة الإنترنت وعلى الصحافيين. وبدأ المجلس أيضاً تحقيقاً دولياً بقيادة مكتب المفوض السامي لحقوق الإنسان. وفي جلسة مجلس حقوق الإنسان في حزيران/يونيو، انضمت الولايات المتحدة إلى كندا وأكثر من 50 دولة أخرى لإصدار بيان مشترك يدين بقوة الانتهاكات التي ارتكبت مرة أخرى على يد السلطات السورية، ودعت إلى إجراء تحقيقات موثوقة، ومستقلة، وشفافة في هذه الانتهاكات، ومساءلة الذين ارتكبوا مثل هذه الانتهاكات، والسماح بالوصول غير المقيد لبعثة مكتب المفوضية السامية لحقوق الإنسان للتحقيق في مزاعم العديد من انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان. وسوف يقدم المفوض السامي تقريراً عن وضع حقوق الإنسان في سورية في دورة أيلول/سبتمبر. ومع ذلك ، فإن الرئيس الأسد لا يزال يرفض السماح للمراقبين المكلفين من جانب مجلس حقوق الإنسان بالدخول إلى سورية.
تواصل الولايات المتحدة العمل مع شركائنا بشأن قرار محتمل من جانب مجلس الأمن يدين نظام الأسد.
باستيحاء الحركات الاحتجاجية في تونس، ومصر، وليبيا وغيرها من الأماكن، يطالب الشعب السوري بحقوقه الأساسية ويرفض الحكومة الفاسدة التي تحكم من خلال الترهيب. لا يزال المسؤولون السوريون يشكون من التأثيرات الخارجية. ولكن، كما قالت وزيرة الخارجية كلينتون أمس، “انهم يحاولون بوضوح صرف الانتباه عن الإجراءات القمعية الصارمة الداخلية وتحويل أنظار العالم عما يفعلونه.”
صحيح أن بعض الجنود السوريين قد قتلوا. ولدينا تقارير تفيد عن 200 حالة وفاة من هذا القبيل. اننا نأسف لخسارة هذه الأرواح أيضاً. ولكن الغالبية العظمى من الضحايا كانت من المدنيين العزل. من خلال الاستمرار في منع الصحفيين والمراقبين الأجانب، فإن النظام يسعى إلى إخفاء هذه الحقائق.
ويمكن لسورية الموحدة، التعددية، الديمقراطية أن تلعب دوراً إيجابياً ورائداً في المنطقة، ولكن في ظل الرئيس الأسد في البلاد فإنها تبقى مصدراً لعدم الاستقرار على نحو متزايد. وقد قدر مكتب المفوضية السامية لشؤون اللاجئين التابع لمنظمة الأمم المتحدة (UNHCR) والهلال الأحمر العربي السوري الأسبوع الماضي ان هناك نحو 30 ألف سورياً مشرداً داخل البلاد بسبب الاضطرابات المستمرة. كما فر حوالي 12 ألف سوري من العنف إلى تركيا في نهاية شهر حزيران/يونيو وأكثر من 8500 سوري لا يزالون مقيمين في ستة مخيمات تديرها جمعية الهلال الأحمر.
أوضح الرئيس أوباما والوزيرة كلينتون مرة أخرى أن احترام حقوق الإنسان والسعي لتحقيق مصالح الأمن القومي لا يتعارضان، بل على العكس من ذلك، فأفضل طريقة لتقدمهما هي تلازمهما. ومن شأن سورية القوية والمزدهرة التي تُحكم بموافقة جميع أفراد شعبها، ان تؤثر إيجاباً على الاستقرار في المنطقة.
كانت الحكومة الأميركية واضحة منذ بدء الاحتجاجات بأن سورية تتقدم نحو نظام سياسي جديد – والشعب السوري هو الذي سيشكله.
هناك دلائل متزايدة على أن المجتمع المدني ومجموعات المعارضة داخل سوريا وخارجها أصبحت أكثر تنظيما. ومع ذلك، فإن الأقليات، بما في ذلك المسيحيين والدروز والأكراد، لديهم مخاوف مشروعة من أن عدم اليقين وانعدام الأمن المحيط بسقوط نظام الأسد قد يعرضهم للخطر. إن الانتقال السلمي الديمقراطي يتطلب المشاركة والاحترام لجميع المجموعات العرقية والدينية في سوريا. نريد أن نرى سورية الموحدة، حيث التسامح والمساواة هما القاعدة.
