This Week at State: November 17, 2017

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This Week at State: November 17, 2017

Did you miss key foreign policy developments this week? We’ve got you covered. Each week, DipNote recaps the latest U.S. Department of State highlights spanning a wide range of global issues, events, and initiatives in one blog post.

Here are the highlights from This Week at State:

Secretary Tillerson Meets with Government Leaders in Burma

On November 15, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Naypyidaw, Burma where he met separately with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the Commander and Chief of Burma’s Armed Forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Secretary Tillerson reiterated the United States’ support for Burma’s democratic transition and urged the Burmese government to protect local populations, allow for unhindered humanitarian and media access, and support a credible investigation of abuses.

During a joint press availability with the Burmese State Counselor, Secretary Tillerson emphasized the United States’ commitment to a successful democratic transition in Burma, while also encouraging a resolution to the crisis in Rakhine State that ensures accountability for human rights abuses and ensures the safety and security of those refugees and internally displaced persons who want to return to their homes. Secretary Tillerson also announced a new U.S. commitment of $47 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees.

President Trump Concludes Trip to Asia

On November 15, President Trump delivered remarks on his recent trip to Asia, during which he visited Japan, the Republic of Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Secretary Tillerson accompanied the President on his trip and joined the President for meetings with dozens of foreign leaders, as the President participated in three formal state visits and attended three key regional summits. It was the longest visit to the region by an American President in more than a quarter of a century. 

This trip underscored the United States’ commitment to longstanding alliances and partnerships, and reaffirmed United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Secretary Tillerson Welcomes African Leaders to Washington, DC, for Discussions on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

On November 16, Secretary Tillerson hosted the fifth annual U.S.-African Union High Level Dialogue at the U.S. Department of State. Bilateral discussions during the event focused on strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, trade, and investment, advancing peace and security, and promoting opportunity and development.

On November 17, Secretary Tillerson invited Foreign Ministers from across the African continent, including African Union Commission leadership for high level discussions on multilateral issues concerning trade and investment, security, and good governance. In remarks at the ministerial meetings, the Secretary underscored, “Our aim today is to expand and enrich the United States’ relationship with Africa along three fronts that we’re going to be discussing today: promoting trade and investment; encouraging good governance; and countering terrorism.” 

The Secretary also took a moment to comment on the situation in Zimbabwe in his remarks.

“I know all of us are following very closely the events in Zimbabwe and they are a concern to I know each of you, they are a concern to us as well, and we all should work together for a quick return to civilian rule in that country in accordance with their constitution. Zimbabwe has an opportunity to set itself on a new path – one that must include democratic elections and respect for human rights. Ultimately, the people of Zimbabwe must choose their government. In our conversations today, we have an opportunity to discuss concrete ways that we could help them through this transition.”
- Secretary Tillerson, Remarks at the Ministerial on Trade, Security, and Governance in Africa

Deputy Secretary Sullivan Travels to Paris and Sudan

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan traveled to Paris, France on November 15 in support of the United States’ bid to host Expo 2023. He also held bilateral meetings with French counterparts. 

Deputy Secretary Sullivan then traveled to Khartoum, Sudan, where he met with Foreign Minister Ghandour and other government officials to discuss ways to build on progress following the completion of the Five-Track Engagement Plan in October, amongst other topics.

Following Sudan, Deputy Secretary Sullivan will continue his trip in Tunisia and Nigeria.

Special Envoy Participates in Small Group Meeting of Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS

Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition Brett McGurk participated in the Small Group Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in Jordan. Special Presidential Envoy McGurk provided an update on the Coalition’s progress in Iraq and Syria, noting that since the Coalition was formed in 2014, ISIS has lost 95 percent of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. Special Envoy McGurk also reviewed progress across other lines of effort, including the growth of the Coalition and the reduction in the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to the region.

U.S. Addresses Setbacks to Democracy in Cambodia

During a briefing to members of the press on November 17, State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert addressed the Cambodian government’s dissolution of the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). Spokesperson Nauert underscored that the Cambodian government’s decision “sets back Cambodia’s democratic development, it unnecessarily damages Cambodia's relationship with the United States and others in international community, it weakens Cambodia's economic growth and prosperity, and it isolates Cambodia further from other democracies in the region.”

The Spokesperson's comments echo sentiments conveyed in a November 16 statement from the White House’s Press Secretary. The statement reads:

“The Cambodian government still has time to reverse course. We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to undo its recent actions against the CNRP, release imprisoned CNRP leader Kem Sokha, and allow opposition parties, civil society, and the media to maintain their legitimate activities.”

U.S. and Morocco Launch Initiative to Address Homegrown Terrorism

The United States and Morocco, under the auspices of the Global Counterterrorism Forum and in partnership with the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, launched a global initiative to address homegrown terrorism this week. To address homegrown terrorism, the initiative’s launch brought together over 70 government officials, law enforcement officers, academics, and non-governmental representatives from 25 countries.

The participants discussed the trends and issues associated with homegrown terrorism, and highlighted available tools and programs to address this threat. Participants reviewed ways to improve information sharing, both within and among governments, and examined prevention and intervention programs. This initiative will result in non-binding good practices for policymakers and practitioners that will highlight comprehensive and integrated approaches to preventing and detecting homegrown terrorists.

State Department Celebrates International Education Week

From November 13-17, the U.S. Department of State and its embassies abroad celebrated International Education Week. To open IEW, the State Department, in collaboration with the Institute of International Education, released the annual Open Doors report of data and trends in international academic mobility. For the second year in a row, more than one million international students studied at U.S. institutions of higher education in academic year 2016/17, an increase of three percent over the prior year. The number of American students studying abroad also increased by four percent from the prior year to 325,339 Americans.

State Department Celebrates Global Entrepreneurship Week

November is National Entrepreneurship Month in the United States, a time to celebrate the entrepreneurs who serve their communities and bolster the American economy.

American entrepreneurs invent and sell fascinating and endlessly useful new products and services, creating millions of jobs and driving American global leadership along the way.” 
- President Trump’s National Entrepreneurship Month Proclamation

Each November, through local, national, and global activities, the U.S. Department of State joins the U.S. government and partners to commemorate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) to celebrate innovators and connect entrepreneurs to mentors and investors. During GEW, observed November 13-19 this year, U.S. embassies and consulates organized numerous events to inspire thousands of individuals from all backgrounds to follow in the footsteps of generations of American entrepreneurs. These activities fostered the spirit of entrepreneurship and spotlighted the incredible energy of global innovators in the lead-up to the 2017 Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES 2017) in Hyderabad, India from November 28-30. During GEW, the U.S. Department of State also announced twelve partners for GES 2017. The financial and in kind support from GES partners opens opportunities for more entrepreneurs to participate from around the world.  Partners also enhance the overall experience at the Summit, including through the creation of networking lounges and a Global Launch Lounge to encourage new commitments toward global entrepreneurship.  

Follow the State Department on Twitter and Facebook for additional information and updates.

Editor’s Note: This entry is also published in the U.S. Department of State’s publication on