Get involved with Israeli Apartheid Week

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Join #IsraeliApartheidWeek 2016

Each year, Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) takes place in more than 150 universities and cities across the world. With creative education and action, IAW aims to raise awareness about Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people and build support for the nonviolent Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

In response to the impressive growth of BDS in the last few years, Israel and its right-wing allies in the west have launched repressive, anti-democratic attacks on the movement and the right to boycott, instead of fulfilling their obligations to end Israel’s violations of international law. This makes this year’s #IsraeliApartheidWeek more crucial than ever.

Support Palestinian popular resistance to oppression–join IAW 2016.

Check out apartheidweek.org and #IsraeliApartheidWeek to find out what’s happening in your area. More events in different cities are being added all the time, so do check back if there’s nothing in your city listed yet. 

Want to organise #IsraeliApartheidWeek events on your campus or in your city? Register your organisation here and you’ll receive an info pack full of ideas about how to organise #IsraeliApartheidWeek.

Dates:
UK: February 22-28
Europe: February 29-March 7
Palestine: March 1-10
South Africa: March 7-13
Arab World: March 20-26
US: various, including March 27-April 3
Latin America: April 10-24
Canada: various throughout March, check with local organisers

Witness: “The Other Kids Were Cursing Me”

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THE WEEK IN RIGHTS

November 12, 2015

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Samir was about to finish second grade when his school in Aleppo, Syria, was shelled. His father, Haysam, a 35-year-old shoemaker, badly wanted Samir to get an education, but given the circumstances, decided it was safer to keep him home. That was during the summer of 2012, when fighters opposed to the government opened an offensive for control over Aleppo. When the situation hadn’t improved by early 2013, Haysam locked up his shoe shop and moved his family first to Lebanon, then to Turkey.

More than two-and-a-half years later, however, Samir is still out of school.

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Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza warned on earlier this month that anyone who failed to hand over weapons by November 7 would be “punished in accordance with the anti-terrorist law and fought like enemies of the nation.” His speech comes on the heels of a spate of killings in Burundi, with more than 100 people killed since August. END AFRICA NEWS SECTION COPY

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Malaysian authorities have brought new criminal charges against critics of the government and are showing no signs of easing this year’s intensifying crackdown on free expression. END ASIA NEWS SECTION COPY

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A surveillance bill the United Kingdom government presented to parliament on November 4, 2015, would enshrine the UK’s already overly broad surveillance practices in law and expand the government’s reach even further into peoples’ lives. END EUROPE/CENTRAL ASIA NEWS SECTION COPY

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Ecuador is using excessive force to crack down on anti-government protests.

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“Disciplined democracy” in action: #BurmaVotes2015, dynamite reporting from @HRW ground team bit.ly/1M9OfPm 

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TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Senior Official for APEC Matt Matthews

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE AND SENIOR OFFICIAL FOR APEC MATT MATTHEWS

TOPIC:  PREVIEW OF APEC 2015

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2015, 10:30 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MR ZIMMER:  Good morning.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  My name is Mark Zimmer.  I’m one of the Media Relations Officers here.  We’re very pleased to welcome you this morning to a pre-brief of the APEC 2015 meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews. 

Before we start, I’d like to take a moment to mention International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  That’s today, November 2nd.  I don’t have to tell this group about the importance of a free press as part of every vibrant democracy regardless of location or culture.  This commemoration, which the UN General Assembly initiated in 2013, reminds all of us of our responsibility to prevent violence against members of the media and to ensure accountability for those who do commit violence.  The United States Government commends all of you for your role in promoting free speech, and we recognize the importance of journalists being able to do their work without fear.

With that, let me please welcome Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews.  He will have some opening remarks, and then we’ll take questions.  I will moderate that session.  We’ll welcome colleagues in New York as appropriate.  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Good morning.  I’m very happy to be here with you all to just preview a few items in the lead-up to our APEC senior officials meeting, the APEC ministerial, and of course, the APEC leaders meeting, which will conclude our APEC year. 

I think as all of you know, APEC is a critical piece of our economic architecture in the Asia Pacific region, and we see it as the premier organization for advancing free and open trade and investment.  It’s also used to foster cooperation in promoting sustainable and equitable growth.  One of the most important parts of our Rebalance agenda is for shared prosperity in the region, and APEC contributes directly to that agenda.  There are a number of things that go into it, but APEC basically is structured to help regional integration, stability, and to support rules conducive to U.S. economic competitiveness both for us and the region as a whole.

There are a couple of reasons why APEC really does work and works effectively.  Number one, it’s the institution in the region that we use where we can cooperate on freer and more open trade and investment.  It’s the right environment for holding those discussions.  We have the right experts together both from government and from business to create substantial and workable, practical measures that help move us forward in that area. 

It’s also a good institution for capacity building.  The United States participates in that, but so do other economies in APEC.  And the purpose of that capacity building is to make sure our participatory economies in APEC or developing countries have the capabilities that enable them to take advantage of the trade liberalization that we move forward on in APEC.

And, lastly, I’d say that it’s key to ensuring economic growth that is sustainable and that benefits everyone.  That’s a key element in the themes that you’ll hear time and again during the Philippines’ year, is inclusive growth.  It’s really something that APEC has been working on for some time, but it is being highlighted during the Philippine host year. 

So, we see APEC being able to move forward on all these fronts because it’s an incubator for new ideas, for innovative approaches, and for tackling challenges in the region that other folks haven’t thought of or tried before.  That’s facilitated, as I said, by the level of frank and open discussion that we can have in APEC.  And we can have that kind of frank and open discussion because it’s an organization that’s based on consensus, and the outcomes that we reach are non-binding except inasmuch as each and every member economy commits to doing the things that we all have agreed make sense to do, that we all agree will expand trade, will create greater prosperity, and create benefits across our economies.

So what you’ll see over time is each and every economy coming to a conclusion, coming to a consensus within APEC, and then going home and doing the things they need to do to make those proposals fact, to make them real, to actually open their economies in ways that actually have spurred growth in the region.

I believe that APEC not only has but will continue to play essential role in enabling agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and those of the WTO by helping economies envision and prepare for high-standard rules-based economic systems throughout the region.  I think one perfect example of how APEC has done that is in the area of environmental goods and services. 

So I just thought I’d highlight it for you because this year is the year in which all economies have committed to implementing commitments to either reduce tariffs on 54 items in the environmental goods and services list to below 5 percent or zeroing them out completely.  That’s an amazing step forward, and it’s a step that inspired the WTO to try to pick up a similar process.  And it’s moving forward now on a global framework.

So, again, incubator of ideas, effective means of communication within APEC where we have open discussions and plenty of time to examine the consequences of what a policy move might mean, then consensus and moving forward on it to implementation and providing that idea for others in the global economic community as a point of reference and, perhaps, adoption as in the case of environmental goods and services.

So that environmental goods and services list and the implementation of it is one of the real key highlights for deliverables this year.  But there is much more on the APEC agenda, and first and foremost I would say is work on digital economy.  This is something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years and we’re continuing to prepare it to ensure that the internet and the dissemination of new technologies that have led to rapid change is, in fact, possible within the APEC environment. 

What does this really mean for us?  It means that the internet needs to be open for markets and for free flow of information.  The free flow of information is critical to firms making rapid and accurate decisions.  So anything that prevents the free flow of information on the internet really is an impediment to growth.  It’s an impediment to prosperity. 

So we’re supporting a discussion in APEC that looks to identify those barriers and, as we move forward not only just this year but in the years to come, to thinking about ways we can move forward of dealing with the digital economy as a major trade issue for APEC, one that will allow us to address barriers in an effective way across the board.

The goal here, of course, is to make sure that we have a 21st economy in the Asia Pacific that continues to drive growth for the globe, and we’ll do that by making sure that we’re on that cutting edge, that we’re taking advantage of all the tools and all the benefits that the internet has that we can apply to our economic systems.

Another thing, of course, moving forward is work on the free trade area of the Pacific.  There is a study going on now and … working chapters are being developed by various economies.  That is something that will be progressing year by year as we look at ways of even broadening out the degree of integration within APEC.

There’s also, as I said, a key agenda on prosper – maintaining prosperity through sustainable, healthy, and resilient communities.  So what are we talking about there?  In APEC, we’ve come up with practical applications for dealing with marine debris.  There are better programs going out now where cities are undertaking very pragmatic programs that will take debris, waste material, and turn it into energy – just a creative and effective and economically viable approach.  Again, we’re doing it as an example, not only to the Asia Pacific region, but for the globe as well.

Fossil fuel subsidy reviews – we’re taking a look in APEC at those fossil fuel subsidies and asking each economy to take a clear look and ask themselves whether it’s delivering economic benefit or is it perhaps counterproductive.  And in those cases where they identify a counterproductive subsidy – that means a subsidy that doesn’t work to that – the goal that we have in mind or that – or there are other policy options that might be more efficient.  Folks are then encouraged to pursue those other options. 

On the environment, we’ve got a number of initiatives but, of course, first and foremost was the environmental goods and services agreement.  And I’d just highlight for you, in terms of environment, that the reason why that’s important is we are encouraging businesses and encouraging economies to adopt the best available technologies that allow us to grow, but to grow greener by reducing our carbon footprint.  One key way to do that is by zeroing out the tariff, cutting the tax on those items so that businesses are more likely to adopt those technologies sooner and on a broader scale.  That means that we can grow and reduce our carbon footprint at the same time.  But in addition to that, we’re also doing work on electric vehicles and, as I said, we’re doing this fossil fuel subsidy study.  So there’s that element on environment.

Again, there’s an element covering health.  And in health, we’ve done work on both reducing the barriers – or not reducing but at last identifying barriers to trade in health care products.  Again, looking forward, what we’ve got in mind here is this:  What we’re trying to do is improve the health outcomes in each and every economy, and one of the best ways of doing that is to take a look and see where are the tariff rates inconsistent with that goal?  Where are they so high that they’re actually preventing good health care products from getting to consumers who need them?  And, ultimately, what we’ll try to do is work together with our other APEC economies and come up with approaches of how we can reduce those barriers.

But another thing that we’re doing is working in public-private partnerships on infection prevention and the control that is working in conjunction with the global health security agenda.  

And a third area of work in APEC, which is very important and which requires private sector assistance – and one reason why APEC is so effective is it brings the private sector together with government – is to take a look at innovative medical products and take a look at the kind of global standards we’re adopting in applying them.

I’ll give you a following-up area for work that we’re doing, is in women’s economic empowerment.  Here, the most basic thing we’re trying to achieve is ensuring that each and every economy in APEC grows at its optimum level, but the only way you can really do that is by ensuring that women have a full right to participate in the workforce and to contribute to our economic growth. 

So in a broad range of measures, both on – by identifying policy frameworks that can facilitate and encourage full participation of women in the economy through a digital dashboard, and through a number of other specific measures, including this year we had one on transportation – women and transportation, which took a very clear look at this key node, making sure that women have safe transportation systems to get them to and from work, to make sure that that doesn’t become a barrier to their participation in the workforce.  And as a kind of ripple effect, allow economies to say, okay, that’s the way it worked in transportation; are there other areas in our economy that are, unbeknownst to us or without us having really thought through them, creating barriers that we didn’t intend but are in fact there?  As we take a look at the policy settings, we can say here are things, practical things, we can do to make sure that there’s nothing that stands between a woman and her desire to participate in that economy and generate income for her family and help that economy grow.

So one last thing I would mention to you is our work on disaster preparedness.  This is something that was particularly poignant, I think, for the Philippines here because the Philippines, of course, is subject to as many if not more disasters than any other economy in APEC, whether it’s volcanoes, whether it’s earthquakes, whether it’s typhoons.  But all economies in APEC to some degree or other have to handle these kinds of challenges.  And what we want to do, particularly in APEC, is make sure that we’re coordinating in ways that, number one, ensure that we can get humanitarian goods to and from any disaster zone as efficiently and effectively as possible.  This means over time dealing with the customs regulations and restrictions that might slow down that process.  Our goal here is to make sure we alleviate suffering as much as we possibly can, as soon as we possibly can.  And a second element of the APEC’s work on disaster preparedness is, again, I think unique to APEC because it takes a look at what happens after you’ve dealt with the immediate humanitarian crisis:  What about getting our supply chains back in business?  What about getting our businesses back up and running?  What about making sure we have resilient energy systems that can be either sustained through a disaster scenario or be returned to service as quickly as possible?  We’re looking at all those kinds of elements within the framework of discussions in APEC.  So I think you can see we have a really broad agenda, but it’s focused on delivering economic improvement and greater prosperity and greater equity throughout the system.

So I think with those opening remarks, I’ll just open it up.

MR ZIMMER:  Thank you.  Please identify yourself and your outlet.  If any guests in New York come to the microphone, we’ll recognize them.

Please, in the middle here.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Welcome to the Foreign Press Center.  I have a question about India.  India has applied for membership of APEC and Philippines said it’s considering it.  What’s U.S. position on that?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t believe that there’s any active consideration within APEC for expanded membership at the current time.  From time to time, countries and economies will register interest and – at present, though, there’s been no significant discussion along those lines.  But at a future date, those things may be reviewed and we will see where they go.

One thing I would suggest is for any economy that’s interested in APEC, a great way to start is to go into – identify sub-fora or working groups that work on particular areas across our APEC agenda that are of particular interest to them and apply as a guest to send experts in to participate, both to help understand how APEC works and to get a better understanding of how we process and turn out good outcomes that help APEC be that organization that pushes for leading-edge and innovative ways of expanding a more open and free trade and investment environment.

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle here, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Alexander Panetta from the Canadian Press.  So there will be a new member of APEC this year – Canada has a new prime minister in two days.  So I’m just wondering whether there are any plans for either a bilateral or a pull-aside with Canada’s new Prime Minister Trudeau and any issues that might be priorities for the United States in dealing with a new government.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, Canada has a new prime minister and we welcome the prime minister into the APEC family, but Canada is not a new member.  And Canada is a very significant and important member of APEC, one which we work with very closely.  We anticipate having a tremendous amount of continuity in the APEC agenda and that Canada, if it does have new priorities that it would like to raise or address, I’m sure we’ll be hearing from the prime minister and his team when we go into the ministerial and leaders agenda period during these discussions coming up.  But nothing’s been raised as of yet that I’m aware of.

MR ZIMMER:  Thanks very much.  Let’s go to the side here, please.

QUESTION:  My name is Varughese George.  I have a follow-up question on India.  I’m from India, The Hindu newspaper.  India has already been an observer since 2011 and President Obama, when he visited India last year, did say that the U.S. would support India’s membership in APEC.  So are you suggesting that there is no forward movement at all on that – India’s request for membership?

MR MATTHEWS:  I think it’s just important to be very careful and accurate about describing the President’s comments.  The President has welcomed India’s interest in APEC, and I think that speaks for itself.  We are welcoming your interest.  We welcome India’s examination of what APEC’s all about, but we have not entered into a discussion and I don’t believe India is formally pressing for actual membership now in APEC.  And remember, keep this in mind, APEC is an organization that’s consensus-based.  So each and every member of APEC has to agree to an expansion of APEC membership, and no discussions in APEC this year have focused on that topic – just so you’re focused on that, okay?  You’re welcome.

MR ZIMMER:  We’ll do the front and then we’ll go to the back, please.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Matt.  Rita Cheng from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  Every year the U.S. delegation will meet with the Taiwan’s counterpart during the APEC.  I wondered is there any meeting confirmed during this year?  And any other topic that you will be discuss with Taiwan’s counterpart? 

And also, not every country in – of APEC has been included in TPP.  I wonder the America – how America and in what way will put the – cooperate the TPP (inaudible) with the – like the region’s economic framework?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, I’m not sure if I got all of that.  But first and foremost, Taipei is a full member in APEC – Chinese Taipei is a full member in APEC, and it works across the whole APEC agenda with every other economy in APEC and we work with Chinese Taipei in those various sub-fora and working groups, in senior official meetings that I participate in with, and of course during ministerials and even the leaders meeting.  So I think you can anticipate that, just as in prior years, Chinese Taipei will be an active participant in all those elements and we look forward to that.

MR ZIMMER:  In the back, please.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  My name is Adam Xu from Voice of America, Mandarin service.  I have two questions.  You mentioned the U.S. will support the discussion on the free flow of information on the internet.  I’m wondering:  Do you have a list of participants in the (inaudible) or is this discussion going to be carried out?  And can you elaborate on the focus of such discussion, and what are your expectations?

And my second question is about the South China Sea.  Given the recent tensions in South China Sea, is it going to be on the agenda in the APEC discussions?

MR. MATTHEWS:  Thank you.  So, on digital economy, right now we’re at an early stage in the APEC process on discussing the digital economy and digital trade issues, so I would say that this is essentially a working-level process.  But both at ministerial and, I believe hopefully, at the leaders level there will be acknowledgement that this is an important issue that has to be discussed and engaged in, but it primarily has to be engaged at this working level to make sure we kind of start to flesh out all the different specifics that we think are critical to ensuring that we have a free and open internet that supports future economic growth.  So I guess that’s where I’d say we’re on that one.

And I have nothing for you on the South China Sea, except I would just reiterate that APEC is an organization that focuses on economic issues. 

MR ZIMMER:  How about on the side for this one.

QUESTION:  Hi, 21st Century Business Herald.  About TPP, some trade experts told me that among the TPP members in the ASEAN countries, Malaysia will be the one, the country that will face a lot of challenge during the TPP ratification process in terms of the prime minister’s challenge from his own party and from parliament.  So is this the case, or do you optimistic about the ratification process of TPP in Malaysia as there will be a trade minister session in the APEC?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I am optimistic about ratification of the TPP agreement by all the participating economies.  It doesn’t mean that it won’t take a lot of work.  Even in our own country we anticipate it’s going to be a major effort to make sure we do a good job of explaining the actual outcomes of TPP and what the benefits are.  But we remain optimistic and I think we remain optimistic across all the participating economies. 

MR ZIMMER:  In the middle, please, then we’ll go to the back.

QUESTION:  Hi, Maria Garcia, Notimex, the Mexican news agency.  As – Mexico as a member of APEC has started ambitious economic reforms.  Do you think that the Mexican model could be – to what extent the Mexican model could be regarded as a model for other members of the APEC?

