Remarks at the Top of the Daily Press Briefing
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJune 29, 2009
SECRETARY CLINTON: Hello, how are you all? I actually missed you. (Laughter.) I know, I know, and I wanted to thank you for the flowers. I really appreciated those. They are immeasurably adding to the healing process.
But I wanted to come down because, obviously, there’s a lot going on, and there are a number of important issues to address today. But I want to start with yesterday’s unfortunate events in Honduras, which were a test of the inter-American system’s ability to support and defend democracy and constitutional order in our hemisphere.
The United States has been working with our partners in the OAS to fashion a strong consensus condemning the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya and calling for the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras. Our immediate priority is to restore full democratic and constitutional order in that country.
Today, foreign ministers of the Rio Group will be attending a previously scheduled meeting of Central American leaders in Managua, Nicaragua to address the issue of Honduras. And tomorrow, the OAS will hold an Extraordinary General Assembly.
As we move forward, all parties have a responsibility to address the underlying problems that led to yesterday’s events in a way that enhances democracy and the rule of law in Honduras. To that end, we will continue working with the OAS and other partners to construct a process of dialogue and engagement that will promote the restoration of democratic order, address the serious problems of political polarization in Honduras, restore confidence in their institutions of government, and ensure that Honduras moves successfully towards its scheduled presidential elections in November of this year.
At the OAS General Assembly earlier this month in San Pedro Sula – some of you were with me there – the United States insisted that the larger debate on Cuba be framed within the OAS’s commitment to democracy and human rights. Along with key partners, we won a reaffirmation of the principles of democracy and constitutional order that define the Organization of American States. Now, the wisdom of our approach, I think, was evident yesterday when the OAS and the Inter-American Democratic Charter were used as a basis for our response to the coup that occurred.
Let me also say a word about the detention of five British Embassy staff in Tehran. We are following this situation with great concern. We have noted the statement from the European Union. We find that the harassment of Embassy staff is deplorable, and we will continue to support the United Kingdom in calling for their release.
Finally, on Iraq. Tomorrow, June 30th, marks the end of U.S. troop presence in Iraqi cities and localities. This is a significant milestone in the responsible withdrawal of our forces from Iraq and in Iraq’s journey to become a stable, sovereign, self-reliant state.
This morning, I held a secure videoconference with Ambassador Hill and some of his senior team in Baghdad. The ambassador provided updates on the security, political, and economic situation in Iraq, and we discussed a number of the challenges and opportunities that we are facing.
As you remember, this withdrawal is occurring under the so-called SOFA agreement, the Status of Forces Agreement, and it is occurring in concert with the Iraqis. There is another document that we will now be turning our attention to with even greater concern; that is, the Strategic Framework Agreement which sets forth the way forward for the relationship between the United States and Iraq.
So there is a lot going on, and I wanted to come down and talk about some of what we are doing. And I’d be happy to take some of your questions.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, do you --
MR. KELLY: Arshad, yes.
QUESTION: Do you believe – you used the words “detention” and “expulsion.” Do you believe that a military coup d’état has taken place in Honduras, or are you studying a legal – formal legal determination that a coup d’état has taken place and that would therefore trigger the appropriations – (inaudible) appropriations aid cutoff that is required under U.S. law?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do think that this has evolved into a coup. The president, as you know, has been expelled. Another person has been substituted for the president. But we think that this is a fast-moving situation that requires constant attention, which we are certainly providing to it, along with our bilateral partners and through the OAS as our multilateral vehicle. We are encouraging that there be a delegation going to Honduras following the Extraordinary General Assembly tomorrow to begin working with the parties to try to restore constitutional order. So we are withholding any formal legal determination. But I think the reality is that having expelled the president, we have a lot of work to do to try to help the Hondurans get back on the democratic path they’ve been on for a number of years now.
QUESTION: You’re not thinking about (inaudible) aid?
MR. KELLY: (Inaudible.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jill.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, isn’t the U.S. in an uncomfortable position nonetheless, because you’re invoking democratic norms to restore a president who some would argue was taking illegal steps to stay in office?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, Jill, I think it’s important that we stand for the rule of law and democracy and constitutional order. And when I talk about supporting the work that’s being done in the OAS, and certainly a distinguished delegation to work with the parties in Honduras, I think that all parties involved have to take a step back and look at how the institutions within their democracy are supposed to be working. So there are certain concerns about orders by independent judicial officials that should be followed and the like, but the extraordinary step taken of arresting and expelling the president is our first and foremost concern right now.
Then we do want to work with the parties, as I said, to try to return to a rule of law, and that means for everybody. Everybody needs to kind of take a step back here and take a deep breath. And so, look, we have a lot at stake in maintaining our democracy and not going backwards, and we would expect all parties to play a responsible role in doing that.
MR. KELLY: Okay, Bob, AP.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you mentioned Iraq. I’m wondering if there are ways in which you think the Iraqis are still vulnerable to letting the security situation slip back to where it was. Are you fully confident?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Bob, I spoke to Ambassador Hill today. I’ve spoken to him a number of times in the last couple of weeks. And both he and General Odierno have reiterated their belief that the Iraqi forces are up to the job that currently confronts them. Now, the United States remains prepared to assist if necessary, but there is a great deal of confidence in the fundamental ability of the Iraqis to begin to protect their citizens.
Having said that, we’ve seen what’s happened the last few weeks. We’ve had some horrific bombings and the loss of hundreds of lives. But our assessment is that the Iraqis are ready, willing, and able to step up to this. And as I’ve said, we will continue our presence there; we’re not pulling wholesale out. We will continue our presence there as we fulfill the requirements under the SOFA, and we stand ready to assist them if necessary.
MR. KELLY: Okay, last question to James Rosen.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I can take a couple more.
MR. KELLY: You want to take two more?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.
QUESTION: I’ll ask all the last questions. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Why am I not surprised. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I hope you’re feeling well.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. I’m engaged in a different form of arms control, I think. (Laughter.) Quite challenging.
QUESTION: On Iran, the sense we’ve been getting from your aides that we’ve been talking to is that the U.S. policy of engagement obviously is somewhat in abeyance right now as we wait to see this fluid situation on the ground in Tehran and throughout the country evolve. But I wonder what you would say to the argument that any prospect for meaningful engagement by the U.S. and the P-5+1, of which the UK is obviously a member, are drastically set back by what we’ve seen; in fact, that you’ve gotten your answer to all of your attempts at engaging this regime, that you’ve seen an authoritarian regime unmask itself, and that, in essence, they’re never going to strike any grand bargain with you on the nuclear question or terrorism or anything else.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there certainly is reason for us to be cautious in our dealings with Iran. There is not yet a final outcome of the process that they’re engaged in internally to demonstrate to their own people the credibility of the electoral process that has just been completed. So I am well aware of the daunting challenges ahead of us or any group that tries to deal with the Iranian regime.
Having said that, I think the President has made clear in several statements in the last week that we’re going to watch this unfold and we’re going to act in America’s national interest. That’s what this has always been about. It’s never been about Iran as much as it’s been about the values, goals, and the interests of the United States of America. And we remain committed to doing all we can to try to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.
So we’re going to watch this and we’re going to gauge our actions accordingly.
QUESTION: But there’s no sense you get in which these events might have somehow enhanced the prospects for engagement, have they?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to make a value judgment on what they may or may not have done. I’m just going to reiterate that everything we intend to do is in light of how we view America’s long-term interests and security, as well as those of friends and allies, not just in the region but around the world.
MR. KELLY: Mary Beth Sheridan.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, sorry, if I could just return for a second to Honduras, just to clarify Arshad’s point – so, I mean, the U.S. provides aid both under the Foreign Assistance Act and the Millennium challenge. So even though there are triggers in those; that countries have to behave – not have coups, you’re not going to cut off that aid?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mary Beth, we’re assessing what the final outcome of these actions will be. This has been a fast-moving set of circumstances over the last several days, and we’re looking at that question now. Much of our assistance is conditioned on the integrity of the democratic system. But if we were able to get to a status quo that returned to the rule of law and constitutional order within a relatively short period of time, I think that would be a good outcome.
