U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the first-ever strategic dialogue with civil society. Citizen activists from virtually every continent participated. Many others were unable to join in the discussion because they are at home fighting for human rights and freedom. "We have seen their courage on display," said Secretary Clinton, "in the streets of Tunis and the town squares of Cairo. We have watched with great anticipation as they have stood up for their rights and aspirations."
Across the Middle East today, people are calling on their governments to be more open, more accountable, more responsive. They want a stronger voice in their own affairs. They are demanding their fundamental human rights. It is in the interests of government to answer these demands, to reflect the will of their own people.
"The United States supports democratic change. It is in line with our values and our interests," said Secretary Clinton. "We support citizens working to make their governments more open, transparent, and accountable. We uphold the universal rights of every person to live freely, to have your voice heard, and your vote count. And we want to work with all partners, governments, the private sector, civil society, the entire cross-section that gives us the chance to make real and lasting change."
Governments that pursue democratic change will have friend in the United States. The U.S. will also continue to work with civil society and those outside of government. Civil society holds governments accountable, keeps them honest, and helps them be more effective.
In recognition of the vital role of civil society, Secretary Clinton announced that the U.S. is more than doubling its financial support for efforts to respond to threats to civil society, to help human rights workers who have been arrested, activists who've been intimidated, journalists who have been censored. An international fund will provide quick assistance, such as communications gear and legal support to non-governmental organizations affected by government crackdowns.
The United States is committed to the vital role that civil society has to play. As Secretary Clinton has said, societies move forward when citizens are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.