Today the Department of State issued the following statement in conjunction with certain of our partners:

“The Governments of Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States jointly condemn any actions that imperil human life at sea during the 2012-2013 Southern Ocean whaling season.

“We reiterate our call to the masters of all vessels involved to ensure that safety of human life at sea is not endangered and international collision avoidance regulations are observed to avoid injury or loss of life among protestors and whaling crew.

“We draw their attention to the International Maritime Organization’s 17 May 2010 resolution on assuring safety during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas, and the International Whaling Commission’s 2011 Resolution on Safety at Sea. 

“We respect the right to peaceful protest, including on the high seas.  We condemn dangerous or unlawful behaviour at sea by any party in the Southern Ocean or elsewhere.  We are prepared to deal with unlawful activity in accordance with relevant international and domestic laws.

“Our Governments remain resolutely opposed to commercial whaling, including so-called ‘scientific’ whaling, in particular in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established by the International Whaling Commission.  Lethal research techniques are not required in modern whale conservation and management. We will continue to engage on this matter.

“Australia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States are committed to improving the conservation status of whales worldwide, maintaining the International Whaling Commission’s global moratorium on commercial whaling, and implementing meaningful reform of the International Whaling Commission.”

*  *  *

Today Secretary Clinton today hosted a global town hall in Washington to discuss the challenges and opportunities faced by non-governmental organizations around the world. The gathering was part of the State Department’s Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society 2012 Summit, which drew civil society representatives from more than 40 countries, joined online by a large number of others through video feeds from many of our Embassies overseas.

The Secretary launched the Strategic Dialogue early last year to deepen and broaden our engagement and establish a framework for involving civil society actors in U.S. Government policymaking. The Dialogue operates through five working groups — Human Rights & Democracy, Women’s Empowerment, Environment, Religion & Foreign Policy, Labor, Governance & Accountability – composed of senior Department officials and civil society representatives from around the world. The working groups produce and send to Secretary Clinton recommendations for policy action.

Events of the past year have shown that civil society is a powerful force for change as well as prosperity, empowerment, and stability. At this year’s summit the Secretary reviewed current events, emphasized U.S. commitment to the effort, and announced actions based on recommendations produced by the working groups. Her brief remarks and the interesting Q&A that followed are well worth reading here or viewing below:

As the town hall emcee noted, the Secretary has been passionate about the topic throughout her life: “She has been supporting civil society since before it was hip. She has been fearless, focused, and farsighted in her efforts.” After welcome those in attendance, the Secretary explained why she is so committed to the subject:

“[A] firm foundation for any society [is] like a three-legged stool where you had to have a responsive, effective, accountable government, and you had to have a dynamic, job-creating, free market economic sector. And then you had to have a strong civil society. If one of the legs got too long or too short, the balance would be thrown off.

“And to make the case for civil society, it’s really quite simple, because government cannot and should not control any individual’s life, tell you what to do, what not to do. The economy has to be in the hands of those who are the entrepreneurs and the creative innovators. But it’s in civil society where we live our lives. That’s where our families are formed; that’s where our faith is practiced; that’s where we become who we are, through voluntary activities, through standing up for our common humanity.

“And so as we see the explosion of civil society groups around the world, we want to support you. I think that in the United States, civil society does the work that touches on every part of our life. It really reflects what Alexis de Tocqueville called the habits of the heart that America has been forming and practicing from our very founding, because we early on understood that there had to be a role for government and a role for the economy, but everything else was a role for us – individuals charting our own course, making our own contributions.”

Those of you who regularly read my blog know how strongly I agree with that philosophy. If you have been observing or involved with Embassy programs in New Zealand, Samoa, or elsewhere, you know that we don’t view civil society as a rhetorical device, adjunct activity, or passing fancy. Rather, it is at the core of American diplomacy.

We will continue to use the Strategic Dialogue and our local activities to exchange ideas, promote new approaches, and experiment with better ways of formulating policies and projects. And, as the Secretary has emphasized from the start, broadening inputs and creating accountability are essential to those efforts.

So, please let me know if you have any thoughts about the Secretary’s remarks or the Strategic Dialogue framework, or if you otherwise have suggestions to make. I will feed your input into the Dialogue, enlist members of the working groups to share their experiences and thoughts on topics of particular interest to you, and address other questions that you might have.

The November 2011 issue of Foreign Policy carries an insightful article by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on America’s policy and place in the Pacific and Asian regions. It is an excellent read. I won’t reprint it in its entirety, but you can access the piece by clicking here.