So we’re looking at all of this. We’re considering the implications of it. But our priority is to try to work with our partners in restoring the constitutional order in Honduras.
QUESTION: And does that mean returning Zelaya himself? You would insist on that in order to –
SECRETARY CLINTON: We are working with our partners. The OAS will have this Extraordinary General Assembly tomorrow. We haven’t laid out any demands that we are insisting on, because we’re working with others on behalf of our ultimate objectives, which are shared broadly. So we think that the arrest and expulsion of a president is certainly cause for concern that has to be addressed. And it’s not just with respect to whether our aid continues, but whether democracy in Honduras continues.
MR. KELLY: Okay.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay?
QUESTION: One more.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yeah.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, back to Iran. The Guardian Council has just announced that it – just after a limited recount, that they consider the vote valid. Is this enough for the international community? Do you plan on recognizing the government of President Ahmadinejad? I mean, we’ve seen this crisis over the last few weeks illustrate a real division in the regime. Do you think that this is the beginning of the end of the Iranian regime?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what happens with their internal regime. Obviously, they have a huge credibility gap with their own people as to the election process. And I don’t think that’s going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots.
But clearly, these internal matters are for Iranians themselves to address and we hope that they will be given the opportunity to do so in a peaceful way that respects the right of expression. And it has been my position and that of our Administration that we support the fundamental values of people’s voices being heard, their votes being counted. And we’ll have to see how this unfolds. You know, it’s – this is a historic moment for Iran and for the Iranian people. And I don’t want to speculate on how it’s going to turn out.
QUESTION: Well, will you recognize President Ahmadinejad as the democratically elected president?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We’re going to take this a day at a time. We’re going to watch and carefully assess what we see happening.
Thank you all very much.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Monday June 22 at the White House:
Wednesday June 24 at the State Department with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov of Turkmenistan
Friday, June 26 at the State Department with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Friday June 26 at the White House with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
She actually worked every day, but she did not have open coverage at every event. I think she is amazing to be able to do this so soon after surgery. By Friday, she was her same glowing self as usual! I have to admit I was very worried about her at first, but she looks spectacular for someone who went through this ordeal and has been in a lot of pain. She has two pins and a rod in her elbow. Source: Bill.
Wednesday June 24 at the State Department with Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov of Turkmenistan
Friday, June 26 at the State Department with the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa
Friday June 26 at the White House with President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel
She actually worked every day, but she did not have open coverage at every event. I think she is amazing to be able to do this so soon after surgery. By Friday, she was her same glowing self as usual! I have to admit I was very worried about her at first, but she looks spectacular for someone who went through this ordeal and has been in a lot of pain. She has two pins and a rod in her elbow. Source: Bill.
Situation in Honduras
Press StatementHillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJune 28, 2009
The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all. We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue. Honduras must embrace the very principles of democracy we reaffirmed at the OAS meeting it hosted less than one month ago.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
The United States Welcomes Statements on Decommissioning
Press StatementHillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJune 27, 2009
We welcome the statements today from the main unionist groups in Northern Ireland regarding the decommissioning of their weapons.The announcements underscore the remarkable progress that has taken place in Northern Ireland over the years. All parties agree, as the people of Northern Ireland do, that the only way forward is through peace and reconciliation, and not through violence. Peter Robinson and other unionist leaders should be commended for their efforts in convincing these groups to take this courageous step. Leaders on all sides deserve our praise for their continued commitment to moving the process forward.The United States remains engaged in order to support Northern Ireland in its progress towards a future of peace and prosperity.# # #
Saturday, June 20, 2009
World Refugee Day 2009
Press StatementHillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJune 20, 2009
On June 20, the United States will join the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the international community in marking World Refugee Day. Secretary Clinton was scheduled to speak at a ceremony at National Geographic headquarters on June 18 to salute the fortitude of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons. Unfortunately, she was unable to attend the event because of an injury. This is an abridged version of her prepared remarks.
Around the world today, millions of people endure war, genocide, famine and natural disasters. Often, they are forced to flee in search of safety, seeking temporary shelter until they can return home and rebuild their lives. But for many refugees and other displaced people, the homes they loved are gone forever.
The crowded camps where refugees live are designed to be temporary, but many of the world’s displaced people become permanent residents. Children are born there; parents die there; people fall in love, marry—even divorce there. Outside the camps, the world seeks a solution to their plight, a way to send them home safely or help them find new homes in new lands. Inside the camps, the refugees wait and hope.
The 34 million refugees and internally displaced persons are some of the world’s most vulnerable people. They are also some of the world’s toughest people. On World Refugee Day, we remember not only what they have survived but the strength and spirit with which they’ve survived it. And we pledge to stand with them and help them build safe and fulfilling lives—not on the outskirts of society, but in the heart of it.
The United States is committed to supporting refugees and displaced people worldwide. We are proud to support the heroic efforts of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, the Red Cross, the International Organization of Migration, and many other non-governmental organizations that work on behalf of refugees worldwide, often in difficult and dangerous circumstances. Last year, we gave more than $1.4 billion to support this work, making us the world’s largest donor for refugee relief. And we’re honored to welcome the many refugees who have resettled in our nation; since 1975, nearly 3 million refugees have made new homes in the United States, more than any other nation in the world.
We stand with refugees because their struggle represents a humanitarian emergency. Furthermore, their fates have broad repercussions for their families, their countrymen, and all people everywhere.
The plight of refugees has an impact on regional and global security; the threats that cause people to flee their homes en masse are dangers to the world at large. Their plight impacts economic development; most refugees have no means to support their families or contribute to their nations’ prosperity. Their plight impacts health and education; disease is rampant in many camps, while educational resources for refugee children are limited. By virtually every measure of social progress, refugees are left behind—and their exclusion diminishes progress for us all.
Our support for refugees is a crucial piece of a larger foreign policy vision. We are committed to pursuing peace and prosperity in every corner—not only in the marble halls of governments, but also in the rural villages and distant cities where people strive to live, work, learn, raise families, contribute to their communities, and grow old with dignity. These are universal dreams that we seek to make a reality for more of the world’s people.
In the coming months, we will continue our efforts to end urgent refugee crises, such as those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Chad, the Central African Republic, and Darfur. We are encouraged by the progress being made to resolve long-standing refugee situations in Liberia, South Sudan, Burundi and Bhutan. And we call upon the entire global community to strengthen our efforts to ensure that refugees have access to the resources and protections they need to survive.
Supporting refugees is not only the purview of governments and NGOs. It’s a job for all of us. Last month, the Obama Administration announced more than $100 million in aid to support the waves of refugees fleeing the fighting with the Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. At the same time, we created a new way for all citizens to help. By texting the word “Swat” to the number 20222 on your cell phones, you can make a $5 donation to UNHCR to support refugees. It’s an easy way to make a real difference in their lives.
On this World Refugee Day, I urge all of us to seek ways large and small to support the millions of people around the world who hold the same dreams we do—whose strength and courage are unsurpassed—but who have been dislocated by crises beyond their control and are now hoping that the world will remember them and continue to fight on their behalf for a better future.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners of Foreign Service EmployeesPress Statement
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateWashington, DCJune 18, 2009
While a career in the Foreign Service is rewarding, the demands to serve our country require great commitment and sacrifice by Foreign Service employees and their families. As in American society, our Foreign Service families come in different configurations; all are part of the common fabric of our Post communities abroad. Family members often uproot their lives, endure hardship conditions, and put their own careers on hold to support our overseas missions. The Department of State acknowledges these vital contributions by providing certain family members with benefits, training, and allowances.
The same has not been true for domestic partners of Foreign Service employees. While these partners support the work of our overseas posts, they are not granted benefits and allowances provided for other family members. Domestic partners of federal employees have for too long been treated unequally. As one of my first acts as Secretary, I directed the Department to review whether we had the flexibility to extend additional benefits to domestic partners.
