For me, it is just a stark comparison. Where citizens once lived in fear to exercise their right to vote, now we have peaceful democratic elections that are really the envy of so many other countries that have not been able to make that transition. We see now not only Colombia consolidating gains internally, but reaching out to help neighbors in so many respects, and I am delighted that we are building on the strong relationship that we’ve had over the past years. Of course, we’re so committed to the passage of the Free Trade Agreement. We know – which is what President Obama has stated publicly and unequivocally – that this will bring jobs and growth to both of our countries. It will also help to support the security gains that Colombia has made, and, as our two presidents have agreed, it opens even a broader vista for greater cooperation on the spectrum of our shared challenges and opportunities.
Many of you have been involved in this conversation for a long time, and today, with the convening of five working groups, three for the first time, we hope there will be even greater contact between officials of our two governments and more creative approaches to cooperation. Human rights have been a focal point in our dialogue, and I am very honored that Vice President Garzon joined with Deputy Secretary Steinberg to continue the conversations which they started last October in Bogota. And we know that this is a high priority for the Santos administration, to improve on human rights, labor rights, and civil rights.
We also are strongly supportive of your efforts to return families who are displaced by violence to their homes and to end impunity for abuses, and I understand there was agreement to track, on a monthly basis, the progress of important human rights cases. This kind of whole-of-government effort, bringing together experts on security, development, and the rule of law – all of whom are with us today – is a way to really focus the attention of us all.
The Energy Working Group is working to expand our partnership on fossil fuels and clean energy, and the very promising ideas that Colombia has presented for linking electric grids across Latin America. For the first time, the Climate Change and Environmental Protection Working Group was convened. Colombia exercised leadership in Cancun, and we want to deepen our diplomatic cooperation at future climate talks and to find new ways to develop strategies for expanding development without increasing carbon emissions.
And an issue that is particularly close to my heart is inclusive development, and I am very impressed that the Santos administration has adopted this as a goal. The Social and Economic Working Group discussed Colombia’s national development plan, and the United States wants to support this impressive investment in the Colombian people and to look for how we can reach out to all Colombians, in particular indigenous and Afro-Caribbean populations. And I was at the OECD just a few days ago in Paris, and I want to underscore that we want to support Colombia’s bid to join the OECD.
And finally, the Culture and Education Working Group met on how each country can expand access to education, preserve ancient cultures, optimize people-to-people exchanges such as the Fulbright Scholarship that brought President Santos to the United States 31 years ago. We’ve been working closely together for a long time, but I really believe this dialogue represents a deeper engagement than we’ve ever had before. Certainly during the ’90s, an era that I am somewhat familiar with in American politics, we began a very close working relationship on behalf of security. But now, given the extraordinary gains that Colombia has made, the United States wants to support the priorities that President Santos is able to promote, to build on an environment that does provide more physical security, to move now to human security and all of the issues that go with economic growth, with social and cultural transformation.
Now, some I know say, well, when people come and talk, what happens? And I think it’s too simplistic a question, because one really never knows what can happen through this kind of engagement, through getting to know one another, through building relationships. I’m convinced in the absence of that, the answer is easy: Not much will happen. But given this level of engagement that we saw in action, I’m told, at lunch with so many different people coming from across our government and yours to discuss a way forward on the range of issues that are important, there is an extraordinary opportunity here.
And I thank you for your hard work on behalf of Colombia, and I thank my colleagues in government for your hard work on behalf of this very important relationship that we have between our two countries. I wanted to come this afternoon to underscore the importance that we place on it and to thank you not only for what you have done, which presents such an extraordinary model for so many others, but for the increasing role that you are playing in the region and the world.
Just in the last few months, the work that the president and the foreign minister have led on the reintegration of Honduras into the OAS, which we hope and trust occurs tomorrow – it could not have happened without creative diplomacy and Colombian leadership. The role that Colombia is playing on the Security Council, the strong support for standing against the abusive actions of Qadhafi in Libya, and of looking for ways to hold governments accountable for their mistreatment of their own citizens – again, Colombia is playing a global leadership role.
