Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies, briefed the press on the first Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society at the Department of State on February 16, 2011.
Special Advisor Tillemann said, "This morning we saw a significant step in the evolution of our diplomacy at the State Department. For the first time, Secretary Clinton inaugurated a strategic dialogue with a partner other than a foreign government. And at a moment when we see civil society playing an ever larger role in world affairs, she chose to launch this dialogue with civil society on the other side of this -- the table. She was joined at the event by Administrator Raj Shah of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Under Secretaries Burns, McHale, Otero, and Hormats, and a number of other senior officials from the State Department and the White House who participated in the launch event.
"This was, we hope, the beginning of what will be ultimately a much longer discussion about how the Department can enhance its cooperation with civil society in the months and years ahead. We anticipate that the dialogue will last for 18 months, and this dialogue will be modeled on the other strategic dialogues that we conduct with bilateral partners.
"There will be a series of working groups that will be drawn from a broad section of global civil society and headed by senior departmental officials that will work to produce concrete deliverables, and the Secretary announced three this morning: governance and accountability, which will focus on anti-corruption issues and be chaired by Under Secretary Hormats; democracy and human rights, which will be chaired by Assistant Secretary Mike Posner of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; empowering women, which will be chaired by Ambassador Melanne Verveer; and we hope in the near future to inaugurate other working groups that will be led by other senior Department officials as I mentioned.
"We anticipate that these working groups will come together regularly in Washington and also through the use of technology by bringing in civil society actors from around the world, and that we will, over the course of time, also see Secretary Clinton chair sessions of these groups as part of her international travel. The Secretary, as many of you know, has been actively engaged with civil society in her international travel since she began work at the State Department. But this will add greater focus, greater cohesion, greater coordination to our efforts, and also elevate this work, as I mentioned, alongside our partnership with bilateral partners.
"Going forward, we see -- particularly, in the context of events in the Middle East and North Africa -- a need for us to strengthen our cooperation with this critical segment of society, and we were glad that this morning the Secretary was able to continue the strong message of support for civil society that she initially presented in Krakow last year as her keynote address to a meeting of the Community of Democracies, and has been continued by President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly and in other forums.
"So this is a great initiative. We think it's an important step in the way that we reach beyond governments and work with partners outside of State's. And we're looking forward to a very productive 18 months as we build out this partnership in consultation with civil society.
"I should also note that this morning's event included participation from civil society representatives from well over 20 countries here in Washington. We also had 50 embassies around the world that hosted events with civil society leaders who were able to participate via interactive video conferences, and 60,000 activists worldwide were invited to participate online, and we received and addressed many of their questions over the course of the dialogue."
You can find Special Advisor Tillemann's complete remarks here.