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Women’s Issues

Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the 18th Annual International Women of Courage Award Ceremony

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

The White House

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Morning, everyone, and welcome – welcome to the White House.

To the First Lady, Dr. Biden, thank you for again opening this remarkable place for this particular celebration, but also for being such an extraordinary role model for women and girls here in our country but also around the world, and for your sustained efforts to advance the rights and dignity of all people.

So we’re joined today by officials from across the United States Government, each one of them a remarkable leader and role model in their own right: Samantha Power, USAID administrator.  (Applause.)  Jen Klein, the director of the White House Gender Policy Council.  (Applause.)  Someone who really needs no introduction, Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary.  (Applause.)  Emmy Ruiz, the White House political director.  (Applause.)  Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta, the ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues.  (Applause.)  Geeta has obviously stacked the deck here.  (Laughter.)  And Desiree Cormier Smith, the special representative for racial equity and justice, who I’m so proud to serve alongside of at the State Department.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge our team at the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, led by Assistant Secretary Lee Satterfield.  (Applause.)  They are doing so much every single day to build bridges of understanding between the United States and the world, including bringing together our awardees with U.S. public servants and advocates so that they can learn from each other and boost one another.

Now, this year’s International Women of Courage are simply extraordinary.

They’re advocating for domestic workers in Bangladesh and people with disabilities in Afghanistan.  They’re exposing corruption in Uganda, combating sexual harassment in Japan, standing up for the children of war-torn – of wartime rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina, fighting for democracy in Belarus.

We’re honoring a dozen women.  There’s one couldn’t join us today: Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, an unyielding defender of human rights in Cuba. 

Cuban authorities have subjected Marta to a long campaign of detention and abuse, including prohibiting her from traveling abroad.  Marta may not be able to be with us today in person, but we want her to know all of us are with her every single day.  (Applause.)

I think Marta would be the first to say that her struggle is not hers alone.  Governments and societies around the world look to silence, to intimidate outspoken women through imprisonment, through harassment, through violence, through death threats, through the repression of their families and their colleagues.

For these women and so many activists like them around the world, courage is a deliberate and daily choice.

Women and girls demonstrate similar bravery in places that are wracked by conflict and insecurity even as they are disproportionately harmed by that violence.

We also witness the quiet daily strength of women who persist despite the obstacles to their rights, their participation, their basic chances in life, from unequal political and economic power to gender-based violence.

Whether on the front lines of war or the front lines of social change, women are often the most powerful engines for progress.

The United States stands with every woman of courage working to build greater stability, greater equality, and greater opportunity.  And we are committed to knocking down the barriers that prevent women and girls from reaching their full potential alongside them.

That’s why championing the rights of women and girls in all of their diversity is a central part of our foreign policy.

Over the past three years, we’ve put forward concrete strategies, policies, programs to support women and girls around the world.  It’s not simply rhetorical, it’s practical, from increasing their political participation to ensuring that they’re parts of things like the clean energy transition.

Last year, President Biden requested a doubling of foreign aid to promote gender equity abroad – an historic $2.6 billion.

Supporting women and girls is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart and necessary thing to do, and we know this in so many different ways.

We’ve seen this.  The more women serve in legislatures, the less likely countries actually are to actually go to war.  If we were able to close the gender gap around the world in the worldwide workforce, we would add an estimated $28 trillion to the global economy.  Just imagine what we could do to better societies around the world with those kind of resources.  Simply put, when women do better, we all do better. 

As we advance the rights and dignity of women and – around the world and of all people around the world, we will continue to look to, to learn from, to be inspired by our partners in government, the private sector, and civil society – including the women that we’re celebrating here today. 

Now, one of our honorees, Fariba Balouch, has been subjected to persistent threats from Iranian security forces.  But that has not deterred her.  She put it this way: “This is my path… responsibility.  I refuse to be silenced.”

That insistence – (applause) – that insistence, that determination to speak up, to speak out, to take action, to refuse the status quo – that’s reflected in all the extraordinary women that we recognize today. 

And it’s exhibited every day as well by the woman that I now have the great privilege to introduce – the First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.  (Applause.) 

