Date: May 16, 2012, from 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.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 May 16, 2012. The objective of this meeting was to discuss the recommendations of the five working groups proposed to the committee.
Agenda items: (1) Welcome, (2) Presentations of Third Reports by Working Group Chairs, (3) General Discussion and Debate, (4) Public Comment, (5) Closing Remarks (6) Adjournment.
MR. TILLEMANN: Good morning. Thank you all so much for joining us, and we are all so very delighted that so many of you could also have been with us to take part in the event with the Secretary that just concluded. She spent a few minutes on the recommendations, but I’ll follow up on her comments with just a few additional notes of my own. I wanted to clarify for all of you have been involved in the committee and its work for some time that she announced favorable action on all eight of the recommendations that have come out of this committee; all eight of the proposals that we have heard from civil society that have been forwarded to her. So it’s a great vindication to all of your work in the context of this dialogue, and also an example of how the dialogue is proving to be much more than talk, we’re actually translating that into action.
Many of you, I believe, received a fact sheet with additional information on the recommendations, but we can get into nuts and bolts if there is interest. But I wanted to clarify upfront, one of the other recommendations we also talk about is the creation of new Embassy-level working groups and this is, again, something that came out of the committee. It was an idea we heard from civil society in one of our meetings, and we are now moving forward in ten key posts around the world that are going to be setting up consultative civil societies that will feed into this dialogue and mirror the work we are doing here in Washington. And there is, in the handouts you received, a marvelous little diagram that is masterpiece of flow chart-ism that shows exactly how this process will work, commended to all of you if you are interested.
Most of us, I think, know each other quite well at this point, but let me also welcome Mara Vanderslice, who is with us from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Initiatives. Mara, we are delighted that you are with us. The Religion and Foreign Policy working group delivered some outstanding recommendations, and not coincidental that they were among the first highlighted by the Secretary.
With that, unless there is further business to discuss, before we get started, we are looking forward to hearing reports from all of our working groups. Governance and Accountability is first on the list, and we are fortunate to have Tom Smitham from the Office of Undersecretary Hormats.
Tom, we turn to you and are especially eager to hear the recommendations that you are proposing.
MR.SMITHAM: Thanks very much, Tomicah. This working group has been a very helpful framing device for a lot of the work we do on the economic, energy and environmental side of the State Department. When we were discussing with our staff, before this morning, about the specific things we have done since the last working group, it’s been interesting that almost every aspect of our policy development has a business and NGO component, so just in the past couple of weeks, under Undersecretary Hormats, briefed the NGO community on the upcoming G8 Summit. We just developed some new bilateral investment, regulation model treaty that we are going to start negotiating, which involves civil society groups, including labor groups, environmental groups, and business groups. We have this constant engagement that is part of our daily work and is really useful as we think about the work of the civil society group.
Since the last working group, Undersecretary Hormats participated in a sustainable, futures conference up in New York where we talked about, a lot about, the UN backed principles for responsible investment and how to consider good governance and sustainability in the economic calculus of how businesses do their work. In February, Undersecretary Hormats convened a meeting of this working group on the margins of the conference for this upcoming Rio+20 dialogue or conference that is going to take place in Brazil next month, and we brought together a group of NGO’s and Academics on the margins of that meeting to talk about the interconnectedness of sustainable development, good governance and anti-corruption. We discussed several of the advances in technology that could help achieve rapid action with sustainable development, and a lot buzz phrases came out of that. One was the ability to use distributed, micro-expertise to focus on specific issues and problems.
A couple of examples that came up were on air pollution, where in China you have NDRC monitoring some cities for air quality and air pollution. At the same time, the U.S. Embassy also monitored air pollution, and we put these things on the internet and we able to collaborate with NGO’s on getting information about air pollution standards, and it was a nice way on holding the Chinese government accountable for air quality standards that have not been so transparent. Another example that came up was, in India, about how to help villages monitor the delivery of water supplies. Governments are supposed to deliver water and often don’t, so you have a lot of corrupt officials who don’t do it.
There are programs to help monitor and report on these things to help hold the government accountable. So, it was a useful meeting of this group that took place in Silicon Valley. A lot of entrepreneurs and NGO’s came up with a lot of good ideas for having the U.S. government, other governments, and civil society to collaborate. There are a couple of other examples, I don’t think I need to go into to greater detail, but as for recommendations there are a couple of things. There was, under the leadership of Ambassador Rice, a very good conference, the World Forum for Governance that was chaired with Brookings Institution, and they came up with some very interesting governance principles and one of our recommendations was to try to use the group to draw some attention to those principles. They are everything from bribery, campaign finance, personal finance disclosures, that sort of thing.
So we’d like to draw attention to that. We are doing a couple of other things, going forward, especially intellectual property rights, where there is a lot of corruption and lack of accountability in the supply-chain of companies, and we’ve joined up with this group called CREATE to work with business groups, civil society groups to help monitor supply-chains. The U.S. government monitors supply-chains to ensure the accountability and ensure the integrity of the supply-chains. So it’s another thing we are going to taking forward, going forward.