MR MATTHEWS:  Other members of APEC?  Well, I would say this, that we have a very broad agenda of issues in APEC, and I would say it’s probably fair to say that almost every economy participating in APEC has at some point introduced innovative ideas or good policy suggestions that get discussed by APEC and ultimately adopted by APEC.  And Mexico, of course, is one of them.  But it’s part and parcel of the way in which we operate, so particularly in every host year whenever an economy decides to host, they have a chairmanship role which allows them to help highlight issues that they think are of critical importance, and they naturally do this in consultation with other economies.  But it does give them a chance to provide some additional input. 

But even in non-host years every economy has the ability to introduce at working levels at the senior official level new ideas that they think will help all the economies at APEC to grow more effectively.  And Mexico has participated in that and they are an active and helpful player in helping us move towards a more liberal and open system.  So I can only say thank you to Mexico.

MR ZIMMER:  All the way in the back, please.

QUESTION:  Hi, I’m Marion with NHK Japan Broadcasting Corporation.  I have two questions about two major economic developments in the region this year, first of all the TPP and then also economic uncertainty coming out of China and the resulting financial market volatility.  And I’m wondering if those two things would specifically be on the agenda for the leaders’ summit.  TPP, I assume, would definitely be a focus in the trade minister summit, but I’m wondering if there would be a sort of separate TPP meeting at the leaders’ level as well. 

QUESTION:  Well, there’s been no decision, I think at this point, on whether or not there will be a TPP sidebar meeting at the ministerial or at the leaders’ meeting, but I refer to USTR on that.  As we get closer to the date they may have something more for you on that. 

In terms of China, China is pursuing a broad-based economic reform agenda.  It’s a challenging process of shifting the growth model – one dependent on investment and exports to domestic demand – and it’s a natural process you would anticipate that when you go through a major economic policy transition like this that issues will arise.  They seem committed to the process.  I think though the IMF and other economies understand their commitment and are supportive of their commitment to that reform process. 

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have more in the back?  (Inaudible.)

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  My name is Tatsuya Mizumoto from Jiji Press.  About digital economy: so, are you discussing about cyber security?  And then about TPP, I know you have no TPP agreements, so what kind of the impact you will have to (inaudible) by this?

MR MATTHEWS:  Okay, cyber security does get raised in certain fora within APEC, and – but it’s – we have a pretty strong economic focus for the discussions.  So what you want to do is make sure that you have systems in place that preserve trade secrets, that preserve the integrity of business information, et cetera.  You want to make sure that economies are protected against potential economic downside of cyber hacking, et cetera. 

But I’ll get back to you with more detail that would probably help you, because I don’t have the specifics in front of me but I’d be happy to give you more information on that in a follow-up.

And then your second question was?  I’m sorry.

QUESTION:  (Off-mike.)

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah.  So APEC’s agenda is separate – TPP is a separate negotiating group of economies.  They’re all APEC members, but it’s done separately.  So we’re not driving the APEC agenda based on what happens in the TPP negotiations.  The APEC agenda keeps moving forward on trade liberalization processes regardless.  So – but obviously, we all welcome the successful conclusion of the TPP, but it won’t directly affect the APEC discussion process.

MR ZIMMER:  Do you have a short follow-up?

QUESTION:  Yes, I want to follow that, so on the TPP.  But I think as – to your final (inaudible) that you are going to write a TPP standard to – in the APEC area, right?  So —

MR MATTHEWS:  Right.  So there are two things.  There’s a free trade agreement of the Pacific discussion group, which basically is starting to flesh out what chapters in an APEC-wide agreement might look like.  That discussion process will go forward, and is going forward, and chapters are being worked on by individual economies who have raised their hands and volunteered to help contribute.  And I guess that’s what I can tell you.  That’s an ongoing discussion process and ongoing drafting process.  That continues. 

MR ZIMMER:  Any final questions?  Okay.

QUESTION:  I am Grigory Dubovitskiy, Russian news agency RIA Novosti.  Are you aware of any plans, maybe possible, to discuss any questions with Russian delegation on the sidelines while SOM meet, maybe you aware of what level it could be?

MR MATTHEWS:  I don’t know about – and I can say to you that I meet with the Russian delegation for the senior officials level on a regular basis and at every SOM basically – and my predecessors did.  So those discussions continue because we have points of discussion that need close communication on a regular basis.  And my team that does APEC issues is, of course, working with our counterparts in the Russian delegation to APEC.  As for more senior-level meeting schedules, I don’t have the specifics for you on that.

MR ZIMMER:  One here, and then a final couple in the back.

QUESTION:  Two quick follow-up questions.  Alexander Panetta, again, from the Canadian Press.  Can you give an example or two of some of the environmental goods and services you’re talking about, and what a change in tariffs might mean or an elimination of tariffs might mean in terms of their proliferation?  That’s the first follow-up.

And the second thing I wanted to ask was, if I understand correctly, that you don’t know yet whether there might be a meeting with the new Prime Minister Trudeau of Canada?

MR MATTHEWS:  Well, I’d refer you to the White House on their scheduling of bilateral meetings for the President during the period of the leaders’ meeting. 

As for your other question on environmental goods and services, well some obvious ones that come to mind that are covered are wind turbines and solar panels – things that you’d say just – inherently you’d say anybody who wants to operate more greenly and wants to generate green power will want to make sure we can get those products to every market in APEC with the lowest tariff possible, if not zero tariff, so that a greater number of firms and a greater number of households can actually adopt the use of those technologies to reduce their energy intake and their carbon footprint.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay.  Maybe one more after this one.

QUESTION:  All right, thank you.  Rob Gentry with TV Asahi.  I had a follow-up on your question about – on your point about reducing tariffs for health care products.  Is it tariffs or is it also non-tariff barriers that you’re interested in on that? 

And then as a general question for the leaders’ meeting, what does the U.S. hope to have in terms of discussion on currency in the region, in terms of its effect on trade?  Thanks.

MR MATTHEWS:  So for healthcare products let me just be clear, we’re in very early stages of discussions on health care products.  Really what we’re doing at this current stage in APEC is agreeing to kind of identify barriers.  But one other thing that I’d like mention to you that we’re doing with regard to healthcare products in APEC is having private sector and governmental cooperation on helping to identify substandard health care products that can enter the market or even fraudulent ones, and then making sure each economy has effective means of taking those substandard products out of the pharmaceutical system to make sure we’re not delivering products which don’t help improve the health outcomes for our citizens.  But so we’re really at an early stage on that healthcare initiative, and we’re not to the point of, I think, identifying tariffs or talking about tariff reductions but just basically doing a study of the overall picture on barriers.

And I’m sorry, what was your other question?

QUESTION:  Currency.

MR MATTHEWS:  Currency.  I can’t give you anything on that.  I don’t know that there’s – yeah, I just don’t have an answer for you on that one.

MR ZIMMER:  Do we have a final question?  Over here, one more.  Last question, please.

QUESTION:  Sorry, it’s still a follow-up to the TPP.  I just wondered, is that like the similar, that during the APEC the discussion group will have a meeting and any country who would like to join the TPP, that they will have the chance to talking about that?  It’s something like that?  Thank you.

MR MATTHEWS:  Yeah, well, thanks for that question.  I don’t believe it’s envisioned right now.  Remember, every economy that’s in the Trans-Pacific Partnership at present is focused on one thing.  It’s getting from the conclusion of the negotiation to ratification within their own system, and that’s precisely where the United States is.  So our focus is completely dedicated to preparing everything we need to do to get ratification by the U.S. Congress.  And until we get that done, we’re not really going to be focusing on other economies.

We welcome the interest of other economies in APEC who are interested in TPP, but we just have to tell folks, please understand our focus right now is getting to ratification.

MR ZIMMER:  Okay, we appreciate Mr. Matthews joining us this morning out of his busy schedule.  We appreciate your joining us.  We’ll see you next time.  Thank you.

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Professor Allan Lichtman, “State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election”

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH ALLAN LICHTMAN, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND FREQUENT POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND ELECTORAL FORECASTER

TOPIC:  STATE OF THE RACE 2016: AN OVERVIEW OF THE 2016 ELECTIONS FOR FOREIGN CORRESPONDENTS COVERING THEIR FIRST U.S. ELECTION

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2015, 11:00 A.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR:  Hello and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center.  Today I would like to welcome Professor Allan Lichtman, American University professor of history and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, back to the Washington Foreign Press Center for another in his series of elections and political briefings.  This briefing is titled “The State of the Race, 2016:  An Overview of the 2016 Elections for Foreign Correspondents Covering Their First U.S. Election.”  Professor Lichtman’s views are his own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State. 

Without further ado, here is Professor Lichtman.

MR LICHTMAN:  In fact, my views don’t represent anyone except me, so don’t attribute it to American University, the federal government, the United States, or anyone else except Allan Lichtman. 

How many of you were here for my 2014 briefing?  A few of you.  Remember I said three things mattered in midterm elections, right?  Turnout, turnout, and turnout, and I predicted if the turnout was low, the Republicans were going to win the 2014 midterms, and that’s exactly what happened. Turnout was low and it was a very good year for Republicans.  However, things change in presidential election years.  The turnout is something along the lines of 50 percent higher than it is in midterm elections and doesn’t tend to vary quite as much from election to election. 

And obviously, unlike midterm elections where turnout can be highly dependent on what’s going on in an individual state – do you have a real tight race in that state – in a presidential year, of course, turnout is determined by the top of the ticket, the presidential contest.  But the basic dynamic is still very much the same:  High turnout tends to benefit Democrats and low turnout tends to benefit Republicans, whether in a presidential year or a midterm year.  And particularly high turnout of minority voters tends to favor Democrats; higher turnout of white voters tends to favor Republicans.

We have a very racially and ethnically polarized electorate in the United States, and it is virtually uniform.  There are variations in numbers, but the pattern is almost uniform across all the states with white voters giving majorities to Republicans and African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians giving majorities to Democrats.  There’s a slight exception to that in Florida where there’s a very strong Cuban American population that has been traditionally Republican, but that has been changing.  The older anti-Castro Cold War generation is dying out and the new generation is much less Republican, and Florida is also experiencing strong immigration from other parts of Latin America.  So today, the Hispanic vote in Florida is about 50/50; everywhere else, it tends Democratic.  And of course, the African American vote is 90 percent or more Democratic.  So turnout matters and turnout of whites versus minorities matter a great deal in this election.

I’ll turn first to the presidential contest and what’s going on in each primary.  The Democrats ought to be building a monument to Vice President Joe Biden because of what he didn’t do – that is, he didn’t get into the presidential race.  Why is that important?  Because it means there is much less likely to be a contest within the Democratic Party for the nomination.  Bernie Sanders fires up about a quarter to a third of the Democratic primary electorate.  There are a lot of people who will walk through brick walls for Senator Bernie Sanders, but he has a great deal of trouble expanding beyond that 25 to 30 percent.  He does really well in Iowa and New Hampshire – small, primarily white states – but he is being swamped in the polls by Hillary Clinton in all of the big states where there’s very strong minority voting in Democratic primaries, where money organization and name recognition matters.  You’re not going to go door to door in California, New York, and Florida. 

So it looks like, unless something really bizarre happens – and that does happen in politics – that Hillary Clinton is cruising to become the consensus Democratic nominee.  And she was helped not only by Joe Biden getting out of the race, but greatly helped by her Republican opposition.  The more things change, the more they remain the same in politics.

Some of you may even remember back to the crisis facing her husband, President Bill Clinton, the only president since Andrew Johnson in 1868 to be impeached by the U.S. House while the Republicans pressed too far.  And it made it look like – even though Bill Clinton had done some pretty dastardly things – that the Republican campaign against him was political, it was political revenge and was being sought for political advantage, not for the good of the republic.

Guess what?  The Republicans have made exactly the same mistake in going after Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi tragedy and the emails.  Yes, Hillary and the State Department made some pretty serious errors, but it has been pursued so relentlessly for so long with so little new information coming up that now, the American people overwhelmingly believe – 75 percent – that this – these investigations of Hillary Clinton are being motivated by partisanship.  And a couple of Republicans have even come out and greatly helped Hillary Clinton by saying, yeah, these hearings were designed to drive her poll numbers down or hurt her electability. 

So the Republicans have done something that Hillary Clinton could never have done by herself – make this ice lady look sympathetic and appealing and beleaguered and persecuted.  And that had greatly helped her campaign along with an absolutely superb performance in the Democratic debate and just showing she was a marathon runner in coming out of 11 hours of grilling in the Benghazi hearings absolutely unscathed.

Why does it matter that Hillary Clinton is going to be the consensus Democratic nominee?  The reason is history.  History teaches that the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House, which of course is the Democratic Party even though Barack Obama is not eligible to run again – the worst thing that can happen to the party holding the White House is an internal, bitter party fight.

The last time the party holding the White House survived a major internal fight for the nomination was, guess what, 1880 when James Garfield won the presidency by about one-tenth of 1 percent in the popular vote.  Since then, major internal party fights have been the kiss of death for the party holding the White House.  I need only remind you of 2008; the Republicans had a big fight, or 1980 when Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter, or 1976 when you had the bitter battle between Ronald Reagan and the sitting president, Gerald Ford.

So the reason avoiding a party fight is so critical in this election is not necessarily because Hillary Clinton is the most electable candidate.  In fact, going for the most electable candidate is about the worst strategy any party could ever adopt because you don’t know who is electable.

I remind you of 2004 when the Democrats opted for John Kerry, Senator Kerry, not because they loved him but because they thought he was electable and, of course, he lost to a very weak president who was really faltering, George W. Bush, in 2004.

So very good news for the Democrats with Joe Biden’s withdrawal and the recent resurgence of Hillary Clinton.  If form holds and Hillary Clinton becomes the consensus nominee, that’s very positive for the Democrats going into the general election.

Now, what is also interesting historically is it’s entirely different for the challenging party, for the party that does not hold the White House.  They can fight all they want and historically it makes absolutely no difference.  I point you to 2008, right, when the Democrats were the out party.  The Republicans were holding the White House and there was a long, protracted – one of the longest and most tract – protracted nomination struggles in modern history between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and that did not stop the challenging candidate, Barack Obama, from handily winning the White House.

So the pundits have it all wrong.  It doesn’t matter that there’s this big squabble among Republicans.  It doesn’t matter that there is no clear consensus nominee and this could be a long struggle.  The pundits have no sense of history.  They have no theory of how a presidential election works.  They’re operating from the seat of their pants and they are absolutely wrong.

That said, the real action and the real interest is on the Republican side, and what is astonishing about the Republican struggle – it’s still early, but not too soon to be astonished – is that the only candidates in double digits, and they’re both over 20 points in the polls; the next highest are 8 or 9 – so the two candidates who are absolutely sweeping the Republican field now – doesn’t mean they’re going to be nominated, but it’s not that early; it’s getting close to 2016 – are two candidates who not only have never been elected to anything, who have never held public office, and that is Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who together, according to the polls, hold the support of more than 50 percent of likely Republican primary voters.

Now, you may think, oh, it’s the Republican Party.  They are the party that challenges Washington.  This is not surprising for the Republican Party.  Nonsense.  When was the last time the Republican Party nominated someone who had never held any kind of public position?  The answer is never.  The answer is never.  You have Dwight Eisenhower, who was never elected, but of course he was General of the Army.  You have Herbert Hoover, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of Commerce.  You have William Howard Taft, who wasn’t elected, but he was Secretary of War and Governor General of the Philippines.  Never has the Republican Party reached out to someone who not only has never stood for election but never held public office. 

In fact, if you look at the more recent history of the Republican Party, they have always nominated a mainstream figure with lots of experience and standing within the party.  Look at their nominees: Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts; John McCain, senator from Arizona; George W. Bush, governor of Texas, son of a President; George H. W. Bush, vice president; Bob Dole, leader of the Senate; Ronald Reagan, governor of California; Richard Nixon, former senator and vice president; even Barry Goldwater, the maverick far conservative who was nominated in 1964, was still a U.S. senator from Arizona.

So you are looking at two candidates who might not seem surprising, but who are actually incredibly surprising because they completely break the mold both of the long history of the Republican Party, and even more pointedly, the recent history of the Republican Party.  They have not nominated anyone with the profile, or non-profile, of a Ben Carson or a Donald Trump.  Got to editorialize a little bit here.  Remember, these are my own opinions only. 

Donald Trump doesn’t surprise me.  I predicted Donald Trump many, many months ago, when all the pundits were scoffing at him.  Why did I predict the rise of Donald Trump?  A number of reasons.  One, he is a great showman.  He really knows how, positively and negatively, to get attention and to attract people to pay attention to him and to listen to him.  And in a crowded field, you need a shtick.  You know what a shtick is?  It’s a Jewish term, it’s used in Hollywood a lot – something that makes you different, something that stands out, something really special.  You remember the impersonation of Sarah Palin that made Saturday Night Live really stick out.  Tina Fey just had her to a T.  It was a great shtick.  And Donald Trump has a shtick.  Now, whether that shtick will last through the primaries, who knows.  But all the pundits again were wrong who said he was a meteor who would just burn out in the atmosphere.  That hasn’t happened.  He’s been atop or, until recently, very close to the top of the polls now for a very long time.

The other thing about Donald Trump is he says things that a lot of other Republican candidates believe but are too afraid, too timid to say – such as his denigrating of immigrants.  It’s inflammatory stuff, probably a majority of Americans don’t agree with it, but there is a segment within the Republican Party that likes to hear that kind of thing and believes that Donald Trump is a non-scripted kind of candidate; he’s not a controlled, Washington-establishment type of candidate.  And if there is anything that marks the Republican Party today, it’s complete disgust with Washington. 

And it’s not just because Barack Obama, a Democrat, is president; it’s because Republicans are deeply and bitterly unhappy about their own Republican Congress.  They don’t believe that their own Republican Congress had done nearly enough either to challenge Barack Obama or to imprint Republican values and Republican policies.  There’s a big segment of the Republican Party that’s quite willing to blow everything up and start all over again.

So I get Donald Trump.  I’ll tell you who I don’t get, and that’s Ben Carson.  I cannot understand what the appeal of Ben Carson is.  Watch the debate – the man had nothing to say.  He couldn’t distinguish between the debt and the deficit.  He tried to explain medical policy – his own medical policy.  He’s a doctor and he couldn’t explain his own medical policy.  But what baffles me most about Ben Carson – have people listened to what the man actually has said? 

