Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton released the 35th annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which covers the legal status of human rights in more than 190 countries and territories around the world, and announced the launch of HumanRights.gov, the official U.S. government website for international human rights information.
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner explained, "While the country reports provide an overview of a year's worth of events, the website contains current news, as well as an archive of reports, press releases, statements, articles and briefings issued by the Federal government. We welcome your comments on how the site can be improved and grow in the months ahead."
Earlier in the week, President Barack Obama addressed the security situation in Cote d'Ivoire and called on all parties to "show restraint and respect the rights of the Ivoirian people." Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson spoke about events in Cote d'Ivoire, as well as the upcoming elections in Nigeria, in remarks broadly outlining U.S. policy towards Africa. Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Charles Shapiro traveled to Djibouti, Kenya, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he addressed increasing African capacity to promote peace and security. As Assistant Secretary Shapiro said, "These security assistance programs...support the State Department's mission to promote stability and good governance and set the stage for humanitarian aid and development."
Fifty years after President John F. Kennedy sent a letter to Congress calling for the establishment of the U.S. Agency for Development (USAID), USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah drafted a letter addressing how development assistance is critical to advancing U.S. interests and solving global challenges today. This remains evident as U.S. humanitarian assistance helps those affected by the crisis in Libya and supports international organizations in tackling chronic malnutrition in Niger and Chad. Furthermore, U.S. partnerships are helping farmers in Pakistan improve their livelihoods and assisting health officials in the Ukraine stop the spread of HIV through PEPFAR.
Administrator Shah also highlighted World Health Day, celebrated on April 7 each year to commemorate the founding of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1948 by the United Nations (UN). Our photo of the week spotlighted a health clinic supported by USAID in Haiti, and our colleagues in Afghanistan highlighted efforts to minimize health risks from exposure to microbes.
Also this week, Secretary Clinton met with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice spoke about UN reform before the House of Representatives. Ambassador Rice said, "As we well know, America's resources and influence are by no means limitless, and that's why the United Nations is so important to our national security. It allows us to share the costs and burdens of tackling global problems, rather than leaving these problems untended or leaving the world to look to the United States alone."
Secretary Clinton marked the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees, and the United States commemorated the UN International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. The United States also announced it will be sending two representatives to attend the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)'s biennial Youth Forum, which gathers young people from over 80 countries to exchange views and identify opportunities to address global challenges. U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 24 can apply here to represent the United States at this event.
Educational and cultural programs play an important role in international affairs. Biripi and Worimi artists used their hand-crafted boomerangs to connect Americans and Australians. A photography competition in Guyana advanced understanding of local and international environmental issues. A production of "West Side Story" brought together Jewish and Arab students in Israel. The State Department's Office of the Historian hosted an academic conference on international economic policy to shed light on some of the challenges of the present by looking back at the lessons of the past.
The East West Center convened a roundtable for Pacific Partnership 2011 leadership and civil society representatives to address PP11's humanitarian mission. During a ceremony aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, Ambassador John Roos thanked U.S. military personnel for assisting with relief efforts in Japan and underscored that the U.S. commitment to support the people of Japan as they recover and rebuild.
Also last week, Secretary Clinton met with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, and they discussed joint efforts in Afghanistan and Libya. Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela traveled to Mexico and addressed the many areas on which our two countries cooperate. Providing a valuable service to area residents by facilitating cross-border travel between Mexico and the United States, new passport agencies opened in San Diego, California and El Paso, Texas.
As the week came to a close, President Obama addressed the budget compromise to avoid a government shutdown. In his weekly address, the President said, "...After weeks of long and difficult negotiations over our national budget, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future. This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time -- including our brave men and women in uniform. This is an agreement to invest in our country's future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history."