Posts Tagged ‘Civil Society’

Remarks at Afghan Civil Society Event


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Prince Park Tower Hotel
Tokyo, Japan
July 8, 2012

Let me welcome this wonderful group of men and women from across Afghanistan who are here as part of the Tokyo Conference. We are very pleased that we have the benefit of your experience and your views, and I look forward to our conversation. I want to thank Ambassador Marc Grossman for helping to organize this meeting. Ambassador Grossman is our Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and he has been very focused on making sure that the voices of the people are heard, not just the government. Because we know that any lasting peace, any economic development, the opportunities that we have been discussing here at the Tokyo Conference, are only possible if civil society is there to advocate for them.

I also am pleased that Ambassador Ryan Crocker could join us from Kabul. Thank you, Ambassador Crocker. Also with us is Ambassador Melanne Verveer, our Special Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, and Don Steinberg, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. And I am particularly looking forward to hearing from our two representatives of Afghan civil society, Samira and Hiyatula, in a few minutes.

I want to hear how you believe we can do more to work with you to support open and accountable governance, economic opportunities, and social equality and inclusion. And I want particularly to hear about the challenges that you see ahead. The United States is committed to helping the Afghan people and the civil society groups that you represent, among others, to work toward a secure, independent, and democratic future.

But as we transition to Afghan-led security across your country, we want to make it clear that being strong, sovereign, and independent does not mean being alone. We want to continue to stand with you. The Strategic Partnership Agreement that our President signed in Kabul in early May that is now fully in effect provides a long-term framework for our relationship, sending a clear signal that America’s support will endure. And it outlines the basis for our extensive cooperation over the next decade in fighting violent extremism, strengthening democratic institutions, and protecting human rights.

We have also been very clear – and we just finished a meeting between the Afghan Government and the Pakistani Government – about Afghan-led reconciliation, that it can only happen with groups and individuals who sever ties to al-Qaida, renounce violence, and pledge to abide by the Afghan constitution, including its protections for women and minorities. Reconciliation cannot, must not, come at the expense of the gains you have made in the last 10 years. So we want to be sure your voices are heard. We want to stand up for your rights and we want to condemn extremism and any kind of abuses that affect people and particularly women in Afghanistan.

We also want to support a free press and journalists who hold governments accountable, report the facts about what is happening, and exchange ideas so that better decisions can be made. We also wish to support constitutional and transparent parliamentary and presidential elections. And for us, when we talk about Afghan-led, we don’t mean just the government. We mean the Afghan people.

So with that, let me ask you, please, to translate before we come and hear from our representatives, and then turn it over to all of you.

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Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society 2012 Summit


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Tomicah S. Tillemann
Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies
Tara Sonenshine
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Ben Franklin Room
Washington, DC
May 16, 2012

MR. TILLEMANN: Good morning. I’m Tomicah Tillemann, and I serve as the State Department’s Senior Advisor for Civil Society in Emerging Democracies. Today, it is my privilege to welcome you to the 2012 Summit of our Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. This event brings together civil society representatives from more than 40 countries who have gathered here in Washington and thousands more who are participating via the internet and at embassy viewing parties around the world.

This summit is taking place at a moment of profound change. The world is witnessing a fundamental renegotiation of the relationships that have historically defined interactions between citizens and governments. Civil society has been at the forefront of that change, and this dialogue represents our recognition of the rapidly expanding role that you and your organizations play in shaping our world. This dialogue now involves more than 50 bureaus and offices at the State Department and USAID. We’ll hear more about that in a moment, but it is providing a platform for translating your ideas into foreign policy. And our work on this initiative is a concrete manifestation of our commitment to elevating civil society as a full partner in our diplomacy alongside other governments.

Now, we know that the work of civil society is never easy. And in too many places it is truly dangerous. But amid this multitude of challenges and opportunities, we are fortunate to have women and men leading the State Department who understand the value and the potential of civil society as a force for progress in our country and around the world. And we are particularly fortunate that two of those women are with us today for this global town hall.

We are glad to welcome our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been working with and for civil society since her first job out of law school, and our Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Tara Sonenshine, who recently joined our State Department family after serving with great success in many civil society organizations and who will moderate this town hall.

Our sole speaker this morning will be Secretary Clinton, and her vision is the catalyst that brings us together today. Six months before a Tunisian vegetable seller remade the political landscape of an entire region, she spelled out the centrality of civil society in our foreign policy at a keynote address to the community of democracies. During the cold autumn that preceded the Arab Spring, she created an office on her staff that was dedicated to engaging civil society. And long before TIME magazine named the protester as the person of the year, she understood what you could accomplish.

She has been supporting civil society since before it was hip. She has been fearless, focused, and farsighted in her efforts. And frankly, as the most admired woman in the world, she needs no introduction. (Laughter.) Our Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very, very much, and thank you, Tomicah. Tomicah has done an absolutely superb job in taking this idea of a strategic dialogue with civil society and putting real flesh on the bones. And this second summit is certainly evidence of that.

So it is a pleasure to welcome you here to the State Department. A lot has happened since we launched this initiative with the summit last year. When we met for the first time in last February, the revolutions that Tomicah referenced had begun to unfold across the Middle East and North Africa. Citizens were demanding their rights and their voices which, for too long, had been denied. And amid the tumult, civil society groups everywhere sprang up to push for democracy and change. Now some emerged from those quiet places where they had been operating for years. Others formed overnight as a great result of social media connections.

But in any event, it was brave men and women, including many of you in this room, who came together to plan for a new future, and you spoke eloquently about the need for civil society. Well, your work and the work of millions of others around the world has never been more important. We are seeing people stepping up to fill the space between government and the economy.

In 1998, I gave a speech at Davos about a firm foundation for any society being like a three-legged stool where you had to have a responsive, effective, accountable government, and you had to have a dynamic, job-creating, free market economic sector. And then you had to have a strong civil society. If one of the legs got too long or too short, the balance would be thrown off. And to make the case for civil society, it’s really quite simple, because government cannot and should not control any individual’s life, tell you what to do, what not to do. The economy has to be in the hands of those who are the entrepreneurs and the creative innovators. But it’s in civil society where we live our lives. That’s where our families are formed; that’s where our faith is practiced; that’s where we become who we are, through voluntary activities, through standing up for our common humanity.

And so as we see the explosion of civil society groups around the world, we want to support you. I think that in the United States, civil society does the work that touches on every part of our life. It really reflects what Alexis de Tocqueville called the habits of the heart that America has been forming and practicing from our very founding, because we early on understood that there had to be a role for government and a role for the economy, but everything else was a role for us – individuals charting our own course, making our own contributions.

And we turn to you to help us support civil society around the world. Now this initiative is a striking example of how government and civil society, often supported by the private sector, can work together. And under Tomicah’s leadership, we’ve spent the past year consulting with civil society groups through the Strategic Dialogue and our working groups, asking you for ideas about what we in government can do more effectively, looking for more opportunities to collaborate.

Now I don’t want to give the impression – because it would be a false one – that cooperation between civil society and government is always easy, even if this dialogue sometimes makes it look that way. Most of you will not be shocked to hear that civil society and government, even in my own country, do not always agree. We have found ways to disagree without being disagreeable. But I started my career working in civil society. I did a lot to take on my own government starting in the 1970s. The first issue I worked on was to try to help change the laws about how we treated people with disabilities. And I worked for a group that went door to door in certain parts of America asking families, “Do you have a child who’s not in school, and if so, why?” And we found blind children and deaf children and children in wheelchairs and children who had been kicked out of school with no alternative. And I was a very small part of a really large effort to require that American public schools find a place for every one of our children.

And so I know that you have to sometimes stand up to your own governments. You have to sometimes help your government do things that, in the absence of the pressure you are bringing, they either could not or would not do themselves. So we understand that the space that civil society operates in, in many places around the world, is dangerous; that many of you in this room and those who are following this on the internet really do put yourselves on the line. And we want to be your partners.

Now we know too that in the face of an upsurging civil society, some governments have responded by cracking down harder than ever. Recent headlines from too many countries paint a picture of civil society under threat. But each time a reporter is silenced, or an activist is threatened, it doesn’t strengthen a government, it weakens a nation. A stool cannot balance on one leg or even two. The system will not be sustainable.

So the United States is pushing back against this trend. We’ve provided political and financial support for embattled civil society groups around the world. Just two weeks ago, our Democracy and Human Rights Working Group met with bloggers and reporters from across the region in Tunis to hear about challenges to freedom of expression. And we are trying to lead by example. We hope that by holding meetings like this one, we can demonstrate that civil society should be viewed not a threat, but an asset.

I’m very proud to announce today that the State Department is acting on every one of the eight policy recommendations that have been generated by civil society through this dialogue so far. Now, I won’t go through all of them for you – I hope that you’ll have a briefing on all of those; we’re putting the details online for everyone to see – but let me just make a few highlight comments.

First, we are expanding the reach and deepening our commitment to this dialogue by setting up embassy working groups. Our posts will help us tap the ideas and opinions of local civil society groups, and then we will channel their input back to Washington to inform our policies. We’ve already received commitments from 10 posts stretching from Brazil to Bangladesh, from the Czech Republic to Cameroon. I know many of these posts are watching live via the internet right now, and I want to extend a special word of thanks to them.

Second, our Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy has focused on how we can strengthen our engagement with the large section of civil society comprised of faith-based organizations. Our posts in every region of the globe work with faith-based organizations and religious communities to bolster democracies, protect human rights, and respond to the humanitarian need of citizens. So these groups are our natural allies on a multitude of issues, including advancing religious freedom, and we want to work with them wherever possible. These recommendations will support our officers in the field who are engaging with religious communities to make sure they have the appropriate training to carry out their efforts.

Third, our Labor Working Group has examined opportunities to facilitate discussions among governments, businesses, and labor groups to make sure all points of view are represented at the international level and in multilateral institutions. Labor groups are another well-organized and important category of civil society, and we want to help them connect with one another and pursue shared approaches as we defend and advance workers’ rights.

And finally, bringing us back to the great changes throughout the Middle East and North Africa, our Women’s Empowerment Working Group is building awareness for women’s rights in countries undergoing political transition. And we will work closely with civil society groups and governments in the region to help make women’s rights part of new constitutions, protected and practiced, and understood as critical to the development of democratic, successful societies.

