Wednesday, September 23, 2015
September 23, 2015
On Thursday, September 17, 2015, four new African Ambassadors to the U.S. presented their Letters of Credence to President Obama at an Ambassador Credentialing Ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House.
* His Excellency Ahmed Isse Awad, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Somalia
* His Excellency Wilson Mutagaywa Masilingi, Ambassador of the United Republic of Tanzania
* His Excellency Francois Nkuna Balumuene, Ambassador of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
* His Excellency Yasser Reda Abdalla Ali Said, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt
The presentation of credentials is a traditional ceremony that marks the formal beginning of an Ambassador’s service in Washington.
Department of State Spokesperson
September 22, 2015
The United States is concerned by the September 18 convictions of four young activists and members of the group “LUCHA” (Lutte pour le changement or “struggle for change”) by the Superior Court of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, and the impact that cases such as this could have on the stability of the country.
Authorities charged the youth with inciting public disobedience while they peacefully expressed their political views at an April 7th rally. The four activists – Tresor Akili, Sylvain Kambere, Gentil Mulume, and Vincent Kasereka – organized and participated in a protest to bring attention to the arrest and detention of fellow activists Fred Bauma and Yves Makwambala, who also were convicted for peacefully protesting against the Kabila government. They remain in custody in Kinshasa.
Such arrests, detentions, and convictions of political activists have a chilling effect on freedom of organization, assembly, and expression in the DRC. It is particularly important that the government protect these constitutionally accorded and internationally recognized rights during this period of active campaigning and public political debate as the DRC prepares for elections. As the four LUCHA activists pursue their appeal of this decision, and Mr. Bauma and Mr. Makwambala await their trial, we urge Congolese institutions to ensure a free, fair, and open legal process.
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
September 22, 2015
The United States is pleased to announce more than $80 million in additional humanitarian assistance for conflict-affected people in South Sudan, and for South Sudanese refugees in the region. This announcement follows the signing of the peace agreement between the government of South Sudan and the opposition on August 26, 2015 that seeks to end the country’s 20-month conflict. The agreement presents an opportunity to save lives threatened by violence and return the country to a productive path forward. With this additional contribution, total U.S. assistance since the start of the conflict in December 2013 has reached more than $1.3 billion for vulnerable populations, including internally displaced persons, refugees seeking asylum in South Sudan, and those South Sudanese who are now refugees in neighboring countries.
This additional funding will allow our partners to address urgent needs and prevent the spread of diseases by providing emergency health services, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene education, as well as support vulnerable people in meeting nutritional and other basic needs through agriculture and other livelihood activities. It will also provide services for survivors of gender-based violence and malnourished children among affected populations in South Sudan and South Sudanese refugees and host communities in neighboring countries. The U.S. government is also supporting the transport of lifesaving supplies to ensure that people in remote areas receive assistance quickly.
This latest contribution underscores the U.S. government’s long-standing commitment to the people of South Sudan. However, aid can only be effective if it reaches those who need it most. As both parties work on the implementation of the peace agreement, they must uphold their obligations to allow immediate, full, and unconditional humanitarian access to all populations in need in all areas of South Sudan, and to ensure the safety and security of civilians, humanitarian workers, and humanitarian supplies. Only when leaders fulfill the commitments they have made and prioritize those they represent can the situation be stabilized and can people begin to overcome the food insecurity and trauma caused by the recent conflict, and begin to rebuild their lives.
Department of State Spokesperson
September 22, 2015
The United States is pleased to welcome Angola as the 192nd State Party to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). We support Angola’s efforts to strengthen the global prohibition against chemical weapons and we offer our technical experts to assist Angola with its national implementation of the treaty as needed.
Angola’s accession to the CWC brings the international community one step closer to achieving the goal of completely eliminating the scourge of chemical weapons. The United States urges the remaining countries not party to the CWC to join the Convention without further delay.
Department of State
September 21, 2015
The U.S. Department of State and the Government of Mozambique, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, will host a Cybersecurity and Cybercrime Workshop for Lusophone Africa in Maputo, September 22-24. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Todd Haskell, U.S. Ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Griffiths, and U.S. Deputy Coordinator for Cyber Issues Thomas Dukes will provide remarks along with Dr. Pedro Augusto Ingles, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Communications, and other officials from the Government of Mozambique.
As use of Internet and mobile phones expands throughout sub-Saharan Africa, nations are grappling with multiplying cyber threats. This workshop will address broad issues of cybercrime and cybersecurity while focusing on issues of specific interest to the Lusophone Africa region such as combating cybercrime; mobile phone security; Internet freedom, access, and affordability; and the development of national computer emergency readiness teams, or CERTs.
Workshop attendees will include government officials from Angola, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Portugal, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Regional organizations, such as the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have been invited to share their ideas on cybersecurity and cybercrime. Distinguished guests from the University of Florida and officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security will also share perspectives on cyber issues.
This workshop, the sixth in a series on this critical topic, supports the State Department’s priority of promoting cybersecurity and cybercrime capacity-building efforts across the globe.
To learn more about this workshop or other cyber policy efforts at the Department of State, please follow us on Twitter @State_Cyber, or contact us via email at SCCI_Press@state.gov.
