VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/18/12)—Secretary of State Hilary Clinton held a Global Town Hall with Civil Society at the State Department’s Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. on May 16. The secretary launched the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society in February 2011 to elevate U.S. engagement with partners beyond the state and to build a framework for civil society involvement in policymaking. At the meeting Clinton announced action on the policy recommendations from the working groups. A meeting of one of these groups, the working group on religion and foreign policy, met in April at the American Baptist Churches mission center in Valley Forge, PA.
Present in the audience of the Global Town Hall meeting were invited civil society representatives from more than 40 countries and senior leaders from the State Department and throughout the U.S. Government.
Also in attendance from our Baptist family were Suzan Johnson Cook, ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom; Raimundo Barreto, director of the Division of Freedom and Justice for the Baptist World Alliance; and Leo S. Thorne, associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development, American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). Additionally, individuals also participated online through embassy viewing parties held around the world.
“We have a long journey ahead of us, but we also have a great opportunity through this window of engaging in strategic dialogue with civil society to influence real change at a time in our history when religious influx threatens the peace of so many people in our world,” said Thorne. “Religious liberty has been a solid cornerstone in American Baptist life, and we want to continue working with people of other faiths to advance the common good.”
At the meeting Secretary Clinton announced action on policy recommendations developed through the Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society—the Department’s formal mechanism for involving civil society in the policy-making process.
At the suggestion of civil society representatives from around the globe, Secretary Clinton agreed to:
- Facilitate U.S. diplomatic engagement with religious communities through expanded training and guidance for State Department officials;
- Build awareness for women’s rights in countries undergoing political transition and work closely with MENA region civil society groups and governments to make sure women’s rights are enshrined in their new constitutions and protected in practice;
- Institutionalize a platform for dialogue with representatives from labor and business groups at G-20 Summits;
- Develop new opportunities for south-south cooperation on labor issues; and
- Establish mission-based civil society working groups within the Dialogue to address issues of local and regional importance.
After her announcement, Secretary Clinton answered questions from audience members and questions submitted via YouTube from activists overseas.
The Dialogue operates through five working groups led by Senior State Department officials and involves civil society representatives from around the world. The Dialogue’s working groups include democracy and human rights, governance and accountability, labor, religion and foreign policy, and women’s empowerment. They report to a Federal Advisory Committee that meets quarterly to review working group progress and recommend policy action directly to the Secretary.
To view the full State Department press release, click here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2012/05/190095.htm
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.