In her usual direct and nuanced way, the Secretary articulates the mutual benefits of an active and engaged America, and clearly lays out the tenets of US strategy. She grounds her points in historical context often overlooked in much of today’s sound-bite-driven, faddish popular discourse:

Secretary of State Clinton.

Secretary of State Clinton.

“Just as Asia is critical to America’s future, an engaged America is vital to Asia’s future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business — perhaps more so than at any time in modern history.

“We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades — patrolling Asia’s sea lanes and preserving stability — and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth.

“We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits works and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.”

The Secretary then proceeds to discuss in detail the Administration’s “multifacted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire US government.” She notes that “[i]t has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature — long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises — and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.”

In the Secretary’s rubric, the strategy is one of forward-deployed diplomacy, which means engaging actively on the ground throughout the region and adapting in real time to the rapid and often dramatic shifts occurring in today’s interconnected world.

She reviews in detail the six key lines of action in American strategy: strengthening bilateral security alliances, deepening working relationships with emerging powers, engaging with regional multilateral institutions, expanding trade and investment opportunities, forging a broad-based military presence, and advancing democracy and human rights.

The Cloud. Please click through for image source.

Auckland's Cloud, the site of several Pacific Island Forum events.

The views that the Secretary expresses are not theoretical or philosophical. They are practical, tangible, and operational. Just one excellent example was the nature and scope of US participation in this year’s Pacific Island Forum in Auckland.

The US sent its largest and highest-level delegation ever to attend the PIF’s Post-Forum Dialogue. Led by Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides, the contingent included senior officials from the Department of State, USAID, White House, Department of Commerce, Peace Corps, Department of Defense, and Coast Guard.

L-R Jimmie Rodgers, Nisha Biswal, David Sheppard Director General Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Dan Clune U.S. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Thomas Nides.

Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides at the Pacific Island Forum.

Playing key roles along with Deputy Secretary Nides were Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell, making his third visit to New Zealand in the past 12 months, and the Governor of American Samoa, the Honorable Togiola Tulafono, as well my fellow American Ambassadors from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, and Australia.

Our visitors came to work. The delegation split into several teams based on subject matter focus, and almost two dozen of my colleagues from the Embassy and Consulate General provided support and squired the teams through more than 110 separate meetings with their counterparts from the Government of New Zealand and/or other PIF attendees.

Thomas Nides U.S. Deputy Secretary of State with NZ Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon Murray McCully.

Deputy Secretary Nides and Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully meet the press after a productive bilateral meeting.

Our visitors also came to pony up, commit, and execute. Progress was made on a variety of matters including disaster preparedness, climate change, sustainable development, and fisheries. Several MOUs and agreements were signed.

For example, we signed partnership agreements with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme to advance climate change adaptation in the Pacific Small Island States. Those agreements are part of a larger, two-year US$ 21 million package to address climate change impact in the region.

We also signed ship-rider agreements with Nauru and Tuvalu, bringing the total number of those agreements in the Pacific to eight. Under those successful agreements, the US Coast Guard extends the reach and power of island nation law enforcement officers by hosting them on our vessels and aircraft to patrol national Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). Such joint activity is essential to the economic health as well as the security of partner nations, given the large amount of illegal commercial fishing in the EEZs.

Dr. Jimmie Rodgers Director General Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Thomas Nides, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State.

Deputy Secretary Nides signs an agreement with Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Director of the General Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

Such collaboration is a natural part of our uninterrupted, generations-long engagement in the region. The United States is itself a Pacific nation with deep, enduring, and historic ties to our Pacific friends and neighbors. And that isn’t going to change. On that note, I’ll give the Secretary the final word:

“I’m well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We’ve heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we’ve overcome them through reinvention and innovation.

“Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind … So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.”

DH Sig

We at the Embassy are delighted that Secretary Hillary Clinton will be coming to New Zealand in less than two weeks. We were all disappointed — no one more so than the Secretary herself – that her original January trip had to be postponed because of the Haiti earthquake, but we knew that she would reschedule before year end.

Please click through for image source.

Planning a high-level visit is an intense process. Teams at the Embassy and in DC have been working full-time on the itinerary for the past few weeks, including drafting briefing papers and considering possible stops, kinds of events, and options for venues. I have been assisting with the planning effort on the ground in Washington, where I have spent the past fifteen days shuttling between an office in the State Department and meetings at the White House, on Capitol Hill, and elsewhere in town.

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