Middle East Defined

As noted by Rashid Khalidi, the term “Middle East” has become a source of contention and is seen as an unsatisfactory term to describe the region we now know as the Middle East and North Africa. Khalidi is correct in being sceptical of the term “Middle East,” as its definition is unclear. The World Bank uses the term “Middle East and North Africa” which encompasses the nations of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, as well as Yemen. The United Nations Statistics Division, however, refers to the countries of North Africa separately from the countries of “West Asia,” which includes the Gulf countries, the Levant, as well as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. While the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Central Intelligence Agency, the UN Refugee Agency, as well as Human Rights Watch all have slightly different definitions of what countries encompass the Middle East or the Middle East and North Africa, the larger questions are: Why do these organizations feel the need to define this region and what is the need to define this region?   

Hasan Salaam, an Egyptian-American lyricist made a simple and important observation in some of his lyrics stating, “No such thing as the Middle East… No matter where you stand there’s always something to the east of you.” The definition of the “Middle East” and the terms that are used to describe North Africa, the Gulf, and West Asia have changed throughout history depending on which nations are the current superpowers. It seems that the European and American bodies that set th term “Middle East” into place, wanted to create Europe and North America as the centre of the world, in which everything must be in relation to these regions, and that the terms “Middle East” and “the West” are all relative.

The “West” has consistently defined the “East” in their own terms, in order to better define themselves and in order to mark “their” territory. When the “West” occupied the “Middle East,” it occupied the languages and the minds of the people in that region because, now, in Arabic the region is referred to as al-Sharq al-Awsat, or the Middle East. The “West” defined the borders of the “Middle East,” the same borders that the “Middle Eastern” countries fight to defend despite the end of colonialism. They have let the “West” define who is seen as friend and who is seen as foe. By doing this, the “Middle East” continues to be the pawns of the “West” and still unknowingly caters to the “West’s” notions of how the “Middle East” should be defined.   

Remembering Rachel Corrie on the anniversary of her death




Dear Friend,

On this day 13 years ago, American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by Israeli soldiers driving a military bulldozer. She was trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home. According to numerous witnesses and photographic documentation, she was killed intentionally.

Representative Brian Baird from Washington State introduced a resolution in Congress calling on the federal government to “undertake a full, fair, and expeditious investigation” into Rachel’s death. The bill was co-sponsored by 77 representatives, but Congress took no action. 

The Corrie family then filed a lawsuit against Caterpillar Inc in 2005, alleging that Caterpillar supplied Israelis with bulldozers even though they knew they were being used to commit war crimes. The lawsuit was dismissed.

The Corrie family’s appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was also dismissed. The court acknowledged that the U.S. government paid for the bulldozer that killed Rachel, but said that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to rule on the “political question” of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

In 2010, the Corrie family filed a lawsuit in Israel against the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli officials prevented the physician who had examined Rachel’s wounds from testifying in the case. The court ruled that Rachel was responsible for her own death. In 2014, the Corrie family’s appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court of Israel, and the IDF was absolved of any wrongdoing.

Keep Rachel’s message alive by sharing her story with your community. We have cards, a booklet of Rachel’s letters, and posters available for download and order.


U.S. taxpayers send Israel over $3 billion a year in military aid with virtually no strings attached, and now the prime minister of Israel wants $5 billion a year.

The majority of Americans oppose taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, but virtually all Democratic and Republican members of Congress continue to supply Israel with more and more weapons each year (Palestinians do not receive military aid).

American taxpayer dollars have enabled Israel to continue its decades-long illegal occupation of Palestinian land and deny Palestinians basic legal and human rights. With our money, Israeli forces have killed over 9,200 Palestinians as well as numerous international journalists and peace activists since 2000.

We are driving the violence in this region, and we must stop it.

This weekend, AIPAC kicks off its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C., with Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump scheduled to give speeches. We hope you will join us this Sunday at noon at the White House to protest AIPAC’s influence on American politics and support Palestinian human rights. Your voice is urgently needed!

As always, thank for your commitment to peace, justice, and equality for all people.

The If Americans Knew team

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Order or download Rachel Corrie cards, letters, and posters on our site

Protest AIPAC in DC on March 20th! Join this rally spearheaded by Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.

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Cultural programmes intern (Arabic-speaking) Internship posted by: Minority Rights Group International (MRG) Posted on: February 29, 2016

Cultural programmes intern (Arabic-speaking)

Internship posted by: Minority Rights Group International (MRG)

Posted on: February 29, 2016

Internship description

Deadline for applications: 9am – 17th March 2016 (interviews to take place on 21stand 22nd March 2016)

Minority Rights Group International is looking for an Arabic-speaking intern to work on its Cultural Programmes Department. This is a unique opportunity to gain insight into cultural programmes mainly in the Middle East and North Africa region on the project “Drama, Diversity and Development”.

You will work on areas such as network opportunities research, creation of databases, and supporting the team on administrative tasks. You may also be required to help plan trips or events and liaise with grantees (from London office). You should be completely fluent in both Arabic and English. The post holder will learn about arts grant giving in a human rights context – this post will suit those working in participatory human rights methodologies and in project management.

You should also have interest in issues affecting minority rights, some vocabulary in expressing cultural activities, and good administrative skills. We also welcome ERASMUS candidates.

Tasks would include:

  • Administrative support to the project team: this includes but it is not limited to organise meetings, plan trips, filing documents, process financial documents and draft narrative reports or fundraising applications.
  • Translation of relevant documents from Arabic into English and vice versa.
  • Keeping a database.
  • Research on issues related to the programme.

Essential skills / qualifications:

  • Fluent in English and Arabic (mainly reading and writing skills).
  • Excellent analytical skills.
  • Administrative work experience.
  • Ability to work to deadlines.
  • Understanding of human rights.
  • Organisational skills.
  • Ability to work on own initiative (some of the team members are based overseas).
  • Teamwork skills.
  • Some experience in project management.

Desirable skills / qualifications:

  • Fluent in French.
  • A relevant translation degree or previous experience in this sector.
  • Understanding of minority rights and minority communities in the Middle East and North Africa region.
  • Understanding of using cultural activities such as street theatre.

The intern would work at MRG’s offices (London – UK) minimum 2/3 days a week, for a minimum period of 3 months.

How to apply

If you would like to apply, please send your CV and a brief cover letter explaining how your experience matches the skills outlined in this advert, and indicatingwhen you are available to start, how many days a week you could work, and any other information that you think is relevant to recruitment@mrgmail.org

Please write the title of this post and your name on the subject of your e-mail.

You will need to have permission to work in the United Kingdom.

MRG covers travel expenses (up to 8GBP) and lunch (up to 6GBP) for the days you work from the office.

Start date: ASAP



54 Commercial Street, London, United Kingdom

Other Details

Application deadline
March 17, 2016
Owner’s areas of focus

What I saw at a Syrian refugee camp

Dear MoveOn member,

A few months ago, I visited the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, the largest Syrian refugee camp and home to about 80,000 people. 

It is hard to describe with words what I saw. The camp was full of women and young children who fled Syria in fear for their lives. While I was there, I saw children as young as six years old digging trenches in the sand for raw sewage. I saw young boys and girls being kept home from school to do hard labor because the meager wage is the only way their families could afford to eat. And I heard stories of young girls sold into marriage so the rest of the family could afford to live in this perpetual state of despair. I saw desperation and want emanate from every corner of the camp.

This isn’t just a humanitarian crisis, it has real national security implications. If we don’t help feed and shelter these refugees, extremists like ISIS will. For years, I’ve called upon the United States to increase humanitarian aid to improve the conditions in refugee camps to help other nations bear the burden of displaced persons, and take in more refugees here at home. Finally, there is momentum growing to step up and meet this challenge. 

Over the next two weeks, the U.S. Senate will consider a bipartisan request for $1 billion in emergency funding to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and it is CRITICAL that you make your voice heard on this issue.

I know my colleagues take calls from constituents seriously, so make the call and tell Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker you support emergency appropriations to provide humanitarian relief to Syrian refugees, and to please co-sponsor Senate Bill 2145, the Middle East Refugee Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act.

Here’s where to call:

Senator Robert Menendez

Phone: (202) 224-4744

Senator Cory Booker

Phone: (202) 224-3224

Then, please report your call by clicking here:


Our nation has a long tradition of providing safe haven to refugees fleeing tyranny, violence, and persecution. We welcomed more than 200,000 refugees during the Balkan Wars, 700,000 refugees from Cuba, and more than 700,000 refugees from Vietnam. 

