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Speeches: Statement By The United States In General Debate

Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation - Third Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2020 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, New York, NY

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford

Dr. Christopher Ashley Ford

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, this meeting is not like any other Preparatory Committee (PrepCom), for this is the last chance the States Party to this Treaty will have to come together to prepare for next year’s Review Conference (RevCon) marking the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) coming into force. It is also unusual in that we have yet to accomplish procedural steps that, at this point in the NPT review cycle, have usually long since been taken in order to prepare for a Review Conference. Accordingly, it is our most basic task — the sine qua non of this PrepCom — to decide quickly upon those procedural arrangements. It is essential to the prospective success of the RevCon that we finalize the full RevCon leadership team, including the RevCon President, to enable that team to begin consultations right away. For the sake of the RevCon, Mr. Chairman, this is indeed a matter of surpassing urgency.

Successful preparation for next year’s RevCon is important, because that anniversary will be an occasion for us to look back across the NPT’s existence and review progress in living up to the Treaty’s obligations and ideals, to take stock of the environment we face today, and to find better ways to work together to meet the challenges of the next 50 years. We must recall our predecessors’ accomplishments in building a nonproliferation regime that has provided great benefits to all Parties and become a cornerstone of international peace and security. We must reaffirm our shared commitment to the NPT and the broader nonproliferation regime. And we must rededicate ourselves to preserving and strengthening them for future generations.

I. The Architecture of the NPT and Its Importance

The most critical point to remember is that the NPT has provided security benefits to all Parties by impeding the proliferation of nuclear weapons, staving off the incalculably dangerous “cascade” of proliferation that so many feared before the Treaty was negotiated, and thus greatly reducing the likelihood of nuclear war. These benefits have accrued to all, but they have been most profound for the non-nuclear-weapon states — which the NPT has helped protect against the catastrophe of having neighbors and regional rivals weaponize.

But the nonproliferation assurances provided by the NPT, Mr. Chairman, do more than just make every Party more secure. They also provide the foundation upon which peaceful nuclear cooperation has been built in areas ranging from electric power generation to applications that benefit mankind — and especially the developing world — in medicine, agriculture, health, science, and industry. Since such sharing of benefits would not be possible or sustainable without the confidence provided by nonproliferation assurances, this is another reason to rededicate ourselves to the NPT’s continued success.

Nonproliferation, after all, does not impede thriving peaceful nuclear programs and effective applications of nuclear technology that improve health and prosperity worldwide. It is not a roadblock or even a speed bump on the road to such nuclear cooperation: it is the road itself. Moreover, assistance on safeguards, export controls, and nuclear safety and security is widely available to help states build their own paths. For the NPT’s anniversary, we must remember this.

Nor is that all, for the NPT also provides an essential foundation upon which to base further progress in living up to the disarmament ideals of the Preamble and in Article VI. One could scarcely imagine nuclear disarmament occurring were it not possible to rely upon robust nonproliferation assurances to keep newcomers from weaponizing and to keep those who eliminate nuclear weapons from reconstituting their arsenals. So we have the NPT to thank here, too — and an additional reason to maintain and nurture it for many more years.

These aspects of the NPT — both its nonproliferation assurances and the peaceful uses and disarmament potentialities that this nonproliferation core helps make possible — are thus shared interests for all NPT Parties, not competing priorities. The Treaty’s future success will depend upon our recognizing this and focusing upon what unites us in our reliance upon the NPT.

II. Our Way Ahead Together

To this end, Mr. Chairman, we must rededicate ourselves to helping the NPT and the nonproliferation regime meet the challenges it faces today. We must resolve the crisis created by North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons by ensuring its final and fully-verified denuclearization. We must block Iran’s pathways to nuclear weaponry by ensuring it never again engages in weaponization work and cannot dangerously position itself on the brink of Treaty “breakout.” We must also join together to hold Syria accountable for its NPT and IAEA safeguards violations.

The NPT review process is not the venue for resolving these challenges, of course, but for our work to be relevant here we must at least acknowledge them and lend our voices in support of such resolution. With diplomatic efforts underway to secure North Korea’s implementation of its denuclearization promises and obligations — and with efforts also underway to elicit Iran’s acceptance of comprehensive and enduring limits upon its ability to return to nuclear weaponization and posture itself for rapid “breakout” — it will hopefully be possible to see some progress toward these goals by the 2020 NPT Review Conference.

To provide confidence in the peaceful nature of nuclear activity worldwide, moreover, we must strengthen existing safeguards by making the IAEA Additional Protocol (AP) universal, and strengthen export controls by making the AP a condition for nuclear exports. And we must discourage NPT withdrawal and hold to account any state that withdraws while in violation of the Treaty’s provisions. With these steps, we can strengthen the regime, helping ensure its relevance and success for another half century.