Office of Communications
US Department of Agriculture
Deputy Secretary Harden to Lead Sub-Saharan Africa Trade Mission
WASHINGTON, Sept. 18, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Krysta Harden will lead a trade mission to Accra, Ghana, Nov. 17 to Nov. 20, to expand export opportunities for U.S. agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
“Two years ago, I led a mission to southern Africa to launch USDA’s Sub-Saharan Africa Trade Initiative, which aims to expand U.S. agricultural and commercial ties in the region,” Harden said. “I am excited to return to Africa with a new group of U.S. agricultural leaders to further explore market opportunities, especially for small, minority and women-owned businesses.”
The delegation will meet with potential customers from more than a dozen countries across sub-Saharan Africa, forging relationships and learning about the market conditions and business environment in the region. This first-hand intelligence will help them develop strategies to start or expand sales to these key markets.
Participants will include representatives from companies representing a wide array of U.S. food and agricultural products, as well as leaders from state departments of agriculture and U.S. agricultural organizations.
With a strong economic outlook, a growing middle class, and surging demand for consumer-oriented foods, sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions for U.S. agricultural exports. Over the past decade, U.S. agricultural exports to the region have grown by more than 50 percent, totaling $2.3 billion in 2014. Exports of consumer-oriented products have grown by nearly 90 percent in just five years, from $480 million in 2010 to a record $909 million in 2014.
Additional information about the mission, including application materials, is available at www.fas.usda.gov/topics/trade-missions. Applications are due Oct. 2, 2015.
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 17, 2015
Statement by the National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on the Situation in Burkina Faso
The United States condemns, in the strongest terms, the unconstitutional seizure of power by elements of the Presidential Security Regiment in Burkina Faso. We call on the responsible parties to release immediately those being detained, order aligned forces to stand down, respect the rights of civilians to peacefully assemble, and put Burkina Faso back on the path to presidential elections in October.
We continue to assess the facts as the situation unfolds. We are deeply disappointed that the self-interested actions of a few are threatening the historic opportunity that the people of Burkina Faso have to cast their ballots and build a new future for the country. Nearly a year ago, a broad coalition came together in Burkina Faso to reject attempts by the previous president to extend his stay in office illegitimately. They demanded respect for the constitution and the opportunity to change their government through a legitimate process. These courageous efforts to advance Burkinabe democracy must not be undone, and the United States stands with the people of Burkina Faso in rejecting democratic backsliding.
The United States will continue to work with our partners, including the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the United Nations, to bring about a peaceful resolution.
We will review our foreign assistance to Burkina Faso in light of evolving events.
Department of State Spokesperson
September 17, 2015
The United States welcomes Mozambique’s announcement today that it has completed clearance of all known fields of landmines in the country.
Since 1993, when Mozambique emerged from decades of conflict as one of the world’s most landmine-affected nations, the United States has been proud to partner with the people of Mozambique, investing more than $55 million toward improving the safety and security of local communities though the U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction program.
Through that partnership — which includes the international donor community and humanitarian demining organizations — we have worked diligently to safely clear landmines and unexploded ordnance, prevent injuries through community outreach and education, and provide medical and social services to survivors of accidents involving these legacies of past conflicts.
The United States is proud to be the world’s leading provider of financial and technical assistance to help countries address this serious humanitarian challenge. Since 1993, we have invested nearly $2.5 billion in aid in more than 90 countries to decrease the threats posed by landmines and explosive remnants of war. Our efforts have dramatically reduced the world’s annual landmine casualty rate and helped 16 countries declare themselves landmine-free.
Humanitarian demining in places like Mozambique sets the stage for post-conflict recovery and development. It is another important way in which the United States promotes international peace and security.
Secretary of State
September 16, 2015
SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I’m really pleased to be able to welcome for a series of meetings today in our Strategic Dialogue the Foreign Minister of South Africa Nkoana-Mashabane. And it’s my pleasure to report that South Africa is playing an increasingly important global role, a very important leadership role on the continent of Africa, and, we are pleased to say, an important cooperative role together with the United States.
Our bilateral trade relationship is a $20 billion-a-year trade relationship and growing. South Africa has made an important democratic transition, which is vital as an example to the world, stands up for human rights, has made a very important commitment on the health sector, and will be the first country in all of Africa to have taken over total management of the HIV/AIDS program, PEPFAR, which is an important transition that we’ve been working on together. And we continue to work on security issues, on leadership issues within the continent and elsewhere, as well as a particular commitment on the energy sector.
So with the Climate Change Conference coming up in Paris and renewable energy, a commitment South Africa has made, again, that’s an important role that South Africa can play in the days ahead. So very happy to welcome my friend here today, and we look forward to a very fruitful Strategic Dialogue.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Well, Secretary Kerry, it’s indeed an honor for us to be received by yourself here. Can I say our in-law? Because your wife was born in Mozambique.
SECRETARY KERRY: That’s right, and educated in South Africa.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: And educated in South Africa. So it is a great honor for us to come here and continue with this very, very important dialogue forum with the United States of America and the leadership of the State Secretary, to also confirm that we are friends, we have very strong bilateral ties, we have values and principles of democracy, good governance, and defense for human rights, but South Africa indeed has transited and gave birth to a democracy, and we’ve been maintaining the (inaudible) of that for the past 21 years.
Our economy is growing and the economic cooperation between our two countries. Indeed, the United States of America’s investors in South Africa – 600 companies are very comfortable in South Africa and the number is growing, and the U.S. has become the biggest foreign direct investor, the third trading partner, and this we see growing. More than 15,000 new jobs have been created through this partnership. We’re very happy with PEPFAR, the health cooperation program. We are finalizing the final details of our AGOA, and we’re going to take this opportunity to thank the U.S. Government for having kept South Africa in the AGOA Forum for the next coming 10 years. We’ll continue to work together, indeed, for issues of peace and security, particularly cooperation in line with Resolution 2033 of the United Nations Security Council, that we will cooperate with permanent members of the Security Council and the Security Council at large on issues of peace and security on our continent. And during our dialogue forum, we’ll also be looking at specific areas that need our immediate attention.
