Hillary Clinton: Help Me Change Diplomacy With Technology

Hillary Clinton: Help Me Change Diplomacy With Technology

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SAN FRANCISCO—Hillary Clinton wants to change the face of diplomacy, and she is calling on all Americans to help her do it.

The U.S. Secretary of State spoke before hundreds in San Francisco on Friday, sponsored by the Commonwealth Club, to share her efforts at bolstering U.S. foreign relations and her vision of expanding U.S. diplomacy using technology and other means.

Clinton has visited 64 countries since assuming office in January 2009, but outside of Washington D.C., she has limited her speeches in the United States to Hawaii and, now, San Francisco.

She noted that many people have never understood what diplomacy is and what it looks like. “They thought it was ‘private meetings conducted by men in three-piece suits with other men in suits,’” she said. “But it is so much more.”

“It’s not just connections to governments, it’s also people-to-people connection,” she said. “Public diplomacy matters even in authoritarian regimes.”

And, she said, tech experts and entrepreneurs can play a leading role by creating technological tools that can empower people in developing nations. While in the Bay Area, Clinton met with representatives from Twitter and cell phone company executives to brainstorm next steps.

She referenced a program she launched last week called MWomen, which seeks to bridge the technology gender gap and empower 300 million women in low- and middle-income countries through mobile technology.

“Technology is survival of violence in Eastern Congo,” she said, noting that many rape victims in that country live in places without functioning court systems to help them seek justice. Using MWomen, she said, women who have been raped and attacked can send messages to other locations, with information on their attackers, photos, and recordings all captured on their phones.

“We’re working to leverage the power and potential of what I call 21st century statecraft,” Clinton said.

Diplomacy is also helping empower nations to become more self-sufficient, she noted, referencing another program organized by the State Department and Department of Agriculture. Feed the Future  seeks to address the root causes of hunger worldwide and to “establish a lasting foundation for change by aligning U.S. resources with country-owned processes and [various on-the-ground] partnerships [with non-governmental organizations or NGOs],” Clinton said.

Despite her assertion that “the secretary of state is not involved in any political activity,” audience members asked Clinton a number of questions about foreign-policy topics with political ramifications, including Mexico’s drug war and rebuilding Afghanistan.

She said that the plan for Afghanistan is “multi-pronged, working both with the military and civilians.” A successful Afghanistan, she said, “would be a stable country able to defend itself,”

“The U.S. must continue working with Afghans to improve their security and rid [the] Taliban insurgency,” she added. “And there are a lot of challenges that need to be dealt with. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know how the story will end, but we are committed to follow through with an effective strategy.”

She said the United States is working on an outreach process with Taliban members, promising that if they renounce Al Qaeda, the U.S. will help them reintegrate into Afghan society, connecting them to other mentors and community organizations.

“U.S. can’t force internal change,” she said. “[We] will work together, but it must be motivated by people inside.”

She also expressed concern about the situation in Mexico and said the United States shares responsibility in Mexico’s drug wars for its “unwillingness to crack down” on Americans’ desire for illegal drugs and weapons. Similar comments in a speech last month to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington touched off a major controversy.

“We have a problem and we want to help [Mexico] fix it,” Clinton reiterated in San Francisco. She said she plans to create outreach campaigns to work with the Mexican diaspora.

But Clinton also conceded, “Bureaucracy is a challenge…. We can’t turn a key and change the future overnight,” she said. “We want to change the way our government functions to help other governments.”

And she added: “You each play a role in helping us chart a better future. There’s a place for you.”