Yesterday, the President issued a memorandum reflecting his commitment to ensuring that same-sex domestic partners receive the maximum benefits that each agency legally can undertake. I am pleased to announce that the Department of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad.
Changing our policy to provide training, medical care and other benefits to same-sex domestic partners will promote the cohesiveness, safety and effectiveness of our posts abroad. It will help the Department attract and retain personnel in a competitive environment where domestic partner benefits and allowances are increasingly the norm for world-class employers. This change is the right thing to do, and it is the smart thing to do.
We will implement this policy by changing our Foreign Affairs Manual and the Standardized Regulations to allow the same-sex domestic partners of the Department’s Foreign Service employees to qualify as family members for a variety of benefits and allowances. Where appropriate, this extension of benefits and allowances will apply to the children of same-sex domestic partners as well. To qualify for these benefits and allowances on behalf of a same-sex domestic partner, an employee must file an affidavit identifying his or her same-sex domestic partner and certifying to certain eligibility requirements that will be set forth in the FAM.
The Department of State intends to provide the following additional benefits and allowances for declared same-sex domestic partners of eligible employees serving overseas:
The Department also will work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work in the local economy.
- Diplomatic passports,
- Inclusion on employee travel orders to and from posts abroad,
- Shipment of household effects,
- Inclusion in family size calculations for the purpose of making housing allocations,
- Family member preference for employment at posts abroad,
- Use of medical facilities at posts abroad,
- Medical evacuation from posts abroad,
- Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives,
- Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts abroad,
- Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts abroad,
- Inclusion in calculations of payments of overseas allowances (e.g., payment for quarters, cost of living, and other allowances),
- Representation expenses, and
- Training at the Foreign Service Institute.
We look forward to implementing these changes.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Partnering Against Trafficking
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateOp-EdThe Washington PostJune 17, 2009
Twenty-year-old Oxana Rantchev left her home in Russia in 2001 for what she believed was a job as a translator in Cyprus. A few days later, she was found dead after attempting to escape the traffickers who tried to force her into prostitution.
Oxana's story is the story of modern slavery. Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under threat of violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets. Women, men and children of all ages are often held far from home with no money, no connections and no way to ask for help. They discover too late that they've entered a trap of forced labor, sexual exploitation and brutal violence. The United Nations estimates that at least 12 million people worldwide are victims of trafficking. Because they often live and work out of sight, that number is almost certainly too low. More than half of all victims of forced labor are women and girls, compelled into servitude as domestics or sweatshop workers or, like Oxana, forced into prostitution. They face not only the loss of their freedom but also sexual assaults and physical abuses.
To some, human trafficking may seem like a problem limited to other parts of the world. In fact, it occurs in every country, including the United States, and we have a responsibility to fight it just as others do. The destructive effects of trafficking have an impact on all of us. Trafficking weakens legitimate economies, breaks up families, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. It undermines our long-term efforts to promote peace and prosperity worldwide. And it is an affront to our values and our commitment to human rights.
The Obama administration views the fight against human trafficking, at home and abroad, as an important priority on our foreign policy agenda. The United States funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces that bring state and local authorities together with nongovernmental organizations to combat trafficking. But there is so much more to do. The problem is particularly urgent now, as local economies around the world reel from the global financial crisis. People are increasingly desperate for the chance to support their families, making them more susceptible to the tricks of ruthless criminals. Economic pressure means more incentive for unscrupulous bosses to squeeze everything they can from vulnerable workers and fewer resources for the organizations and governments trying to stop them.
The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report, released this week, documents the scope of this challenge in every country. The report underscores the need to address the root causes of human trafficking -- including poverty, lax law enforcement and the exploitation of women -- and their devastating effects on its victims and their families.
Since 2000, more than half of all countries have enacted laws prohibiting all forms of human trafficking. New partnerships between law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations, including women's shelters and immigrants' rights groups, have led to thousands of prosecutions, as well as assistance for many victims.
The 2009 report highlights progress that several countries have made to intensify the fight against human trafficking. In Cyprus, where Oxana Rantchev was trafficked and killed, the government has taken new steps to protect victims. Another example is Costa Rica, long a hub for commercial sex trafficking. This year, it passed an anti-trafficking law; trained nearly 1,000 police, immigration agents and health workers to respond to trafficking; launched a national awareness campaign; and improved efforts to identify and care for victims. This progress is encouraging. Much of it is the result of the hard work of local activists such as Mariliana Morales Berrios, who founded the Rahab Foundation in Costa Rica in 1997 and has helped thousands of trafficking survivors rebuild their lives. Advocates such as Mariliana help spur change from the bottom up that encourages governments to make needed reforms from the top down.
We must build on this work. When I began advocating against trafficking in the 1990s, I saw firsthand what happens to its victims. In Thailand, I held 12-year-olds who had been trafficked and were dying of AIDS. In Eastern Europe, I shared the tears of women who wondered whether they'd ever see their relatives again. The challenge of trafficking demands a comprehensive approach that both brings down criminals and cares for victims. To our strategy of prosecution, protection and prevention, it's time to add a fourth P: partnerships.
The criminal networks that enslave millions of people cross borders and span continents. Our response must do the same. The United States is committed to building partnerships with governments and organizations around the world, to finding new and more effective ways to take on the scourge of human trafficking. We want to support our partners in their efforts and find ways to improve our own.
Human trafficking flourishes in the shadows and demands attention, commitment and passion from all of us. We are determined to build on our past success and advance progress in the weeks, months and years ahead. Together, we must hold a light to every corner of the globe and help build a world in which no one is enslaved.
Remarks With Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateTreaty RoomWashington, DCJune 17, 2009
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. It is my pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Lieberman to the State Department today for his first official visit to Washington in his new role. Minister Lieberman’s visit gave me the opportunity to reaffirm the United States deep, unshakable friendship and bond with Israel. Our commitment to Israel’s security is and will remain a cornerstone of our foreign policy, and I was pleased to have this chance to express that personally to the foreign minister. The United States has no greater ally in the Middle East and no greater friend than Israel.
Because our countries are close friends, we spoke honestly and openly about a range of issues. And we are looking forward to continuing that dialogue in the U.S.-Israel strategic dialogue, which has provided a useful forum for discussion of shared concerns and challenges over recent years. We exchanged views on the Middle East, including Iran, and reiterated the need for Iran’s leaders to comply with obligations to the United Nations Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency to suspend enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. And we look forward to Iran’s response to our offers of engagement.
And of course, we also focused on efforts to bring about a comprehensive peace between Israel and her neighbors in the region. Israel’s right to exist in peace and security is undeniable and non-negotiable. Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve to live in peace and security in two states that will entail both parties fulfilling their obligations under the Roadmap.
Building on the Arab Peace Initiative, Arab states must do their part to support the Palestinian people as they develop the institutions that will sustain their state. And they must recognize Israel’s legitimacy and, in doing so, choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
The United States will never do anything to undermine Israel’s security, and the United States also supports a viable Palestinian state. We do not believe that these two objectives are incompatible. In fact, we believe they are both critical elements of a comprehensive and secure peace.
Minister Lieberman, I hope that you enjoy your first visit to the United States as your country’s foreign minister, and I look forward to continuing our conversation and working with you more on these issues in the future.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Madame Secretary, at the outset, I would like to say to you how much the people and the Government of Israel appreciate your consistent support of Israel. We value your friendship greatly. We remember the many contributions you have made personally, even before you became a United States senator from New York. We thank you, Your Excellency, for your longstanding commitment to Israel and to strengthening the American-Israeli special relationship and friendship.
I think that we have had a good discussion today covering a broad spectrum of regional and global issues. We also covered a wide range of important bilateral topics. Madame Secretary, I thank you for your very kind hospitality today, and I look forward to our future friendly dialogue, both in Washington and in Jerusalem. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: Our first question goes to Lachlan Carmichael.
QUESTION: Yes, Minister --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Here comes the microphone, Lachlan.