He embodies two things that I think are the most dangerous elements that any politician could have:  a lack of a moral compass, and a lack of a sense of history.  The man has compared the Obama Administration to Nazi Germany.  This cheapens the Holocaust.  It cheapens the deaths of tens of millions of people in World War II.  Whatever you may think of Barack Obama – love him or hate him – he didn’t kill 6 million Jews.  He didn’t start a war that killed 67 million people.  What kind of moralist are you?  What kind of sense of history do you have when you make those kinds of comparisons?

I’m a Jew, and I – and I’ve studied the Holocaust.  And I am profoundly offended by his cheapening of the Holocaust by saying if the Jews only had a few guns, they could’ve stopped the Nazi war machine.  How could you be so profoundly ignorant of history?  First of all, only a tiny fraction of the Jews who perished in the Holocaust were German Jews.  Most of the Jews were from territories occupied or influenced by the Nazis – Poland, Romania, Hungary, not Germany.  And guess what?  The Jews tried to fight the Nazis with a few guns. 

Mr. Carson never seems to have heard of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.  You know how many Jews were killed?  Thirteen thousand to 20 Nazis.  Nearly 60,000 were deported to the death camps.  How you can cheapen the Holocaust, perhaps the greatest human tragedy in history, by saying it could’ve prevented – it could’ve been prevented if the German Jews had a few more guns.  I don’t get Ben Carson. 

I don’t understand how he has risen to the top of the polls, unless people just aren’t listening.  And that may be true.  Maybe he hasn’t gotten the scrutiny that a Donald Trump or a Jeb Bush has gotten, and people just think he’s this profoundly moral outsider who’s going to bring a new era to Washington.  That may well be his appeal, but I don’t get it.  I get everyone else in the Republican and Democratic field.

And the other candidate I get is Jeb Bush.  That’s the other big story, is the absolute collapse of the candidate who was considered to be the establishment favorite.  Why has the Jeb Bush campaign fallen apart to the point where some of the commentators are indicating he may even drop out of the race?  He’s already cut back on staff.  He’s already reorganized his campaign.  He already looks like a loser.  How could that possibly have happened?  Well, part of it isn’t his fault, and part of it is his fault.  What isn’t his fault is, as we’ve seen so far, this isn’t a good year for the Republican establishment.  The Republican establishment doesn’t seem to be offering anything that’s appealing to the Republican electorate.  In fact, if you put together three candidates who have never held public office and never run for anything – add Carly Fiorina to Ben Carson and Donald Trump – and you’ve got about 60 percent of the potential Republican primary electorate, with eight candidates sharing the other 40 percent.  So that is not anything that has to do with Jeb Bush personally.

But Jeb Bush has run one of the worst campaigns in modern history.  He not only commits gaffes, he doesn’t seem committed to the campaign.  He’s not crisp, he’s not sharp, he’s not appealing, he has no shtick whatsoever.  And my own pure speculation – I have no inside information on this – is the – I won’t say collapse, because remember, Lazarus rose from the dead.  John McCain rose from the dead in 2008.  Things – strange things can happen, so I won’t say collapse yet.  I’ll say terrible faltering of the Bush campaign – is he doesn’t seem to have the fire in the belly.  He doesn’t seem to want this with great passion.  He seems to be pursuing it – and again, this is my speculation – because it’s his turn.  His dad was President, his brother was President; governor of Florida, hugely important swing state.  It seemed his time.  And when confronted with this extraordinary tsunami of anti-establishment sentiment within the Republican Party and the rise of these absolutely unexpected candidates, Bush has had no answer to this point.

But I wouldn’t count him out entirely yet because there is going to be an establishment candidate.  It’s not in the end, I don’t believe, going to be only Carson and Trump.  I believe one or the other will survive and thrive as we go into the primaries, but I think there is going to be an alternative.  And the smart money of course has always been on Jeb Bush, but it’s now shifted.  Smart money’s now on Marco Rubio, another Florida candidate, and that’s kind of understandable.  He’s young, he’s good-looking, he’s got – he’s articulate, he’s charismatic.  But the problem for Rubio:  Where does he break through?  Where does he make his mark and how does he make his mark?

So I think it’s entirely up in the air who is going to be the alternative to the anti-establishment candidates, and Bush – his heart is still beating, but it’s beating very, very faintly.  But there is at least some small possibility that the heart of Jeb Bush is going to be revived, but somehow the passion has got to come internally within Jeb Bush himself.

But regardless of which Republican emerges, you’re going to see real contrasts between the two parties.  Two parties agree on almost nothing today.  People talk about polarization although it was a matter of Republicans and Democrats sitting down and having a beer or having a coffee – nonsense.  You know why there’s polarization in Washington?  Because two parties don’t agree on anything.  They don’t agree on health care, they don’t agree on taxes, they don’t agree on immigration.

And the huge sleeper issue that I think may well emerge by next year – it hasn’t been much so far – is climate change, arguably the biggest challenge that humanity is facing.  California is running out of water, which not only affects tens of millions of people in California, but because of their agricultural production, they – confronts the whole country.  A study came out yesterday saying if the world doesn’t deal with climate change, there’s going to be a huge hit to the world economy and an enormous rise in poverty.  A study came out showing the states of the Persian Gulf – get this – may be facing something that has never before been seen in the history of humanity: that is, temperatures too hot for human survival.  There’s this huge meeting in Paris.  I don’t know what will come of it, but I do think climate change could become a huge sleeper issue as we get into 2016.  And once again, the parties are absolutely at odds over whether we should do anything whatsoever about this problem of climate change.

And of course, America has crumbling infrastructure – our electric grid, our roads, our bridges are badly needing repair.  Another big issue, another huge issue: the gap between not the rich and the poor anymore; it’s now the gap between the rich and everybody else – how the party is going to address that. So look forward to an election, no matter who gets nominated, where there are going to be huge ideological differences and policy differences between the parties.

Finally, I want to say a word about the other election where the action is, and that is the United States Senate.  The United States Senate is going to be of critical importance after 2016 because the next president may well have three, four, two Supreme Court nominations to make, and remember, Supreme Court justices serve for life.  President John Adams, the second President of the United States after George Washington, served one term.  He was elected in 1796.  His party, the Federalist Party, disappeared, but he appointed John Marshall as chief justice of the United States Supreme Court.  John Marshall held that position for more than 30 years.  Today he is regarded as one of the two most influential chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and he put into play principles of the long-gone, long-defunct Federalist Party.  So you cannot underestimate the importance of Supreme Court appointments, and of course, the Senate ratifies all appointments including Supreme Court appointments.  So control of the Senate is absolutely critical.

One way in which the Democrats got Republicans to stop blocking not Supreme Court appointments but a lot of other court appointments that are very important was to ban the filibuster on circuit court and district court appointments, and that opened the floodgates to a lot of Obama appointees in the courts.  You cannot underestimate the courts because the courts are often where the action is because of the gridlock in the Congress and the gridlock between the Congress and the President.  As we saw in decisions like Citizens United on allowing unlimited corporate campaign contributions, some of the most important policies are set by the Supreme Court. 

So you cannot underestimate the importance of control of the Senate, which has flip-flopped quite a bit in recent years.  The Democrats took the Senate in 2006, the Republicans took the Senate back in 2014, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to take the Senate back again in 2016 for two reasons.  One, it’s a presidential year – higher turnout, much higher turnout than at midterms.  And as I’ve explained to you several times, higher turnout favors Democrats. Secondly, Democrats are only defending a couple of western vulnerable seats – in Colorado and in Nevada, where, of course, the Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid is retiring, so that’s an open seat.

And Republicans are facing at least seven vulnerable seats.  I’m not going to go over all of them, but they’re in states like New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio – mostly states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  I think the Republicans have vulnerable seats in six states won by Barack Obama in 2012.  Democrats need – they have 46 seats now, counting the Democratic-leaning independents.  They need five to take absolute control.  They need four to have a 50/50 Senate, which would mean whoever wins the presidency controls the Senate because the vice president casts the deciding vote.

So keep your eye on these vulnerable states.  They are going to decide the fate of the Senate, and right now it’s about 50/50.  The Democrats have about a 50 percent chance to win back the Senate assuming they hold one of the two vulnerable Democratic seats, which I think is reasonable, then if they can pick up five or six of the seven or so vulnerable Republican seats, they can win back the United States Senate.  And so it’s the presidency and the Senate where the action is.

There’s an old proverb I like to talk about.  I believe it’s Chinese but I’m not certain – maybe some of you can correct me – and that is, “May you live in interesting times.”  And I don’t see how politically the times could be any more interesting than they are right now.

Thank you very much.  I’ll take any of your questions.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  Please wait for the microphone and state your name and publication for the transcript.  We’ll go right there.

QUESTION:  Good morning.  As I understand —

MODERATOR:  You’re fine.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  As I understand what you tell us, you are reducing the possibilities in the Republican side.  They have two options: a populist candidate, and populist mean – I’m talking about Trump or Carson.

MR LICHTMAN:  Populist Republican.

QUESTION:  Yeah, or Jeb Bush.  I mean, could you tell us something, anything else about Rubio and the possibilities (inaudible) possibilities of Rubio?

MR LICHTMAN:  It’s very, very difficult to handicap primaries for a bunch of reasons, and those who think they know are wrong.  Reason number one is there’s so many candidates – very difficult.  The mathematics of it become asymptotically complex when dealing with multiple candidates.  Secondly, it’s not linear.  That is, one primary affects the next primary, so who – if Ben Carson, who is now well ahead in Iowa, wins Iowa, that’s going to scramble things, that’s going to change things.  If Jeb Bush comes in fifth in Iowa and fourth in New Hampshire, he may be done.  So one primary affects another, and that makes it very difficult to handicap.

And finally, the polls are not real meaningful.  If you think back to 2012, there were all kinds of Republicans who popped up in the polls – Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum – and none of them, none of them were nominated.  Republicans went back to the middle establishment figure.  So I don’t think it’s possible at this point to give any informed answer on who is going to be the nominee and whether it’s going to be an outsider or an insider.  I’m not in a position to make that prediction.

But I would say don’t count out the insider just because the outsiders are crushing in the polls now.  I still think – and I don’t know who it’s going to be, it could be Jeb – there will be a viable insider establishment candidate who can still win this nomination just based on long-term and recent history of the Republican Party.  They tend to love these mavericks but they never nominate them.

MODERATOR:  Okay, I’ll come right there.

QUESTION:  Stefan Grobe with Euronews, [France].  Good to see you.

MR LICHTMAN:  Good to see you again.

QUESTION:  You said you can’t explain Ben Carson. 

MR LICHTMAN:  I can’t.  Maybe you can.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Well, my question is:  How do you explain the fact that he is the darling of a very conservative white constituency, being African American —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.

QUESTION:  — and has zero support – almost zero support among African Americans?  Is that bad luck, good luck, or chance or whatever? 

MR LICHTMAN:  Well, we saw that with Herman Cain, another African American, back in 2012.  In earlier elections there was a very conservative Republican, Alan Keyes, whose support was also largely white.

I would say a couple of things.  One, nobody knows anything about Ben Carson if you look at the polls.  He seems to be this really nice guy, this really moral individual, until you really look at what he’s said and his history.  I know him really well because he’s from Maryland, my state, and I followed his actions in the Maryland struggle over abortion in the 1990s.  And he now claims to be so morally guided that he won’t even allow abortions in the case of rape or incest.  But back in the 1990s when he was actually involved in the moral struggle over abortion, he was the only player who played both sides.  He gave an anti-choice commercial and then walked back from his own commercial, said, “I really didn’t understand what I was doing,” tried to be both pro-choice and pro-life at the same time.  So it’s very hard to understand.

But in these polls, within the Republican Party, people are not voting race.  They’re voting issues and more are voting kind of these vague perceptions.  But again, don’t be deceived by the early polls.  People don’t know what Ben Carson yet stands for.  Maybe when the Republicans see what they stand for, they’ll love him.  Who knows?  But I think it’s going to be a much – if he gets the nomination, a much more difficult go for him in the general election.

MODERATOR:  We’ll come down here.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Mounzer Sleiman, al-Mayadeen TV, [Lebanon].  Can you give us just your sense of how much this campaign will be financed, compared to other campaign in the past – the presidential campaign?  And I want to ask you about Florida, because this is probably tied up to your establishment prediction.  Since two prominent person, individuals —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, Rubio and Jeb Bush.

QUESTION:  — do you think that Florida would be a factor, since Florida has been a factor in the election —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yes.

QUESTION:  — that could be a factor —

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  — in the calculation of Republican to select the one in the final analysis?

MR LICHTMAN:  Very, very, very excellent questions.  First of all, on finance, the sky is the limit.  As we saw approaching a billion dollar campaign by Barack Obama last time, you can expect billion dollar campaigns on the side of both candidates.  But there’s a dirty little secret about spending in general presidential elections, not primary:  Spending doesn’t matter.  That is, there’s no particular correlation historically between who spends the most money and who wins.

And the reason is pretty simple.  In other elections, voters don’t know much, and who can get out their message by spending really matters.  But people know the presidential candidates.  You got debates, you got lots of free media.  So spending is less important.

I absolutely agree with you; Florida is critical.  And right now, both Rubio and Bush seem to be trailing in Florida.  That could knock both of them out.  One of them has got to win Florida, and then he could become the establishment candidate.  But if they both lose Florida, that could knock both of them out entirely, and that’s an early primary.  So we’re going to get some early indication. 

And by the way, when you get into the later Republican primaries after middle March, they’re winner-take-all.  So you can win those primaries with 35 percent and get every single delegate.  So things are going to change if there’s still a big contest after the middle of March.

QUESTION:  Can I have a follow-up very quickly? 

QUESTION:  That’s fine.

QUESTION:  I forgot to ask you, because I think it’s very important, to give us the difference between the caucus and the primary, please.

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Very simply put, a primary is just like any other election – you show up at the polls and you vote.  Caucus, you have to go to meetings.  And the meetings can last all day and you have a series of votes at the meetings, ultimately leading to a tally of a statewide vote.  So the big difference is you’ve got to put in a lot more time, energy, and effort to go to a caucus.  So it involves much more committed voters.  The reason, by the way, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton in 2008 is not what anyone thinks; it’s because Obama organized the caucus states.  And it was the victory in the caucus states for Barack Obama that put him over the top.  So organization really matters in the caucus states, which is why you got to take these generalized polls with a grain of salt, because the candidates might have very different operations on the ground.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Bingru Wang with Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV.  This time we have seen China being brought up during the debates.  So how much does China matter during the election this time, and how China card will be played out?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  I always get these questions, and they’re really good questions, from people from particular countries.  And, of course, China is going to matter a lot more than most places, because it is – there are three great powers vying, competing in the world – China, Russia, and the United States.  So policy towards China is very important. 

But the details of policy won’t matter, because – I hate to say this – but the American people never follow the details of foreign policy.  They pay attention only when there is a big crisis or a big victory.  So they’ll pay attention to the Iran nuclear treaty law.  I promise you they can’t tell you the details of it.  And what they might be paying attention to is the potential tensions and conflicts.  There’s this big issue over these islands, and the United States is not recognizing those islands as legitimate Chinese territory.  If that flares up into something more, that can become a big issue in the campaign.  But beyond that, the details of policy are going to shoot over most people’s heads.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in back, in the glasses?  No, no; back, back; glasses.

QUESTION:  Oh.  (Laughter.)

MR LICHTMAN:  Got to get the back row.

MODERATOR:  Got to be fair to the back.  Sorry, guys.

QUESTION:  Hi, hi.  This is Ryan Hermelijn from NOS News TV, [The Netherlands].  I was wondering about the general election.  Specifically you outlined a couple of themes, but I didn’t hear the culture wars.  We have had the advancement of several liberal ideas such as the advancement of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana, assisted suicide is popping up.  There’s a backlash with Hobby Lobby and Kim Davis and such.  So how do you think that will play out in the 2016 elections?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah.  Before I answer that, let me – it’s related to your question.  There’s a debate tonight and do you know where it is?

QUESTION:  Boulder.

MR LICHTMAN:  Colorado.  And what is one of the biggest rising industries in the state of Colorado?  The pot industry.  Last I saw, it was a $700 million industry employing lots of folks.  Are the Republicans going to talk about the pot industry in Colorado?  And Republicans have an interesting dilemma on some of these things like pot.  Because on the one hand, the Republican Party is the party of what – free enterprise, right?  Business – they should be encouraging the pot industry, right, as a classic example of entrepreneurship and the American way.  But on the other hand, as you say, they also harbor a lot of social conservatives who obviously look askance at the use of pot and other recreational drugs. 

So it’ll be interesting to see if they say anything about this at all.  If I were the moderator, I would certainly ask them about it, because it does pit two Republican values – the problems with the social issues is people’s positions are pretty well set.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about abortion.  You’re not going to change someone’s mind about gay marriage.  And these issues, while they play to the Republican primary electorate, don’t play to the general electorate.  The most amazing social trend in America in the past decade has been the extraordinary acceptance of gay and lesbian rights.  If you had told anyone 10 years ago that a majority of Americans would favor gay marriage, they would’ve told you you’re living in never-never land.  Just huge shifts on these social issues, so I don’t suspect the Republicans are going to pound them.

Interestingly, the Democrats might.  Democrats might try to play the abortion issue against the Republicans, particularly if you have a candidate who is coming out like Ben Carson and saying not even in cases of rape or incest are we going to allow abortions.  That’s like a 20 percent position within the electorate.

MODERATOR:  Okay, come down here.  Yeah.

QUESTION:  Claudia Trevisan from the Brazilian newspaper Estado Sao Paolo.  Going to the historical perspective, one thing that is often told is that the last time the Democrats won the White House after being in the White House for two terms in a row was 19th century, with the exception of FDR.  Like, how important it is to see this historical theme play there?

And another question:  Like, who would be the best and who would be the worst candidate on the Republican Party from the Democrat perspective?

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer – yeah, I got you.  Let me answer the – the second question first, and that is the one word that I would throw out of the dictionary is electability.  You have no idea who is electable in advance of an election.  As I said, parties have gone to the candidates they thought were the most electable and they’ve crashed and burned and lost.  Presidential elections – and you’ve got to read my book, The Keys to the White House; the sixth edition will be coming out in early 2016 – a system for explaining and predicting presidential elections that has not been wrong ever.  I’ve been predicting since 1984, since I was nine.  I’ve hit every election – (laughter) – correctly.

