Thursday, February 5, 2009

Secretary of State Clinton discusses the role of disability rights in foreign policy

From the AAPD Justice for All blog. For the full transcript, go to State Dept. Web site.

In a town hall meeting with State Department personnel Feb. 4, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton answered questions about the roll that disability rights will play in foreign policy in the new administration. Her comments, as transcribed and posted by the State Department, are listed below.

Excerpts from the US Department of State (Feb. 4, 2009): ...

Question: It’s an honor to be working under your leadership, and I look forward to the challenges that you present. My name is Stephanie Ortoleva. I work in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor.

I basically wanted to ask you a question about what do you think can be the role that we can play... but also what role can our colleagues who work in women’s rights organizations and disability rights organizations, what role can those colleagues play in supporting you in your efforts to advance the rights of women and the rights of people with disabilities as part of an integral part of United States foreign policy?

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a wonderful question. I thank you for it. You know, I think it was 1997, I came to this auditorium, the Dean Acheson Auditorium, with Madeleine Albright, who was Secretary of State, and addressed a large crowd like this about the commitment that the Clinton Administration had to including women as an integral part of foreign policy, not as an afterthought, not as an adjunct, but in recognition of the fact that we know from a myriad of studies and research that the role of women is directly related to democracy and human rights. And I feel similarly about people with disabilities.

It’s important to recognize that expanding the circle of opportunity and increasing the democratic potential of our own society, as well as those across the world, is a continuing process of inclusion. And I look forward to working on behalf of the rights of women and people with disabilities, and others as well, as we pursue our foreign policy. Because I think it sends a clear message about who we are as a people, the evolution that we have undergone.

I remember as First Lady traveling to many countries that had no recognition of the rights of people with disabilities. They were literally warehoused, often in the most horrific conditions. There were no laws. There were no requirements for education or access. And it struck me then and – we’ve made some progress, but insufficient. It certainly is part of my feeling now that we have to always be hoping and working toward greater inclusion as a key part of what our values are and what we believe democracy represents. So I’m going to look to working with those of you in the Department and at USAID and with our allies and friends outside who have carried on this work over the years. And you can count on my commitment to you on that...

QUESTION: ... I just recently visited Bangladesh and India, and I have observed increasingly human rights, women rights, and child labor violation. And what kind of policy you – and measurement you are taking to Bangladesh, India, Southeast Asian countries, to protect their rights and their local South Asian community member?...

SECRETARY CLINTON: ... You know, this is kind of coming full circle. Our first question was about women’s rights and disability rights, child labor rights, human rights, which are at the core of... our mission and who we are as a people. We will be, you know, sending a very clear message that we are hoping to encourage changes in law and behavior. I feel very strongly, and said so at my hearing, that the abuses of human rights, particularly women and children, is a crime against all of us, and it is not cultural. You know, when a young girl on her way to school in Afghanistan is attacked by the Taliban and acid thrown in her face because she wants to learn to read and write, that is a crime. When a young child is deprived of the opportunity for an education and forced into labor, that is a crime. When women and children are trafficked into sex trade or other forced labor, that is a crime. There are so many reasons why it’s important for us to speak out against these crimes wherever they occur, and we intend to do so.