Date: October 4, 2011, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Pursuant to the provisions of the rules and regulations of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the Advisory Committee on the Secretary of State's Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society convened in Washington, DC, on October 4, 2011. The objective of this inaugural meeting was to discuss the general purposes of the Committee and its five subcommittees and set an agenda for future Committee meetings. The meeting was open to the public.
Agenda items: (1) Introductions, (2) Presentations by the Chairs of the Subcommittees, (3) Public Comment, (4) General Discussion, (5) Adjournment.
MR. TILLEMANN: Well, good morning. My name is Tomicah Tillemann, and I serve as Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Civil Society in Emerging Democracies. And we are very grateful to all of you for joining us for this inaugural session of the Advisory Committee of Secretary Clinton’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society. It is a rare day at the State Department when we get this much talent in one room, and we are fortunate that we also have others, not in this room, participating via conference call and video. And for that reason, we’d ask all of you to please use your microphones when speaking because it will help ensure that those who are not in the room are able to benefit from your insights. Through those technologies, this meeting is open to the public. And for their benefit, I’d like to give a brief overview of this initiative and what we hope to accomplish with this meeting.
Last July, Secretary Clinton went to Krakow and gave a major speech to the Community of Democracies about the importance of civil society around the world. She spoke about how civil society is at the leading edge of virtually every issue that we’re engaged on here at the State Department. She recognized that in many countries civil society is facing increasing pressure from governments that are hostile to their work. And she reinforced the importance of expanding our engagement with civil society in the work that we do at the State Department and USAID.
President Obama, of course, expanded on many of these themes in a speech that he gave shortly thereafter at the UN General Assembly. And we recognize that working with civil society is the right thing to do. And certainly the history of our country is a history that’s been defined by progress generated through civil society. But it’s also, frankly, the smart thing to do. We care about the forces shaping our world, and as the last few months have demonstrated, few forces are more powerful than civil society. In the year since Secretary Clinton and the President elevated this issue on our foreign policy agenda, we have seen civil society and the Arab Spring re-contour the political landscape of an entire region. Events in the Middle East and North Africa have provided the – perhaps the seminal demonstration of the last 20 years of why this issue matters. And we have been working with partners in civil society and at USAID to put the vision that the Secretary outlined into action.
The importance of this topic was a key element of the QDDR, the major policy review that we concluded at the State Department last December, and it represents a vision of our diplomacy in which we elevate our relationships with people alongside our relationships with states. And we’ve made a great deal of progress along these lines. We’ve refocused the UN Human Rights Council, regional organizations, and the Community of Democracies on the task of defending civil society. We’ve more than doubled our funding for legal assistance to create a better environment and better laws for civil society. We’ve given activists access to new technology to make their work safer and more effective. Together with civil society organizations and a dozen other countries, our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor has launched a fund called Lifeline that addresses urgent needs such as legal assistance and healthcare when civil society organizations come under attack. And in February, we launched this dialogue to elevate our engagement with civil society.
Launching a strategic dialogue is the equivalent of building a diplomatic superhighway between two capitals. It’s something that we do very rarely, but it ensures our sustained high-level engagement across the full range of issues that we work on at the State Department. And prior to the launch of this initiative, we had only had strategic dialogues with key countries such as India, Pakistan, and China. So this is something fundamentally new. Many State Department offices and bureaus, including those represented around this table, have a proud history of working with civil society and have done a tremendous job of that over the course of many years. But at its core, this initiative represents something different. Governments have been building the infrastructure that facilitates state to state communication and cooperation for thousands of years, but we are just beginning now to develop the architecture that will support our diplomatic engagement with civil society. And in that sense, in the words of Dean Acheson, we’re all present at the creation of something very special.
We know that it’s going to take a lot of work to put this vision into action. We’ve created five working groups, and we’ll hear reports from those working groups today. But we also recognize the need to engage with civil society as a sector, and that’s what we hope this committee can help us with. We hope you can help us develop the right architecture for our engagement with civil society at the State Department. It may, hopefully, involve this dialogue, but it may take other forms as well. We hope you can tell us what we’re doing both in Washington and at our embassies that is helpful, and what needs to change. We also hope that we can get some good advice for our working groups, and that we can ensure that each of them are utilizing the best practices that emerge from this dialogue.
And finally, we hope that we can ensure the sustainability and the strength of the sector as a whole. We hope that we’ll be able to have partners in civil society and encourage more governments to see civil society as partners rather than adversaries, and yet at the same time ensure that civil society retains its role as an independent part of the three-legged stool made up of governments, the private sector, and civil society that support our nations.
So with that, we’d like to turn to introductions. And we are apparently having technical difficulties with our folks on the phone, so we will start with our representatives in the room. And Under Secretary Hormats, if I could ask you to begin and just say a word about who you are and your connection to this initiative.
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: Okay. My name is Bob Hormats. I’m Under Secretary --
MR. TILLEMANN: And if you wouldn’t mind turning --
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: -- Under Secretary of State for Economics, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs, although that’s going to be altered soon to encompass environmental issues as well after we complete the reorganization that’s spelled out in the QDDR. And my role is chair of the Working Group on Governance and Accountability, and we actually had a very productive meeting, and I guess I’ll report on that after we do our first go-round. So thank you very much. It was a very enlightening and thoughtful discussion.
MS. BAER: My name is Lauren Baer. I’m a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, where, amongst other issues, I work on medium and long-term planning with respect to civil society issues. On this initiative, I served as vice chair of this committee and have worked closely with the working groups as they have launched.
MS. FEINGOLD: Good morning. I’m Cathy Feingold. I’m the director of the AFL-CIO’s international department. We work with union, counter unions, around the world. Thank you.
MS. SHAILOR: I’m Barbara Shailor, the Special Representative for International Labor Affairs at the State Department. And in that capacity, we do work with the global labor movement, with worker organizations, with labor academics, organizers, and we address the critical issues that are facing working people in the world.
MR. VENDLY: Good morning. I’m Bill Vendly. I serve as the Secretary General of Religions for Peace, a global multi-religious organization that works to build inter-religious councils in countries and at the regional level. And we’re present in about 90 countries, and delighted at this initiative because the sense among the religious communities is that they are a track unto themselves for peace-building and development, but (inaudible) with governments. Finally, I was with Josh DuBois here in the initiative he led on – at the White House on the role of partnership with religions, and so this is a wonderful complement to that.