Always a pleasure, and we’re looking forward to growing these very important ties between the two democracies.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER NKOANA-MASHABANE: Thank you.
Department of State Spokesperson
September 8, 2015
The Department of State is pleased to announce the commencement of operations by the United States Mission to Somalia. The new mission reflects a continuation of U.S. efforts to normalize the U.S.-Somalia bilateral relationship since recognizing the Federal Government of Somalia on January 17, 2013. The United States Mission to Somalia is based within the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and will be headed by a Chargé d’Affaires until the President appoints, and Senate confirms, the next U.S. Ambassador to Somalia. The launch of the U.S. Mission to Somalia is the next step towards reestablishing a diplomatic presence by the United States in Somalia as announced by Secretary Kerry on May 5 during his historic visit to Mogadishu. U.S. officials will continue to travel to Somalia to conduct official business as security conditions permit.
Charles H. Rivkin
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
September 7, 2015
Let me start by thanking the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring this event this evening as well as the SME Finance Conference tomorrow and Wednesday. The Embassy tells me that the NACC is a very active voice for business in northern Nigeria and a strong link between the Nigerian and U.S. business communities on many levels. So thank you for the work you do, and for the highly cooperative relationship between the NACC and the U.S. Embassy.
This is the first stop on a trip I am taking to Abuja and Lagos, followed by Dakar in Senegal. My purpose is simple: to do my part to continue to advance our economic engagement in this region, of which Nigeria plays a vital role. I’m pleased to have the opportunity this evening to reaffirm the strength of our partnership and advance our mutual interests.
I’d like to give you a view of Nigeria from Washington D.C.’s perspective. First, I think it’s accurate to say there is a consensus that Nigeria is at an historic fork in the road, so to speak – choosing between business as usual and a new direction. Nigeria is ready for a new direction and has demonstrated that readiness in largely peaceful elections in which the outgoing President conceded defeat.
There is also consensus that His Excellency President Buhari’s top two priorities are the right priorities – defeating Boko Haram and the insecurity issues in the country, and attacking corruption. Addressing these two issues would have a positive impact on the economy and would be significant in improving the business climate in Nigeria.
Already, President Buhari’s efforts to reform the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is seen among outside observers as a welcome development. It is a concrete example of a new direction for Nigeria, rather than business as usual.
There is also an external factor that makes the case for a new direction so compelling: the decline in the price of oil. There is significant interest in Washington in how Nigeria will respond to this new economic paradigm.
And that brings me to one of the main purposes of my visit to Nigeria. Our two countries share mutual priorities not just politically, but economically as well. Those mutual priorities include increasing foreign direct investment and increasing trade, investing in people, creating jobs, and making our societies more prosperous.
The choices our two governments take on economic policy will have a direct impact on how far we can go in meeting these priorities. The U.S. government has already taken steps demonstrating our commitment to increasing trade with Africa.
The historic ten-year extension of AGOA signed into law by President Obama provides Nigeria duty-free access to the U.S. market for most goods.
One of the best ways for Nigeria to be able to take full advantage of AGOA is to remain outwardly focused and ensure that it is an attractive destination for international companies and international capital.
Broadly speaking, countries posture themselves somewhere on the spectrum between a closed economy – think North Korea – or a wide open economy – think Singapore. Experience has taught us that the more open economies are, the more competitive they become, and the more closed they are, the more they are left behind.
I am confident that Nigeria can compete more in the world. I hope that in considering how best to develop its potential, Nigeria will steer in a direction that opens more doors to the outside.
Shutting doors to foreign competition, whether through import bans, prohibitive tariffs, or foreign exchange controls, will not make protected domestic firms more competitive.
Consumer demand around the world is based on price, quality, and choice. Consumers, whether businesses or individuals, are right, not wrong, in wanting to get the best products in exchange for their hard-earned income.
While tariffs on their face may be intended as a means to increase government revenues, when prohibitive or exorbitant, they produce little or no revenue except to those engaged in smuggling and corruption, and hurt the development of formal markets.
As Nigeria considers which direction it wants to go, I encourage it to adopt more open trade and investment policies. Among other things, this will help develop more formal markets, which in turn will help set the wheels in motion of a virtual cycle that leads to more jobs and more investment. One of the key lessons from the recently concluded AGOA Forum in Gabon is that businesses are more likely to invest in countries with open and regionally integrated trade.
In addition, I believe Nigeria must focus on intellectual property protections if it wants to keep up with the global knowledge economy. Given the creativity and intellectual ability and accomplishments of Nigerians in literature, film, music, software development, clothing design, and many other areas, it is clear Nigeria has resources, but it will never be able to fully develop those resources unless they can be turned into bankable assets through effective IPR protections. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with members of government agencies working in that area to see how we might cooperate toward that end. But IPR must be a priority of this government in order to be effective.
In short, we are encouraging the new administration to adopt policies that welcome foreign firms, protect their intellectual property, and allow firms the freedom to use their supply chains as they see fit. I’ll be engaging on these issues while in Abuja, including our concerns over the ICT local content guidelines.