MR. TILLEMANN: Next up… let me just say very quickly on those recommendations, I had the opportunity to attend a conference in Prague and it was truly exceptional. It was one of the best meetings of experts and expertise on this subject that I have ever participated in, and the recommendations for those of you who have had the chance to review them, are very, very important and hopefully will be something that we can implement as policy going forward.
Have you thought about the framework that you would like to utilize for implementing those principles? I know that from conversations I’ve had with Undersecretary Hormats there had been initially some thoughts about using the G20 as a framework.
MR. SMITHAM: I think the G20 is going to be a difficult framework. What we were able to do a couple of months ago was to put the issues of accountability and governance on the agenda of the G20 Foreign Minister’s meeting that the Secretary went to. In her speeches and public messaging, we were able to put it on that agenda. I don’t think we’re going to be able to get it on the agenda of the leaders’ G20 summit because it’s going to be very focused on financial issues. So we are looking at ways to take this forward, but I don’t think it’s through that forum.
MR. TILLEMANN: Excellent, thank you very much. On to our exceptionally well-represented Religion and Foreign Policy working group. Why don’t we try and get Bill Fenley on. If Maria is willing to lead us off…
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you so much, Tomicah. It’s actually very good to be here at this meeting. I serve as co-chair of the working group on Religion and Foreign Policy, and I think we’ve had a very good working group that is operated, actually, with sub-working groups also associated with it. As we reflect on the work we’ve been doing this past year, its good just to be able to highlight some of the activities of this working group; we’ll just touch on some and ask Chris Seiple to just give some of his observations also on the work we’ve done. Let me just highlight three areas.
The first one is that in our working group, it was noted by civil society members that we needed greater literacy, if you will, among State Department employees about the issues that have to do with working with religious actors. The idea of really being able to understand the role that religion plays and the way that it interacts with civil society is one in which, I think we tend to agree, would be very good to be able to give more cleared, if you will, training or information on this to Foreign Service Officers. So, as a result of this recommendation, we are now working closely with the Foreign Service Institute to be able to determine what additional training could be provided; if it can be added to an existing course or if one needs to develop additional material.
The Office of International Religious Freedom, itself, is working directly with the Foreign Service Institute to just look for some of the options that collaborations take place; whether it means adding modules to the training they are receiving or engaging private donors for others that work in this place to really develop our own capacity in this area more. So, I think that is one area where we are moving forward and we expect not only to see deliverables but also see some changes in which we are operating here.
The second is civil society members from our working group also requested more clarity for the State Department Employees themselves on the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause, which prohibits the establishment of a national religion by Congress or the preference of the U.S. government in any one religion. Civil society members of this working group believe that many employees within the Department of State have a clear understanding of how this impacts in the interaction that they have with religious groups both here and overseas. And again, this is one of the areas that we need to, again, improve on in order to expand and enhance the work that we are doing in this area.
So, as a way to address this, we have asked our Office of Legal Advisor, what we call L, to be able to draft the guidance that would be needed and to just provide the specific information for a Foreign Service Officer so that they can address the kind of questions that may arise as they’re engaging in their own work and their own interaction with religious actors and religious communities in the places they are working. So, certainly from my sense and sense of the working group, this kind of guidance language would help us to be able to both interact better and help us to do a better job of making work with religious actors’ part of the work we’re doing for civil society.
And then, finally, I would highlight that the working group co-hosted a very productive and very good meeting here at the Department on the findings that came out of a recent Christian, Muslim and Jewish Interfaith American-Indonesian Delegation that went to the Middle East, and I should highlight that the Ambassador from Indonesia here was very active in putting this together, and the delegation, itself, the main purpose of it was to just deepen the relationship among faith leaders that participated in the event, but also with those that they met and interacted with, with NGO’s they worked with. So, they spent ten days in February, and these were Christian, Muslim and Jewish clergy who traveled first to Jakarta and then, with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, to the Middle East where they met with groups from these three faith traditions in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. So, the effort was to really, by then, build upon the existing relationships that had already evolved from the members of this delegation from the various religious traditions and to lay the foundation for interacting dialogue to engage across these three important faiths.
So, these are three areas that I wanted to highlight. The working group is working with a lot of dynamism and making a contribution to addressing these issues. But, let me ask Chris Seipel who is one of our working group’s civil society advisors, and we’ve got people from civil societies who have been working on these issues for all of their lives, so it’s been really wonderful to have them. So, just to have his assessment and thoughts about how the group has progressed would be good.