Now, our new policy recommendations do not end here. Later this afternoon, the dialogue will hear new ideas developed by our Working Groups on Governance and Accountability to improve transparency and combat corruption. And we will continue engaging with you to identify new ideas and opportunities. This summer, we will also be adding a new Global Philanthropy Working Group to our dialogue, chaired by Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine. This group will expand our cooperation with leading foundations and develop partnerships to support civil society.

Now, conversations and actions like these have ripple effects, and we have had some positive responses from governments over the last year who are reaching out and developing their own mechanisms for engaging with their own civil society. Some of the representatives from those governments are here today, and we greatly appreciate your presence, and we also stand ready to offer any assistance we can.

So thank you for being here. Thank you for what you do. Please know that are enthusiastic about the future of civil society and we want to use this dialogue, as we have for the past year, to be a vehicle for the exchange of ideas, for the promotion of new approaches, and for an accounting, because we want to do what works and quit doing what doesn’t work. So we want to be very clear that we’re going to be holding ourselves accountable and going to be looking to civil society to be held accountable as well.

So I’m looking forward to taking some questions about our dialogue and having this exchange with you and then hearing more about the work that each and every one of you are doing. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Well, thank you, Madam Secretary, for the opportunity to moderate this very inspiring and loud program. I do want to welcome all of you, and particularly those who are here on ECA-funded civil society programs, the IVLP folks, the Humphrey fellows, if you’re out there somewhere. We particularly welcome you here today.

In just a few moments, we’ll be taking some questions from the audience, so as you do have a question, if you would signal us and we will get a microphone to you. But in the meantime, I’m going to begin, Madam Secretary, by picking up on this very inspired and moving thought: Each time a reporter is silenced or an activist is threatened, it doesn’t strengthen a government, it weakens a nation. So how do we explain this rise of challenges and crackdowns on civil society? And are these isolated events, or is there a trend here that we’re going to see in the years outward?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think – this is loud. (Laughter.) I hope it can be turned down. I think that the world is going through an extraordinary historic change. More people are living under governments of their own choosing and more people have the opportunity to do so than ever before in human history. But it’s also true that old habits die hard. There are all kinds of cultural, political, economic, even religious, ethnic, racial – all kinds of mindsets that are difficult to change in a short period of time.

I am very optimistic about the future, but I am also very realistic that the pathway to that future of greater democracy, freedom, human rights, human dignity is going to be a hard road for many millions and millions of people around the world. And therefore, we have to continue making the case for respect and tolerance and openness that is at the root of any true sustainable democracy while recognizing that many leaders, both old and new, are going to find such a transition very personally threatening, threatening to their group, threatening to their assumptions about power and order. And we have to continue to make the case.

So I am humbled by the courage of so many people around the world right now – dissidents, activists, political actors – who are contributing to this historic tide that is building. But I also realize that it’s not going to happen overnight, and therefore, we have to be smart about how we help you move forward on this agenda for civil society, democracy, and human rights.

So I really think, Tara, that we have to, also in the United States, remind ourselves of our own long journey. We’re living in a time of instant communication and 24-hour news, but we did not recognize every American’s human rights, we did not have fully representative one-person, one-vote democracy, when we started out. We had to fight a civil war. We had to amend our Constitution. So we have to be, I think, always advancing what we believe are universal human values, best realized within the context of representative democracy but with enough humility to understand that different peoples, different countries have different histories, different cultures, different mindsets.

So what we want to do is support real change, not just score political points or get on the evening news. At the end of the day, we want our help and support for civil society and political change to actually have advanced the cause of freedom and human dignity and human rights and democracy, and not to be used as an excuse or a rationale for clamping down even more. So navigating through all of that is especially difficult if you’re in such a country, but it’s also difficult for us who are trying to help those of you who are on the frontlines.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Let me go to the audience here first, and then we’ll go overseas. I notice the first hand is in the second row, three seats in. And if you would not mind identifying yourself and also asking folks to keep questions relatively short so that we can work our way around the room. Please.

QUESTION: Hello, I am Shatha Al-Harazi, a political human rights journalist from Yemen. I am so honored to be here today with you and so inspired by your speech. I have only one question. You just spoke about universal human values. When it comes to that, that just reminds me that – of a friend of mine who just told me to tell you face-to-face that Yemenis are not less important than American, and if you want to work hand to hand and counter terrorism, you have to work with the civil society. You have to strengthen the civil society. And we thank you here for the great work that NDI and the USAID are doing, but still the drone strikes are disrupting everything and it’s getting our civilian killed. So I’m just asking you here, is there any consideration or any plans on working with civil society on counterterrorism? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we certainly intend to and are working with civil society on counterterrorism, because one of the long-term solutions to terrorism is building up civil society, giving people the feeling of empowerment: their voices are heard; they don’t need to turn to violence because they can participate fully and equally in a political process.

We also are committed to working with civil society to counter violent extremism; to counter the messages of extremists who promote violence; who are not respectful of human rights or even human life, but instead are intent upon undermining the political order and, in effect, capturing it to promote a certain ideological or religious point of view.

So we do have to do more with civil society. There is absolutely total agreement on that. And in a conflict situation, as we see in many places around the country, we do try to do both. We try to support the government or the political system against the threat from violent extremism while trying to work to enhance civil society as a way of diminishing either the attractiveness or the reach of extremism.

So it’s not either/or in our view. It’s primarily on the political-civil society front, but I’m not going to sit here and mislead you. There are also people who are trying to kill Americans, kill Europeans, and kill Yemenis; who are not going to listen to reason; who don’t want to participate in a political process; who have no interest in sitting around a table and hearing your view because, with all due respect, you’re a woman. And so they cannot be given the opportunity to kill their way to power, so we will support governments who are trying to prevent that from happening while we also try to build up civil society, help move a country like Yemen on a path to true democracy with representative government.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: We’re going to go from Yemen to Morocco. I believe we have a video –

PARTICIPANT: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Okay, I think we’re first going to go to the real Morocco, which is a video question we have via YouTube. And if we could queue up the first overseas question for the Secretary and play our first video.

QUESTION: My name is Manelle Ilitir and I’m from Morocco. Unemployment is the most pressing issue in our MENA region. Expectations are high, and youth are demanding action now. The complexity of the (inaudible) of this urgency only creates more tension. So my question to you, Secretary Clinton, is: How can civil society drive a social dialogue among the concerned stakeholders where there is public, private, academia, NGO; a social dialogue that is result-oriented, that reinforces their collaboration, amplifies what already exists, and delivers the jobs needed in the immediate future? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you very much. And I think that young woman’s question is one of the most common I’m asked around the world, because 60 percent of the world’s population is under 30; the highest percentage of the unemployed are under 30. Young people are very worried about what kind of futures they will have across the world. But in particular, when those worries collide with the rising expectations produced by political reform and even revolution, it’s a volatile mix.

So I think there are several things. First of all, governments have to have good policies. That is obvious. And it is more difficult in the 21st century for a lot of reasons which you say are complicated. I agree. But civil society can be a great catalyst and partner with government and with the private sector on job creation. What do I mean by that? Civil society can help with the acquisition of job skills and training for certain kinds of jobs that are available in the marketplace. Now, we have this problem in our own country. We have lots of jobs available in lots of industries without enough people either willing or able to take those jobs. So doing job training, doing outreach, helping prepare young people for the jobs that are there.

Secondly, we have formed a partnership called the Partnership for a New Beginning that is in North Africa and the Middle East. And when I was just in Morocco, I met with the leaders of this effort who are leaders of corporations, small businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and we are working with them to try to increase their economic reach so that they can offer more jobs. What can they do to improve their exports? What can they do with our help to break down barriers so that they can get into new markets? Now one of the things that would particularly help in the Maghreb, if you look at from Morocco through Egypt, those countries trade less with each other than any contiguous countries in the world. You have the border between Morocco and Algeria closed. You have continuing difficulties with other countries in terms of trade agreements, open borders – the kind of free flow of commerce that does create jobs. And so the more that can be done to integrate the economies of the Maghreb, the more I believe you will have greater opportunities for young people.

Then I think civil society can take a strong stand against corruption, because corruption is a job killer. Corruption is a cancer that eats away at economic opportunity. So civil society needs to be loudly and clearly speaking out against, acting against corruption, and using social media – posting anonymous pictures of people taking bribes, posting anonymous stories of officials who stand in the way of the creation of your small business. So take that stand against corruption. We will work with you. We will help you on that.

And then look at the ways that technology can create more jobs and do an examination of what are the barriers within your government to the creation of businesses and jobs. Because there is a ranking that is done by an independent organization that ranks every country in the world in the ease of doing business. How easy is it if I show up tomorrow in Morocco or Tunisia or Jordan or Yemen and I say, “I want to start a business, and I think if I’m successful I could employ 10, 20, 30 people. How long does it take?” Sometimes it takes more than a year. How discouraging is that to people who want to get started and want to get going with their own energy to create something? Sometimes you have to pay many bribes. Sometimes you have to get all kinds of licenses that have nothing to do with actually starting your business, but it’s just to keep somebody in the government employed. If the government employment takes up too much of the sector of employment in a society, it squeezes out the opportunity for business to flourish to create jobs in the market.

So these are some of the things that civil society can do in cooperation with both government and business, and we’re working on all of those through this Department to be of support to you.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: I know there was a gentleman had his hand up first, right on the edge there. And we will, again, try to move as quickly as we can here and overseas.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much. It’s an honor to be here. I just want to ask you a question. We have teams – my name is Marc Gopin. I’m from CRDC George Mason University, and I have teams that work in some countries that are adversaries of the United States like Syria and others that are allies. And I want to ask your advice about how we can do what we do better in terms of civil society, conflict management, and social transition that will help you balance the challenge of working with allies that you need to keep as allies, but at the same time are hurting our people. So how can we do what we do more effectively in a way that will help American policy provide positive pressure that’s constructive and that what we do is constructive and helpful to what you’re trying to do?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think you’re putting your finger on a difficult issue because, if I heard you right, you do conflict mediation, resolution, in countries with which we have both good and not so good relations. And even sometimes in the ones we have good relations, very often they don’t have the best track records in how they support civil society and treat their own people, which we are well aware of.

