29 January 2013

Africa: Clinton Focuses Global Dialogue On Democracy, Women's Rights

Washington — Hillary Rodham Clinton says that in her four years as U.S. secretary of state, she and President Obama have tried to promote a world where more nations take greater responsibility for shaping their futures. She explained that foreign policy strategy January 29 as she held satellite meetings with young adults in six important regional cities around the world.

Clinton noted several places in Africa where this philosophy has produced democratic advances. She referred to "a quite successful outcome in Somalia" in the September 2012 election, which was held after African troops broke the hold of al-Qaida-backed groups.

The outgoing secretary of state also cited peaceful transitions of power in Ghana and Malawi. Speaking to a group of young adults in the studios of Channels TV in Lagos, she said the forthcoming Nigerian election will also be important, expressing hope that progress will be made in reducing corruption in the West African nation.

Referring to the many nations now undergoing turbulent change in their political systems, Clinton said transformation is never easy, nor is it preordained. "The people themselves will have to ensure" that transformation leads to democracy, prosperity and better opportunities for the future.

Speaking with informed young adults in six different regions of the world, Clinton appealed for their tolerance of different choices that nations will make in these transitions. At the same time, she denounced extremism and intolerance.

"Everyone should stand against those who wish to hijack [a democracy], whether they are internal or external, who believe that their extremist point of view should cancel out everyone else's point of view, and really stand up and speak out and work toward what were the aspirations of the people," Clinton said.

Questioned about the ongoing difficulty that women encounter as they strive for positions of importance in many countries, Clinton called the advancement of women and girls "the cause of my life." The question came from a young man on a panel hosted by New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) in New Delhi.

The empowerment and rights of women and girls have seized the Indian public in recent weeks after a group of men brutalized and raped a young woman on a public bus. The victim died from her injuries, and the episode has sent crowds into the streets demanding greater protection and respect for women's rights. Clinton said she was gratified that both Indian men and women were among those crowds of demonstrators.

"Who knows what [the victim] could have contributed to India's future?" asked Clinton. "When you put barriers in the way of half the population, you, in effect, are putting brakes on your own development as a nation."

Clinton, who will serve her last day as secretary of state February 1, said she hopes to see great progress on this issue in India in the years to come.

Addressing questions on East Asia policy from a group of students assembled by Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) in Tokyo, Clinton said the United States wants to expand its relationships with Japan and China. At the same time, she expressed concern and regret about the confrontational stance being taken by North Korea's new leader with new threats to conduct a nuclear weapons test. She said the Obama administration is disappointed that the young leader of the long-isolated state is not taking greater steps toward bringing his nation into the world community.

Clinton told a group of young people assembled in Bogota by the network NTN24 that the United States has enjoyed a productive working relationship with Latin American governments in the first Obama term. Contradicting a question that said Latin America is not a high priority for this administration, Clinton said the cooperation and dialogue the United States enjoys with Latin America doesn't make headlines, so often fueled by controversy and conflict.

Like the U.S. media, the young people participating in the six satellite linkups with Clinton expressed great curiosity about her plans after leaving the Obama administration and the possibility of another presidential campaign in 2016. The outgoing secretary of state said she plans to catch up on "20 years of sleep deprivation" and write a memoir. She deflected questions about further political ambitions, but expressed her intent to continue her work to promote the rights and aspirations of women and girls.

Other overseas partners in the global discussion were the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) in Beirut and the BBC in London.

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