MS. JOHNSON COOK: I’m Suzan Johnson Cook. I’m the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. I’m the principal advisor to both the President and the Secretary of State on religious freedom around the globe. Thank you.
MR. SEIPLE: Good morning. Chris Seiple with the Institute for Global Engagement. We’re a think-and-do tank that builds religious freedom through local partners worldwide, always working with government and grassroots leaders, Track 1 and Track 2, taking track a Track 1.5 approach. And I would also say that I appreciate the geographic point of origin of this initiative, having studied at Jagiellonian University in Krakow on two separate occasions. So I am very grateful, and very aware of the role the Polish people have played in many of these values that we share.
MR. POSNER: I’m Mike Posner. I work with Barbara and Ambassador Johnson Cook. I’m also the Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. And I’m chairing the Working Group on Democracy and Human Rights.
MR. STAHNKE: I’m Tad Stahnke with Human Rights First, which seeks to strengthen U.S. leadership to advance human rights around the world.
MS. HAVERKAMP: Good morning. I’m Jennifer Haverkamp. I direct the International Climate Program at the Environmental Defense Fund, a U.S.-based but internationally-focused as well environmental group focused on an array of environmental issues. We work in partnership with a lot of NGOs in other countries and with corporations on sustainability and environmental issues. And in my past, I was at USTR during the ’90s, when we were bringing civil society into U.S. trade policies, so welcome the chance to work with all of you.
MR. DUBOIS: Good morning. I’m Joshua DuBois, Special Assistant to President Obama and Director of the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the White House and our 13 federal agency partnership centers as well. We also co-chaired with the National Security staff an Interagency Working Group on Religion and Global Affairs that sought to map the United States Government’s engagement of religious groups around the world.
MS. KAMBARA: Good morning. I’m Ann Kambara, and I am recently brought on as Ambassador Melanne Verveer’s senior policy advisor in the Office of Global Women’s Issues. I come out of Tokyo, where I was actually at one point a former labor counselor, but also at the Tokyo American Center, where I worked very extensively with civil society in capacity building and other areas.
MS. DUNCAN: I’m Dara Duncan. I work for Dr. Tomicah Tillemann. I handle the civil society portfolio in the office, and I also serve as the executive secretary for the committee.
MR. TILLEMANN: And we also have, I believe, four participants joining us via conference call. Alyse, can you hear us.
MS. NELSON: Yes. Hi, this is Alyse Nelson, and I’m President and CEO of Vital Voices Global Partnership. We are an international organization. We work in 127 countries around the world, identifying, reporting, and providing visibility training and mentoring for emerging women leaders working in the areas of human rights, political participation, and economic development.
MR. TELLEMANN: Thank you. Mark, are you there?
MR. HALLE: Yes, I am. I should say that I can’t hear those in the meeting room very well. I can hear the others that are on the phone just fine. I hope you can hear me. My name is Mark Halle. I’m the Executive Director of the International Institute for Sustainable Development in Europe. Our organization is a policy research institute on sustainable development issues. We focus on the impact of macroeconomic policy on environment and development and on different policy options that would achieve the same macroeconomic benefit without the cost in terms of environmental destruction or social marginalization. It’s – the headquarters is actually in Canada and I run the outfit based in Europe.
My background has largely been in the environment – international environment group, but starting with the UN Environment Program and then working for a range of civil society organizations in the environment. And relevant to this conversation, I’m doing (inaudible) work right now on the question of governance and accountability, specifically international environmental governance reform in the lead-up to the Rio summit.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you. Sharon, are you there?
MS. BURROW: I am indeed. Sharon Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. I’m delighted that the Secretary and such a large group decided to reach out to the global labor community and to civil society generally. And for us (inaudible) the second wave of the financial crisis, the highest-ever record of unemployment and deepening inequity, this is a very timely (inaudible) now125 million and we’re losing about 140 countries, and we had demanded to facilitate whatever answers to people that the Department and the Secretary would want.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you very much. And I should note that Sharon was present with us in February for the launch of this initiative, and we were delighted to have you then, and are grateful to have you back now.
And Ira, are you there?
MR. MILLSTEIN: I’m here. Yeah, I’m Ira Millstein. I’m a New York lawyer. I practiced in the field of antitrust and regulation, and more recently, for the last 20 years, in the area of corporate governance, also teaching the subject at Yale and Columbia and Harvard at one time or another.
Relevant to this, I’ve been doing a lot of pro bono work for the World Bank and the LECD, starting in the late ’80s, spreading the gospel of corporate governance around the world through a variety of means which may be relevant here. And finally, I’ve done a lot of pro bono work with the city’s fiscal crisis and the park and Lower Manhattan and the memorial, all of which are relevant because had to work with a lot of groups, as you can imagine, in New York City.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you very much. Well, we are delighted that, again, we have such a tremendous collection of talent present with us for this meeting, and we will try to use it well.
We’d like to move now to reports from our working groups, and we’ve asked the working groups, and we’ve asked the working group representatives to take just two minutes to give us an overview of their plans or their activities to date. And obviously, many of the working groups are still in the early stages of their activities, and this is a good opportunity, we hope, for us to work together to help develop their agenda and the initiatives that they’re going to pursue.
And we’ll start with Under Secretary Hormats. We’ll also have Arie Pittman helping us to keep time, and we will do our best to move quickly through these reports.
UNDER SECRETARY HORMATS: Thank you very much. We have actually gotten off to an excellent start. We had our first meeting on September 9th, which was sort of the kickoff meeting of our working group. We had veteran representatives of 10 civil society organizations, including Transparency International, American Enterprise Institute, International Budget Partnership, World Resource Institute, a number of others which I’ll mention. We had a number of people from the Department.
Let me just go through a couple of very interesting suggestions, one of which we’ve already been working on beforehand but was reinforced, and that’s the EDF’s very interesting and constructive ideas about how you can be good environmental practitioners and make profits at the same time. And one of the things that we’re looking for are synergies. We’re not going to be able to lecture people in the business and accountability and governance area, but we can identify ways in which they can benefit themselves from doing the right thing from the point of view of what we’re trying to achieve in this environmental business kind of synergy where it has worked very well. So EDF really has, in a way, provided sort of a model of good common sense and also good civil practice. So I just want to mention that at the outset.
