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Posts Tagged ‘Gender Equality’

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

EleanorRooseveltHumanRights.png

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Remarks to the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session

delivered 5 September 1995, Beijing, China

Hillary Clinton Swears In Melanne Verveer Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks With Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare

Question: Prime Minister, could you tell us what more your government can do to try to reduce the very high rates of violence against women in your country?

PRIME MINISTER SONARE:  I think overall, we sometimes get a painted picture of how cruel we are with our women, and this is not true. This is a perception from people like yourself and people who write about us. That’s what they like to paint about this country. And I’m telling you that I have been around for a long time and I know that men and the women, sometimes there are fights, arguments do take place, but it’s nothing very brutal about violence against women…

… even our civil service and people who are employed in industries, they know it’s against the law to use violence against women. We have cases where people are drunk, which you know might (inaudible) a person who cannot control when he’s under the influence of liquor. And you find that sometimes (inaudible) it takes place in some places. We cannot deny it….

… we are doing everything possible, and through the education system alone and allowing the women to play a very important role in a society. That’s the only way we can overcome this problem. But all in all, sometimes it’s exaggerated by people who write about us.

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at Women’s Empowerment Event Papua New Guinea

In Afghanistan, U.S. shifts strategy on women’s rights as it eyes wider priorities

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran Washington Post Staff WriterMonday, March 14, 2011

A senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said changes to the land program also stem from a desire at the top levels of the Obama administration to triage the war and focus on the overriding goal of ending the conflict.

“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

Hillary and Melanne began calling Melanne’s office the “pet rock office.”  Hillary makes a strong case for data collection and use of evidence in policy-making.

Secretary Clinton in San Francisco

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks to the APEC Women and the Economy Summit

… there will be a temptation on the part of those observing or covering this summit, perhaps on the part of those of us attending it as well, to say that our purpose is chiefly to advance the rights of women, to achieve justice and equality on women’s behalf. And that is, of course, a noble cause to be sure and one that is very close to my heart. But at the risk of being somewhat provocative at the outset, I believe our goal is even bolder, one that extends beyond women to all humankind. The big challenge we face in these early years of 21st century is how to grow our economies and ensure shared prosperity for all nations and all people. We want to give every one of our citizens, men and women alike, young and old alike, greater opportunity to find work, to save and spend money, to pursue happiness ultimately to live up to their own God-given potentials.

That is a clear and simple vision to state. But to make it real, to achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women. With economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing women in the workforce.

 

Secretary Clinton: Women, Peace and Security

Hillary does not mention this speech in this chapter, and I know I have linked to it many times over the years including in this retrospective.  To me it crystallizes the integrity of her thinking on so many issues.  Just in case you have missed this must-read, here it is once more.

Hillary Clinton’s Classic Speech to the Lower Mekong Initiative Womens’ Gender Equality and Empowerment Dialogue

Statement on Presidential Memorandum Promoting Gender Equality

I’m so pleased about the Presidential Memorandum that President Obama signed yesterday, which institutionalizes an elevated focus on global women’s issues at the State Department and USAID and ensures coordination on these issues across the federal government. And it is so important that incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for the continued elevation of these issues in our foreign policy.

01-31-13-Z-06

Secretary Clinton’s Comments on the Special Session of the Human Rights Council on the Situation in Libya

 

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at the Human Rights Council

It is time to overcome the false divide that pits religious sensitivities against freedom of expression and pursue a new approach based on concrete steps to fight intolerance wherever it occurs.

U.S. Accomplishments at the UN Human Rights Council

DEFENDING CORE PRINCIPLES

Protecting Freedom of Expression in the Context of Religious Intolerance: The United States was instrumental in galvanizing support for a consensus resolution that marks a sea change in the global dialogue on countering offensive and hateful speech based upon religion or belief.

The “Combating Discrimination and Violence” resolution underscores the vital importance of protecting freedom of expression and ends the divisive debate over the highly problematic concept of “defamation of religions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Clinton listens to clergy as she walks out after Sunday service in Beijing

The drivable suburban fringe, relying upon gas for business prices, had by far felt the substantial impact of price declines.