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Special Envoy Finkenauer’s Travel to Australia and Thailand

Office of the Spokesperson

U.S. Department of State Special Envoy for Global Youth Issues Abby Finkenauer will travel to Australia and Thailand from March 4-15, 2024. Special Envoy Finkenauer’s trip will focus on engaging with emerging leaders and advocates in the Indo-Pacific region, fostering dialogue on crucial issues such as civic engagement, women’s leadership, and social empowerment.

During her visit to Melbourne, Australia, Special Envoy Finkenauer will attend the Global Citizen NOW Summit, engaging with and elevating over 300 young innovators on important topics such as ending extreme poverty, addressing the climate crisis, fighting food insecurity, and combating gender inequity.

In Perth, Australia, the Special Envoy will mark International Women’s Day through engagements with the Western Australian Football League (WAFL) Women’s Competition and alum of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. She will also promote civic engagement through a dialogue with She Runs and an engagement with young Western Australian parliamentarians.

In Bangkok, Thailand, the Special Envoy will underscore the United States’ commitment to youth leadership and development globally. She will have discussions with students, young professionals, community leaders, and journalists, emphasizing the importance of collaboration between the United States and Thailand on youth-focused initiatives.

For more information on the trip, follow along on Instagram , and Facebook .

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Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Rao Gupta Travels to Colombia  
HomeOffice of the SpokespersonPress Releases…Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Rao Gupta Travels to Colombia   hide if(window.jQuery) { jQuery( document ).ready(function() { if (jQuery(".bc_middle").hasClass("collapse")) { jQuery(".bc_ellipse").click(function(){ jQuery(".bc_hide").toggleClass("visible"); jQuery(".bc_middle").toggle(); jQuery(".bc_ellipse").toggle(); jQuery(".bc_content").toggleClass("noflex"); jQuery(".block_breadcrumbs_content").toggleClass("noflex"); }); jQuery(".bc_hide").click(function(){ jQuery(".bc_hide").toggleClass("visible"); jQuery(".bc_middle").toggle(); jQuery(".bc_ellipse").toggle(); jQuery(".bc_content").toggleClass("noflex"); jQuery(".block_breadcrumbs_content").toggleClass("noflex"); }); } else { jQuery(".bc_ellipse").hide(); } }); } Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Rao Gupta Travels to Colombia  

Media Note

January 31, 2024

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Dr. Geeta Rao Gupta will travel to Bogotá, Colombia from January 31-February 3.  The Ambassador will meet with government officials, civil society leaders, international partners, and other gender equality champions.

To further advance the United States’ and Colombia’s shared commitment to promoting gender equality and the global Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, Ambassador Rao Gupta and Vice Foreign Minister of Colombia Elizabeth Taylor will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on February 1 to support the launch of Colombia’s Women, Peace and Security Center of Excellence.  This Center will coordinate existing WPS efforts and support WPS National Action Plan (NAP) development and implementation through training, technical learning exchanges, and sharing of knowledge and expertise.  The WPS Center will create opportunities for further partnership with Colombia and regional counterparts, in support of the 2023 U.S. Strategy and NAP on Women, Peace and Security.

On February 2, Ambassador Rao Gupta will meet with the Ministry of Equality and Equity to discuss efforts to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls.  In addition, the Ambassador will hear from civil society leaders on opportunities to strengthen women’s empowerment in Colombia.

For media inquiries, please contact stategwi@state.gov.

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Joint Statement on the Trilateral United States-Japan-Republic of Korea Indo-Pacific Dialogue

Office of the Spokesperson

The following text was released by the Governments of the United States of America, Japan, and the Republic of Korea on the occasion of the Trilateral United States-Japan-Republic of Korea Indo-Pacific Dialogue.

Begin Text:

The Governments of the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea convened the inaugural trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue in Washington, D.C. on January 5, 2024.  Led by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel J. Kritenbrink, Japanese Deputy Minister/Director-General Kobe Yasuhiro, and Republic of Korea (ROK) Deputy Minister Chung Byung-won, the meeting built upon commitments made during the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David hosted by President Joseph Biden on August 18, 2023.