I got to tell you a little story about cultural divide.  A few years ago I was in India and Korea, giving lectures on The Keys to the White House.  And India’s this really loose, kind of chaotic, exciting place, and Korea is much more controlled and stable and sober.  And the Indians would get my jokes, but somehow some of the Koreans wouldn’t get my jokes.  And I swear, one guy, after I gave my lecture made this point and raised his hand and said, “Professor Lichtman, can you please explain to me how you were able to predict elections when you were nine?”  (Laughter.)  So real cultural divides in the world.

So according to my theory, presidential elections are referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House.  That’s why things like foreign policy successes and failures, the fate of the Iran treaty, the state of the economy, policy change, social unrest matter, and the identity of the candidate doesn’t matter.  But the pundits – who are always wrong, but I’ll have to give you the pundits’ view – they think Marco Rubio is probably the most electable Republican.  But they have no basis, really, for saying that.

In terms of winning a third consecutive term, that’s hard.  It’s not an absolute bar, but it’s hard, because one of my keys to the White House is whether or not the sitting president is running for re-election.  And after two consecutive terms, under the amendment to the Constitution, you can’t run for a third term.  So it is harder to win three consecutive terms than it is to win two consecutive terms, but it’s obviously one factor and one factor only.

QUESTION:  Thank you, professor.  Rita Chen from Central News Agency, Taiwan.  You just say the (inaudible) matter.  I wondered how possibly the issue of gender could play a role once the – it’s closing to the voting day, and —

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, very interesting.  I’ve spent a lot of time in Taiwan, and —

QUESTION:  And – sorry, I have a second question:  And how important the Vice President for both party if they choose the – anyone —

MR LICHTMAN:  Gotcha.  All right.

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  First, gender.  Very difficult to say.  In 2008, I predicted an Obama victory.  In fact, I became notorious because I used my keys to the White House in 2005, three years before the election, to say things are going so badly for the Republicans that the Democrats could pick a name out of the phone book and elect that person.  They kind of did.  Whoever heard of Barack Obama at that point?  But a lot of people said to me, “Your keys are going to be wrong because they don’t take into account race” – obviously not, since we’ve never had an African American candidate – and it turned out the keys were spot on.  They got the election exactly right and race made no difference.

Will gender make a difference?  Probably not, but it’s very, very hard to say.  My wife, who’s a leading women’s rights advocate, tells me gender creates more prejudice than even race, but it’s hidden.  People are not going to come out and say, “I’m not going to vote for a woman president.” 

So my overall answer is I don’t think it’s going to override other factors, but you never know because these things are impossible to measure.

QUESTION:  Hi, Zhang Yue for China Daily, [China].  I was late so I didn’t know you were talking about this earlier.  And do you agree that – the saying that the dynasty, the Bush and the Clinton, and also the unlimited campaign finance, as signs of erosion of American democracy?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  No, I don’t think dynasties erode American democracy, as our people still pick the president; there’s no dictator or dictatorial cabal picking the president.  And the truth is Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, whatever you may think of their policies or their characters, by background and by history, are eminently qualified to run for president of the United States.  I do think money is a much bigger problem though.  I do think you’ve put your finger on something very important.  I do think unlimited money and the expense of campaigns has eroded American democracy, not so much the presidential level – as I said, money matters least – but at every other level, money matters a whole lot.  Even to win a puny seat on a county commission or city council, you have to spend upwards of $100,000.  That is a lot of money for an ordinary American.  To win a congressional seat, you probably have to spend millions of dollars in a contested – that’s just one of 435 congressional seats. 

Ninety-nine percent of Americans are priced out of the political market.  To run for office today, you either have to be reasonably affluent or tied into affluent special interests.  So we have vastly constricted the political choice and political opportunities open to Americans because of the overriding importance of money at every level below the presidency, and that is a huge problem, and it’s not going to be solved because the Supreme Court has interpreted money as speech.  As long as that decision stands and the Citizens United decision on unlimited corporate spending stands, it’s not going to be solved.

By the way, I didn’t answer the lady’s question about the vice presidential nominee.  How much does it matter?  Zero.  The worst vice presidential nomination in modern history was not Sarah Palin, it was Dan Quayle, the nominee of George H. W. Bush, who had the most embarrassing moment in the history of presidential debates when he compared himself – because he was young and inexperienced, he compared himself to John Kennedy, and Lloyd Bentsen, the experienced Democratic vice presidential nominee turned and said, “Sir, I knew John Kennedy.  John Kennedy was a friend of mine.  And with all due respect, sir, you are no John Kennedy.”  It was just a complete, utterly deflating moment.  Did it make any difference whatsoever in the presidential election?  No.  There’s no evidence that the vice president matters.

MODERATOR:  Gentleman in the white shirt in the middle.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much, professor.  My name is [Koya] Ozeki; I work for Japan’s Yomiuri.  I have two questions.  My understanding is that until a few decades ago, primaries and caucuses were much more restricted to party elites.  It was a much more restricted process.  And back in those days, I guess candidates like Donald Trump and Ben Carson had much less chance of coming up like today.  But do you hear any arguments pointing that fact out?  And do you hear any arguments calling for change of the system?

MR LICHTMAN:  Got it.

QUESTION:  Changing it back to the primary system.  And actually there’s another question.  Millennials.

MR LICHTMAN:  That was a pretty long one.  (Laughter.)

QUESTION:  I know.  Sorry about that. 

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, we’re running out of time, so —

QUESTION:  Millennials.  Just – and the second question is very short.  I’m interested in the Millennials.  Do they – how do they impact 2016?  Thank you very much.

MR LICHTMAN:  Let me answer your first question.  Yes, there has been a revolution in how the parties select their presidential nominees, and the revolution dates back to the Democratic nomination in 1968 when the country was so deeply divided over the Vietnam War.  You may recall the sitting President was Lyndon Johnson, who dropped out.  He was eligible to run again, but he dropped out of the election because of the divisions over the war.  And it looked Bobby Kennedy – anti-war candidate – particularly after he won the California primary would be nominated, but on the very eve of winning that primary Kennedy was assassinated.  And the result was someone who had entered no primaries, Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President, was nominated and the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party was outraged. 

And as a concession to those folks, the Democratic Party set up a commission on delegate selection headed by a very famous liberal who would be the next party nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, and they completely changed the rules for nomination.  Now the only way you could get a delegate was in open primaries and open caucuses.  It used to be there were a lot of states were the party bosses, behind closed doors, would pick the nominee, as you pointed out.  And the Democratic Party adopted this open system and the Republicans followed suit.  And since then, conventions haven’t mattered a wit.  Nominees get selected in the primaries and caucuses and by the voters.  And there has been tons of complaints about it.  Let’s go back to the old system of having these gray, wise, old men sit in a smoke-filled room and pick the nominee; it’s not going to happen.  This system is firmly in place.  No one is going to disenfranchise the voters.

As far as the millennials, I resist all that kind of breaking down the electorate in these ways.  The electorate moves in one piece generally.   Yes, there are huge differences within the electorate, but the electorate is going to make one decision and one decision only:  Have the Democrats governed well enough to get four more years in the White House, or have they governed poorly enough so that voters want a change?  That is the theory behind the keys to the White House.  And to get the scoop, as I said, my book will be out in about four months, sixth edition.

MODERATOR:  We have time for one or two more.

QUESTION:  Hello.  Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper, Die Presse.  Could you briefly talk about the House and particularly in light of how the Republican Party there has – sorry, disintegrated?  Does it actually make a matter if there’s a formally Republican majority there if they can’t really decide on the things that it really wants?

MR LICHTMAN:  Yeah, I haven’t talked about the House.  Let me talk a little bit about the house.  The House, of course, is entirely different than the Senate where you’re elected in districts within the states.  And there’s one word to describe the House, and that word is gerrymander.  Do you all know what a gerrymander is?  It’s where you concoct the districts to favor one party.  And the truth is today, 85 to 90 percent of House districts aren’t competitive in the general election.  The voters don’t decide the election; the line drawers fix the districts so they’re clearly going to win for one party or the other.  And both parties do it.  Republicans have been better because they won the 2010 midterms and the last redistricting was right after that, so – strange places like Pennsylvania that’s a Democratic state that has an overwhelming Republican majority in the House.

But that also means something else.  Where’s the action, then, if it’s not in the general elections in the primary?  And this has led to the election of a lot of very conservative Republican members of the House, the so-called Tea Party Coalition.  And that’s the conflict you’re seeing within the House, between the Tea Party Coalition and the more mainstream Republicans who are more willing to possibly work with the Democrats to some extent and accommodate them.  And by the way, that same division is present within the Republican electorate itself.  There’s a small majority of Republicans, when they’re polled, who say don’t compromise; stick to principles.  But 30 to 45 to 40 percent of Republicans say we should compromise.

So you’re absolutely right, there is a real division within the Republican Party.  And while having a consensus speaker like Paul Ryan’s going to paper it over temporarily, the conflicts within the House are not going to end.

MODERATOR:  Okay.  We’ve got time for one more question.  We’ll go to (off-mike).

QUESTION:  Thank you. Jane with China’s Sina News.  My question is about social media.  How do you think the social media changed the dynamic of the presidential campaign?  And secondly – quick question – how important is the endorsement from the celebrity, congressmen, politician to the presidential candidate?  Thank you.

MR LICHTMAN:  I’ll answer your last question first.  Endorsements aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.  And that’s been true for a long time historically.  The classic example historically is Edmund Muskie, who had run for vice president on the Democratic ticket in ’68.  Had every single endorsement of everyone, had all the money, and his candidacy completely collapsed to the insurgent campaign of George McGovern.  Certainly Ben Carson and Donald Trump are not leading the field because of endorsements.  Jeb Bush would be ahead if you went solely with endorsements.  So I don’t think endorsements really matter one bit.

And what was your other question? 

Social media.  They’ve changed campaigns very little to this point.  Everyone says, “Oh, social media’s going to take over the campaign.”  Nonsense.  The overwhelming bulk of money by candidates – at every level, really – if you can afford it, is still spent on traditional media, particularly television.  And the vast bulk of campaign contributions do not come in through social media; they come in through traditional fundraising methods.

That said, however, social media is becoming increasingly important.  It hasn’t taken over yet, but I think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before because of one very simple fact:  Today, more people get their news from social media than they do from any other source.  And so people do go to social – they go to scores of different places, but social media is displacing everything else as a source of news.  So I do think it will be more important in this campaign than ever before.

Thank you all very much.

MODERATOR:  Thank you all for coming.  This event is now concluded. 

# # #

 

Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State


WHAT:          Washington Foreign Press Center On-The-Record Briefing

 

TOPIC:          State of the Race 2016: An overview of the 2016 Elections for foreign correspondents covering their first U.S. election

 

BRIEFER:      Professor Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster

 

WHEN:          Wednesday, October 28, 2015, at 11:00 a.m.

 

WHERE:        National Press Building, 529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

 

RSVP:            Interested media should respond to FPCOwner@state.gov. 

 

BACKGROUND:  Allan Lichtman, American University Professor of History and frequent political commentator and electoral forecaster, will provide an overview of the ‘state of the race’ for the 2016 presidential, Congressional, and state elections on the morning of the upcoming October 28 Republican Party debate in Boulder, CO.  Professor Lichtman will discuss the state of the race for the current slate of Democratic, Republican, and third party candidates. He will also address which House and Senate races are competitive this election cycle, and whether the Democratic Party will win back the House or the Senate.  In addition, Lichtman will forecast which battleground states are competitive this election cycle and whether they are leaning red or blue.  Lastly, Lichtman will lay out a series of issues to watch, from the perspective of foreign media who are covering their first U.S. election and want to quickly get up to speed on the ways in which U.S. politics are different from other parliamentary systems around the world. 

NOTE:  All briefings are subject to change.  Please call (202) 504-6300 or visit the FPC website at http://fpc.state.gov for the latest information on this and other FPC programs.

 

BROADCASTERS:  Download a digital copy of the video at www.dvidshub.net/USDOS. 

Washington Foreign Press Center
National Press Building
529 14th Street, NW, Suite 800

Washington, DC  20045 Phone: (202) 504-6300 || Fax: (202) 504-6334

President Obama SUED

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RAPID RESPONSE: Denounce the Republican lawsuit against President Obama >>

A federal judge just ruled that Congressional Republicans can officially SUE President Obama. Unless something changes, Obamacare could be destroyed forever.

We need to collect 1OO,OOO signatures denouncing this frivolous lawsuit before it goes any further. Will you add your name right now?

SIGN IMMEDIATELY >>

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Republicans just scored a MAJOR win in their lawsuit against President Obama.

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled the GOP’s case can proceed– potentially gutting Obamacare and undermining the President’s legacy.

Destroying Obamacare was a key part of the Koch Brothers’ agenda when they spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect Republicans last year. Here’s what happened:

  • FIRST: The Koch Brothers spent MILLIONS to deceive Americans about Obamacare — and help put Republicans in charge of Congress.
  • THEN: Republicans in the majority SUED President Obama.

We can’t stand for it. If the Kochs win… Republicans will overstep their bounds once again to undermine the President’s legacy.

SIGN YOUR NAME: Denounce the Republican lawsuit against the President before it’s too late >>

Thanks to Citizens United, the Koch Brothers network of shady right-wing organizations have infiltrated every level of government.

We need your help to expose everything they’re doing to undermine our Democracy.

Please add your name:

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REMARKS: Secretary of State John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg At Our Cities, Our Climate: A Bloomberg Philanthropies-U.S. Department of State Partnership

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 REMARKS

Secretary of State John Kerry Secretary of State John Kerry

And UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael Bloomberg

At Our Cities, Our Climate: A Bloomberg Philanthropies-U.S. Department of State Partnership Working Luncheon 

Washington, D.C.

October 8, 2015

ASSISTANT SECRETARY RYAN:  Thank you.  It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the State Department today in honor of Our Cities, Our Climate – an initiative between the State Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

We are here to recognize and honor global city leadership on a topic of great importance – climate change.  At the State Department, this is at the top of our agenda, and we are thrilled to partner with Michael Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies, who share these goals and have consistently been on the vanguard of this issue.

At the center of the State Department’s public diplomacy is the mission to connect the United States with the world to foster creative and powerful networks of citizens around the world to build common understanding.  As we look to climate change and the significant steps needed to address this challenge, the opportunity to bring a global cohort to the United States to discuss these issues was invaluable. 

It is an honor to have mayors from the United States and around the world with us here today.  Will all the mayors in the room please stand to be recognized?  (Applause.)  You are all champions of climate action.  Thank you for your critical work.  We are also pleased to have 19 sustainability directors from 18 countries that have just traveled on an exchange program to San Francisco, Boston, and now Washington, D.C.  The sustainability directors had the opportunity to see some of the best innovation in the United States and discuss how U.S. cities are overcoming hurdles to address significant problems that contribute to environmental damage.

Bringing mayors and city leaders together, our goal is to showcase the ways in which national governments, corporations, and cities around the world can and are working together to make an impact. 

Thank you all for joining us.  It is my honor to introduce our two keynote speakers, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Michael Bloomberg.  As UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg has been a leading voice on the value of cities in executing cutting-edge changes that improve everyday lives and our environment.  His immense expertise, vision, and passion have put city leadership at the forefront of innovation.  We are grateful for his partnership on this initiative.

At the State Department, we are proud to have Secretary Kerry as our champion on climate change issues.  Secretary Kerry has elevated this critical issue.  He has made climate change a critical part of U.S. foreign policy and a key component of our bilateral relationships around the world.  His level of engagement on this issue is unprecedented at the State Department.  And it’s not a new issue for him.  He brings with him an almost 30-year commitment to fighting climate change.  He has been focused on this issue since it first became a public issue and was involved in convening some of the first hearings on climate change in the Senate.

He was present at the first UN Conference of Parties on Climate Change in Rio in 1992, and has been at nearly every major gathering on climate change that has taken place since.  He’s on the frontlines and his leadership in this battle is the inspiration for this program, Our Cities, Our Climate[1].  We are so honored to have him here with us today.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Secretary of State John Kerry.  (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY:  Evan, thank you very, very much.  Welcome, everybody, to the Ben Franklin Room.  Welcome to the State Department.  Distinguished colleagues and members of the diplomatic corps, partners in the U.S. Congress, mayors especially, we are really thrilled to have you here today.  International U.S. mayors, we’re really grateful for your leadership.  All the sustainability directors, thank you for being here, and other officials who are working hard to fight the effects of climate change around the world and also to address the challenge of climate change.

I particularly want to thank the fellow standing behind me to my right – your left.  He is passionate about this issue.  He has been for a long period of time.  And when he had the privilege of being the mayor of New York City, one of the great cities of the world, obviously, he took steps – creative and imaginative, important steps – to address this issue, and is continuing on now as the UN Special Envoy for Climate Change and Cities.  And I want you all to join me not only in saying thank you but welcoming Mike Bloomberg here to the State Department.  (Applause.) 

When he was mayor, he implemented policies that helped to cut New York’s emissions by 20 percent.  And he understands that climate change is a policy challenge, really in many ways unlike many or any that we have faced before as either individual cities or as a community of nations.  And he has long approached the global challenge with the sense of urgency for the responsibility that it demands from all of us.  And I am very grateful to him for his partnership in this endeavor. 

Decades ago, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously referred to our states as “laboratories of democracy.”  Today, more and more of our cities are becoming “laboratories of leadership.”  Most city governments are smaller; they’re more nimble than their federal counterparts.  So city leaders are, frankly, uniquely positioned to experiment with bold new ideas in all kinds of policy areas.

And at the State Department, we understand the very valuable role that cities can play in addressing a wide range of challenges.  And that is why we’re working directly with cities like Detroit, which is opening up its first-ever Mayor’s Office of International Affairs.  And it’s why this week we are launching a long-term Cities@State initiative to enhance our coordination with cities in the space where foreign policy and urbanization meet on issues ranging from economic opportunity to security.

But cities have a particularly critical role to play when it comes to climate change.  And I have said many times as Secretary, beginning with the day of my nomination and into my confirmation hearings, that foreign policy is economic policy and economic policy is foreign policy.  And in today’s world, climate change is economic policy – energy policy above all.  And it presents us with the most extraordinary market we have ever known on the face of this planet to be able to grow jobs, modernize our societies and our opportunities, and just embrace this challenge in a way that actually solves the problem while being – doing good at the same time. 