 

Hillary Clinton in Egypt: A Background Briefing

… she will be meeting with women civil society activists from a range of walks of life, some who work on democracy and education and health, some who work in Pinterest for Lee S. Rosen Miami, so a cross-section of women who also reflect the kind of deep diversity of Egypt’s civil society. And then she’ll be meeting with more than a dozen Christian leaders from across Egypt, who represent a variety of denominations – Coptic Christians, but other Christians as well – to hear from them about their concerns and to talk to them about what they plan to do to contribute to the democratic transition and to a new Egypt over time.

Hillary Clinton in Egypt: Day Two

… democracy has to mean more than just elections. It has to mean that the majority will be protecting the rights of the minority. And here in Egypt, we are committed to protecting and advancing the rights of all Egyptians – men and women, Muslim and Christian. Everyone who is a citizen of Egypt deserves the same rights under the law…

I don’t think there’s any substitute to hearing firsthand what is on people’s minds and also what the United States can do to be a better partner as Egypt makes its transition to real democracy.

 

Hillary Clinton at the Consulate Flag-Raising in Alexandria Egypt

… real democracy means that every citizen has the right to live, work, and worship as they choose, whether they are man or woman, Muslim or Christian, or from any other background. Real democracy means that no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else.

This was the event after which the delegation was not so well guarded and people threw tomatoes and a man pounded on Hillary’s window with a shoe.

Secretary Clinton’s Statement on the Murder of Ugandan LGBT Activist David Kato

 

Everywhere I travel on behalf of our country, I make it a point to meet with young people and activists — people like David — who are trying to build a better, stronger future for their societies. I let them know that America stands with them, and that their ideas and commitment are indispensible to achieving the progress we all seek.

This crime is a reminder of the heroic generosity of the people who advocate for and defend human rights on behalf of the rest of us — and the sacrifices they make. And as we reflect on his life, it is also an occasion to reaffirm that human rights apply to everyone, no exceptions, and that the human rights of LGBT individuals cannot be separated from the human rights of all persons.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, “Oh, Hillary, here you go again.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni at the London Conference on Somalia

Hillary Clinton Releases 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks on the Release of the 2009 Annual Report on Human Rights

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks Upon Releasing The 2010 Human Rights Report

Secretary Clinton Releases 2011 Human Rights Report

 Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Clinton Grants Benefits to Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service Personnel

Hillary Clinton’s Remarks at the State Department LBGT Pride Celebration

… think about what’s happening to people as we speak today. Men and women are harassed, beaten, subjected to sexual violence, even killed, because of who they are and whom they love. Some are driven from their homes or countries, and many who become refugees confront new threats in their countries of asylum. In some places, violence against the LGBT community is permitted by law and inflamed by public calls to violence; in others, it persists insidiously behind closed doors.

These dangers are not “gay” issues. This is a human rights issue. (Applause.) Just as I was very proud to say the obvious more than 15 years ago in Beijing that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, well, let me say today that human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights, once and for all.

Hillary Clinton to LGBT Youth: Tomorrow Will Be Better

Secretary Clinton’s Human Rights Day Speech

Today, I want to talk about the work we have left to do to protect one group of people whose human rights are still denied in too many parts of the world today. In many ways, they are an invisible minority. They are arrested, beaten, terrorized, even executed. Many are treated with contempt and violence by their fellow citizens while authorities empowered to protect them look the other way or, too often, even join in the abuse. They are denied opportunities to work and learn, driven from their homes and countries, and forced to suppress or deny who they are to protect themselves from harm.

I am talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, human beings born free and given bestowed equality and dignity, who have a right to claim that, which is now one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time.