In many ways, Nigeria is an economic giant. With 180 million citizens, a GDP that’s more than $500 billion, and oil production that’s approximately two million barrels per day, Nigeria has Africa’s largest population, its biggest economy, and is the continent’s biggest oil producer and exporter. In other words, it is a leader in many ways, and we believe that leadership should extend to trade and investment and IPR. Nigeria offers abundant natural resources and a low-cost labor pool, and enjoys mostly duty-free trade with other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States.
The potential is clearly enormous and, naturally, the U.S. government is committed to doing everything it can to support the new government’s economic reform plans; as well as its efforts to tackle corruption and reform the energy sector.
In our conversations with political leaders, we will continue to underscore those points. We will also make clear that your robust presence brings benefits in the other direction. Foreign direct investment – in turn – will help Nigeria’s economic recovery and its ability to realize the aspirations of its citizens.
Given the signals that President Buhari has sent out about fighting corruption and working for greater transparency in the energy sector, we feel that there are opportunities for American businesses to form public-private partnerships to support those outcomes. After all, a government cannot effectively fight and prevent corruption alone.
So we encourage U.S. businesses to consider partnering with the Nigerian Government and with organizations such as the Convention on Business Integrity, a Nigerian NGO, led by current Vice President Osinbajo and supported by Siemens and others, that works with public and private partners to combat corruption.
As Benjamin Franklin said: “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
On energy issues, we are also working with the Nigerian government through Power Africa to sustain power sector privatization reforms. As we are telling our counterparts, the objective is to create a more conducive environment for investment in this sector so we can enhance power generation.
I’d like to close with a quote from Desmond Tutu. In a speech at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, he said: “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”
As President Obama and Secretary Kerry have made clear, Nigeria is our most important strategic partner in the region. Today, our relationship is defined not by what the United States can do for Nigeria, but by what we can do with Nigeria. We just have to find a language and a common purpose that helps us get the prosperity and economic growth that everyone wants.
So with that, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the challenges for businesses in Nigeria and, more importantly, what we can do together to influence positive changes. By doing so, we can support Nigeria’s efforts to grow to its best potential as a provider of jobs for its people, a friend of outside investment, and a welcoming regional and a global leader.
United States Commends the Decision of the Transitional Constitutional Court to Uphold the Elections Ineligibility Clause
Mark C. Toner
Deputy Department Spokesperson
September 3, 2015
The United States welcomes the August 28 decision of the Central African Republic’s (CAR) transitional constitutional court to uphold the transitional national charter clause that precludes current and former senior transitional government members from running in the upcoming presidential and legislative elections currently scheduled for October and November 2015. We commend the court for its decision, which upholds the rule of law and provides a clear signal to the people of CAR that political authority in their country is bound by the tenets of the interim constitution, not arbitrary decisions. We call upon all members of the transitional government, past and future, to respect the court’s ruling.
The United States further commends the constitutional court for its strong rulings in January and July in favor of including refugees in the elections, an important decision that seeks to ensure that the elections are representative and that CAR’s future is inclusive of its entire population. We call upon the transitional government, including those in charge of elections preparations, to reinforce the spirit of the decision by redoubling efforts to organize and expand elections preparations.
Secretary of State
September 2, 2015
Well, good evening, everybody. Thank you. Welcome, your excellencies, ambassadors from other countries, to the United States, and American ambassadors who are in some of those other countries. We’re really happy you’re here. Welcome, everybody – guests, distinguished advocates, and passionate people all or you wouldn’t be here, and I know that.
I don’t think Debbi needs much guiding light, guys. (Laughter.) She shines pretty brightly on her own, and we’re really blessed, Deborah, to have you doing this. I am so grateful to you for your leadership. It’s exactly why I picked you. As a Navy guy, it was tough; I looked around the Navy, but I had to (inaudible) on an Army person – (laughter) – and she’s done great, so (inaudible).
(Applause.) I put the national interest ahead of parochial interests. (Laughter.)
Obviously her own commitment to fighting this scourge goes back decades, literally – in the 1990s the vaccine trial, which was the first clinical HIV/AIDS research to show any real potential. As the director of the military’s HIV research efforts out at Walter Reed she was way ahead of the curve in seeing HIV/AIDS for what it is: not just a global health crisis but as a human rights issue. And she also recognized that it demanded an unprecedented response.
She has wrestled personally, real time, with many of the challenges that all of you have come here to discuss today. So I think we couldn’t have a better person at the helm of our efforts from our point of view, and I hope all of you have found it as productive as I think it is in working with her. And I can see heads nodding and I take that as a resounding yes. (Laughter.)
Debbi mentioned a moment ago – closer to the vision of an AIDS-free generation. That’s our dream. That’s what we’ve been working towards. And unlike some dreams people grow up with or take on in the course of public life which really just get dashed against the bureaucratic resistance or the indifference of people in various places, this is one where we have really been able to make a difference, and it’s been bipartisan. It’s been everybody coming to the table without regard to ideology and politics, and it’s quite extraordinary.
When I think back on what Debbi was saying about the early days in the Senate, I can remember my elation when we came out of a meeting and my great aide back then who helped make all this happen, Nancy Stetson, and I were just amazed that we got Jesse Helms to sign on, which was a huge turning point. And we got this through the United States Senate in unanimity – unanimity. You couldn’t do that today. Just wouldn’t have happened.
So we’ve been on an interesting journey but we all know this is not a done deal. And what we need to do now as we reach to save more lives than ever before is recognize that it’s not hypothetical. There are specific things we need to fight for.