In the arena of peaceful nuclear uses, Mr. Chairman, there is also more we can all do together. We can, for instance, rededicate ourselves to the safe and effective sharing of nuclear technology, not only by ensuring that resources available for nuclear assistance are allocated effectively, but also ensuring that resources are allotted to the less developed countries that genuinely need such assistance. Wealthy and powerful countries, particularly those with large nuclear industries, should no longer treat such programs as a way to benefit at the expense of the poorer states these programs were designed to assist.

For our part, the United States is pleased to submit a new Working Paper on peaceful nuclear uses. We will have more to say about this in Cluster 3, but I mention it now to highlight our emphasis upon supporting peaceful uses. We intend to support the continuation of regional workshops, including plans to by the prospective RevCon President to share information on the benefits of peaceful uses and how to expand them worldwide. We will continue to support IAEA peaceful-use programs, and we are ready to explore and develop additional, new, and innovative support vehicles of our own to encourage peaceful uses — with an emphasis upon outreach to nontraditional stakeholders in the private sector, academia, and industry, as well as among national regulators and the science and technology innovation communities.

On disarmament, we are developing a new dialogue exploring ways to ameliorate conditions in the security environment that impede progress toward a future safely and sustainably free of nuclear weapons. As shown by our success in cutting the U.S. nuclear arsenal by 88 percent after the relaxation of Cold War rivalries, disarmament progress depends — as the NPT Preamble acknowledges — upon easing tensions and strengthening trust. Since the favorable conditions that made that progress possible no longer apply, it is time to build a new disarmament discourse that can help meet these challenges.

Rather than ignore the deteriorating conditions that impede progress, our “Creating an Environment for Nuclear Disarmament” (CEND) initiative recognizes them explicitly and devotes itself to trying to overcome them. We will hold a side event on CEND tomorrow and present a paper on operationalizing it in the “Creating the Environment Working Group” (CEWG).

For the moment, Mr. Chairman, let me simply note that we anticipate holding the first CEWG Plenary this summer, at which participants will have the opportunity to organize themselves into functional subgroups and identify key questions for each group to explore. What these questions will be is, of course, up to the Plenary. We imagine, however, that it would be best to approach these challenges in three broad, conceptual areas:

  1. Measures that could help change the security environment in order to reduce incentives for states to retain, acquire, or increase their holdings of nuclear weapons;
  2. Institutions and processes to bolster nonproliferation efforts and build confidence in nuclear disarmament; and
  3. Measures to reduce the likelihood of nuclear war among weapons possessors during the period of time that remains before such weapons are eliminated.

We aim to have the CEWG agenda set in the months ahead, and expect that CEWG subgroups will start to meet before the RevCon. We anticipate that the CEND process will remind NPT Parties of the seriousness and honesty with which disarmament is being approached — and that by helping identify effective measures that can facilitate disarmament, CEND will help all Parties live up to the ideals of the Preamble and Article VI.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Economic, Energy, Agricultural And Trade Issues: Opening Remarks At Digital Payments Public Forum

Acting Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, "Making Digital Payments Work for Market Development: A Conversation with AmEx, Diners, Discover, Mastercard, PayPal, and Visa" Event, Washington, DC

U.S. Department of State

U.S. Department of State

As Prepared

Thank you, Roland, for your introduction.

I’m very pleased to open this forum on the ways the U.S. payments industry is developing markets around the world.

I want to welcome our guests from the private sector including senior executives from American Express, Diners, Discover, MasterCard, PayPal, and Visa as well as all of our colleagues from the US government. The wide variety of agencies and institutions we have with us today at this forum underscores interest in this topic.

I know that interagency representatives in the audience today work with the payments industry in a variety of different ways. Some of you are working to advance financial inclusion. Some of you are working to safeguard the international payments systems, and disrupt terrorism finance. And some of you are regulating the U.S. payments industry.

We at the State Department are interested in understanding the international implications of this innovative, expanding industry that is the backbone of international commerce.

And we know that American companies are excellent ambassadors of American values and standards in the many countries in which they operate.

Payments, of course, provide the rails on which economies move. The U.S. payments industry facilitates the economic activity of billions of people, businesses, and governments around the world. Without the payments industry, e-commerce could not operate and any international commerce would be hindered. The global marketplace is a great way to power American economic growth and create American jobs.

The Global Payments Opportunity

The market opportunity in the payments industry is enormous. Only one-half of the world’s adults report having used a payment instrument in the past year.