And the reason for that is simple:  Cities are obviously on the front line of the storm that is coming at us.  Consider that already – for the first time in history – more people are living in urban areas than are living in rural areas.  By 2050, a full two-thirds of the world’s population is going to live in cities, and that is a steadily growing population. 

Now, consider that nine in ten major cities are situated along inland or coastal waterways, making them particularly vulnerable to climate-driven sea level rise and violent storm surges.

And just last week, I saw a study projecting that by the end of this century what we used to consider the kind of flood that would hit New York City once every 500 years could now be expected every 25 years.  And for New Yorkers like Mike, who remember well what Hurricane Sandy did to that city, that prospect is obviously devastating. 

Just a small factoid but not an unimportant one:  If you’re 29 years old in America today, you have never lived with a month that was cooler than the average of all the months of the century preceding.  That’s what’s happening.  Every year we hear that that year was hotter than the year preceding, and we see the effects.  And the bad news is that cities will be particularly hit if we don’t take meaningful action to fight climate change.  The good news is – and there is good news – that the steps that cities themselves take in the coming years can actually tip the scale toward a successful global response to this challenge.

And here is why.  The answer to climate change is not a mystery.  It’s not some pie-in-the-sky policy that we haven’t discovered yet.  It is staring us in the face, folks.  It’s called clean energy.  It is that simple.  And we’re simply not going to get where we need to be unless we move rapidly towards a global, low-carbon, clean energy economy. 

And today, the world’s cities account for more than two-thirds of all global energy use.  That’s one of the reasons why cities are important.  Cities are responsible for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.  And if we change the way we power our cities, then we will change the way we power our world and, in the process, we may well save it. 

The United States and China – two of the world’s largest emitters, number one and number two – we used to be number one; now we’re number two.  China has surpassed us.  And we fully understand this, which is why, in the early days of my stewardship here at the Department, I went to China and we began the process of changing our relationship, and President Obama ultimately was able to negotiate an agreement with China geared specifically to bring the less developed world to the table.  And that’s what we’re doing, so that we hopefully head into Paris in December able to achieve a global agreement that can help to send a signal to the marketplace that the world is serious.

That’s also why we came together for the inaugural U.S.-China Climate Leaders’ Summit in Los Angeles last month.  More than two dozen cities, states, provinces, and counties from our two nations signed the U.S-China Climate Leaders Declaration.  And the signatories committed themselves to establish ambitious targets to cut emissions, and also to establish climate action plans so that we could report regularly on the progress that we’re making.

And that event showed how influential change that originates at the local level can be.  Consider that the emissions coming from the Chinese cities and provinces represented in Los Angeles are roughly equal to those coming from the entire nation of Brazil. 

But it’s not only U.S. and Chinese cities that are taking important steps to reduce their carbon footprints.  Cities in every corner of the globe – including many represented here in this room – are doing the same. 

In fact, more than 100[2] cities globally – more than 50 here in the United States – have signed the Compact of Mayors, which Mike helped launch in an effort to galvanize clear commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate change.

Now folks, I’ve served in elected office for a little more than 28 years – actually more than 30 years if I include the lieutenant governor period.  And I saw a lot of choices – and I know Mike feels the same way about this – that we have to make in public life.  You’re lucky if you get a one-for-one, make a hard choice and you get a really good payback for that one hard choice. 

Climate change, the math is so simple.  On one side, you’ve got the cost of the initial investments, which is relatively small.  And on the other, you have the cost of not doing anything, not acting to reduce carbon, costs which include agricultural and environmental degradation, remediation, which would cost hundreds of billions of dollars; damage to public health, people who die and go to the hospital, kids – largest cause of children hospitalized in the summer in the United States of America, environmentally induced asthma, costs us billions, tens of billions – damage to communities from record storms and flooding; and ultimately an enormous drop in the value of coastal real estate and businesses.  That’s just one part of the ledger.  That doesn’t even start to account for the cost of the disease, the cost of jobs, all the other things.

So compare those downsides to the upsides that come with this decision – living up to your environmental responsibility; creating, literally over the period of time, with $17 trillion currently geared to go into investment in energy, millions of jobs, tens of millions of jobs.  Huge wealth can be created, even as you make people healthier, reduce the sickness that comes from particulates in the air and the cancer that comes with it.  Run the list, folks.  This is a pretty easy balance sheet to come out on.

More and more city leaders are coming to that conclusion.  And that’s why Jakarta just launched the first Bus Rapid Transit system in Southern and Southeastern Asia.  It’s already helping to reduce congestion on the roads and pollution in the air.  It’s why Berlin created a campaign to plant 10,000 new trees along the streets by 2017.  It’s why Buenos Aires launched Argentina’s first bike-sharing program.  And it’s why Vancouver set a goal of obtaining 100 percent – 100 percent – of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.

The fact is that some of the most promising, innovative, effective climate solutions are coming directly from mayors around the world and around the United States.

Now, obviously, no two cities are alike.  But many have the same goals and they face the same challenges when it comes to de-carbonizing their local economies, and that’s why the State Department and Bloomberg Philanthropies created the Our Cities, Our Climate Exchange for city officials across the globe: because we want to create a platform for urban leaders to share their individual successes and to exchange ideas about those future projects that can make a difference. 

Sustainability directors from 19 different cities have spent the past 10 days discussing ways to transport people using less fuel, keep people warm using less oil, recycle materials with less waste, and much more.  And if you ask any of the participants, I expect that they will tell you they did not come here to talk about theoretical solutions.  They came here to be practical and to find practical actions that they can take.  And all of this matters because the actions that leaders are taking at the local level will send a timely message at the global level. 

Now, I am not here to tell you that a global climate agreement is going to be the silver bullet that eliminates the threat that is currently posed by climate change.  What we accomplish in Paris is not going to get the total job done, it is going to set the stage and be a major jump-off point for which the marketplace can begin and the private sector can begin to take a cue from all of these governments setting their targets. 

The kind of agreement that we’re working toward will prove that world leaders finally understand and accept responsibility for the scope of this problem. 

It will give confidence to business leaders who are uncertain about our collective commitment and hesitant to invest in low-carbon alternatives that we need because of that perceived hesitancy by governments. 

It will help leaders at every level of government on the globe to know that they’re part of a worldwide commitment to build sustainable communities.

So please tell everyone – the business community, the public, your partners in government – tell them all how critical it is that the world come together in Paris and have an agreement.  Failure is not an option. 

This is a time of extraordinary urgency, incredible possibility, and together we have the rarest of opportunities to change – to change not only our cities and our countries, but the entire world, all of which bears responsibility.

I think the Holy Father in his visit here could not have made it more clear to us in poignant and meaningful ways that perhaps no politician has the ability to begin to touch why this is so important and how we all bear personal responsibility to help deal with it.  So I look forward to working with all of you to help get the job done, and there could not be a stronger, better, more committed partner – a more courageous person who’s willing to act on what he believes no matter what brickbats come his way – please welcome with me, if you will, the former mayor of New York and the current special envoy, Mike Bloomberg.  (Applause.)

MR BLOOMBERG:  The height doesn’t quite work for me, John.  Sorry about that.  (Laughter.)  Tall people, I’ve pointed out to John before, have a real —

SECRETARY KERRY:  Doesn’t always work for me, either.

MR BLOOMBERG:  No, no, no.  They have a distinct advantage.  They know when it rains – starts and stops raining quicker than the rest of us, but short of that – anyway, Secretary Kerry, John, I just wanted to thank you for that kind introduction and thank you for hosting us today, and seriously, thank you and the President for your strong leadership on climate change.  Everybody expects you to come up with a solution overnight that will be painless and cost-free.  You haven’t done that, but you certainly have moved the goalposts, and we appreciate everything you’ve done.  And it’s up to the rest of us to continue the battle – a battle that we absolutely have to win.

America is best when she leads from the front, and I think you and the President deserve enormous credit for bringing the full forces of American diplomacy – American diplomatic might to bear on the challenge.  And I also want to thank you for recognizing a fundamental truth that was overlooked for too long:  We cannot address climate change effectively without putting cities at the center of the agenda.  Now, the fact is cities account for more than 70 percent of global greenhouse gases.  People are always talking about getting to the root of the problems, and in this case, it’s not complicated.  Cities are the root of this problem.

But cities are also the source of the solution.  And now, thanks to Secretary Kerry and other leaders, the voices of cities are being heard. 

When the United Nations Climate Summit convenes in Paris in two months, there’s going to be a different dynamic than there was at past conferences in previous decades.  Those conferences failed to produce a truly global agreement.  But since then, cities have stepped onto the stage and, without a lot of fanfare, they’ve become – begun forming their own global alliances.  They’ve acted because the stakes are very high, higher than they are for national leaders, and the incentives are also stronger.

And let me briefly explain what I mean by that.  When a hurricane fueled by warmer oceans and rising sea levels and destroys homes and businesses, people turn to their local leaders for help and answers.  When air pollution sends children to the hospital, as John pointed out, with asthma attacks, parents don’t turn to the members of Congress; they demand that the mayors do something about it. 

Around the world, national legislators tend to see climate change as an abstraction and a long-term policy issue.  Mayors see it as an immediate economic and health issue.  People’s lives and people’s livelihoods are at stake.  This is a public health and environmental issue.  If you want to worry about 2050, I think you should, but if you really want to go home and look your family in the eye and say I did something today so that you, my kids, my spouse, my companion are going to have a longer, healthier life, that’s where you really have to focus – doing things that improve the climate right now.

Keep in mind, when a city has cleaner air more people want to live there and more companies want to do business there.  And that’s why, surprisingly, Beijing is shutting its four biggest coal-burning power plants.  And they’ve also put a smoking ban in Beijing and, I might point out, the Chinese Government owns the cigarette companies and yet they’ve done this.  Why?  Because the people of Beijing and the people of China, just like the people of Washington, D.C. and all the cities in America, want to be able to live longer, healthier lives.

Now, climate – carbon pollution carries a heavy economic cost that cities bear the brunt of, so attacking climate change and promoting economic growth really do go hand-in-hand.  Mayors understand that and they have the political incentives to act.  Global challenges used to be the exclusive domain of heads of state, but this challenge is different.  In fact, I think it’s safe to say that climate change may now be the first global problem where success will depend on how local services are delivered, such as energy, transportation, and waste disposal.

Just by acting on their own, cities can singlehandedly reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by four gigatons over the next 15 years.  That’s like eliminating a quarter of all of the coal pollution that exists in the whole world today.  And the good news is mayors are eager to take this challenge on.  They’re not dragging their feet or debating the science; they’re rolling up their sleeves and they’re working together to spread the most effective solutions.  Why?  Because when the mayors talk to their constituents, the constituents, unlike what you read in the paper from members of Congress or anybody else – the constituents of all of the mayors in this city know that something is happening, they’re scared, and they want a fix.

I would suggest if you go to North or South Carolina right now, you probably won’t find very many people who say climate change isn’t real.  Now, all of a sudden, the debate has changed – well, it’s not manmade.  I don’t know if it’s manmade or not; science can only speculate.  But the bottom line is no rational person should sit there with a risk that’s so serious that it literally is life-threatening and not try to do something to ameliorate that risk and prevent problems down the road.

And that’s why we’re here today.  It’s great to have so many mayors and city officials joining us.  I know that many of you have spent the last week crisscrossing the country as guests of the International Visitor Leadership Program.  And I’ve seen firsthand what works when one city usually holds valuable lessons for many others.  Each city has its own unique culture and its own unique needs.  But the principal nuts and bolts of mass transit, parks, sanitation, and the power grid tend to be pretty similar.  So the more we help mayors and city officials innovate and collaborate, the more progress we can all make. 

And I might point out that pollution that comes from one place hurts everybody.  It doesn’t matter where you make the efficiencies, where you make the improvements – we all benefit.  And the contrary is also true – if anybody else pollutes, we all suffer. 

And that’s the purpose of the new partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the State Department.  It will build on the work that our foundation has been supporting for years.  Some of that work has been through the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which now has more than 80 members, and some of it has been through the Compact of Mayors, which commits cities to publicly detail their goals and using a common yardstick for measuring their performance, which allows the public to hold them accountable.  Mayors are always held accountable by the press and by the voters.  What mayors do you can measure, whether they do it or they didn’t do it.  And the voters, when they get to the polls, reward or punish those that don’t do the right thing.

Two hundred cities have now signed onto the compact, and we’re happy that the White House is pushing for a hundred more U.S. cities to join by the end of this year.  This new partnership with the State Department will complement the work and help spread it around the world.  Our Cities, Our Climate Initiative will connect mayors and policyholders all around the world.  It will recruit international sustainability experts and NGOs to help cities share best practices, coordinate their efforts, and implement the most effective climate actions.

Cities are anxious to lead, and more – the more they learn from one another and they borrow from one another, the more progress the world can make on climate change.  So as you have explored Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, I hope you’ve been taking good notes and keeping an eye out for ideas you can borrow and improve on.  And having the State Department enlisted in that work is going to make a very big difference, and we’re grateful to Secretary Kerry for making this partnership possible and for making this issue such an important priority.

One of the benefits of this work is that it also helps to embolden national leaders to make more ambitious commitments by providing them – by proving to them just how much progress is possible.  In Kyoto back in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009, national governments didn’t have a good sense of that, and they certainly didn’t have any data on it.  Now they do.  Now they know just how quickly cities are moving.  And when they sit down this year in Paris this December, they will have something else that they didn’t have before:  They will have a model for action.  The cooperative networks that cities have created and the commitments that they have made and the reporting systems that they have agreed to provide a template for an international agreement.  Cities are proving that this model can work, and that’s why all of us have good reason to be more hopeful about this summit than the previous one.

Now, of course, cities can’t do it alone.  National leadership remains essential, and I applaud the Obama Administration for its clean power plan and also for its new rules on methane.  Cities will never fully displace nations in the global fight against climate change any more than they can singlehandedly reduce global poverty or expand global trade or improve global security.  But cities can be full and equal partners in all of this work, and I think Secretary Kerry will attest heads of state will be happy for the help – and they’re going to need it.

So let me once again thank Secretary Kerry.  You have been right, John, declaring that addressing climate change is only possible with a strategy that, as you said, transcends borders, sectors, and the levels of government.  Today’s gathering proves this effort is already well underway, and I want to thank each of you in this room for that important role that you’re playing. 

And as part of this work, I also want to invite you to join us in Paris in December.  We’re not going to have a unified solution to all the world’s problems, and certainly not to climate change.  But it is a report card, it is a step, and it’s an impetus to national and local governments to understand that the public wants to lead longer, healthier lives and that we are the ones responsible for doing that.  We’ll be co-hosting a cities summit with the mayor of Paris on December 4th, and the more cities that attend, the more our voices will be heard.  So I hope to see many of you again in Paris. 

We all have to keep up the good work.  This is the future of our families, this is the future of our countries, this is the future of the planet.  Nobody knows how much and how fast things are happening, but just let me point out 2014 was the warmest year in the history of the world.  The first half of 2015 was the warmest six months in the history of the world.  The month of July 2015 was the warmest month in the history of the world that we can measure.  If you take a look in the oceans, half of all the fish species have had their populations decline by 50 percent in the last – since 20 – since 1970.  Something is going on out there, and sitting around and arguing about who’s responsible and whether it’s this or whether it’s that is just an outrage.  We should do everything we can, and let’s hope that it’s just a short-term phenomenon, but none of us should run the risk that it’s not. 

Thank you very much, and John, thank you.  (Applause.)

# # #

[1] Misspoken program name corrected here.

[2] More than 200 cities have signed the Compact of Mayors.

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Thomas Perriello

 

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION OF AFRICA THOMAS PERRIELLO AND U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY FOR THE GREAT LAKES REGION OF AFRICA SAID DJINNIT

TOPIC:  CONFLICT, DEMOCRACY & DEVELOPMENT IN THE GREAT LAKES REGION

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2015, 4:00 P.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR:  Hello, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Welcome to the New York Foreign Press Center.  My name is Monica Shie.  I’m very honored today to have the U.S. special envoy and the UN special envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa.  We have Special Envoy Thomas Perriello and Special Envoy Said Djinnit.  We also have with us today Stephen Hayes, who is seated over here.  He is the president and CEO for the Corporate Council on Africa.  He will give remarks as well.  And I’m going to turn it over to Bernadette Paolo, who will open up.  This is an on-the-record briefing.  We have a DVC with Washington as well.  And at the end of the remarks, I would ask that if you have questions that you stand up and state your name and your news media organization, or for those of you who are not journalists, the organization that you represent here.

Thank you so much for coming.  I’m going to turn this over to Bernadette.

MS PAOLO:  Thank you very much, Monica.  Good afternoon.  As you know, my name is Bernadette Paolo.  I would like our special envoys to have a seat, if you will.  I’m pleased to welcome you to this overview and discussion on conflict and democracy and development in the Great Lakes region.  We have a unique opportunity this afternoon to hear from both the United States special envoy, as you heard, and the UN special envoy, in addition to benefitting from the views later of Mr. Modibo Toure, assistant secretary-general and special advisor to the Great Lakes region.  We also have an expert here with us today in trade and investment in Mr. Stephen Hayes, president and CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa, who will serve as moderator and provide comments as well.  I want to commend the Department of State for convening this program, in particular Ms. Nicole Peacock, who is an excellent representative and partner for people from all different sectors.  And this is a key moment in time for the Great Lakes region.

My opening remarks are predicated on my experience of having been on Capitol Hill on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs for 10 years, and my present capacity as president and CEO of the Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa, so I’ve been in civil society for 17 years.

The international community and the United States have come a long way in how they address situations in foreign countries.  It is far more comprehensive approach that understands the linkages between conflict and the lack of democracy and equity, economic disparity, and the need to create opportunities for all segments of society, and the realization that in order to facilitate change, all actors must be fully engaged, including civil society. 

It used to be 20 to 25 years ago on Capitol Hill that the topics we are addressing today would never be dealt with during the course of the same program.  In fact, economic development, trade and investment being associated with the majority of African nations to many people then was almost unthinkable.  Instead, foreign aid was thought to be the panacea for Africa’s economic ills.  Addressing democracy in Africa was through getting rid a despot while putting up with those who not – who, though not democratic, were favorably disposed to acceding to the will of powerful nations. 

