Foreign Affairs Day

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
Washington, DC
May 4, 2012

Thank you, Linda (Thomas-Greenfield). It is great to have the opportunity to speak with you all. I want to start by congratulating Roz Ridgway on receiving the DACOR Cup for her contributions to U.S. foreign policymaking, and I hope she feels better soon. It’s also wonderful that Tom Pickering, another Foreign Service celebrity, will speak at today’s luncheon. His wife Alice will be sorely missed by all of her friends here today.

As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, now known as “J”. My position is new to most of you, and reflects a recent organization of the State Department, as recommended by Secretary Clinton’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which Deputy Secretary Steinberg spoke about at last year’s Foreign Affairs Day.

The reorganization follows Secretary Clinton’s vision of how the world is changing in the 21st century -- and the way that our foreign policy should change with it. In one of her first major speeches, she said, “Our approach to foreign policy must reflect the world as it is, not as it used to be.” She went on to describe the two inescapable facts that set the parameters of foreign policy and development today:

First, no nation can meet the world’s challenges alone. The issues are too complex and the threatening actors playing in the global arena are increasingly not just states -- as they were in the Cold War or eras past -- they are non-state players such as criminal cartels, terrorist cells, and rebel groups. And those that engage globally --  multinational corporations, NGOs- development and humanitarian -- also find their work directly affected by these non-state actors.

Second, nations around the world are concerned with the same global threats, making wide-ranging and deep cooperation not just smart, but necessary.

These two facts demand a different global architecture -- which in turn merits a different kind of global engagement in the 21st century.

As we face ever-tightening budgets, we need to be efficient. We need to work more closely and collaboratively with non-governmental actors. As we face new threats and opportunities, we need to be nimble. And, if our action is to meet our ambition, we need to be effective.

In order to be all of these things, the United States needs to employ (and deploy) its civilian power, leveraging the great work by the State Department, USAID and nearly 40 other domestic agencies that work with partner governments and organizations abroad.

At the State Department, elevating our civilian power means better understanding how our diplomats and policy makers are supporting governments as they provide for and protect their citizens -- in other words, how we advance civilian security.

This pursuit of civilian security is grounded in the understanding that we will only achieve sustainable peace when we resolve the underlying grievances of individuals; it also acknowledges that conflict and crisis are present in many countries around the world, and one of our foreign policy objectives should be to help prevent conflict or mitigate its occurrence.

And, to do that, we need to build government institutions that can provide for those individuals. This includes governments that respect basic rights of their citizens. It includes civilian police forces rooted in the rule of law whose mission is to protect citizens. It includes court and justice systems that are able to hold citizens accountable.

There are many parts of the State Department that are advancing some aspect of civilian security. From the protection of human rights, to the provision of humanitarian aid, to combating human and drug trafficking, to improving law enforcement and the rule of law, to efforts that counter violent extremism, to work that helps punish crimes against humanity: each of these elements is one piece of the puzzle that helps governments create more just societies for their people. By pulling them together, under one Under Secretary, we have created a mechanism for a more holistic, coherent approach to support the protection of individuals and, ultimately, the stability of nations.

The new J family, made up of five bureaus and three offices, enables greater collaboration and helps us be more effective and efficient in carrying out our policies.

With the coordination of these bureaus under one part of the State Department, we now have the ability to take the comprehensive view of much of the Department’s resources -- namely $4.5 billion in programming and 1500 people in Washington and abroad. The realignment helps us see where new opportunities and gaps are in our policies and priorities around the world.

This reorganization requires that we work internally in a more collaborative way towards shared goals. For instance, our Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Bureau is working more closely with the International, Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau on human rights training for police forces in transition countries. Our new counter-terrorism Bureau is collaborating more closely with the Office of Global Youth Issues on preventing violent extremism.

As we reorient ourselves internally, we have also taken steps to shift our global engagement. Let me give you a couple of examples.

1. Following our long history of promoting global good governance, President Obama launched the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in September, along with 7 other like-minded governments and nine civil society organizations. OGP aims to secure concrete commitments on transparency, openness and accountability from governments, developed hand-in-hand with civil society. And eight months since that launch, 55 governments have joined OGP and have made more than 250 commitments to open government. OGP stands out as a new kind of multilateral initiative for two reasons. First, civil society sits at the same table as governments; and second, it includes countries from the south and north -- reflecting, as Secretary Clinton said last month, that the dividing line of the 21st century is not south versus north but open versus closed.

2. Second, our global engagement must mirror the people that we are interacting with and the populations we are trying to support. Globally, 60% of the world’s population is under 30. Responding to that reality, Secretary Clinton launched an office of Global Youth Issues this year. We know that the growing youth demographic around the world presents both an opportunity and a threat to stability, and we need to elevate how we are both interacting with young people and implementing policies that empower them as change agents.

3. A third and final example of our new approach to global engagement is Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, which is modeled on our bilateral dialogues with strategic countries around the world. Secretary Clinton recognizes the need to incorporate civil society into our policymaking process, so she has elevated our engagement with partners beyond the state. The civil society dialogue, which will convene in a Global Summit here in Washington this month, underscores our commitment to supporting and protecting civil society around the world.

So those are just a few examples of the progress we have made both internally and externally in relation to the changing world around us. By elevating civilian power, focusing on civilian security, and engaging beyond traditional state actors, we are demonstrating through our policies and our action a 21st century approach to diplomacy, built on the strong foundation that all of you contributed to. I thank you for your service to the United States and for your continued commitment to the work of the State Department.

With that, I’m available for your questions.