Just to give you a very quick example of some other things, Ann Simpson of CalPERS suggested that financial incentives could be used in new areas such as large pension funds, directing investments on a preferential basis to countries that meet certain transparency or governance standards on business and accountability. Andrew Wilson of the Center for International Private Enterprise pointed out that small and medium size enterprises may be unaware of global standards that would benefit them, and that there could be better outreach for them. The representative of the International Budget Partnership argued that more attention should be focused on fiscal transparency commitments in the UN Convention on Corruption and that many parties have yet to meet these objectives.
These are just a few representative examples. Let me touch on a couple more and then stop. One is opportunities for teaching the private sector in less-developed countries to use professional associations to lobby and avoid retaliation aimed at those who complain. That’s one of the problems in many of these countries that they lobby but there’s a lot of retaliation if they sort of step out of line from what the government wants them to do. Another is to insist on more transparency on land use and property rights in the developing world to make clear how such rights are allocated and who benefits. And the last is judicial integrity as a major issue. It’s only beginning to be addressed.
And lastly, since the point about the Arab Spring was raised, Tomicah, that you mention, which I think is very important, one of the things we’re seeing is in most of these countries there was almost no evident civil society at all and – because, basically, these countries involved people who were not consulted on anything to do with governance. There was not participatory governance in these countries.
So one of the things that we’ve been trying to is to help with our aid programs and others to help these countries develop civil society groups across the board, one of which is in the area of business. I mean, Turkey is a very good example that – of a country that has civil society. They have a lot of business associations. And what we’re trying to do is, in addition to what we’re supporting, is encourage these countries to work with the Turks, who have very outspoken and proactive civil society groups that improve and urge their government to improve standards of rule of law, standards of transparency and a number of other things, and giving a greater role to women in society, because one of the things that they don’t have in these societies is not only the absence of civil society but a great absence of the role of women in any aspect of decision making, and so we’re pushing on that. So in addition to trying to help them ourselves, we’re trying to get the one Muslim society, predominantly Muslim society in the region that has developed a civil society process, the Turks, to be helpful, too. And the Turks have been very, very helpful in doing that.
So this is our report. But we got some excellent ideas and we’re looking forward to the next meeting because we know we’ll get some more. So thank you very much.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you. I was at that meeting, and it was tremendous to see the range of energy and the range of insights that were produced.
Ambassador Johnson Cook, please.
AMBASSADOR JOHNSON COOK: Thank you, Tomicah. And Under Secretary Otero is on official overseas travel today and could not be here, so she’s asked me to share a few word about the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group. First, we welcome the opportunity to lead a working group that builds on the sustained, vigorous engagement with civil society that’s been a hallmark of DRL’s work.
The Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group will have three co-chairs: Under Secretary Otero; Joshua DuBois, the special assistant to President Obama and the director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives and Neighborhood Partnerships; and myself, I’m Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom. So I’m delighted to introduce Joshua to you, who you met earlier, but also very delighted to have with me Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement, to my right, and Bill Vendley, to my left, who is the secretary general of the Religions for Peace. And they’ve agree to serve as the non U.S. governmental senior advisors for the Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group.
So we’re planning for the first meeting of the Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy to launch on October 18th – just a few weeks. And the objective of the working group is to establish a focused dialogue on how the U.S. Government and domestic and international NGOs can work together to advance shared interests on issues related to religion and foreign policy. There’ll be approximately 25 civil society leaders, 20 who are domestic, five who are international, and they’ll comprise the Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy. That will be our core group, and they’ll provide guidance to four thematic subgroups.
So our working group civil society partners will come from a diverse range of religious leaders, academics, and faith-based and secular nongovernmental organizations, and there’ll be other governmental agencies such as DOD, NSS, and USAID participating. And this core group will receive input from the four subgroups with participants from civil society. So the four subgroups will be: Religion and Foreign Policy and National Security; the second will address Religious Engagement and Conflict Prevention/Mitigation; the third, which I will co-chair with Joe Grieboski of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, will cover Advancement and Protection of Religious Freedom; and the fourth, finally, will be Faith-based Humanitarian Assistance and Development, and it’ll examine the challenges and resources within the humanitarian and development assistance.
So our timeline is that we launch October 18th and we’ll conclude a year later, November 2012, and the core group and subgroups will be held periodically at the discretion of the members. So we’re happy to present this today and we look forward. We’re excited to working together. Thank you for this opportunity.
MR. TILLEMANN: Marvelous. Thank you very much. Assistant Secretary Posner.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thanks, Tomicah. I first want to thank Ted Stahnke from Human Rights First for being here and for agreeing to serve as one of the public members. Tom Malinowski, the other, is traveling out of the country, but I appreciate both of their engagement.
A couple of points on the Working Group on Democracy and Human Rights. It evolves very much out of the Krakow speech that you made reference to, Tomicah, and that you helped to shape. And the notion is that there are many countries, probably more than 50 now, that have in the last several years enacted new restrictions on NGO activity, countries as diverse as Egypt, Ethiopia, Cambodia, China, Russia, Sudan. And so coming out of the meeting in Krakow, we had another meeting which, Tomicah, again, you all helped set up and organize with us, where we had 13 activists in Vilnius around the Community of Democracy meeting where Secretary Clinton chaired and heard reports from people, activists, about both legal restrictions their governments were trying to impose or had imposed, retaliatory or targeting of activists, and some of the new challenges posed in the new media environment with internet and social networks. So we’re using that as a kind of broad theme, recognizing that different regions have different issues.
We also in Vilnius had a meeting of the Endangered NGO Fund, which you also made reference to. We’ve now raised close to $4 million. The U.S. and 12 other governments are now participating. We’ve got seven NGO partners that are helping implement the fund. And we’ve gone to those governments and said we want to – we said come next year and bring a date, so we’re going to try to double the number of governments that are participating in the next year to really build up both political capital and finance to help endangered NGOs and individuals working with them.
Going forward, our plan is between January and next fall to hold a series of regional meetings. The focus will be on NGOs, particularly those in tough regions – Middle East, Central Asia, East Asia, Africa – and to try to tailor the meetings around a group of NGO civil society activists who are taking on this agenda of how to create space, amplify the voices of local activists.
So I think we’re off to a good start and we’ll continue along those lines. Thanks.
MR. TILLEMANN: Marvelous. Thank you. Special Representative Shailor.
MS. SHAILOR: Thank you very much, Dr. Tillemann. We too really appreciate the opportunity to have this Labor Working Group that builds on the work that we’re doing in DRL and that engages the broadest part of the global labor movement. We’re absolutely thrilled that we have two remarkable co-chairs, Cathy Feingold, who introduced herself a few moments ago, and Sharon Burrow, who for many years led the Australian labor movement and now leads the global labor movement.