Fortunately, we have evolved as evidenced by African leaders being treated as partners in the political, international, and economic realms.  Progress has been made not only by international actors but by many African nations in adopting sound and economic practices.  Decades ago, instead of counting countries among the 54 nations comprising the continent where conflicts were ongoing, we counted the very few countries where there were – happened to be peace and stability.

With respect to the Great Lakes region named after a number of lakes, as we know the best of known are Lake Victoria, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Albert, and Edward.  Today we’re going to talk about Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda, though some other classifications include Tanzania and Kenya. 

According to the 2015 UNHCR sub-regional operations profile, governments in the Great Lakes sub-region have made great strides towards socioeconomic development and institutional stability, but conflict remains a pervasive problem in the Great Lakes.  The complexities of remedying conflict in the region is due to a myriad of issues, including land ownership, ethnicity reconciliation after genocide, extreme poverty.  Many of these challenges have existed for a prolonged period of time and require examining patterns, all the stakeholders’ pervasive injustice, the shifting of refugee populations, the lack of respect for national sovereignty so as to gain access to minerals and other resources.

There’s a strange dichotomy between the emerging economic prowess of several countries in the Great Lakes region – with GDP growth between 5 to 6.3 percent, and strong regional cooperation is evidenced in the East African community – yet at the same time today according to reports there is a bloody conflict which we are witnessing now in Burundi where it is reported that dead bodies are strewn throughout the streets in the aftermath of a controversial election.  We know there are other presidential elections coming up, other constitutions which should not be changed, and the lack of democratic institutions.

While we all remember the genocide in Rwanda, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, how the Democratic Republic has been ravaged from the inside and the outside, and we’re seeing this violence in Burundi, we are also cognizant of the thousands of refugees both in this region and those who are trying to leave this continent in other regions only to encounter in some instances a worse fate.  But we must be ever vigilant, redouble our determination, and remain hopeful.  We must also call to mind the seven fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa; that the fact that the most populous country, Nigeria, in that country democratic elections were successfully held; and that increasingly terrorism will give way to the will of majority of African citizenries despite the efforts of Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaida, and other terrorist groups.

Everyone in this room fully understands the challenges.  From a civil society perspective, here are just a few recommendations for your consideration as special envoys.  In brokering peace accords, it would be helpful, in addition to the representatives of governments and rebels or other aggrieved parties, to have representatives of civil society, particularly those who are proficient in peace entities and understand how conflicts impact different segments of society.  In short, the engagement of non-state actors is essential.  The international community should work in unison with the African Union regional entities and with all of its member states to ensure that where democracy is being suppressed, human rights violations are being perpetrated, that they stand in unison against the perpetrators; the engagement and inclusion of women in the political process not only through quotas but through the acceptance and delegation of authority in patriarchal societies and the commensurate funding of their integration in these processes. 

I just returned from AGOA in Gabon where 39 countries talked about some recommendations, and I’ll only talk about two which we all know, and that is to encourage governments to advance educational opportunities for youth to include access to digital technology, mobile technology, ecommerce, and new media to promote entrepreneurship.  We see even in refugees camps that now they’re engaging youth in entrepreneurial activities.

In summary, the reason for having special envoys would be then that due to the unprecedented interest and concern about the Great Lakes region, that while having great opportunities for economic advancement on the one hand, these countries have been caught up in a seemingly endless cycle of violence brought on by internal and interlinked conflicts.  A staggering number of people have lost their lives.  There have been gross human rights violations, sexual-based violence, extreme poverty, arms trafficking, and huge ungoverned and unprotected spaces.  As a result of these conflicts, many civil society organizations, some of who – and think tanks, some of whom are in this room, pressed their members of Congress for a special envoy.  We know Senator Feingold was the first special envoy to this region, and he went to the region 15 times and you could see a discernible difference.  When he left, there was a decline and fortunately members of Congress then recommended to President Obama that he have another special envoy, and we are fortunate enough to have a former member of Congress, Thomas Perriello, who is our special envoy now.

We are also equally fortunate to have a special envoy from the United Nations.  Mr. Djinnit has considerable experience in the AU, in the African Union.  He’s from Algeria and he was the first commissioner for peace and security in the AU.  And both of these gentlemen are heavy hitters and we – who strive for peace and unity – and we have another heavy hitter in Mr. Stephen Hayes.  Stephen Hayes is – has not only experience in the private sector, but – he wouldn’t like for me to go back this far, but he actually began his career working in a refugee camp in the Middle East in the ‘60s and was involved in a lot of international organizations such as the YMCA.  He during his 15 years has built up CCA and can give you really good, good accounting of what’s happened with our private sector.

In closing then, I wish to quote the words of our President from his speech at the United Nations.  “We, the nations of the world, cannot return to the old ways of conflict and coercion.  We cannot look backwards.  We live in an integrated world, one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success.”

Gentlemen, we thank each of you for your service and look forward to hearing your comments and recommendations.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

MR HAYES:  Thank you, Bernadette.  We do go back a long, long way.  I think all of you are here to really hear the special envoys, as I am as well, but let me just give you a quick context on why I think I’m here. 

The Corporate Council on Africa is the largest U.S. organization in terms of doing business with Africa; 85 percent of business with Africa from the United States is represented in our membership.  We also do more trade missions to Africa every year than any organization in the country, bar none.  And we have about 180 companies, now about 20 percent of those are African companies.

And to set the stage for this, we have – we’ve also sent trade missions to nine of the 12 countries in the Great Lakes coalition, or I should say the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.  We were asked about two years ago to participate in the planning for an international donors – an international investment conference on the Great Lakes area.  We were asked by Mr. Touray at the UN.  We said that we would participate.  Senator Feingold, then the special envoy, also asked us.  And the – as bureaucracies happened, this really didn’t come through.  It was in my view premature, and apparently it was premature to others.  Therefore we were asked then to wait our turn then until it was ready to start back up, and I think that’s the reason that I was asked to be here today. 

We stand ready to help.  We have a Congo working group.  There are – one of our members, Freeport-McMoRan, is the largest investor in the region by far, and certainly in the DRC.  And so there are – there is member interest.  There are challenges, significant challenges, and I think that’s why you need here the special envoys.  But there is an investment conference planned now in February.  We have said that we again would stand by ready to help from the private sector.  I think there’s been too little dialogue between the public and the private sector, and in fact, investment is probably the key to changing the situation and economic development, changing the situation in the Great Lakes region.  So we are standing by to be one of others, of many to help on the investment conference, if so called, and we are working actively there already.  So I think that we’re qualified and ready to go on that.

So without further ado, though – I think all of you do want to hear the special envoys before this meeting is over – so please allow me to ask Said Djinnit of the United Nations, special envoy from the UN, to make opening – make his remarks.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

MR DJINNIT:  Thank you very much, and I’m very glad to be here with my friend, Tom Perriello, the U.S. special envoy for the Great Lakes Region, and I thank the organizers for this initiative.  I’m very glad to be here with you.  At the same time I was looking forward to meeting with you, so I am very, very glad with this opportunity. 

I have not prepared a long introduction because I thought this was a more interactive session.  I was ready for discussing with the audience.  But some (inaudible) the work of the special envoy of the UN working together with other special envoys, especially my colleague and friend, Tom, and building on the excellent work that has been initiated by Feingold and Mary Robinson as the special envoys for the U.S. and the UN, and working with other special envoys in the region.

I welcome this opportunity to update you on our collective efforts in assisting the people and the governments of this region in building improved governance, preventing conflict, promoting respect for civil and political rights, and economic opportunity for all.  Since my appointment as the – last year as the – by the secretary-general as the new special envoy, I consulted widely with key stakeholders in the region, as well as development partners and international organizations and colleagues from regional organizations and international organizations and special envoys, to draw up a roadmap for the implementation of the Peace Security Cooperation Framework, which was an agreement that was signed by the leaders of the region in 2013 February to – as a booster to the ongoing efforts in the region to consolidate peace and promote development.

This roadmap builds on the foundation, as I said, led by my predecessor Mary Robinson.  It sets a three-year time horizon for achieving the goals of the PSCF framework around eight priorities.  These priorities include:  One, supporting ongoing efforts to neutralize the negative forces in the region in eastern Congo in line with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council as well as recommendations and decisions by heads of state of the region.  The FDLR, ex-M23, ADF remain an obstacle to peace, an obstacle to development in the region.  It perpetuates the climate of insecurity in the region and it erodes trust and it perpetuates mistrust in the region, which is – must trust is needed for moving forward on the track of development. 

Second, facilitating confidence building.  We have seen some deficit of trust between some member-states, and we thought that we should promote as special envoys some confidence-building initiatives to try to rapproche a rapprochement, and we were thinking of the countries of the CEPGL – essentially, the DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda, and it happens that the three countries that went through genocide and conflict in the Great Lakes region.  But unfortunately – and I will talk about it maybe in the discussion – the situation of Burundi has brought us backward because of the relations between the countries of the region, essentially between Rwanda and Burundi, are not the best at this present, so it’s difficult to get to the initiative of confidence building.

Three, promoting peaceful, inclusive, and transparent elections.  We identified that as a priority in our roadmap because we believe that if we fail in our efforts to help Burundi, to help DRC, to help others in managing their electoral processes peacefully and according to constitution and democratically, we may find the situation like the case of Burundi now, at the risk of things unravelling and then bring us back of – to crisis, which is undermining the whole efforts that we are trying to promote on the PSCF.  So it’s very important that we should continue encouraging timely, peaceful, and constitutional processes in the region.  And we have been discussing with my colleagues, the envoys, on that.

Fourth pillar, strengthening the government’s mechanism of the Peace Security Cooperation, which is an internal – we have a mechanism – we are trying to bring more ownership by the member-states.  It’s very – I must admit that it’s very difficult because you have – sometimes it’s easy to launch initiative and it’s difficult to maintain it, because the initial momentum – it’s not always difficult to maintain the momentum.  We are trying to maintain the momentum.

Five, promoting durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced person, people in the region.  We believe that the issue of displacement is one of the core – the grass-root problem that needs to be addressed, including the issue of the land you mentioned earlier, the refugees and IDPs.  And we are looking at some – we have been working with the World Bank, with UNHCR and others, supporting initiatives that are addressing these issues.  And as part of the new impetus, we are bringing to the peace, security cooperation framework, we want some leaders to champion that because we need some leaders to help us promote this issue, because it’s low-profile as it stands now.

The sixth pillar is facilitating socioeconomic development to consolidate peace gains and advance regional integration, and we – I will say something a little bit later. 

And eighth – seventh, mobilizing the force vive that you referred to it earlier of the region.  That means the women, the youth, and civil society.  And you have initiatives, which is building on the initiative by Mary Robinson, with the youth supporting the youth initiative, supporting the civil society – we have a civil society forum for the Great Lakes.  And we have a woman and we have the initiative of the women platform.  We believe that this is strong pillars of the transformative agenda in the Great Lakes region.  We cannot transform the region if this force vive are not fully involved in the processes.

And lastly, acting as a catalystic for regional initiatives to fight impunity, improve accountability, and advance regional judicial cooperation and strengthen the rule of law, because again, these are the basic ingredients for instability, and we believe that our – as an office of the UN there, we should emulate and encourage initiatives aimed at strengthening the rule of law, which is important for the stability, which is important also for the investments and business.

As I work with the various stakeholders to deliver this comprehensive multi-track approach to promote peace and stability, it has become very clear to me that one enabler that can potentially put the region on a trajectory of economic growth and shared prosperity is, without doubt, the private sector.  The signatories of the PSC framework are aware of the important role that business can play in promoting peace and entrenching stability.  They look to private sector investors to tap into the region immense economic opportunities.  They are keen to create the propitious conditions to turning the region into a viable and attractive investment destination.  That is the spirit that guides – guided their decision to convene the Private Sector Investment Conference for the Great Lakes Region.  This important event, the first of its kind, is expected to take place in Kinshasa after a process of selection on 24, 25th February, 2016. 

Yesterday, the signatory country – members of the framework, of the PSC framework, met to review progress and challenges in the security – about the situation in the region.  I am pleased to report that despite serious concern that we have on the situation in the South Sudan and especially in Burundi – we have been discussing the issue of Burundi, with the risk of things really deteriorating further – the overall situation remains on a positive trend – rather on positive trend.  There is a stronger political commitment from the signatories to ensure that the region economic potential is fully realized.  Despite the weakening of oil and other commodities prices, the region remains dynamic, with vigorous growth prospects.  The investment climate is registering some progress.  My office and the ICGLR, which is this organization that was established in the 2006 to emulate cooperation, integration, cooperation in the region, are working closely with the global compact, the IFC, the African Development Bank, regional economic communities, the Pan-African Association of Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well other stakeholders to assess the investment climate and sensitize policymakers about the need for further legal and regulatory reforms to mobilize greater and responsible investment.  You have, actually, a very important conference on the 1st and 2nd September in Addis Ababa devoted to discussing this.

This brings us to the issue of the dialogue with governments on the need to create a propitious environment for investment.  Since last year, through a wide concentrative process across the countries of the region, we have identified 25 illustrative catalytic regional projects with the regional dimension and integrate with the high value for integration which we’re preparing to showcase at the conference next year in Kinshasa.  I have established a high steering committee to help provide strategy guidance to the preparatory process, and I am glad that my sister from the DRC, who is the head of the National Agency for Promoting – for the Promotion of the Investments, is here with us and I’m very glad that she is with us.  We are working very closely from the National Organizing Committee that she’s leading under the ministerial committee to prepare for the conference.

As the steering committee comprise a number of representatives of the institutions – the Government of the DRC, the UN system institutions, the World Bank, the regional economic groupings – but also a representative of the sector – private sector.  And you have been able so far to get the support of Mo Ibrahim; he is part of our steering committee.  We have also got the support of Safaricom – Bob Collymore, who also joined our steering committee.  I met him before I study here in New York, and he’s very supportive initiative.  We have also an agreement in principle by Don Gotti (ph) to support the initiative.  We have the principle, but we have not yet his representative in the steering committee.

To make sure that this private sector conference is not prepared by representative institutions and governments but by representative – by the prestigious and credible representative of the private sector in Africa that could – just to tell you that really we are looking forward, because we believe that while we are very busy trying to help the region address outstanding issues from the tragedy of the past, of the ’90s – that means finalizing the problem of the neutralization of the negative forces – while we are trying to assist the countries address the new generation of conflict in Africa, which is related to governance and the tendency, the trend to perpetuate leaders beyond constitutional terms.  This is something that is also something serious. 

We believe that we should open properly the chapter of investment in the region, and this we believe that the private sector conference is the inaugural one of a process that will trigger other initiatives of investment.  We could believe that it’s only the private sector working hand in hand with the government, and we want to have that private sector conference – another opportunity to have a high-level dialogue on the climate for business in Africa.  We want to create the solid foundation for a successful conference, and we would like you to be with us there, and especially you.  And I’m glad that you are already thinking of attending this very important conference.  Thank you for your attention.  (Applause.)

MR PERRIELLO:  Thank you very much for being here.  Thank you, Special Envoy Djinnit.  I think both of us are very interested in giving people here a chance to comment and ask questions, so I will keep this relatively short, but I do want to thank all the members of civil society throughout the Great Lakes and their partners here in the United States for the crucial work that’s been done on democracy and on development, and certainly to Steve and the partners in the private sector.  We understand that the potential is tremendous; the realities are already quite tremendous in many cases.  We’ve seen GDP growth, we’ve seen growth in certain sectors, we’ve seen some steps in regional economic integration on everything from regulatory and legal matters, mechanisms, et cetera.

But we know underneath all of that, if there is not stability and there’s not rule of law, we’re going to see a freezing out of the investment climate or certainly a tampering down of that.  And I would say three months or nearly three months on this job, that one of the dominant feelings is that of whiplash.  It’s a whiplash constantly between the unbelievable potential of the Great Lakes region and too often some of the realities of things that are getting in the way of that potential.  And I think that’s what we see more than anything else over the next year and a half.  We see between now and the end of next year and thereafter a chance for historic progress: the first democratic transitions in several countries, continuing progress on both foreign but also domestic economic development, opportunities to really put some of the dynamics of the past – some of these root causes like negative forces and armed groups – to have them on their heels and see that future that the people of the Great Lakes deserve and have for so long been wanting.

And while we keep that hopeful image in front of us, we are also very aware of the potential for things to go very badly in the region.  And unfortunately, we already see that.  In the case of Burundi, there are over 200,000 Burundian citizens who have already become refugees, some of them for the second or third time in their lifetime; ones that I’ve met with both in camps in Tanzania and in Rwanda who say we’ve tried going back too many times; we’re losing faith in the ability to have a stable Burundi.  And we do believe that all of us have a role to play in ensuring a peaceful and stable future for Burundi, but particularly the neighbors and the members of the East African Community. 

And it comes back to this issue of investment.  When the world, when the private sector, is hearing about potential conflict anywhere in the Great Lakes, to use an overused term, it’s not good for the brand of the Great Lakes.  Underneath this most, first and foremost, is the human cost of this instability, and that’s a human cost that is very much on our minds right now – it’s already been and certainly what could be.  But it is not true that what happens in Burundi just affects Burundi.  It is something that affects the investment climate of the whole region, the stability environment of the whole region, as well as the financial realities of taking in refugees, et cetera.

So let me just say a few things about the region off the top before we go to questions.  First and foremost, we remain seized with the urgency of the political and humanitarian crisis in Burundi, where we have tremendous economic fragility and political fragility.  We continue to see tit-for-tat violence and assassinations, which we’ve condemned on all sides.  For nearly three months now, there’s been an agreement across the EAC – that no one disputes – that there should be a political dialogue to solve this problem; that that political dialogue should be inclusive of all those who have not used violence as means to the end; and that those should be EAC-led talks with President Museveni at the helm. 

We believe that yesterday is not soon enough for those talks to have started and we will continue to work with anyone in the UN system, the African Union system, and the EAC to urgently resume that dialogue.  We believe a political dialogue is the only way to prevent this from deteriorating further and on stakes that could be tremendously high.  We’ve continued to communicate that as envoys throughout our systems, and again, stand ready to be supportive of any such effort. 