When I traveled to Ethiopia last year – I’ll never forget – I heard about a woman. I was at the health center there in Ethiopia. I forgot the name of it. But there are a number – they’re treating folks there, HIV positive. And I was told a story about a woman named Abeba, who was the mother of two daughters who was HIV positive. And soon after her diagnosis, she found herself literally all alone – she was walking, trying to get to the health center. And she was so sick, so weak, that she literally just curled up on the side of the road, and it was raining like crazy. And she was too weak and too sick to finish her journey to the health center.
But when a group of community workers spotted her, they didn’t drive by, they didn’t look away. They stopped and they picked her up and they took her to the health center. And they found housing for her and they helped find money for her, put a roof over her head and nurse her back to health. And today, she is not just a survivor. She is fighting in order to work to become a community volunteer herself and become a mentor to young women across Ethiopia.
That’s just one human face on this story. When I was in South Africa, I remember going up into the mountains north of Durban and going into a mud hut and meeting with a woman who was – had that hacking cough and was weak, and her kids were taking care of her. And I saw so many young people who have become adults way ahead of their time.
So thanks to President Obama’s leadership and the commitment of so many in this room – and it really wouldn’t happen without all of you here. I hope you understand the depth of that, how important it is – PEPFAR is now serving antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million men, women, and children. And at the U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit, I was proud to announce the Accelerating Children’s HIV/AIDS Treatment Initiative. It will put life-saving treatment within the reach for another 300,000 children. And we’re also providing HIV testing and counseling to more than 14 million pregnant women. We’re supporting more than 6.5 million voluntary medical male circumcision.
We’ve trained more than 140,000 new health care workers to deliver HIV and other health services in AIDS-affected countries. And last December, we launched the DREAMS partnership, which will specifically target adolescent girls and young women.
So we have made enormous progress in this fight, and PEPFAR remains the largest commitment of any nation to address a single disease and has become a model, frankly, for treating other diseases, including Ebola, which you don’t hear about now. And you don’t hear about it because we did what we needed to do and we learned a lot from this about what that was and how you implement. So the President’s targets have pushed us to go further and to be more innovative, to forge new partnerships, including with many of you who are here in this room.
So it’s clear we’re turning a very important corner, but we have to carry this fight across the finish line. And the way we’re going to that is to – first, we need to recognize we’ve got to continue to make creative and strategic investments based on the latest science and best practices. And in a tight budget environment, every dollar counts. We know that better than anybody. And that’s why we have to continue setting benchmarks for outcomes and put weight behind the HIV prevention, treatment, and care intervention that works.
Second, we have to focus on the impact of HIV/AIDS specifically on women and girls. And we know that it remains the leading cause of disease or of death for women of reproductive age in low and middle-income countries, and we know that women and girls represent nearly 60 percent of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. So that has to change, and we can make it change.
And third, we have to promote greater accountability and transparency through the new Country Health Partnerships. We’ve watched this transition. It’s proving itself every single day. South Africa, Rwanda, Namibia are among the nations on the front lines of it, and each of these countries is providing a model for PEPFAR in transitioning from direct aid into delivering support for locally run, self-sustaining efforts. In South Africa, perhaps, the shift towards greater ownership now means that we are reaching 50 percent more people as a result of that with prevention care and treatment.
So look, it’s worth remembering what we have achieved since we started this. It was pretty unthinkable a little more than a decade ago. And what is inspiring is we know we’re not done yet.
That’s important. So with your efforts, we absolutely can achieve this dream of an AIDS-free generation. I’m proud of the work that Deborah’s doing; proud of Heather Higginbottom, who’s been very much involved in this as our deputy. And we can and we will defeat this horrible disease. I’ve always believed that. And because of the hard work and the willingness of people to put themselves on the line, sometimes when it was very difficult – I can remember when talking about HIV/AIDS was talking about a death sentence. And all of you remember that too. And I remember a lot of friends of mine who kept talking to me about how many funerals they were going to. How different life was in this country.
But because we committed, because we go people of both parties, people of conscience to come together, we were able to make this difference. And I am confident that if we just hang in there and continue and we’re smart and diligent and stay at it, we’re going to get the job done. Thank you all for what you do to be part of this. I really appreciate it. Thank you. (Applause.)
Photo: State Department
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
September 2, 2015
Thank you for that warm introduction. It’s a pleasure for me to be in Tunisia, and especially here at the Mediterranean Business School.
Over the past three days I’ve met with Prime Minister Essid and other members of the government and parliament to discuss Tunisia’s reforms and the serious economic and security challenges facing the country. And I’ve heard from leaders in civil society about the complexity of their work—from providing needed services in communities, to connecting citizens to their elected representatives, and advocating for reforms that will shield youth from radicalization and promote their civic participation.
What I’ve seen is that despite all the challenges Tunisia faces, Tunisia is poised for success in so many ways. Tunisia’s history and experience with a free civil society—once recognized as the most vibrant in the region—, its historic role on the vanguard of women’s rights in the region, its large middle class, and the commitment it has made to democratic politics and expanding economic opportunities for its people—all of this positions Tunisia on a hopeful path toward democratic consolidation.