QUESTION: Minister Lieberman, first, Ambassador Oren, the new ambassador to Washington, is talking about some interesting proposals on settlements. Could you elaborate on what they might be? And then for Secretary Clinton, does that mean there is some wiggle room to your statement that there should be no such settlement activity?
And finally, for both of you, did you discuss previous President George Bush’s letters, private letters to the Israeli Government? Is that issue over with?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Thank you. It’s a long question. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s actually three questions.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Three questions, yeah. First of all, we really don’t have any intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria. But we think that, you know, as – in every place around the world, baby are born (inaudible), people get married, some pass away. And we cannot accept – we cannot accept this vision about absolutely completely freezing call for our settlements. I think that we must keep the natural growth. Prime minister spoke about this in his speech. I think that this position, it’s – this view, this approach, it’s very clear.
And also, we had some understandings with the previous administration and we tried to keep this direction. And we are, of course, ready for immediately direct talks with the Palestinians.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as President Obama, Senator Mitchell and I have said, we want to see a stop to the settlements. We think that is an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state next to a Israeli-Jewish state that is secure in its borders and future. We believe that this process which Senator Mitchell is quarterbacking for us has just begun. There are a number of critical concerns, many of which overlap in their impact and significance, that will be explored in the coming weeks as Senator Mitchell engages more deeply into the specifics as to where the Israelis and the Palestinians are willing to go together.
I think that the whole issue that you’ve raised is one that we’ve expressed our opinion on. And in looking at the history of the Bush Administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements. That has been verified by the official record of the Administration and by the personnel in the positions of responsibility. Our former ambassador Dan Kurtzer has written an op-ed that appeared in the last few days that lays out our position on that.
MR. KELLY: Our next question, Israeli television, Channel 2.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, I’m interested to know, how do you envision any progress, any chance for achievement of progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track when the Israeli prime minister and the foreign minister have put so many conditions on the existing of a Palestinian state, conditions that are all – all-out refused by their Arab neighbors, including the Palestinians? And when you hear that the Israeli – current Israeli Government refuses totally to talk about your demand of freezing the settlement activity, how do you envision a progress on that track?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think if one looks at Israeli history, there have been prime ministers going back to the beginning of Israelis’ statehood that have staked out positions which have changed over time. I personally have known such prime ministers from Labor, Likud and Kadima, who started in one place, but in the process of evaluating what was in the best interests of Israel, and that has to be the primary obligation of any leader of Israel: What is in the best interests of my people and the future of my state?
And these prime ministers have moved to positions that they never would have thought they could have advocated before they started looking hard and thinking hard about what the future should be. But that’s what negotiations are for.
QUESTION: Do you hold out that Netanyahu and Lieberman will follow through (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I leave that to them to decide. I’m just reflecting on history and on people who have been in these positions over the last 30, 40 years. And there has been an evolution in thought. And I thought Prime Minister Netanyahu, in recognizing the aspirations of the Palestinians for a state of their own in his speech on Sunday night, said something that many people were waiting to hear him say.
MR. KELLY: Next question, Charlie Wolfson from CBS News.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Iran, and also for the foreign minister. The Iranians have protested U.S. actions through the Swiss ambassador today. Could you bring us up to date on those protests? And there have also been criticisms or reports of criticisms about U.S. interference in Iranian affairs because of the call to Twitter, if you could comment on that.
And for the foreign minister, does the outcome of the Iranian election change Israel’s position in any way, and were your discussions today – did they touch on that, and any actions you asked the Administration to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s four questions for the foreign minister. (Laughter.) We have very creative reporters on both sides here. (Laughter.)
The United States believes passionately and strongly in the basic principle of free expression. We believe that it is a fundamental human right for people to be able to communicate, to express their opinions, to take positions. And this is a view that goes back to the founding of our country, and we stand firmly behind it.
And therefore, we promote the right of free expression. And it is the case that one of the means of expression, the use of Twitter, is a very important one not only to the Iranian people, but now increasingly to people around the world, and most particularly young people. I wouldn’t know a Twitter from a tweeter – (laughter) – but apparently, it is very important. And I think keeping that line of communications open and enabling people to share information, particularly at a time when there was not many other sources of information, is an important expression of the right to speak out and to be able to organize that we value.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIEBERMAN: Thank you. As somebody said before you, we support evolution, not a revolution, and we never interfered in any internal affairs of the different countries. And what it’s important for us, not the personal creation, but the creation of policy. And what we saw during this elections, it was only one point that every candidates were united: its achieving, quote, nuclear capability; and maybe the other point, the hatred to Israel. What it’s important for us, it’s real – not the domestic problems of Iran, but their policy. And we hope that they will change their policy.
MR. KELLY: Last question for Channel One, Israel Television.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, given the latest unrest in Iran and the very brutal way the regime there is moving to quash these protests, does the Administration still believe there is room to engage diplomatically with Iran? And are you concerned that such engagement might embolden actually Ahmadinejad and his regime?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that the people of Iran deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted. The outcome of any election should reflect the will of the people. And it is for the Iranians to determine how they resolve this internal protest concerning the outcome of the recent election. But it is a fundamental value that the United States holds with respect to free and fair and credible elections.
With regard to engagement, obviously we intend to pursue engagement because we think it’s in the interests of the United States and the world community to discuss with the Iranian Government important matters such as the one Minister Lieberman raised concerning their intentions for their nuclear program, their support of terrorism, their interference with the affairs of their neighbors and other states.
So yes, we think there is much to talk about. And I would think it’s a useful exercise to look back on history and to see where countries, most particularly my own, have engaged in ongoing diplomatic discussions with countries whose regimes we’ve disapproved of, that we rejected. We never stopped negotiating with the former Soviet Union. They invaded countries. They promoted unrest. But we knew we had an opportunity to learn more, to discuss fully, and perhaps to reach better understandings than we might have in the absence of such engagement, so we pursued it.
We are doing this out of what we view as our interest and the interests of friends and allies such as Israel. So now we are obviously waiting to see the outcome of the internal Iranian processes, but our intent is to pursue whatever opportunities might exist in the future with Iran to discuss these matters.
Thank you all.
Remarks at U.S.-India Business Council's 34th Anniversary "Synergies Summit"
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateU.S. Chamber of CommerceWashington, DCJune 17, 2009
Thank you. Thank you all so much. It is a great pleasure for me to be back here at the Chamber for such an important occasion. I want to thank David for that introduction, and I want to thank my friend, Indra, for those very kind words. It gives you an idea of how much we admire each other and her leadership of a great American company with obviously international reach.
To Ron Summers and to the U.S.-India Business Council Board, thank you so much for this important dialogue. This could not be better timed. It is early in our new Administration, and we are clearly committed to furthering and deepening our relationship with India in every way possible. I’m also pleased to welcome India’s new Minister of Commerce and Industry. Anand Sharma is here with us, and newly arrived ambassador Meera Shankar.
It is exciting to see the election results in India as well, as the Congress Party and the people of India made such a strong statement about the future that they hope to make together. And I look forward to working with Minister Sharma and the ambassador and others on our common agenda and goals.
I will be visiting India next month, which I’m looking forward to. It is exciting for me to have an opportunity to return again, and it is also a great privilege and honor to be doing so representing the United States.
I think also somewhere in this very large lunchtime audience are two members of our new team. And if they are, I’d love for them just to stand up, and you could get a look at our new U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke. Are Ron and Gary here with us? Well, they’re off working. That’s why they’re not. (Laughter.)
And I want also to just thank some of the other people who have been so instrumental in this Council whom I have worked with over the years: Sy Sternberg, the former chair and CEO of New York Life; William Cohen, a former Secretary of Defense and now chair and CEO of the Cohen Group; obviously Bal Das, who is a great friend of mine, an investor and very actively involved on behalf of India and Asia from New York; Ambassador Susan Esserman, another friend who has a lot of work through her legal career that involves the India-U.S. relationship. These are all members of the Council, and I am grateful for everyone who has committed to this work.