الطريق إلى الأمام
أظهر الشعب السوري انه لن يتوقف عن مطالبته بالكرامة وبمستقبل خالٍ من الترهيب والخوف. والشعب السوري يستحق حكومة تحترم شعبها، وتعمل على بناء بلد أكثر استقراراً وازدهاراً، ولا تعتمد على القمع في الداخل والعداء في الخارج للحفاظ على سيطرتها على السلطة. انهم يستحقون الحكومة التي تخدمهم.
وهذا سيكون جيداً لسوريا، وجيداً للمنطقة، وجيداً للعالم.
في غضون ذلك، فإن الولايات المتحدة ستواصل الضغط من اجل وقف فوري لكل أشكال العنف وبدء عملية ديمقراطية سلمية.
من المهم بالنسبة للولايات المتحدة أن ينجح الشعب السوري في هذا المسعى، وسندعم الجهود الرامية إلى بناء مستقبل سلمي ومزدهر.
وزارة الخارجية الأميركية
مايكل بوزنر، سورية، حقوق الإنسان، الإصلاح الديمقراطي، حماة.
شهادة مساعد وزيرة الخارجية بوزنر حول حقوق الإنسان في سورية أمام لجنة حقوق الإنسان في مجلس النواب.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon, everyone. And it is, as always, a delight to welcome High Representative Ashton back to the State Department for the continuing consultations that we have been engaged in ever since her appointment. I always look forward to these meetings and working closely with her and her team on the full range of shared challenges that confront the United States and the European Union. I think it goes without saying that this is such a consequential partnership that is rooted in our common values and aspirations as well as serving as a cornerstone for global peace and prosperity and security. Today, once again, we covered a lot of ground. Let me just touch on a few of the issues.
First, Lady Ashton and I discussed events in Syria. The United States strongly condemns Syria’s failure to protect diplomatic facilities in Damascus, including the American and French embassies and our ambassador’s residence. As we have expressed directly to the Syrian Government today, we demand that they meet their international responsibilities immediately to protect all diplomats and the property of all countries. The Asad regime will not succeed in deflecting the world’s attention from the real story unfolding in Syria. This is not about America or France or any other country; this is about the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people for dignity, universal rights, and the rule of law.
Despite promising dialogue and promises of change, the Syrian Government has responded to the people’s peaceful protests with more violence, more arrests, and more intimidation. These assaults must stop. Neither the Syrian people nor the international community will accept half-measures or lofty speeches. We call on the regime immediately to halt its campaign of violence, pull its security forces back from Hama and other cities, and allow the Syrian people to express their opinions freely so that a genuine transition to democracy can take place.
Let me also add that if anyone, including President Asad, thinks that the United States is secretly hoping the regime will emerge from this turmoil to continue its brutality and repression, they are wrong. President Asad is not indispensible, and we have absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power. Our goal is to see that the will of the Syrian people for a democratic transformation occurs.
Let me turn now to Libya, which again, Lady Ashton and I discussed in preparation for the upcoming Contact Group meeting in Istanbul. We will be joined there by a growing number of international partners reflecting deep and widespread concern about the safety of Libyan civilians and the clear need for Colonel Qadhafi to leave power. As momentum continues to build in Libya, the people are not waiting to plan their new post-Qadhafi future. They are laying the foundation, organizing the institutions, and preparing the infrastructure, and the international community will support these efforts. So the United States welcomes the EU’s announcement that it is opening an office in Benghazi. Together, we will work with the UN and other partners to coordinate post-conflict assistance and help a free Libya emerge from the dictator’s shadow.
We also discussed our shared commitment to support the democratic transitions underway in Egypt and Tunisia. As I said at the Community of Democracies in Lithuania, established democracies have a responsibility to help those emerging find their footing. So we are working together to help Egyptians and Tunisians begin the slow, hard work of building sustainable democracies rooted in guaranteed human rights, accountable institutions, and the rule of law.
And finally, although we talked about many other issues, let me just mention our shared desire to support the countries of the Western Balkans as they continue to build prosperous, peaceful, and democratic societies and move toward their rightful places as full members of the European and Euro-Atlantic community. The recent agreements between Kosovo and Serbia in the EU-facilitated dialogue are a positive and mutually beneficial step. But this is only the beginning. Now the agreements need to be implemented, and we need to see more progress, particularly in the north of Kosovo. We expect both sides to continue their hard work and come to practical agreements to improve the daily lives of all people, normalize relations, and bring both countries closer to achieving their EU aspirations.