We’ve asked several academics, educators, activists, and organizers over the course of the last month to join the practical working group, and we’re very pleased to say all of them have agreed to do so. So we have Dr. Martha Chen from Harvard, who has done work on the informal economy; Richard Freeman, a leading labor expert, again, at Harvard. We draw on the work of the ILO, Dr. Yael Isa, who is doing a great deal of work in the Middle East; Raanana Jwala, who heads up the Self-Employed Women’s Organization that Ambassador Verveer has worked with for many years; and Raymond Torres, again, a leading labor economist.
So we have the first meeting of the working group this coming Friday. We’re going it by conference call. We are very mindful that we are trying to bring in ideas so that the working group will be a repository of work that each of these working group members is already sort of producing, and then we will attempt to have meetings that coincide with international meetings on these issues. So the issues that we’ll be dealing with, first and foremost, are employment and the general jobs deficit in the world; secondly, obviously, the significant role that labor movements play in these democratic transitions, addressing the informal sector, given that it’s 50 percent of the jobs in the world; and then focusing on youth unemployment and women’s concerns and employment issues.
So we really look forward to the work over the course of the next year, and thank you for starting the initiative.
MR. TILLEMANN: Particularly in the context of what’s happening in the global economy, these are very salient issues and we’re delighted that you’re a part of the good work we’re doing.
And last but certainly not least, we have Ann Kambara, who is pinch-hitting for Ambassador Verveer, who, unfortunately, was called away at the last minute. But we’re delighted you’re here, Ann, to report.
MS. KAMBARA: Thank you very much. I just wanted to report a bit on this Working Group on Women’s Empowerment. Given – obviously, given the historical political transitions and the openings for dialogue now in the Arab world, this group decided to begin an ongoing dialogue with women civil society leaders from key countries in the Arab world to discuss how best to secure and defend society’s role, particularly the role of women in political transitions. And really, this forms the whole fabric of the entire office work.
As many of you know, Ambassador Verveer is normally not satisfied with just one country and she’s also usually not satisfied with just one topic, so the initial concept of the group was – will likely be broadened so that it can be applied to other regions. We’re looking at, for example, Africa, East Asia, and other working groups.
But the working group will continue to focus firmly on the role of women in political transitions in this very quickly changing region. The challenge with this particular region is, as I think somebody else also mentioned, is that the civil society actors are willing – that are willing to work with us in the United States are often quite overworked and overburdened with their own requests. And NGOs also have a very difficult situation in working in these countries. Security but other challenges also occur for them. So in the coming months, we’re looking to seek more opportunities to engage women in Syria, Libya, Bahrain as well. These were countries that – in particular Libya – we hadn’t even considered at that time.
We first had our meeting May 4th through the 5th in Tunisia with a (inaudible) Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. Our focus was on women’s political participation and strengthening civil society. Other areas included education, political participation, economic opportunities, assistance, and violence against women, and judicial reform.
So I think our key findings of the Tunisian meetings were basically that the women’s civil society organizations really were seeking USG help in terms of capacity building, rule of law, and implementation issues, and voter education. So our vision for the future is to continue to assist women in transitioning economies, especially the Arab world, but Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya remain a top priority for us. Primarily, we will also provide linkages between the U.S. Government and the nascent civil society organizations in the Arab world – for example, the League of Women Voters.
And finally, we proposed that the working group meet once month or more if needed with domestic actors such as Inclusive Security, IRI, NDI, and others – Human Rights Watch, Amnesty – and relevant USG actors to get your opinions on what is needed. And we state that we will convene monthly calls to revolving activists in our key Arab world countries so they can also inform our policy dialogue.
I just also wanted to note that next week, we are looking at having Ambassador Verveer give testimony up on the Hill along with, I think, members of civil society on women in the Arab world. So I would highlight that for you as well.
MR. TILLEMAN: Thank you very much. I know Ambassador Verveer and the Secretary are both fond of saying that you can’t have democracy without women, and the same is certainly true of civil society. So we’re delighted to have this working group engaged.
We’ve gotten all of our formal business out of the way, which is one of the necessary evils of any initiative of this sort, but we can now, fortunately, turn to a more open discussion, and we’d welcome the thoughts and questions of, particularly, our civil society representatives since we’ve already heard a bit from the government representatives. But please let us know what you think we can do to make this work and our engagement with civil society more effective. If you have specific responses to the working group reports that we’ve heard already, we’d be very interested to hear those as well. Let me also point out that members of the public will have the opportunity to submit questions through our IIP connects platform, which is web broadcasting this event, and we’ll get to those, we hope, at the conclusion of this discussion. So with that, the floor is open, and we’d welcome the opportunity to hear from all of you. Please.
PARTICIPANT: Could I just take a moment to introduce the Office of Global Women’s Issues. This is Joshua Polachek, who is our new North Arab World desk officer, and he comes from Islamabad, Pakistan, where he was the deputy coordinator. So anyway, I just wanted to give him an introduction.
MR. TILLEMAN: Thank you.
PARTICIPANT: Well, I’m intrigued by all the reports, and I’m also fascinated by the interactivity or what we can learn from each of the working groups.
The Arab Spring has been mentioned. It was mentioned very early, and it was also noted the – you talked about the critical importance of women, but the comment of the absence of civil society was a kind of leading comment. And in addition to thinking about how we could work with the different committees across the committee lines, at least be informed, I just lift up that that region does have civil society in the form of the religious communities. They have been there a very long time. They are suffering in many ways because they haven’t been free of the kinds of controls that we observe more broadly. But it is a base that we can work from. And it actually, I think, has enormous consequences to the other committees as well as they each do have one for the other. So I just lift that up as something that we’re all focused on, but learning how to leverage, if you will, one area to help the other would be very smart for us. Thank you.
MR. TILLEMAN: I think that’s a great point. And certainly to the extent there is civil society infrastructure in that part of the world, it does exist largely within religious organizations. It’s an excellent point.
MR. POLACHEK: How do you think that working groups should engage the often thorny legal issues related to working with civil society groups around the world? That’s obviously particularly relevant in the religious community, but maybe in other working groups as well. Should we kind of weave them through subgroups, or is that a separate track?