Look, I think there are a couple of things. Why do countries change? Why do leaders change? Why do they decide one day that they are going to go in a different direction? There’s a certain level of mystery to this, but a large part of the answer is because they become convinced they’re on the wrong track. We’re watching with great interest the opening in Burma over the last months. And there’s been a lot written about why did these former generals who had been part of a very oppressive regime for a very long time – the prisons were filled with political prisoners; Aung San Suu Kyi was a prisoner in her own home – why did they decide this is the wrong direction? I don’t know that there’s any specific answer, but I’ll tell you some of the answers that have been suggested, which I think are more general.

First, there were leaders in other countries who had gone through the process who reached out and began in a very respectful way to talk about what democracy could mean to the future of Burma. It’s been in the public record, but one was the president of Indonesia, a former general during a very difficult time of dictatorship, who took off his uniform, ran for office. Now Indonesia, the largest Muslim population in the world, is a thriving democracy where women and men are equal participants. And so President Yudhoyono began to reach out the generals in Burma through ASEAN, through other organizations, to say, “Let me tell you about my experience. Not like, ‘you must go do this’ but let me tell you what we did in Indonesia.” The generals began to travel, and they began to see that their country was not as developed. It didn’t have as much prosperity. It didn’t have jobs for young people like other countries nearby. Thailand had been under military rule; now it was booming. It was next door.

So these personal experiences and the outreach of other leaders or people who can relate to those in power in oppressive countries, coming from similar backgrounds, having similar experiences – never underestimate the power of personal relationships and personal experiences. We talk about geopolitical strategy, and sometimes it seems way up in the sky, but I’ve often found it’s the personal connection.

I remember going to Nelson Mandela’s inauguration, and there were many, many very important people there. And after he was inaugurated, we went back to the president’s home for an inaugural lunch, and he stood up and he said, “I want you to meet three – the three most important people to me who are here today.” They were three former jailers of his on Robben Island; three hard-bitten white men who had overseen his imprisonment, but who had treated him with dignity and respect. And I remember asking him in one of the conversations I was privileged to have with him, “How did you come out not embittered, wanting revenge, wanting to do to them what they had done to you?” And he said, “Well, I knew if I walked out embittered, I’d still be in prison.” He said, “But I also knew from those years in prison there were people who saw me as a human being, and I, therefore, had to see them as human beings.”

Now I tell you those stories because a lot of time conflict mediation or resolution is very formalistic. People are engaged in dialogue. But what happens that’s most important is, I think, outside the dialogue, where they talk about their families, their interests, when they decide that that person of another religion, of another race, of another tribe is also a human being. So I think you’ve got to try to engage leaders and countries that are oppressive in those kinds of personal ways. It doesn’t always work. There are some really hard cases in the world. We know that. But it might help in the person who comes after, or it might help in the guy standing on the sidelines who said, “We can do this better.” And – but just persist. You never know what’s going to make an impression.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Let’s go quickly to another part of the world, Brazil, and let’s hear from our Brazilian civil society leader and include them in the conversation here. So we’ll queue up Brazil, we’ll come back here, and keep moving along as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: My name is Marlon Reis. I am a state judge in Brazil. I take part on the Brazilian movement against electoral corruption. My movement was responsible for conquest of the (in Portuguese), the law of clean slate. I would like to ask: How could we improve our relationship, the partnership between U.S. Government and social movements on fighting against corruption? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Let me suggest we’re going to run a couple of these, just to give you a chance to wrap them together. If we could go to Afghanistan very quickly, because I know some of these civil society leaders worked very hard to be heard here, and I’d like to have a few of them and we’ll wrap them together.

QUESTION: (In foreign language.)

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: So I happen to have a translation of the question for those who couldn’t follow it, but it does address the gender issues in Afghanistan, and I think the rule of law questions on the Brazil. So if you want to take on both of those, and then we’ll probably have time for one more here and one more there.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, with respect to the Brazilian question on corruption, I just want to reiterate what I said. The more civil society can be a force against corruption, the more likely the reforms you’re seeking, whether it’s in the economy, in the environment, in any area of human rights or dignity, are more likely to have a chance to succeed. And taking on corruption should be the job of governments, but very often governments need civil society to push them and pull them into doing even more.

Regarding the question about women in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of NATO-ISAF troops over the next two years, this is a great concern to the United States. It is to me personally. There has been an enormous amount of great progress made in Afghanistan. This young woman is an example of that, running a radio station, something that would’ve been absolutely unheard of, punishable under the Taliban. And we have made it our priority to do everything we can to help support civil society, the rule of law, women’s empowerment, and the enforcement of the laws and constitution of Afghanistan, which clearly lay out the rights of men and women to be treated equally under the laws. I mean, that is not too much to ask for. And that is what every person, man and woman, is entitled to.

So we will continue working with civil society and the government, making it clear that that has to be a redline, and do all we can to support the brave women of Afghanistan who are out there every single day saying, “I have a right to go to school,” “I have a right to be a practicing doctor,” “I have a right to be a teacher,” “I have a right to open my business.” And we just think that that goes with being a democracy. And women have the same right to make the choices that are right for them and their families, as any man does. So we have to keep making that absolutely clear. (Applause.)

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: So we’re in the last few moments. The Secretary has to leave. What I’m going to suggest is a very quick question here, a very short question from Kazakhstan, and we will wrap up. The Secretary has to leave. I will stay behind and help answer some of the questions or pass them along to her.

So very quickly here, Kazakhstan, and we will close.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Hamid from Morocco, the first country that recognized the United States. And I know that you love it. (Laughter.)

So I’m talking about civil society in Morocco, but I think it’s the same in the Maghreb. There is an increasing role in the last 10 years of the role of civil society, yes, but there is some threats, lack of transparency. We know one number saved by the minister of – in Morocco that 90 percent of public aid for civil – for NGOs in Morocco goes to only 10 percent of NGOs. It means that the states control the funding of civil society.

And also the foreign aid for civil society don’t goes to the real NGOs in the ground, which they work close to people. And they don’t know what are the mechanism that you use to help NGOs in the grounds to work with people. And I think it’s something very interesting. You can give a lot of money, but if it don’t goes to the goal that you want to do, it’s a waste of your money. Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you for that. Let me quickly say that we need your help – that’s why you’re here – to advise us about how to be more effective with the aid that we give to NGOs. Because you’re right, sometimes we are told by governments that we cannot give aid to any NGOs that they don’t approve of, and that puts us in a very difficult position because we don’t want to accept that, but we also don’t want to fail to support even the NGOs that are approved of.

So we have to make a tough decision. Sometimes, governments make it so difficult for us to help, as you say, grassroots NGOs that it becomes impossible. So we can’t find them; we can’t interact with them; we can’t convey support to them. So we need your feedback. What can we do better? And we’ve got a lot of our top officials from the State Department and USAID here, and we need to hear from you about what will work.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: So we’re going to close on a subject we didn’t spend much time on, the internet and technology. We’re going to run a short question on that from Kazakhstan. And then the Secretary, I want to thank in advance for being here, and all of these senior government officials and civil society leaders and promise to stay and collect your questions. So we will do our final video and then we will end the session.

QUESTION: Dear Madam Secretary, my name is Alina Khamatdinova and I am from Kazakhstan. I once participated in your meeting with NGO in 2010 in Astana. With internet development, many possibilities for civic engagement have emerged. Many group of civic activities online are very popular now and their impact is very visible. What do you think about this trend? Is it good or bad? And especially for traditional NGOs who focused on human species, what kind of plans does State Department have for this tendency? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much from Kazakhstan. Well, we think it’s so important to help civil society utilize technology that we have a whole program to do just that. We have been running tech camps around the world where we invite civil society activists to come. In fact, there’ll be one in a few months in Kyrgyzstan, right? So —

PARTICIPANT: Kazakhstan.


PARTICIPANT: Kazakhstan.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Kazakhstan. It’s going to be in Kazakhstan. So we will have a tech camp where civil society can – representatives can come together to learn everything we can share with you about how to use technology – how to use it to promote the ideas and programs of the NGO you’re part of; how to use it to reach out and enlist more people to support you; how to use it to convey information to the people you serve. We’re doing a lot of work – if you take women’s health, something I’m very interested in, how do you get information to women about how to take better care of their health? If you are interested in small farmers, how do you get more information to them about how to help them be more productive? So we think technology, on balance, is a great gift and opportunity for civil society.

Now, there’s always a downside. That’s human nature. The good often comes with the not-so-good. And so there will be people on the internet who could attack you, who could try to interfere with you, could try to shut you down, both independent, government-sponsored – we’re aware of that. But, on balance, we want you to be as equipped as you can to use technology to promote and protect civil society across the world.

Thank you all very much.

UNDER SECRETARY SONENSHINE: Thank you, Madam Secretary. (Applause.)

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Remarks at the OSCE First Plenary Session


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
LitExpo Conference Center
Vilnius, Lithuania
December 6, 2011

Thank you and the president of the Republic of Lithuania and the government and people of your country for hosting this year’s for hosting this year’s OSCE Ministerial and for your steadfast global leadership in support and defense of human dignity and democracy.

I appreciated your reference to the continuing importance of human rights – not simply as a moral imperative, but as an essential component of international security and stability. That is especially important and timely in a year in which ordinary citizens – across the Middle East and beyond – have shown that dignity, freedom, and opportunity are aspirations for all people.

Their power to change the course of history demonstrates, once again, the rightness of the comprehensive security concept that is at the heart of the OSCE: lasting peace and stability depend just as much on meeting our citizens’ legitimate aspirations as they do on military security.

As we reaffirmed last year at the Astana Summit, our commitment to this human dimension of security is—and should be—at the core of everything we do together. And when we put commitment into practice, more people will live in dignity, prosperity, and security, from Vancouver to Vladivostok, Minsk to Tashkent, Cairo to Kabul.

Today, across our region, we are witnessing a wide range of serious human rights concerns that go to the heart of our OSCE commitments. There are growing restrictions on the exercise of fundamental rights through the OSCE region.

