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Democracy, Human Rights, Refugees: Briefing on Establishment of the Office of the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights

Special Briefing
Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights 
Washington, DC
January 5, 2012

MS. NULAND: Good afternoon, everybody. Today, we are delighted to have a special briefing rolling out the last implementation piece that resulted from the reorganization recommended by the Secretary’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. This part of the realignment is led by Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, who with this reorganization now becomes Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

Under Secretary Otero.

UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you. Thank you. Good afternoon to everyone. I think it is afternoon by now. As many of you know, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review called for the State Department to respond to the political, social, economic challenges of the 21st century, many of which were emerging from within the countries as much as between countries. The QDDR, as we call it, recognized the need to elevate civilian power, namely to strengthen institutions that address today’s transnational threats, promote stability, and advance American national security.

Now, as we elevate civilian power within U.S. foreign policy, Secretary Clinton also increased our focus on civilian security and the protection of individuals. This means helping countries create just societies, societies that are grounded in democratic principles, that guarantee respect for human rights, and that apply the rule of law.

So as part of implementing the QDDR, Secretary Clinton has realigned the bureaus and the offices within the State Department so that we have a more cohesive response to the challenges of helping countries build and strengthen their own just societies. The new structure is going to help us become more effective and more efficient in carrying out our policies, and it’s going to enable us to collaborate in a stronger way and to use many of the tools that we have available that contribute to civilian security.

For example, we strengthen democratic institutions; we strengthen judicial systems; we denounce human rights abuses; we help build stronger law enforcement capabilities; we provide humanitarian assistance when it’s needed; we address transnational crime, whether it’s drugs or trafficking in persons; we combat violent extremism, and we engage with youth and civil society in all of the countries that we work with. So this is a wide array of entry points into helping countries create more just societies and to help provide more protection to individuals.

Now, to reflect this realignment, my working title, as was just mentioned, is changing from Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs to become Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Let me just quickly walk you through some of the changes organizationally that this realignment will bring about, both at the bureaus and the offices, all of which are led by superior public servants who I will be working with very closely.

Now, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and the Office to Combat Trafficking in Persons all were already part of this under secretary and will remain there. What we are doing is we are adding additional ones that address civilian security, and these are: Conflict and Stabilization Operations, which was originally an office, but it is now becoming a bureau, and we hope to soon have that assistant secretary confirmed; Counterterrorism, which was announced yesterday, which is now a bureau and it’s led by a coordinator on counterterrorism.

We’re also including the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau, INL, which returns to this family of bureaus because when this family was first established it was originally there, but it had been now under the Under Secretary of Political Affairs. We bring into this family of bureaus also the Office of Global Criminal Justice, and this office was previously known as the Office of War Crimes. And finally we have also the newly created Office of Global Youth Issues, which is joining this group. So you see that it’s quite an array of bureaus and offices that are now forming part of this focus on civilian security.

As Under Secretary Hormats described several weeks ago when he explained how that part of the Department was reconfigured, a bureau that was within this family originally, which is the Bureau of Oceans, Environment, and Scientific Affairs, OES, is now moving and reporting to Under Secretary Hormats. And we are working already closely in our interagency work with partners, including the U.S. Agency for International Development. We’re working with the Department of Justice and with the Department of Defense, among others.

The President spoke at the Pentagon this morning about the complex challenges that we face. His message underscores the need to strengthen our civilian tools and to work with our military in a mutually reinforcing way that will keep America safe, promote our values, and protect our interests. Ultimately the United States is better off in a world of just societies, where the first obligation of a government is to its people, where there is accountability under the rule of law, where the basic needs of all people are met, and where men, women, and children are safe from crime and violence, and where all individuals can exercise their full range of rights.

Let me stop here right now and then let me just open it up for questions that you might have on this.


QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. My name’s Said Arakat with Al Quds daily newspaper. Glad to meet you. I just wanted to ask you to explain to us how does this impact NGOs? How do you work directly with NGOs, let’s say, in Egypt and other places, one? And how do you monitor? Do you directly now monitor human rights abuses in places where there is military occupation like the West Bank?

UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: As part of this work, we see the emphasis that Secretary Clinton is giving – and we’ve heard this in her speeches, especially in her speech in Krakow over a year ago, in which one of our focuses is to engage – to expand our engagement and to work not just state to state but to interact with civil society quite extensively. And this part of the Department will do that even more than all the other parts of the Department will do it, because part of our work, through our effort to address human rights, through our effort to ensure that there’s free expression to assemble, to provide opinions, to work and to create accountability mechanisms for governments, we work with NGOs. We work directly with them in every country. We support them. We provide them with resources, we provide with training, and we will continue to do that, and we will continue to do that in Egypt as we will in other countries.

QUESTION: On the issue of monitoring human rights abuses, do you have a separate entity, a separate office, let’s say, from what the consulate in Jerusalem does in the case of the West Bank or your embassies elsewhere?

UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: One of the bureaus that will constitute part of this family of bureaus is the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. And that bureau dedicates its efforts precisely to addressing the issues of human rights, to denouncing abuses of human rights, to engaging both with civil society and with government officials in ensuring that these issues are – become part and parcel of the work that we’re doing. In fact, from our perspective, addressing the freedoms that we believe every individual should have and which the Secretary has emphasized over and over is an essential part of the work that we are doing in this area of civilian security.

QUESTION: Thank you. Will there be any changes within these bureaus? Will some bureaus grow or contract, or will it just be simply moving the bureaus from one tree of organization to another? Is this cost-neutral, or will this add expenses or take away expenses from the Department overall? And can you give us a little bit more detail on how exactly this plan achieves the efficiencies you’re claiming?

UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Yes. Clearly, what we are seeing is an opportunity to be able to provide a more cohesive and a more coordinated response to the issues – the wide array of issues that one faces when one is addressing civilian security, when one is helping a country develop a more just society. And it means that by being able to work more cohesively together, we are also enabling all of the bureaus to work together to tailor their response in a way that is not separate, but that actually takes into account the other tools available to them.

It means also that we are looking at this issue of civilian security from a larger vantage point than just looking at, for example, helping law enforcement agencies improve or helping address human rights or helping address trafficking. And it allows us then to not only be more effective in the way that we are providing it, but also more efficient. The idea is to be able to leverage the resources that we have so that we are able to respond in a way that is more effective and efficient.

We don’t anticipate increases in resources. And we also – I assume there will be some changes in staff, but this does not signify any huge increase in staff as we have it right now. And I should say that these changes, this realignment, which really describes the form as we implement the QDDR, very much follows the vision that the Secretary has given. And that vision that focuses on addressing civilian security, on ensuring that we are including in that the wide array of areas that are important for us to help governments ensure that they are protecting their citizens, this is nothing more than form then following the substance.

MS. NULAND: Other questions for Under Secretary Otero? Another one for Said?

QUESTION: Quickly, very quickly if it’s okay with everybody else here. Madam Under Secretary, how – would you say that, like, the Counterterrorism Bureau announced yesterday or today as the QDDR – does that in any way have a direct relation to, let’s say, the Arab Spring, or is that just a natural outgrowth of the State Department bureaucracy itself?

UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: The idea of being able to put these bureaus together is so that all of those pieces that in one way or another impact on civilian security are interacting one with the other. In some countries, you will have some of the bureaus acting more fully. So for example, in countries where there is violent extremism, where we see that there is a threat of counter – of terrorism, you would see that bureau operating far more effectively, engaging in helping build capacity in other countries, and I think as you heard yesterday, all the different ways in which they are engaging in (inaudible).

But the idea of having all of these together means that we are linking all of the pieces within the Department that can help us enhance and ensure the security of individuals and that can help us strengthen the governments’ capacity to protect their citizens to be altogether in a way that is stronger and more responsive to the vision that the Secretary has given.

MS. NULAND: Anything else for Under Secretary Otero? Good. Thank you very much.


PRN: 2012/015