The broad range of talents in this room is an indicator of how important the relationship is. Now, when I first had the great delight of visiting India in 1995, I was just overwhelmed by not just the hospitality and the warmth of the people with whom I met, from the very highest to women in villages who were working for better lives for themselves and their families, but how easy it was, even back in ’95, for India’s many accomplishments to be overlooked in other places in the world. Here was a country defined by democracy, diversity, and dynamic growth, a country that had over 1.1 billion opportunities to enhance not only individual potential, but the nation’s. And when I was elected to the Senate, I co-founded and co-chaired the Senate’s India Caucus, the first time we had done that. And I have returned to India to talk about this partnership which I think is critical not only to both of our countries, but literally to the future of the world, the kind of world we want to shape together.
And it is great for me to be standing in front of this significant crowd and to say that the word about India has obviously spread. People know what kind of business and investment opportunities are there. India’s growing role in the global economy is accepted the way we accept the law of gravity. And the partnerships that are blooming at all levels of our societies are indeed exciting.
Now, I tell you this because I want you to place me and where I stand as Secretary of State. It is in a position of deep commitment to building stronger ties with India, a commitment based on mutual respect and mutual interests. And I know that President Obama feels the same way. We see India as one of a few key partners worldwide who will help us shape the 21st century. The forces of positive change versus those of destruction, the forces that move people forward rather than holding them back. We are both eager to build on this relationship, and of course, we’re not alone. We build on the past.
It is now three successive United States administrations from different parties that have identified the U.S.-India relationship as a foreign policy priority. For the United States, this is a project that transcends partnership and personalities, and I believe the same is true in India. When the U.S.-India nuclear deal passed the United States Congress, it had strong bipartisan support, including backing from two former senators named Barack Obama and Joe Biden, as well as a senator from New York.
But the agreement also received support from across the political spectrum in India. The formation of India’s new government is an opportunity to strengthen our ties and launch new initiatives. Now that the government is in place, we are moving quickly to strengthen our ties. Our senior career diplomat, Under Secretary of State Bill Burns, and his newly minted Assistant Secretary of State Bob Blake have returned from India this weekend to tell me of the enormous potential for progress in our relationship with New Delhi.
In a world where, let’s admit it, frankly, the headlines can get depressing, our relationship with India is a good news story. And I think it’s going to get even better. But it’s important to place this in history and to remember that the United States and India haven’t always had such a promising partnership. We need to acknowledge the road we have traveled together. We have already come through two distinct eras in U.S.-India relations on our way to this new beginning.
The first era opened with India’s founding and lasted through the end of the Cold War. It was colored by uncertainty about each other’s motives and ambivalence about whether to pursue closer cooperation. The relationship between our countries was never hostile. But the missed opportunities for closer partnership during this period were casualties of old conflicts between East and West, and North and South.
After the Cold War ended, President Clinton opened a new chapter of engagement with India. I love saying that, and it has the benefit of being true. (Laughter.) Talks between former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and his Indian counterpart helped to establish a new foundation for our relationship. And of course, my husband and daughter had an extraordinary visit toward the end of his term in office.
This second stage in our history continued through the last U.S. and Indian administrations and culminated in completion of the Indo-U.S. civilian nuclear agreement this past October under the Bush Administration. This landmark accord, which the Obama Administration is fully committed to implementing, provides a framework for economic and technical cooperation between our two countries and allows us to move beyond our concerns about the status of India’s nuclear program, an issue that dominated our relationship for much of the last decade.
The nuclear deal, which was completed through the efforts of former President Bush, removed the final barrier to broader cooperation between us. And that brings us to today. We find ourselves at the beginning of a third era. I’ll call it U.S.-India 3.0. The new governments in Washington and New Delhi will build this future together, and we will be discussing the details of that partnership when I visit India next month.
But today, I can tell you my hope and President Obama’s hope that the next stage in our country’s relationship will see a dramatic expansion in our common agenda, and a greater role for India in solving global challenges. We recognize the extraordinary progress that India has made already, and we know that many of these advances have not come easily, and we don’t take them for granted. As we pursue an enhanced bilateral partnership, we should recognize that compared to other metrics of our cooperation, our official ties are past due for an upgrade.
You see, a funny thing happened on the way to this third era of U.S.-India relations. Our scientists and business people, our universities and movie studios, and vibrant Indian-American personal familial connections accepted the truth that cooperation between our countries can be a driver of progress long before our policymakers did.
Today our trade between our nations has doubled since 2004 and now exceeds $43 billion; there are over 90,000 Indian students studying in the United States; and the new Fulbright-Nehru program strengthens educational exchanges between India and the United States with both countries acting as full partners in governance and funding.
We find ourselves in an unusual position. We need the bilateral cooperation between our governments to catch up with our people-to-people and economic ties. We need to make sure that the partnership between Washington and New Delhi, our capitals, will be as advanced and fruitful as the linkages that already exist between Manhattan and Mumbai, or Boston and Bangalore.
Now, that’s not to say that our governments have not made significant progress in our cooperation over the past several years. Top officials see each other more often, and I think we speak more candidly with each other, which is a true sign of friendship. And we have found more common ground of late. But this is a relationship that has largely grown from the ground up. And I think our governments are ready to start following the examples of partnership established by our citizens, our companies, and our colleges.
I hope that an expanded partnership between the U.S. and India will be one of the signature accomplishments of both new governments in both countries, and I do plan to make that a personal priority. To achieve the goal of stronger ties between our countries, we will have to confront and transcend the mistrust that has hampered our cooperation in the past, and address the lingering uncertainties in our relationship still today.
Each of us have our own perspectives, as you would expect, about the challenges we face as individual countries and as partners in the world. Some Americans fear that greater prosperity and partnership with India will mean lost jobs or falling wages here in the United States. Some Indians believe that closer cooperation with us runs counter to their nation’s very strong tradition of independence.
But as friendly democracies, in fact, as the oldest and largest democracies in the world, we should work through any issues in our relationship and differences in our perspective by focusing on shared objectives and concrete results. I want to put us into the solutions business.
In order to achieve that and realize the benefits of this 3.0 relationship, we need to build on several natural platforms. The first is global security. India and the United States share an overriding interest in making the world more secure. The tragic attacks of 26/11 were a global event. They played out in slow motion on television screens across India, the United States, and the world. The violence inflicted on the people of Mumbai, and the loss of six American citizens in those attacks, was a reminder that terrorism represents a common threat to our nations and our people, and we must meet it with a common strategy.
As part of that strategy, we should expand our broader security relationship and increase cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence sharing. As you know, America faced an extraordinary challenge ourselves after 9/11 – how to organize as a government and a people to better prevent and prepare for future attacks. India faces that same terrible challenge. And the President and I are committed to working with India in whatever way is appropriate to enhance India’s ability to protect itself.
Our own post-9/11 process had its strengths and its faults. And I think we can learn from India, too, as it develops new mechanisms for cooperation between federal and state security forces.
We should also work to realize a vision articulated by generations of Indians, Americans, and recently by President Obama, of a nuclear-free world. The Civil Nuclear Agreement helped us get over our defining disagreement, and I believe it can and should also serve as the foundation of a productive partnership on nonproliferation.
We have a common interest in creating a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, where India is already providing $1.2 billion in assistance to facilitate reconstruction efforts. The United States is committed to the task ahead in Afghanistan, and I hope India will continue its efforts there as well. And of course, we believe that India and Pakistan actually face a number of common challenges, and we welcome a dialogue between them.
As we have said before, the pace, scope, and character of that dialogue is something that Indian and Pakistani leaders will decide on their own terms and in their own time. But as Pakistan now works to take on the challenge of terrorists in its own country, I am confident that India, as well as the United States, will support those efforts.