MR.SEIPLE: Thank you, Madame Undersecretary and on behalf of Bill Fenly, who is in Nairobi doing his good work and can’t call in, and co-chairs Ambassador Susan Cook, Josh and Mara, we are grateful as civil society leaders to be a part of this discussion. I found this morning encouraging and inspiring and its cliché sometimes but I want to publicly say thank you to the Secretary for her service to our country. She wasn’t speaking from talking points, although I’m sure they were great talking points, she was speaking from her heart and I think that’s what a lot of Americans can get behind, and I am just encouraged by that. I am particularly encouraged that she is encouraging us to define the space between classic, track one government-to-government and classic track 2 people-to-people and develop this sphere of 1.5 where we can get it changed, sustainable change.
Change can happen from the top to the bottom, but it’s not sustainable unless they are working together: public and private spheres together. Mara and Josh have been leading this way at the White House, and the Ambassador and I were over there on Friday and they convened a whole bunch of great people. There is some good work that is taking place in this town and across our country. Three observations about where we are going that I think might be the best way to make some sort of contribution. But let me first say this, it is sometimes obvious but sometimes not so obvious, part of that 1.5 space is that we are creating a common culture between two cultures that would not otherwise have any reason to talk to each other. And I think that sometimes reaction from both is the same: What? Why do they think that way? State Department, are you kidding me? They’re saying the same thing about the NGO’s.
It’s positive and you get to know each other and relationships build and without trust there is no tangibility. And that’s the key. We’re creating the space for this to take place. Three things that I think keep coming up and demand white papers and, probably, recommendations as we move forward. One is that constantly among civil society leaders, where do we go for one-stop shopping at the State Department or the U.S. Government? Where is that door that opens up and says, “Here’s the POC you need to talk to”? There’s a feeling that’s not out there. Why not do a white paper that systematically and jointly with State Department looks at what that door might be and what those POC’s might be? That needs to be thought through.
Secretary Clinton said herself today, “Tell us what we’re good at; tell us what we need to stop doing.” And I would anchor in those words that is exactly what we need to do, and I think what we will do through the working group. A second thing is, this is an age of amateurs on this topic; that’s nothing against the good people. The ideas are so new: religion and foreign policy, religion and politics. We can’t talk about that stuff. Where are the best practices from around the world where civil society and governments have been working together? Where can we compare notes? What are the other models? With all of that to say, we need some kind of incubator, conference experience where we as Americans can go and listen to other experiences from around the world and learn from them; and we can share what we’ve been learning and figure out ways in which governments can better engage their own civil society, and we as Americans, civil society to government, government to civil society, globally, can engage one another and listen to each other. That has to be thought through very carefully.
The last piece is this: What if, and the Secretary basically alluded to this through a concept of relationships and that approach, is what if there were standing working groups on religion and foreign policy or the strategic dialogue in each of the countries around the world? What if Burma had a multi-faith council that spoke into a Religion and Foreign Policy council interfaced with ours? What if there was a regional Religion and Foreign Policy council in MENA (Middle East and North Africa), out of Morocco, which might come forth as a conference from an incubation to look at this 1.5 stuff. What if it was even global? This conversation is taking place worldwide and all we know for sure is that 80% of the world, 4 out of 5 people that walk this planet, believe in something greater than themselves.
All issues are going to be touched by religion or seen through the prism of religion. How do we think about that? So those are the three spaces that I think warrant white papers and further the discussion in our working group, and I can’t see how we would not have recommendations at some point because all the civil society folks are seeing and asking about.
MR. TILLEMANN: These are tremendous ideas and certainly topics that deserve a lot more attention, and I think we’ll be looking forward to hear more from them.
Ambassador Johnson Cook…
AMBASSADOR JOHNSON COOK: It is just a delight to work with our co-chairs, Undersecretary Otero, Joshua, and Mara, and chairs of FACA, Chris Seiple and Bill Fenley, have been tremendous. I just want to thank you and echo what they said.
MS. VANDERSLICE KELLY: I won’t speak long, but I just want to say that the White House has been very excited about these developments for a long time and our first President’s advisory council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships made recommendations in this space almost three years ago, two years ago, and it is an issue that the President has asked our office to provide leadership on, so we’ve just been very pleased to be part of the process with such excellent leadership from the co-chairs here today.
MR. TILLEMANN: Thank you, and praise for the co-chairs is very well deserved, and it’s very exciting to hear particularly about the Indonesia delegation that you have mentioned. For any of you who have had a chance to work for the Indonesian Ambassador here in Washington, he is a force of nature and I am not surprised that he’s engaged in such innovative work.
Alright, we turn now to our labor working group, Barbara…
MS. SHAILOR: Thank you very much, Dr. Tillemann. The discussion we hear this morning in many of the questions that came to the Secretary I think define how we see the mission in the labor working group, which is we have issues that are the reality of people looking for jobs all over the world. So, our labor working group feels very fortunate that it was through this process that we were actually pulled together as a cohesive, working “working” group, I guess that’s why we call it a working group. And we have had the benefit of the expertise from the members of the group, so just to remind you all of the labor unions, we have the head of the entire global labor movement as well as the domestic labor movement.