We are a VERY generous nation, always have been, but there is a double standard in our foreign policy today.

When America sets a military objective, we allocate every single dollar we need to accomplish that mission. But when it’s a humanitarian objective, we only put in a share and expect others to fill the gap. That approach comes at a very real human cost in the region, and ultimately, to our credibility around the world.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve led the effort to articulate a progressive vision for America’s role in the world—one that exercises smarter power and influence by leaning into the world with something other than the pointed edge of the sword. Because the truth is, failing to invest in humanitarian programs can be just as dangerous to U.S. national security interests as failing to invest in military operations when they are necessary. As I’ve rolled out this new foreign policy direction, I’ve been grateful for the passionate feedback I’ve received from MoveOn members and for our steadfast partnership.

That’s why I’m asking you to make your voice heard today. I know my colleagues will be waiting to see which way the calls come in on this issue. Pick up the phone and tell Sens. Menendez and Booker to support legislation providing emergency humanitarian relief to help Syrian refugees. 

Here’s where to call: 

Senator Robert Menendez

Phone: (202) 224-4744

Senator Cory Booker

Phone: (202) 224-3224

Then, please report your call by clicking here:


With the civil war persisting in Syria, many families have been in these camps for two or three years, and I can tell you from my experience there, this is nowhere anyone would want to live. This explains why so many refugees are giving up on the camps and fleeing for Europe. They see no end to the civil war, and with little real humanitarian assistance on the way to make life in camps better, they flee, often risking their own lives and the lives of loved ones.

Thank you for standing with me on this issue.

Every best wish,

Senator Chris Murphy

Want to support our work? MoveOn member contributions have powered our work together for more than 17 years. Hundreds of thousands of people chip in each year—which is why we’re able to be fiercely independent, answering to no individual, corporation, politician, or political party. You can become a monthly donor by clicking here, or chip in a one-time gift here.

TRANSCRIPT: Foreign Press Center Briefing with Thomas Perriello






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. 


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 –


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


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. 

# # #

TRANSCRIPT: Remarks by President Obama to the United Nations General Assembly


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release                                                                                  September 28, 2015






United Nations Headquarters

New York, New York



10:18 A.M. EDT



PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Seventy years after the founding of the United Nations, it is worth reflecting on what, together, the members of this body have helped to achieve. 


Out of the ashes of the Second World War, having witnessed the unthinkable power of the atomic age, the United States has worked with many nations in this Assembly to prevent a third world war — by forging alliances with old adversaries; by supporting the steady emergence of strong democracies accountable to their people instead of any foreign power; and by building an international system that imposes a cost on those who choose conflict over cooperation, an order that recognizes the dignity and equal worth of all people. 


That is the work of seven decades.  That is the ideal that this body, at its best, has pursued.  Of course, there have been too many times when, collectively, we have fallen short of these ideals.  Over seven decades, terrible conflicts have claimed untold victims.  But we have pressed forward, slowly, steadily, to make a system of international rules and norms that are better and stronger and more consistent.


It is this international order that has underwritten unparalleled advances in human liberty and prosperity.  It is this collective endeavor that’s brought about diplomatic cooperation between the world’s major powers, and buttressed a global economy that has lifted more than a billion people from poverty.  It is these international principles that helped constrain bigger countries from imposing our will on smaller ones, and advanced the emergence of democracy and development and individual liberty on every continent.


This progress is real.  It can be documented in lives saved, and agreements forged, and diseases conquered, and in mouths fed. And yet, we come together today knowing that the march of human progress never travels in a straight line, that our work is far from complete; that dangerous currents risk pulling us back into a darker, more disordered world. 


Today, we see the collapse of strongmen and fragile states breeding conflict, and driving innocent men, women and children across borders on an epoch scale.  Brutal networks of terror have stepped into the vacuum.  Technologies that empower individuals are now also exploited by those who spread disinformation, or suppress dissent, or radicalize our youth.  Global capital flows have powered growth and investment, but also increased risk of contagion, weakened the bargaining power of workers, and accelerated inequality. 


How should we respond to these trends?  There are those who argue that the ideals enshrined in the U.N. charter are unachievable or out of date — a legacy of a postwar era not suited to our own.  Effectively, they argue for a return to the rules that applied for most of human history and that pre-date this institution: the belief that power is a zero-sum game; that might makes right; that strong states must impose their will on weaker ones; that the rights of individuals don’t matter; and that in a time of rapid change, order must be imposed by force.


On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law.  We see an erosion of the democratic principles and human rights that are fundamental to this institution’s mission; information is strictly controlled, the space for civil society restricted.  We’re told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder; that it’s the only way to stamp out terrorism, or prevent foreign meddling.  In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad, who drops barrel bombs to massacre innocent children, because the alternative is surely worse.


The increasing skepticism of our international order can also be found in the most advanced democracies.  We see greater polarization, more frequent gridlock; movements on the far right, and sometimes the left, that insist on stopping the trade that binds our fates to other nations, calling for the building of walls to keep out immigrants.  Most ominously, we see the fears of ordinary people being exploited through appeals to sectarianism, or tribalism, or racism, or anti-Semitism; appeals to a glorious past before the body politic was infected by those who look different, or worship God differently; a politics of us versus them.


The United States is not immune from this.  Even as our economy is growing and our troops have largely returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, we see in our debates about America’s role in the world a notion of strength that is defined by opposition to old enemies, perceived adversaries, a rising China, or a resurgent Russia; a revolutionary Iran, or an Islam that is incompatible with peace.  We see an argument made that the only strength that matters for the United States is bellicose words and shows of military force; that cooperation and diplomacy will not work. 


As President of the United States, I am mindful of the dangers that we face; they cross my desk every morning.  I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.


But I stand before you today believing in my core that 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.  We cannot turn those forces of integration.  No nation in this Assembly can insulate itself from the threat of terrorism, or the risk of financial contagion; the flow of migrants, or the danger of a warming planet.  The disorder we see is not driven solely by competition between nations or any single ideology.  And if we cannot work together more effectively, we will all suffer the consequences.  That is true for the United States, as well.  


No matter how powerful our military, how strong our economy, we understand the United States cannot solve the world’s problems alone.  In Iraq, the United States learned the hard lesson that even hundreds of thousands of brave, effective troops, trillions of dollars from our Treasury, cannot by itself impose stability on a foreign land.  Unless we work with other nations under the mantle of international norms and principles and law that offer legitimacy to our efforts, we will not succeed.  And unless we work together to defeat the ideas that drive different communities in a country like Iraq into conflict, any order that our militaries can impose will be temporary. 


Just as force alone cannot impose order internationally, I believe in my core that repression cannot forge the social cohesion for nations to succeed.  The history of the last two decades proves that in today’s world, dictatorships are unstable. The strongmen of today become the spark of revolution tomorrow.  You can jail your opponents, but you can’t imprison ideas.  You can try to control access to information, but you cannot turn a lie into truth.  It is not a conspiracy of U.S.-backed NGOs that expose corruption and raise the expectations of people around the globe; it’s technology, social media, and the irreducible desire of people everywhere to make their own choices about how they are governed. 


Indeed, I believe that in today’s world, the measure of strength is no longer defined by the control of territory.   Lasting prosperity does not come solely from the ability to access and extract raw materials.  The strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity — and that, in turn, depends upon individual rights and good governance and personal security.  Internal repression and foreign aggression are both symptoms of the failure to provide this foundation. 


A politics and solidarity that depend on demonizing others, that draws on religious sectarianism or narrow tribalism or jingoism may at times look like strength in the moment, but over time its weakness will be exposed.  And history tells us that the dark forces unleashed by this type of politics surely makes all of us less secure.  Our world has been there before.  We gain nothing from going back.


Instead, I believe that we must go forward in pursuit of our ideals, not abandon them at this critical time.  We must give expression to our best hopes, not our deepest fears.  This institution was founded because men and women who came before us had the foresight to know that our nations are more secure when we uphold basic laws and basic norms, and pursue a path of cooperation over conflict.  And strong nations, above all, have a responsibility to uphold this international order.


Let me give you a concrete example.  After I took office, I made clear that one of the principal achievements of this body — the nuclear non-proliferation regime — was endangered by Iran’s violation of the NPT.  On that basis, the Security Council tightened sanctions on the Iranian government, and many nations joined us to enforce them.  Together, we showed that laws and agreements mean something.


