About the Author: Luke Forgerson serves as DipNote's Managing Editor.
People around the world watched as history was made last week in Cairo's Tahrir Square. President Barack Obama said, "The word Tahrir means liberation. It is a word that speaks to that something in our souls that cries out for freedom. And forevermore it will remind us of the Egyptian people -- of what they did, of the things they stood for, and how they changed their country, and in doing so changed the world."
In his remarks, President Obama underscored U.S. commitment to Egypt as the country pursues a transition to democracy. Earlier in the week, President Obama called for the voices of the Egyptian people to be heard, and U.S. officials appealed for the universal rights of the Egyptian people to be respected. Deputy Secretary Steinberg testified before Congress on developments in Egypt and Lebanon and implications for U.S. policy in the region.
The people of Sudan continued to take historic steps of their own last week. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton congratulated Sudan, both northern and southern leaders, on the results of the Southern Sudan Referendum. President Obama announced U.S. intent to recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011. Continuing his 25th trip as U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, Major General (Ret.) Scott Gration visited Port Sudan, a city on the country's eastern coast, and completed his third visit to Darfur in the last two months.
Decades hence, historians will closely examine the recent events that have taken place in Egypt and Sudan. Last week, historians at the Department of State looked back at 150 years of the Foreign Relations of the United States series, the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions.
History holds many lessons for us, and may even prompt us to ask, "How can we do better?" That was the question Secretary Clinton addressed when she convened the first ever, all-hands-on-deck ambassadorial conference. Kris Balderston focused on how we can do better by empowering our ambassadors to build partnerships with businesses, foundations, academia, faith-based groups, and diaspora communities.
In Croatia, we saw an example of a public-private partnership that has helped remove landmines and unexploded ordnance from 500,000 square meters of land and rehabilitate it for agricultural use. In Estonia, the United States is working with a civilian, demining group to help protect post-conflict communities by safely clearing landmines and unexploded munitions.
The Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) seeks to deploy civilian expertise to help countries find and implement ways to prevent or emerge from violent conflict. S/CRS released its 2010 Year in Review publication, telling us about efforts in Afghanistan, Sudan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and other countries critical to our national security. In Afghanistan, for example, civilian expertise and U.S. development programs are assisting farmers increase agricultural productivity.
USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator Mark Lopes told us how a staff exchange program between the U.S. and Brazilian development agencies will create more opportunities to leverage our assistance in third countries, and Assistant Secretary Jose Fernandez described how the United States and Brazil are working together to foster economic partnerships.
In Pakistan, the U.S. and Pakistani governments are working together -- in what some have described as a model for cooperation on bioengagement elsewhere -- to detect and assess microbial and viral waterborne pathogens and to improve capacity to manage biological risks associated with drinking water supplies. The United States and Pakistan are also partnering to support English-language instruction for teachers and expand educational opportunities for youth.
Emphasizing the importance of dialogue among the government, academia, nonprofit, and private sectors, Chief Information Officer Susan Swart participated in the Tech@State conference on open source software. Swart said that the Department must keep pace as technology moves ahead. In Thailand, Ambassador Kristie Kenney is using the latest technology to engage the public through social media. Ambassador Susan Rice is also using social media to connect with others. She held a foreign policy town hall at Twitter last week and took questions from participants worldwide via @AmbassadorRice. In related news, the Department of State started tweeting last week in Arabic and Farsi.
Here at DipNote, we are preparing for the next installment of "Conversations With America," a series of live webcast discussions between representatives of prominent, non-governmental organizations and the State Department's senior leadership. Watch Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judith Heumann hold a conversation with David Morrissey on Thursday, February 17 at 3:00 p.m. (EST), and submit your questions for them in advance of the webcast here.
In case you missed our most recent "Conversations With America" broadcast -- during which Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, Deputy Assistant Secretary Cheryl Benton, and Wade Henderson discussed U.S. efforts to combat human trafficking -- you can watch the video here.
And if you missed Secretary Clinton's piece for Glamour addressing the fight against child marriage, read it here. The Secretary shares about reconnecting with two of her heroes: Nujood Ali, the first child bride in Yemen to get a divorce, and Shada Nasser, Nujood's attorney. You will find Nujood's story, the story of a young girl who stood up for injustice and the brave woman who stood behind her, inspirational.
Finally, as spring break approaches in the United States, we share safety information for U.S. students traveling abroad. We encourage all students preparing for an international trip -- and their parents -- to take a moment to review this information, and we urge all U.S. citizens traveling, studying, or residing abroad to sign up online for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). STEP enrollment makes it possible for the State Department to contact U.S. citizens abroad in the case of family emergency in the United States or because of a crisis in a foreign country.