So as you can see, we had, as we always do, a lot to talk about, and of all these critical challenges, it is especially gratifying that the United States and the European Union are working hand in hand. And so again, let me thank the high representative, my friend and colleague, for her partnership and for the work that we will be doing in the future.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Thank you very much, and it’s a great pleasure, as always, to be back in Washington and with Secretary Clinton, though the heat here is rather like Juba was on Saturday. (Laughter.)
I just wanted to say to the American press as well that there was an enormous cheer from the crowds in Juba when they heard of the support from the United States when Ambassador Rice spoke, and it was a great moment. And there was a good cheer too when I spoke up for the European Union.
And as the Secretary says, we talked about a range of different topics, and I begin by endorsing what Hillary said about what’s happening in terms of the embassies of the United States and France in Syria. This is very alarming. We see the dialogue beginning; we don’t see the opposition included effectively by President Asad. It is really important that he takes note, again, of what we’ve called for consistently, which is the end to violence. And we continue to use our political and economic power to try and get him to turn away from what is a terrible situation.
We’ve been talking, as indeed I’m sure Secretary Clinton has, with Turkey about the refugees who are coming across the border. And I’ve had teams going to talk to them about the situation they find themselves in, and it’s very grave indeed. The stories that they tell us really do reflect the information that you will be– have been receiving as well.
And of course, on to Libya: We have an office in Benghazi. I was very proud to see a European Union flag flying over Freedom Square and to go to officially open the office in Benghazi. The purpose of that is an opportunity to channel our support to the people, through the Transitional National Council, and through civil society to be able to support them on security management, which is a huge issue, and also to build the institutions that they will need. A young man I met who had spent eight years in prison under Colonel Qadhafi said, “What we want is very simple. We want what you have – the everyday life of democracy.” And that’s something that we’ll work together on to make sure that in the post-Qadhafi world, with our colleagues under UN leadership, but with the Africa Union, the Arab League, with the OIC, with many others, that we continue to get ready for the post-Qadhafi world of Libya, which will be, we know, significantly better for the people there.
As the Secretary says, there are so many other countries where we’re engaged together, and we think particularly, of course, of Egypt and Tunisia. I have appointed an EU special representative to look at the area of North Africa and to support the people by bringing together the European Union institutions and member-states, especially with the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, provide additional resources. We’ve been able to find about 5 to 7 billion euros additionally, which will help to support infrastructure, public and private sector engagement, and help, for example, with housing projects in Egypt and with road infrastructure in Tunisia. These are important economic matters because they need to go side by side with the push and support for democracy and the moves to support the democratic growth in all of the countries concerned.
And then finally, again, as the Secretary said, to think about the other part of our neighborhood, the Balkans, and especially the Serbia-Kosovo dialogue. Prime Minister Thaci from Kosovo and I had lunch last week, and we talked about the potential of what we’re trying to do with the discussions, which is really to make life easier in practical ways for the people in the north of Kosovo. So it’s engaged with issues like driving license plates, ways in which we can help the movement of people between the two, and to find ways, too, to build the trust so that we can move forward with them into the future, which for both lies in the European Union.
So thank you again for the time we spent together. We meet all over the world, but we’ll meet after this trip again in Istanbul on Friday. But this is an incredibly important partnership.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: We have time for two questions, (inaudible) ask two questions from the European side. The first question is from CNN, Elise Labott, (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, on Syria, do you believe that the government is inciting this activity at the Embassy and kind of masterminding it? Because – and if they’re not protecting it, that would be extremely concerning.
And I just want to follow up on your comments about how, if he thinks that the U.S. is secretly hoping he’ll emerge, they’re mistaken and that’s he not indispensible. You’ve been saying over the last several months even that that window is narrowly closing. It sounds as if you’re pretty close– if not already there, that you’ve given up any hope of him turning it around. And maybe you’re not ready to say that magic phrase, but it certainly seems that that’s how you feel. If you could expand on that.
And then for both of you on this Quartet meeting today, I was wondering what you think given the situation, the Palestinians saying that they’re going to declare in September, neither one of them willing to accept the President’s markers on a state within the ’67 – some of those conditions he laid out. What do you possibly think that the Quartet could come up with tonight that could really change the situation on the ground and avoid a disaster in September?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Elise, first of all, with respect to Syria, here’s what we know. What we know is that mobs have attacked our Embassy and the French Embassy on successive days now for the last several days. Mobs have attacked the residence where our ambassador lives. And we know that the concerns we’ve expressed to the Syrian Government that they are not taking adequate steps to protect our diplomats and our property have yet to engender the kind of response we would expect to see.
