As we look back on 2011, it is inspiring to know that women have been on the frontlines of so many transformative events that have changed our world. From participating in peaceful protests in Tahrir Square, to winning the Nobel Peace Prize, women have been an indisputable force for progress. As we move into 2012, however, we must step up efforts to ensure that women's progress continues to flourish and address the challenges that remain.
We made a major push in 2011 to coalesce U.S. government and international commitment in support of women as peacemakers and peace-builders. This effort culminated in the release of the U.S. National Action Plan (NAP) on Women, Peace, and Security. The NAP represents many months of close collaboration -- coordinated by the White House -- between U.S. government agencies, particularly the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It also involved significant outreach to foreign governments, the United Nations, the NGO community, and private sector leaders. We hope that women's participation as peace builders will be integrated across programs and policies to ensure more effective outcomes in ending conflicts and promoting peace, stability, and economic progress. As Secretary Clinton said during the NAP launch at Georgetown University a few weeks ago, "Women are not victims of war, but agents of peace."
Expanding women's economic opportunities and progress, and breaking down barriers to women-run small and medium enterprises, were a focus of our work in 2011 and will remain a priority in the year ahead. In collaboration with the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and USAID we launched the first "Invest for the Future: Women Driving Economic Growth" conferences in Istanbul, Turkey and Zagreb, Croatia, which provided training, mentoring and business networking for nearly 300 women entrepreneurs in the Caucasus and Southeastern Europe. Working with our regional partners and embassies overseas, we carried out similar signature programs elsewhere. In tandem with the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, we organized the Central Asia and Afghanistan Women's Economic Symposium, held in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in July. The African Women's Entrepreneurship Program and the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Women Entrepreneurs Mentoring Network continued to grow and expand their reach, enabling more women to tackle traditional obstacles to trade, create successful business incubators, and catalyze enterprises that employ networks of other women.
With the United States as the 2011 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) host, in September we organized with the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs the high level APEC Women and the Economy Summit in San Francisco, where Secretary Clinton laid out a strong, evidence-based case for how women are driving economic growth. By the end of the summit, all 21 APEC countries signed onto the San Francisco Declaration, committing each economy to develop programs and policies to reduce barriers to and improve women's economic opportunities and entrepreneurship. Later, at the APEC Ministerial in Honolulu, leaders called for the implementation of steps to expand women's business opportunities throughout the region.
Efforts to strengthen women's political participation and leadership included an emphasis on the role of women in the Arab Spring and political transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. In May, we convened the Women's Empowerment Working Group in Tunisia with civil society leaders from across the Arab world.
In Afghanistan, we built upon previous efforts to ensure that women are fully represented and participating in country-wide political decision-making processes. U.S. leadership in advocating for the important role women play in the future of Afghanistan helped to ensure that they were at the table during the Bonn conference in December.
We incorporated women into more of our strategic dialogues, including the first-ever bilateral U.S.-China Women Leaders Exchange and Dialogue (Women-LEAD), aimed at increasing exchanges and learning among women leaders across all sectors from China and the United States.
It was also a year to boost women in the fields of science and technology. Through the U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding on the Advancement of Women, we initiated a series of exchanges for U.S. and Brazilian women scientists, not only to benefit the participants, but also to help lay a foundation to inspire a new generation of young women to enter these vital fields. Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the Department launched TechWomen, an innovative initiative that harnesses the power of technology and mentoring to engage women from Silicon Valley with emerging women leaders in the technology field from the Middle East and North Africa. We also expanded efforts to harness mobile technology as a means of empowering women. The GSMA mWomen Programme, launched in 2010 to help provide women in the developing world greater access to mobile technology has broadened in reach. A new three-year mWomen partnership between USAID, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), the GSMA and Visa Inc., will enable more women to use mobile phones to access life-enhancing information, networks and services -- such as banking, education and healthcare.
We forged ahead with our work on improving women's health and launched a variety of public-private partnerships including the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action aimed at empowering new mothers. We also inaugurated the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon Partnership to combat cervical and breast cancer in Africa and Latin America.
The year 2011 also marked progress for the role of women in combating climate change, including greater inclusion in key climate negotiations, enhancing agricultural productivity and through investments in initiatives like the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
With a new year beginning, we look forward to building on the progress made and momentum gained. We continue to take our inspiration from so many women around the globe who -- often at great personal risk -- are on the frontlines of advancing economic, political and social progress, protecting human rights and promoting economic growth, democracy and peace.