McKinsey estimates that by moving transactions into the formal financial system, the world would gain a $3.7 trillion GDP boost. There would also be a $110 billion reduction in government leakage due to corrupt officials abusing vulnerabilities in the cash pipeline by 2025.

McKinsey assesses that moving transactions into the formal financial system would create a six percent increase in global GDP. U.S. companies are making this growth happen by leveraging digital tools to decrease cost and increase scale.

Here in the economic section of the Department, we want to be sure that American companies have the enabling environments to maximize this opportunity.

The downstream effects of shifting transactions from the informal to the formal sectors of the economy include countering terrorist financing and money laundering—issues that we care very much about at the State Department.

Payments Companies Pursuing Innovation

U.S. payment companies are challenging the status quo, building on and scaling up innovation arising from many different sources.

A few weeks ago while I was in New York, I visited the innovation lab of one of the payment companies you will hear from today. I am always impressed to see how tech hubs and innovation labs are creating new opportunities for change. I think it is important to visit innovation ecosystems because it allows us to make better policies. Just like the conversation today will allow us to think more strategically.

Innovation is a unique challenge in this rapidly-changing industry. But by investing in new ideas, each of these companies is making life better for the consumers they serve and making our financial system more responsive to market needs.

Ways We Are Engaging with the Payments Industry

I want to highlight two of our priorities where I see significant synergy between the State Department and the payments industry. First, global entrepreneurship, and second, women’s economic empowerment.

On global entrepreneurship, the payments industry is giving entrepreneurs around the world the financial tools they need for their businesses.

A perfect example how we engage on this issue is through the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which will include a focus on access to capital and growing an enterprise.

The summit, to be held in the Netherlands from June 3-5, brings together thousands of entrepreneurs, investors of all types, and business representatives from all corners of the world—including representatives from these companies here with us today who champion entrepreneurs.

Next I’ll turn to women’s economic empowerment. The Administration is wholly invested in finding better platforms that enable all women to full participate in the global economy.

We are actively seeking ways to work with the private sector to advance this goal. Last month, our Bureau launched a new State Department initiative entitled, Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise, or “POWER”.

Through POWER we will work with the private sector to advance women’s economic empowerment in a way that is effective, sustained, and multi-sectoral.

We are already engaging with a number of today’s participants, and I want to thank them for their commitment to this issue.

And I will take this opportunity to encourage all of our private sector guests to join us in this effort.



Today’s panelists and the companies they represent are pursuing new markets, using emerging technologies to develop innovative financial services, and improving access to financial services for entrepreneurs and women.

I want to thank both our public sector colleagues and the private sector for joining us today. We want to be partners in your success!

International Health Issues: Remarks At The Ministerial On U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership

Deputy Secretary of State, Conference Center of the Americas, U.S. Southern Command - Miami, FL

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan

Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan

Thank you, Julie.  Good morning, Your Excellencies, leaders from the region, partners, friends, representatives of CDEMA, RSS officials, and of course my colleague across the U.S. Government who are here, in particular Admiral Faller, who is our host this morning, and his colleagues at SOUTHCOM.  In particular, I want to thank all of the officials from countries in the Caribbean who traveled here today to share your perspectives, experience, and knowledge, which is so important for us to share.

On behalf of President Trump and Secretary Pompeo, I want to underscore the United States’ commitment to enhancing our cooperation with the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean, in particular.  My first year as deputy secretary of state – in 2017 – was one of the worst hurricane seasons on record.  Today, I am glad to join with my U.S. Government colleagues, delegations from 18 Caribbean nations, and critical disaster response organizations to build our resilience, and ultimately, save lives and livelihoods.

Our nations are bound by a shared history, common interests, and deep social ties.  As we look to strengthen those bonds, we continue our focus on promoting prosperity, security, health, education, and energy.  Through conversations I’ve had with many of you over the last two years, I’ve learned that we all agree on the need for sustained collaboration on disaster response and resilience.

The U.S.-Caribbean Resilience Partnership will require continued cooperation to move away from cycles of destruction, relief, and reconstruction.  Together we can prevent situations in which natural disasters are compounded by exploitation and opaque deal-making that can weaken institutions and undermine vulnerable economies.  We all come to the table today as neighbors and friends who understand that our successes and failures are intertwined.

Each year, our governments, businesses, and citizens prepare for the hurricane season.  The memory and destruction of recent seasons remains fresh, and we do not forget the devastating hurricanes in 2017 – Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  We all felt the destruction, the loss of property, and especially, the loss of life.  Hurricanes know no boundaries.  We must overcome our own, especially those that block our ability to respond and prepare effectively.

The broad range and depth of topics we will address during today’s discussions will build a strong foundation of partnership and collaboration around disaster risk reduction and response.  Our task today is to bolster our existing efforts and explore new avenues for cooperation.