We have the two leading labor economists in the world, Raymond Torres from the ILO and Richard Freeman from Harvard. And then issues on dealing with the informal sector, which of course is the majority of employment in the world, we have two leading NGO’s. Renana Javavel who works with the Self-Employed Women’s Association, who the Secretary knows very well, and so does Ambassador Verveer and Martha Chen from Harvard; so it’s this collaboration of these six people, plus the co-chairs, that have yielded some very solid recommendations that have been accepted but also will be dealing with these issues going forward. We have been very cough-conscience, we talk on the telephone through conference calls regularly but we are also drawing on this expertise from the individual members.
So, just recently, yesterday and the day before, Marty Chen was in to discuss the importance of how to deal with new forms of organizations in the informal economy. We did a briefing with Ambassador Verveer, a whole brown bag here at the State Department. So, we use the platform of the working group to sort of pull out individual issues we’ll be dealing with. Much of this takes place around the G20 Foreign Minister’s Employment meeting, so I’ll be leaving this afternoon to attend as part of that delegation. But many of our experts sit on that, we brought many of those recommendations; last time they were accepted by the Secretary.
They are very important in terms of job creation, and then we’ll go on to the ILO in June and we’ll have a conference on the margins of the ILO. The ILO, this year, will be addressing youth unemployment. So it could not be a more timely conference; that conference has by its nature representatives of the business community, trade unions from around the world, and then, obviously, governments from around the world. So we’ll be meeting with youth activists, we’ll be talking about how they live their lives every day, what issues do they believe need to be most addressed by government, and we’ll pull those recommendations back into the working group for delivery as we continue. But it has been a terrific process; I think all of our members really appreciate that the Secretary really understands the importance of having this input from sectors of the society that are not either formal business, formal trade unions, even for that matter, or formal governments, but that we are really reaching people in the way they really lead their lives every day.
So it’s been a remarkable experience. Oh, one other point, which I am taking up on the discussion of FSI. We have training once a year for our labor officers going out to post. It’s a two week training and we’ll be including some of these issues. So we will have Marty Chen do a session on how you look at the informal economy; we’ll have other labor economists give an outlook on what’s going on with employment issues around the world, so we have multiple benefits, and I think they keep expanding.
MR. TILLEMANN: That’s wonderful and certainly the FSI angle is one that I think we’re becoming increasingly adept of exploiting within the context of this committee. And it provides an ability to magnify a lot of the work we are doing and project out across the Foreign Service. So that is very exciting, and I don’t think that it was coincidental that one of the first questions we heard in the meeting upstairs was on the issues you are pursuing within your working group. I know that you are headed off this afternoon to go on and carry that work down in Guadalajara.
We had a request from the Women’s working group to change the order, so we will now go to Assistant Secretary Posner if that request still stands. Okay, in that case, the request is withdrawn.
MS. BOTTI: Thank you, Doctor. This was a request I learned recently that I was going to be doing this, but it is so nice to see you all again. I am not Ambassador Verveer; I am her Deputy and I happy that I get to actually see some of you since we were on the phone last time. If I look like I’m reading, I actually do know the subject. I just want to make sure I know it correctly.
We have been working quite a bit, as some of you know, over the past two and a half years on the whole issue of women’s rights. But I wanted to speak today about what we’ve been hearing from civil society and what we think are the critical elements to move forward in the near future. And certainly there are two recommendations that I want to speak about and then talk a little bit about what we have been doing and will be doing for the rest of this year. One recommendation is to work with the U.S. Embassies in the countries undergoing political transitions and encourage them to enshrine women’s rights in their constitution. We have had some backlash, “who are you to say this?” I think again that it was eloquently put when the Secretary talked today about why we are involved. I think, with respect to the countries and the cultures and everything that is enshrined within their constitution, it is critical that we speak to this issue now as they are being reviewed and formed.
So, to that point, we are working and will be working very earnestly over the next year to do that. The second recommendation and they are not mutually exclusive, is the whole question of doing a lot of our media outreach in Arabic. Now, clearly we speak English, but why would we bother or even be interested in doing this in the countries where we work? I think, again, it is to go to the point of the culture and to understand where people are, what they are listening to and how they envision themselves, and how they identify even psychologically. If I hear something in a foreign language, I have to translate it from hearing it.
Clearly, in my own language, it is important to be sure that the messages that we are getting across are not imposing but really discussing what I think is fundamental to almost every country around the world, which is their core value of human rights, and that women’s rights and men’s rights are equal. So, I mean, those are the two recommendations that we listened, and I think these are going to be key. Are they going to be easy? No. And we will continue. On to that point, we have been working over the last year and will continue to work on projects.