In Belarus, less than 40 kilometers away from here, human rights defenders face unremitting persecution: people like Ales Bialiatski – sentenced to four and a half years in prison for tax evasion, but whose real crime, in the eyes of the state, was helping victims of state repression; former presidential candidates from the democratic opposition, Andrei Sannikau and Mikalai Statkevich, still in prison a year after the government crackdown, along with other political prisoners.

The OSCE region has seen independent journalists attacked and even killed with impunity. And we applaud Lithuania’s leadership on the safety of journalists and media pluralism.

We also see growing intolerance, xenophobia, and hate crimes against religious and ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups, such as LGBT individuals. Violence against women knows no geographic boundaries, and human trafficking remains an urgent problem in the OSCE region.

We see setbacks for democratic institutions, the rule of law, and electoral processes. We witness prosecutions, such as that of Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine, which raises serious questions about political motivations. And when authorities fail to prosecute those who attack people for exercising their rights or exposing abuses, they subvert justice and undermine the people’s confidence in their governments.

And as we have seen in many places, and most recently in the Duma elections in Russia, elections that are neither free nor fair have the same effect. We have serious concerns about the conduct of those elections. Independent political parties, such as PARNAS, were denied the right to register. And the preliminary report by the OSCE cites election day attempts to stuff ballot boxes, manipulate voter lists, and other troubling practices.

We’re also concerned by reports that independent Russian election observers, including the nationwide Golos network, were harassed and had cyber attacks on their websites, which is completely contrary to what should be the protected rights of people to observe elections, participate in them, and disseminate information.

We commend those Russian citizens who participated constructively in the electoral process. And Russian voters deserve a full investigation of electoral fraud and manipulation. And we recognize the Russian Government’s willingness to allow the OSCE to observe these elections, we now hope and urge them to take action on the recommendations that will be forthcoming from the OSCE electoral observer mission.

The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. And that means they deserve fair, free, transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them.

As we work to address human rights and other challenges, we also must recognize that rights exercised in cyber space deserve as much protection as those exercised in real space. Fundamental freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and religion apply as much to a Twitter conversation and a gathering organized by NGOs on Facebook as they do to a demonstration in a public square. And today’s activists hold the Helsinki Accords in one hand and a smart phone in the other.

That is why we and 27 co-sponsors of the draft Declaration on Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Age believe it is important for the OSCE to reaffirm that our earliest commitments made in the Helsinki process apply on the internet. Or as we might put it in 21st century language: enduring freedoms, new apps.

We urge all participating States to join us and our co-sponsors in adopting the declaration. In keeping with OSCE’s comprehensive concept, we seek a substantive ministerial outcome, not just in the human, economic and military security dimensions but on issues that cut across all three, and in the outreach to states in the Middle East and North Africa as they undergo democratic transitions.

Now, in Egypt, new actors will be seated in the parliament, including representatives of Islamist parties. Transitions require fair and inclusive elections, but they also demand that those who are elected embrace democratic norms and rules. We therefore expect all democratic actors and elected officials to uphold universal human rights, including women’s rights, to allow free religious practice, to promote tolerance and good relations among communities of different faiths, and to support peaceful relations with their neighbors. Democracies are guided by the rules of the game, including the inevitable transfers of power from one party to another. And the Egyptian people deserve a democracy that is enduring.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure that free and fair voting continues through the next election rounds and to adhere to their commitments to move toward a new civilian government. Over the next few months, the Egyptian Government must protect peaceful protestors and hold accountable those responsible for previous incidents of violence.

Many participating OSCE states, which have made the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, have expertise that is uniquely relevant for the work ahead in our Mediterranean partner states. And we hope this ministerial will open new channels of engagement between the OSCE and those partners – in both directions.

Yesterday in Bonn, we welcomed the commitments that Afghanistan’s regional partners had made at the Istanbul conference. And I encourage the OSCE to find more ways to support the Istanbul process and the Bonn outcomes as Afghanistan pursues peace and reconciliation, transitions to responsibility for its security, and prepares for elections in 2013 and 2014.

Even as the United States seeks cooperation with governments in the Central Asian region on Afghanistan, trade, energy and other matters, we will continue to encourage our Central Asian partners, both governments and civil society, to pursue democratic reforms and better respect for fundamental human rights.

With regard to the security dimension, we support France’s efforts to promote transparency measures regarding military activities across the OSCE region, and we believe this should be Topic A at next year’s Forum for Security Cooperation.

And with regard to Russia and the CFE Treaty, we are ready to find a way forward on conventional arms control that is consistent with core principles important to all OSCE members. While not all OSCE members are CFE signatories, all are affected by its fate.

We remain committed to efforts to strengthen OSCE capabilities in the conflict cycle, so we can respond quickly and decisively to emerging crises.

Concerning the protracted conflict in Georgia, we applaud the good work taking place in Geneva and via the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism toward a peaceful settlement. We remain committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. And we encourage progress in Geneva to resolve the conflict through direct dialogue between Georgia and Russia, greater transparency regarding Russian militarization of the separatist regions, and establishing an international monitoring presence.

On the conflict in Moldova, we welcome the resumption of formal 5+2 talks. We believe the 5+2 should meet early next year, in order to make progress toward a comprehensive settlement.

And we and our Minsk Group co-chair colleagues and the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan have reconfirmed our shared commitment to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. As Presidents Obama, Medvedev and Sarkozy said in Deauville, only a negotiated settlement can lead to peace, stability, and reconciliation.

So, Mr. Chairman, we must never lose sight of the truth at the core of our comprehensive security concept: Respect for human rights and human security is essential to the progress and security of all countries, here in the OSCE region and across the globe. That is why, after I leave the plenary hall today, I will meet with civil society representatives from Belarus and with civil society leaders from across the region who took part in the Parallel Conference. And they have called attention to these human rights challenges and are discussing ways they can be addressed. I look forward to reviewing their recommendations. And I welcome the announcement that 35 leading civil society groups from more than 20 countries throughout the OSCE are creating a Civic Solidarity Platform that will combine in-person human rights advocacy with a cutting-edge online presence.

Mr. Chairman, while governments alone bear the responsibility of meeting their commitments, governments alone cannot tackle the complex challenges we face in the 21st century. That requires engaged citizens, freely exercising their God-given rights and empowered by the latest technologies. They can and must be our partners in finding solutions to the great issues of our time.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

Just want to point out that all emphasis here is mine. I have seen articles accusing Mme. Secretary of “supporting” the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. She (and we) do not “support” political parties in elections held in other countries. That is not our foreign policy. We do support freedom of communication and assembly as well as fair elections. As Mme. Secretary always says, democracy is more than elections. It may begin with an election but it is far more a matter of day-to-day inclusion of citizens in the operation of their society, transparent government, and equitable treatment of all citizens. She and we expect no less of any members of the Muslim Brotherhood elected in Egypt. As long as they comply, we should have no problem working in partnership with them.

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Remarks at the Civil Society Meet and Greet


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Tolerance Center
Vilnius, Lithuania
December 6, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, good afternoon, and let me begin by thanking Yuri and all of you for being here today. I also wish to thank the Tolerance Center for hosting us. There could hardly be a better setting for this meeting. And I think the work that civil society is now doing – the Parallel Conference, the recommendations, the Civic Solidarity commitment, the Internet Fundamental Freedoms Initiative – all of that added together is going to help fill that gap, which I agree does exist.

And if one looks back over the last 50 years, the Helsinki commitments were among the most important human rights statements and drivers of action that we found anywhere in the world. And I wish that they were no longer needed. I wish that we could bid them farewell because they had done their job. But the fact is – and you know this better than anyone – we see them even more necessary today because of some of the trends that are developing.

Across the OSCE region, what you do and the organizations that you are part of and lead are helping to define the front lines of the struggle on behalf of human rights and democracy for the 21st century. I should begin by saying I know your work is incredibly difficult. I know that the times in which you are working are increasing challenging and even dangerous. I know that funding is scarcer than it should be and that there are governments trying at every turn to undermine what you do and what you stand for.

But please know that the United States supports your efforts, because we think that the work of civil society is more important than ever. If we needed reminding on the events of this last year, particularly in Belarus but also in North Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere, demonstrates unequivocally that peace and stability depend just as much on meeting people’s aspirations for dignity, freedom, and opportunity as they do on military security.

And the change that we’re now seeing has such great potential to move the world ever closer to full equality and human rights for everyone. Technology is making it easier to come together to take common actions. Individual activists have transformed societies from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya. But we don’t yet really know the outcome of so much of what is going on today. Will it advance the cause of human freedom and dignity, or will it not? And certainly, I’ve raised a number of issues at this morning’s ministerial that are deeply concerning to us: violations of the freedom of expression, association, assembly, religion; perversion of justice; attacks on human rights defenders and journalists.

And as we meet in this Center of Tolerance, there are just too many people, even in the OSCE region, who are being denied their rights and living in an atmosphere in which intolerance seems to be on the rise. Minorities, religious minorities, Jews, Roma, LGBT communities – all of them and other vulnerable people are facing prejudice and even violence.

And I wanted to commend what civil society is doing here in Lithuania. Eight leading civil society organizations have formed a national coalition to promote tolerance. I think that’s very timely. And it’s not only beginning already to have an impact, but it demonstrates the kind of collaboration we need more of.

Governments need feedback – certainly governments within societies but, of course, governments outside that can be your allies in trying to promote change. We used to measure government accountability by the metrics of multiyear election cycles, annual assessments by international organizations. But today, with Tweets and text messages, blog posts, interactive maps, civil society is making judgments in real time. And I welcome this new Civic Solidarity Platform because I think it will upgrade the ability that we need for human rights monitoring throughout the region.

Now, unfortunately, a number of governments continue to view civil society as adversaries instead of partners. We’ve just witnessed a flawed Duma election in Russia, including efforts to halt the election monitoring by Golos, a respected independent civil society organization. And Golos’s work is exactly the type of activities that countries committed to the rule of law should welcome and countries that are members of the OSCE signed up to support. It is strictly nonpartisan; its only goal is to promote elections that are transparent and fair. But in the last few days, its members have been hauled into court, its website has been subjected to massive cyber attacks, and its motives have been maligned.

So for us, it is just an article of faith that democracy is not only about elections; but in the absence of free, fair, transparent elections, it’s hard for democracy to be sustained.