Unfortunately, we feel like the situation in Burundi proves why the United States has set a policy of respecting constitutional term limits.  It’s been the position of President Obama that when people try to change the rules at the last second to stay in power that it is destabilizing to democracy but also to development.  And we feel, looking at the situation in Burundi, that this is exhibit A in why we have taken that position.  We continue to offer our best advice to everybody in the region that we think that is crucial, democratic transitions and respecting constitutions for the medium to long-term stability of countries and the investment that comes behind it, and we will continue to work with governments throughout the region in that regard.

The next 18 months – and I’ll just end with this – regardless of what happens, who stands for elections and doesn’t stand for elections, we know it will be a tumultuous year and a half.  Election cycles are often that way, even in our own country.  So we know the importance of having a strong peacekeeping force on the ground, one that ideally is in a situation to be resuming joint operations in order to address some of these root causes, and that we can stand as an international community to ensure that the people throughout the region, like people throughout the world, have the right to elect a representative government and to have peace and security. 

And that doesn’t just happen on election day.  Free and fair elections are about the space created in the months and year ahead of an election, making sure that people feel free and un-harassed in their ability to participate politically in that process.

So to the whiplash point, we do remain gravely concerned about the situation in the region, but we also remain focused on the fact that this is a historic period for the Great Lakes in which 20 years of work – first and foremost by the people of Congo, the people of Rwanda, the people of Burundi – to forge a stronger future, and one where we try to be allies, could come to fruition.  So we will keep both those in mind.

And with that, I think I’m going to invite the envoy up and we will see questions and comments, and Steve may come in as well. 

Yes.

QUESTION:  Can I get a mike?  Thanks.  I am Kevin Kelley; I’m the UN correspondent for the Nation Media Group in Kenya. We publish the weekly East African newspaper.  So at the Africa Summit in Washington over a year ago, your predecessor, Ambassador Feingold, said it’s already too far delayed, it’s already overdue, it’s urgent that there be an offensive against the FDLR in the DRC; hasn’t happened.  It hasn’t happened primarily – and this is addressed to Special Envoy Djinnit as well – because the Congolese Government has appointed two generals who are blacklisted by the United Nations because of alleged human rights violations.  Can’t this problem be solved?  It doesn’t seem like it’s that complex.  It doesn’t seem like it would require a super degree of diplomacy to get past this and to deal with the FDLR.  Thanks.

MR DJINNIT:  Well, I mean, I – it happens that I have very long perspective from – of the issue of the FDLR.  I was the commissioner for peace and security in the African Union when – in 2005.  We have already taken a decision as AU in 2005 to send the brigade for the forced disarmament of the negative forces of the FDLR.  I still personally believe strongly that the FDLR, which is the main negative forces that’s settled in eastern Congo – others have come later on – needs to be addressed fully to put the region back to stability.  I think it’s very important. 

Now, coming to the current situation, I also believe – and this is our position – and by the way, the meeting of the heads of state yesterday of the region of (inaudible) has endorsed the communique that was prepared in which there was a call for delinking the ongoing strategic dialogue between MONUSCO and the DRC on the exit strategy at some point based on the number of criteria from the joint operations between the DRC and the MONUSCO, which is, from my point of view, from their point of view of the UN, the African Union, and the region is an imperative.  It’s an imperative for the DRC to get rid of these negative forces from the eastern Congo.  It’s an imperative for the region.  It’s an imperative for the international community.  So it should be given the utmost priority and it should not be linked to any other consideration.

And of course, we call for the urgent resumption – the UN is now willing to, through some mitigating factors and measures, to resume military cooperation.  But unfortunately, the DRC so far has not allowed this joint operation to resume.

MR PERRIELLO:  I would just reinforce what Envoy Djinnit has said.  We see no legitimate reason for joint operations not to resume immediately.  This has been agreed on by multiple parties for some period of time now.  And until this issue is addressed it will remain a toxic presence that exacerbates any number of dynamics in the region.  So we believe that should resume immediately.

QUESTION:  Gilbert Mundela.  Mr. Ambassador, you just point out to the issue of Congolese Government not collaborating in regard to the FDLR.  We have numerous reports that in Rumangabo there’ve been an entrance of Rwandese forces as we speak, trying to do – deal with the FDLR.  This is not a sign that is showing that we’re going to have a good solution in the Congo in that part.

Second, they also report that the Rwandese, who have been placed in Kisangani and the other camps, are not having enough food, which means that can create another havoc in the Congo.  How are you addressing this issue as we speak? 

And also there are attempt by Congolese to have a dialogue started.  Will you be keen to appoint a mediator for that?  And also will you encourage the Congolese to have the dialogue?  Because if we don’t have a dialogue, if we don’t have a peace process well established, we are not going to have investors; investment will not come. 

And to Mr. Perriello, are you going to push for millennium to be implemented (inaudible) as well as AGOA?  Because it can help us strengthen our institutions.  And given the weakness of those institution as well as the lack of real entrepreneurs, Congolese entrepreneurs who are deprived of access to technology as well as capital, we should look into that as a process building up.  Because you’re going to have an investment conference in the Congo, but no Congolese will be participant in this conference.  It will be mainly big corporation as well as other players, the players that we identify as Lebanese as well as Indians.  Thank you.

MR DJINNIT:  Well, on the issue of the FDLR first, because you have asked about the issue of the FDLR – I mean, first, I mean, just remember last year at the same period, the region was divided on the approach against FDLR.  When I joined as the special envoy, we spent considerable time shuttling in the region to try to bring together the ICGLR and SADC because there were some divergence of views on how to go about it.  You remember?  There were a number of countries that thought that voluntary disarmament could take place and that some dialogue could take place, while others were for the military action immediately and that dialogue was not the way forward.  So it took us some time – till such time the leaders come together at a joint summit and they decided to give them six month grace period for the voluntary disarmament, failing which – I mean, and after which military action should resume.

So the – I think the deadline was on the 2nd of January this year, and we were glad that after some few weeks later the DRC Government was able the launch the offensive against the FDLR.  So at least there was action by the Government of DRC, which is encouraging.  But you are saying it is not enough, because the FIB, which is the brigade of the MONUSCO was established by the Security Council and by the African Union and the countries of the region and SADC’s strong involvement as the instrument to support work together with the Government of the DRC to fight decisively the FDLR.  So we continue to call welcome the action taken by the DRC, but we continue to urge the DRC to facilitate the resumption of the mature cooperation between MONUSCO and (inaudible) so that they can expedite the neutralization of the negative forces.

Regarding those that are in the camps in the Congo, various camps in the Congo, I – it happened that I visited one of them in Kisangani.  And they want to go, but they’re posing some conditions.  And we – I have visited last time President Dos Santos as the chairman of the ICGLR because they have a say in this.  And we brought to his attention the fact that we are stuck with the people there, with some unrealistic demand for dialogue, because it’s a dialogue with – between the FDLR and the Government of Rwanda is a non-starter.  It’s not on the agenda.  The only thing which is on the agenda is to facilitate their dignified and secured repatriation to Rwanda.  And we have visit Rwanda, and there is a camp which is prepared for them for the reintegration and the populization.  We are confident that there are facilities and there is readiness in Rwanda to receive them, and we are willing, as international community, to help them repatriate to the region.

As far as what is happening in the DRC, personally, having gone through all the experience I went through in Africa, every time there is an opportunity for dialogue is a good thing.  I mean, the dialogue should be a culture of dialogue.  It should be institutionalized in every society, because we need to talk to each other to address our common problems.  So I have no other comment beyond that.  But of course, we encourage – we are guided by Security Council resolution.  There is a peacekeeping operation with a mandate there, including supporting elections in the DRC.  And we support it based on constitutionality, on the respect of the constitutional timeframe of – for election.

MR PERRIELLO:  On the issue of potentially a Millennium Challenge grant or other activities, we’d be very interested in pursuing any number of opportunities to invest in the DRC.  We – it’s an enormous country with an enormous amount of humanity and an enormous amount of potential.  But the way those programs work is there tend to be a number of conditions that are involved in terms of transparency versus corruption, rule of law, constitutionalism, and other things.  And I think where we see a government that’s committed to that and to improving in those areas, there are opportunities, both from the government sector but also the private sector, that can track with those.

And the second thing you mentioned is extremely important.  Before I took this job, I completed a study for Secretary Kerry of our diplomacy and development called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review.  And one piece that came very strongly both out of our State Department and USAID was the importance of focusing on inclusive, sustainable economic growth.  GDP is an important figure.  It’s a huge driver of growth in a country.  It’s a huge driver often of the revenue that’s needed to invest in education and infrastructure.  But we also need to make sure that that’s a growth that’s building up a middle class, that’s creating opportunities for smaller business owners and entrepreneurs, that we’re making the investments particularly in young girls, that they’re a part of that system. 

So we want to continue to track GDP and FDI as important indicators.  But we also want to make sure that, in addition to that, we’re making sure that this is inclusive economic growth that’s creating opportunities, that that’s geographically spread, it’s not just in the west or just in the east.  So to that, I think this continues to be something that we’re looking at, not just, frankly, in the context of DRC, but as a lens on all of our diplomacy and development going forward.

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter) Thank you for your new vision for region, but – and for election.  I trust you.  In regard to the democracy that is coming from Rwanda and what is going to happen, I don’t think that it’s the right one, because the democracy in Rwanda is at the gunpoint.  My question is regarding your private investment, as you said.  We were in Washington when AGOA was reconducted.  Congo is completely excluded.  When Madam Christine Lagarde – all these institution advocating that the issue in the Congo is bad governance and corruption.  We insisted that this issue of corruption and the bad governance are creating a problem for the Congolese, and you are punishing the Congo twice.  We need to find a way to resolve this issue.  How can you help us break this system and open a window of opportunity for the new generation that is coming and (inaudible)? 

By the way, she’s the first metallurgical female engineer of Congo.  (Applause.)  Agnes Dimandja. 

MR PERRIELLO:  So I think it’s a very useful observation, perhaps more than a question.  But I think what I will say is these things need to go hand in hand.  Good governance is essential.  We – when we have a limited amount of dollars to invest around the world on these programs, you want to make sure that they’re being used well.  So where we see a government that’s a partner and wanting to improve accountability and invest in education and infrastructure, we are more excited to go forward.

But DRC, I think we need to recognize, has made some great progress in many areas.  And in many areas, that’s because civil society groups, sometimes at great risk, have pushed for greater accountability and have pushed on the governance agenda.  So there are things we can do from the international community, but obviously the future of Congo will most be defined by the people of Congo.  And there I think we see a tremendous hunger for investment, for good governance, for accountability, and I think those voices have been heard and are continuing to be effective, even under very difficult circumstances right now. 

MR DJINNIT:  Maybe just a word – I mean, just to say to – to assure our friend about the importance of the DRC in the region and the fact that we trust, we believe in the future of the DRC and we are hopeful that the people of the DRC and their leaders will find it – will find their ways in shaping a new and vibrant economy.  And the fact that – let me tell you, my sister, it was not very difficult to get all the leaders of the countries of the region to accept the fact that the investment conference would be held in Kinshasa.  It was almost a natural venue for the conference on the private sector. 

So it’s a great opportunity for the Great Lakes region – the conference – but it’s definitely a great opportunity for the DRC.  And the DRC need to take full advantage of this conference to portray a new vision, a new image, a new vision for the DRC.  That’s why I’m working hand in hand with my sister to make this is – because the success of the conference will be – success of conference between business sectors of the DRC and the success of the development of the DRC. 

INTERPRETER:  I’m – hi – a translator.  (Laughter.)  No, he can’t speak English. 

QUESTION:  (Via interpreter)  Mr. Djinnit, I know you know our country.  And I would like to go by asking you something in regard to what is going on in the Congo, but I’ll go first by quoting one writer who said that do me a good economy and I’ll do you good politics.  

Anyway, the issue is that talking about investment today is like putting the cart before the horses, and talking about investment today would not be the right thing to do because the issue in Congo is mainly a political issue.  And I have not heard you talking about the respect of the constitution as well as – the United States and the international community are like doctor that arrive late when the sick person is already dead.  It’s just to give the death certificate when the sick is already dead.  So —

Anyway, he say that the issue here is to make sure that the Congo situation is addressed, and if there is no clear vision and clear leader – good leadership, Congo is not going to be ripe for investment. 

He wants sanctions.  The issue is that we need to apply sanction for the people governing Congo.  As you saw in South Africa, sanction has helped move the process forward.  So we talking about looking at the dialogue.  We accept the dialogue that is going to lead us to holding the election within the frame time that is constitutional, so we want the respect of the constitution.  That’s the priority we should address. 

MR DJINNIT:  Shall I – in English or in French?

MR PERRIELLO:  Go in French.  That’s fine.

MR DJINNIT:  (In French.)

MR PERRIELLO:  So I’m going to say a comment here.  The – as I said at the beginning, we see the political stability and respect for the constitution as absolutely essential to the investment climate and development climate in DRC and the Congo. 

To your analogy, I do not think the patient is dead yet and I do not think we just showed up at the hospital.  The United States and many of our allies, through the other envoys, have been very focused on the issue of respect for the constitution for some time.  And while things in DRC certainly are challenging, and we’ve seen some very unfortunate incidents, the fact is that you still see a very vibrant civil society and independent media, you see very strong institutions of democracy, and I think we still see the potential for a historic set of developments here over the next year and a half.

So the situation is very serious, but we actually see, again, many things due to the courage of Congolese people as very healthy and encouraging in addition to the things that are of great concern.

On the issue of sanctions, I will just note that it was announced this week – and they’ll be saying more on this tomorrow – that the European Union is sanctioning several individuals in Burundi based on the actions that have been taken there.  We’re continuing to explore all of our options as the United States in the situation in Burundi.  And I think it should be clear that there are going to be consequences for those who take actions to destabilize countries in the region and elsewhere.

QUESTION:  Yes, my question is to the envoy.  Do you have a program for the media in the region – the press, either foreign press operating in the region or the local press operating in the region – as to how they can contribute to stabilizing the region?  How can we get them to desist from the when it bleeds it leads philosophy, which is – which I think is very, very important.  News is not just war when peace has been made; it’s also news because it’s – I believe it’s a prerequisite for the smooth operation of the media itself.  So what do you have in place as part of your mandate in terms of media having a part to play in stabilizing the region?

MR PERRIELLO:  Well, first of all, I would say if I had a way to convince the media to not lead with sensationalism and bad news, I would spend a lot of time in my own country here working with our media.  It’s – what we believe is that it – we must protect the right of a free media to be part as a fourth estate in any society.  As someone who’s won an election and lost an election, I don’t always like what the media has said about me or how it covers every issue, but it has to be a vibrant part of any democratic and free society. 

That does come with responsibilities to report accurately and to not use libel and to not insight, but overall, our emphasis will be on ensuring that journalists are protected and their right to report is protected, and where we’ve seen that limited we see that as being of grave concern.  We’ve certainly done programs in the past on trying to make sure we’re training journalism and the best ethics and behavior, and again, those are problems – those are some programs that probably could be applied here as well.

QUESTION:  All right.  I’m – my concern is on the FDLR – yeah, sorry.  We – you talked about what you are trying to do, everybody, about on the FDLR.  There have been a lot of action on this area, but do we know – do we know how many FDLR are still in the Congo now?  That is my question, because all the action is – every time they talked about this and it has been – since MONUC has been there and now the new –

MR DJINNIT:  MONUSCO.

QUESTION:  — MONUSCO and the government has been talking about trying to fight the FDLR.  But how many are there in the region now?

MR PERRIELLO:  Well, I —

QUESTION:  A number.

MR DJINNIT:  Yeah, I don’t know the numbers because I don’t want to go into the issue of the numbers, because you could find some different numbers in the different institutions and countries.  I know that the DRC Government has given figures, and according to the latest reporting, including yesterday, at the Regional Oversight Mechanism by the minister of foreign affairs of Congo, that they say that as a result of the voluntary disarmament and the retraction by the DRC they have reduced significantly the number of the FDLR and they, according to them, they are only left with 334 left.  According to the DRC government, that’s the fact.  But I know that my colleagues from MONUSCO have a different count of numbers, but they don’t want to give the numbers because we’d be just discussing the numbers, which is not the main issues for me.

The main issue is the finalement of the FDLR, and that it’s very important to highlight the fact that the FDLR is committing crimes in the DRC against the people of the DRC, against women, children, people – poor people, vulnerable people in the DRC.  They have been committing crimes in the DRC.  So it is first in the first interest of the people of the DRC, in the interest of the restoration of the state territory, of the full state authority of DRC, that we are supporting the DRC in their fight against the FDLR.  But the number, again, I tell you that this is the figures that I’ve been given.  But of course, we have not been there to double-check the figures, although when we met this – today from our colleagues from MONUSCO we were given slightly different figures. 

But again, my concern is that we should eradicate fully the FDLR once for all so that they are no more a threat for the people, the good people of the DRC, and they are no more a threat or an excuse in the – for confident – for mistrust, you understand?  Because many people, they distrust each other because of the perceived attitude vis-a-vis.  So I think it’s important that we eradicate it totally.  So this is why it’s important, when we have finished with the whole leadership of the FDLR, destroyed their command and control, and until such time that there is no any news of any crime by the FDLR in the DRC and elsewhere in the region.

QUESTION:  Good evening.  My name is Abraham Lwakabwai.  We are a news organization based in Washington, D.C.  My first question to you, Mr. Djinnit.  We never heard from the UN a plan that can lead Rwanda to put the dialogue between Tutsis and Hutu since the massacre.  What we’ve been listening from the case is eradicate FDLR forces in the east.  Can you a little bit push Mr. Kagame and all his leadership to think about the solution what could bring those people peacefully back to the country instead of being chased as animals in the country – in the Congo?  That’s my first question.

To you, Mr. Perriello.  Sixteen elections were scheduled or are scheduled between now to 2016.  First one up in Burundi, and we’ve seen the result.  It’s a catastrophe.  On a daily basis, people are being killed; we keep on finding them.  And the only sanctions that we’ve heard was the first one coming from the UE saying they’re going to freeze some assets of members of the government.  Why can’t we pinpoint the president and the leadership?  That’s where they’re going to be hurt – and freeze the visas, freeze the assets, and every single (inaudible).  That’s going to be a strong message.  Because what’s happening in Burundi is being seen in the Congo, Brazzaville, it’s been seen in the Congo, the DRC, and every single of those leaders wants to change the constitution to remain into power. 