But we also understood that the goal of sanctions was not simply to punish Iran.  Our objective was to test whether Iran could change course, accept constraints, and allow the world to verify that its nuclear program will be peaceful.  For two years, the United States and our partners — including Russia, including China — stuck together in complex negotiations.  The result is a lasting, comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, while allowing it to access peaceful energy.  And if this deal is fully implemented, the prohibition on nuclear weapons is strengthened, a potential war is averted, our world is safer.  That is the strength of the international system when it works the way it should.


That same fidelity to international order guides our responses to other challenges around the world.  Consider Russia’s annexation of Crimea and further aggression in eastern Ukraine.  America has few economic interests in Ukraine.  We recognize the deep and complex history between Russia and Ukraine.  But we cannot stand by when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a nation is flagrantly violated.  If that happens without consequence in Ukraine, it could happen to any nation gathered here today.  That’s the basis of the sanctions that the United States and our partners impose on Russia.  It’s not a desire to return to a Cold War.


Now, within Russia, state-controlled media may describe these events as an example of a resurgent Russia — a view shared, by the way, by a number of U.S. politicians and commentators who have always been deeply skeptical of Russia, and seem to be convinced a new Cold War is, in fact, upon us.  And yet, look at the results.  The Ukrainian people are more interested than ever in aligning with Europe instead of Russia. Sanctions have led to capital flight, a contracting economy, a fallen ruble, and the emigration of more educated Russians. 


Imagine if, instead, Russia had engaged in true diplomacy, and worked with Ukraine and the international community to ensure its interests were protected.  That would be better for Ukraine, but also better for Russia, and better for the world — which is why we continue to press for this crisis to be resolved in a way that allows a sovereign and democratic Ukraine to determine its future and control its territory.  Not because we want to isolate Russia — we don’t — but because we want a strong Russia that’s invested in working with us to strengthen the international system as a whole. 


Similarly, in the South China Sea, the United States makes no claim on territory there.  We don’t adjudicate claims.  But like every nation gathered here, we have an interest in upholding the basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce, and in resolving disputes through international law, not the law of force.  So we will defend these principles, while encouraging China and other claimants to resolve their differences peacefully.


I say this, recognizing that diplomacy is hard; that the outcomes are sometimes unsatisfying; that it’s rarely politically popular.  But I believe that leaders of large nations, in particular, have an obligation to take these risks — precisely because we are strong enough to protect our interests if, and when, diplomacy fails. 


I also believe that to move forward in this new era, we have to be strong enough to acknowledge when what you’re doing is not working.  For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people.  We changed that.  We continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We will continue to stand up for human rights.  But we address these issues through diplomatic relations, and increased commerce, and people-to-people ties.  As these contacts yield progress, I’m confident that our Congress will inevitably lift an embargo that should not be in place anymore.  (Applause.)  Change won’t come overnight to Cuba, but I’m confident that openness, not coercion, will support the reforms and better the life the Cuban people deserve, just as I believe that Cuba will find its success if it pursues cooperation with other nations.


Now, if it’s in the interest of major powers to uphold international standards, it is even more true for the rest of the community of nations.  Look around the world.  From Singapore to Colombia to Senegal, the facts shows that nations succeed when they pursue an inclusive peace and prosperity within their borders, and work cooperatively with countries beyond their borders. 


That path is now available to a nation like Iran, which, as of this moment, continues to deploy violent proxies to advance its interests.  These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region, and isolates Iran from the promise of trade and commerce.  The Iranian people have a proud history, and are filled with extraordinary potential.  But chanting “Death to America” does not create jobs, or make Iran more secure.  If Iran chose a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people, and good for the world.


Of course, around the globe, we will continue to be confronted with nations who reject these lessons of history, places where civil strife, border disputes, and sectarian wars bring about terrorist enclaves and humanitarian disasters.  Where order has completely broken down, we must act, but we will be stronger when we act together.


In such efforts, the United States will always do our part. We will do so mindful of the lessons of the past — not just the lessons of Iraq, but also the example of Libya, where we joined an international coalition under a U.N. mandate to prevent a slaughter.  Even as we helped the Libyan people bring an end to the reign of a tyrant, our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.  We’re grateful to the United Nations for its efforts to forge a unity government.  We will help any legitimate Libyan government as it works to bring the country together.  But we also have to recognize that we must work more effectively in the future, as an international community, to build capacity for states that are in distress, before they collapse. 


And that’s why we should celebrate the fact that later today the United States will join with more than 50 countries to enlist new capabilities — infantry, intelligence, helicopters, hospitals, and tens of thousands of troops — to strengthen United Nations peacekeeping.  (Applause.)  These new capabilities can prevent mass killing, and ensure that peace agreements are more than words on paper.  But we have to do it together.  Together, we must strengthen our collective capacity to establish security where order has broken down, and to support those who seek a just and lasting peace.


Nowhere is our commitment to international order more tested than in Syria.  When a dictator slaughters tens of thousands of his own people, that is not just a matter of one nation’s internal affairs — it breeds human suffering on an order of magnitude that affects us all.  Likewise, when a terrorist group beheads captives, slaughters the innocent and enslaves women, that’s not a single nation’s national security problem — that is an assault on all humanity.


I’ve said before and I will repeat:  There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIL, and the United States makes no apologies for using our military, as part of a broad coalition, to go after them.  We do so with a determination to ensure that there will never be a safe haven for terrorists who carry out these crimes.  And we have demonstrated over more than a decade of relentless pursuit of al Qaeda, we will not be outlasted by extremists. 


But while military power is necessary, it is not sufficient to resolve the situation in Syria.  Lasting stability can only take hold when the people of Syria forge an agreement to live together peacefully.  The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict. But we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo. 


Let’s remember how this started.  Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing that, in turn, created the environment for the current strife.  And so Assad and his allies cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing.  Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required to end the fighting and ultimately stamp out ISIL.  But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader, and an inclusive government that recognizes there must be an end to this chaos so that the Syrian people can begin to rebuild. 


We know that ISIL — which emerged out of the chaos of Iraq and Syria — depends on perpetual war to survive.  But we also know that they gain adherents because of a poisonous ideology.  So part of our job, together, is to work to reject such extremism that infects too many of our young people.  Part of that effort must be a continued rejection by Muslims of those who distort Islam to preach intolerance and promote violence, and it must also a rejection by non-Muslims of the ignorance that equates Islam with terror.  (Applause.)   


This work will take time.  There are no easy answers to Syria.  And there are no simple answers to the changes that are taking place in much of the Middle East and North Africa.  But so many families need help right now; they don’t have time.  And that’s why the United States is increasing the number of refugees who we welcome within our borders.  That’s why we will continue to be the largest donor of assistance to support those refugees. And today we are launching new efforts to ensure that our people and our businesses, our universities and our NGOs can help as well — because in the faces of suffering families, our nation of immigrants sees ourselves.


Of course, in the old ways of thinking, the plight of the powerless, the plight of refugees, the plight of the marginalized did not matter.  They were on the periphery of the world’s concerns.  Today, our concern for them is driven not just by conscience, but should also be drive by self-interest.  For helping people who have been pushed to the margins of our world is not mere charity, it is a matter of collective security.  And the purpose of this institution is not merely to avoid conflict, it is to galvanize the collective action that makes life better on this planet.


The commitments we’ve made to the Sustainable Development Goals speak to this truth.  I believe that capitalism has been the greatest creator of wealth and opportunity that the world has ever known.  But from big cities to rural villages around the world, we also know that prosperity is still cruelly out of reach for too many.  As His Holiness Pope Francis reminds us, we are stronger when we value the least among these, and see them as equal in dignity to ourselves and our sons and our daughters.


We can roll back preventable disease and end the scourge of HIV/AIDS.  We can stamp out pandemics that recognize no borders. That work may not be on television right now, but as we demonstrated in reversing the spread of Ebola, it can save more lives than anything else we can do.


Together, we can eradicate extreme poverty and erase barriers to opportunity.  But this requires a sustained commitment to our people — so farmers can feed more people; so entrepreneurs can start a business without paying a bribe; so young people have the skills they need to succeed in this modern, knowledge-based economy.


We can promote growth through trade that meets a higher standard.  And that’s what we’re doing through the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade agreement that encompasses nearly 40 percent of the global economy; an agreement that will open markets, while protecting the rights of workers and protecting the environment that enables development to be sustained.