CGI 2013 Day Two: Women Decision Makers

09-25-13-Z-07

Hillary Clinton Outlines “No Ceilings” Initiative at Pennsylvania Conference for Women

Hillary ends the chapter and her book with reflections about her mother, Dorothy Howell Rodham, who passed away in late 2011.  My heart broke for Hillary when her mother died.  I sat down and wrote a condolence note.  I wrote what was in my heart about her mom and  her loss.  I did not even keep a draft or a copy.  Several weeks later, quite to my astonishment,  I received a lovely thank you note from her.

Hillary Clinton: A Daughter’s Duty

Thing is, the business is never finished.  There is always more to do!

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Hillary Clinton’s ‘Hard Choices’ Retrospective: Introduction

Access other chapters of this retrospective here >>>>

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Ban pledges UN commitment to advancing gender equality, women’s empowerment

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second right) with from left: Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

4 February 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today pledged to root for women everywhere ahead of his departure for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, while stressing the need for the United Nations and its partners to lay the groundwork to enable all women to enjoy their rights and be empowered.

“We are at a key moment,” Mr. Ban said at a photo-op with former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), ahead of their meeting at UN Headquarters.

He noted that 2015 will be crucial for the future of development and the future of women’s rights. Next year marks the target date for the achievement of the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals, which contain specific benchmarks for gender equality.

Read more and see video >>>>

pledges commitment to advancing gender equality, women’s empowerment

02-04-14-UN-01

 

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The way this came through, the speaker is unidentified, but there is no mistaking whose voice this is.

Presidential Memorandum on Promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women and Girls Globally

Press Statement

Washington, DC
January 31, 2013

The Obama Administration has made it clear that advancing the rights of women and girls is critical to the foreign policy of the United States. This is a matter of national security as much as it is an issue of morality or fairness. President Obama’s National Security Strategy explicitly recognizes that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”

That’s why I’m so pleased about the Presidential Memorandum that President Obama signed yesterday, which institutionalizes an elevated focus on global women’s issues at the State Department and USAID and ensures coordination on these issues across the federal government. And it is so important that incoming Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his support for the continued elevation of these issues in our foreign policy.

As I have said many times, protecting and advancing the rights of women are critical to solving virtually every challenge we face as individual nations and as a community of nations. We have made great progress, but there is more to do. This is the unfinished business of the 21st Century, and it is essential that it remains central to our foreign policy for years to come.

01-31-13-Z-06

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Remarks at the Rarotonga Dialogue on Gender Equality

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Rarotonga, Cook Islands
August 31, 2012

(In progress) Ambassador Frank (inaudible) and 30 years of service and commitment on behalf of the United States here and elsewhere throughout the world. And I wanted to thank all of you for gathering here – some of you I have met before, others this is my first time. But to all of you, it’s a great pleasure to be here in the beautiful Cook Islands with leaders from government, civil society, and multilateral organizations, all committed to improving the status of women in the Pacific.

I particularly want to thank the Government of Australia and (inaudible), and New Zealand – thank you Amanda for your support – and the other Pacific Island countries, as well as the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific community, UN agencies, and the World Bank, for all of your leadership in promoting gender equality. I also want to recognize Australian Ambassador-at-Large Williams, New Zealand AID program director who I just mentioned Amanda Ellis, Deputy Secretary General Troy and Minister Toni from Papua New Guinea.

But most of all, I want to thank all of the Pacific women who are here and all whom you represent because we could not put millions of women into this small space, but you are here on their behalf. And I’m delighted that you could be with us because it is my firm belief that women in the Pacific Islands constitute a great reservoir of untapped talent and ability.

Now every country can do better on this front, including my own – there is no doubt about that – but progress for gender equality in the Pacific has not kept pace with the rest of the world. And we have to recognize that. But we also are here to do something about it. Look at the numbers: Research from the World Bank and local organizations shows that the Pacific has the world’s lowest rate of women participating in legislative bodies or holding executive roles in the world – less than 2 percent. There are only seven countries in the world that have no women in their parliament, but four of them are located here in the Pacific. Up to 60 percent of women in the Pacific report being the victim of gender-based violence or sexual abuse. Maternal health statistics are also poor, and women face greater barriers to starting businesses and participating in the economy.