Some might say that everything Tunisia has accomplished since 2011 is the natural fulfillment of the promise of its revolution. When Ben Ali fled the country in January of that year, and the demands for dignity inspired by a fruit seller from Sidi Bouzid echoed across the Middle East, few of us believed that the road to democracy and good governance in this region would be easy; but most of us harbored the hope that there would be no turning back. Certainly there was nothing natural about the tyranny and stagnation that preceded the Arab Awakening. It is not natural for anyone, here or anywhere, to endure being told that they cannot think or say what they believe, or to accept having no say in the decisions that affect their lives. I think most people understood that the region’s foundations were “sinking into sand,” as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2010; when the possibility of more accountable governments arose, we hoped they would be built on firmer ground.
My own hopes reached their highest point in April of 2011, when I drove from Egypt across eastern Libya just as the anti-Qaddafi uprising was getting under way. I stopped in the seaside town of Derna, where the walls were covered with something I’d never before seen in my life—the graffiti of revolutionary moderation. “Extremism is rejected,” one slogan read. “We want a country of institutions,” read another. No one I met in Derna, in Benghazi, in Tobruk, or later that year on a trip to Tripoli, wanted to replace tyranny with terrorism – and that includes many people I met who believed in a deeply conservative form of political Islam. They saw Qaddafi and al Qaeda as two sides of the same totalitarian coin, and wanted to be rid of anyone who would impose a rigid ideology on them.
They wanted a government that would deliver opportunity and prosperity, listen to their grievances, enforce and abide by the law, and otherwise leave them to pursue their goals in peace. That was the hope, and I believe it was shared by most of the young people who rose from Tunis to Benghazi to Cairo to Manama to Aleppo in 2011.
Four years later, in most of the region, that hope has yet to be realized. In Egypt, many of the young leaders who assembled in Tahrir Square in 2011 are now in prison for violating a law that effectively bans peaceful assembly, and an extremist insurgent continues terrorist attacks on security and military forces in the Sinai. In Syria, Asad met peaceful protests with artillery fire and air strikes, creating a pathway to extremism alongside piles of corpses. From that cauldron, a new terrorist group arose that treats mass murder and sexual slavery as exploits to be boasted of on social media. In Yemen, a dictator who yielded now exploits sectarianism and regional rivalries to claw his way back, opening the space for Al Qaeda even wider and deepening the suffering of his people. And Derna, that Libyan town that I visited in 2011, was taken over last year by a small group of extremists who immediately started killing lawyers, judges, civil servants, human rights defenders—anyone willing to fight for the rule of law against the rule of the gun.
Four years is a very short time. It is far, far too early to say what the outcome of the Arab Awakening will be, whether we are experiencing an inevitably painful period of transition to a more stable, just and democratic order, or an unraveling of order altogether. But the stakes have certainly become clear. And here is how I see them. From the turmoil of the Arab Awakening, two new models of governance have emerged – one represented by Tunisia, and one represented by Daesh. We have a profound interest in seeing the first of these models succeed, and ensuring that the second fails.
Now, it may seem unfair to place such a burden on your young democracy to suggest that so many of the region’s hopes depend on your success, especially given the challenges you are confronting here in Tunisia. But it is undeniably true. And what I want to stress today is that the burden falls as much on your friends and partners to help you, because we have such a stake in your success.
In doing so, we must simultaneously confront two burning challenges.
The first is the challenge of meeting the basic economic expectations of the generation that dared to demand better, more responsive government. On the eve of the revolution, Tunisia’s economic system was unable to provide employment for its youth, incapable of ensuring that development and resources could reach its most vulnerable citizens, and unwilling to restrain those in positions of authority from abusing their power at the people’s expense. All three of these played directly into Mohamed Bouazizi’s act of desperate defiance in December 2010.
Today Tunisia has made a commitment to right this. But, many challenges remain for the government to address. Unemployment in Tunisia remains high, especially among youth. Deep regional disparities in development, infrastructure, and opportunity persist. Tourism has been particularly affected by the Bardo and Souse attacks.
What I’ve seen over the last three days is that Tunisian leaders from across the political spectrum are coming together to address these economic challenges. They are striving to enact the reforms that will improve the economy, create jobs, strengthen the business climate, and promote trade. And the United States is helping that process.
The United States has invested $60 million to establish the Tunisian-American Enterprise Fund, which makes loans and private equity investments in small businesses. The goal is to empower entrepreneurs who will then create jobs.
Our $20 million Thomas Jefferson Scholarship program has funded over 400 Tunisians to study at universities and community colleges in the United States in fields critical to Tunisia’s economic success.
Our technical assistance programs are helping Tunisia reform the tax, banking, and customs systems to attract foreign investment and create an environment in which business can thrive and be an engine for growth.
Perhaps most important, the United States has supported two sovereign loan guarantees totaling $985 million, which have helped the Tunisian government gain affordable financing from international capital. In May, during President Essebsi’s visit to Washington, President Obama said the United States would consider a third guarantee of up to $500 million if Tunisia needed it to support economic growth and advance its ongoing reform program.
These steps are a strategic investment in Tunisia’s future success. Through them we are helping Tunisia enact the kind balanced, inclusive economic development it needs to meet the demands of its people and move the economy forward.
The second great challenge Tunisia faces is the scourge of terrorism.
How does one build a free society, how does one maintain focus on the long, hard, complicated task of building democratic parliaments and parties and courts and police forces when one is being hit again and again by terrorists bent on mass murder? Americans know what it means to experience what Tunisians suffered at Bardo in March and in Sousse in June. But when we were hit on September 11, 2001, we were not simultaneously struggling to establish a new system of government; your challenge is immensely harder.