We can roll back the pollution that we put in our skies, and help economies lift people out of poverty without condemning our children to the ravages of an ever-warming climate.  The same ingenuity that produced the Industrial Age and the Computer Age allows us to harness the potential of clean energy.  No country can escape the ravages of climate change.  And there is no stronger sign of leadership than putting future generations first.  The United States will work with every nation that is willing to do its part so that we can come together in Paris to decisively confront this challenge. 


And finally, our vision for the future of this Assembly, my belief in moving forward rather than backwards, requires us to defend the democratic principles that allow societies to succeed. Let me start from a simple premise:  Catastrophes, like what we are seeing in Syria, do not take place in countries where there is genuine democracy and respect for the universal values this institution is supposed to defend.  (Applause.)  


I recognize that democracy is going to take different forms in different parts of the world.  The very idea of a people governing themselves depends upon government giving expression to their unique culture, their unique history, their unique experiences.  But some universal truths are self-evident.  No person wants to be imprisoned for peaceful worship.  No woman should ever be abused with impunity, or a girl barred from going to school.  The freedom to peacefully petition those in power without fear of arbitrary laws — these are not ideas of one country or one culture.  They are fundamental to human progress. They are a cornerstone of this institution. 


I realize that in many parts of the world there is a different view — a belief that strong leadership must tolerate no dissent.  I hear it not only from America’s adversaries, but privately at least I also hear it from some of our friends.  I disagree.  I believe a government that suppresses peaceful dissent is not showing strength; it is showing weakness and it is showing fear.  (Applause.)  History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble, but strong institutions built on the consent of the governed endure long after any one individual is gone. 


That’s why our strongest leaders — from George Washington to Nelson Mandela — have elevated the importance of building strong, democratic institutions over a thirst for perpetual power.  Leaders who amend constitutions to stay in office only acknowledge that they failed to build a successful country for their people — because none of us last forever.  It tells us that power is something they cling to for its own sake, rather than for the betterment of those they purport to serve.


I understand democracy is frustrating.  Democracy in the United States is certainly imperfect.  At times, it can even be dysfunctional.  But democracy — the constant struggle to extend rights to more of our people, to give more people a voice — is what allowed us to become the most powerful nation in the world. (Applause.) 


It’s not simply a matter of principle; it’s not an abstraction.  Democracy — inclusive democracy — makes countries stronger.  When opposition parties can seek power peacefully through the ballot, a country draws upon new ideas.  When a free media can inform the public, corruption and abuse are exposed and can be rooted out.  When civil society thrives, communities can solve problems that governments cannot necessarily solve alone.  When immigrants are welcomed, countries are more productive and more vibrant.  When girls can go to school, and get a job, and pursue unlimited opportunity, that’s when a country realizes its full potential.  (Applause.)  


That is what I believe is America’s greatest strength.  Not everybody in America agrees with me.  That’s part of democracy.  I believe that the fact that you can walk the streets of this city right now and pass churches and synagogues and temples and mosques, where people worship freely; the fact that our nation of immigrants mirrors the diversity of the world — you can find everybody from everywhere here in New York City — (applause) — the fact that, in this country, everybody can contribute, everybody can participate no matter who they are, or what they look like, or who they love — that’s what makes us strong. 


And I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies.  And that is no accident.  We can be proud of our nations without defining ourselves in opposition to some other group.  We can be patriotic without demonizing someone else.  We can cherish our own identities — our religion, our ethnicity, our traditions — without putting others down.  Our systems are premised on the notion that absolute power will corrupt, but that people — ordinary people  — are fundamentally good; that they value family and friendship, faith and the dignity of hard work; and that with appropriate checks and balances, governments can reflect this goodness. 


I believe that’s the future we must seek together.  To believe in the dignity of every individual, to believe we can bridge our differences, and choose cooperation over conflict — that is not weakness, that is strength.  (Applause.)  It is a practical necessity in this interconnected world.


And our people understand this.  Think of the Liberian doctor who went door-to-door to search for Ebola cases, and to tell families what to do if they show symptoms.  Think of the Iranian shopkeeper who said, after the nuclear deal, “God willing, now we’ll be able to offer many more goods at better prices.”  Think of the Americans who lowered the flag over our embassy in Havana in 1961 — the year I was born — and returned this summer to raise that flag back up.  (Applause.)  One of these men said of the Cuban people, “We could do things for them, and they could do things for us.  We loved them.”  For 50 years, we ignored that fact. 


Think of the families leaving everything they’ve known behind, risking barren deserts and stormy waters just to find shelter; just to save their children.  One Syrian refugee who was greeted in Hamburg with warm greetings and shelter, said, “We feel there are still some people who love other people.”


The people of our United Nations are not as different as they are told.  They can be made to fear; they can be taught to hate — but they can also respond to hope.  History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case.  You can count on that.  But we are called upon to offer a different type of leadership — leadership strong enough to recognize that nations share common interests and people share a common humanity, and, yes, there are certain ideas and principles that are universal.


That’s what those who shaped the United Nations 70 years ago understood.  Let us carry forward that faith into the future — for it is the only way we can assure that future will be brighter for my children, and for yours.


Thank you very much.  (Applause.) 


                        END               11:00 A.M. EDT  



Secretary of State John Kerry Nuclear Agreement with Iran September 2, 2015






Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release


September 2, 2015

Secretary of State John Kerry Nuclear Agreement with Iran

September 2, 2015

National Constitution Center

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

SECRETARY KERRY:  Dick, thank you so much for a generous introduction.  I’ll say more about it, but I want to say good morning to all of you here.  It is great for me to be able to be here in Philadelphia.  I am delighted to see so many young people with us.  I know school has started and I know the choice between coming here and sitting in class was a very tough one.  (Laughter.)  We’re glad you made the choice you did.

I am particularly grateful that Senator Lugar chose to come here this morning in order to introduce me and to reaffirm his support for this agreement.  But I’m even more grateful for his service to our country over a course of a lifetime.  As a former colleague of his on the Foreign Relations Committee, which he referred to in his introduction, I can bear witness that Dick Lugar is one of the true legislative pathfinders of recent times, with a long record of foreign policy accomplishments.  And what he and Sam Nunn did is a lasting legacy of making this world safer.  He is also someone who has consistently placed our country’s interests above any other consideration, and he has a very deep understanding of how best to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the wrong hands.  He is one of our experts when it comes to that judgment.

So it is appropriate that the senator is here with us this morning, and I think every one of us here joins in saying thank you to you, Dick, for your tremendous service.  (Applause.)  It’s also fitting to be here in Philadelphia, the home ground of this absolutely magnificent Center to the Constitution, the Liberty Bell, and one our nation’s most revered founders, Benjamin Franklin.  And I must say I never quite anticipated, but this is one of the great vistas in America, and to be able to look down and see Independence Hall there is inspiring, I think, for all of us here.

I would say a quick word about Ben Franklin.  In addition to his many inventions and his special status as America’s first diplomat, Franklin is actually credited with being the first person known to have made a list of pros and cons – literally dividing a page in two and writing all of the reasons to support a proposal on one side and all of the reasons to oppose it on the other.

And this morning, I would like to invite you – all of you, those here and those listening through the media – to participate in just such an exercise.

Because two months ago, in Vienna, the United States and five other nations – including permanent members of the UN Security Council – reached agreement with Iran on ensuring the peaceful nature of that country’s nuclear program.  As early as next week, Congress will begin voting on whether to support that plan.  And the outcome will matter as much as any foreign policy decision in recent history.  Like Senator Lugar, President Obama and I are convinced – beyond any reasonable doubt – that the framework that we have put forward will get the job done.  And in that assessment, we have excellent company. 

Last month, 29 of our nation’s top nuclear physicists and Nobel Prize winners, scientists, from one end of our country to the other, congratulated the President for what they called “a technically sound, stringent, and innovative deal that will provide the necessary assurance … that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons.”  The scientists praised the agreement for its creative approach to verification and for the rigorous safeguards that will prevent Iran from obtaining the fissile material for a bomb.

Today, I will lay out the facts that caused those scientists and many other experts to reach the favorable conclusions that they have.  I will show why the agreed plan will make the United States, Israel, the Gulf States, and the world safer.  I will explain how it gives us the access that we need to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains wholly peaceful, while preserving every option to respond if Iran fails to meet its commitments.  I will make clear that the key elements of the agreement will last not for 10 or 15 years, as some are trying to assert, or for 20 or 25, but they will last for the lifetime of Iran’s nuclear program.  And I will dispel some of the false information that has been circulating about the proposal on which Congress is soon going to vote.

