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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Strategic Goal 2: Governing Justly and Democratically

Bureau of Resource Management
November 15, 2011


Photo showing Secretary of State Clinton and Serbian President Tadic holding talks at the presidential palace in Belgrade, October 12, 2010.

Secretary of State Clinton and Serbian President Tadic hold talks at the presidential palace in Belgrade, October 12, 2010. ©AP Image

Advance the growth of representative democracies and good governance, including civil society, the rule of law, respect for human rights, political competition, and religious freedom.

Public Benefit

U.S. leadership in promoting human rights is a national tradition, a moral imperative, and a national security priority. The National Security Strategy makes clear that supporting the expansion of democracy and human rights abroad is in our national interest. In 2011, demands for democracy and human rights swept the Arab world and elsewhere. U.S. leadership in addressing these calls for reform helps implement the President’s vision and the Secretary’s strategic priorities to achieve successful and sustained transitions to democracies and universal freedoms. While this commitment to promoting human rights and democracy is part of our history, the dialogue on these continues to evolve. The Department’s goals are simple: to ensure that people are free from bodily harm, free to select their leaders, free to express themselves and are protected by the law. We carry out these goals by investing in helping build the essential institutions of democratic accountability, including independent media, independent labor unions, and religious freedoms; addressing human rights and democratization challenges in the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan; and promoting effective stewardship and cost effectiveness of American taxpayer dollars to ensure aid effectiveness.

To achieve these goals, the Department continues to engage in bilateral and multilateral efforts with governments and civil society. We are focusing on transitioning and post-conflict societies, as well as on those parts of the world not yet seeing democratic progress. We are institutionalizing successful programs to protect and integrate vulnerable communities—such as people with disabilities, women, and ethnic and religious minorities-- in the political process, and are leading efforts to promote labor rights and business adherence to human rights standards. And with the explosive growth of the Internet, the Department is expanding programming in support of free expression and the free flow of information online and via other technologies. U.S. investment in these transitions helps to amplify the voices of civil society and human rights activities and build democratic partners.

Key Achievements

  • In July 2011, Secretary Clinton announced at the Community of Democracies meeting in Krakow, the creation of an international fund to support embattled non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with emergency assistance to people on the frontlines of advancing human rights, including groups advocating for the rights of women and children; religious minorities; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender people; and individuals with disabilities. The Department is seeding the fund with over $4 million for the multi-year effort.
  • The United States is a party to the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, which bring together governments, companies, and NGOs to ensure companies take tangible steps to minimize human rights abuses in the surrounding communities as they extract resources in some of the most challenging places in the world. This year, the Department helped negotiate a consensus among 19 oil, gas and mining companies, seven governments, and 10 NGOs on a new core document that outlines the expectations of participants, and lays out a plan to pursue the creation of a legal entity to help companies maintain high standards.
  • In April 2011, the Department launched, the official U.S. Government website for international human rights related information. The site links users directly with news, reports, and explanatory information from the Department and other U.S. Government agencies, allowing for fully accessible documents and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. sustains a broad viewership, with 57 percent of its visits from outside of the United States.

Summary and Analysis of Performance Trends

The Department exceeded the target for the illustrative indicator relative to Strategic Goal 2 – Increased civic activism in priority countries with repressive regimes, as measured by the percent of civil society activists and organizations able to sustain activities after six months of receiving U.S. support. This performance indicator is a key measure of the joint State-USAID High Priority Performance Goal (HPPG) for Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights and illustrates the Department’s performance in an area that links key policy priorities to the Department’s budget under Strategic Goal 2.

Increased Civic Activism in Priority Countries1
  FY 2008 FY 2009 FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012
Result N/A N/A 17.5% 20% N/A
Target N/A N/A N/A 18.0% 18.5%

Source: Global Human Rights Defender Fund.

1 Indicator new in FY 2010, targets established in early FY 2011. Indicator title: Increased civic activism in priority countries with repressive regimes, as measured by the percent of civil society activists and organizations able to sustain activities after six months of receiving U.S. support. (back to text)

Protecting fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, expression, and religion represents a key aspect of U.S. foreign policy. The Department is leveraging key foreign assistance and diplomatic tools to support local activists in creating conditions necessary to reverse a trend in recent years of a shrinking enabling environment for civil society around the world. The recent events in the Middle East and North Africa remind us of the challenges human rights activists and civil society face in their work to protect citizens’ rights. In February 2011, Secretary Clinton launched the State Department’s first Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society to underscore our commitment to supporting and defending civil society around the world. The Dialogue enhances efforts to amplify the voices of activists and to provide protection for civil society where we can. In support of this important commitment, the Lifeline: The Embattled NGOs Assistance Fund was created this year with support from twelve other democratic nations. In FY 2011, in a selection of 14 targeted countries, 20 percent of activists and organizations were able to continue activities six months after receiving U.S. support. This percentage of actual number of human rights activists and defenders, supported by U.S. Government funds, who are advocating for a more open civil society within repressive regimes, exceeded the established target – evidence that these activists are becoming more aware of mechanisms to sustain their ongoing civil society advocacy efforts despite rising restrictions.

Technology and Freedom

Photo showing pro-Egyptian demonstrators holding their mobile phones aloft and flashing the V-sign for victory during a rally staged by human rights groups as part of a global event to mark the resignation of Egyptian President Mubarak in Trafalgar Square, London, February 12, 2011.

Pro-Egyptian demonstrators hold their mobile phones aloft and flash the V-sign for victory during a rally staged by human rights groups as part of a global event to mark the resignation of Egyptian President Mubarak in Trafalgar Square, London, February 12, 2011. ©AP Image

International Cyber Diplomacy

Secretary Clinton has described the International Strategy for Cyberspace priorities as “a new foreign policy imperative for which the State Department has been exercising and will continue to have a leading role.”

Cyber Diplomacy

The Department of State’s “cyber diplomacy” encompasses a wide range of U.S. interests in cyberspace. These include not only cyber security and Internet freedom, but also Internet governance, military uses of the Internet, innovation, and economic growth.

What the State Department is Doing

In partnership with other countries, the State Department is leading the U.S. Government’s efforts to build consensus around international norms of state behavior in cyberspace. To more effectively advance the full range of U.S. interests in cyberspace, in February 2011, the Secretary established the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues. The Office’s responsibilities include bringing together the many elements in the State Department working on cyber issues; coordinating the Department’s global diplomatic activities on cyber issues; advising the Secretary on cyber issues and engagements; and serving as a liaison to public and private entities on cyber issues.

Secretary Clinton and Cyber Policy

The Secretary is a leading voice in international cyber policy. Under her leadership, the State Department is integrating cyber issues into programming across the board, from our cooperation with other nations to stop criminal cartels to our economic diplomacy to our support for women and girls worldwide. The Department is sponsoring capacity-building efforts to help more countries play a role in the development of the Internet. It is supporting the efforts of human rights and democracy activists to ensure they have access to an open Internet. And it has created a 21st Century statecraft agenda to harness new technologies and to achieve our diplomatic and development goals. For more information, go to


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