Recently, Ambassador Verveer and our officer in charge of the region went to Tunis, and it was a follow up to a meeting we had in the region to continue the dialogue and we are going to continue this to ensure that the women not only form networks but that they have a voice and come together and know that we are listening to what their needs are. Also, bring in others as we do it. For example, last year we formed a joint agreement with the Dutch Government. Why did we do this? Because they too are working in the MENA region. They too are interested. Other governments have approached us, so to the degree we can bring a multilateral approach to this, in addition to our bilateral approach; we will continue to do this.
I think you have a lot of this in front of you; it is on page 25 and 26. What we are going to try and do is use our own technology, sometimes more successfully than others, which is try to do some of these things through digital videoconferencing, incorporating our embassies as part of this. It is, I think, one of the challenges for us to continue to do this holistically. The Secretary just issued the Gender Policy and I am raising this because it has a two prong approach, while we are integrating the Gender Policy into our own way of doing things within the Foreign Service and the Foreign Policy aspects of the United States. We will be working collectively internationally in our embassies to do that within the programs that our going on and certainly within the MENA region.
So we are kind of growing up together, I think, and I see that as some of us learn at the same time, “Oh this is how we do it!” It is very much a way of integrating it not only because it is the issue of the Secretary but it is the issue of the day and it is clearly being reflected to the work we continue to do whether it’s on raising the economic empowerment of women, the effect of gender-based violence on the security of the region, the family, the structure, the economy, everything is connected. The labor issues we have been working collectively. It’s to how do we do this. Last point, we are going to focus on these two recommendations to try and be more effective in carrying them out.
And thank you, I didn’t need the extra minute.
MR. TILLEMANN: You clearly did not need the extra minute. As usual, you are well versed, Anita. These are very good recommendations and it’s encouraging to hear them. I was in Tunis a few weeks after Ambassador Verveer was and had the opportunity to meet with a number of Tunisian women civil society activists but also John Zogby, who is a leading pollster who has done a lot of public opinion research in the area.
I discussed your idea of Arabic language media with him at some length and he has some very good thoughts which we can get to in greater length in the general discussion. The other item I would highlight quickly is that you USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives has already started this effort , and they have a number of Arabic language public relations efforts that are underway addressing the issues of women’s rights equality, which I think is a good step in the right direction.
MS.NELSON: To add and echo what Anita just said, I know one of the recommendations in the Pan-Arab Women’s Network to coordinate actions across the borders. And I have to tell you, Vital Voices works with women from 12 different countries around the region; business women, human rights leaders, policy and political leaders. I have to say now more than any time the network piece is absolutely critical. It’s really interesting, the Secretary said this morning something that really struck me, and I loved the Burma example. Change takes time.
Unfortunately, I think that our attention spans are quite short and my concern and I hope that there will be an increased focus on this. Around town there is a number of discussions about the role of women in the Middle East and North Africa and the concern about women’s rights rolling backwards. And although, yes in certain elements that is true but at the same time when you talk to women in the region they will tell you that there is a new normal.
In fact, Shatha, the young blogger who spoke this morning from Yemen who we work quite a bit with, who is quite feisty. She talks about this new normal in Yemen; she says , “Look, women now know what it feels like, what it tastes like to stand shoulder to shoulder with men. We have felt what equality feels like. Now we know what we’re aiming at. Our eyes have been open. The world didn’t end when women stayed out after eight o’clock.” So I think there is some excitement as now women throughout the region know what we want, but they need to know that we are going to be there behind them every step of the way.
I think there is definitely concern among the women that we work with that you know will soon be diverted to Asia or other regions in the world that are important as well. We are certainly committed; I am so thrilled and honored to be a part of this committee, you know, to continue to keep a focus. I am thrilled that women’s rights in the Middle East are a focus. We are committed, we have a network of women, business leaders, policy makers throughout the Middle East and I hope that we can duct tape our efforts into some of these policy recommendations.
MR. TILLEMANN: That’s very encouraging. I thought one of the excellent points, many of the excellent points that the Secretary made this morning was about how this dialogue provides a framework for civil society to hold government accountable and vis versa. So when it comes to sustaining our focus in the region over the longer term, hopefully this will be a mechanism for ensuring that we’re not diverted to other priorities. As you say, this is going to take time and is not going to happen overnight.
Now, at long last, the much anticipated Assistant Secretary Michael Posner with a report on the democracy and human rights working group.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thanks, Tomicah, and thanks for all you have done to make all this work. And I thought this morning was really terrific a so congratulation to you, and the Secretary was great. Just a couple of introductory thoughts and a couple of things to put on the table. We’ve worked out a cooperative grant agreement with the Jefferson Institute, which did the organizing of the civil society meetings in Vilnius last summer and they will be helping us going forward in planning meetings. I think one of the things we’re learning there are opportunities, either OSCE or Community of Democracies, it really is important that we’ll be thinking on a parallel track before, during and after what’s the way to inject the agenda of civil society and how we can help use those preexisting opportunities as a chance to get people together and to get their agenda points in front of people making policy. We did this again.