MR. TILLEMAN: Well, that’s a great question and one that we’ve spent a lot of time on in cooperation with our counsel – our Office of Legal Affairs. What we’ve done in creating the architecture for this dialogue is to establish this committee as an umbrella. And recommendations from the committees can be channeled through this committee, and that allows us to operate within the context of the federal advisory committee statute that governs advice that the government receives from nongovernmental sources. So we hope that by doing that, the working groups can have a lot of latitude, they can bring in the partners that they feel will have the most to add around these discussions.
We’ve also tried in assembling the working groups to reach out to civil society organizations and, in many instances, create something of a self-nomination process so that civil society organizations can decide amongst themselves who they want to speak for them on these committees. So it is a tricky challenge, and certainly some of the legal constraints that exist around these issues make it even more complicated than it would be otherwise. But that’s one of the reasons that we’ve established this committee and in the context of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and we hope that it allows us to do what we need to do.
Tad, I think you had a comment.
MR. STAHNKE: I did. Thank you, Tomicah, and it’s an honor to serve, and I appreciate the invitation to do so and the efforts of Assistant Secretary Posner and everyone else around the table.
And I guess from our point of view, we think that to advance human rights, of course, it’s very important for the U.S. Government to be engaged with civil society, and the fact that this Secretary has lifted this up as a particularly important avenue is a very welcome development. I think that the challenge is: How do you take that and ensure that there is value added for the issues that we all care about through this engagement? So trying to look at it from that lens, I had a couple of comments and suggestions. And one is that the meeting you had in Vilnius was, I think, quite important, and we’ve heard back from several participants in that meeting how much they appreciated the opportunity to be able to speak with the Secretary. And so there’s no substitute, right, for that sort of thing. And I would encourage that wherever possible.
And the second is that these – the sorts of sessions that everyone is talking about – I guess one way to look at the value of that is how much input – how does the input that you receive from civil society abroad, how does that really have an influence on the policies and the programs that the U.S. Government is engaged with? There is – among our partners in different parts of the world, there’s a certain amount of skepticism to the notion of dialogue for the purpose of just sharing views. They’d like to see action, and I think the measurement of action is the extent to which it’s able to inform policy. So in that regard, I think it’s – obviously it’s very important to have human rights and a Human Rights Working Group. I also think that it’s important that the labor agenda is something that is pursued, and we welcome that aspect of it. My senior advisor on business and human rights is out in Chicago right now. We’re founding members of the Fair Labor Association, and this is an area where there’s mutual benefits on labor issues and human rights. So I want to endorse that.
And just very briefly, I guess the last thing is that the – these sorts of dialogues and meetings is a chance to hear from other people how they view U.S. leadership on the issues that we’re concerned about and on the issues of human rights. And in that regard, things that we hear all the time from our partners abroad are how U.S. practices with respect to human rights make it more or less difficult for people to do their work abroad. So I encourage you to think about that as an aspect of what’s been discussed.
The other is: How do you build credibility at a domestic level for human rights work? And that this is – there are some costs sometimes to association with the United States. Many times human rights is viewed as a U.S. import and et cetera. We’re all familiar with that. So it’s really – take this opportunity to hear from people about how the United States can work, whether it’s bilaterally or through regional or multilateral institutions, to help build credibility for human rights work on the ground.
And then the very last thing is it’s an opportunity to bring in other agencies that don’t have the kind of track record of engaging with civil society groups that the State Department has. So particularly on the human rights, the Defense Department obviously is something that’s very important, as well as Commerce, Labor, Treasury in their respective areas. So I would encourage you to think about that as well. Thank you.
MR. TILLEMAN: Those are all great recommendations, and let me just speak to two of the excellent points you raised. First, in terms of the Vilnius meeting, one of the most important contributions, I thought, was made at the Vilnius meeting was that the 13 activists who came through the work of the great team in DRL all brought very concrete recommendations. And they had specific things that they were asking the United States to do, and it gave us a lot of homework. And so that was very helpful.
The other side of that is that in the past there have been dialogues from time to time, and too often, in the words of one of the members of this committee, those dialogues in years past have sometimes consisted of – or at least were perceived by civil society to be an exercise in box checking. People felt like they needed to sit down with civil society, but it was obligatory, and then once it was done, things went on as they had before. And we really hope to move beyond that. One of the things that we would like to see come out of this discussion today and the work of the various groups that are engaged on specific issues is guidance going out to our embassies around the world on these issues. And this is a great opportunity to harness the insights of civil society, to take some of the ideas that are shared in the context of these sessions and ensure that they not only go into the amorphous vacuum that is Washington and that sometimes is the foreign policy bureaucracy, but are in fact translated into concrete instructions to our embassies on the ground. So I think you’re absolutely right there.
The other point that you make, which is extremely important, is on bringing in other partners from the U.S. Government and to these discussions. USAID has been hardwired into this process from the beginning, and we’ve made sure that they are involved in the work that goes on at every step of the way. But the Department of Defense is another very important partner. We are just now starting in my office to invite the Department of Defense to our regular monthly meetings that we hold with stakeholders from around the foreign policy community on civil society issues, and hopefully that can be a first step, but maybe we can do more to bring them into this dialogue as well. Those are great points.
MS. FEINGOLD: Thank you very much. So on behalf of the AFL-CIO, I really want to thank you. Tomicah, I know we met a few months back, and we began to hear about this exciting initiative. And so it’s so wonderful to finally be here and to see it all coming together. And thank you very much to Barbara and to DRL, who has always continued to shine a light on the importance of workers and the labor movement. So many thanks to all of you who already do great work.
Just a couple ideas. I know we’ve already been working together with Barbara to come with some ideas. We want to emphasize the urgency of what is happening in the global economy – 200 million jobs lost. People are estimating we need 400 million just to keep up with new entrants. So we really see this initiative as key to responding to the urgency, and I would echo that I think in the Middle East/North Africa region, civil society has been there. The labor movement, actually, we have seen has been at the forefront of some of the important transformations there. And they’ve also been important vehicles because they cross – they cut across religious lines. We see that was very important in countries like Bahrain and other places. So this is really just such an important initiative.
A couple, I guess, questions or thoughts. One is hearing everyone around the table talk about the Middle East and North Africa, talking about the importance of human and worker rights and the linkages and women’s rights, I would just want to make sure that we don’t stay in the silos that we’re often put in, because we’re in these sort of neat silos here, and I’m just excited looking around the table at the connections we can make in our daily work. I mean, I use Bahrain as an example on religious issues, human rights issues. I mean, I know we’re all working on them as we speak, and just wanted to make sure that in this type of venue that we could create spaces to cut across our silos. So perhaps organizing some meetings that bring – we heard about corporate social responsibility issues, some pension issues that the labor movement also works on, looking at how we use pensions to support worker and human rights and environmental issues, so would want to make sure that we have some feedback loops so that we don’t stay in our silos and that we’re constantly learning from each other and being able to inform each other.
