Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Burma and became the first Secretary of State in more than 50 years to visit the region. This visit underscored U.S. commitment to a policy of principled engagement. In Rangoon, Secretary Clinton said, "The United States wants to be a partner with Burma. We want to work with you as you further democratization, as you release all political prisoners, as you begin the difficult but necessary process of ending the ethnic conflicts that have gone on far too long, as you hold elections that are free, fair, and credible."
Prior to her trip to Burma, Secretary Clinton traveled to Busan, South Korea to participate in the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4). This Forum gathered government leaders from over 150 countries to discuss practical solutions, leveraging skills in government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations, that make development investments more effective and sustainable. Making development more effective starts with being transparent about how funds are spent and the results we achieve. Major U.S. development efforts -- including the Partnership for Growth (PFG) -- emphasize inclusive, country-led, outcomes-focused approaches.
Another top priority at HLF-4 was gender equality. Leaders recognized the contributions women can make to economic growth when political and social barriers to their participation are removed. This theme corresponded with the "16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence" campaign that started on November 25 and concludes December 10.
In recognition of the "16 Days" campaign, U.S. Embassy Kabul facilitated discussions with students on the impact of gender-based violence on their communities. Also in Afghanistan, the Sesame Workshop, a non-profit educational organization, assisted in the production of a new children's television series featuring locally produced live action films and the Muppets from Sesame Street. As we look to the week ahead, the Government of Afghanistan will preside over the Bonn Conference, hosted by Germany on December 5. The conference will focus on the future of Afghanistan after 2014 and on the long-term engagement of the international community in Afghanistan.
This also week marked several occasions -- including World AIDS Day on December 1 and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3. World AIDS Day is a solemn observance of those who have been lost to the disease, an opportunity to raise awareness, and an occasion to celebrate progress made towards reaching an AIDS-free generation. International Day of Persons with Disabilities advances the rights, equality, and inclusion of persons with disabailities, so that they can live their lives on their own terms, through access to education, employment, transportation, political participation, and other fundamental spheres of life.
In other news, Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe delivered a statement in Geneva, Switzerland at the Human Rights Council Special Session on Syria. Ambassador Donahoe said, "Our message is firm and clear: To the people of Syria -- the world stands by you, and we will not ignore your plight in the face of ongoing violence; To the Syrian Government -- the time has come to end the flagrant violations of the human rights of your people, and to allow Syrians their right to peacefully and democratically change their government."
Thank you for all your feedback -- especially on Secretary Clinton's trip to Burma -- last week. We look forward to hearing from you in the week ahead!