Before beginning their planned discussions, the three partners expressed their condolences for those who lost their lives in the recent earthquake in Ishikawa prefecture.

The representatives of the United States, Japan, and the ROK discussed each country’s Indo-Pacific approach and opportunities for cooperation, with an emphasis on partnership with Southeast Asian and Pacific Island countries.  They shared their respective assessments on geopolitical trends shaping the Indo-Pacific, highlighting the need for enhanced trilateral cooperation.

They reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate through regional forums and groupings, including ASEAN, the Friends of the Mekong, the Partners in the Blue Pacific, and the Pacific Islands Forum.  They took note of the unique opportunity for trilateral cooperation at the UN in 2024 while the United States, Japan, and the ROK all hold seats on the Security Council.  They celebrated the success of the U.S. APEC host year in 2023 and looked forward to cooperating on the ROK’s APEC host year in 2025, and applauded progress made on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity negotiations.  They discussed strategies to advance women’s economic empowerment and equitable participation in the digital economy and looked forward to the 2024 Women’s Economic Empowerment Conference in Washington, D.C.  They also noted with optimism opportunities for further youth engagement with Pacific Island and Southeast Asian countries, supported in tandem by the United States, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, including the upcoming July 2024 Trilateral Global Leadership Youth Summit in Busan.

Additionally, they emphasized the importance of collaborating to enhance regional economic security, resilience, and development, including taking action to combat climate change and engaging with Indo-Pacific partners on issues such as information and communications technology, cybersecurity, and emerging technology, including through the AI Safety Summit and the Global AI Forum hosted by the ROK in 2024.  Furthermore, they reiterated their ongoing commitment to trilateral maritime security and law enforcement cooperation in accordance with international law with a focus on support for capacity building in the region.

While focusing on the opportunities for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, the partners also noted with concern worrying trends in the region, including the worsening humanitarian, political, and economic crisis in Myanmar. Recalling the publicly announced positions of the three countries regarding the recent dangerous and escalatory behavior supporting unlawful maritime claims by the PRC in the South China Sea, they strongly reiterated their firm commitment to international law, including the freedom of navigation and overflight, as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and they opposed any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion anywhere in the waters of the Indo-Pacific.  They condemned the DPRK’s continued development of its unlawful nuclear and ballistic missile programs, growing military cooperation with Russia, and grave human rights violations and abuses.  They reaffirmed the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as indispensable to security and prosperity in the international community.

Recognizing the increased threat posed by foreign information manipulation, the United States, Japan, and the ROK discussed ways to effectively counter these threats while respecting freedom of expression.

The trilateral Indo-Pacific Dialogue is a new chapter in our countries’ partnership and an important step forward to strengthen and more closely align our policies globally.  Assistant Secretary Kritenbrink, Deputy Minister/Director-General Kobe, and Deputy Minister Chung reaffirmed their intent to continue to hold the trilateral dialogue annually and coordinate closely on issues of shared concern in the Indo-Pacific.

End Text.

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Jake Tapper of CNN State of the Union

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  Joining me now is Secretary of State Antony Blinken.  Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.  So the U.S. stood alone at the UN Security Council on Friday to block the ceasefire, and the administration is sidestepping Congress to rush more weapons to Israel.  You said this week there is, quote, a “gap between … the intent to protect civilians, and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground” in Gaza.  Can you describe that gap?  What is Israel doing right now that you think does not demonstrate enough care or protection of Palestinian civilians?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jake, we think there needs to be a premium put on protecting civilians and making sure that humanitarian assistance can get to everyone who needs it.  And as I said, I think the intent is there, but the results are not always manifesting themselves.  And we see that both in terms of civilian protection and humanitarian assistance.  We want to make sure that as Israel continues this this campaign – because remember, they are dealing with a terrorist organization that engaged in the most vicious possible brutality on October 7th and has made clear that it would do it again and again and again if given the opportunity.  So Israel needs to be able to deal with this, to protect itself, to prevent October 7th from happening again.  But as it does that, it’s imperative that civilians be protected.  And here, the critical thing is to make sure that the military operations are designed around civilian protection and to focus on that.