So very excited on behalf of the labor movement to be working on this initiative. I think that given the extent of the crisis, the fact that the Secretary will be continuing to shine a light on workers issues, that they’ll actually feel like they’re being heard during this time of crisis, is incredibly important. So thank you.
MR. TILLEMANN: Those are great thoughts.
MS. BURROW: It’s Sharon here. Can I just add to (inaudible) –
MR. TILLEMANN: Please.
MS. BURROW: I share her – think that the modern (inaudible) of experience, using all of that around the table. And perhaps one suggestion is that we use this group not initially but over the course of the next few months to actually tie in to where we can get creative and engagement across the sort of traditional boundaries (inaudible). There are some really good partnerships, as Cathy said, already out there, but this seems like a golden opportunity to (inaudible). So maybe the work of this group is a little more than advisory, potentially anyway, into the partnership-building.
MR. TILLEMANN: I think it’s a great suggestion, Sharon, and one of the things that we might want to consider if these civil society participants here would be amenable is to harnessing the power of technology to create an online community that would allow us to continue these conversations when we’re not at the table. One of the reasons that we wanted this diverse group together is when we started sitting down with civil society representatives at the very beginning of this process –
MS. BURROW: And I apologize, but I’m going to have to go catch a plane from Japan back to Europe, so we’ll drop off. We thank you very much.
MR TILLEMANN: We would not want you stranded in Japan, Sharon, but we’ll forward to seeing you at our next meeting.
The message that we got from civil society was it is great to be pursuing these various priorities within the context of the working groups. But there’s a tremendous amount of lost potential that occurs when these groups don’t come together and when we’re not able to cross-pollinate the ideas. And so hopefully we can do that in the context of this working group, and we’ll look into some options. Obviously, there are some great platforms out there that might be able to facilitate ongoing collaboration over the next couple of months, when we’re not at the table together.
MR. VENDLEY: Just quickly following on, Chris Seiple and I, in the work we were doing with religion, thought that in addition to policy we ought to try to get the group to look for opportunities. Where are the key opportunities? And that might be the area where we could really go to town in terms of sharing, because the opportunity that one group may identify could have a dimension of opportunity for the other groups as well. And I think the more we can couple the policy recommendations with very concrete illustrations of opportunity that’s present right now, the more I think the State Department could be assisted, ultimately collaboration would be advanced.
MR. TILLEMANN: That’s a great (inaudible.)
MR. MILLSTEIN: This is Ira Millstein. Can I – is this an appropriate time for me to comment?
MR. TILLEMANN: Please.
MR. MILLSTEIN: I think – I apologize for not being there psychically. I just couldn’t get down this time, and I couldn’t hear a lot of what was going on, but I think I got the drift. What I’d like to add, if not – I think it may be duplicative, but let me emphasize it. At the – with the World Bank and the OECD, when we began the process of trying to spread the gospel concerning corporate governance and the principles of corporate governance back in the late ’80s and ’90s, we did it principally, along with (inaudible), which you all know, the Center Financial Private Enterprise, by reaching out to locals who were already interested and energizing and facilitating them, because we found that us going out and preaching our gospel didn’t mean much to people. Our society is so different than many of the societies in which we were going.
So what we did was try to locate organizations already in existence on the ground and try to energize and train and facilitate them. Their voices in their own countries are much more important than our voices, in my opinion. I think finding people locally who are already engaged or trying to be engaged or making some effort to be engaged in promoting civil societies, teaching, training, and as I say, energizing and facilitating their work, in my opinion, is the most important thing the United States can do.
I think all the substantive comments I read are terrific. There’s no objection. They form the base of what training would be. But I think the State Department, if it could enable us to somehow or other reach to the local groups, much as we have at the Global Corporate Governance Forum and the World Bank and the OECD and SIEF to facilitate and energize what’s happening on the ground. Now, it may be hard to found these groups, but we managed to do it. And over a period of years, we have many of them going so that we now have institutes in most of the developing world which are trying very hard to bring on corporate governance in their areas.
I think we have case studies at the forum, and SIEF has case studies of who they reached out to, how it worked, and what we had to do to facilitate them. So I think both the Corporate Governance Forum and SIEF are more than willing to divulge the case studies to you all and to us to see if it would be related to State Department in developing and working with local groups, which I think is the way home here. It’s – we’ve got to reach into the cultures themselves and have the people who are involved on the ground begin to understand how they can help and what they can do, and that’s where I think we can lend our real muscle.
MR. TILLEMANN: I think that’s a great insight, Ira, and particularly on issues of governance and accountability. Unless you have local buy-in, no amount of preaching from the outside is going to yield a lot of progress, and I think that that is true, of course, across many of these issues as well.
Lauren had a point, and then Jennifer.
MS. BAER: Yeah. I just wanted – this is Lauren Baer speaking here. I wanted to respond to a couple of points that have been made by participants here.
First, to Ira’s point, I think he touches on a key aspect of how we see the working groups functioning, which is not only to provide connectivity between civil society organizations and the U.S. Government, but also between civil society organizations that might not traditionally work together. And I think we should look as to ways that we can use the working groups to energize activity within and among civil society organizations who are going to exist, hopefully, long after these working groups have ceased to function.
As to the point that several people have made with respect to the working groups working together and across issues, I think you’ve touched on a key function of this committee here, and the precise reason why we didn’t want to have five working groups each independently reporting up to the Secretary but wanted some kind of overarching structure that would bring ideas together. You’ll notice that most of the working groups are in very much nascent form. Some of met once, none have met twice yet. And I would hope that we see not only sharing of ideas after the fact, but people looking at ways that the working groups can actually work together to possibly host joint meetings or work on joint initiatives.
And finally, to Tad’s very important point that he made before about how this initiative will actually influence U.S. policy, I think at least in the initial stages what we’ll see is this committee providing recommendations up to the very highest level of the Department. But what we hope to see over the long term is this committee being a vehicle to discuss those policy recommendations as they take the form of actual programs and other initiatives on the ground. So we really hope that it’s going to be a two-way street so that we not only see things going up but the fruits of your labor coming back down and you having a continuing role in the process.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you. Jennifer.