And we know that when society is under attack by such forces, it is natural that some people will say: “Now is not the time to be thinking about human rights, or fair trials, or democratic elections. We need first to focus on protecting ourselves.” After all that’s happened in this region since 2011, it is natural that some people are saying: “Yes, change is needed; yes, democracy is good; but look at what happened in Syria and Libya; we cannot open the door to that.”
These feelings of fear and anger and resolve to fight back against the suicide bombers and gunmen can all too easily give way to an anti-democratic reflex. It is a reflex that short circuits due process for all who are suspected of crimes in the pursuit of those who actually commit them. It is a reflex that stifles speech for the many to counter the bad influence of a few. It is a reflex that equates peaceful political opposition with violent political extremism.
In the United States we are familiar with this kind of reflex as well. After our 9/11, we improved our security, military, and intelligence capabilities, we enhanced coordination among law enforcement agencies, and we pursued those who attacked us—all rightly so.
But we also made some mistakes. We expanded unsupervised surveillance. We detained men without charge or access to courts at Guantanamo. And as a report released by our Senate last year showed, for several years after 9/11, in our pursuit of our most dangerous enemies, we engaged in torture. We corrected these mistakes, and I believe that our democratic institutions emerged stronger than ever.
But in their time, these actions were inconsistent with our values. Each time we crossed those lines, each time we gave in to the anti-democratic reflex, it diminished the moral clarity with which we call others to adopt democratic practices and protect human rights. Just as important, each time we did so, it hurt us more than it helped us in our fight against terrorism. It alienated communities whose cooperation we needed to uncover and prevent terrorist acts, and it blurred the moral distinctions that must be maintained if we are to have the advantage in this fight.
No grievance against power justifies terrorism, but terrorism is born of such grievances that are deeply held by those who are marginalized by their governments and their societies. Daesh, for example, arose by exploiting the deeply felt grievances of Sunni Iraqis fed up with a decade of increasingly sectarian and non-inclusive governance, and the vacuum created by Assad’s atrocities in Syria. What is Daesh’s message today to young people across the Middle East who have been struggling peacefully since 2011 to build more just and democratic societies?
The message is: “Your methods are doomed to failure; you will be imprisoned; you will be tortured; you will be silenced; nothing will change. We who use violence, on the other hand, are strong and will be victorious.” Imagine how that argument can resonate in places in this region where terrorists and peaceful political activists are in fact sharing the same jail cells today. By the way, this is also Daesh’s message to proponents of political Islam who have rejected violence and placed their faith in democratic institutions and elections: “Your way will lead to your destruction; our way is the way to win.” That is why it is a mistake to conflate peaceful Islamist parties with terrorists. If we treat their adherents as one and the same, eventually more and more of them will be.
When we give in to the anti-democratic reflex—when we start legislating exceptions to the laws that protect our liberties, when we quiet peaceful dissent, when we brutalize those we imprison—we dampen hopes that peaceful redress of grievances is possible. As President Obama has said, “When peaceful, democratic change is impossible, it feeds into the terrorist propaganda that violence is the only answer available.” Such abuses also alienate people whose help we must have to defeat terror.
Some of the best information we get about young men going off to fight for Daesh and similar groups comes from their families, religious leaders or other members of their community. But who is going to call the police about a friend, a neighbor, or love one if they think that person will be tortured or disappeared after they are arrested?
This is not to say that we must be passive in the face of this existential threat. We must be relentless in confronting it; we just have to recognize that this is not a question of balancing protection of our people and preservation of our values; in fact we must do both if we want our side to win and the terrorists to lose.
So, how do we win?
First and foremost we must bring to justice those who chose violence and terror—and that sometimes requires the use of force. And in this regard, we are with the Tunisian people and government 100 percent. Through our security cooperation with the Tunisian government—over $225 million since 2011—the United States is bolstering Tunisia’s ability to counter internal and regional threats, including terrorism. Our designation of Tunisia as a major non-NATO ally recognizes our shared values and deepens our counterterrorism cooperation.
Our second approach is to build a culture of liberty in society, to protect free expression, to make institutions open and representative, and to ensure that the security institutions meant to keep us safe truly serve and protect all the people. As Secretary Kerry said in Cairo last month, “our success depends on building trust between the authorities and the public, and enabling those who are critical of official policies to find a means of voicing their dissent peacefully, through participation in a political process.”
That is why we are working with Tunisia to improve the way forces engage with communities and prevent the return of the practice of torture, while helping police forces develop more effective tools for gathering evidence. We hope counterterrorism laws will be implemented so they bring terrorists to justice and not to restrict rights. We hope there will be continued progress towards transparency and accountability, and in strengthening civilian institutions—from the Parliament to civil society independent of government—to conduct real oversight.
Building a culture of liberty also means strengthening the role of civil society. Tunis was home to the first human rights CSO in the Arab world, the League Tunisien de Droits l’Homme. Sadly the Ben Ali regime mastered all the tricks and tactics dictatorships use to restrain CSO activity with legal measures and bureaucratic hurdles, just as other authoritarian governments across this region are still doing.
Today, Tunisia’s civil society has regained its freedom. New organizations are springing up to engage people in the political and economic life of their country once again. Organizations like Al Bawsala, are making information on the Parliament and on municipal governments freely accessible to all Tunisians. Organizations like Mourakiboun whose 3,000-plus trained and certified election observers fanned out across Tunisia in 2011 and 2014 using technology to send real-time reports, and showing skeptics what an open, free, fair, and competitive election in an Arab country looks like. Organizations like WeYouth, which is lifting up young people with leadership development and skills training, preparing them to participate in the inclusive economy Tunisia strives to build.