When it comes to humanitarian assistance, we, as you know, made the argument many weeks ago to get humanitarian assistance in.  It started to flow.  We got it doubled during the humanitarian pause for the hostage releases that we helped to negotiate.  But now what’s critical is this:  Even as Israel has taken additional steps – for example, to designate safe areas in the south; to focus on neighborhoods, not entire cities in terms of evacuating them – what we’re not seeing sufficiently is a couple of things.

One, making sure that the humanitarian operators who are there, starting with the United Nations, performing heroically, that there are deconfliction times, places, and routes so that the humanitarians can bring the assistance that’s getting into Gaza to the people who need it.  Similarly, we need to see the same kind of deconfliction time, pauses, designated routes – plural, not just one – and clarity of communication so that people know when it is safe and where it is safe to move to get out of harm’s way before they go back home.  These are the kinds of things we’re working on every single day, again, to make sure that that gap between intent and result is as narrow as possible.

QUESTION:  The IDF told CNN – I believe Alex Marquardt – earlier today that they estimate they’ve killed about 7,000 Hamas fighters.  When do you anticipate this phase of Israel’s military campaign is going to end?  Obviously, they can’t kill every member of Hamas, and even if they did, 150,000 new ones would show up the next day.  Are the Israelis telling you anything about when this phase is going to wrap up?  Because obviously, the civilian death toll is mounting; it’s unimaginable.  Secretary Austin suggested that Israel might ultimately be facing a strategic defeat by chasing so many Palestinians into the arms of Hamas.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jake, we have these discussions with Israel, including about the duration as well as how it’s prosecuting this campaign against Hamas.  These are decisions for Israel to make, but Hamas has decisions to make too.  It could get out from hiding behind civilians tomorrow.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It could put down its arms tomorrow, it could surrender tomorrow, and this would be over.

QUESTION:  Right, obviously, but will the U.S. continue to back Israel the way it’s backing Israel right now if this continues for months and months, as opposed to days or weeks?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Again, Israel has to make these decisions.  Of course, everyone wants to see this campaign come to a close as quickly as possible.  But any country faced with what Israel is facing, a terrorist organization that attacked it in the most horrific way possible on October 7th – and as I said, has said repeatedly that it would do it again and again and again – it has to get to the point where it is confident that that can’t be repeated.

But you make another point that’s very important.  When the major military operation is over, this is not over, because we have to have a durable, sustainable peace, and we have to make sure that we’re on the path to a durable, sustainable peace.  From our perspective, I think from the perspective of many around the world, that has to lead to a Palestinian state.  This is – we’re not going to have durable peace, we’re not going to have durable security for Israel unless and until Palestinian political aspirations are met.  And of course, what happens the day after in Gaza itself once the military operation’s – major military operation’s over – that’s also hugely important and urgent to make sure that governance, security, reconstruction, all of that is in place so that there’s no vacuum.

QUESTION:  The Committee to Protect Journalists says at least 63 journalists and members of the news media have been killed, 56 of them Palestinian, in this war, presumably, mostly if not entirely by IDF strikes.  Is that acceptable to you?  You’ve made press freedom a hallmark of your term.  How do you explain all these deaths of journalists?  How do the Israelis explain it?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jake, as I see journalists, including some of your colleagues but also from many other news organizations, putting their lives on the line to just bring the news, bring the facts, bring information to the world, I have extraordinary admiration for what they do, for the courage that they show, and for the vital importance of their mission.  And we want to make sure that, just as every civilian is protected to the greatest extent possible, of course, journalists are too.  And there – when it comes to instances where journalists have been killed, we want to make sure that that’s investigated and we understand what’s happened and there’s accountability.

QUESTION:  Congress is scrambling to reach a deal to pass foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel.  Republicans are insisting on more border funding and new asylum restrictions, that that be added to the bill.  What would it mean for Ukraine and Israel if Congress does not pass any additional support by the end of the year?  And why not agree to tougher border protections, which is an issue of national security as well?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Jake, the border piece, as you know, is out of my purview.  But I can say this.  I know on day one of this administration, or at least day two, the President put before Congress, I think, a first bill on immigration reform.  Unfortunately, Congress hasn’t acted on that.  In this request for additional funds, there are $6 billion to enhance border security, including having more people, more agents on the border.  So I know that’s very much part of the discussion and something the President’s fully prepared to engage on.

