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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Arab Spring

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: On December 17, 2010, Mohammed Bouazizi, a young fruit seller in Tunisia, launched a revolution that spread throughout the region. Like many, all he wanted was to provide for his family – without having to pay bribes or be harassed. His action started a chain of events that triggered transitions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, transitions that we know today as the Arab Spring.

Images: Bouazizi portrait. AP Images; Bouazizi’s mother. AP Images; Bouazizi protests. AP Images.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: Our Bureau is committed to helping these countries take the first steps toward growing their economies – in a way that’s both strong and fair. Before the Arab Spring, we were already working in North Africa to support entrepreneurship as a tool for job creation – to create opportunities for youth when unemployment in the region reached as high as 30%.

Images: Closed shops in Tunisia. AP Images; Moroccan café. AP Images.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: However, a people cannot hope for prosperity when they are deprived of opportunity. We’re looking for innovative ways to combat corruption and improve governance - for example, through our Domestic Finance for Development initiative. By providing job-skills training and unlocking capital for entrepreneurs, we want to empower the Bouazizi’s of the region, the factory workers, the aspiring tech entrepreneurs – and all of their families.

Images: Protests in Tunisia. AP Images; Protesting Libyan women. AP Images; Gaddafi Game Over” sign. AP Images; Child in Libya. AP Images; New Tunisian Assembly. AP Images; Moroccan Justice Building. AP Images; Barber shop in Tunisia. AP Images; Tunisian clothing souk. AP Images; Children in Tunisia. AP Images.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: My team is also making sure these problems are addressed collectively. There is much to be gained from countries trading with each other – and investing in one another. We are also helping the U.S. private sector play a role in the economic development of these countries.

Images: Dock in Tunisia. AP Images; Train in Tunisia. AP Images.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FERNANDEZ: One way is by providing credit to Tunisian entrepreneurs who want to launch American franchises. These types of commercial partnerships between U.S. and local companies can build critical infrastructure and create jobs.


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