And by either allowing or inciting this kind of behavior by these mobs against Americans and French diplomats and their property, they are clearly trying to deflect attention from their crackdown internally and to move the world’s view away from what they’re doing and to create some kind of ongoing conflict between Syrians and people like our diplomats. And it just doesn’t work. We expect them to protect our diplomats. We expect them to protect our embassies and our residences. And we don’t think that they are doing enough to evidence a willingness to follow through on their international responsibilities.
So we’ve made it abundantly clear that we — what we expect. We’ve also made clear that we are investigating reports about how this — these incidents have occurred and who was behind them. And we are not going to be satisfied until the Syrians protect our people, and I’m sure the French feel exactly the same way.
With respect to the Quartet, as you know, we are meeting this evening. And I don’t think either High Representative or I have anything specifically to say at this point, because obviously we want to hold the meeting and discuss in depth with our colleagues the way forward.
QUESTION: The question about President Asad and –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I mean, look – I mean, from our perspective, he has lost legitimacy, he has failed to deliver on the promises he’s made, he has sought and accepted aid from the Iranians as to how to repress his own people, and there’s a laundry list of actions that have been certainly concerning and should raise issue with not only his behavior but those who are supporting him in the international community. And we would like to see even more countries speaking out as forcefully as we have.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Just on the Quartet, just to agree with Hillary. We meet tonight against a backdrop of wanting to try and see progress between the Palestinians and the Israelis in terms of talks. And we’ll see where we get to this evening.
MS. NULAND: The next question is (inaudible).
QUESTION: Good afternoon. You just mentioned President Asad. Can we go into that again, please? Secretary Clinton, you said you want Muammar Qadhafi to leave power. Is either of you willing to replace the name Qadhafi, though, with the name Asad, saying – are you – do you want to see President Asad to leave power? And what is the difference between those two leaders and those two countries in your eyes right now?
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, we have to start from the principle that every country is different, so let’s not try and make all these situations that we’re confronting feel the same, because they’re not. Secondly, I don’t think we should find ourselves consistently looking at each and finding the right solution to be the same as it was for another country.
As far as I’m concerned, what we’re deeply worried about is the level of violence in Syria and the challenges for the people in terms of being able to see their requirements met, their requests met for dialogue. And we urge Asad to do what he has said, which is to host this dialogue properly. It started – a lot of people are not there who should be there, and we’ve yet to see him move forward on that.
And that’s the position that in the European Union we hold to. We really do want to see people being able to have their voices heard, the violence to end, and this chaos to stop, and then the people will be able to make their own decisions about how they go forward.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I have nothing to add to what Cathy has said. I think that it is a mistake, albeit a very tempting one, to equate countries one to the other and assume that there is one template that fits all. That’s obviously not the case, and there are significant differences in the situation in Syria from Libya.
What is comparable is a leader who has not fulfilled the promises that have repeatedly been made over his term in office that there would be economic and political reform that would provide greater opportunities to the Syrian people. And we remain committed to supporting the will of the Syrian people to have a better future for themselves, have more transparency in their interactions with their own government, to have a say in the future of their own country, to have an economic system that responds to their personal effort, and all the other values that we in the United States and the EU think are reflective of universal rights.
QUESTION: Hi. Madam Secretary, if I may ask you on the state of relations with Pakistan and the decision to suspend some $800 million in aid, what do you say to those who suggest that that may, in fact, be counterproductive to rebuilding relations with Pakistan following the bin Ladin raid?
And if I may, Madam Secretary, I’d like to get your thoughts on the passing of one of your predecessors, former First Lady Betty Ford. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first, with Pakistan, our relationship with Pakistan is not always easy, but it’s one that we do consider vital to our national security and to our regional interests. We recognize – and you’ve heard me say this many times – that Pakistan is a valuable ally in the fight against terrorism and it has suffered tremendous civilian and military losses in taking on those extremist elements who are threatening the Pakistani people and the Pakistani state.
That said, the Government of Pakistan must take certain steps, and we have outlined those steps on more than one occasion, to ensure that we can deliver all the military assistance that the United States has discussed with Pakistan. So our decision to pause delivery on this portion of security assistance does not signify a shift in policy but underscores the fact that our partnership depends on cooperation. That’s always been the case and it must continue to be so in the future.
