The Tunisian people inspired the world when they began the Arab Spring, changing the course of history and forging a hopeful new path for the people of the Middle East. Secretary Clinton is committed to supporting the Tunisian people succeed in their quest to realize their aspirations, in their desire for democracy, and to create economic opportunity. So, the Secretary recently directed us to do more with, and for, Tunisians.
Yesterday, the State Department hosted the first ever Tunisia Partnerships Forum, an effort to engage the Tunisian Diaspora and promote opportunities for dynamic Tunisian and American businesses looking to invest in Tunisia's bright future. Over 200 U.S. investors, business leaders, Tunisian Americans, and visiting Tunisian entrepreneurs joined representatives from the State Department, USAID, and the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation to share experiences, exchange ideas, and connect with each other. It was a win-win, seeking to match Tunisian priorities with markets for American products that would create jobs for Tunisians and Americans.
As Overseas Private Investment Corporation CEO Elizabeth Littlefield put it, we are seeking to put Tunisia "on the radar and the white board of U.S. companies for the first time," and I think our timing is just right, as financial coverage from Dow Jones and Reuters from the past two days would indicate.
At the Tunisia Partnerships Forum yesterday, Tunisians and Americans came together to begin investing for the long term. You could feel the tremendous optimism and energy in the George C. Marshall hall as together we explored opportunities for growth and partnership. Investors and entrepreneurs pitched ideas for information and communications technology, tourism, franchising, and developing renewable resources and clean technology. We discussed building infrastructures that can support the visions and ingenuity of Tunisians and Americans. At its core, the Tunisia Partnership Forum is promoting economic development based on partnership, not patronage.
Secretary Clinton is pushing America's diplomats to engage in what she calls "21st Century Statecraft." And, this forum was yet another example of 21st Century Statecraft in action. Our diplomatic contacts can't just be in capitals and with foreign ministries. Change doesn't just happen in governments. Change happens through civil society. Change happens through public-private partnerships. Change happens through empowering women. Change happens through innovation and technology.
Tunisians want to be connected to global markets, and they want to connect with others around the world. More than a third of Tunisians are connected to the Internet and nearly a quarter are on Facebook. The Tunisia uprising was enabled through social media; and social media brought it directly into our homes. At the State Department we recognize social media as a key tool for advancing our diplomacy and are always seeking ways to reach wider audiences on broader topics. If you are reading this blog, it is working. And, this Friday, I will address the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Policy Forum on Social Media and the Economy at Stanford University to discuss social media and its impact on foreign policy and the work of the State Department. Rest assured that as part of our mission here at State we are looking to harness the creativity we saw yesterday and build upon our new partnerships using innovative media and technology to build a better future for Tunisians and Americans alike. As we move forward, we will do just that. Stay tuned.
Editor's Note: This is a companion posting to Special Representative Kris Balderston's entry Tunisia Partnerships Forum -- A New Day for Tunisia.