Now these facts illustrate a problem that doesn’t just hurt women and girls; it hurts everybody. It holds back entire societies. Because when women are unequal participants, economic growth is undermined. Development is stymied. Communities and countries are robbed of the contributions that women could make.

But the good news is that there are also impassioned leaders in this region, including those around this table, pushing for change. And role models like Adi Chakudaee, who co-founded an organization called Women Business Development, and that was to help their women in Samoa how to unleash their economic power. So supporting and promoting gender equality is a core part of the United States commitment to the Pacific.

On my visit to the region in 2010, we helped launch the Pacific Women’s Empowerment Initiative with Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the World Bank. That has spawned a series of meetings addressing women’s political participation, economic opportunity, health care, and gender-based violence. I’m happy to announce that the United States will contribute $200,000 this year in voluntary funding to the UN Women’s Trust Fund to end violence against women. We’re also committed to developing a new network of women leaders in the Pacific that we are calling the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women. Together with the East-West Center based in Hawaii and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, we will work with academic institutions and private partners across the Pacific to help build the capacity of women leaders and strengthen the leadership training. I want to thank Charles Morrison and everyone at the East-West Center for helping to make this possible.

Our pledge to promote gender equality across the Pacific, extends far beyond this meeting, so today what I’m hoping we can do is to share ideas and identify areas that need more attention because this is something that we feel very strongly about as all of you do.

So with that, let me thank you for joining us today, and I look forward to hearing the ideas and the opportunities that you can share with all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


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Classic HRC with many quotable quotes!  These are not “soft” issues!

Remarks to the Lower Mekong Initiative Womens’ Gender Equality and Empowerment Dialogue

Remarks

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Sofitel Hotel
Siem Reap, Cambodia
July 13, 2012

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Minister Phavi, for that introduction and also for describing the results of what has been, by all reports, an excellent meeting. And I thank all the heads of delegations who are here and all of the attendees. I want to welcome all our partners from the Lower Mekong nation and from the Friends of the Lower Mekong. And I want to commend the Government of Cambodia for its leadership in the Lower Mekong Initiative and for co-hosting this conference.

We launched this organization three years ago to expand cooperation on issues that affect the daily lives of people across the region. And I’m getting some feedback. I’m hearing the Cambodian translation at the same time. (Laughter.) I wish I spoke Cambodian, but I don’t. So I was having a little trouble, but thank you for that.

We launched this organization three years ago to expand cooperation on issues that affect the daily lives of the people across the region, from protecting the environment to managing water resources to improving infrastructure, education, and public health. And now with the inclusion of the government in Nay Pyi Taw we are poised to make even greater progress together.
Yesterday in Phnom Penh, I announced that the United States is easing sanctions to allow American businesses to invest there. And today I am pleased to add that we are also launching a new partnership with the nonprofit Abbott Fund to invest one million dollars in the health and education for women and girls.

I am delighted that the Lower Mekong Initiative is now also focusing on the rights and opportunities of women. At the ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh this morning, we adopted a joint statement by all of the countries represented that will integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment through the LMI agenda. I like what the Minister said about how we came together to care to share and dare to dream, and I think that’s a very good description of what you have been doing here.

As Secretary of State, I make these issues about women and girls a priority everywhere I go. Because when women have the chance to participate in the economic and political lives of their communities, not only do their lives improve, but the lives of their families do as well. Commerce flourishes, instability declines, and you see a general uplifting of societies and nations. And I have met women all over this region who are living this truth every day – educators in Hanoi, entrepreneurs in Bangkok, democracy activists in Yangon, garment workers here in Siem Reap, women like all of you who are working hard for progress throughout the Mekong region.

