Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to Germany, Lithuania, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands December 4-8, 2011. In Germany, Secretary Clinton addressed the International Afghanistan Conference, where she said:
“We want to send a very clear message to the people of Afghanistan that as they continue to make tough decisions we will stand with them and do so in that spirit of mutual accountability. Today we join nearly 100 nations in agreeing to renew and focus our shared commitment to continue investing and engaging in Afghanistan for the long term.”
In Switzerland, Secretary Clinton delivered remarks for International Human Rights Day. In her remarks, she addressed "one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time" -- the challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in their pursuit of equal human rights and protections.
Secretary Clinton also participated in the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) high-level event marking the anniversaries of 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1961 Statelessness Convention. The Secretary's visit to Geneva reinforced the U.S. commitment to employing multilateral tools to advance human rights priorities.
In the Netherlands, the Secretary delivered the keynote address at the opening of a ministerial conference on Internet freedom that launched a cross-regional, multi-stakeholder coalition committed to promoting the freedoms of expression, association, and assembly online.
In other news, the annual "16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence" campaign concluded last week on International Human Rights Day. Inequities that cause gender-based violence (GBV), including both physical and sexual violence, are key drivers of the HIV epidemic. Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, addressed efforts to integrate GBV prevention and response into programs for most-at-risk populations.
Under Secretary Maria Otero discussed efforts to counter violence in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Honduras. In other news from the Western Hemisphere region, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met at the White House to address economic and security issues, while a U.S.-Dominican media tour covered reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Tour participants met with a number of individuals, including a neighborhood association leader who is inspiring young people to take on leadership in the development of their communities.
Civil society plays a critical role in supporting a broad range of activities, from advancing entrepreneurship and literacy to supporting humanitarian demining. Most recently, civil society leaders participated in the formulation of development policy at the 4th High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea.
Meanwhile, at the 17th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-17) in Durban, South Africa, the U.S. Center spotlighted progress in U.S. fuel efficiency standards as well as collaboration with African technology innovators to address some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is a global concern, and the United States welcomed Indonesia's ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) last week. Indonesia also hosted the fourth annual Bali Democracy Forum. More than 50 countries from the Asia Pacific region participated in the forum, and more than 60 countries and international organizations attended as observers -- all with the goal of helping each other strengthen democracies around the world.
Next week the State Department will host a gathering of law enforcement and justice officials representing approximately 30 foreign governments and international organizations united around the shared goal of combating intolerance, discrimination, and violence on the basis of religion or belief.
Last week, the United States announced the online opening of Virtual U.S. Embassy Tehran as an opportunity for engagement between the peoples of Iran and the United States. You can visit the virtual embassy's website here, and provide feedback here.
On behalf of the DipNote team, I thank our readers for your comments and engagement, and we look forward to hearing from you in the week ahead.