We remain committed to helping Pakistan build and improve its capabilities and continue our conversations with Pakistani officials as to what our financial support entails, because we’ve always had certain expectations that have to be met. And I would add that this is primarily – or exclusively a pause in military assistance, because our civilian assistance has not been affected and we continue to work closely with the Pakistani Government as to how best to deliver that civilian assistance.
With respect to Betty Ford, I will be honored to travel to California tomorrow to attend her memorial service. I feel very grateful for having known her over the years. Actually, her late husband, President Ford, gave me my first job as an intern in Washington before you were born (laughter)– and so I have always been very grateful to the Fords for what they have represented and the incredible impact that Betty Ford made during her time both as First Lady and in the years after that.
I know from my own personal experience with her, that her commitment to speaking out on issues that before she took them on were just not discussed, made a huge difference in the lives of Americans. When she went public with her breast cancer, that was revolutionary. It seems now that it was so commonplace. But I remember well when my mother’s best friend was dying of breast cancer, nobody talked about it in those days. And Betty Ford came along and made it acceptable. And then when she not only spoke out about her own struggles with addiction, but went on to found the Betty Ford Center, she made a huge difference in the lives of people. And again, she took something that had been kind of hidden away, not talked about in public or polite company, and showed that you could address it and shone a big, bright spotlight on it.
Several years ago, she gave me a tour of the Betty Ford Center, and I was so touched by the interactions that she had, because she always remained a very humble persona and never wanted to take credit for the changes that she herself had initiated, and always said, look, I just did what I thought was right, and if it’s helped people, I’m very grateful for that.
So I am delighted that we’re remembering her with such affection and admiration.
MS. NULAND: Last question (inaudible).
QUESTION: Yes. My question is on Palestine. Representative Ashton, you mentioned the celebrations in Juba when South Sudan declared independence. But if Palestine declares independence in September, I don’t imagine you’re going to have quite as unanimous approval for it. And on that score, I’m just curious what are you doing or how confident are you that the EU 27 will have a united position on Palestine being independent? Because they didn’t for Kosovo and they still don’t.
And also, Secretary Clinton, what will the U.S. do if Palestine declares independence?
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE ASHTON: Well, the important word in your sentence was “if” and we don’t yet know what resolution there might be before the UN, and we’ll all have to make our decisions on the basis of what that is. The most important issue as far as I’m concerned is to create the reality, and the work that we’re engaged in is trying to support both sides to get back into talks in order to create that reality. And in a way, that will be the most important thing and the time when perhaps real celebrations can begin.
Can I just say that Betty Ford’s reputation spread way beyond the United States, and as somebody who watched American politics from afar, I wish I’d known her. But certainly, what she did in terms of exactly as Hillary says, raising issues that were taboo, she raised them in the country I know best as well as here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that embedded in your question is the right answer. Sudan and South Sudan negotiated a peace agreement that led to independence. That is what we’re asking the Palestinians and the Israelis to do. The United States, the UK, Norway and other countries were very involved in the 2005 agreement which ended years of civil war and conflict. In the absence of that agreement, I do not believe there would have been celebration in Juba.
And so therefore, what we strongly advocate is a return to negotiations, because a resolution, a statement, an assertion, is not an agreement. And the path to two states living side by side in peace and security lies through direct negotiations. And the sooner the parties get back to that, the sooner there can be the result that many of us have worked for for a long time.
Thank you Karen for your warm introduction. I’m delighted to be here with all of you for this conference, “Democracy that Delivers for Women.” We know that progress for women and progress for democracy go hand in hand.
CIPE has been visionary and effective in its more than 25 years of working to strengthen democracy by strengthening private enterprise. It’s making a difference—a big difference—and I know this conference will surely add to CIPE’s long list of accomplishments and break new ground.
I want to applaud Karen Kerrigan for many reasons. First of all CIPE is so fortunate to have Karen as the Chair of the Board. Hers is a record of commitment, leadership, and achievement and we are all fortunate for her long history of engagement from founding the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council to heading up Women Entrepreneurs, Inc. and for everything she has done here at home and around the world to promote and support women’s entrepreneurship.
Today I want to talk to you about the political and economic power of women in a spirit of realistic optimism. Political and economic realities are intertwined. As Karen said, progress in one dimension reinforces progress in the other. These are the two principal elements of empowerment.
