About the Author: Luke Forgerson serves as DipNote's Managing Editor.
Last week, Americans watched as events unfolded in Egypt. President Barack Obama said, "...We've borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States."
President Obama underscored that U.S. officials have been in close contact with their Egyptian counterparts, as well as a broad range of the Egyptian people and other leaders in the region. President Obama said, "...I have had two conversations with President Mubarak since this crisis in Egypt began, and each time I've emphasized the fact that the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians. It is not us who will determine that future. But I have also said that in light of what's happened over the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work. Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attacks on peaceful protestors and journalists in Egypt, and spoke with both Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. In an interview with NPR, the Secretary said, "...I want to stress our basic point, that we have set forth our expectations: no violence; peaceful protest; orderly transition; process that is transparent, expeditious, leading to free and fair elections. And yet we know that, ultimately, these decisions lie in the hands of the people of Egypt, themselves."
Secretary Clinton also spoke more broadly about recent events in the Middle East and implications for the region. She said, "...The status quo is simply not sustainable. So, for all our friends, for all the friends in the region, including governments and people, the challenge is to help our partners take systematic steps to usher in a better future, where people's voices are heard, their rights respected, and their aspirations met..."
The situation in Egypt reminds us of the importance of civilian leadership in America's engagement with a fast-changing world. Last week, Secretary Clinton convened the first-ever, all-hands-on-deck U.S. ambassadorial conference in Washington, DC. Admiral Mike Mullen and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined the Secretary to speak on civilian efforts in national security and to address the role of U.S. ambassadors in carrying out the goals of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).
U.S. civilian leadership played a crucial role in helping U.S. citizens during recent events in Egypt. Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs explained that the State Department and U.S. Embassy Cairo were working around-the-clock to ensure the safety of Americans. U.S. government-chartered flights began carrying U.S. citizens out of Egypt to safe havens in Europe on January 31, 2010. By February 1, more than 3,000 U.S. citizens had communicated a desire to be evacuated, and by February 2, more than 1,900 U.S. citizens had been evacuated. Spokesperson for Near East Affairs Erin Pelton shared with us photographs of American consular officers assisting U.S. citizens in Egypt, and U.S. Consular Officer Paul Mayer gave us his on-the-ground perspective of the evacuation efforts.
On the ground in Sudan, White House videographer Arun Chaudhary released behind-the-scenes video of polling stations in Juba, Khartoum,and other locations during the recent referendum. U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration underscored the critical role education will play in the future of Southern Sudan, particularly as the people move forward after the referendum. Special Envoy Gration also joined Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg on travel to Ethiopia, where Deputy Secretary Steinberg led the U.S. delegation to the African Union Summit.
Secretary Clinton began her week in Haiti, where she consulted with members of civil society, political leaders, Haiti's president, and international partners on the ongoing electoral situation and reconstruction efforts. Secretary Clinton concluded her week in Germany, where she delivered remarks at the Munich Security Conference. In Munich, the Secretary also exchanged the Instruments of Ratification for the New START, officially entering the treaty into force, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Earlier in the week at the White House, President Barack Obama ratified the New START. As President Obama said, the treaty is "a national security imperative," as well as "a cornerstone of our relations with Russia."
The United States and Russia enjoy a long tradition of educational and cultural exchange. Assistant Secretary Ann Stock reminded us people-to-people diplomacy can occur anywhere, whether on a basketball court in Colombia or a dance floor in India. Special Representative Reta Jo Lewis highlighted how U.S. state and local governments are engaging their counterparts on international issues, such as addressing climate change and advancing partnerships with China.
The United States advanced its partnership with Croatia last week when Secretary Clinton and Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gordan Jandrokovic signed an Open Skies Air Services Agreement. Alternate Permanent Representative at the U.S. Mission to the UN Agencies in Rome Chris Hegadorn described how a partnership among the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the United States, and others is advancing food security and nutrition in Cambodia.
Ambassador David Killion, the U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, visited Auschwitz-Birkenau to mark the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and to remind us that we shall "never forget."
Assistant Secretary P.J. Crowley announced efforts that the United States is taking in response to the crackdown on human rights in Belarus and echoed Secretary Clinton's statement, "The people of Belarus deserve better."
Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer commemorated the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation on February 6 and joined activists and survivors around the world in calling for an end to this horrific practice.
U.S. Cabinet-level officials gathered together at the State Department to address the horror of modern slavery during the annual meeting of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. Stay tuned for a conversation between Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca and Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, on U.S. efforts to monitor and combat modern slavery. You can submit questions in advance of their discussion here, and we hope you join them for the live webcast on Tuesday, February 8, 2011 at 3:30 p.m. EST.