The United States brings ten different U.S. Government organizations to the table today to deliver on our commitment to enhanced engagement.  The agencies represented here span the range of the entire foreign policy spectrum – from diplomacy to development to defense.

And I look forward to working with you today.  As neighbors and partners in this hemisphere, we will be more resilient.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

Speeches: The Trump Administration’s Approach To Fragile States

Director of Policy Planning, The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) - Washington, DC (March 14, 2019)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Good morning, and thank you, Dan, for inviting me to join you all. As many of you know the Office of Policy Planning at the State Department serves as the Secretary’s internal think tank. Given our role in providing high-level analysis to Secretary Pompeo, it’s imperative that my colleagues and I engage with experts like you. We appreciate the opportunity to do so today.

Earlier this year, Secretary Pompeo traveled to Colombia to meet with President Duque during a swing through South America. Colombia is one our best allies in the hemisphere and a major free-trade partner. And actually, it’s a great place to begin our talk on fragile states.

Experiences there over the past couple decades prove that major U.S. partnerships with countries can make a tangible difference when it comes to promoting stability and security. But the “when,” “why,” and “how” are the tricky parts – and that’s what I’d like to focus on.

As you all are well aware, Colombia faced a series of challenges when the 21st century began. They stemmed from violent guerrilla insurgencies led by groups like the FARC and E-L-N that were involved in the drug trade. The weakness of institutions, and the resulting weak rule of law, exacerbated social divisions and led to violence between state actors, paramilitary groups, and drug traffickers.

But remarkably the picture has changed – and largely for the better.

A watershed in institution building came in 1991 with the new Colombian constitution, which paved the way for eventual peace negotiations decades later. The new constitution also embedded indigenous, Afro, and women’s rights within the institutional mechanisms of the state. This greater inclusiveness helped heighten the government’s legitimacy and made the state more resilient to internal stresses.

Once Colombian political officials demonstrated their resolve, the United States became involved – primarily through its assistance program known as Plan Colombia. By aiding military and counter-narcotics operations, the United States supported the Government of Colombia’s efforts to bring the FARC to the negotiating table – thereby promoting peace and reducing violence.

And by delivering additional non-military aid to rural, weakly-governed areas, we helped Colombia focus on development, strengthen the rule of law, and breed greater social cohesion.

Critics would love to point out that Plan Colombia elicited controversy among some quarters. They fail to mention how widely hailed it was for its successes. The Weekly Standard referred to the “Colombian Miracle” as a, quote, “turnaround . . . so dramatic as to be almost unbelievable.” Senator Marco Rubio wrote that the Colombian story, quote, “gives hope to other countries that they, too, can turn the tide in their fight against” instability and violence.

Our collaboration with the Colombian government is an example of what the Trump Administration would like to continue – namely, working with committed partners, strategically investing our resources, and sharing the burden. We have been happy to help Colombia, but it’s just as important to acknowledge that Colombia has done a lot of the hard work itself. Today, Colombia continues to demonstrate its leadership in the region. It’s working with partners to stem the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and ensure a peaceful transition of power.

Here in the Western Hemisphere and across the world writ large, what President Trump and Secretary Pompeo are insisting upon is more discipline when it comes to allocating American resources, and more accountability once aid is distributed.

Their rationale reflects political reality: In the U.S., there is declining public appetite for, and a general wariness to fund, large-scale, open-ended reconstruction efforts.

At the same time, the upward trajectory of intra-state conflict shows no signs of abating: 2015 was by some measures the most violent year since 1945, and, in 2016, 31 countries experienced internal armed conflict – more than at any other time in the last 25 years.

State fragility is at the center of these trends. Now, what do I mean by “fragility”?

I mean situations that arise from dysfunctional relationships between states and their societies. They’re characterized by ineffective governance, social fragmentation, and lack of perceived political legitimacy.

Fragile states are unable to protect their citizens from violence, predatory corruption, and political subversion by external actors like Russia, China, and Iran. Sometimes their fragility even leads to complete economic collapse.

Americans see stories of these places on their TV screens and iPhones every day. And, when they do, they want to know what can be done to establish stability and protect people’s basic rights. People also wonder how much – and if – our own efforts are really paying off. When situations of conflict and fragility are complex, widespread, and often protracted, citizens and policymakers alike understand the need to prioritize. It’s only natural for them to say look, we will gladly work “here” and “there,” but not “everywhere”!

The Trump Administration unapologetically agrees. We need to focus on advancing America’s core interests and leveraging our competitive advantages.

