Remarks at a Reception With Armenian Civil Society Leaders

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Cafesjian Center
Yerevan, Armenia
July 5, 2010

AMBASSADOR YOVANOVITCH: Hello, everybody, Secretary Clinton, distinguished guests, bari luis, good morning and welcome. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are all excited to have you here, Madam Secretary, especially in Armenia for America's Independence Day and Armenia's Constitution Day today. The observance of these holidays, especially here in Khanjyan Hall, which celebrates Armenia's long but ultimately successful struggle for independence, reminds us that democracy in action requires a vibrant civil society to promote the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

Secretary of State Clinton, throughout her distinguished career, has been a passionate human rights advocate and promoter of democratic values. From her work with women and children in Arkansas, to her pledge as Secretary of State to advance a comprehensive human rights agenda, she embodies America's long tradition of making human rights a human reality. And today you have an opportunity to share with her how you all pursue these goals right here in Armenia.

So now, please join me in welcoming Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Ambassador. And thank you to each and every one of you for joining me this morning at this absolutely stunning arts center, here in Khanjyan Hall. I wanted to meet during my visit to Yerevan with civil society activists and journalists and human rights advocates and members of organizations promoting education, health, and opportunities for all Armenians.

This weekend, Americans around the world celebrated our 234th anniversary of independence. I chose to spend this holiday visiting countries whose independence has come recently, and often only after long struggles. As with my own country's democracy, I know how hard and frustrating the struggle to realize the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality can be. So I am here to encourage you to keep up your hard work. Democracy requires not just elections, but open dialogue, a free exchange of ideas, government transparency and accountability, and above all, an empowered citizenry, who constantly work together to make their country fairer, juster, healthier, and freer.

Two days ago, at the Community of Democracies meeting in Poland, I spoke about the importance of civil society in promoting good governance and transparency through peaceful means. The United States believes that when members of civil society are respected and allowed to work free of intimidation, democracies flourish and societies prosper.

In my meetings with President Sargsian and other high officials yesterday, I reiterated my support for Armenian democracy, and raised concerns about media freedom. I know many of you are concerned about the government's recent changes to the law on TV and radio. And these are concerns that the United States, the OSCE, and the European Union share. I raised this issue and was told that the government is open to amending the law this fall. And we will look forward to working with the Armenian Government on this specific issue and, more generally, to strengthen protections for journalists so that the Armenian people can receive the information they and you need to contribute to building a stronger future.

And I thank many of you for your work in reaching out beyond your borders. I know that NGOs and journalists have been working for years to strengthen bonds between people of the different countries here in the Caucasus, including Georgia and Azerbaijan, as well as reaching out to Turkey. Whatever specific work you are doing, whether it be for fair, free elections, or better access to health care, or greater flow of information, or trying to heal the wounds of history, I thank you and urge you to continue. The challenges that you are facing are not greater than the challenges that Armenia has already overcome. And please know that the United States and the Obama Administration and the American people are standing with you as you help lead your country into that future of promise and potential that every Armenian deserves.

Thank you very much. And now I look forward to meeting some of you, and having a chance to exchange our views.


PRN: 2010/T31-21