So on so many fronts, this is a relationship that is on a solid foundation but has the opportunity to become so much more for the benefit not only of the people of Colombia, but I would say for our own people in the United States the kind of positive, open relationship that we hope to see even stronger in the future, we think is very much in the interests of the United States as well as Colombia. We actually have a lot to learn from you, and we look forward to the opportunities that this partnership dialogue provides to do just that.
Let me now invite the foreign minister to the podium for her remarks and, as she comes forward, to thank her for her leadership also in the last months. Thank you. (Applause.)
FOREIGN MINISTER HOLGUIN: (Via interpreter) Madam Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr. Ambassador McKinley, Mr. Ambassador Gabriel Silva, esteemed members of the U.S. and Colombian delegations, I would like to express my satisfaction with the work conducted today during the Second Session of the High-Level Partnership Dialogue that got started in Bogota on October 25th. These dialogue working groups in democracy and human rights, energy, environment and climate change, economic opportunities in society, culture and education, have allowed us to get to know the broad range of issues that we need to work on a bilateral agenda together.
Colombia has a strategic relationship with the United States based on historic and shared values, and this is perhaps one of the most successful cases of cooperation. Over the last eight years of our Democratic Security Policy, we’ve been able to move forward towards democratic prosperity and to think about issues that go beyond the internal security situation, which continues to be our national priority, to move forward and think about our country’s comprehensive development.
We’ve faced scourges like drug trafficking and terrorism for decades. We have shared a vision, and we have been consistent in our cooperation and international positions on the matter. Our joint search for solutions will be current among our priorities, and we will continue to build with the U.S., with the forum – the international forum against terrorism. Colombia has become a partner, given the priorities it has developed in the international fight against terrorism. That is why today we can develop a cooperation strategy against a lack of security in the fight against transnational crime, which we can work on together in response to Mexico’s needs as well as Central America. In the Caribbean’s needs, we are undertaking ambitious cooperation projects in this fight, cooperation that we’re also extending to countries in western Africa, countries that are no doubt your great partners as well.
And the respect for differences and the search for common destiny with equity and equality for all when giving priority to the fight against – priority against – fighting poverty make our region a peaceful region. Based on cooperation and respect, we’ve been able to recover and strengthen our relationship with our neighbors without declining in our main priority in national security. We are a bridge country in the Americas. We join north and south. We are a platform for dialogue, and in that sense we will continue to build a political and economic joint space that seeks our well being. The selection of a Colombian and appointment as the general secretary of UNASUR is a testament to the positive role that Colombia can play in the region. We have established same goals with Chile, Peru, and Ecuador, countries with whom we share an economic and political vision. And to ensure sustainable development, we are also developing an interconnection scheme with Peru, Ecuador, and Chile, as well as with Panama, towards Central America.
We are an energy-generating country, and as infrastructure projects develop, we will be providers of energy to an important swath of the continent. Our role is not limited to fossil fuel production or hydroelectric production, and the production of bio-fuels and the potential for wind energy in these areas has increased significantly, and we hope to see projects come into fruition in this area soon. Our conviction with democracy backs the unrestricted support of human rights protection. The land law for victims will drastically change the structure in our country and will set new goals for development and progress for all. It is a great challenge that lies ahead. And during the October meeting, I mentioned this as a possibility. Today, it is a reality.
I invite all U.S. sectors to understand the changes and challenges that we face and to join our country’s willingness to change and solve the problems that have marred us for decades. If you look at us differently, I know that you will find the values and the integrity of a society that has not let adversity beat it. And as a country – Colombia is a country that is a permanent ally of the United States, and we are grateful for the support we’ve received. We want to continue to move forward with this cooperation in the framework of a broader and more innovative agenda that will allow us to move forward for the development of our countries.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
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