Now, for this discussion, there is an inescapable starting point – a place where every argument made against the agreement must confront a stark reality – the reality of how advanced Iran’s nuclear program had become and where it was headed when Presidents Obama and Rouhani launched the diplomatic process that concluded this past July.

Two years ago, in September of 2013, we were facing an Iran that had already mastered the nuclear fuel cycle; already stockpiled enough enriched uranium that, if further enriched, could arm 10 to 12 bombs; an Iran that was already enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent, which is just below weapons-grade; an Iran that had already installed 10,000-plus centrifuges; and an Iran that was moving rapidly to commission a heavy water reactor able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for an additional bomb or two a year.  That, my friends, is where we already were when we began our negotiations.

At a well-remembered moment during the UN General Assembly the previous fall, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had held up a cartoon of a bomb to show just how dangerous Iran’s nuclear program had become.  And in 2013, he returned to that podium to warn that Iran was positioning itself to “rush forward to build nuclear bombs before the international community can detect it and much less prevent it.”  The prime minister argued rightly that the so-called breakout time – the interval required for Iran to produce enough fissile material for one bomb – had dwindled to as little as two months.  Even though it would take significantly longer to actually build the bomb itself using that fissile material, the prime minister’s message was clear: Iran had successfully transformed itself into a nuclear threshold state.

In the Obama Administration, we were well aware of that troubling fact, and more important, we were already responding to it.  The record is irrefutable that, over the course of two American administrations, it was the United States that led the world in assembling against Tehran one of the toughest international sanctions regimes ever developed.

But we also had to face an obvious fact: sanctions alone were not getting the job done, not even close.  They were failing to slow, let alone halt, Iran’s relentless march towards a nuclear weapons capability.  So President Obama acted.  He reaffirmed his vow that Iran would absolutely not be permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  He marshaled support for this principle from every corner of the international community.  He made clear his determination to go beyond what sanctions could accomplish and find a way to not only stop, but to throw into reverse, Iran’s rapid expansion of its nuclear program.

As we developed our strategy, we cast a very wide net to enlist the broadest expertise available.  We sat down with the IAEA and with our own intelligence community to ensure that the verification standards that we sought on paper would be effective in reality.  We consulted with Congress and our international allies and friends.  We examined carefully every step that we might take to close off each of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb.  And of course, we were well aware that every proposal, every provision, every detail would have to withstand the most painstaking scrutiny.  We knew that.  And so we made clear from the outset that we would not settle for anything less than an agreement that was comprehensive, verifiable, effective, and of lasting duration.

We began with an interim agreement reached in Geneva – the Joint Plan of Action.  It accomplished diplomatically what sanctions alone could never have done or did.  It halted the advance of Iran’s nuclear activities.  And it is critical to note – you don’t hear much about it, but it’s critical to note that for more than 19 months now, Iran has complied with every requirement of that plan.  But this was just a first step.

From that moment, we pushed ahead, seeking a broad and enduring agreement, sticking to our core positions, maintaining unity among a diverse negotiating group of partners, and we arrived at the good and effective deal that we had sought.

And I ask you today and in the days ahead, as we have asked members of Congress over the course of these last months, consider the facts of what we achieved and judge for yourself the difference between where we were two years ago and where we are now, and where we can be in the future.  Without this agreement, Iran’s so-called breakout time was about two months; with this agreement it will increase by a factor of six, to at least a year, and it will remain at that level for a decade or more. 

Without this agreement, Iran could double the number of its operating centrifuges almost overnight and continue expanding with ever more efficient designs.  With this agreement, Iran’s centrifuges will be reduced by two-thirds for 10 years. 

Without this agreement, Iran could continue expanding its stockpile of enriched uranium, which is now more than 12,000 kilograms – enough, if further enriched, for multiple bombs.  With this agreement, that stockpile will shrink and shrink some more – a reduction of some 98 percent, to no more than 300 kilograms for 15 years. 

Without this agreement, Iran’s heavy-water reactor at Arak would soon be able to produce enough weapons-grade plutonium each year to fuel one or two nuclear weapons.  With this agreement, the core of that reactor will be removed and filled with concrete, and Iran will never be permitted to produce any weapons-grade plutonium.

Without this agreement, the IAEA would not have assured access to undeclared locations in Iran where suspicious activities might be taking place.  The agency could seek access, but if Iran objected, there would be no sure method for resolving a dispute in a finite period, which is exactly what has led us to where we are today – that standoff.  With this agreement, the IAEA can go wherever the evidence leads.  No facility – declared or undeclared – will be off limits, and there is a time certain for assuring access.  There is no other country to which such a requirement applies.  This arrangement is both unprecedented and unique. 

In addition, the IAEA will have more inspectors working in Iran, using modern technologies such as real-time enrichment monitoring, high-tech electronic seals, and cameras that are always watching – 24/7, 365.  Further, Iran has agreed never to pursue key technologies that would be necessary to develop a nuclear explosive device. 

So the agreement deals not only with the production of fissile material, but also with the critical issue of weaponization.  Because of all of these limitations and guarantees, we can sum up by saying that without this agreement, the Iranians would have several potential pathways to a bomb; with it, they won’t have any. 

Iran’s plutonium pathway will be blocked because it won’t have a reactor producing plutonium for a weapon, and it won’t build any new heavy-water reactors or engage in reprocessing for at least 15 years, and after that we have the ability to watch and know precisely what they’re doing.

The uranium pathway will be blocked because of the deep reductions in Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity, and because for 15 years the country will not enrich uranium to a level higher than 3.67 percent.  Let me be clear:  No one can build a bomb from a stockpile of 300 kilograms of uranium enriched only 3.67 percent.  It is just not possible. 

Finally, Iran’s covert pathway to a bomb will also be blocked.  Under our plan, there will be 24/7 monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities.  As soon as we start the implementation, inspectors will be able to track Iran’s uranium as it is mined, then milled, then turned into yellow cake, then into gas, and eventually into waste.  This means that for a quarter of a century at least, every activity throughout the nuclear fuel chain will receive added scrutiny.  And for 20 years, the IAEA will be monitoring the production of key centrifuge components in Iran in order to assure that none are diverted to a covert program.

So if Iran did decide to cheat, its technicians would have to do more than bury a processing facility deep beneath the ground.  They would have to come up with a complete – complete – and completely secret nuclear supply chain: a secret source of uranium, a secret milling facility, a secret conversion facility, a secret enrichment facility.  And our intelligence community and our Energy Department, which manages our nuclear program and our nuclear weapons, both agree Iran could never get away with such a deception.  And if we have even a shadow of doubt that illegal activities are going on, either the IAEA will be given the access required to uncover the truth or Iran will be in violation and the nuclear-related sanctions can snap back into place.  We will also have other options to ensure compliance if necessary.

Given all of these requirements, it is no wonder that this plan has been endorsed by so many leading American scientists, experts on nuclear nonproliferation, and others.  More than 60 former top national security officials, 100 – more than 100 retired ambassadors – people who served under Democratic and Republican presidents alike, are backing the proposal – as are retired generals and admirals from all 5 of our uniformed services.  Brent Scowcroft, one of the great names in American security endeavors of the last century and now, served as a national security advisor to two Republican presidents.  He is also among the many respected figures who are supporting it.  Internationally, the agreement is being backed, with one exception, by each of the more than 100 countries that have taken a formal position.  The agreement was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council on a vote of 15 to nothing.  This not only says something very significant about the quality of the plan, particularly when you consider that 5 of those countries are permanent members and they’re all nuclear powers, but it should also invite reflection from those who believe the United States can walk away from this without causing grave harm to our international reputation, to relationships, and to interests. 

You’ve probably heard the claim that because of our strength, because of the power of our banks, all we Americans have to do if Congress rejects this plan is return to the bargaining table, puff out our chests, and demand a better deal.  I’ve heard one critic say he would use sanctions to give Iran a choice between having an economy or having a nuclear program.  Well, folks, that’s a very punchy soundbite, but it has no basis in any reality.  As Dick said, I was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when our nation came together across party lines to enact round after round of economic sanctions against Iran.  But remember, even the toughest restrictions didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear program from speeding ahead from a couple of hundred centrifuges to 5,000 to 19,000.  We’ve already been there.  If this agreement is voted down, those who vote no will not be able to tell you how many centrifuges Iran will have next year or the year after.  If it’s approved, we will be able to tell you exactly what the limits on Iran’s program will be.