Unfortunately, as you know so well, outdated legal and social barriers continue to limit women’s participation in business and politics. According to the World Bank, more than 100 countries have laws that restrict women’s economic activity, whether it is opening a bank account on their own, signing a contract, owning land, or pursuing the profession of their choice. And millions of women here in Southeast Asia are trapped in the informal economy, laboring in fields and factories for very low wages with very few protections. And of course, some have it even worse – victims of forced labor, forced prostitution, or other forms of modern day slavery.

Now, too often, discussions of these issues are on the margins of international debate. We have separate parallel conversations about women’s rights, about alleviating poverty, and then we have another conversation about international economics. But I once asked an economist in Africa, after spending the day traveling through an African country seeing women working in the fields, women working in the markets, women fetching fuel, women carrying water, women tending children – I asked, “Don’t you think it’s time we count women contributions to the economy in some way.” And he responded, “No, what they do is not part of the economy.” And I said, “Well, if every woman working in the field, in the markets, in the homes were to stop working for a week, I think every economist would learn they are definitely part of the economy.” (Applause.)

All these issues are related, and we need to start thinking about them in an integrated way, because in the end, what is an economy for? An economy is a means to an end. It is not an end in itself. An economy is to enable people to make more out of their own lives as well as to make a living. And therefore, the best economic systems are ones which give the most opportunity to the greatest number of people. And what we have to do in the 21st century is to take a hard look about what we can do, not just in Southeast Asia but around the world, to make sure that economies are working for people and not just people at the top, but people throughout society. Because, after all, most people don’t live at the highest, elite level of any society. That’s a very small group. And if the results of people’s hard work in any society is not spread across all the people but instead goes up to the top, you will not see the kind of progress that is possible.

So as I traveled across Asia this week – from Japan to Mongolia, to Vietnam, to Laos, and now Cambodia – I’ve been talking about the mutually reinforcing role that economics and human rights play in not only your lives, but in America’s engagement in the region – what is sometimes called our pivot to Asia. Labor issues promoting workers rights, improving labor conditions, supporting women’s economic participation, protecting people from modern day slavery is all part about how you build prosperous, peaceful societies.

And so today, I want to focus on the rights of workers here in Southeast Asia and in our modern global economy. It’s important that we understand fair labor standards for men and women can spur economic growth and widen the circle of prosperity. And governments, businesses, and workers all have a responsibility to make that happen.

So let’s begin with rights. The international community and international law recognize that workers everywhere, regardless of income or status, are entitled to certain universal rights, including the right to form and join a union and to bargain collectively. Child labor, forced labor, discrimination based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, or other factors, should be universally prohibited.

So defending these labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment, but it’s also a very important value. Now back in 1999, my husband was president of the United States and the entire world was fiercely debating what we should be doing to deal with what is called globalization. Well, my husband gave speeches at both the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization. And he delivered the same message to each audience: To deny the importance of core labor issues in a global economy is to deny the dignity of work. The belief that honest labor fairly compensated gives meaning and structure to our lives.

Well, that was true then; it was true when I was a little girl and I watched my mother working in our home, and I watched my father working in his small business; and it is true today. Standing up for workers’ rights and high labor standards is both right and moral, but it is also smart and strategic. Just look at the progress that has taken place here in Cambodia.

In the late 1990s, this country was emerging out of years of war and economic ruin. Nearly 80 percent of Cambodians made a very meager living by subsistence farming. And the new government was looking for ways to boost growth and connect to the global economy. In the United States, my husband’s administration was convinced that trade incentives could be used to strengthen workers’ rights around the world. The result was an agreement – an agreement between the United States and Cambodia that opened American markets to Cambodian textiles in return for tough new monitoring programs in local garment factories. Now that agreement wasn’t perfect – no agreement ever is – and there are certainly, as I have heard, problems in garment factories across the country. But compare where Cambodia was in 1999 and where it is today. Working conditions have improved. Wages have risen. It has become easier to form a union, and instead of scaring off investors, the fact of these reforms actually attracted them.