We’ve seen in the Congo January, this – they wanted to change the electoral (inaudible).  They failed.  Now he’s about referendum.  We’re getting into – it’s like a pattern.  It’s going to come in the Congo Brazzaville, in the Congo Kinshasa, next year in Angola, and in other countries, so we keep on circling.  I think if you fix the situation in Burundi, it’s going to be a strong messages to every single of those people.  Thank you.

MR DJINNIT:  First, on the issue of – your mention of the issue of Tutsi/Hutu, whether it’s in Rwanda or in Burundi.  We believe that we should promote reconciliation.  The UN is supporting reconciliation process both in Rwanda, in Burundi, and every country.  And we believe that reconciliation is something that should be like dialogue in our societies, something that should be permanent.  It should – because I always used to say when I was in the African Union we are still long way to go to reconcile our populations with their states – with their states and borders.  So the reconciliation process in Africa has still many decades to come to be bridge – to forge reconciliation among our populations within the context of the states that are there in Africa.  So that’s something that we support not only through the UN political wing but through the UN system on the ground, through the NDP.  So we are very supportive of that. 

Now, every country is a specific country.  I think you cannot just put a position, why do – when – the FDLR has a background, there is the history of the genocide, so you have to put everything in the context.  So try to mitigate a little bit, to measure what can be done, what cannot be done at this point in time of history.  So I say, one, reconciliation is (inaudible).  I think there are something could (inaudible) more time to happen.  That’s why, I mean, we are doing our best to promote reconciliation. 

MR PERRIELLO:  On the question about consequences for those who’ve taken actions in the context of Burundi, we have already heard about the EU sanctions.  We’re continuing to look in that – at that issue as well as the visa bans that have been issued.  But to your core point, I think, as I said at the beginning, Burundi should be seen, in my mind, by other leaders as a cautionary tale, not as a playbook.  Do you really want to be in situation right now where your willingness to do anything possible to hold onto power has your country on the brink of violence, on the brink of hunger, with refugees fleeing your country, with a desperate need for money for running the government, for institutions that are fraying when you’ve spent 15 years trying to help a country move from a very violent past to institutions like the military becoming post-ethnic or moving in that direction.

I think in some ways the worst consequences imposed on Burundi’s leaders are those that have simply been imposed by the reality on the ground, which is overseeing a broken country.  There is not right now a coming together, a consent of the governed, that exists.  And so I think while we will continue to look very seriously at what additional consequences may be necessary for those who’ve taken actions – not just on behalf of the government but those also who were involved in attempting a coup, which is not the right way to try to handle a situation like this – that there do need to be consequences there.  I think there are – there have been.  But the worst consequence is the state of the – of Burundi and the people of Burundi right now. 

And I believe that there are many leaders in the region of goodwill who are true patriots to their country.  I may not agree with every decision they make, but do they really want to see their countries look like Burundi a year from now or two years from now?  So in addition to what we do as an international community, ultimately country – the people of countries have the biggest influence on their future.  And to me, Burundi is one that proves what we have tried to offer as our best advice and friendship from President Obama that says trying to change the rules of constitutions at the last second to stay in power is destabilizing.  So we think that’s probably the greatest consequence of all, which is not to say that there won’t be additional measures that’ll be considered.

QUESTION:  Thank you for the opportunity to ask my questions.  My name is Ann Lihau-N’Kanza.  I’m from the DRC.  To kind of hang on the tailcoats of my fellow Congolese, I have a threefold question, the first being:  In history, in negotiations for whatever, impunity historically has always been part of the dialogue.  So my question to you, as it pertains to that, is within the context of the conference to come in February, your dialogue will be with the people who are currently in power – who may, if history goes as those of us wish it will go, be no longer in power after elections.  Will impunity be at the table in the negotiations of the potential investments that will be made in the Congo?  And if so, what protection from that do you foresee? 

Secondly, to Special Envoy Djinnit, in dialogue in the region of the Great Lakes, I know you’ve been faced with issues of being accused of bias.  And that may be a problem in negotiations, not only in the Congo but in the – in Burundi and Rwanda as well.  How do you envision, with this economic conference and what will follow, how to prevent that from happening?  Because that could exclude you – although your contribution is very worthy – could exclude you from a dialogue.

And the last thing is we haven’t spoken about the elephant in the economic room of Africa, which is China.  At the table I understand we’re – the participants that you have quoted or mentioned to us will be at the table, but China is already there.  It’s basically a grassroots economic force in Africa, and specifically in the Congo.  I understand that dialogue going from the table to the field is not necessarily easy to implement, and is that within the context of your strategizing for investment in Africa?

Oh, and I did have one last thing.  How are you going to hold your investors accountable to actually implement and invest for the most vulnerable, as you name them – women and children?

MR DJINNIT:  There are so many questions, there are so many.  (Laughter.)

Well, first, maybe on the – on maybe the last one, it’s always to – sometimes it’s better to start from the last one.  You said, I think, we want to focus on the small – one of our meetings we are convening is – in the next few weeks is a meeting bringing together the small, medium, and small-scale enterprises from the region to prepare them to take part fully in the private sector conference.  So we are not only thinking about the giants.  We are also thinking of the small-scale enterprises from the region that are there, to give them an opportunity to participate in the conference.  That’s one thing.

The second thing – we are talking about the women and we care for the role of the women, and they’re already very active, as we are, and they are expected to be more active with more space for them to be active.  We are taking advantage of a conference organized by UN Women in Nairobi platform, original platform, and we are having a segment, we are having a parallel conference within the conference, on preparing women entrepreneurs to take part in the conference.  So we are having a segment in Nairobi next month – or actually, this October, the end of October, on preparing the women entrepreneurs for the private sector conference.  So to say – to tell you that we are thinking of (inaudible).

Now, China is a big partner to Africa.  And obviously, while we’ll be engaging the private sector – we have to engage the private sector in the U.S., and I’m glad that some representative were with us here – we have to go to some positions like London, like Brussels, but you should not ignore China.  China is a very important actor in Africa that should be part of the private sector conference, obviously.

Now, as far as the dialogue and the impunity, I’m – I don’t think – we’ll see what will be (inaudible).  But at the conference in Kinshasa, we want to have a discussion between the private sector and the government on what conditions that needs to be created for a conducive investment in the region.

MR PERRIELLO:  I would just say I think we’re past the point now, though it is too often repeated, where the presumption is that impunity is the key to stability or to investment.  In fact, in many countries that have been able to break a cycle of violence or a cycle of corruption, it’s actually been the difficult work of holding people accountable – whether that’s for past atrocities or for corruption – that has actually been part of what really frees investment, and particularly small entrepreneurship to come up through.  On some of the work I was involved in in West Africa, you’ve seen countries that have not returned to war in part because there was accountability for those who had led previous atrocities and attacks. 

So I would not accept as a premise, and we don’t accept as a premise, that impunity is crucial in these areas – quite the opposite.  That could be involved – whether it’s the dialogue, the political dialogue we believe needs to happen in the case of Burundi or elsewhere, that it’s – it never feels necessarily like the right time to do the tough work of holding people accountable.  And we’ve seen that to some extent in eastern Congo, where difficult work has been done to put in regimes to increase transparency around natural resources.  Has that had some disruptions?  Yes.  But overall, is that creating a stronger room for economic growth and for new entrepreneurs, including women entrepreneurs, to come in, and not just the biggest actors?  Yes.

So the hope is that we can invest in these areas.  Are we —

MR PRINCE:  Time for one more?

MR PERRIELLO:  Sure.  Last one.

MR PRINCE:  Okay.  Last one.

QUESTION:  Okay.  Hello.  I’m Emanuela Calabrini from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA.  I went on a humanitarian mission to DRC like three weeks ago.  And when we talked with a government official, there was real eagerness on their part to have a new narrative for DRC – a narrative focused on economic growth, development, and not so much in this trap of perpetual humanitarian crisis.  After all, it’s been 20 years of humanitarian protracted crisis.  And also based on the fact that even the IMF estimates 9 percent GDP growth this year for the country. 

But when we talked with the civil society groups, of course there is concern that this economic growth is not trickling down to the people who need it the most.  And our humanitarian partners in particular were concerned about 7 million people still in need of humanitarian assistance in DRC – 243,000 refugees from the region in DRC, and then about 450,000 even more Congolese refugees in the region. 

So I think that what is important is also – and that’s what we noted also with government official – is that no development can be sustainable if the needs of the most vulnerable people are not addressed.  I think also on our side, as the humanitarian community, we are willing also to change the narrative.  Because we believe that it’s important to have economic growth, and it’s important that we change – that DRC changes, and we are happy to see the positive developments, but we definitely need to ensure that no Congolese is left behind.

So I’m very happy that one of the pillars of the roadmap is related to the durable solution for the displaced people.  And I think a durable solution – first, the involvement of the displaced, and also ensuring that security has reached those areas of origins, because IDPs don’t want to return unless security is also (inaudible).  

So not really questions, but just to encourage you to continue with the work on durable solutions.  Thank you.

MR DJINNIT:  Thank you much.  We agree with you.  I mean, you – (laughter).  (Applause.)

MR PERRIELLO:  So I’ll just note, in closing, that the – first of all, on the humanitarian side, we do have Burundian refugees right now.  And understandably, the refugee crisis of Syrians is getting all of the headlines, and that’s a very, very serious problem that deserves that attention.  But we have over 200,000 Burundian refugees – Rwanda and Tanzania, in – and Congo as well; mainly Tanzania and Rwanda have taken in a huge number.  UNHCR, we went to those camps, so that’s very serious.  DRC is trying to change the narrative.  I think particularly some of their work on gender-based violence in the military and elsewhere is commendable, as well as some of the development around Kinshasa. 

And to just your last point, and this is what I’ll close on, we share their deep desire to change the narrative, but changing the narrative has to be based on the actual narrative changing.  If over the next year and a half we see historic transitions of power, we see the constitution being respected, we see inclusive economic growth, no one will be happier than me to go and tell that narrative around the world to the private sector and everyone else.  If we’re seeing a backsliding, whether that’s closing of political space and repression, whether that’s breaking of constitutions or outright violence, we can’t spin that as being a new Great Lakes region.  So this is that moment where we have a choice – all of us, the international community, but particularly the people of the region – whether we’re ready to give that new narrative so that we can go out and sell that narrative, because again, we all know the potential is just overwhelmingly positive if we can get on that track.

MR DJINNIT:  Maybe just a word in concluding is just my impression about the Great Lakes region.  I have been following developments in the Great Lakes region since exactly – I mean, as a representative of international community.  I was following as my own national diplomat of Algeria, but as working for the OAU/AU since 1989.  So I was part of all the developments and tragedies in the region – in Africa in general and in the Great Lakes. 

And the most devastating conflicts took place in the region.  We had the conflict – devastating conflict in the DRC.  This is the only country that there was a conflict that brought, for the first time in history in Africa, armies facing each other.  It’s the first time in history.  We had conflicts but these – we never had 12 armies from African countries facing each other on the DRC.  And you had the genocide in Rwanda.  And we felt bad as Africans and we felt bad as international community about – that you could not prevent the genocide in Rwanda.  That has changed the vision of Africa and the vision of the world that – what you could do to the region.

And then there was some progress.  I mean, with all these war, the first war, the second war in Congo, in the DRC, the genocide, the Burundi crisis, (inaudible) crisis.  I had been working with Mandela and Mbeki to try to put the pieces together, and then (inaudible) to the point and then – and then I left the region for six years and a half because I was in West Africa and then came back.

To be honest, the picture is quite different.  And then I was meeting in Nairobi a few weeks ago with the Technical Support Committee preparing for the regional (inaudible), and yesterday somebody from Uganda repeated the same thing that was said by his representative in Nairobi, saying, remember five, six years ago we could not talk to each other; we could not sit towards – I mean, together.  And as we were coming here, we got the meeting between the ministers of defense of Rwanda and the DRC in Kigali and they sent a very promising agreement on finishing the business on the M23 and the FDLR.

So I believe that – and then we have the corridors – I mean, the various corridors which are very promising corridors for development in the northern, the southern, the central corridor which are – I mean, driving the region towards economic integration.  So we have the infrastructure in place.  There is civil society vibrance (ph), civil society women, youth, willing to make a difference.  So that’s why I believe if the region manages well its election, its electoral process – because unfortunately, elections divisive and destabilizing in – if not handled wisely.  When I say “wisely,” it means respect of the constitution, respect of democratic rules – basic.  Although we are learning democracy, as we are doing democracy in Africa, I think the region has huge potential.

And then, again, again, remember I was obsessed by this picture of – at the time when, from Angola – because this is the Great Lakes – to the DRC to Sudan, when they were one country, even the two now – the two countries – the three countries have never seen light so far.  I mean, they have been always in turmoil.  Angola, 20 or 30 years of civil war; Congo, they have not yet emerged from the war; Sudan is not finished with its problems.  And yet they’re all linked together. 

This is really the Great Lakes and this is a powerful – you cannot stabilize Africa if you cannot stabilize this pivotal region of Africa.  That was my obsession when it was at the African Union.  It remains my – and I’m glad that I joined the team that work now focused with the Great Lakes so that we could together, work together to make this region a potentially transformative region for the continent by stabilizing the region with the support of all.  And they count on the women to make a difference (inaudible).  That’s why I believe that the women are a strong pillar for the transformation of the region of the Great Lakes.  Thank you.

MR PERRIELLO:  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

MODERATOR:  Thank you all very much for coming. 

# # #

Say His Name, Aylan Kurdi

Aylan, the toddler who drowned yesterday fleeing Syria, was just three years old. His town was under attack by Isis. His five year old brother and his mum also died trying to reach safety. [1]

Yet our Prime Minister has just said ‘we won’t take any more refugees’. [2] He thinks that most of us don’t care.

But 38 Degrees members do care. We don’t want Britain to be the kind of country that turns its back as people drown in their desperation to flee places like Syria.

So let’s stand up for Britain’s long tradition of helping refugees fleeing war. If tens of thousands of us write to our MPs, demanding no more drownings, we can force the government into action.

Please can you email your MP now? It’ll just take a minute but it could be our best chance to force the government to help people fleeing from war and violence. There’s some suggested text to help you write your email if you’re not sure what to say:

[if mso]> <v:rect xmlns:v=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” xmlns:w=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word” href=”https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/email-your-MP-refugee-crisis?js=false&amp;zip=TQ2%206BG&#8221; style=”height:50px;v-text-anchor:middle;width:400px;” stroke=”f” fillcolor=”#ff7a01″> <w:anchorlock/> <center> <![endif]EMAIL YOUR MP[if mso]> </center> </v:rect> <![endif]

If MPs hear from lots of their constituents today, they’ll realise that lots of us don’t agree with David Cameron: we want the UK to do its bit to help refugees fleeing war. And if enough MPs start speaking out, Cameron will feel isolated and start to change his tune. Pressure on MPs today could help stop more children drowning as they try to get to safety.

The tide is starting to turn against the government. Some MPs are already starting to call on them to give immediate sanctuary to refugees. [3] Every message we send to an MP today helps pile the pressure on Cameron.

[if mso]> <v:rect xmlns:v=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” xmlns:w=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word” href=”https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/email-your-MP-refugee-crisis?js=false&amp;zip=TQ2%206BG&#8221; style=”height:50px;v-text-anchor:middle;width:400px;” stroke=”f” fillcolor=”#ff7a01″> <w:anchorlock/> <center> <![endif]EMAIL YOUR MP[if mso]> </center> </v:rect> <![endif]

Britain has a long tradition of helping people fleeing war. It’s part of being a civilised country. And 38 Degrees members have a strong record of standing up for a Britain we can all be proud to live in – whether that’s through defending the NHS or our countryside, or by making sure we do our bit to help refugees.

So let’s speak up today and tell David Cameron that we won’t stand by while he lets children drown.

[if mso]> <v:rect xmlns:v=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:vml” xmlns:w=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:word” href=”https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/email-your-MP-refugee-crisis?js=false&amp;zip=TQ2%206BG&#8221; style=”height:50px;v-text-anchor:middle;width:400px;” stroke=”f” fillcolor=”#ff7a01″> <w:anchorlock/> <center> <![endif]EMAIL YOUR MP[if mso]> </center> </v:rect> <![endif]

 

In hope,

Nat, Laura, David, Amy, Megan and the whole 38 Degrees team

PS. Tonight, 38 Degrees members across the country will be lighting a candle in their window as a sign of remembrance for those who have drowned trying to reach safety. Please join in if you feel moved to.

Many of us are also putting signs that say ‘refugees welcome’ in our windows to show the kind of place we want Britain to be. You can find a ‘refugees welcome’ poster to print and put in your front window here:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/refugees-welcome-poster

Or, if you want to donate money, the British Red Cross is running an emergency fundraising appeal to help victims of the Syrian crisis:

http://www.redcross.org.uk/What-we-do/Emergency-response/Current-emergency-appeals/Syria-Crisis-Appeal

But first of all, please contact your MP and help build pressure on our government to do the right thing:

https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/email-your-MP-refugee-crisis

NOTES

[1] The Independent: Refugee Crisis Aylan’s life was full of fear – in death he is part of humanity washed ashore:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/refugee-crisis-aylans-life-was-full-of-fear–in-death-he-is-part-of-humanity-washed-ashore-10483670.html

[2] BBC News: David Cameron: Taking more and more refugees not answer:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34130067

[3] The Guardian: Migration Crisis: Pressure mounts on David Cameron to relent on taking more refugees:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/sep/03/migration-crisis-pressure-mounts-on-david-cameron-to-relent-on-taking-more-refugees

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Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

Dear FPC Journalists,

Sharing below a statement from the Office of the Spokesperson.

Regards,

 

Washington Foreign Press Center

U.S. Department of State

Tel:  (202) 504-6300

 

 

From: State Department Press Office [mailto:usstatebpa@subscriptions.fcg.gov]
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2015 5:00 PM
To: PA All – FPC
Subject: STATEMENT: Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release

 STATEMENT BY JOHN KIRBY, SPOKESPERSON

August 29, 2015

Egyptian Court Verdict on Al-Jazeera Journalists

The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the verdict handed down by an Egyptian court to the three Al-Jazeera journalists – Mohamed Fahmy, Baher Mohamed, and Peter Greste.

The freedom of the press to investigate, report, and comment – even when its perspective is unpopular or disputed – is fundamental to any free society and essential to democratic development.

We urge the Government of Egypt to take all available measures to redress this verdict, which undermines the very freedom of expression necessary for stability and development.