We simply cannot work in all fragile states – not only because it’s not in America’s interest to spread itself thin, but also because past inefficacy counsels in favor of a more realistic, and more humble, approach. When it comes to fragile states, we cannot be blinded by good intentions and tricked by our moral vanity into supposing we have all the answers, all the time. That’s a recipe for profligacy and waste – a fantasy that hinders a more efficient, and effective, allocation of limited resources.

The questions we need to answer, therefore, are twofold:

When, under the Trump Administration, is it in America’s interest to engage in fragile and conflict-affected states? And what form should that strategic – as opposed to indiscriminate – engagement take?

I think five criteria guide the first question. Based on our national security interests, we should work to address fragility and conflict in places where:

  • One, they represent safe havens for terrorists,
  • Two, their instability threatens U.S. economic prosperity,
  • Three, the out-migration of their citizens threatens U.S. domestic tranquility or strains the resources of key partners,
  • Four, the spread of global pandemics and diseases must be contained, and/or,
  • Five, geopolitical competitors like China, Iran, and Russia are exploiting institutional weaknesses for their own agendas, and at America’s expense.

As for the second question – what form our assistance should take under this Administration – clearly different countries have different needs. There is no single, universally-applicable toolkit. Our engagement should always be tailored to localized parameters and take into account the politics of these places—since conflict, at its core, is political; as well as particular social circumstances, histories, and cultures. This is key.

The United States is out of the nation-building business, and we must be more flexible in how societies choose to organize themselves.

As we tailor our engagement, we need principles to guide us. One is making sure that the United States is using diplomacy and foreign aid to mitigate and prevent conflict. Both are essential. We can no longer simply wait to respond to international 9-1-1 calls.

Conflict prevention is an equally, if not more, viable approach.

A 2018 study, for example, demonstrated that for each $1 donor countries invested in prevention-related activities, they would save somewhere on the order of 2 and 4 times that over the long run. Getting ahead of problems makes sense.

Second, we must work with priority states to address their political, security, and development challenges together and not in isolation. As you all know, fragmented, siloed strategies result in poor outcomes.

And third, we should support these select partners to build their capacity to be more resilient—to internal stresses, and to attempts from external aggressors like China and Russia to undermine their institutions.

That, in a nutshell, is our approach—strategic engagement in the places that matter; sharing the burden with our allies; always coupling prevention with mitigation; and ensuring we bolster partners against internal and external challenges. But now I’d like to address what steps we’ve already taken.

Do not believe the voices in the media claiming that what we’re doing equates to across-the-board withdrawal.

In actuality, the Trump Administration is maximizing U.S. impact in fragile states that remain strategically-important.

Within the U.S. federal government, we have begun streamlining the foreign assistance bureaucracy, by formalizing roles across and within cabinet departments to improve our engagements in fragile states.

The Stabilization Assistance Review or SAR outlined a series of recommendations, which we’re now working to implement. The State Department has overall lead, and we are working closely with USAID and DoD to ensure that evidence-based and outcome-oriented strategies guide our stabilization efforts. We’re also in the middle of a review of all aspects of our foreign assistance.

That’s the internal side of the equation. But we’re also maximizing impact externally by changing how we improve outcomes in fragile states.

First, we’re putting evidence at the heart of everything we do. Talented teams within State, like those in our Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, are using statistical analysis, mapping technologies, and other tools to better understand trends, risks, and opportunities for engagement. The Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources is identifying where our assistance has reinforced peace and stability in fragile states, where it has not, and why.

Second, we are formalizing and expanding ways to deploy diplomats to at-risk areas. As Secretary Pompeo has said, we need our diplomats in “every corner of the globe.”

Third, we are finding ways to better deliver assistance in fragile states.

This includes prioritizing agility, diversifying our implementation partners, establishing more flexible procurement mechanisms, and maintaining our focus on learning and accountability.

Fourth, to maximize impact inside fragile states, we are publicly recognizing that stabilization is inherently political and transitional in nature. It is not meant to last indefinitely. We will do what is necessary to support the local host government for a finite period of time, but our local partners must then take ownership over their country’s future.

The United States is not alone in its efforts to stem conflict in fragile states. In some cases, international organizations and agreements can be a force for good.

The World Bank, for example, has reoriented considerable resources toward addressing fragile states. The U.N. also plays a prominent role through its Security Council resolutions, rapporteurs, peacekeeping and political mandates, and development assistance. The Trump Administration welcomes these efforts – so long as the entities remain accountable, aren’t captured by special interests, and don’t engage in ideological colonization.

In many instances, supranational organizations, however, are less important than our support for locally-legitimate authorities.