And I wanted to speak clear that regardless of where you live, citizenship requires holding your government accountable. And those of us in government may not always like the hard questions. We may not appreciate the criticism. It does seem sometimes to those of us on the other side in government that we’ll never satisfy civil society. But that’s the kind of necessary and healthy tension that should exist in a democracy in order to sustain trust and progress, to uphold the rules that govern democratic societies, first and foremost, the rule of law. And in fact, allowing groups like Golos to do their work is a really critical part of sustaining trust and faith in government and enabling leaders to be able to govern.

So the other initiative that Yuri talked about, which is the cyber space initiative, is especially important because cyber space, after all, is the public square of the 21st century. I said earlier that today’s activists hold the Helsinki Accords in one hand and a smart phone in the other. And that has unnerved a lot of governments, so governments are now working overtime to try to suppress access to the internet, free assembly and association, and speech within cyber space. And that’s one of the reasons why the United States and about two dozen other delegations have pressed for the adoption of a declaration on fundamental freedoms in the digital age, because we believe human rights need to be respected both online and off.

So I know you’ve been working hard for several days now, and I really, first and foremost, want to thank you for caring enough and being committed enough to come to Vilnius to be part of this civil society effort, and to encourage you to continue because we need you now more than ever.

And I want to say a special word about Belarus. I was just privileged to meet with a number of activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, NGO leaders from Belarus, who are working so hard to restore a sense of human rights, freedom, and dignity to the Belarusian people. I travel around the world talking about human rights. Mike Posner conducts human rights dialogues in many places where there’s a long way to go before human rights are even acknowledged. We understand that and we know we have to travel this long journey together. Mike was with me in Burma just a few days ago, where we see slight flickers of progress and where we want to support them.

But it is absolutely inconceivable that in Europe today, in December of 2011, the Lukashenko regime is behaving as it is behaving. And therefore, we all have a stake in speaking out even more forcefully, raising even greater public concern in Europe, the United States, and beyond, to make it unequivocally clear to the Lukashenko government that their behavior is unacceptable and they have to begin to reflect and respect the aspirations of the people of Belarus.

So I will look forward to working with you. I thank you for giving me this homework, Yuri. I will take it and work through it with you, along with my colleagues. And I will take very seriously your point about making sure that the gap between stated commitments and actual actions in the OSCE is narrowed and not widened in the year ahead.

Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

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Remarks at Breakfast with Afghan Civil Society Representatives


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Kameha Grand Hotel
Bonn, Germany
December 5, 2011


Thank you very much, Ambassador Grossman, and let me also thank Lady Ashton and the European Union for the excellent work that they are doing and, as you just said, they will continue to do in Afghanistan. And let me thank Foreign Minister Baird from Canada, which has been a stalwart supporter for the development of your country. I also want to thank everyone from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the Afghan Women’s Network. I think the Bonn Civil Society Forum was a successful effort, for which you deserve the credit. There are some important recommendations coming out of it that we will pay close attention to.

I want to make five quick points, starting with the importance of what you do as representatives of civil society in Afghanistan and a request that you find ways to unify around specific priorities. There are many interests around the table, from agriculture to economic development to the protection of women, the importance of good governance, ending corruption, a reconciliation process that is inclusive and respects the rights of the people of Afghanistan under your constitution and your laws.

So there are a number of critical priorities, and I would hope that out of your working through this Civil Society Forum and the work that you do back home, you will set some priorities that you will focus on to be sure that attention is paid both by your government and by the international community.

Secondly, I think we’ve learned a lot in the last 10 years, and I want to be sure that we apply those lessons. So one of my hopes is that working with you and others who are actually on the ground throughout the country, we can review what works and what doesn’t work. The question about agriculture: We have made some real progress together; let’s look at what we should do to strengthen that and what we can do to change what is not working. When it comes to health or education, fighting corruption, there are, within your priorities, areas where we’ve had some success together and areas where have not. So I would like to be sure we know how we can work effectively together. Because it is not only the international community that must pledge our continuing assistance after 2014, we have to strengthen civil society to be a strong partner with us in making sure that money is spent well, that the kinds of political changes you want to see are underway.

So we have a lot of work ahead of us. And I am certainly, on behalf of the United States, committed with my colleagues around this table to working with you, but I ask that you help us by being organized and as unified as possible, because we will do better together if we are working on specific outcomes in these areas that will make a difference.

Third, there is always a tension in this kind of work for a government like mine or the EU or Canada or the World Bank or any other institution who wishes to support your development politically and economically: Do we focus on building the capacity of the government, or do we focus on building the capacity of civil society? We are trying to do both. And I think your sitting around this table is evidence that, with support, civil society is flourishing against some quite difficult challenges throughout the country.

We also see progress in certain capacities of the government, but we need to see more. And we need your best advice about how we can help the government, which ultimately does have responsibility for the country, develop the kind of professionalism and abilities that you would like to see it have. You have to help us with that. And it’s not only the government of ministries, it’s also the parliament, it’s also the judiciary. Each has a very important role to play. And we will stand ready to help build the capacity of these institutions, but we have a duty to our taxpayers to make sure that money is spent well, and I very much appreciate that point that you raised.

And the corruption problem is a real one. You know that as well as anyone. What can we do to try to tackle it together? Because we want to make changes that will be lasting and will benefit the people of Afghanistan. We have ideas, you have ideas; let’s be sure we’re coordinating on that.

Next, the reconciliation process is one that we believe, if pursued properly, holds promise for the kind of political settlement that would resolve much of the ongoing conflict. But we are also very conscious that any such reconciliation cannot be at the cost of the gains which you have suffered for – not just the last 10 years but the last 30-plus years, which is why I think it’s so important that your voices be heard in that area as well. You don’t make peace with your friends, but you also cannot make peace with those who refuse to rejoin society and behave in a peaceful manner. So how we test that and how we proceed is something we’re going to need your support for and your understanding of.

Finally, we have to do a better job on behalf of the international community of making clear that we are looking to support Afghanistan not for any of our own agendas but because, number one, we want to see Afghanistan secure and peaceful and, number two, we want to avoid another conflict in the future which could come if the state is not strong enough and if the people do not support it.

So we know we have a lot of work ahead of us, but I don’t think that we can be successful in doing that work if we are not having conversations like this. And therefore, I am very grateful that all of you came for this Civil Society Forum. I appreciate the work that you have put into making your presentations. But this is just the beginning of the hard work, and what I’m hoping is that through our coordinated efforts we can make specific progress on all of these points.

And I think we should get a document that comes out of this, building on the recommendations of the forum, and we should be very clear about what we can do and what we cannot do together, what is possible and what is something that we can’t achieve, so that we then know what are the specific steps we should take in order to assist you in your development and your support for a peaceful and secure Afghanistan.

So let me thank you all, and I think we have some concluding remarks.

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Town Hall with Civil Society Representatives on Good Governance and Transparency


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Yar’Adua Center
Abuja, Nigeria
August 12, 2009