MS. HAVERKAMP: Thank you very much. I want to join the others in commending you for this effort and again saying I’m really glad to be part of it. I also – in particular, I wanted to flag the leadership that the Secretary and President Obama showed two years ago when he had a summit with President Medvedev in Russia, where, with a lot support from the State Department, there was a civil society summit as part of that summit, and NGO groups from a lot of different sectors on the U.S. side and the Russian side met together for a couple days and made recommendations and Obama came and met with us, and that was useful cross-fertilization like the kind that folks are recommending here.
I remember one environmental NGO, a Russian woman, attended the labor group instead of the environmental group meetings because in her part of the country, where the pulp mill had been shut down, which the enviros wanted, there was then an unemployment problem. And so to protect the environment, she had to figure out how to find jobs for these people, so that was a great synergy.
But I wanted to also note and make a suggestion. In the Working Group on Women’s Empowerment there’s a recommendation that has to do with funding organizations that promote free press, and it seems to me that now, especially with the advances and development of so many different forms of social media and blogging, there’s a lot more overlap between civil society and the press than there used to me. And just in terms of this government’s efforts to also promote freedom of the press, that might be something for these various working groups to think about as they do their work: What are the synergies between that and the specific topics of this issue?
MR. TILLEMANN: That’s an excellent point, and I think that we’re finding in our work both in North Africa and around the world that a free press is absolutely indispensable to the work of civil society and indeed a part of civil society.
You also raised another important issue relating to funding, and this committee and the work of the dialogue is primarily focused on policy. We’re not going to be making, particularly at a granular level, any decisions about what money gets spent where. But what we can do and what we’ve already discussed is – helped shaped policy. And ultimately, of course, policy decisions do have an impact on how we direct resources. And so hopefully, we can look at some of those broad priorities, whether it’s free media or other issues, and develop a list of areas where we do think it’s useful to pursue further efforts and additional collaboration.
Yes. Please, Chris.
MR. HALLE: This is Mark Halle. Could I intervene?
MR. TILLEMANN: Actually, Mark, if you don’t mind, Chris was in line ahead, but we’ll get to you in –
MR. HALLE: Just put me on the list. That’s fine.
MR. TILLEMANN: Great. Thanks.
MR. SEIPLE: Well, thank you, and ditto on the gratitude all around. Three points in the context of the following: I think that – I really am so excited about this because I really think it’s the defining characteristic of our century. How does top-down government work with bottom-up grassroots to solve challenges that no state or non-state actor can solve by themselves? And so in that context, I think, and not to set the bar low but to just manage expectations, the product is the process. Some good things are going to result from this, but I think we have to proceed with some strategic intentionality as we go through this and learning, and the feedback is on how we relate to each other and how we include people, because the process that is established will set the pattern for how top-down and bottom-up work together for the rest of the century. I don’t mean to be melodramatic, but it’s never been done before, so that – only logical that it follows.
To that point, what Bill said in his first comment I think is very important to remember. I did a dissertation on Uzbekistan, and it didn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, we kept telling them they had no civil society. That doesn’t go over very well. They do have a civil society. They do have mechanisms of respect for the other, for hospitality toward the guest. It’s not like we’re thinking in terms of free association in the context of representative government, but it’s civil, and it’s hospitable, and it’s respectful. And the key of this is to anchor in that and do everything we can to make them feel like we’re listening, to include, so it is a two-way street. And I think that’s the most important thing of the process.
The second thing is we’ve been talking about how do we integrate. And I think at the policy level, we ought to be thinking about organizing principles for the integration of the five groups. But I would also encourage us to think, if only theoretically, about organizing projects. Now, we’re not going to recommend and tell people what to do, but, for example, we do a dialogue in a country where we have used bilingual education as a demonstration of religious freedom and national security, because if a child’s earliest memories are respect because they’re able to learn in their own mother tongue, that means it’s a religious freedom issue, but it also means they’re less likely to agitate against the state later on.
Can we think about those things in different ways? If you want to change a community, it’s common sense in the development world you’ve got to educate the girl child to fifth grade literacy. If you have a mother teaching in the mother tongue to her children, you will transform that community. Mother tongue, bilingual education – there’s ways to bring these things together and everything else flows from that – economic decisions that you make, labor unions that you join or don’t join. It’s all there. But if we could come up with some sort of case statement or theoretical point and say this is how we’re thinking about blending these, it’s not cross-cutting values but values that have practical implementation in a project that has been really thought through in a particular place.
The last thing that I would say in terms of process, and this gets into the minutia but – and maybe you’re going to mention this, Tomicah, at the conclusion. But it’s very helpful, I think, for the five groups to know when the FACA, the federal advisory committee that this group is, when we’re going to meet. Because if that can be set out now, that helps our schedules and we’re not catching flights from Japan and elsewhere, but we can also have – that we can – that will form and inform how the groups and the subgroups therein push stuff up for the recommendations in an appropriate fashion.
MR. TILLEMANN: That’s an excellent point. And one of the things that, hopefully, we’ll be able do today is to at least lay out for the next few months what our meeting schedule might look like. And that can hopefully trickle down to the working groups.
Mark, thank you for your patience. We’re eager to hear from you.
MR. HALLE: No, not at all. I can’t wave my hand in a way that you can see, so I just wanted to make a couple of points. First of all, this is my first interaction with this group, and I think it’s a fantastic initiative. I’m delighted to be part of it. And I’d be delighted, in fact, to engage more with it, probably in the area of governance and accountability. And on that, just in reaction to the brief report that we had from the working group, I think there are a lot of very good ideas there on improving governance, particularly through boosting transparency. And that’s certainly one of the key roles that civil society has always played and continues to play, and it’s absolutely vital that they be able to continue to do that.
I think maybe some more thought could be given to what we’ve learned over the past few years about accountability mechanisms that work, because although transparency is a necessary foundation for the exercise of accountability, accountability doesn’t automatically flow from it. And so I think that there’s scope for some creative recommendations in the area of accountability, and specifically the kinds of lessons that have been learned from different exercises of accountability around the world. For example, in some of the international environmental conventions, we’ve found that accountability based on reward is working better than accountability based on punishment. And there are some very creative ways of deploying that.
The second is that we should be looking for opportunities globally in which to put forward some of these recommendations or some of these ideas. And certainly in the field of environment but more broadly in the field of international governance, the process leading up to the Earth Summit in Rio in June of next year is a very good opportunity to float ideas in this area. And there are probably many more, and it would be, I think, quite useful to try and take note of some of the international opportunities that are out there. There was a major world youth conference last week in Germany, and there are other audiences that would be, I think, very open to receiving the sorts of ideas that are being developed in this group.