Women’s political participation has been slowly improving. In the last ten years, for example, the rate of participation in Parliaments has grown from 13% to almost 18%. Currently there are fewer than 20 women heads of state or government, and women hold about 16% of ministerial portfolios. Clearly the figure ought to be much better, especially when exceptional women like Germany’s Angela Merkel and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf have demonstrated the strong qualities that women bring to political leadership.
Let me state this reality another way, women are ½ of the population yet hold 1/5 of the positions in national governments. They are significantly outnumbered in the chambers of parliaments, provincial councils and more often than not missing from the negotiating tables where conflicts are to be resolved. All too often decisions that affect women, their families and societies are made without women having a voice.
In the South Pacific where I recently participated in a policy dialogue initiated by the U.S. that was joned by women leaders from twelve of the Pacific Uslands, female political participation is marginal at best. In Papua New Guinea, for example, there is one female parliamentarian out of 109 members. There has been legislation pending there to add 22 reserved seats for women but it remains pending.
Why should we care? For one, democracy without women is a contradiction in terms. Many of you may be familiar with the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report. It looks at the equality of women and men in a given country in four areas: access to education, health survivability, political participation, and economic security. Where the gap is closer to being closed (and in no country is it closed) – in countries where it has been narrowed and the disparities between women and men are not as great, those countries are more economically competitive and prosperous. In publishing the study over the last several years, the WEF has documented greater progress in access to education and health care than in economic and political participation. The gap in political participation has been the toughest to close.
When women are discriminated against in the political arena, their experiences, talents and perspectives are shut out of political decisions, and democracies and the prospects for a better world are shortchanged. Moreover, according to the World Bank, increases in female participation in government leadership correlate with decreases in corruption. (And I salute CIPE for your efforts to stem corruption which has such a corrosive impact on democratic governance.)
I have seen first-hand the differences women make when they are empowered politically. In India, approximately 40% of the elected representatives in the village and municipal councils are women. Thanks to a quota that was adopted many years ago, today more than a million women across the subcontinent have been elected at the local level to serve on Panchayats—village councils or municipal councils–beyond the seats reserved for women. Their success has been described as a silent revolution in democracy in India. Research studies show that the women-led councils deliver much-needed public services more effectively. From sanitation to education, they target public resources to benefit the community and are responsible for considerable gains at the local level.
Women must also be at the table in peacemaking, peace negotiations and work on post-conflict reconstruction. Ten years ago, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 linking women, peace and security — recognizing that women have a key role to place at all levels of conflict resolution. Women suffer unspeakable horrors like sexual gender-based violence in times of conflict that must be addressed. Women can also help avoid conflict, end it, and recover from it.
The U.S., in both Republican and Democratic Administrations, has played a leadership role on 1325 and its successor resolutions. We need to continue to ensure women gain the skills and access to opportunities to participate in peace processes, political transitions, new constitutions, and the electoral process. The U.S. support for quotas for women in Afghanistan and Iraq, which was chiseled into their constitutions, helped pave the way for women to participate in their Parliaments and provincial councils.
One night in Kabul, I was meeting with a group of Afghan woment to discuss their role in their country’s transition in the peace and reconciliation process. One of the women made a plea that I’ve not forgotten. She said, “Don’t look at us as victims but as the leaders that we are.”
She was right of course. As Secretary Clinton has often said, “any potential for stability and peace in Afghanistan will be subverted if women’s voices are marginalized or silenced.” Today there are more women in the Parliament than previously: there are three women ministers, a woman governor (by all accounts, the best governed province), women elected to the provincial councils, and all of this despite threats to their lives and efforts to keep them from participating.
The U,S, has advocated for women’s participation in all the Afghan consultative bodies. The Peace Jirga that took place a few months ago had slightly over 20% of seats filled by women. The women were so impressive in the Peace Jirga that President Karzai even remarked to me that all of the working groups of the peace jirga recommended that women should participate in follow-on shuras and other consultations.
There is currently a delegation of Afghan women leaders from government, business, and NGOs in Washington. They have been meeting with members of Congress and Administration officials. They want to ensure – during this critical transition period for their country, that women participate in the reintegration and reconciliation process at all levels – from the High Peace Council to the local levels in the villages.