As India and other nations play an expanded role in resolving international security challenges, we should be prepared to adapt the architecture of international institutions to reflect their new responsibilities. India’s moral stature and its long tradition of leadership among developing countries means that it is particularly well-suited to take on the challenges that multinational institutions face. I have always believed states should be awarded enhanced roles in international bodies not only on the basis of their power, but whether they use that power constructively to advance the common good and address global problems. India already is a major player on the world stage, and we will look to cooperate with New Delhi as it shoulders the responsibilities that accompany its new position of global leadership.
Human development – particularly in the fields of education, women’s empowerment, and health – is another platform for cooperation. In both India and the United States, the most important national asset we possess is the energy and creativity of our citizens. In Prime Minister Singh, we have a partner who is determined to leverage India’s progress to improve the lives of his people. We need to work together to ensure that every child, girl or boy, born in our countries can live up to their God-given potential.
As part of that commitment, we should build on the goals articulated by India’s leadership to boost literacy, expand vocational training, and improve access to higher education. I hope we can partner with India to improve outcomes at all levels of education. Our countries should continue the tradition of intellectual exchange by increasing opportunities for interaction by American institutions of higher learning and their Indian counterparts as well.
India’s women have made great strides. The country has a woman president, a woman leader of the nation’s largest political party, more women in parliament than ever before. In many areas, the United States can learn from India. (Applause.) But there is more work to be done in both of our countries. (Laughter.) We should continue working together to promote initiatives like micro-lending and provide training programs for rural women as tools to help lift them and their families out of poverty.
We can also work together to address health challenges including nutrition, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious diseases, as well as the growing problem of chronic disease in both of our nations. We need to share knowledge and best practices to improve human development at home and around the world. And I appreciate all that is being done by this group and certainly this Council to promote economic and trade cooperation. We should begin negotiations on a bilateral investment treaty soon. And I’m confident that our Trade Representative and Minister Sharma will bring a fresh perspective and new ideas to help move the Doha Round negotiations to a successful conclusion.
President Obama has been clear that the United States has learned the lessons of the past. We will not use the global financial crisis as an excuse to fall back on protectionism. We hope India will work with us to create a more open, equitable set of opportunities for trade between our nations.
Encouraging greater agricultural cooperation should be a major focus of our economic agenda. India is ripe for a second green revolution. A significant expansion of India’s agricultural sector would have dramatic benefits for Indians, but also could help to spur agricultural revolutions in Africa and other parts of the globe where food security remains a persistent problem.
All of you in this room will be critical partners as we work to expand economic cooperation. Our commitment to work with the business community means that in September we will re-launch the CEO Forum on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly. We hope that effort, along with other initiatives, will channel the power of the private sector and entrepreneurs to build and improve the lives of both Indians and Americans.
Finally, we should bring together the best of our technological and scientific brains to encourage breakthroughs in both science and technology. This is particularly important on issues related to energy and climate. We are committed to working with India to see India’s economy continue to prosper, to create more economic opportunity, rising incomes. We want Indians to have a higher standard of living. And we hope our countries can work together to achieve that overriding goal, while avoiding the mistakes that were made by everyone in creating the climate crisis we face today. We think there is great promise in a clean energy cooperation strategy focused on adopting low carbon technologies, improving energy efficiency, forestation, and water management. And these efforts should be supported by new and existing high-level dialogues between representatives of our governments.
We can also learn from Indian doctors and companies that are pioneering low-cost solutions to many of the health challenges we face today. The Serum Institute’s groundbreaking work to reduce the cost of vaccine manufacturing is one example of this phenomenon. There are many others. Applying their discoveries to global health initiatives will help us save resources and lives.
Public-private partnerships between governments, industry, civil society will be vital to everyone of these platforms. Yes, we can use all of you to help us drive economic cooperation, but also to improve human development and technological advances as well. And I think that the security cooperation is not just government-to-government, but can operate much more broadly and deeply.
So four platforms of cooperation – global security, human development, economic activity, science and technology – can support us in launching this third phase of the U.S.-India relationship. I think our successes and our futures are intertwined. Obviously, we want India to do well on its own for its own sake, but we also have a stake in that outcome, because we want India to succeed as a model of democratic development. We want India to succeed as an anchor for regional and global security. And we want India to succeed so that the world’s two largest democracies can work together as strong partners.
This is a relationship with deep roots. Both of our countries emerged from struggles against colonialism to become proud, independent democracies. And both are living proof that people espousing espoused different faiths, speaking different languages, and travelling different paths can unite and form nations that are greater than the sum of their parts.
Sixty years ago this October, then-Prime Minister Nehru told a joint session of the United States Congress that, quote, “Progress cannot go far or last long unless it has its foundations in moral principles and high ideals.” The United States and India share an allegiance to what Nehru called the “fundamental human rights to which all [those] who love liberty, equality and progress aspire.”
So let us build on those timeless principles, and let us create a new era in our relationship that will produce so much progress for our people, so much more peace for the world, and live up to those high ideals that both of our nations and our peoples represent and aspire to.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Remarks at Release of the Ninth Annual Trafficking in Persons Report Alongside Leaders in Congress
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateBenjamin Franklin RoomWashington, DCJune 16, 2009
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning. We are delighted to have with us this morning some key members of Congress who have cared about and worked on this important issue for a number of years. This is the first time we have introduced the report in this way, because we want to demonstrate that this truly is a partnership between the State Department and the Congress. If it weren’t for the Congress, we wouldn’t have the legislation, we wouldn’t have the follow-up, we wouldn’t have the kind of outreach that these members and others have been doing. And I’m very grateful that they could take time out of their very busy schedules to be here with us.
You’ll hear from two of them in a moment, but let me introduce here Carolyn Maloney from New York, Ben Cardin from Maryland. We have Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas, Chris Smith from New Jersey, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, and I think that’s all of our members who are here with us. There may be some others who will come later, and then I’ll be introducing some of the other speakers in a moment.
This is one of the really significant days in the calendar for our country and particularly for the State Department. We have so many people who have been affected by this significant issue over the years. And it is especially fitting that we would hold this announcement here on the 8th floor where we have a great diplomatic history of so many important events in our nation.
And I’m especially pleased that our new Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, the new director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons here at the State Department was confirmed in time for him to be part of this ceremony, Senator Cardin. (Applause.) Previously, Lou led the fight against slavery at the Department of Justice. He’s also been a valued member of the team on the House Judiciary Committee with Chairman Conyers. And thanks to him, hundreds of trafficking survivors are now living productive and healthy lives in our own country, while their abusers are behind bars.
We’re also joined by two very special guests from the frontlines of the fight against trafficking. We have Mariliana Morales Berrios, who runs a foundation that assists victims in Costa Rica, and Vera Lesko, who opened the first shelter in Albania for trafficked women and girls. These two women represent nine women and men who we are celebrating this year for their courage in the fight against trafficking. And we are so grateful that they could join us today. (Applause.)
Around the world, millions of people are living in bondage. They labor in fields and factories under brutal employers who threaten them with violence if they try to escape. They work in homes for families that keep them virtually imprisoned. They are forced to work as prostitutes or to beg in the streets, fearful of the consequences if they fail to earn their daily quota. They are women, men, and children of all ages, and they are often held far from home with no money, no connections, and no way to ask for help.
This is modern slavery, a crime that spans the globe, providing ruthless employers with an endless supply of people to abuse for financial gain. Human trafficking is a crime with many victims: not only those who are trafficked, but also the families they leave behind, some of whom never see their loved ones again.
Trafficking has a broad global impact as well. It weakens legitimate economies, fuels violence, threatens public health and safety, shatters families, and shreds the social fabric that is necessary for progress. And it is an affront to our basic values and our fundamental belief that all people everywhere deserve to live and work in safety and dignity.
The Obama Administration views the fight against human trafficking, both at home and abroad, as a critical part of our foreign policy agenda. The United States currently funds 140 anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries, as well as 42 domestic task forces to address the challenge here. We are proud of the work we do, but we know we have much more ahead of us. Economic pressure, especially in this global economic crisis, makes more people susceptible to the false promises of traffickers.
