Remarks at Civil Society Meeting
Secretary of State
QUESTION: Do you want to tell us anything, Secretary Clinton, about the importance of these folks you’re meeting with?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I do, Indira. Thank you. As I said in my formal remarks to the Forum, the value of this meeting is that government officials and representatives of civil society are at the same place, at the same time, to share concerns and to try to find some common cause. I know it is not easy for many of the people that I’m standing with to get the support and avoid the challenges standing up for human rights and for every other aspect of civil society and human development.
And I feel strongly that it is in the interests of the countries represented here to support the work that these men and women do. You have before you people who have paid a big price for standing up for democracy, for fighting against corruption, for asking that government actions be transparent and accountable. And I want to stand with them because the United States stands with them, and we want to be sure that we send a very clear message to the region and to individual leaders that it is in their interest to work with these men and women. It will actually strengthen the legitimacy and create a better atmosphere for helping to improve and develop the societies. So it’s an honor for me to be with them.
QUESTION: Thank you. And any comments on the situation in (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I want to see an emphasis on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression throughout the region in every country. It is, I know, sometimes difficult to report or to maintain an objective, journalistic stance without causing criticism, but as someone who has lived with a free press and taken my share of criticism – (laughter) – I’m still standing. And it is a useful check on power and an expression of concerns that should be heeded, not suppressed.
STAFF: Okay. Thank you all. Let’s go, please.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: If I may, how is it --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, yes?
QUESTION: How is it important for U.S. side --
SECRETARY CLINTON: Let’s let her ask. What?
QUESTION: How is it important – excuse me – how is it important for the U.S. side, the Italian presence in Afghanistan?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I just finished an important meeting with Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, and we discussed about how we’re going to work to support the newly reelected president. But we’re going to be expecting more and we’re going to be providing the kind of assistance and guidance that fall within a demand for greater accountability, a serious effort against corruption, more transparency.
We’re going to try to build up the capacity of the government and make sure that we have a partner not just in the president, but in the government in Kabul and the government in the local areas of Afghanistan, as well as the civil society in Afghanistan. Because the struggle that they are engaged in and the threat that they face must be met by everyone doing more and being more accountable to deliver results.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you all.