About the Author: Luke Forgerson serves as DipNote's Managing Editor.
The week began with the start of the historic Southern Sudan referendum. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson told the press, "...We are pleased with the high level of turnout and the cooperation of officials in both North and South Sudan. The process has been peaceful with only a handful of reported disturbance... Officials from the North and South should be commended for their collaboration and handling of this monumental, challenging and historical task."
The White House's official videographer Arun Chaudhary took us behind the scenes at polling stations in dispatches from Juba to Khartoum. U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Sudan Director Bill Hammink provided an eyewitness account of southern Sudanese at the polls and underscored U.S. commitment to the referendum process and the southern Sudanese people. We saw two examples of that commitment: the United States working with southern Sudanese officials to support criminal justice and police training and to increase access to education, especially among girls.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke today with Tunisian Foreign Minister Kamel Morjane, to express support for the people of Tunisia as they and their government go through a period of significant transition. In an earlier statement, Secretary Clinton said, "On my trip to the Middle East this week, I heard people everywhere yearning for economic opportunity, political participation and the change to build a better future. Young people especially need to have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives. Addressing these concerns will be challenging, but the United States stands ready to help."
Secretary Clinton's travel to the region last week took her to the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman and Qatar. The Secretary visited the Masdar Institute in the UAE and addressed civil society in Oman. In Qatar, she met with Prime Minister Al Thani and spoke at the seventh Forum for the Future, where she said, "...So, to my friends, the leaders of these countries, I would say: You can help build a future that your young people will believe in, stay for, and defend. Some of you are already demonstrating that. But for others it will take new visions, news strategies and new commitments. It is time to see civil society not as a threat, but as a partner."
In Afghanistan, we saw a public-private partnership open a new, modernized processing facility to support Afghanistan's leading export, carpets, and we read about Ambassador Eikenberry's visit to Mes Aynak, one of the largest Buddhist archaeological sites in the country. In Pakistan, the United States announced funding for reconstruction of the Peshawar Southern By-Pass Ring Road, an important provincial thoroughfare. U.S. officials also distributed wheat seeds to flood-affected farmers as part of USAID's continued partnership with the government of Pakistan to help revitalize agricultural resources and restore economic activity after last summer's devastating floods.
Last week, the international community marked one year since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti. Ambassador Kenneth Merten told us "progress in Haiti is slow, but real." Under Secretary Marie Otero shared about progress to bring mobile money services to Haiti through a partnership between USAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Ambassador Luis Cdebaca found inspiration in the work of anti-trafficking organizations and the spirit of trafficking survivors in Haiti, while Shamim Kazemi found hope in the determination of the Haitian people. Haiti Special Coordinator Thomas C. Adams answered your questions during a live webcast with InterAction President and CEO Sam Worthington and reaffirmed U.S. commitment to the people of Haiti, a commitment that includes long-term recovery and development planning.
Ambassador Eric Goosby explained how the U.S. government was able to respond so quickly to the earthquake that struck Haiti in part because of the existing health infrastructure to address Haiti's HIV/AIDS epidemic. Last week, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) convened the inaugural meeting of the PEPFAR Scientific Advisory Board, a forum to provide PEPFAAR with the latest developments in HIV science and research and to help build on success to date in the fight against global AIDS.
For the past several years, the State Department has been engaged in efforts to integrate the evaluation of programs as an integral part of our work. To that end, our colleagues in the Bureau of Resource Management put forth a call for presentation proposals that address effective evaluation methods in diplomacy, development, defense, or building evaluation capacity. Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization applied lessons from U.S. Embassy Dhaka's whole-of-government approach to planning and programs as they advance civilian capacity.
Building civilian capacity remains important to our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a mission undertaken by Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke before his passing late last year. Secretary Clinton described his work on water, energy, agriculture, and trade in the region as "paying off in significant improvements to people's lives." The Secretary was among those who gathered January 14 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC to attend a memorial service honoring Ambassador Holbrooke.
"There are few people in any time, but certainly in our time, who can say, I stopped a war. I made peace. I saved lives. I helped countries heal. Richard Holbrooke did these things. He believed that great men and women could change history. And he did," Secretary Clinton said.
Setting the stage for the upcoming state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao on January 19, 2011, the Secretary also spoke on U.S.-China relations. Her remarks inaugurated the Richard C. Holbrooke Annual Lecture series, a tribute to the memory and accomplishments of one of our nation's finest diplomats. The annual lecture will provide a forum to discuss challenging and important foreign policy issues like those Ambassador Holbrooke grappled with and left an indelible mark upon throughout his distinguished career.
Tomorrow, Americans will commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the 25th anniversary of this federal holiday. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service. For those in the United States, you can visit mlkday.gov to learn how to become involved in service projects in your community. In the days ahead, we will share with you how several of our embassies observe this holiday.
Today, the United States celebrated Religious Freedom Day. The State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom promotes religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy and supports efforts around the world, including in Guyana and South Korea.
Here at DipNote, we concluded our year-end entries, with offerings from Ambassador Melanne Verveer on strengthening gains for women and girls and Special Representative Kris Balderston on championing partnerships with civil society and the private sector. We also said farewell to our colleague Ruth Bennett, who left our office to prepare for her upcoming assignment in Germany. Before her departure, Ruth shared with us a list of some of her favorite blog entries in 2010. We encourage you to tell us the entries you found most memorable last year and ask you to let us know what topics you'd like to see more of in 2011.