Today, the State Department releases our annual report on trafficking in persons. It underscores the need to address the root causes of trafficking, including poverty, lax law enforcement, and the exploitation of women.
The Trafficking Report is not an indictment of past failures, but a guide for future progress. It includes examples of steps taken against trafficking worldwide – for example, in Congo, where an army officer was convicted in a ground-breaking case for forcing children to serve as soldiers; or in Colombia where the government has pioneered a comprehensive operations center that tasks agents to investigate trafficking allegations and ensure that victims receive rehabilitative services, or in Jordan where the Ministry of Labor has established a fund to provide trafficking victims with food, housing, and legal aid.
With this report, we hope to shine the light brightly on the scope and scale of modern slavery so all governments can see where progress has been made and where more is needed. Trafficking thrives in the shadows, and it can be easy to dismiss it as something that happens to someone else, somewhere else. But that’s not the case. Trafficking is a crime that involves every nation on earth, and that includes our own.
Trafficking and forced labor are grave problems here in the United States. And we’ve been reminded of this in recent weeks, where authorities uncovered a scheme to enslave foreign workers as laborers for hotels and construction sites in 14 Midwestern states.
To coincide with this year’s Global Trafficking in Persons Report, the Department of Justice is releasing its own report, which describes the problem of human trafficking in the United States and offers recommendations for how we can do a better job of fighting it.
We’re grateful for the DOJ work. It will help us advance our struggle against trafficking in our own country. And we are committed to working with all nations collaboratively. In recent years we’ve pursued a comprehensive approach reflected by the three Ps: prosecution, protection, and prevention. Well, it’s time to add a fourth: partnership.
The criminal network that enslaves millions of people crosses borders and spans continents. So our response must do the same. So we’re committed to building new partnerships with governments and NGOs around the world, because the repercussions of trafficking affect us all.
I know that there are many of you in this room this morning who have been stalwart advocates in the fight against trafficking. And Chris Smith, you’ve got the copy of the report here. Let me just hold it up. This is a really wonderful piece of work, beautifully presented. I especially want to thank everyone in the State Department. Certainly, the – TIPS office, but others who helped produce this report. And I hope it is read and studied for the guidance it provides so that we together, in partnership, can continue to make progress against this terrible, terrible scourge. Thanks, Chris.
Now, I’d like to welcome a former colleague from the Senate. Ben Cardin is co-chair of the Helsinki Commission, and in that capacity he has pledged to make the fight against human trafficking a top priority.
Senator Ben Cardin. (Applause.)
SENATOR CARDIN: Well, Secretary Clinton, first I want to thank you for your leadership on this issue. You have brought this issue to the national and international forums, and we thank you for that. It’s a priority of the United States – (applause) – it’s a priority because of Secretary Clinton. And thank you for giving us Ambassador CdeBaca. We are very pleased that we could get that nomination through. (Applause.) We have a person who will, again, stand up for these issues around the world.
Look, our goal is simple: We want to end trafficking. We want to end this modern slavery. That’s our goal. And the United States is going to provide the leadership. We know that trafficking is connected to organized crime. So it’s not an isolated episode. It’s part of a systemic problem that we have around the world, and we have to root it out. We know that we can do better. We know those who are trafficked are victims and need to be treated as victims.
I am proud of the leadership in the United States. I am proud of the work in the Helsinki Commission to bring this to the international attention. When Secretary Clinton was Senator Clinton, she served on the Helsinki Commission and was a strong voice on this issue, helping to promote it internationally. Chris Smith brought this issue to the attention of the commission and the international community by filing legislation in Congress and filing resolutions in the international parliamentary assembly. The U.S. took the leadership. And as a result, the OSCE, 56 states, have passed strong commitments to deal with trafficking, have established a special representative to combat trafficking. That’s the type of strategies we need.
Madame Secretary, let me just tell you, this report, this TIP report is critically important to all of us. I have already read the section on Belarus. Why? Because Chris and I are going to be in Belarus in a couple weeks, and we’re going to talk to the leaders of Belarus about being on Tier 2 and how they can improve what they’re doing on trafficking. This is the objective yardstick that we use when we meet with leaders from other countries. And the United States has provided the leadership. I am proud of the work that has been done. Now it’s time for us to follow through on the information that’s contained in this report so that we can, in fact, end this modern-day slavery. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am very pleased that we’ve been joined by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee from Texas. Thank you so much for being here, Sheila. (Applause.) Our next speaker is the ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. She’s been a tenacious advocate for immigrant women, refugees, and other vulnerable populations. She’s been a leader on human trafficking both in Congress and through her support of programs in her home district, including the Human Trafficking Center at the University of St. Thomas.
Representative Ros-Lehtinen. (Applause.)
MS. ROS-LEHTINEN: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Thank you. Thank you so much, Secretary Clinton and Ambassador CdeBaca. It’s an honor to stand with you today to address this important issue of the scourge of human trafficking. As we know, hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings are trafficked across international borders each and every year. And of these, an estimated 80 percent are women and half are children. The numbers, however, do not convey the human horrors that lay behind those statistics. These crimes know no borders.
In Iran, children are forced into sexual slavery, involuntary servitude, while Iranian girls are trafficked into Pakistan and numerous other countries. In Syria, women are trafficked from South and Southeast Asia and are forced to work as domestic servants, and women from Eastern Europe and Iraq are forced into prostitution. In our own hemisphere, Cuba has shamefully been promoting itself as a destination for sexual tourism that exploits large numbers of Cuban girls and boys, some as young as 12. And the list goes on and on.
And I’m proud of the leading role that our United States Congress, this Department of State, under Secretary Clinton’s leadership, has played in moving the fight against human trafficking from a non-issue to a priority for the United States Government. When the original Trafficking Victims Protection Act was introduced a decade ago, these issues did not have a lot of attention paid to them. But thanks to that legislation and thanks to the efforts of the State Department’s office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons, foreign governments know that inaction will no longer be met with silence.
This annual release of the Trafficking In Persons Report is critically important as a reckoning, as a resource, and as a challenge. As a reckoning, the report’s tier placements are an indispensible form of truth-telling that has been the catalyst for action for numerous governments around the world. As a resource, the country narratives and other information in the report provide insight into facts and trends that are necessary to any real understanding of the problems that we are confronting. And by highlighting the continuing defiance of certain regimes and the widespread victimization of so many vulnerable people, the trafficking report represents a challenge to us all. There is much work to be done.
Secretary Clinton, Ambassador CdeBaca, we stand ready to work with you in this important work of protecting and promoting the human dignity of trafficking victims around the world. Mucha gracias. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very, very much, Ileana. In 2000, Ambassador CdeBaca used his hard-won knowledge of trafficking to help write the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. And I see our first-ever Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer there because in the First Lady’s Office in those days, we were working to draft that legislation and work with the Congress to get it passed. It overhauled and updated our nation’s approach to modern slavery. It gave prosecutors new tools to bring traffickers to justice. It gave governments new guidance for how to help trafficked people start a new life.
And this legislation also established the report we are releasing today. So in a very real sense, Luis has come full circle. He helped to draft the legislation that required the report, and today, I’m very proud that he is our director who is unveiling the report. (Applause.)
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Thank you, Madame Secretary, although I think there is a few things that I might have asked Congressman Smith and others to put in if I had known – (laughter) – that nine years later, I’d be here.
Nine years ago, the annual trafficking report started as a modest summary, 82 countries. It has grown to a detailed and accurate assessment of governments’ anti-trafficking efforts around the world, this year ranking 175 countries. But more importantly, it has become a diagnostic tool that informs and guides our efforts as we seek to build a global partnership to combat modern slavery.
The successes are clear. Some former Tier 2 Watch List countries are now Tier 1. They have become models through their efforts for their regions and for the world. In this vein, I’m particularly heartened to see, for instance, how Nigeria started a dedicated counter-trafficking police and prosecution unit. We can all learn from their growing success in working with nongovernmental organizations and victims.