Esther Bremer led a U.S. Government delegation and Cathy Fitzpatrick from our Bureau participated May 5, earlier this month, in Tunis in a meeting around a UNESCO meeting on World Press Freedom Day. We brought together thirteen journalists and activists from across the Middle East, North Africa to talk about some of the shrinking space journalists have in that region. It was a very lively discussion. It was supposed to go 90 minutes; it took well over two hours. There was a wide open discussion on some of the challenges they face and I think an appreciation that not only were we there for that but we’re there in a broader sense to raise about a dozen specific cases of journalists which we rolled out two weeks before World Press Freedom Day. So there really was a sense of that this is an aspect of civil society, the media, the new media that we need to be focused on and hopefully that is another thing that can involve out of this.
We also have in June, next month, a meeting that Judy Huemann is organizing in Addis Ababa on disability rights. We have invited I guess about a dozen leaders of disabled persons organizations. This coincides with the African Union’s action plan on what they call the decade for persons with disabilities. So that is coming down the pipe. Outside of this formal strategic dialogue, there is a lot going on. I will just mention a couple of things. Tom Millea, DAS and our Bureau are the co-chair of a U.S.-Russian civil society working group he took over from Mike Mcfall. This is going to be an adventure. His counterpart is Ambassador Dologov. They’ve now met a couple of times, and we’re trying to get the first meeting set up.
In March, I participated in a White House Initiative for Asian-Pacific Islanders. We had several hundred Vietnamese-Americans come. They had reacted to White House “We the People” site and submitted a hundred fifty thousand petitions or signatures stressing Vietnamese Human Rights. This was really their chance to meet with government people and it was a very lively discussion. Another one of the Deputy’s in DRL, Dan Baer, and Derek Mitchell met with a spectrum of civil society and religious leaders in Burma in March. In April, again, Tom Millea co-chaired a U.S. Delegation, U.S.-Georgia working group in Georgia. So there is a lot going on. I would say more broadly, we face a range of challenges. Several of you have spoken about them.
Tomicah and I are both testifying tomorrow in front of the Lantos Human Rights Commission. A lot of what I am going to focus on are some of the very specific challenges that groups have now with registration requirements, restrictions on foreign funding, internet restrictions; we’re calling this headwinds. There are dozens of countries now that are facing challenges and I think Ted and I were talking as we walked in here about whether or not it is possible to put into practice some standards for the U.S. Government on how to respond. I was saying to Ted, it is easy to talk in broad strokes but when you get down to the particulars of China or Egypt, it’s a challenge. And so I think going forward we all have to sort of acknowledge and figure out really what are the ways to take these things on because it feels like, as opposed to where we were even twelve months ago, a much more challenging environment and we see it literally every day.
One last sort of footnote, I guess, we’re also looking for ways in dialogues we have with government. An example, the Chinese, we’ve been doing a lot of China work lately. But we did have a legal experts meeting about three weeks ago, and one of the things we really stressed is that it’s not just government-to-government, so we brought in legal aid people, community corrections, somebody worked with a trafficking NGO, someone from the American Bar Association. And we keep urging the Chinese, “Okay we’re doing it, you should do it.” So we got to the point where all the China Lawyers Association was there, somebody was there from an NGO that works on legal aid.
We also had some people there from sort of quazi-government and academic institutions. I think that this has to be in all of our thinking, “How do we see the field so that it becomes the norm when we have these government driven dialogues that there is recognition that we are going to do it and we encourage you to do it?” We met several months ago with the Kazakhs, a separate session at the end of our government dialogue, we went a met with about a half dozen NGO’s and we dragged them along and had a discussion. And they met face to face with U.S. NGO’s. We’re going to do the same thing again next year in Kazakhstan. Okay now we did it in the U.S., now let’s talk to people here. So this is a challenge, but I think we all ought to be in our spheres thinking about, “How do we plant the seed that this is the way we do business?”
MR. TILLEMANN: I think that’s an excellent point and I know that Mike Fuchs who is responsible for coordination of some of the strategic dialogues has been working on this issue as well. To the extent, we can ensure that becomes the new normal in our strategic dialogues. To borrow Alyse’s phrase, “I think we’re going to do a great service both to the U.S. Government and to civil society in all of these countries.” I am also delighted to hear about the Jefferson Institute’s involvement. I had the privilege of attending that meeting in Vilnius, and it was a superb example, which you led, of the type of engagement we should be having with civil society.
MR. STAHNKE: Thanks, Tomicah and thanks to everyone, especially the Secretary today. It was terrific and congratulations. I just wanted to add two things to what Mike just said. The Secretary asked a very important question today, “Why do things change?” And her answer was an interesting one about personal engagement, personal history of leaders and how they evolve overtime. And it made me immediately think of something very important about this process that we are going through. Now, and that is the Secretary’s personal engagement with human rights and democracy activists around the globe.