MR. ERUBAMI: Your Excellency, distinguished leaders of (inaudible). I am (inaudible). (Applause.)
We are engaged in the (inaudible) democracy and (inaudible). I stand before you tonight (inaudible). We are here to honor our distinguished (inaudible) Ms. Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much (inaudible). That reminded me of an old American television show where Ed McMahon used to introduce Johnny Carson by saying, “And here’s Johnny.” (Laughter and applause.)
Well, I am absolutely delighted to be here. I’m very grateful to TMG and all of the partners who helped to organize this event. I apologize for keeping you waiting. I’ve had such an extraordinary schedule of meetings today, and I just finished a very interesting and important dialogue with leaders of both the Muslim and Christian communities. And I had to listen to everyone, because everyone had something very important to say.
I want to thank you for the work that all of you do. Moshood listed off all of the different affiliations that are represented here. But you are here, in part, because you care about your country. You have worked on behalf of the public or the private sector, civil society, the faith communities, because of your commitment to a better future.
I am here on behalf of President Obama and our Administration and my country to deepen and strengthen our relationship. We have had a long history of friendship and partnership with Nigeria, and we want to do even more. But we recognize, as I have told the government officials with whom I have met today, that Nigeria is at a crossroads, and it is imperative that citizens be engaged and that civic organizations be involved in helping to chart the future of this great nation.
I started my trip in Africa about – over – about a week or so ago – I’ve lost track of time – in Kenya. I was at a town hall meeting much like this at the University of Nairobi, and one of the people in the audience was my friend and a former Nobel Prize winner, Wangari Maathai. And she said something which has stuck with me as I have traveled across this extraordinary continent. She said, “Africa is a rich continent. The gods must have been on our side when they created the planet, and yet we are poor.”
I have seen the best and the most distressing of what is happening in Africa today. Yesterday, I was in eastern Congo, one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth, yet one that is replete with human misery. Today, I am in Nigeria, a country that produces 2 million barrels of oil a day, has the seventh-largest natural gas reserves of any country in the world, but according to the United Nations, the poverty rate in Nigeria has gone up from 46 percent to 76 percent over the last 13 years.
Now, there are many reasons why Nigeria has struggled. There is the destructive legacy of colonialism, there are wars, including a devastating civil war. There are other external forces. But as President Obama said in Ghana in his historic speech, the future of Africa is up to the Africans, and the future of Nigeria is up to the Nigerians. The most immediate source of the disconnect between Nigeria’s wealth and its poverty is a failure of governance at the local, state, and federal level. (Applause.)
And some of that is due, as you know so well, to corruption, others of it to a lack of capacity or mismanagement. But the World Bank recently concluded that Nigeria has lost well over $300 billion during the last three decades as a result of all of these problems. And therefore, it is imperative that we look at where Nigeria is today and, in the spirit of friendship and partnership, of a country that has made its own mistakes, has had its own problems, we look for ways to help one another, and particularly to help the people of this country.
The raw numbers, 300 billion, 2 million barrels of oil – they’re staggering. But they don’t tell you how many hospitals and roads could have been built. They don’t tell you how many schools could have opened, or how many more Nigerians could have attended college, or how many mothers might have survived childbirth if that money had been spent differently. The lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state. We deplore the attacks perpetrated by any armed group, whether they be religious extremists, militias, or criminals. But addressing the challenges that they and the poverty of the country pose takes more than action by your excellent military or your police. It requires fixing Nigeria’s flawed electoral system – (applause) – establishing a truly independent electoral council.
In order to create a peaceful, stable environment that creates development among the people, citizens need to have confidence that their votes count, that their government cares about them, that democracy can deliver basic services. They need to know that officials will be replaced if they break the law or fail to deliver what they have promised. (Applause.) And they each know that Nigeria’s natural resources, particularly your oil and your gas, will be used to invest in social development programs that benefit all Nigerians, particularly the poorest. We stand ready to work with you and with your government and with civil society to help realize these goals.
The foundation of a democracy is trust. And a democracy doesn’t always behave perfectly. And a democracy is not just about elections. It’s about an independent judiciary and a free press and the protection of minority rights and an active legislative body that holds the executive accountable. It is about building those democratic institutions.
Again, to refer to President Obama’s speech, what Africa needs is not more strong men, it needs more strong democratic institutions that will stand the test of time. (Applause.) Without good governance, no amount of oil or no amount of aid, no amount of effort can guarantee Nigeria’s success. But with good governance, nothing can stop Nigeria. It’s the same message that I have carried in all of my meetings, including my meeting this afternoon with your president. The United States supports the 7-point agenda for reform that was outlined by President Yar’Adua. We believe that delivering on roads and on electricity and on education and all the other points of that agenda will demonstrate the kind of concrete progress that the people of Nigeria are waiting for.
We also believe that civil society has a very big job to do. And by civil society, I include all of the organizations that are formed by citizens, the NGOs, the faith-based groups, everyone working together. You have already helped to elevate the ideals of democracy, but now you must use the political system to encourage Nigeria’s leaders to serve the common good. There need to be watchdog groups, like NEDI to push for transparency. There need to be journalists, including many of you in this audience, who will shine a bright light on any abuses of the public trust or those who would enrich themselves at the expense of Nigeria’s citizens; independent courts and prosecutors, institutions to punish wrongdoers and deter future wrongdoing; citizens who persist and persevere often against long odds.
The capacity for good governance exists in Africa and it exists right here in Nigeria. We have seen it in many places, and we have seen it here in Nigeria. I know that it doesn’t sometimes feel like it’s possible because the climb is so high, but I have great confidence in what Nigeria is capable of doing. If you think about it, you’ve had one election that has made a peaceful transfer of civilian authority to civilian authority. And to the president – your president’s great credit, at his own inaugural address, he admitted that the election that put him in office had been flawed. (Applause.) And I think that there are the ingredients, the ingredients of determination, of effort, that must be mixed into a cake that all of Nigeria can feel they have a part in making and enjoying.
We have seen good governance in other places in your government, such as the action taken recently by all sectors of Nigerian society to fight human trafficking. We watched Nigeria make changes and moved it into the top tier of countries in the world because the society decided to solve a problem. (Applause.)
You have worked with international partners, along with my own country. We’ve seen the start of promising reforms, including reductions in trade barriers and closer cooperation on health care challenges. But there is so much more we can do together. This morning, the foreign minister and I agreed that we would create a bi-national commission to look at all of these issues, to see where the United States could provide technical assistance and support as the changes are made. There are many electoral systems, for example, that work very well in complex societies like Nigeria’s. Think about India where you have 500-600 million people voting. The poorest of the poor in remote areas with no electricity, none of the amenities, vote on computers so that when the results are announced, no one questions them. Think about Indonesia, which has only been a democracy for 10 years, a young democracy like Nigeria’s. After years of military rule and so many problems, they have just completed a hard-fought election with parties that that contested. And there was a winner, and everyone accepted it.
Now, I know a little bit about running in elections – (laughter and applause) – and I have won some elections and I have lost some elections. (Laughter.) And in a democracy, there have to be winners and losers. And part of creating a strong democratic system is that the losers, despite how badly we might feel, accept the outcome because it is for the good of the country that we love. (Applause.)
And of course, in my country, the man I was running against and spent a lot of time and effort to defeat asked me to join his government. (Applause.) So there is a – there is a way to begin to make this transition that will lead to free and fair elections in 2011. We will work with you. We believe so strongly in Nigeria’s positive future. We are grateful for what Nigeria has already done. Tomorrow, I will be in Liberia. The people of Liberia owe their freedom to you – (applause) – the Nigerians, your military, your leaders. The people across Africa owe so much to you. But now, you owe it to yourselves to make sure that your country, which I believe should be not just a leader in Africa, but a leader in the world, produces the kind of results that the intelligence and the hard work of the Nigerian people are capable of producing.
No matter how much President Obama and I want this future for you, it will be up to you to decide whether it happens or not. You are the ones with both the opportunity and the responsibility. But I want you to know, as you walk this path to a stronger democracy that produces results for your people to lift the development of Nigeria up, that you will have us by your side.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
MR. ERUBAMI: Thank you very much. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for that insightful (inaudible). We thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are now moving to the question-and-answer session. As I announced earlier, I said Madame Secretary will participate in that. (Inaudible) when you ask a question, please just state your name, identify your affiliation, and ask one concise question. We have limited time here, but we need to give as much time as possible to our honored guests to be able to answer all your questions.
Now let me know who wants to ask the questions. (Laughter.) I will be giving the assignments to (inaudible). Yes, the man in white here. Yes.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And there’s a microphone coming toward you, sir. Here it comes.
QUESTION: Good evening. My name is Tony Uranta (ph). I’m the secretary general of the United Niger Delta Energy Development Security (inaudible). It is a coalition of all NGOs and ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta.
Madame Secretary, I thank you for your speech. I noticed you did not mention anything about the Niger Delta. It is (inaudible) we must accept that Nigeria’s future and the world ‘s energy dependence on Nigeria depends to a large – depends to a large extent – depends to a large extent on the Niger Delta.
Now, right now, there is a process towards peace in the region. (Inaudible) like to know –
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let him finish.
QUESTION: What we’d like to know exactly how will the United States and the Obama Administration actively and positively help in this process of peace in this region so as to help Nigeria.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, sir. Well, of course, this was a short speech, so I did not mention everything I could have mentioned. And I have talked at great length about the Niger Delta. I met with the minister who is now responsible for the Niger Delta. I discussed the amnesty program with both the minister, the defense minister, the president, the foreign minister. And the United States supports the process going forward. We think that having a political process is absolutely essential.
We also know that there are many people who are involved in the challenges and difficulties, such as yourself, who know that there must be more development in the Niger Delta, that there has to be a dedicated stream of revenue in order to make up for some of the environmental degradation and some of the lost jobs and to create a more stable life for the people of the Niger Delta.
So from what I have been told, I think that the government, under the president’s leadership, has the right idea of having a multiply-pronged approach to dealing with the Niger Delta. Now, we are also concerned about the larger question of security in the Gulf of Guinea and the maritime security needs that are becoming more apparent. So we’ve also discussed what help we could give Nigeria on that. But the primary focus should be on trying to resolve the legitimate concerns of the people of the Niger Delta.
MR. ERUBAMI: Thank you very much. (Inaudible.) Please deliver the microphone.
QUESTION: The Secretary of State from the United State, my name is (inaudible) and I’m vice president of (inaudible) which is made up of (inaudible) possibly the largest in the continent. My question is this. (Inaudible) but I’m also (inaudible) I want to remind you that (inaudible) Nigeria was (inaudible) independent, democratic Nigeria, who had a very rich democratic heritage. (Inaudible) that election conducted (inaudible) free and fair, that the (inaudible). I mean (inaudible) very possible it would (inaudible). Now, my question is this. (Inaudible) the nature of internal democratic process (inaudible) United States (inaudible) the very living history (inaudible) living history like you (inaudible) Obama (inaudible) you know, in a free and fair election, because (inaudible) if indeed (inaudible) is so weak . I mean (inaudible) election in his own party (inaudible). So we want to share from you (inaudible) we build (inaudible) because we can’t give what we don’t have internally (inaudible). Thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, that’s a very – as I understand your question about the democratic process, let me just – you are the experts on your process, but let me just make a few points. As I understand it, Nigeria has no system for registering voters. Is that right? You have no registration system.
AUDIENCE: (All at once.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That is nationwide; is that right?
AUDIENCE: (All at once.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me just say that one of the —
MR. ERUBAMI: Attention, please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: One of the fundamental foundations of a free and fair election system is to know who’s eligible to vote and to keep track of who is eligible to vote. And I know that the electoral commission, under your former chief justice, made a very thorough study that lasted, I think, 16 months. And they looked at election systems around the world, looked at India, South Africa, Canada, all kinds of places. And one of their recommendations is to have a nationwide registration system. That is essential, and that needs to get started soon if you’re going to have a free and fair election in 2011.
One of the services that some of your civil society organizations could provide is to begin to figure out where you have registered voters and where you don’t, and begin to try to gather that information, because it is essential. Secondly, there has to be an independent electoral system that is run by an independent group of people, whoever they might be. Different countries choose different approaches.
Now, our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state, so I mean, we have our problems too. But we have been moving to try to remedy those problems as we see them.
So I think having an independent electoral system, having parties that are rooted in the grassroots – and that is something that is open to you now. It’s not enough just to have leaders of parties in opposition who just make speeches. You have to do the hard work of organizing. One of the most brilliant aspects of President Obama’s campaign is how he organized and he used technology to organize. And there are a lot of people who could be organized in Nigeria politically by using technology.
So those are just some ideas about how you could begin right now, regardless of what the government does, to register voters, begin to provide political activity that will lead to grassroots organizations that will work in the election, and then to work very hard to convince your parliament to pass a strong electoral reform bill, because ultimately, that’s what has to happen. And every one of you knows people in parliament. Every one of you knows people who know people in parliament. Every one of you has influence. And use that; use your positions, your voices, to try to focus in for the next months on getting that strong electoral reform bill passed. That will provide you the platform then to build on for a free and credible, legitimate election in 2011.