But in terms of what it would mean for Ukraine, what it would mean for Israel, what it would mean for our efforts to be competitive in the Indo-Pacific – I think the only people who’d be happy if this supplemental budget request is not voted on and approved by Congress are sitting in Moscow, sitting in Tehran, sitting in Beijing.  For Ukraine, this is absolutely vital.  They’ve made remarkable progress over the last year in pushing back Russian aggression, taking back more than 50 percent of the territory that was seized since February of 2022.  But they’re in a ferocious battle now in the south and the east.  We are running out of funding for them.

By the way, 90 percent of the assistance, the security assistance that we provided Ukraine, is actually invested right here in the United States to our companies, to our manufacturers.  Similarly, we’ve had extraordinary burden sharing with our allies and partners.  We’ve provided very significant assistance, about $70 billion over the last two years.  Our European friends and partners beyond Europe: more than $110 billion for Ukraine.  So we have the burden sharing that we need.

This is a time to really step up, because if we don’t, we know what happens.  Putin will be able to move forward with impunity, and we know he won’t stop in Ukraine, and he may well end up going after a NATO country.  That would bring us in given our obligations to our NATO Allies.  So here, an ounce of prevention is really worth 10 pounds of cure.

QUESTION:  Antony, as you know, CNN has led the coverage when it comes to the evidence mounting in Israel of rapes and sex crimes committed by Hamas against women and girls, maybe even against men on October 7th.  Why do you think the United Nations and the international community has been so slow to condemn these atrocities?  I can’t think of a real reason – well, let me just put it this way.  I’ve heard antisemitism hypothesized as a reason why the UN and the international community might be so slow to acknowledge this.  What do you think?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Jake, first, I really applaud the extraordinary work of CNN in bringing this to light and bringing this before the world.  You’ve performed a remarkable service in doing that.  As to your question, I don’t have an answer.  I don’t know why countries, leaders, international organizations were so slow to focus on this, to bring it to people’s attention.  I’m glad it’s finally happened.  The atrocities that we saw on October 7th are almost beyond human description or beyond our capacity to digest.  And we’ve talked about them before, but the sexual violence that we saw on October 7th is beyond anything that that I’ve seen either.  So thank you for doing that, and look, I don’t have a good answer to that question.  I think it’s a question that these organizations, these countries need to ask themselves.

QUESTION:  Secretary of State Antony Blinken, thanks for joining us today.  Appreciate it.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks, Jake.  Good to be with you.

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Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Sison’s Travel to Ghana

Office of the Spokesperson

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Michele Sison will travel to Accra, Ghana December 3-7 for the UN Peacekeeping Ministerial.  The Assistant Secretary will accompany Head of Delegation U.S. Representative to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield and other U.S. officials.

Assistant Secretary Sison will attend a U.S.-hosted side event on Improving Environmental Management in Peacekeeping Operations and Sweden’s side event on Women, Peace, and Security.  She will hold meetings with counterparts and senior UN officials to reinforce the U.S. commitment to UN peacekeeping as well as meet the UN Country Team in Ghana.  The 2023 UN Peacekeeping Ministerial will focus on the protection of civilians, peacekeeper safety and security, and women in peacekeeping.

For updates, follow @State_IO on X.

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 3 months ago

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Observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

The Secretary of State

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the United States commits  to marshaling our full range of policy and diplomatic resources to preventing and responding to gender-based violence around the world.

To continue making progress toward the global eradication of gender-based violence, the United States is pairing the updated 2022 U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-BasedViolence Globally with concrete, survivor-centered actions, utilizing the $250 million in foreign assistance Congress appropriated in Fiscal Year 2023 for efforts to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Furthermore, the Department recently awarded a new $3 million program to prevent, mitigate, and respond to technology-facilitated gender-based violence  in South and Central Asia.

The prevalence of gender-based violence is alarmingly high, leaving no country, society, or socioeconomic group unscathed. Working with our partners, the United States will continue to work for a future free from gender-based violence.

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