Secretary Clinton took a lot of heat during her recent trip to China about her relative emphasis, or lack thereof, on human rights. However, her comments while speaking to journalists in Jakarta, Indonesia touched on how the Obama administration plans to approach conflict resolution efforts:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Philip, your question, as I understand it, is will we play a more active role in trying to resolve conflicts.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And the answer is we are going to try. We believe strongly that the United States does have such a role to play. A number of people in my conversations over the last day have asked about what we were going to do in the Middle East. And I pointed out that one of the very first decisions that the President and I made was to appoint a Special Envoy to the Middle East. And Senator Mitchell was very involved in helping to resolve the conflict in Northern Ireland.
Translation: the Obama administration intends to have special envoys lead U.S. policy in several key conflict zones stretching from South Asia to the Great Lakes region of Central Africa. By appointing seasoned negotiators Richard Holbrooke and George Mitchell as special envoys in the first days of his presidency, President Obama signaled his administration’s intention to take a bold approach to conflict resolution. Over the weekend, Secretary Clinton announced the appointment of Stephen Bosworth as “Special Representative for North Korea Policy.”
In the same interview, the Secretary acknowledged the administration’s concern for the conflicts in Darfur and eastern Congo:
There are some very difficult challenges — the problems in Darfur among the Sudanese, the problems in eastern Congo, terrible atrocities being committed…We know that there are many places that we think are important, not only to the people living through that conflict, but also to the rest of the world…
The Obama administration should take action to address these challenges now by appointing a special envoy to Sudan as well as to the Great Lakes region. Call 1-800-GENOCIDE to urge Secretary Clinton to appoint envoys to address these critical conflicts now.
Those State Department appointments not requiring Senate confirmation have gotten into place more quickly in many cases, such as Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, George Mitchell, the U.S. special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…
The sooner these experienced diplomats can get to work the better.
Photo of President Obama with special envoys Holbrooke and Mitchell courtesy of Agence France Presse.