Remarks With Dutch Foreign Minister Uriel Rosenthal

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Hague, Netherlands
December 8, 2011

FOREIGN MINISTER ROSENTHAL: Okay. Let me, on my part first, welcome Secretary of State Clinton to the Netherlands, after a long trip through Asia, back home, Europe. Secretary Clinton – Hillary, dear Hillary – you have shown great leadership in defending online freedom, and this issue perfectly fits the agenda of our transatlantic relationship, and I’m very pleased indeed to have you here.

Before our conference on internet freedom, we will have bilateral consultations on a couple of issues, such as the recent developments in Burma, the need to enhance pressure on Iran, and our cooperation with the United States to achieve peace in the Middle East, a matter of mutual concern.

And as to the conference, for centuries we have been struggling to achieve freedom of speech, whether spoken, written, or broadcasted. Nowadays, it’s also an online battle – not just offline, but online. And freedom of speech online surely is as crucial as that freedom offline. More and more countries are trying now to regulate and control the internet, and it is unacceptable that websites are blocked, internet use filtered, content manipulated, and bloggers attacked and imprisoned. And bloggers and other voices deserve our support, not only from the civil society, but also from governments, like the Dutch Government, like the United States Government, but also from the private sector and academic community.

At the conference you are attending – and that is delightful to have you there – we shall establish a coalition of states which will work to ensure that the internet is open, free, innovative, and accessible to all of us. Self evidently, the coalition will engage with IT companies, NGOs, the academic community, and members of the public, and together we were will promote the cause of human rights via the internet.

The Dutch Government will step up its efforts to help voices online in repressive environments around the globe, and we will provide funding for mesh networks to those who cannot access the internet when communication infrastructures are going down. And next year, we will, on the part of the Dutch Government, contribute 1 million euros to these and other initiatives. And from 2012 to 2015, we are allocating almost 5 million euros from our human rights fund to freedom online. And we will continue to raise the issue of internet freedom bilaterally and multilaterally, and also under the co-guidance of the United States.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s delightful for us to have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton here in The Hague, the capital of peace. And I would now like to give the floor to you, Hillary. Thank you for coming.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Uri. And I’m always delighted to be back in the Netherlands and to be here in The Hague. And I want to thank you for many things. Our two countries have such a strong, close relationship. We work together on issues that span the globe, from the Middle East to Afghanistan, Iran, counterterrorism, global economic governance, humanitarian assistance, and so much more.

This conference on internet freedom is another example of your leadership, and we particularly applaud it for all the reasons that you just mentioned. This is one of the defining issues of our time. Countries like the United States and the Netherlands have fought for centuries for free speech, the freedom of assembly and association, the freedom of religion, and all the other freedoms and rights that we hold dear and that we believe are universal – they’re not Dutch, they’re not American, they’re not Western. And as we look now at the challenges to a free and accessible internet that are popping up around the world, it’s particularly timely that you would hold this conference here in The Hague, because it reflects your values but also your extraordinary determination to lead in areas that are going to affect the world for years to come.

I’m honored to be here to deliver a speech that outlines some of the concerns we have. As you know, I made internet freedom one of the cornerstones of American foreign policy. I am personally passionate about it, because, to me, it’s the same as the fights we have waged around the world when people are persecuted for speaking their minds or for gathering in basements or around corners to talk about what they hoped for their own lives and were brutally abused and persecuted. So now we have to protect those – which is most of humanity – that use the internet for communication.

I’m sure that out of this conference there will be some excellent proposals. I look forward to continuing to work with you and your government on this and many other issues of great importance to us both.

Thank you.

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PRN: 2011/ T57-24