The fact is that it wasn’t either sanctions or threats that actually stopped and finally stopped the expansion of Iran’s nuclear activities.  The sanctions brought people to the table, but it was the start of the negotiating process and the negotiations themselves, recently concluded in Vienna, that actually stopped it.  Only with those negotiations did Iran begin to get rid of its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium.  Only with those negotiations did it stop installing more centrifuges and cease advancing the Arak reactor.  Only then did it commit to be more forthcoming about IAEA access and negotiate a special arrangement to break the deadlock. 

So just apply your common sense:  What do you think will happen if we say to Iran now, “Hey, forget it.  The deal is off.  Let’s go back to square one”?  How do you think our negotiating partners, all of whom have embraced this deal, will react; all of whom are prepared to go forward with it – how will they react?  What do you think will happen to that multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the bargaining table in the first place?  The answer is pretty simple.  The answer is straightforward.  Not only will we lose the momentum that we have built up in pressing Iran to limit its nuclear activities, we will almost surely start moving in the opposite direction.

We need to remember sanctions don’t just sting in one direction, my friends.  They also impose costs on those who forego the commercial opportunities in order to abide by them.  It’s a tribute to President Obama’s diplomacy – and before that, to President George W. Bush – that we were able to convince countries to accept economic difficulties and sacrifices and put together the comprehensive sanctions regime that we did.  Many nations that would like to do business with Iran agreed to hold back because of the sanctions and – and this is vital – and because they wanted to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  They have as much interest in it as we do.  And that’s why they hoped the negotiations would succeed, and that’s why they will join us in insisting that Iran live up to its obligations.  But they will not join us if we unilaterally walk away from the very deal that the sanctions were designed to bring about.  And they will not join us if we’re demanding even greater sacrifices and threatening their businesses and banks because of a choice we made and they opposed.

So while it may not happen all at once, it is clear that if we reject this plan, the multilateral sanctions regime will start to unravel.  The pressure on Iran will lessen and our negotiating leverage will diminish, if not disappear.  Now, obviously, that is not the path, as some critics would have us believe, to a so-called better deal.  It is a path to a much weaker position for the United States of America and to a much more dangerous Middle East.

And this is by no means a partisan point of view that I just expressed.  Henry Paulson was Secretary of Treasury under President George W. Bush.  He helped design the early stages of the Iran sanctions regime.  But just the other day, he said, “It would be totally unrealistic to believe that if we backed out of this deal, the multilateral sanctions would remain in place.”  And Paul Volcker, who chaired the Federal Reserve under President Reagan, he said, “This agreement is as good as you are going to get.  To think that we can unilaterally maintain sanctions doesn’t make any sense.”

We should pause for a minute to contemplate what voting down this agreement might mean for Iran’s cadre of hardliners, for those people in Iran who lead the chants of “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and even “Death to Rouhani,” and who prosecute journalists simply for doing their jobs.  The evidence documents that among those who most fervently want this agreement to fall apart are the most extreme factions in Iran.  And their opposition should tell you all you need to know.  From the very beginning, these extremists have warned that negotiating with the United States would be a waste of time; why on Earth would we now take a step that proves them right?  

Let me be clear.  Rejecting this agreement would not be sending a signal of resolve to Iran; it would be broadcasting a message so puzzling most people across the globe would find it impossible to comprehend.  After all, they’ve listened as we warned over and over again about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program.  They’ve watched as we spent two years forging a broadly accepted agreement to rein that program in.  They’ve nodded their heads in support as we have explained how the plan that we have developed will make the world safer.

Who could fairly blame them for not understanding if we suddenly switch course and reject the very outcome we had worked so hard to obtain?  And not by offering some new and viable alternative, but by offering no alternative at all.  It is hard to conceive of a quicker or more self-destructive blow to our nation’s credibility and leadership – not only with respect to this one issue, but I’m telling you across the board – economically, politically, militarily, and even morally.  We would pay an immeasurable price for this unilateral reversal.  

Friends, as Dick mentioned in his introduction, I have been in public service for many years and I’ve been called on to make some difficult choices in that course of time.  There are those who believe deciding whether or not to support the Iran agreement is just such a choice.  And I respect that and I respect them.  But I also believe that because of the stringent limitations on Iran’s program that are included in this agreement that I just described, because of where that program was headed before our negotiations began and will head again if we walk away, because of the utter absence of a viable alternative to this plan that we have devised, the benefits of this agreement far outweigh any potential drawbacks.  Certainly, the goal of preventing Iran from having a nuclear weapon is supported across our political spectrum and it has the backing of countries on every continent.  So what then explains the controversy that has persisted in this debate?  

A big part of the answer, I think, is that even before the ink on the agreement was dry, we started being bombarded by myths about what the agreement will and won’t do, and that bombardment continues today.

The first of these myths is that the deal is somehow based on trust or a naive expectation that Iran is going to reverse course on many of the policies it’s been pursuing internationally.  Critics tell us over and over again, “You can’t trust Iran.”  Well, guess what?  There is a not a single sentence, not a single paragraph in this whole agreement that depends on promises or trust, not one.  The arrangement that we worked out with Tehran is based exclusively on verification and proof.  That’s why the agreement is structured the way it is; that’s why sanctions relief is tied strictly to performance; and it is why we have formulated the most far-reaching monitoring and transparency regime ever negotiated.  

Those same critics point to the fact that two decades ago, the United States reached a nuclear framework with North Korea that didn’t accomplish what it set out to do.  And we’re told we should have learned a lesson from that.  Well, the truth is we did learn a lesson.  

The agreement with North Korea was four pages and only dealt with plutonium.  Our agreement with Iran runs 159 detailed pages, applies to all of Tehran’s potential pathways to a bomb, and is specifically grounded in the transparency rules of the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which didn’t even exist two decades ago when the North Korea deal was made because it was developed specifically with the North Korea experience in mind.  Lesson learned.

The reality is that if we trusted Iran or thought that it was about to become more moderate, this agreement would be less necessary than it is.  But we don’t.  We would like nothing more than to see Iran act differently, but not for a minute are we counting on it.  Iran’s support for terrorist groups and its contributions to sectarian violence are not recent policies.  They reflect the perceptions of its leaders about Iran’s long-term national interests and there are no grounds for expecting those calculations to change in the near future.  That is why we believe so strongly that every problem in the Middle East – every threat to Israel and to our friends in the region – would be more dangerous if Iran were permitted to have a nuclear weapon.  That is the inescapable bottom line.

That’s also why we are working so hard and so proactively to protect our interests and those of our allies. 

In part because of the challenge posed by Iran, we have engaged in an unprecedented level of military, intelligence, and security cooperation with our friend and ally Israel.  We are determined to help our ally address new and complex security threats and to ensure its qualitative military edge. 

We work with Israel every day to enforce sanctions and prevent terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah from obtaining the financing and the weapons that they seek – whether from Iran or from any other source.  And we will stand with Israel to stop its adversaries from once again launching deadly and unprovoked attacks against the Israeli people. 

Since 2009, we have provided $20 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, more than half of what we have given to nations worldwide. 

Over and above that, we have invested some 3 billion in the production and deployment of Iron Dome batteries and other missile defense programs and systems.  And we saw how in the last Gaza War lives were saved in Israel because of it.  We have given privileged access to advanced military equipment such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; Israel is the only nation in the Middle East to which the United States has sold this fifth-generation aircraft.  The President recently authorized a massive arms resupply package, featuring penetrating munitions and air-to-air missiles.  And we hope soon to conclude a new memorandum of understanding – a military assistance plan that will guide our intensive security cooperation through the next decade. 

And diplomatically, our support for Israel also remains rock solid as we continue to oppose every effort to delegitimize the Jewish state, or to pass biased resolutions against it in international bodies.  

Now, I understand – I understand personally there is no way to overstate the concern in Israel about Iran and about the potential consequences that this agreement – or rejecting this agreement – might have on Israel’s security.  The fragility of Israel’s position has been brought home to me on every one of the many trips I have made to that country.

In fact, as Secretary of State, I have already traveled to Israel more than a dozen times, spending the equivalent of a full month there – even ordering my plane to land at Ben Gurion Airport when commercial air traffic had been halted during the last Gaza War; doing so specifically as a sign of support.