Local authorities must be at the forefront of solving their own problems. Historical experience shows that they do not embrace top-down solutions and structures that are hoisted on them, without consultation, from superpowers. As my predecessor the great George Kennan once wrote, “[E]ven benevolence, when addressed to a foreign people, represents a form of intervention into their internal affairs, and always receives, at best, a divided reception.”

That’s part of the reason why we need to be thoughtful about how we support fragile states.

After all, they’re called that for a reason – they require a delicate touch that calls for more than mailing foreign governments blank checks or implementing standard solutions.

Sometimes our approach might require establishing development “anchors” in subnational areas, outside major capital cities, like in Lagos, Nigeria.

Other times, it might mean helping nations establish a stronger national identity – which can tie together disparate ethnic or religious groups into a more cohesive whole – through the use of neutral languages, common projects, or strong new narratives like Nelson Mandela used in South Africa.

Only by developing a strategy to systematically counter the fragmentation that affects these places can their problems be overcome.

The need for a strong national identity is the perfect note to end on, because it’s often neglected or misunderstood in the present day and age.

A widely-felt allegiance to something greater than one’s family, tribe, political party, or ethnic group is in many ways a precondition for development.

And along with a strong national identity, of course, comes the corresponding notion of sovereignty.

The Trump Administration supports not only our own sovereignty here in the United States, but also the sovereignty of countries who wish to break their path dependency and stand on their own.

You’ve heard the President’s tagline “America First” – but you should note that, “America First” is not the same as saying “America Only” or “America at the Expense of Others.”

When it comes to fragile states, “America First” does not mean we will shirk tough work in tough environments. It simply means we will dispense with an overly-romanticized view of foreign relations. When we choose to act, our actions will be based on a resolute, and unapologetic, focus on our own national interests.

And even though we may do so on a more limited basis, when we do act, we will marshal nothing less than the full extent of our resources to help priority countries become more equipped to handle internal stresses and external aggressors – China and Russia chief among them. Then, when our work is done, we will shake hands and move forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the President’s vision – the one that Secretary Pompeo and my office are charged with carrying out every day. It’s one we’re very proud of.

Allow me to close by saying thank you. Many of you here in this room are scholar-practitioners, who help devise approaches to fragile states. Others among you are aid workers on the front-lines. The work you do is critical in furthering the safety and prosperity of the American people. Thank you again. Now I’d be happy to answer a few of your questions.


Speeches: 2019 Regional Religious Freedom Forum: A Civil Society Dialogue On Securing Religious Freedom In The Indo-Pacific Region

Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom - Taipei Religious Freedom Conference, Taipei, Taiwan

Samuel D. Brownback

Samuel D. Brownback

I would like to thank President Tsai’s comments and her for taking the time to be here out of her busy schedule. I can’t help but just stand up here and cheer you, and be so thankful for so many people who gather here for the cause of religious freedom around the world. Thank you for being here.

Millions of people around the world, billions of people around the world just simply yearn to be free. They just want to practice their faith and freedom. We come from all sorts of faith tradition. As I look out on this crowd, I see people dressed in different religious garb, that we probably don’t agree on a lot of theological things, but they do agree on religious freedom and the needs to protect religious freedom for all. This is something we can all agree upon. This is something we can all pursue. This is something we have to do. I believe, a gathering like this throughout the world, can ensure for millions of others that they will be free from persecution in practicing their faith, which is what we are after is a freedom to do that, and I believe they will.

I am delighted to be here in Taiwan. As a U.S. official, Taiwan is a democratic success story, a reliable partner, and a force for good in the world. We count ourselves fortunate to have Taiwan as a friend and partner in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. As a former U.S. Senator and Governor of the State of Kansas, I have long admired Taiwan and its accomplishments from afar, and I am delighted to finally have the opportunity to visit Taiwan in person. It is a pleasure to be here with you.

I would also like to thank Speaker Su, who is also chairman of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Deputy Foreign Minister Hsu from Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and my colleague Director Christensen for being here from the American Institute in Taiwan for all their hard work that their staffs have done in making this conference a success.

As you have heard this is a first. Governments haven’t in the past physically come together in support of religious freedom, and yet we have here. Let’s give them a big round of applause for pulling this off. Thank you.

We are going to have a couple days of wonderful programs. One of the first things I want to recognize right at the outset, because I hope he is somebody you will get to know and I hope somebody you will work with to build on what the type of work is that Greg Mitchell over here..Greg please stand up. Greg is at the International Religious Freedom Roundtable. In Washington, D.C., every Tuesday that I am in town, I meet with the religious freedom activists. And these are people from all over the world, they usually have over 100 people who come together to talk about the current issues of religious freedom that are on the agenda. Greg hosts that meeting. It is a great meeting together between government and civil society of the topic of religious freedom of what we can do in basically two categories: the increase in religious freedom and the increase in respect in the non-religious as well. We should not just tolerate each other. A good friend of mine says, tolerance is too low of a bar. We need to keep respecting each other. We need to have an authentic relationship with one another. I hope you talk with him about how to start one of those in your country with your group of civil society religious activists, so that we can have religious freedom in your nation growing, and have activists there to push it and to increase that level of respect for one another, whatever our faiths and convictions are.