Such anti-trafficking units work best when they incorporate survivors and NGOs as part of the team. I’m glad that we are joined today by a number of people from the nongovernmental community, but also by members of the Justice Department’s Trafficking Prosecutions Unit and by Deputy Sheriff Chris Burchell from San Antonio, who is helping form such units across the state of Texas.
Huge challenges remain for us all. Some governments have yet to respond to the global call for victim protections or for effective law enforcement efforts against these crimes. As the UN Office on Drugs and Crime stated in its recent report on global human trafficking, two out of every five countries have yet to achieve a single conviction of a human trafficker. Our own TIP Report data show for a second year that less than 10 percent of all convictions are for labor trafficking worldwide. Despite reliable estimates, the labor trafficking is the largest form of trafficking in the world. All countries can do a better job and must do a better job of addressing forced labor, while also remaining vigilant against the scourge of the sex traffickers.
Prosecutions can be a blunt tool, but they do matter. When labor violations are dealt with just as administrative issues, abusers factor in fines as a cost of doing business, and abused workers are easily disposed of. When a country interprets sex trafficking as just moving prostitutes, instead of incorporating the effect of abuse and coercion, there often result light sentences in incarceration of the victims – risks that the traffickers are willing to take.
One important point in this year’s report, especially in a time of crisis, foreign workers are too often held not just by brute force, but through exorbitant recruiting fees that can result in debt bondage. Last year, Congress closed loopholes in some of our Pacific possessions the traffickers who had historically used to exploit people as garment workers, waitresses, and enforced prostitution. Congress also gave us welcome criminal tools to ensure that fraudulent promises don’t expose workers to servitude and mandated that visa recipients receive information about their rights before they travel to the United States. We welcome those tools, and we will use them.
To echo Secretary Clinton’s call today, we offer partnership to meet the challenges: partnership with foreign governments, NGOs, international organizations, and international development agencies. We must build on our common interests to attack this phenomenon in partnership.
A number of such partners have been featured in the report as TIP heroes. We are joined by some of them, who the Secretary will introduce, but several of them were unable to be with us here today.
For instance, Major George Vanikiotis, a Greek police commander, has dedicated his life to breaking up the trafficking rings that so often plague Southeastern Europe.
Indonesian hero, Elly Anita, a trafficking survivor herself, advocates fiercely to liberate Indonesian contract laborers in the Middle East.
When he overheard a bar patron boasting about a high-end prostitution ring, hero Inacio Sebastiao Mussanhane, a Mozambican lawyer who was living in South Africa, didn’t just walk away. He risked his life to rescue the women. Though a civilian, he posed as a John to infiltrate the organization so he could take the evidence to the police. Those men are now standing trial in South Africa. (Applause.)
Our Canadian hero, Professor Benjamin Perrin also uncovered a trafficking ring and secured important government protections for trafficking victims as an advocate.
Hero Sunitha Krishnan of India has rescued thousands of children and women from exploitation and provides them welcome opportunities to reclaim their lives.
Hero Aida Abu Ras, a Jordanian anti-trafficking activist, is a fierce advocate for the rights of foreign domestic workers, often so vulnerable as they labor behind closed doors.
And in Malaysia, hero Alice Nah works tirelessly to urge government officials to identify and protect refugees and migrant workers who are victimized by traffickers.
This year’s report also memorialized prostitution survivor Norma Hotaling, who passed away this year from cancer. Norma was an active participant in the first NGO focus groups convened over 10 years ago as part of the effort that Secretary Clinton mentioned. From those humble beginnings, without many of the victim protections and collaborative anti-trafficking models that have become the global standard today, and Norma never stopped working towards a world free from exploitation.
We are humbled by their heroism, and we are honored to be joined with them today.
Madame Secretary. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much, Lou. And on behalf of the entire State Department, we want to extend our appreciation and admiration to all of this year’s heroes who could not join us today.
Several years ago, Vera Lesko began asking what happened to the large numbers of Albanian girls who were disappearing from their homes and neighborhoods every year. The more she learned about sex trafficking, the more determined she became to help stop it. She founded an anti-trafficking organization called The Hearth, which opened the first shelter in Albania for trafficked women and girls. She offered them not only a safe place to stay, but also comprehensive services, including legal and medical help, job training, education, and family support.
Her commitment to her work has come with costs and dangers. Vera has been attacked and beaten several times by those people who benefit from the illegal trade in women and girls. She even had to send her daughter to live abroad for her safety. But nothing has stopped Vera from continuing to advocate for the women and girls of Albania and their right to live in peace and safety. Thank you so much, Vera. (Applause.)
Just as Vera was beginning her work in Albania, another woman was starting down the same path on the other side of the world. Mariliana Morales Berrios created her anti-trafficking organization, the Rahab Foundation in Costa Rica, more than a decade ago. Her goal was to help trafficking victims and their families put their ordeal behind them and start new lives. The Rahab Foundation provides counseling, education, and job training. It works to stop trafficking before it starts by training government leaders, police, young people, tourism workers, in how to identify, investigate, and successfully intervene when trafficking occurs. Her commitment and that of her staff have helped so many women, girls, and families throughout Costa Rica. I’d like to invite her to say a few words on behalf of all of this year’s courageous leaders in the fight against traffic. Thank you. (Applause.)
MS. BERRIOS: (Via interpreter). Thank you so much, Madame Secretary, for this award. I’m deeply honored to be here with Vero Lesko of Albania, my fellow. And she’s a fellow anti-trafficking hero like myself when we are here representing seven other anti-trafficking heroes recognized. These are heroes who have been recognized in this year’s TIP report from across the globe.
Although we fight against human trafficking in different ways, we have the same goal: to defeat this crime. And we trust in God’s grace that He will help us achieve that. We want to return dignity to human beings. I am the voice of many women, children, and men who are victims of trafficking. I am also the voice of many NGOs worldwide who work without any resources. And I’m very grateful to God for this opportunity to be able to shed light on the work that these NGOs do, who are heroes also for the work that they do without any resources.
And being here, I would like to call upon all governments to designate more resources, both human resources as well as financial resources, so that we can make progress on this fight against trafficking. We can form an ideal partnership because governments have the resources, while we have the passions, the will to work, and the will to work 24 hours a day.
First of all, then, I would like to thank God for this award, to my great team in San Jose, because without them, it would not be possible for me to be here, and to my family for putting up with a mother who has to spend her evenings and nights in the streets, and my husband, who is around here somewhere, who has taken on the financial burden of allowing me to do this. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Where is your husband? (Applause.)
MS. BERRIOS: (Via interpreter). There are many lives behind these awards. But today, I want to leave you with this thought: to think about the victims, all of the victims who have died without a voice to speak for them.
Thank you very much to all of you and may God bless you. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much, Mariliana, and thanks to your husband as well, a good partnership. And thanks to all of you for joining us. This is a wonderful event every year, but it just reminds us of how much work we have ahead of us. This morning I sent a cable communicating to the staff of the State Department here and around the world how critical this issue is to the foreign policy priorities of the State Department and the Obama Administration. Human trafficking demands attention and commitment and passion from all of us. We are determined to build on our past success and advance progress in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
I ask you just to do one thing for us, and that is become advocates for both of these reports. (Applause.) Make sure that you read the Department of Justice report. We are including more information about the United States in our report. I believe when you shine a bright light you need to shine it on everyone, and we will rank ourselves. We believe we’re Tier 1, but we will rank ourselves next year in the report so that we have done our duty as well.
But then, please read this. And those of you working in the State Department, USAID, our missions around the world, please take this and talk with your counterparts in governments, in countries that are willing to partner with us to make the changes that are outlined in this report. There are so many good ideas. Yes, it does cost some resources, but the consequences of trafficking for any society are so much more expensive and devastating.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.) I’ve been reminded, we’ve got to give the awards out so – (applause). And please, come and greet our guests. And I know the members of Congress have to leave for important matters, but come talk to the ambassador and any members who can stay, introduce yourselves, because this is part of the team that we have to go after the scourge of trafficking.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)