Multinational clothing companies saw a chance to clean up their supply chains and improve their reputation. So they started buying more and more Cambodian products, and exports soared. Where there was once just a handful of state-owned textile and apparel factories employing only a few thousand people, within 10 years there were hundreds of new factories providing jobs for more than 350,000 Cambodians – mostly young women, who migrated from poor rural communities to earn wages far above the average of what otherwise would have been available to them.

Research conducted by the International Labor Organization and other institutions tell us that this is not an isolated example. Respecting workers’ rights leads to positive, long-term economic outcomes, including higher levels of foreign direct investment. And bringing workers, especially women, into the formal economy has ripple effects: Inequality declines while mobility increases, taxes are paid, countries and communities are stronger and better able to meet the rising expectations of their people.

Now the flip side of that is also true. Denying workers their universal rights costs society dearly in lost productivity, innovation, and growth, as well as undermining the rule of law and creating instability. So we should pay attention to these findings.

I do hope that decision makers around the world, including in my own country, actually look at evidence, because evidence matters. Whether you’re a scientist looking at research or a government official looking at analysis, look at the evidence. Here in Southeast Asia, economies have grown rapidly by attracting foreign investors looking for low-cost labor and material and by exporting affordable goods to more developed markets. But this export-driven model can only take a country and a region so far.

In the wake of the global financial crisis and worldwide recession, Asian countries can no longer count on endless demands from Europe and the United States. And by the same token, American manufacturers may be looking for new customers in new markets, especially in Asia. That’s why developed nations, like the United States, will need to build more at home and sell more abroad. And developing countries, in Asia and elsewhere, will need to grow a larger middle class that will fuel demand for both domestic and imported goods and services. Henry Ford, back at the beginning of the 20th century, when he started building cars in Detroit, Michigan back in the United States, paid his workers the unheard salary of $5 a day. And all of the other employers came to him and they complained that he was paying his workers too much and that would raise the wages of all the other workers in all the other businesses. And Henry Ford said, “If I don’t pay my workers, who will buy the cars that I am making?”

So if you begin to pay your workers more, they then buy more goods, which actually helps more businesses. And that is the next phase of growth in Asia, as well as the future of the global economy. We should not be in a race to the bottom. We should be in a race to see how we raise income, raise standards of living, and raise the sharing of prosperity. So for this to happen, we will have to make sure that women have the opportunity to move from the informal economy to the formal economy with employment. We will have to make sure that migrant workers are respected and protected, that people in modern-day slavery are free and rehabilitated. In effect, how do we transform the workforce to create more opportunities?

Well to begin with, governments will have to modernize labor laws to respect workers’ rights and ensure that men and women have fair, safe working conditions and can earn a living wage. And governments will have to get serious about enforcement, cracking down on unscrupulous recruiters, criminal traffickers, and abusive employers.

Now, strengthening the rule of law will not just protect workers, it will also attract investors and make it easier for everyone to do business. And multinational corporations, like those in America, will have to insist that every link in their supply chain meets international labor standards. Now, of course, I know there’s a price tag that comes with that. But it is an investment, and it’s an investment that will pay dividends, because it can be very attractive to consumers in my country, in Europe, and elsewhere to know that the goods they buy are being produced in conditions that really help people improve their own lives. And then, of course, workers will have to keep pushing for their own rights, organizing and advocating.

Now, it took decades of struggle for workers in America to form unions strong enough to protect their rights and secure changes like the eight-hour day and the minimum wage, but it helped to create the great American middle class. And we are now adjusting our economy to the new challenges, but we certainly were advantaged by all of the changes over the last one hundred years.

I think the nations of Southeast Asia are at the beginning of your own journey. I know that there are still many problems and a lot of poverty. And I have been now in every country in the region, and I know there’s a (inaudible). There are still too many people who are terribly poor, too many children who don’t get the healthcare and the education they need, too many government officials that are not really serving the people. But there is good news as well.

And I want to commend the Government of Cambodia for their draft new trade law that could be a model for the region. It would extend rights and protection to domestic workers. It would allow people to join unions. And if this law is passed and enforced, it will set a very strong standard for the rest of the region.