I also, before I get to my formal remarks, would like to recognize these survivors of religious persecution that are here with us.

We did the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom last year in Washington D.C., the first ever. We had over 400 civil society activists that were there. The key speakers were people who had been persecuted for their faiths, from all sorts of faith, and from all places around the world. They brought textures and meaning and stories of what happened to so many people around the world. I am so thankful that they are willing to travel here today to tell you what has happened to them. There is nothing like hearing first-hand what has happened to those who were persecuted. I want to just recognize several of them as they are here.

Y Phic Hdok is a young Montagnard Christian. Could you please stand? Thank you. We believe police killed his father. He is participating in the conference to speak on behalf of both Hmong and Montagnard Christians who have been rendered stateless because of their faith by Vietnamese authorities. We thank him for being here to share his testimony.

Dawa Tsering, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama here in Taiwan, grew up in a Tibet under Communist occupation, which demonized and criminalized the Buddhist faith that lies at the core of Tibetan civilization.

We need to remember all too well the things that happened to him during his childhood. We appreciate Dawa’s attendance of this conference, and we will continue to support the Dalai Lama’s Middle Way approach for meaningful autonomy for all Tibetans across the Tibetan Plateau while remaining a part of the People’s Republic of China.

This month marks the 60th anniversary of His Holiness being forced into exile. Tibetans understandably continue to lament his absence from Tibet, and long for the day that he is able to return and resume his rightful place as their most important religious leader. We urge the PRC authorities to resume formal dialogue with His Holiness or his representatives immediately.

We also want to recognize as well Rushan Abbas. She is a human rights advocate, founder of the Campaign for Uyghurs, an organization that promotes human rights and democratic freedoms following the deterioration of the human rights situation in the PRC’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

The activism she has had has come at a cost. In 2018, six days after she spoke publically about the repression of Uighur Muslims in China, including the detention of members of her husband’s family, two more members of her family – her sister and aunt – disappeared.

Unfortunately her story is not unique. Numerous Uighur expatriates have reported that Chinese officers aim to silence Uighurs abroad by detaining family members.

We thank Rushan for her courage during decades of activism to help the Uighur people share with the world the truth about what the Chinese government is doing to them. It has clearly resulted in personal sacrifices that most of us find difficult to imagine. And yet she has endured it.

And finally, I would like to acknowledge Pastor John Cao, who is not here unfortunately, nor his family members. His wife, Jamie, is American. She is a bold advocate for Pastor Cao’s release. A year ago this month, Chinese authorities sentenced him to 7 years in prison. His crime was providing aid and education to disadvantaged children in China and Burma. That’s what he did and today he’s held in a 26 by 10 foot cell, with a dozen other prisoners. He’s permitted to see sunlight just once a month. His wife and sons aren’t allowed to visit him. We call yet again for his immediate release.

Thank you to all of you that are here to testify and to speak of your situation, and to bring your texture and your personal stories the ways in which [inaudible].

Now we all support the right of an individual to have religious freedom. Promoting religious freedom worldwide is a top foreign policy priority for the United States, and certainly for this administration.

In my capacity as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, I advise the President, and Administration officials on the challenges to religious freedom around the world. I am focused on how we can advance this universal, God-given right globally.

Your presence here speaks to the importance of promoting religious freedom. The time for action has, unfortunately, never been more urgent.

A large majority of the world live in countries or areas where the freedom for practice their own faith is severely limited, prohibited, or in extreme cases can be deadly. Pew Research Center actually puts the number at more than 80% of people live in a religiously-restricted atmosphere.

People across the globe are oppressed, brutalized, and in some cases killed for seeking to practice their faith or live according to their beliefs or conscience. Others face persecution, discrimination, and harassment. We cannot let this continue.

In my own personal experience, I have found Asia’s faith communities to be vibrant and brimming with devotion. Yet the scourge of persecution across the region affects those of all religions. We see this persecution in many countries.

Though Vietnam passed a law in 2016 that has allowed some religious organizations to become legally recognized, local authorities have targeted members of independent, unregistered religious groups by interrogating or arresting them for purportedly being “anti-government” or separatist. One practitioner of the Hoa Hao Buddhist faith returned from a meeting with my team to find his property destroyed. This is unacceptable.