And for her and I dare say her successor, to hear directly the challenges that activists face. Mike talks about these headwinds and they are growing stronger, and also to hear what activists expect from the United States. And again the woman from Yemen that got up and was able to say that, to have the Secretary of State hear that and be able to engage respectfully with someone like that is a real exemplary aspect of what this process is trying to do. So if there is whatever way possible to try and establish the precedent to sow the seeds for the next Secretary of State, whoever that might be, can continue that level of personal engagement I think is really important going forward. There are opportunities by the end of the year that might be mentioned, working with the Jefferson Institute around multilateral meetings that are taking place.
If there are opportunities again for personal engagement with the Secretary around the Community of Democracies, around ASEAN or other things, I think this really important to move forward. Another thing, quickly, that we are finding in our discussions with activists around the world is that there is some lack of clarity around expectations of U.S. Embassies, and I know that this is a tricky issue but one worth pursuing as to, “Can we bring some clarity to this situation? Something that activists can use to tell their host governments that the U.S. has business as usual to support human rights around the world, to support human rights defenders?” Is there something we can do about this and can we bring some more clarity to that I think would be a useful task.
MR. TILLEMANN: Those are all great thoughts certainly on the topic of Embassy engagement on these issues. Hopefully as we stand up these new mission level working groups that will provide a great conduit for reaching out to local civil society but also our Ambassadors and other senior officials at these embassies. Hopefully we’ll be able to come up with a clear understanding of how things work in every case; a common set of principles that we can build off of.
Mike, I don’t know if you had any thoughts on the Embassy issue as you have been dealing with that challenge a lot lately. We can come back to it in a minute, if you prefer.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: No, I think there are a wide variety of approaches to the issue and I think the more that we develop some sort of protocol or systematic approach that would be helpful.
MR. TILLEMANN: Great. Let me then turn to Jennifer is our representative from the environmental movement. Let’s see if she has any thoughts for us.
MS. HAVERKAMP: Thanks, Tomicah. First, just very briefly, I would like to add my voice expressing our appreciation for the event this morning with the Secretary. The chance to see upfront and personal her passion and commitment to these issues was really an inspiration. Thank you again for that. I was very appreciative of the comments that Tom made about bringing in the environmental and sustainability issues into this groups work and the dialogues between the business community around the micro-technology. I am looking forward to finding out if we have a list somewhere of which ten Embassies are doing the working group level at the country-level.
Sustainability, environment and climate are also important issues to be engaging with civil society on around the world. I am struck again on how many of those issues are cross-cutting and there are a lot of the groups around the room that really are and can be working together. Anita and I were talking before the meeting started about how climate adaptability is so important to women’s groups. And, similarly, if we are going to reverse dangerous climate change we need to get countries of the world onto the green economy on a low carbon development path. And there are green jobs there for new kinds of labor. So, I do see these as intertwined issues and hope that our engagement with civil society around the world is cross-cutting in these individual areas.
MR. TILLEMANN: Excellent, thank you very much. I am told that we Mark on the phone and Bill may or may not be on the phone, but we want to check in with you Mark and see if you have any thoughts that you are willing and able to share with us.
MR. HALLE: Hello, yes. I joined the call about forty minutes ago so I’ve been listening intently, but the line has a lot of noise from where I am so I haven’t caught absolutely everything, but I am very impressed by what’s been achieved by the different groups. I think the recommendations are a strong advance in the way the U.S. Government, State Department taps into the creativity of the NGO sector. I work with NGO’s internationally on a whole range of issues: governance, sustainability and so on.
I am always impressed with the amount energy, creativity, and innovation. I have always felt that we need to break down the walls between the volunteer sector and the official government representatives and the private sector and look for the right combinations. And I think the group that I participated in, not unfortunately nearly enough on governance, and the other groups whose reports I have listened to today are exactly on the right track. And I commend the State Department for pushing forward these ideas and I hope that this process will continue. I don’t have any other specific comments on that.
MR. TILLEMANN: Great, thanks Mark. We will push forward, and if you have any other specific comments later in the conversation don’t be shy, we have you on…
MR. HALLE: I would like to send some comments to the governance working group today, to the head of that group. There sort of detailed comments aren’t worth lying out here, but, in general, I think that the process is a really welcome one and model for what can be done by the U.S. Government in the future.
MR. TILLEMANN: I think that would be marvelous, and I also know that Ambassador Eisen is watching this meeting. Ambassador Eisen led the process to develop these recommendations. He’s watching with civil society activists in Prague and just emailed me a moment ago, to that affect. And I think he would be eager to hear from you as well so we will try and bridge that gap to put you two in touch.
MR. HALLE: Excellent.
MR. TILLEMANN: This brings us to the more open part of our conversation. Where we have an opportunity to walk through some of these ideas, and we’ve had our range of very good proposals beginning with a “one-stop shop” for civil society in their interactions with the State Department and that is something, since we have Claire Ehmann from USAID, that we may want to discuss with our AID colleagues as well because there is obviously a tremendous amount of synergy in the work that our agencies do.