So I will communicate by email perhaps with the chair of the Governance and Accountability Working Group to pursue some of these ideas.
MR. TILLEMANN: Well, thank you very much, Mark. I think especially on governance and accountability, the ideas that you’re speaking about are very relevant. And finding different ways to incentivize governments to do the right thing is always a challenge, and fortunately it’s one of the areas in which civil society really excels.
On the specific issue of environmental issues, I’ve had a number of conversations with the assistant secretary in our Bureau for Oceans, Environment, and Science. I know that they are very focused on the Rio 2012 process, and I’m engaging civil society in conjunction with that process. And I think one of the lessons perhaps that all of the working groups can take away from that issue is that we need to be looking for the bigger events on the calendar going forward that can provide a platform for amplifying some of the ideas that we’re discussing, and ensuring that the initiatives and the policies that we develop within the framework of these discussions are translated out to a broader audience and are carried out to a broader group of activists and organizations. So that’s a very helpful point.
We have, I know, a number of questions that have come in from our viewers online, but I want to make sure that there aren’t additional comments from participants at the table before we turn to those.
MR. STAHNKE: Just briefly, Tomicah, can you tell us what the intention is about how often this group is supposed to meet? And I’m wondering if we could have maybe a standing agenda item reporting back on outcomes, as we discussed. You mentioned a couple of various things have been mentioned.
MR. TILLEMANN: Absolutely. I think those are great points. In terms of how often, we’re hoping that this group can meet roughly quarterly. And the meeting schedule, which we wanted to lay out and which I’ll put on the table quickly, had a mid-January meeting, an early April meeting, an early June meeting, an early September meeting, and then potentially a meeting toward the end of November next year. Obviously, this is a flexible schedule. None of those time slots are set in stone, and if one of them turns out to be fundamentally unworkable for whatever reason, we can certainly look at different options. But those were the range of dates, and we’ll follow up via email with all of you on that that we were considering going forward.
Does that work for you on that issue?
MR. STAHNKE: Yes.
MR. TILLEMANN: And in terms of a standing agenda item on outcomes, I think that would be tremendously useful. And hopefully, the working groups can incorporate that into their regular reports.
PARTICIPANT: It’s not particularly substantive, but it’d be helpful via email to get feedback from all of you about the formats of the reports and the content. It’d be helpful for the working groups to know how to craft their reports to give you the kinds of information that you need to development other insights that you can then provide to us. So to the extent that some of them did have recommendations sections in them, but again, it’s quite early. So we expect going forward that those reports, which you’ll get prior to every meeting, will have recommendations for you to consider, because the point of the committee is to move those recommendations to the Secretary for inclusion in our foreign policy.
MR. TILLEMANN: If there are no more comments from this group, our first online question is for Assistant Secretary Posner. So you’re the lucky recipient. And it asks: Could you please say a few words about outreach to other parts of the U.S. Government, including the State Counterterrorism Office, the Treasury Department, and USAID, to promote a whole-of-government approach to furthering your working group’s goals?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: It’s a good question. We are constantly trying to live up to the notion of whole-of-government approach, and we’re doing it, I would say, more in line with particular country and regional focus than this working group; that, for example, we’re just setting up now an interagency group looking at China human rights policy that’ll involve DOD, Treasury, Commerce, et cetera. And I think that’s sort of the future. I believe we’re going to make more headway if we try to focus on key countries, key regions, and try to bring in people who are working there. We haven’t really thought of it in this context.
And again, I think from our perspective, the Human Rights, Democracy Working Group is going to be very focused on regional meetings with local advocates in those regions. And so the focal point then will be who in our embassies in those regions have related portfolios and to bring them in as well, which we will do.
MR. TILLEMANN: We next have a follow-up, Cathy, for you. This comes from Jim Wallace at Boston University. He says: I want to concur with Cathy’s comments that there is a need to move beyond the silos in which most individuals work and focus. As well, there is a need to engage new groups, people, ideas, and voices, particularly younger generations. Is there a strategy for engaging people beyond the usual suspects?
And this is a great point and one that we constantly struggle with at the State Department. Certainly in too many cases around the world in our engagement with civil society, we fall into a trap that I call the STP trap, which is you focus on the same ten people over and over again. And we need to get beyond that.
One of the things that we’re trying to do through this initiative but also more broadly at our embassies around the world is to reach out beyond capitals. We recognize that so much of the work that goes on in civil society takes place at a local and provincial level. And historically, for a variety of very defensible reasons, our embassies have concentrated their outreach on partners that are located nearby and in a capital. And we recognize that that needs to change, and particularly as we’re looking at countries in North Africa.
Take Tunisia, for example. We saw the origins of the movement for change in Tunisia occurred not in the capital. That initiative didn’t come out of the capital. It came out of the provinces. And we need to reach out beyond capitals if we are going to do an effective job of engaging civil society partners and activists who are at the leading edge of those types of changes.
The other thing that we’re trying to do is – in regards to this question is reach out to a new generation. And the Secretary recently appointed, through Maria Otero’s office, an individual to focus on youth outreach, a new senior representative, special representative for youth issues, and we look forward to incorporating that work and his youth outreach into this initiative going forward.
We are nearing the end of our time together. Again, we are very grateful to all of you who have come together at this meeting. Let me take this opportunity to ask if there are any further issues that people would like to put on the table before we conclude. Any closing comments – we have a few minutes left.
If not, then this becomes very easy. Let me just conclude by quoting a great American activist, Harry Emerson Fosdick, who said that democracy rests upon the idea that ordinary people are capable of producing extraordinary results. And certainly none of the people around this table, myself excluded, are ordinary. And yet we do see this phenomenon manifest and these possibilities manifest over and over again in civil society. And it is our hope that by coming together in the context of this initiative, we will be able to produce something extraordinary; we’ll be able to develop a new framework for diplomacy and a new mechanism for governments to work together with critical partners that exist beyond the state in the United States and around the world.
So thank you again to all of you for being here. Thank you to our online participants and those who have joined us via conference call. We will be following up with you via email. We’ll look at the possibility of creating some online communities that will allow us to continue these discussions in between our meetings, and we’ll look forward to our next gathering in early January, if that works for everyone. Thank you. (Applause.)