Recognizing the civil society’s vital role in the 21st century, the United States of America today underlined that it is committed to support the embattled civil society groups around the world.
In her remarks at Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society 2012 Summit in DC, US Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton says change has unfold across the Middle East and North Africa where citizens demanding their rights and their voices
“And amid the tumult, civil society groups everywhere sprang up to push for democracy and change.” -Ms. Clinton
UN Photo/Stuart Price
She says some civil societies emerged from those quiet places where they had been operating for years and others formed overnight as a great result of social media connections.
Ms. Clinton notes that it’s in civil society where people of the state live their lives.
“And so as we see the explosion of civil society groups around the world, we want to support you.” -Ms. Clinton
In the United States, civil society does the work that touches on every part of individual’s life.
Under Tomicah’s leadership, the United States has spent the past year consulting with civil society groups through the Strategic Dialogue and US working groups, asking for ideas about what US government can do more effectively, looking for more opportunities to collaborate.
Ms. Clinton stresses that the space that civil society operates in, in many places around the world, is dangerous.
The United States knows too that in the face of an upsurging civil society, some governments have responded by cracking down harder than ever, Ms. Clinton said.
She notes recent headlines from too many countries paint a picture of civil society under threat.
But each time a reporter is silenced, or an activist is threatened, it doesn’t strengthen a government, it weakens a nation.” -Ms. Clinton
A stool cannot balance on one leg or even two. The system will not be sustainable, Ms. Clinton noted.
The United States is pushing back against this trend. The US government has provided political and financial support for embattled civil society groups around the world.
Just two weeks ago, US Democracy and Human Rights Working Group met with bloggers and reporters from across the region in Tunis to hear about challenges to freedom of expression.
“And we are trying to lead by example. We hope that by holding meetings like this one, we can demonstrate that civil society should be viewed not a threat, but an asset.” -Ms. Clinton
She announces that the State Department is acting on every one of the eight policy recommendations that have been generated by civil society through the dialogue so far.
She says the US government is expanding the reach and deepening its commitment to this dialogue by setting up embassy working groups.
US posts will help us tap the ideas and opinions of local civil society groups, and then they will channel their input back to Washington to inform our policies.
The United States has already received commitments from 10 posts stretching from Brazil to Bangladesh, from the Czech Republic to Cameroon.
She notes that US Working Group on Religion and Foreign Policy has focused on how they can strengthen US engagement with the large section of civil society comprised of faith-based organizations.
US posts in every region of the globe work with faith-based organizations and religious communities to bolster democracies, protect human rights, and respond to the humanitarian need of citizens, Ms. Clinton reported.
“So these groups are our natural allies on a multitude of issues, including advancing religious freedom, and we want to work with them wherever possible.” -Ms. Clinton
She cites that US Labor Working Group has examined opportunities to facilitate discussions among governments, businesses, and labor groups to make sure all points of view are represented at the international level and in multilateral institutions.
Labor groups are another well-organized and important category of civil society, she added.
The United States wants to help them connect with one another and pursue shared approaches as we defend and advance workers’ rights.
In addition, Ms. Clinton says US Women’s Empowerment Working Group is building awareness for women’s rights in countries undergoing political transition.
She notes the United States will work closely with civil society groups and governments in the region to help make women’s rights part of new constitutions, protected and practiced, and understood as critical to the development of democratic, successful societies.
She stresses that the dialogue will hear new ideas developed by US Working Groups on Governance and Accountability to improve transparency and combat corruption.
In addition, the United States will continue engaging with you to identify new ideas and opportunities, she added.
The 2012 Summit of Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society event brings together civil society representatives from more than 40 countries who have gathered here in Washington and thousands more who are participating via the internet and at embassy viewing parties around the world.
On November 2009, the Forum for the Future, a joint civil society initiative of the countries of the Broader Middle East and North Africa region (BMENA) and the Group of Eight (G8), broughts together leaders from government, civil society and the private sector to exchange ideas and form partnerships to support progress, reform, and expanded opportunities for the people of the region.
BMENA participants are Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, and Yemen.
The G8 countries are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The BMENA initiative addresses many of the same themes President Obama articulated in his Cairo speech – including public-private partnerships – and it is a natural partner for making progress in key areas – including economic opportunity, education, good governance, human rights, and women’s empowerment. It places particular emphasis on increasing opportunity for the youth of the region.
The United States is a strong supporter of civil society around the world. Civil society activists and organizations work to improve the quality of people’s lives, solve community problems, protect their rights, hold leaders accountable to their constituents, shine light on abuses in both the public and private sectors, and advance the rule of law and social justice. They are key partners for progress.