Over the years, I have walked through Yad Vashem, a living memorial to the 6 million lost, and I have felt in my bones the unfathomable evil of the Holocaust and the undying reminder never to forget.

I have climbed inside a shelter at Kiryat Shmona where children were forced to leave their homes and classrooms to seek refuge from Katyusha rockets. 

I visited Sderot and witnessed the shredded remains of homemade missiles from Gaza – missiles fired with no other purpose than to sow fear in the hearts of Israeli families.

I have piloted an Israeli jet out of Ovda Airbase and observed first-hand the tininess of Israel airspace from which it is possible to see all of the country’s neighbors at the same time.

And I have bowed my head at the Western Wall and offered my prayer for peace – peace for Israel, for the region, and for the world.

I take a back seat to no one in my commitment to the security of Israel, a commitment I demonstrated through my 28-plus years in the Senate.  And as Secretary of State, I am fully conscious of the existential nature of the choice Israel must make.  I understand the conviction that Israel, even more than any other country, simply cannot afford a mistake in defending its security.  And while I respectfully disagree with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the benefits of the Iran agreement, I do not question for an instant the basis of his concern or that of any Israeli.

But I am also convinced, as is President Obama, our senior defense and military leaders, and even many former Israeli military and intelligence officials, that this agreement puts us on the right path to prevent Iran from ever getting a nuclear weapon.  The people of Israel will be safer with this deal, and the same is true for the people throughout the region. 

And to fully ensure that, we are also taking specific and far-reaching steps to coordinate with our friends from the Gulf states.  President Obama hosted their leaders at Camp David earlier this year.  I visited with them in Doha last month.  And later this week, we will welcome King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Washington.  Gulf leaders share our profound concerns about Iran’s policies in the Middle East, but they’re also alarmed by Iran’s nuclear program.  We must and we will respond on both fronts.  We will make certain that Iran lives up to its commitments under the nuclear agreement, and we will continue strengthening our security partnerships.

We’re determined that our Gulf friends will have the political and the military support that they need, and to that end, we are working with them to develop a ballistic missile defense for the Arabian Peninsula, provide special operations training, authorize urgently required arms transfers, strengthen cyber security, engage in large-scale military exercises, and enhance maritime interdiction of illegal Iranian arms shipments.  We are also deepening our cooperation and support in the fight against the threat posed to them, to us, and to all civilization by the forces of international terror, including their surrogates and their proxies. 

Through these steps and others, we will maintain international pressure on Iran.  United States sanctions imposed because of Tehran’s support for terrorism and its human rights record – those will remain in place, as will our sanctions aimed at preventing the proliferation of ballistic missiles and transfer of conventional arms.  The UN Security Council prohibitions on shipping weapons to Hizballah, the Shiite militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in Yemen – all of those will remain as well.

We will also continue to urge Tehran to provide information regarding an American who disappeared in Iran several years ago, and to release the U.S. citizens its government has unjustly imprisoned.  We will do everything we can to see that our citizens are able to safely return to where they belong – at home and with their families.

Have no doubt.  The United States will oppose Iran’s destabilizing policies with every national security tool available.  And disregard the myth.  The Iran agreement is based on proof, not trust.  And in a letter that I am sending to all the members of Congress today, I make clear the Administration’s willingness to work with them on legislation to address shared concerns about regional security consistent with the agreement that we have worked out with our international partners.

This brings us to the second piece of fiction: that this deal would somehow legitimize Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  I keep hearing this.  Well, yes, for years Iran has had a civilian nuclear program.  Under the Nonproliferation Treaty, you can do that.  It was never a realistic option to change that.  But recognizing this reality is not the same as legitimizing the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.  In fact, this agreement does the exact opposite.  Under IAEA safeguards, Iran is prohibited from ever pursuing a nuclear weapon. 

This is an important point, so I want to be sure that everyone understands:  The international community is not telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon for 15 years.  We are telling Iran that it can’t have a nuclear weapon, period.  There is no magic moment 15, 20, or 25 years from now when Iran will suddenly get a pass from the mandates of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty – doesn’t happen.  In fact, Iran is required by this agreement to sign up to and abide by the IAEA Additional Protocol that I mentioned earlier that came out of the North Korea experience.  And that requires inspections of all nuclear facilities.

What does this mean?  It means that Iran’s nuclear program will remain subject to regular inspections forever.  Iran will have to provide access to all of its nuclear facilities forever.  Iran will have to respond promptly to requests for access to any suspicious site forever.  And if Iran at any time – at any time – embarks on nuclear activities that are incompatible with a wholly peaceful program, it will be in violation of the agreement forever.  We will know of that violation right away and we will retain every option we now have to respond, whether diplomatically or through a return to sanctions or by other means.  In short, this agreement gives us unprecedented tools and all the time we need to hold Iran accountable for its choices and actions.

Now, it’s true some of the special additional restrictions that we successfully negotiated, those begin to ease after a period – in some cases 10 or 15, in others 20 or 25.  But it would defy logic to vote to kill the whole agreement – with all of the permanent NPT restrictions by which Iran has to live – for that reason.  After all, if your house is on fire, if it’s going up in flames, would you refuse to extinguish it because of the chance that it might be another fire in 15 years?  Obviously, not.  You’d put out the fire and you’d take advantage of the extra time to prepare for the future. 

My friends, it just doesn’t make sense to conclude that we should vote “no” now because of what might happen in 15 years – thereby guaranteeing that what might happen in 15 years will actually begin to happen now.  Because if this agreement is rejected, every possible reason for worry in the future would have to be confronted now, immediately, in the months ahead.  Once again and soon, Iran would begin advancing its nuclear program.  We would lose the benefit of the agreement that contains all these restrictions, and it would give a green light to everything that we’re trying to prevent.  Needless to say, that is not the outcome that we want, it is not an outcome that would be good for our country, nor for our allies or for the world

There is a third myth – a quick one, a more technical one – that Iran could, in fact, get away with building a covert nuclear facility because the deal allows a maximum of 24 days to obtain access to a suspicious site.  Well, in truth, there is no way in 24 days, or 24 months, 24 years for that matter, to destroy all the evidence of illegal activity that has been taking place regarding fissile material.  Because of the nature of fissile materials and their relevant precursors, you can’t eliminate the evidence by shoving it under a mattress, flushing it down a toilet, carting it off in the middle of the night.  The materials may go, but the telltale traces remain year after year after year.  And the 24 days is the outside period of time during which they must allow access.

Under the agreement, if there is a dispute over access to any location, the United States and our European allies have the votes to decide the issue.  And once we have identified a site that raises questions, we will be watching it continuously until the inspectors are allowed in. 

Let me underscore that.  The United States and the international community will be monitoring Iran nonstop.  And you can bet that if we see something, we will do something.  The agreement gives us a wide range of enforcement tools, and we will use them.  And the standard we will apply can be summed up in two words: zero tolerance.  There is no way to guarantee that Iran will keep its word.  That’s why this isn’t based on a promise or trust.  But we can guarantee that if Iran decides to break the agreement, it will regret breaking any promise that it has made.

Now, there are many other myths circulating about the agreement, but the last one that I’m going to highlight is just economic.  And it’s important.  The myth that sanctions relief that Iran will receive is somehow both too generous and too dangerous.

Now, obviously, the discussions that concluded in Vienna, like any serious negotiation, involved a quid pro quo.  Iran wanted sanctions relief; the world wanted to ensure a wholly peaceful nature of Iran’s program.  So without the tradeoff, there could have been no deal and no agreement by Iran to the constraints that it has accepted – very important constraints.

But there are some who point to sanctions relief as grounds to oppose the agreement.  And the logic is faulty for several reasons.  First, the most important is that absent new violations by Iran the sanctions are going to erode regardless of what we do.  It’s an illusion for members of Congress to think that they can vote this plan down and then turn around and still persuade countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, India – Iran’s major oil customers – they ought to continue supporting the sanctions that are costing them billions of dollars every year.  That’s not going to happen.  And don’t forget that the money that has been locked up as the result of sanctions is not sitting in some American bank under U.S. control.  The money is frozen and being held in escrow by countries with which Iran has had commercial dealings.  We don’t have that money.  We can’t control it.  It’s going to begin to be released anyway if we walk away from this agreement.