In Indonesia, the government must address the use of blasphemy laws, particularly against religious minorities.

In Malaysia, though religious freedom is guaranteed in its Constitution, non-Sunni Islam is illegal.

Since 1999, the U.S. Secretary of State has designated China and Burma both as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.

In my first trip abroad in this position, I visited Rohingya Muslims in refugee camps in Bangladesh. After decades of persecution and repression, Burmese security forces committed terrible acts of violence and drove out almost 700,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya since August 2017.

Burmese officials have continued to persecute the few Rohingya who remain in northern Rakhine State. We have heard credible reports regarding the harassment of Christians, Muslims, and members of other religious minority groups elsewhere in Burma.

In China, authorities have arbitrarily detained more than 1 million Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and other members of minority Muslim groups in internment camps since April 2017. Tibetan Buddhists are not able to select, educate, or venerate their religious leaders without government interference. House church leaders are detained and their churches are shuttered in accordance with tightened restrictions on religion enforced by the Chinese Communist Party. And Falun Gong practitioners are reportedly tortured and detained by the Chinese government.

As I mentioned in a speech I gave in Hong Kong a few days ago, what does the Chinese government have to fear from people reading the Bible or Uighurs naming their children Mohammad? The Chinese are a strong and vibrant people. They do not need to fear people who have strong religious beliefs or convictions. Instead, the government should promote the protection of the rights of its people to practice their beliefs and worship as they see fit.

I am committed to fighting for the rights of all to believe or not to believe as they see fit, and for all to be able to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without threat. Not just the freedom of religion or belief, but also the freedoms of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly.

Like people can do here in Taiwan should be the norm for everybody throughout the region in the world.

The freedom of the soul to choose its own course is an inalienable right. And this is why I love this job so much. It is the defense of the pure and noble and beautiful. That is what we are all about. We are defending people that all they want to do is practice their faith without fear of persecution. It is the defense of truth and the right of every man, woman, and child.

For me, this work in action means building a more whole-of-government approach to pursuing religious freedom. And it means calling on all nations to uphold respect for the universal human right to freedom of religion as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ladies and gentlemen. We cannot afford to fail. There are millions of people cowering in corners now, simply wanting to believe and yet in fear. With your help, we must redouble our efforts to expand religious freedom.

We need your active participation in this cause. To make progress, we need more people to get in the ring, to stand up for religious freedom, and to advance it worldwide. We need all of you and many more to work with the broader religious freedom community, all around the world.

This regional conference is aimed at members of civil society groups, like yourselves. Your participation is vital, but it is only the first step. Civil society is often the first to report of these atrocities and instances of persecution. You are often the first to offer support to those who desperately need it. You are on the front lines, and without you, we cannot do our job effectively.

That’s why I want to see you empowered and even more. We rely on your efforts to press governments to act. We rely on your insight to better understand where persecution, discrimination, or violence is heating up. And we look to you to help us craft the right responses to impact the most people.

We need you to help us increase individuals’ awareness of their rights, empower them to assert their rights, and fight for them when governments or non-state actors seek to infringe upon those rights.

We need better coordination and action within the broader, religious and advocacy communities. That’s a good part of what this event is about. Consider what resources you need to do your work on religious freedom topic you are passionate about. Bring people into the religious freedom roundtable. Bring them to the next Ministerial that will be held from July 16 to 18 in Washington, DC. A global, pulling together of foreign ministers around the topic of religious freedom. Get individuals on social media or in the press.

With persecution continuing around the world against members of religious minorities, the United States wants to partner with our friends and allies on ways we can advance freedom of religion—particularly through education, particularly through advocacy with you.

Governments participating in the Ministerial were encouraged to host regional follow-on conferences to allow for more context-specific discussions, and to facilitate greater civil society participation.

Two weeks ago, we held one in Abu Dhabi that was focused on educational materials. This event is a key conference. Plans are underway for other meetings in Mongolia, Morocco, and Europe.

Another way you can get involved is by creating religious freedom roundtable discussions, as I mentioned earlier, doing this where you live.

Together, as a community with shared values—government, civil society, and faith communities—we can and will advance religious freedom.

With the full participation of all individuals, including religious minorities, societies can much better fulfill their potential and advance human dignity that strengthens peace, security, and prosperity, like it has here in Taiwan.

By God’s grace, life always triumphs over death, freedom overcomes oppression, and faith extinguishes fear. This is the source of our hope. And our confidence in the future, that religious freedom would be the hallmark of the world, that the gates of religious freedom would fly open around the world, and religious oppress, the Iron curtain of religious oppression would come down around the world; and that the people practicing their faith now can do so in peace.

Thank you for being here and part of this great cause, and God bless you all.

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