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: We should go on this side, too. Don’t forget. (Laughter.) So many hands. It’s hard to –
PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, women. Yes, next. Okay, we’re going to have gender equity after this –
MR. ERUBAMI: After this one.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay. This gentlemen. Then three women, Moshood. (Laughter and applause.)
Just talk into it. It’ll pick up your voice there.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary of State, my name (inaudible) Nigeria. I want to begin by saying that the your friendship and partnership (inaudible) of the United States of America has been (inaudible) and has been geared towards improving democracy on the continent of Africa (inaudible) of Nigeria. I’m glad you mentioned that there is capacity indeed in Nigeria to advance the cause of democracy and grow our nation and our people. And I’m happy to take note (inaudible) that have been undertaken now by Nigerian (inaudible) the fight against corruption (inaudible) poverty, the issue of Niger Delta –
AUDIENCE: (All at once.)
QUESTION: Pardon me, I have to clarify the (inaudible).
QUESTION: Secretary, my question is this. My question is what the people want to hear. (Cheers.) I’ll ask it. After elections in the U.S., all hands come on deck to support the nation and its people. In Nigeria, it’s not exactly the same. After elections, there continue to be in-fight and it continues to be a lot of rancor and problem (inaudible). So what is the U.S. going to do to support Nigeria’s effort towards establishing a lasting democracy?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we first of all want to encourage civil society to be very involved in working to set up the terms of the next election. We want to encourage people to be part of the political life of the country. The United States also provides aid to groups to work on democracy and governance and to be training people. So we will continue to be supportive.
I think, though, that really, President Obama’s words ought to be just remembered and repeated about what he said not only in Ghana, but what he said at the G-8 meeting in Italy. I mean, he considers himself a son of Africa. And in a very real sense, he is both a son of Africa and a son of America. It’s where his blood comes from. He has relatives still in Africa. And he believes so strongly in the future of Africa.
So I hope that is inspiration. I hope that persuades people to keep going when the going gets tough – not to give up, to feel committed to doing what you can to make your country all it can be – because that is certainly how President Obama and I see it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERUBAMI: The lady there. The lady in the (inaudible). No, the one at your back. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Madame Secretary, Nigerians are generally perceived to be corrupt. Hi, my name is Tara Elatruwate (ph) and I’m a member of the Women in Business, an NGO, and I also run a beauty company called House of Tara (ph). Nigerians are perceived to be very corrupt. Every time we go to the airports with our passports we are treated shabbily, especially in the U.S., also in the embassies as well.
Unfortunately, there’s a small minority of corrupt and – corrupt Nigerians, and it’s a shame that we are all generalized, and some of us are just honest people who are just trying to do our businesses in America. What is U.S. Government (inaudible) do about this crisis? This is a crisis for us. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I believe that it is a minority. It’s often the minority of people who, unfortunately, create a perception that affects everyone. And I think we do have to take a hard look, and I will raise this with my government, about how to zero in on any people we believe are – that pose problems of corruption or criminality without casting a broad brush that includes so many. (Applause.)
MR. ERUBAMI: Another lady there. Yes, you.
QUESTION: My name is (inaudible) for democracy. (Inaudible) when she traveled outside the country, she (inaudible) being prosecuted house from Wall Street to the other, almost (inaudible) on the White House. My question now is how can the Obama Administration (inaudible) our elected officials who still stash money into our (inaudible)? (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let me say this. I think that we will watch what happens very closely over the next months. We have made it very clear that we expect and hope that there will be an electoral reform law passed, that there will be more legal actions taken against those who commit financial corruption or abuses of power, that there will be a greater commitment to the development of the people, that the Niger Delta conflict will be resolved. We are going to be watching very carefully.
And I think that it is our hope that what we’ve been told and the commitments that we have been given will be realized. But we also know that we may be in a position where we have to take actions that demonstrate our absolute conviction that what is necessary for Nigeria is for the leaders to lead, and lead in a way that inspires confidence and trust and gives the Nigerian people a better chance. (Applause.)
There are options available to us, but at this point, we’re going to continue to urge and encourage and work with the leadership to try to get the changes made. But we want to work with a very active citizenry and active civil society, like all of you, that we’ll be pushing very hard as well. So if we can work together on a people-to-people basis, not just a government-to-government basis, we will deliver that message strongly. (Applause.)
MODERATOR: The man in the suit there. There, you. You, the man in red tie. Yeah.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Wait, wait, three women. We said three women, Mashood. Three women. No, no, we have to have one more woman.
MODERATOR: I’m going back to the ladies, please. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: He doesn’t want to offend any of the women. How about the woman in the pink dress, right there.
MODERATOR: Okay. (Inaudible) please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we’ve got two women. All right.
QUESTION: Thank you. Good evening, everybody. Good evening, Secretary of State. My name is Omolio Medey (ph). I’m actually going to start by appreciating the U.S. mission. Thank you, ma’am. (Inaudible) and also I have a project that’s been supported by the U.S. mission, under the ambassador’s self-help project.
My question is actually not a question, it’s a request. I appreciate the effort of the U.S. Government to support institutions and structures in Nigeria. But I’d like to see more going into the so-called of educational institutions in terms of building more technical schools, and skills of (inaudible), because truly that is the future of this country. Without a good technical base, there’s really no future. So I know you’ve been doing well, and I really appreciate it, because I tell everybody that the support our projects have gotten from the U.S. mission – if we have gotten that for other structures in Nigeria, we will do better.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. (Applause.) (Inaudible) microphone to (inaudible). The man at your back, please. The man at your back.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. Madame Secretary of State, my name is Clement Wanpoh (ph) and I am the pioneer chairman of the Transition Monitoring Group, as well as director of a policy and legal advocacy center. Part of the big problem we have at this time is the collaboration between multinational companies who join our government officials in serious acts of corruption. And a big problem, of course, mentions several international companies, including Halliburton, Siemens, and so on. While in the U.S. and in Europe, some of these companies have been brought to account in terms of the justice process. We find that in the Nigerian legal system, these companies continue to even operate and engage in deeper acts of corruption, leading to severe wastage that could, in fact, have helped to develop us here in this country.
My question is, in terms of cooperation with the Nigerian authorities, what serious efforts have been made to ensure that even when these companies are brought to account in the U.S. that these acts of corruption that they join our public officials and perpetuate in Nigeria is, in fact, brought to an end? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, you mentioned one of the cases that we have been working on. Two executives, two employees of Halliburton, have been convicted in the United States for their role in corruption here in Nigeria. We are sharing information with the Nigerian legal system as we find it. We want to cooperate closely.
We make our companies take a pledge. They have to sign up to our anti-corruption standards. We’re one of the few countries in the world that do that. And when we find evidence of anyone in our companies who have violated our anti-corruption standards, we prosecute if we have sufficient evidence. So we will continue to provide the information and try to work with your government wherever we can.
We think its good business to eliminate corrupt practices. It is better for competition, it’s better for the trade and investment environment, it’s better for Nigeria’s reputation as a place to do business without heavy transaction costs that corruption call on a company to make. So we will do what we can to prosecute those who cross the line who have any American connection, and we want to see reinstatement of a vigorous corruption commission. The EFCC, which was doing work and then has kind of fallen off in the last year – (applause) – we would like to see it get back into business so that it would be a good partner with us.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. The man in blue by the (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thank you very much, (inaudible) have the opportunity. Thank you, Madame Secretary of State. My name is Don Lamibasheru (ph). I represent 19 million people with disabilities in this country. I know you have 54 million in the United States. I want to first of all commend the work of the U.S. mission in Nigeria for mainstreaming people with disabilities into society, particularly in the area of making information in appropriate formats, particularly for the blind, in Braille. The electoral reform recommendations, actually, which everyone is talking about, has now been put in Braille by the U.S. mission. Thank you for that.
But we noticed that in the last election, some of our members were banned from participating in elections, those without fingers and amputees, people living affected by leprosy. Now, in the spirit of partnership, we are well aware that there is a machine in the United States, the Electronic Audio Voting Machine, which enables blind people, and all people with disabilities really, to vote by voice, which would then be captured by the machine into the computer and sent out. Now, this is widely used in many states in the U.S., especially Seattle, and (inaudible) and I notice this, I use this in Seattle. Now, how can the U.S. partner with our (inaudible) so that these machines are made available so that all Nigerians can participate actively in the voting process? Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s an excellent question. And I will work with our very good ambassador, who many of you know. We will see if there is a way. Now, it depends upon the systems that your government decides to use for elections, but we have worked very hard to
make sure that people with disabilities are not disenfranchised, because we don’t think it’s fair. I mean, people who, as you say, are blind or who have paralysis, they’re human beings and they’re citizens and they deserve to vote. So we will see if there’s any way we can be of help in that area.
MR. ERUBAMI: Thank you very much. One more question. (Inaudible.) Please. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Just one question. This has to do with poverty. (Inaudible) is my name. I’m president of West Africa (inaudible). (Inaudible) and the efforts of the United States Government to fight the crisis of capitalism, otherwise called economic (inaudible). Now, I discovered that the United States Government and governments of Western countries have channeled trillions of dollars to bail out their economies, to save jobs, to save mortgage institution, to save schools.
But the IMF and the World Bank, in which the United States Government has a lot of influence, go around the world (inaudible) getting governments of under-developed countries to cut jobs, to reduce and withdraw subsidies from schools, from (inaudible) and the rest of them. And this as our (inaudible) crisis of poverty in third world countries, including Nigeria. What can the United States do with (inaudible) the influence in the World Bank where your nominee is the president of the bank? How will you allow your own system now to influence the world so that we can have a new international economic order based on justice and fair play around the world?
Thank you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that your comments reflect the real concerns that many of us have about what has happened in the global economy. It has, in many ways, created opportunities. Nigeria is our single biggest investment destination for American capital. But on the other hand, it has not shared the prosperity broadly enough. And in the crisis that we started to experience last year, it was essential that countries that could, like the United States and China and others, try to stimulate the economy to keep the economy going so that we could continue to invest and export and import all at the same time.
Now, it is really important that as we work our way out of this crisis – and we’re beginning to see signs of stability in the American economy, as you know – that we take seriously what was said at the G-20 meetings in Washington, London, and then the upcoming meeting in Pittsburgh. We have to redesign our international financial structures. They do not reflect the world of the 21st century. (Applause.) And there are great gaps in how we think about economies and how they’re regulated, what is demanded of certain economies, and how we try to work to be sure that forgiveness of debt and other kinds of international actions actually result in money getting to people. There’s just a lot that we haven’t yet thought through sufficiently.
I know that our Administration and President Obama, of course, are very committed to figuring out ways that we can have a new global architecture for the economy. And it is important that different voices be heard. I told your ministers this morning that, by all accounts, Nigeria should be in a position to be part of the G-20. (Applause.) But – big but – the corruption reputation. It’s not that corruption doesn’t exist everywhere, it does. But the fact is – you know it, that’s all you’ve been talking about tonight – it is a problem. The concentration of wealth at the top, the failure to use the wealth that God gave you to lift up the people – I mean, those are problems. But if Nigeria were to set a goal and then work and plan toward meeting that goal to deal with the corruption, to create more transparency and accountability, to develop, to do the education that the woman in pink referred to – there are schools in Nigeria with no students because people can’t afford them and there are no teachers to teach the students. There are parts of Nigeria with no healthcare. The electricity problem is one that – I mean, here Nigeria is with all this oil and gas, you would think it would be electrified across the country.
So if Nigeria takes seriously these challenges and works towards solving them, I think the sky is the limit for Nigeria. I mean, there is no doubt in my mind – and I know that we have to wrap up, but just from what I’ve seen tonight, the potential for a very vibrant democracy is alive and well in Nigeria. (Applause.) And I think that your work and your commitment and your involvement in the political process, as well as civil society, is what can make it happen.
Thank you all so much, and God bless Nigeria. (Applause.)
MR. ERUBAMI: Thank you very much, Madame. I have the honor to (inaudible) Ms. Evelyn Oputu, the managing director, CEO of Nigeria Bank of Industry, to give a word of thanks.
MS. OPUTU: Madame Secretary, excellencies, my distinguished brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, it is with a lot of pride that I stand here tonight (inaudible) thank the Secretary of State and thank all of you for coming here and displaying to the Secretary of State what we are made of. You are a strong, proud, hardworking people who have been vilified over the years, and you are showing the Secretary of State here today what we really are made of.
Madame Secretary, we know that you are an advocate of Africans. We know that it was after you came here in 1994 with your daughter to Africa that the trade policy towards Africa changed. (Applause.) We want to work with you. What we ask of the United States is (inaudible) Nigeria (inaudible) development (inaudible). We thank you for your time. As a matter of fact, your presence here in Nigeria (inaudible) Obama Administration’s commitment to work with us. We have heard all what you have said about transparency (inaudible).
But we also want to thank the U.S. mission. Because as a matter of fact, I the past two years (inaudible) actually all (inaudible) to Nigeria. (Inaudible) it is the women that (inaudible) it is the women that raise the families, that run the small businesses. Madame Secretary, you are (inaudible). And so I say to you that (inaudible). We know in Nigeria what they say in the U.S. (inaudible). Thank you, Madame Secretary. (Applause.)

