Remarks at the First Meeting of the Lifeline Donor Steering Committee

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Vilnius, Lithuania
July 1, 2011

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I apologize for being late. I had the opportunity to meet with the president this morning, and we met a little bit longer than planned. But let me thank you all very much for being part of this very exciting initiative. And I want to thank our team -- Mike Posner and his team from the State Department -- for working with all of you to arrange this. And I want to thank our seven NGO partners who will act as a clearinghouse, both for tracking and receiving requests for help from NGOs around the world that we then will be dispersing funds to.

We think this is -- as is obvious from the turnout -- an idea whose time has come, to have an organized response to those who are on the front lines of democracy and freedom and human rights, often at great cost to themselves. We established the Lifeline last year with a $2 million contribution. This year we have pledged another $1 million. And I am very pleased that our support was more than matched with a $1.4 million commitment from all of you. So thank you very much.

I think that the trends are so contradictory. Because, on the one hand, we have more and more people seeking to realize their rights, and on the other we have, in the past 5 years, more than 50 nations creating laws and regulations aimed at stifling the peaceful movement for democracy and freedom.

So, I think, as we lay a foundation to help embattled NGOs continue their fight for democratic values, the Lifeline fund can help in two ways. First, it will provide financial assistance to watchdog and advocacy NGOs, by doing everything from paying for new cell phones they need, helping to keep contact with jailed activists, launching legal appeals, paying for medical bills for those who have suffered abuse at the hands of government security. Second, we can help NGOs stand up to repressive government action by giving grants to rally local and international support through media campaigns to help build coalitions with civil society.

And I think our seven NGO partners are creating a virtual SOS warning platform to improve our abilities to identify where and when people are in danger. So we can get a response as quickly as needed. So we are really excited by what we have accomplished in just a year of working on this, and what we can do together. And I very much appreciate the commitment that you have made, Yuri, to contribute for two more years. And I appreciate Ambassador Bruce Davis from Australia for your commitment for another year, because we have to really see how this works. We have to make a commitment to it.

And then, I think we can attract more private money as we go forward, to have a fund that is not just government commitment, but private commitment, if we prove we can use the money effectively and get it to the people who need it the most in a timely manner, not tied up with bureaucracy and procurement, and signing a million forms, and all the things that, unfortunately, governments are well known for.

So, I think that what we are launching today is really a unique partnership with tremendous potential. So I just want to thank you all for what you have done, and for the vision that brings you here.

PRN: 2011/T50-08