Similarly in Vietnam, where I was a few days ago, there is still – there is also encouragement despite continuing problems. At the start of the year, a new anti-trafficking law came into effect. After reports of abuses on coffee plantations in Lam Dong Province, officials called for greater inspections and stricter punishment for illegal labor brokers. And Vietnam is working with the International Labor Organization to improve conditions in garment factories.

And the prospects for progress are even more dramatic in Burma, which for many years was one of the most repressive and closed societies in the world. I saw with great interest reports of the government in Nay Pyi Taw rolling back the restrictive and exploitative labor rules. Workers are beginning to organize, although they still face penalties for joining unregistered unions. There will be a lot of challenges, but I hope that we see continuing progress there.

Now, for our part, the United States is putting in place protections to ensure that the increased investment we would like to see advances the reform process. Because after all, what we want to do is make workers rights, rising wages, fair working conditions the norm everywhere. And we will be working with all of the countries represented here.

We’ve also made workers rights a centerpiece of a new far-reaching trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We are working with Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and others in these negotiations.

We are also throughout Southeast Asia supporting training and workshops on international labor standards for union organizers, employers and government officials. We’re sponsoring exchanges so labor academics can learn from each other, and we’re helping police and prosecutors go after trafficking and other abuses.

We’re working with ASEAN to deal with the migrant worker problem. We have so many people across borders looking for better opportunities and are often exploited and abused. Now, after visa requirements among ASEAN countries becomes easier, then we need a framework on the rights of migrant workers by 2015.

We’re also working with labor ministries, and we’ve signed agreements with Vietnam and China that provide exchanges and technical assistance on a range of labor issues, from mine safety to social security.

America is a Pacific nation, and our futures and our fortunes are bound up with each other. So we want to work with all of you, and particularly on behalf of women and workers, because we think that holds the key. The World Bank has done some excellent research showing that if the barriers to women’s participation in the formal economy were eliminated, growth rates in every country would rise, and some would rise dramatically.

So when I talk to government officials who I can tell are not really interested in women, which I do from time to time – not women officials but the other kind, as you know – (laughter) – and I make the case that women’s rights should be protected and women’s opportunities should be advanced, sometimes I see their eyes glaze over. (Laughter.) And they say to themselves, I’m thinking as I look at them, well, she says that all the time. She goes around in the world talking about women’s rights, and that’s fine and I’ll listen to her, but I’m not really that interested.

But when I say if you will change your laws so women can open up bank accounts or women can have access to credit, so women can start new businesses as easily as men, so that women can have fair wages when they move into the formal economy, your GDP will rise, all of a sudden I see them waking up. (Laughter.) Because it’s true that I have spent many years of my life talking about how important it is that women be given the same rights as men and the same dignity so that they can fulfill their own God-given potential.

But the argument I’m making today and I’m making around the world is that you are losing out if you do not empower women as economic beings. Because I’ll go back to the experience I had in Africa. Now, I don’t think the economist I was talking to was prejudiced against women. I just don’t think he thought of all the things women do without being paid, that all of us do, have done, and continue to do to keep families and communities and societies and economies going.

And so therefore any country that wants to maximize their economic growth in a sustainable, inclusive way will be leaving money on the table if they don’t include women and do everything they can to show respect for what women can do for themselves as well as their countries.

So this is an exciting time to be a woman in Southeast Asia, because if we work over the next years to realize the potential that this conference demonstrated with all of the excellent recommendations that the ministers have told us about, then we will see Asia grow even faster and more successfully, and most importantly we will see more girls and boys having the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.

Because after all, I think as a mother, what we want for each of our children and what we should want for every child is that chance to be all he or she can be. Because talent is universal, but opportunity is not. So for every child who is not educated, we may be losing a scientist who would solve multi drug-resistant malaria. We may be losing a great activist. We may be losing a great academic. Who knows? But one way for sure to maximize the chance of every society to do even better is to be sure we give women the chance to compete and to demonstrate what they can contribute to us all.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

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