The need for an international platform for exchanging best practices for regional and local working groups, specifically on religion issues, but by extension on many of these topics. We’ve also heard great ideas on how to get civil society more engaged in the work of international meetings. And I though Mike’s comments about ensuring every large summit or ministerial has a civil society component is vital and is something we do with varying degrees of success but we should make it part of the way we do business. We also heard about the importance of new media, standards, and incorporating civil society into our strategic dialogues. And the importance of Embassy protocols to ensure that when our diplomacy meets civil society in the field that civil society knows that they’re going to have a good hearing on the other side of that conversation.
So, with that, let me open the floor and to the extent there are further thoughts and ideas; one item that I will mention in conjunction with Chris’s recommendation on the “one-stop shop” is, ironically, this is something we are now looking to set up in a number of emerging democracies to provide new civil society organizations access to the resources of the international community and already the Community of Democracies is moving forward with creation of a platform that is going to accomplish this role.
In Moldova, we just announced funding for it with the Polish Government last week. And I know there is an effort to create an analogous structure in Tunisia. I am embarrassed to say that we ourselves might benefit from that type of mechanism. So, that might be place for us to start, but I think it is a very interesting proposal.
MR. SEIPLE: Well, if I could just pick up on that: I think it’s really critical, ‘cause I think these concepts are applicable across the five working groups, and I would like to hear more about the philanthropy group, as an NGO. It’s all about me (jokingly). The idea of these national working groups, maybe they are full-blown like the five groups we have here, and the six. The idea of having, for lack of a better term, multi-faith councils where the faith groups came in and were not perceived as ethnic and/or religious minorities but equal citizens under the rule of law in community as they think of things like constitutions. That’s a key process, and there is not a lot of multi-faith coordination. In Burma, there could be so many opportunities to do something like this.
The same is true for many other countries, especially in countries where minority faiths are facing a lot of issues as we run into these headwinds, as Mike is mentioning. What is the conceptual and literal infrastructure that allows that safe space to come in and present ideas and know that you’re not going to go home and be put under house arrest or whatever the case might be? Then it generates globally and interchange keeps going. The only other thing I will say while I still have the floor is that I thought the Yemeni woman’s comments were spot on.
In a nut shell, that’s almost the next step we should take some of this, because the key is are you hard-headed or soft-hearted with the strategic plan? And the hard-headedness, Secretary Clinton said right on, “Hey, we’re going to kill them before they kill us, because they are not going to kill their way to power.” Welcome to the real world. But on the other hand, you keep doing that, will you work on AfPak border as well, you will create more enemies who are happy to kill their way to power.
So, where is that transition and overlap as you move from the hard power response to the strategic soft power preemption because you’re engaging in these issues. And, especially allowing for the best of faith to take on the worst of religion, and that has to be thought through in this conceptual infrastructure that is going to under heard some of things that come out of this year.
MR. TILLEMANN: Those are great points, and I think, Chris, you might have missed your calling. You should have been a speechwriter because those are marvelous and eminently quotable ideas. But, yes, very much so. Let me move forward and ask if there are thoughts on any of the very good recommendations. As Chris suggested, I think many of these we’ll want to review in greater detail with members of the working group and develop papers that can provide the basis for discussion at our next meeting, hopefully.
MS. SHAILOR: I think that of all the many values having the different chairs together and having these discussions, just even in this discussion this morning, there are two areas that working people’s organizations can relate. So, one being the work of Vital Voices, there is an entire Arab women’s network of women workers newly formed organizations, labor organizations will put them together with you right away. And we’ve had the long discussion about the creation of green jobs, so you have both the environmental and women’s issues. Obviously, the ongoing human rights issues.
We should probably figure out how to make it closer in terms of some of the religious issues, but it’s this sort of sharing of what we’re doing that automatically, in the midst of a meeting, puts off light bulbs and then you have a new, significant dimension that is a good overlay to the work that’s been created here.
MR. TILLEMANN: Fantastic. Well, hopefully we can get some of those, the benefits of the interaction. That sounds very encouraging. Anyone else? Alright, so we are nearing the end of our time. We have been very fortunate to have you all with us for so much good discussion this morning, both in this room and upstairs. We are looking forward to, as I mentioned, taking some of these ideas that emerged in this morning’s discussion and translating them into concrete proposals that we can review and hopefully advance the Secretary at our next meeting. But, again, we are grateful to all of you for the work that you’ve put in and hopefully we are now seeing the fruits of your labors in the Secretary’s comments and the commitments she made this morning.
If there are no other comments, we will adjourn this….
MR. STAHNKE: Is there a date for the next?
MR. TILLEMANN: We have it in here. I am embarrassed to say that I don’t know it off the top of my head, although somebody might be able to mention it to me. We’ll get it to you very soon. It will be roughly three months from now is the short answer, and we’ll look forward to that.
Thank you all very much.