Among those with whom they met were members of the newly organized bipartisan Congressional task force on Afghan women co-chaired by Reps. McMorris-Rogers and Donna Edwards. The task force was established to underscore the importance the U.S. attaches to empowering the women of Afghanistan and particularly to support them in their political participation.
This is also why Secretary Clinton, in the first State Department Quadrennial Review of Development and Deplomacy, placed women’s issues at the center of U.S. foreign policy – so that women and girls are not just beneficiaries of development (as important as that investment is), but also as agents of transformation.
Next week, Secretary Clinton will be participating in the 6th ministerial of the Community of Democracies which will take place in Lithuania, as well as a high-level women’s leadership conference on Women and Democracy that will focus on the role of women in emerging democracies and transitional governments. If the Arab Spring is going to mark a turning point in history for democracy, economic opportunity and the safeguarding of women’s rights in the region, much will have to be done to support the efforts of those on the frontlines, especially the women struggling for political progress and economic opportunity.
This week, First Lady Michelle Obama will be in South Africa attending the U.S.-sponsored Young African Women Leaders Forum to catalyze networks of young women from across sub-Saharan Africa who are leading social and economic initiatives in their own countries.
Economic empowerment is essential to women’s progress. President Zoellick of the World Bank has noted the empowerment of women is smart economics—studies show that investments in women yield large social and economic returns.
Not too long ago, Foreign Policy magazine ran an article on women and the economy in the United States. Remember Rosie the Riveter? She was the emblem of all those women who went into America’s factories during World War II and helped manufacture the equipment needed to send the greatest Army, Air Force and Navy in history into battle. Her motto was succinct and I still like it: “We can do it.” (I have the Rosie poster in my office to remind us that all around the world, women can do it.)
As the Foreign Policy article pointed out, “The economic history of the last 50 years has been the entrance of the female half of the population into the workplace. Women started working out of necessity; they stayed when jobs became careers. They were hired in a hunt for diversity and kept because of their talent. The result has been a world-changing revolution. Today, women are not just good for the bottom line: they’re fundamental to bringing nations out of poverty and they just might be the future of work.” After World War II, the United States saw a significant increase in GDP largely due to women’s work outside the home.
We know that the best ideas and innovation flourish in a diverse environment. Today, in the U.S., women comprise half the workforce. In almost two thirds of families, they are the primary breadwinners or the co-breadwinner. Without women’s earnings, the economic viability of many families in our country would be worse today.
I remember many years ago, bringing an international group of emerging women leaders to the Chamber of Commerce for a meeting with one of the officials. He told them if he had one message for them to take to their leaders, it was the importance of women in the economy of their countries. He said, “Tell your leaders, the U.S. economy is booming because of women’s economic participation.” So in boom times, or the more challenging economic times today, American women are making a difference in growing businesses and driving economic growth.
What the Chamber official said was in contrast to an official I met when I was traveling with then First Lady Hillary Clinton several years ago. This economics official was going on and on about how women in his country have no role in the country’s economy. Mrs. Clinton stopped him and said, “Sir, as far as the eye can see, (we were traveling in a van), women are bent over with children on their backs doing the farming, carrying wood, carrying water…if they all stopped but for a day, your country would shut down.”
Let me give you a macro example of what the economic empowerment of women could mean, drawing on my experience at an APEC meeting. It is calculated that the Asia-Pacific region is shortchanged in excess of 40 billion a year in GDP because of the untapped potential of women. $40 billion! Can the world continue to afford to perpetuate structural discrimination against women in the workplace anywhere?
At the State Department, we’ve put a strong focus on women’s economic empowerment and placed these issues on the agenda of the multilateral platforms in which we participate, including APEC. Last year, APEC, with U.S. leadership, held the first ever Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit in Japan. It included government and private sector participants from the 21 economies. This year with the U.S. leading APEC, we will take this to a more prominent level with ministers and private sector representatives participating in the APEC Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco in September. Secretary Clinton will give the keynote address.
The fact is that we are witnessing a dramatic change in the role women are playing in the global economy. But while some of the progress is encouraging, many significant challenges remain at home and abroad. These challenges impact the family, the workplace and economies everywhere.
If governments and their private sector and other co-collaborators cannot develop and apply appropriate policies and market solutions, the world’s economy will not achieve the sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth we all hope for.
Women entrepreneurs offer people everywhere so much promise. It is a fact that women-run SMEs drive economic growth and create jobs. One CEO described why they are a high-yield investment. He said they are the “lowest hanging fruit to pick to drive GDP.” This is true overseas, and certainly true here in the U.S. where women own 40% of U.S. businesses, contribute $4 trillion to the U.S. economy, and women-run SMEs are growing at a faster rate.
