This week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the International Conference on Libya in London, following President Obama's address to the nation on Libya. After the conference, Secretary Clinton said: "We came to London to speak with one voice in support of a transition that leads to a brighter future for the Libyan people. I'm very pleased with the progress that we have made both today and in the days preceding it, and grateful for everyone who participated in the conference and in the broader effort in Libya. I think we are making a lot of progress together, and we could not do it unless we were representing the international community as we are."
Deputy Secretary Steinberg was on Capitol Hill this week, testifying on "Libya: Defining U.S. National Security Interests" to underline the comments by President Obama and Secretary Clinton and "to continue the valuable and important exchange between the Administration and the Congress that has been ongoing since shortly after Colonel Qadhafi's regime began to resort to violence against its own people."
Throughout the week, we continued our unwavering commitment to Japan. Assistant Secretary Campbell provided an overview of U.S. engagement in Asia saying, "Japan is the cornerstone of our strategic engagement in East Asia, and we are committed to standing side-by-side with our ally in its time of need."
Consular Officer Alan Clark on temporary duty assignment in Tokyo, Japan, wrote, “We have learned that one of the most effective tools for locating people in 2011 is social networking media. …using Google's amazing software, many families have used this tool to locate missing loved ones and put their minds at ease. …Another incredibly useful tool has been Facebook, which I personally have used to close the cases of four people who were in the most heavily damaged part of Japan. …Our Ambassador to Japan John Roos has also been using Twitter as an effective means of distributing information to Americans in Japan. One of the lessons I have taken away from this experience is the power of social networking media to keep people connected during the most trying times.”
Foreign Service Liaison Officer Tom Weinz writes about the Pacific Partnership 2011, “…there are many former participants in Pacific Partnership who are now in Japan … our annual mission remains consistent: to learn, train, and cooperate with our friends and allies in the South Pacific to minimize loss of life when tragedy strikes.”
On Wednesday, Secretary Clinton and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood co-hosted a celebration of our Open Skies initiative, commemorating a milestone of Open Skies agreements negotiated with over 100 partners.
Earlier in the week, the United States announced its intention to pursue a second term on the Human Rights Council. U.S. engagement at the Council has led to a number of new mechanisms to spotlight and address serious human rights concerns and focused international attention to some of the world's most egregious human rights abusers. Key accomplishments of the past two years include: deepening engagement in country situations, initiating concrete action to drive human rights priorities, and defending core principles.
Issues regarding women and girls continued to be at the forefront of U.S. diplomacy and development efforts around the world this week. Secretary Clinton commented on the U.S. Senate resolution calling for a focus on women's rights in the Middle East and North Africa, saying, "I thank Senator Snowe and all the women Senators for shining a spotlight on the critical role women continue to play in the dramatic events sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. I fully agree that women must be included in every aspect of political and institutional reform, because we know that no government can succeed if half its population is excluded from the process.”
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer reflected on the remarkable courage and determination of women journalists, writing, "So many women journalists have shown us how difficult and often dangerous it can be to speak up, but they also have shown us how important it is. …I thank all journalists around the globe for their commitment to making sure that women's stories--all women's stories--are heard." Ambassador Verveer also announced a partnership to promote women's entrepreneurship in Pakistan. Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Liz Drew wrote about celebrating women's leadership in Southern Sudan.
Continuing the focus on protecting women and children through ending modern slavery, Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Ambassador Luis CdeBaca wrote, “...the responsibility to fight modern slavery is not limited to elected officials or law enforcement. …Traffickers will only retreat when we hold ourselves to the highest standards at home, in the workplace, and with our friends. We are all on the front lines in the fight against modern slavery.”
The U.S. government is focused on the protection of youth, but also in engaging with young people as it makes policy. “At the State Department, Secretary Clinton has launched an unprecedented youth policy taskforce to review our approach to youth issues and amplify programs focused on young people,” wrote Ronan Farrow, Special Advisor for Humanitarian and NGO Issues for Afghanistan and Pakistan and member of the State Department Youth Policy Taskforce.
The State Department engages with young people and fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through a range of programs, including embassy events and exchange programs. An example of this includes the U.S. Embassy in Kabul sponsoring a series of events celebrating Black History Month culminating in the Afghan Great Debaters.
Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock wrote about the visit this week of Russian delegation of 18 youth hockey players and their coaches in the first-ever ice hockey exchange in Washington, DC. Assistant Secretary Stock also recently met with 20 Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES) and English Access Microscholarship Program participants and alumni, writing, "I just returned from an unforgettable visit to Kuwait and Iraq, where I witnessed firsthand how State Department exchange programs can change lives."
Peace Corps volunteers change lives, too, and this week Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, thanked the thousands of Peace Corps volunteers who have responded to the HIV/AIDS crisis. Ambassador Goosby also provided an update on PEPFAR in Côte d'Ivoire.
Also on Côte d'Ivoire, Assistant Secretary Carson briefed on the situation there saying, “This week has seen some of the most intense fighting in Côte d'Ivoire since the political crisis began in late November. The United States calls on all parties to exercise restraint and to make the protection of civilians their highest priority. The people of the Côte d'Ivoire have already paid a very high price for democracy. We call upon both sides to ensure that civilians do not pay an even higher price in the future.”
Secretary Clinton said, "We are deeply concerned by the dangerous and deteriorating situation in Côte d'Ivoire, including recent reports of gross human rights abuses and potential massacres in the west. The United States calls on former President Laurent Gbagbo to step down immediately."
Also pertaining to Africa, Secretary Clinton introduced Ambassador Princeton N. Lyman as the new U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan at the Department of State. In her remarks, Secretary Clinton said, "Ambassador Lyman is taking over the helm of our important work as the special envoy to Sudan from another very dedicated public servant, Scott Gration. …This is a critical moment in Sudan's history. Two months ago, in a peaceful display of democratic values, the people of Southern Sudan expressed their clear unequivocal choice. They want to live in a free, independent country, and now we look forward to a peaceful separation of these two states in July. …we understand the peaceful separation of these two states will be difficult, but we believe there is a clear path to a stronger, more stable, and peaceful future. I know that Princeton is really so committed to this, ready to go. He has the confidence of both President Obama and myself, he's got a great team that will be backing him up and working with him, and we just want to thank you for taking on yet another challenge that is important not only to the people of Sudan, but to the United States as well."
On Friday, Ambassador Lyman met with President Obama and wrote about the sustained commitment of the U.S. in Sudan: "President Obama and I met to discuss the way ahead on North-South issues and also Darfur. The President made clear that we have his full support and confidence, and reaffirmed his commitment to fully implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and to reaching a definitive end to conflict and human rights abuses in Darfur. I am grateful for his leadership and for the sustained commitment that he and Secretary Clinton have demonstrated throughout the course of our intensified diplomatic and development engagement in Sudan. I promised to keep him fully informed on our work in both Washington and the field."
In other news, Ambassador Grossman discussed "Bridging the Trust Deficit with Pakistan" and the significance of demonstrating a long-term commitment to our relationship with that country. Rob Lalka coordinates faith-based partnership efforts for the Secretary of State's Global Partnership Initiative and wrote about engaging faith-based communities on foreign policy objectives. Rudy Rodriguez, an adjudication manager at the Miami Passport Agency, highlighted the Bureau of Consular Affairs and their consular services in Florida. American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow Alex Kahl recapped last week's World Water Day celebration.
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