Remember, as well, that the bulk of the funds Iran will receive under the sanctions relief are already spoken for and they are dwarfed by the country’s unmet economic needs.  Iran has a crippled infrastructure, energy infrastructure.  It’s got to rebuild it to be able to pump oil.  It has an agriculture sector that’s been starved for investment, massive pension obligations, significant foreign reserves that are already allocated to foreign-led projects, and a civilian population that is sitting there expecting that the lifting of sanctions is going to result in a tangible improvement in the quality of their lives.  The sanctions relief is not going to make a significant difference in what Iran can do internationally – never been based on money.  Make no mistake, the important thing about this agreement is not what it will enable Iran to do, but what it will stop Iran from doing – and that is the building of a nuclear weapon.

Before closing, I want to comment on the nature of the debate which we are currently engaged in.  Some have accused advocates of the Iran agreement – including me – of conjuring up frightening scenarios to scare listeners into supporting it.  Curiously, this allegation comes most often from the very folks who have been raising alarms about one thing or another for years.  

The truth is that if this plan is voted down, we cannot predict with certainty what Iran will do.  But we do know what Iran says it will do and that is begin again to expand its nuclear activities.  And we know that the strict limitations that Iran has accepted will no longer apply because there will no longer be any agreement.  Iran will then be free to begin operating thousands of other advanced and other centrifuges that would otherwise have been mothballed; they’ll be free to expand their stockpile of low-enriched uranium, rebuild their stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, free to move ahead with the production of weapons-grade plutonium, free to go forward with weaponization research.    

And just who do you think is going to be held responsible for all of this?  Not Iran – because Iran was preparing to implement the agreement and will have no reason whatsoever to return to the bargaining table.  No, the world will hold accountable the people who broke with the consensus, turned their backs on our negotiating partners, and ignored the counsel of top scientists and military leaders.  The world will blame the United States.  And so when those same voices that accuse us of scaremongering now begin suddenly to warn, oh, wow, Iran’s nuclear activities are once again out of control and must at all costs be stopped – what do you think is going to happen?  

The pressure will build, my friends.  The pressure will build for military action.  The pressure will build for the United States to use its unique military capabilities to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, because negotiating isn’t going to work because we’ve just tried it.  President Obama has been crystal clear that we will do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  But the big difference is, at that point, we won’t have the world behind us the way we do today.  Because we rejected the fruits of diplomacy, we will be held accountable for a crisis that could have been avoided but instead we will be deemed to have created.

So my question is:  Why in the world would we want to put ourselves in that position of having to make that choice – especially when there is a better choice, a much more broadly supported choice?  A choice that sets us on the road to greater stability and security but that doesn’t require us to give up any option at all today. 

So here is the decision that we are called on to make.  To vote down this agreement is to solve nothing because none of the problems that we are concerned about will be made easier if it is rejected; none of them – not Iran’s nuclear program, not Iran’s support for terrorism or sectarian activities, not its human rights record, and not its opposition to Israel.  To oppose this agreement is – whether intended or not – to recommend in its policy a policy of national paralysis.  It is to take us back directly to the very dangerous spot that we were in two years ago, only to go back there devoid of any realistic plan or option.

By contrast, the adoption and implementation of this agreement will cement the support of the international community behind a plan to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire or possess a nuclear weapon.  In doing so it will remove a looming threat from a uniquely fragile region, discourage others from trying to develop nuclear arms, make our citizens and our allies safer, and reassure the world that the hardest problems can be addressed successfully by diplomatic means.

At its best, American foreign policy, the policy of the United States combines immense power with clarity of purpose, relying on reason and persuasion whenever possible.  As has been demonstrated many times, our country does not shy from the necessary use of force, but our hopes and our values push us to explore every avenue for peace.  The Iran deal reflects our determination to protect the interests of our citizens and to shield the world from greater harm.  But it reflects as well our knowledge that the firmest foundation for security is built on mobilizing countries across the globe to defend – actively and bravely – the rule of law.

In September 228 years ago, Benjamin Franklin rose in the great city of Philadelphia, right down there, to close debate on the proposed draft of the Constitution of the United States.  He told a rapt audience that when people of opposing views and passions are brought together, compromise is essential and perfection from the perspective of any single participant is not possible.  He said that after weighing carefully the pros and cons of that most historic debate, he said the following:  “I consent, sir, to this Constitution because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best.”

My fellow citizens, I have had the privilege of serving our country in times of peace and in times of war, and peace is better.  I’ve seen our leaders act with incredible foresight and also seen them commit tragic errors by plunging into conflicts without sufficient thought about the consequences.

Like old Ben Franklin, I can claim and do claim no monopoly on wisdom, and certainly nothing can compare to the gravity of the debate of our founding fathers over our nation’s founding documents.  But I believe, based on a lifetime’s experience, that the Iran nuclear agreement is a hugely positive step at a time when problem solving and danger reduction have rarely been so urgent, especially in the Middle East.

The Iran agreement is not a panacea for the sectarian and extremist violence that has been ripping that region apart.  But history may judge it a turning point, a moment when the builders of stability seized the initiative from the destroyers of hope, and when we were able to show, as have generations before us, that when we demand the best from ourselves and insist that others adhere to a similar high standard – when we do that, we have immense power to shape a safer and a more humane world.  That’s what this is about and that’s what I hope we will do in the days ahead.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

# # #

MENA Internship – Summer/Fall 2015: Search For Common Ground


Organisation: Search For Common Ground

Deadline Sat, 28 Mar 2015

Job type: Volunteer

Location: United States

The Organization

Search for Common Ground (SFCG) is an international non-profit organization that promotes peaceful resolution of conflict. With headquarters in Washington, DC and a European office in Brussels, Belgium, SFCG’s mission is to transform how individuals, organizations, and governments deal with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and toward cooperative solutions. SFCG seeks to help conflicting parties understand their differences and act on their commonalities. With a total of approximately 600 staff worldwide, SFCG implements projects in 35 countries, including in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the United States.  The organization is an exciting and rewarding place to work, with a dedicated and enthusiastic staff who love their work.  You will be joining a highly motivated staff with a good team spirit and there will be opportunities to grow in the role.

Summary of Position

Search for Common Ground seeks a professional, motivated, and creative intern to join the Middle East – North Africa regional team. Based in Washington, DC, the intern will provide support to SFCG’s offices and programs in MENA, including Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, and Jerusalem. Duties of this internship will contribute to the development of programs for sustainable peace and conflict transformation in the MENA region, and will give interns an opportunity to practice high-level, professional skills.

Interns must be available to work 24-40 hours per week. This internship is unpaid. We are looking for an intern to begin mid-May 2015. Interns must commit to at least 3 months, but preference will be given to those who can continue through Fall 2015.


  • Assisting with grant proposal development for country and regional programs.
  • Researching contextual information to enhance program design.
  • Editing reports from country offices for language and fluidity.
  • Assisting with donor reports and other communications.
  • Maintaining the MENA team’s communications strategy, including compiling updates from country offices, revamping website content, and creating visibility pieces for social media.
  • Collaborating with other departments to share MENA expertise.
  • Provide front desk back-up support through greeting visitors, answering calls and receiving packages during the receptionist’s lunch hour. (For this service you will remunerated if eligible to work in the US.)
  • Planning travel and meeting logistics
  • Performing other supportive duties as needed.
  • Perform French and/or Arabic translations if possible.

As job descriptions cannot be exhaustive, the position-holder may be required to undertake other duties that are broadly in line with the above key responsibilities.

Required Qualifications:

  • BA or MA (completed or in progress) in international relations, conflict resolution, Middle East studies, international development, or a related field.
  • Excellent writing, editing, and communication skills in English.
  • Computer proficiency.
  • Interest in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.
  • Familiarity with the MENA region.
  • Ability to maintain professionalism, creativity, and enthusiasm while working in a fast-paced, multi-cultural environment with minimal supervision.
  • Self-starter, able to work independently, and willing to take on tasks small and large.
  • Prior international or cross-cultural experience.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Ability to write and translate in French and/or Arabic preferred.

Salary: This internship is unpaid.

To Apply:

Please submit a (1) resume, (2) cover letter, and (3) writing sample (400-600 words: NO MORE) through our online application system at https://sfcg.bamboohr.com/jobs/view.php?id=219. This should be combined into 1 document and all uploaded into the “resume” space in the online system. Please follow this instruction. In the cover letter, besides highlighting your qualifications, please include the dates you will be available, the number of hours per week you are able to commit, and your goals for the internship. Submission deadline is March 28, 2015.