Yet everywhere women face barriers that hinder their ability to start or expand their businesses—challenges that CIPE is also working to address. Women often lack access to finance, to markets, to training, mentors, and networks, and to technology. They also frequently face discriminatory regulations, policies and practices that are often deeply entrenched. Sometimes they lack property, inheritance or land rights.
CIPE’s studies are replete with examples of those impediments and innovative ways in which women are transcending their circumstances. To stem the costs in lost GDP and help women to overcome the barriers to greater economic participation, we at the State Department have instituted several programs in concert with private sector partners to focus on business training and mentorships—such as the mentoring partnership with Fortune’s Most Powerful Businesswomen or the Tech Women program in which women in technology from Silicon Valley work with women in the Middle East. We have also begun a series of training conferences for women entrepreneurs in the Caucuses, Central Asia, the Balkans and beyond called “Invest in the Future.” We know that if women progress economically, it will lead not only to stronger economies but to healthier democracies.
CIPE too is making important contributions. Let me mention specifically your efforts to support business associations. Your missions statement on this issue is well put: “Business associations play a crucial role in sustainable economic development and political advocacy. They are uniquely positioned to unite the business community around a common set of issues, needs, recommendations and policy alternatives. So often, what might be a concern for one small business is often the concern of many.”
I saw this first hand with a training program we began last year for African Women Entrepreneurs so they can better access the trade benefits of the African Growth Opportunity Act. A group of very capable and successful African women entrepreneurs from the AGOA countries participated in last year’s ministerial in Washington and headed out to the Midwest for 2 weeks of trainings. I was with them a little over a week ago at this year’s AGOA ministerial in Lusaka, Zambia where African businesswomen had garnered the attention they deserve. A year into the program, it was so exciting to see the enormous progress the women are making in growing their businesses, making them export ready, and expanding the network of women entrepreneurs in their own countries. They have also lobbied their government for improved investment climates. At the AGOA ministerial, Secretary Clinton announced that the U.S. would support another two years of trainings in the U.S. for additional African women entrepreneurs. This pan-African platform for women is powerful and taught us what we and CIPE already know—that investing in women is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing.
CIPE’s initiative in Afghanistan for over 200 women trained in advanced entrepreneurship skills has facilitated the expansion and creation of dozens of businesses. Although this is a business/economic initiative, it is also a political one. It too generates dialogue, discussion, and an agenda addressing critical needs ranging from property rights to access to credit.
Last month I traveled with Secretary Clinton to the OECD ministerial in Paris which focused on gender and economic growth. The great majority of the ministers spoke about the importance of including women in their economic growth strategies. They also endorsed the OECD Gender Initiative, which the U.S. led, and which among other elements, calls on the OECD to improve data collection on women’s employment and entrepreneurship and to work with other willing organizations on a plan to make gender data more comparable and useful, and to identify a list of common indicators for future data collections.
As Secretary Clinton said in Paris, “No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs.” We have studied these issues over many years; we have discussed them and we have placed them on the international agenda. That is progress. Although the debate is mostly over, the struggle for women’s full economic and political power is not. Much work remains and thankfully, CIPE is on the frontlines advancing women’s economic and political progress.
After all, gender equality benefits everyone. The rising of the women is the rising of us all. We know this to be true and it is without a doubt grounds for realistic optimism. Thank you, CIPE and other co-sponsors, for your leadership, your commitment and your efforts—for all you have done and for all you will do. And best wishes for a very successful conference and I look forward to hearing about strategies and solutions that are making a difference.
The United States remains deeply concerned by the ongoing attacks against peaceful protestors at the hands of the Syrian government. The government of Syria claims it is interested in a dialogue with the opposition. Yet, its actions in cities like Hama and along the Turkish border directly undermine the credibility of its words and its initiative. Syrian security forces have once again stepped up their repression and harassment of peaceful demonstrators and opposition members. There is no justification, no excuse for the Syrian security forces to begin yet another crackdown, killing protesters and arresting people suspected of political opposition.
We urge the government of Syria to immediately halt its intimidation and arrest campaign, pull its security forces back from Hama and other cities, and allow the Syrian people to express their opinions freely so that a genuine transition to democracy can take place. The international community will continue to stand with the people of Syria as they seek their universal human rights.