I have just returned from Vilnius, Lithuania, where I joined Secretary Hillary Clinton in a productive and engaging sixth ministerial conference of the Community of Democracies. Since its establishment in 2000, the Community of Democracies has worked to promote democracy and strengthen democratic norms and institutions in all regions of the world through partnerships between governments and civil society. U.S. government participation in this forum reflects our deep commitment to promoting democracy worldwide and broadening a global coalition for the protections of universal freedoms.
Because this is a time when popular movements for democracy are reshaping the geopolitical landscape of countries, it is an opportunity to drive home the importance of the role of civil society in advancing democracies. Secretary Clinton spoke about this in her speech to the Community of Democracies in Krakow last July during which she outlined an ambitious agenda to defend civil society around the world.
In support of this agenda, I convened in Vilnius the first meeting of the Human Rights and Democracy Working Group, organized as a part of the Secretary's Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, to initiate a discussion with civil society on the issues they face and how the Department of State can help them to create a more open environment in which to operate. Activists from around the globe shared personal stories of harassment in response to their work on human rights issues. These stories underscore the demand for urgent support to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) under attack.
That is why we have created Lifeline: the Embattled NGO Assistance Fund to provide emergency assistance to NGOs and support advocacy initiatives that raise awareness of the often hostile environments in which they operate. The Secretary announced this fund last year in Krakow and fulfilled her promise to create it. The Department of State leveraged funding to seed Lifeline and secure contributions from 12 other governments, totaling $4 million.
Our efforts also help civil society organizations increase the reach and impact of their work through new and innovative technologies. On the margins of the Ministerial conference, the Department of State hosted a tech camp that brought together 85 civil society activists from around the region, and provided them with training from technology experts on how to make their work more effective.
I can say with full confidence that we have taken a step in the right direction to engage civil society organizations with our work here in Vilnius. Civil society has an important role to play in the transition to a more democratic government. As Secretary Clinton eloquently puts it, "representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society work like three legs of a stool." Engaging these three aspects of society is necessary to truly promote a more democratic world, and I feel that we have helped to further that idea in this Ministerial meeting of the Community of Democracies.