• US Secretary of State Kerry: "An Open and Secure Internet: We Must Have Both!"

    Too many of the decision makers in governments around the world are making the decision to restrict access to the Internet rather than all citizens to allow open and free access to all in cyberspace. No doubt, the Internet revolution of today will shape not only citizens access to information about governments and policy by also the very types of opportunities that people all over the world will enjoy or be denied. 
    US Secretary of State, John Kerry recently spoke (click here) in South Korea about the need for open and free access to the Internet. Kerry spoke about digital technology and about the fears and the possibilities that many associate with digital technology.
    Kerry said, "We believe people are entitled to the same rights of free expression online as they possess offline. We believe countries should work together to deter and respond effectively to online threats. And we believe digital policy should seek to fulfill the technology’s potential as a vehicle for global stability and sustained economic development; as an innovative way to enhance the transparency of governments and hold governments accountable; and also as a means for social empowerment that is also the most democratic form of public expression ever invented." 
    Discussion starters:
    1. How might the international community move towards consensus about what exactly constitutes acceptable openness and acceptable government behavior in cyberspace?
    2. Is it possible for nations to join together to act against those states who would place restrictions or limits on citizen access to cyberspace?
  • US Ambassador Russell Seeks to Address IDPs in Burma

    United States Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Cathy Russell, and her delegation traveled to Myitkyina, Burma this week to meet with Kachin civil society leaders.

    Ambassador Russell learned about the role women play in civil society, politics, and the peace process in the far northern Burmese state. The US delegation also visited an internal displacement camp (IDP) in Kachin State. At present, there are more than 240,000 internally displaced people in the Kachin State, northern Shan State, and Rakhine State.  

    Addressing the needs of these internally displaced people is a challenge. In Kachin State, the Burmese government limits humanitarian agencies' access to the IDP sites and aid organizations must seek permission to access areas not under government control.

    In Rakhine State, the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance has been severely limited by the political context, while conditions for IDPs deteriorate.  The IDPs spoke openly to US Ambassador Russell about camp conditions. Her delegation reported being very impressed by the brave women who are raising their families in such difficult conditions. Ambassador Russell sought to explain that the US government is providing as much support to IDP camps as political conditions allow.

    Ambassador Russell stressed the impact that women around the world have in promoting peace and security.

    Discussion starters:

    1. How might the United States better serve the people in the Burmese IDP camps?
    2. What do you think the short and long term impact of a delegation like Ambassador Russell’s to Myitkyina, Burma makes on the relations among nations?
  • United States Ambassador for Religious Freedom visits Burma

    Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein is visiting Burma/Myanmar this week (May 2-5 2015).  The Ambassador at Large is an advisor to President Obama and Secretary of State and serves as the United States’ chief diplomat on issues of religious freedom worldwide.  Ambassador Saperstein’s message in Burma/Myanmar is clear: religious freedom and tolerance will advance Burma’s security, stability, and its democracy.

    During his visit to Burma, the Ambassador is meeting with many religious and interfaith leaders, government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations, students, and civil society activists to discuss religious freedom and tolerance. The Ambassador shared strategies for building tolerance and enhancing religious freedom for all, including minorities. Discussions focused on the strength of unity through the country's diversity, and the important role civil society plays in promoting tolerance.

    Saperstein has met with representatives of Burma’s religious and ethnic minority communities. Ambassador Saperstein visited the local Chinese Muslim community mosque in Mandalay and had a chance to discuss the rich history of Mandalay's diversity, highlighted by the presence of the city's Chinese Muslim community.

    Ambassador Saperstein also visited Ta Cham Pei Mosque in Yangon. He was encouraged by efforts made by the mosque to be inclusive of women. 

    Discussion starters:

    1. Does the sharing of ideas open doors to new opportunities?
    2. What strategies would you suggest the United States use to promote religious tolerance and freedom in societies like Burma?