Civil society is also the source of community resilience to fight the forces of extremism. In Tunisia there has been a rush of new CSOs dedicated to discouraging radicalization. These organizations channel youth dissatisfaction into positive participation and help families advocate with their government for stronger laws and policies that prevent young Tunisians from joining the fight in Syria and Iraq.
Some in the region today say that CSOs working to counter violent extremism are all well and good. But unchecked, a free society can spiral into danger. They say that liberties place extremist forces outside the bounds of government observation and control. They say that too much freedom makes society weak, more vulnerable to this threat.
These people don’t understand terrorists very well. Terrorists don’t need freedom of speech or assembly to walk into a public place and gun people down. Terrorists know how to circumvent all the restrictions that governments can place, all the tricks that Ben Ali used to stifle Tunisia’s civil society. For every blogger in the Middle East who is arrested for a Facebook post or tweet criticizing the government, for every CSO director whose organization is shut down for accepting foreign funding, there are a hundred real terrorists out there who, under cover of proxy servers and aliases, are quietly recruiting more followers in chat rooms and spiriting suitcases of cash across borders.
What’s more, the terrorists know how to exploit governments’ policies of repression by incorporating them into their grievance narrative. They use these policies as a recruiting tool. Terrorists don’t need liberties to thrive—they thrive in the shadows of liberty’s absence.
Who then does need liberty?
• Young people and women need liberty.
• Journalists and academics need liberty.
• Those who are marginalized, outside the sphere of economic development or political influence need liberty.
• Those who have been wronged by government policy or corrupt practice, and who seek change within the political system, need liberty.
• Those who work in their communities to improve peoples lives, to advocate for better schools and safer streets and more jobs – the very things that serve as a counterweight to extremism – need liberty.
• Those who are moderate and peaceful, who reject violence, who accept tolerance and diversity, and espouse that their deeply held religious conviction should be a guiding principle for social and political life need liberty and they need and deserve a voice and role in government.
The Tunisian model of governance has shown how this can work. Tunisia has shown how—in the presence of liberty—secularists and Islamists can come together in common purpose to solve public challenges despite their profound differences. We saw that in 2012 and 2013 when, in the midst of a severe political crisis, Ennahda, Nidaa Tounis, and other political parties joined in a National Dialogue created by civil society organizations, and in a spirt of inclusion and compromise reached consensus on key issues dividing them. They agreed on a new democratic constitution. They agreed to a peaceful hand-over of power to a transitional government. They agreed that free and fair elections must go forward. And after those elections, this spirit of compromise and inclusion continued when they agreed to support a consensus government. This is Tunisia’s great comparative advantage – its progress towards democracy, its commitment to political inclusion, the space given to civil society – including through one of the most progressive NGO laws in the region – its promise to devolve power to local communities. These are the qualities that distinguish Tunisia from so many others in this region, that bring friends like the United States to its side, that will ultimately ensure the defeat of terror. The fight against terrorism must therefore preserve democratic gains, and never be used as a reason to retreat from them.
The new Tunisian model of governance—a model based on rights, political inclusion and compromise, and institutions that aim to have the interests of all the people at their core—is far harder to pursue than its alternative at the other extreme. As we’ve seen in other parts of the region, it is a lot easier to destroy a country than to build one, as you are doing in Tunisia, as so many of your counterparts still want to do from Syria to Yemen to Libya. So if we want to see the promise of 2011 realized – to build democracy and defeat terrorism – we will need one more thing: we will need the realism to be patient.
Authoritarian states don’t make things easy for their democratic successors. They leave behind hollowed out institutions; networks and habits of corruption; security institutions trained to protect their state not their people; populations that grew up with little or no civic education. Academics say that on average, successful transitions from dictatorship to full democracy with rule of law take around 15 or 20 years, in the best of circumstances. And democratic transitions demand so much more of ordinary citizens than established democracies do. In the United States, democracy demands that we show up and vote every once in a while. We don’t have to take into our own hands the work of building local governments from scratch, retraining our police, rewriting our laws, recruiting new judges, creating new political parties, while simultaneously having to provide for our families and to protect ourselves from terrorists or barrel bombs.
In the United States, we forget this sometimes. We get excited when revolutions for democracy and human rights appear to have won; we mobilize to support them; we try to stay on the right side of history. Then, a few years later, when the highest expectations of those revolutionary moments remain unrealized, we are tempted to conclude that even modest gains were never in the cards, and to go back to managing a depressing status quo rather than making the investments and taking the risks necessary to change it. Patience does not have to mean accepting a lower standard for countries in the Middle East than we would apply to ourselves. It does not mean we should accept injustices; no one who is being tortured or arrested wrongly today wants to be told to wait a generation for redress. We simply need to remember that the inevitable setbacks that every democracy in transition faces are a reason to work harder, not to give up, recognizing that the ultimate payoff will likely not come in a single news cycle or even in the lifetime of one of our presidential administrations, but that the payoff is worth working for as long as it takes to achieve.
That is the patience and commitment we are determined to show in partnership with the people and government of Tunisia, and everywhere in this region where people are willing to work for liberty and the rule of law. You have shown that it is possible to make progress, even when facing the gravest danger. You have shown that it is necessary to make progress, precisely because of that danger. This region and the world needs the Tunisia model to succeed, and to spread so that you are not alone. And the United States is proud to stand with you as you continue to make the courageous and sometimes difficult decisions required of the democratic path you have chosen.