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The Role of Civil Society in Building a Stronger, More Peaceful World


Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State, Secretary of State
Address at Indonesian Civil Society Dinner
Washington, DC
February 18, 2009

We have been very excited about our trip to Indonesia, and I want to make sure that all the cameras get in place because – (laughter) – we were talking about the importance of a free press at our table, and I know how hard these men and women work. And I always worry when they carry those big cameras around that they’re going to run into somebody.
Well, let me start by thanking you for joining us this evening, and to reiterate the greetings from President Obama, who feels such a special kinship with the Indonesian people and with a country that influenced him so deeply as a young boy. He has said many times that his experiences here have helped to shape his values and his vision of a world where people of different backgrounds, identities, and faiths could unite around their common human aspirations. And that certainly is a message for all peoples and nations to remember now as we confront the urgent global challenges of this century.
When I was last here 15 years ago, I was privileged not only to visit in Jakarta, but to travel outside of Jakarta. I remember a visit that I made to a local maternal health program in Yogyakarta, where mothers took their newborns for routine medical checkups and other basic health services. Now, the program wasn’t housed in a clinic or a hospital. In fact, it wasn’t in a building at all. It was under a tree in the village where the mothers gathered once a week to meet the health practitioners who came to weigh the babies, distribute information about nutrition, and offer counseling about family planning.
I’m often asked as I travel around my own country, why should the United States or other nations support development and civil society in other countries than their own; why should a program offering health services under a tree in a village in Indonesia matter to people working in a factory in Indiana or Islamabad or the Ivory Coast? Well, my answer and the answer that you will hear from the Obama Administration is that building civil society and providing tangible services to people helps result in stronger nations that share the goals of security, prosperity, peace and progress.
There are really three stools on which democracy sits: the government, the private business sector, and civil society. If one of those legs on that stool get out of balance, then the whole system does as well. You need a competent, functioning, non-corrupt government that can deliver services to their people, democratically-elected so that all people feel that their voices were heard. You need a private business sector that is competent, non-corrupt, creating jobs and investing in a country so that democracy produces the prosperity that people are looking for. And you need a civil society that exists between the government and the private sector, very often advocating for changes in both, and fulfilling the needs of people that cannot be met by the government or the marketplace alone. Education and healthcare, religion and family all belong in that space of civil society.
And it’s important in today’s world, where we face old challenges like intolerance and discrimination and poverty and despair with new challenges that come from our interconnectedness that we do all we can to support those three stools. But tonight, we really want to focus on the role that civil society has played and will play not only in Indonesia, but in other nations as well.
Now I will have a lot of government-to-government engagement. That is our traditional foreign policy approach. And we post ambassadors in other countries, we send cables to foreign embassies, we hold bilateral meetings and summits and negotiate agreements and treaties. And diplomacy will remain very important. But by itself that is not sufficient to make the kinds of changes we need to meet the challenges that we face together.
So I hope that one of the messages that I will be able to leave behind is that the United States will of course pursue government-to-government engagement. But we want to engage more with the people of the countries with whom we seek partnerships. I know very well that in this room, there are people who have advocated and struggled on behalf of the environment and human rights, on better education for all children and access to healthcare. That is essential work in a democracy.
Now the United States may be the oldest functioning democracy in the world, but we could have a meeting just like this back home, where people who are struggling for human rights and education and good governance and healthcare or climate change and environmental possibilities that would improve our situation, as well as clean energy, would be equally engaged and just as passionate as all of you are, because the work of democracy never ends. Even though we’ve been at it for a long time, I would not tell you that we are by any means perfect. We have a lot of work still to do ourselves.
We were talking at our table about elections. When you have an election, some people win and some people lose. In a new democracy, that is sometimes hard to accept, because all of a sudden, you believe, well, we have a democracy, I have a political party, so I have people telling me they’re for me, therefore I am going to win, and it doesn’t turn out that way. Well, I’ve had that experience, and I know – (laughter and applause) – how important it is in a democratic system that you accept the results of elections and you work continuingly inside of the system, or outside, to bring about the changes in a peaceful way.
And how also, in a democracy after an election, you have to find common ground. People may get elected that you have great differences with or small differences, but you seek for ways to work together and to build a stronger democracy. I was the most surprised person in the world when President Obama asked me to be the Secretary of State. But I knew that it was part of my commitment to my country and my belief in our shared agenda that led me to say yes, what an honor and a privilege. (Applause.)
And so as we chart our new Administration, we are reaching out to the rest of the world with humility. We know we don’t have all the answers. We believe strongly in our country and in our values. But we want to find common ground with likeminded people around the world. When I think about the challenges that we face – and global climate change is a perfect example – I think about the need to protect the forests and the coral reefs of Indonesia. That’s a long way from the United States, but it is a problem that will affect our children and our children’s children. Protecting forests and coral reefs in Indonesia helps our whole planet get healthier.
I’ll be going to South Korea and to China later this week to talk about how we will all work to change how we produce energy. So how do we become problem solvers? How do we take whatever differences we have and realize they are dwarfed by our common humanity? My husband loves quoting the fact that now we understand the human genome. Scientists have mapped the chromosomes and all of the material and what it does to make a human being who we were, and that we are 99 percent alike. We have differences of skin color and height, of eye color and hair color. We have differences of religion and ethnicity and language. But that’s a very small part of who we are compared to the rest of humanity.
And as I was listening at our table about the efforts here in Indonesia to continue the tradition of a tolerant, embracing Islam, I was reminded of how that is one of the most important contributions that Indonesia can make, not just to the Islamic world, but to the whole world, to recognize that common humanity. So our hope is that arising out of this visit, we will find even more ways to work together. To work together on the environment and clean energy, to work together on education and healthcare, to promote more exchanges at all levels of society, to find ways that we can improve our understanding with each other, and to help support good governance and the rule of law, free elections, a fair press, religious tolerance and human rights, as well as the greater participation of us in finding peaceful resolutions to conflict.
I also have to compliment Indonesia for the growing role that women are playing at all levels of society. I met with the Foreign Minister earlier today and there were three women at the table on the Indonesian side. And a recognition of the role that women have to play and the opportunities for women to assume leadership positions as many of you in this room have is another contribution that Indonesia is making. As I travel around the world over the next years, I will be saying to people, if you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity, and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia. (Applause.)
So for me, this is a personal delight to be able to return here and renew some old friendships and make some new friends, to represent my country, especially with a President who has such personal feelings of kinship to the people here. I’ve already been asked over and over again, when is he coming? (Laughter.) Now I know a little bit about the difficulties of being a president, and I want to share this with you if you don’t tell anyone. (Laughter.)
Being president is hard. There are a million problems that come your way. If they were easy problems, someone else would have solved them. So they end up on the desk of the President. And the President has to cope with all kinds of pressures and hardships and challenges. So for a president knowing he can go somewhere in the world where he is so loved as he is loved in Indonesia, he may just want to wait until he really needs that visit, and you can – (laughter) – you can lavish on him all of the love that you are telling me you feel for him. I will speak with him soon and tell him that he is well liked and well regarded, and that he should look for the opportunity to come as soon as his schedule permits.
There is a lot of work ahead of us. I mean, the successes and changes that have taken place in Indonesia over the last several years have reverberated widely. You may think you’re working just to improve the conditions of people here, but it has implications that will affect the thinking and the acting of residents in countries very, very far from this place where we share this dinner tonight. Your persistence, your optimism, your open-mindedness has already begun to show such fruits. And the leadership role that Indonesia will be able to play in the world is just beginning.
So I thank you for not just joining me this evening, but for what you have done day in and day out over the years to help realize the dreams and fulfill the vision of what Indonesia truly can become. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
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