Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified last week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Secretary Clinton spoke about the President's FY 2012 Budget for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which furthers U.S. national security, advances America's economic interests, protects Americans at home and abroad, and elevates America's global leadership. Speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Secretary Clinton said, "Just two years after President Obama and I first asked you to renew our investment in development and diplomacy, we are already seeing tangible returns for our national security."
She continued, "...In Iraq, almost 100,000 troops have come home, and civilians are poised to keep the peace. In Afghanistan, integrated military and civilian surges have helped set the stage for our diplomatic surge to support Afghan-led reconciliation that can end the conflict and put al-Qaida on the run. We have imposed the toughest ever sanctions to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions. We have reengaged as a leader in the Pacific and in our own hemisphere. We have signed trade deals to promote American jobs and nuclear weapons treaties to protect our people. We have worked with Northern and Southern Sudanese to achieve a peaceful referendum and prevent a return to civil war. We are working to open up political systems, economies, and societies at a remarkable moment in the history of the Middle East, and to support peaceful, orderly, irreversible democratic transitions in Egypt and Tunisia. Our progress is significant, but our work is far from over. These missions are vital to our national security, and I believe with all my heart now would be the wrong time to pull back."
On Monday, February 28, addressing the UN Human Rights Council, Secretary Clinton said, "Today the world's eyes are fixed on Libya. We have seen Colonel Qadhafi's security forces open fire on peaceful protestors again and again. They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators. There are reports of soldiers executed for refusing to turn their guns on their fellow citizens, of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture. Colonel Qadhafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency. Through their actions, they have lost the legitimacy to govern. And the people of Libya have made themselves clear: It is time for Qadhafi to go -- now, without further violence or delay.”
The following day, March 1, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously agreed to suspend Libya's membership from the UN Human Rights Council. The United States applauded this decision and joined international efforts to provide critical humanitarian aid to people fleeing the crisis in Libya.
Last week, U.S. officials also underscored America's commitment to work with the international community to create a more food-secure world, especially given the rise in food prices over the past several months. As Secretary Clinton told Congress, "These challenges not only threaten the security of individuals, and increasingly in our world, individuals here at home, but they are the seeds of future conflict. If we want to lighten the burden on future generations, we have to make the investments that will make our world more secure."
In Haiti, USAID is working to advance food security by investing in projects that increase farmer productivity and reduce Haiti's environmental, infrastructural, and economic vulnerability. U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince Political Counselor Peter Kujawinski reminded us that good governance and rule of law underpin successful development efforts and told us how the United States is supporting these two critical areas in helping Haiti build back better.
Young people in Nigeria are looking at issues of good governance and democracy as they prepare for their country's elections in April. More than 150 young Nigerians met last week with Under Secretary Maria Otero and told her how they are taking action to promote free and fair elections, volunteering to register voters, and participating in voter education projects. Meanwhile, university students in Afghanistan are examining rule of law issues as they prepare for the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition, a contest that will be held in the United States in late March and will draw teams from 80 countries.
Students in Sri Lanka can now visit a new American Corner in Jaffna and learn about opportunities to study in the United States. Anyone who has participated in the Fulbright Program, America's flagship international educational exchange program, can stay connected through an official LinkedIn group.
The United States and China are expanding exchanges between U.S. state governors and Chinese provincial party secretaries and governors, with the first visit by a Chinese provincial leader taking place last week under a memorandum of understanding signed by Secretary Clinton and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in January concerning the establishment of a U.S.-China Governors Forum.
U.S. business owners are also building relationships with counterparts in Asia. Through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2011 Roadshow program, Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs Lorraine Hariton spoke with American small and medium-size enterprises about pursuing export opportunities and overcoming challenges in doing business abroad. Assistant Secretary Robert Blake traveled to Tashkent, where he led a delegation to participate in the first U.S.-Uzbekistan Business Forum.
In Washington, President Barack Obama met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, and Secretary Clinton met with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski. President Obama and Secretary Clinton also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps. American diplomats and former Peace Corps volunteers joined this year-long celebration at locations across the globe, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As we look at the week ahead, the State Department's Office of the Historian will launch its inaugural special conference series on the Foreign Relations of the United States series, and people around the world will recognize the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day on March 8. We hope you join us for live webcasts this week as Secretary Clinton launches "100 Women Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through International Exchanges" at 1:45 p.m. (EST) on Monday, March 7 and hosts the 2011 International Women of Courage Awards Ceremony with special guest First Lady Michelle Obama at 11:00 a.m. (EST) on Tuesday, March 8.