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Commission Supports State Department Focus on Civil Society

WASHINGTON—U.S. embassies, particularly in host countries that restrict civil society, should redouble efforts to support and protect embattled non-governmental organizations as called for by the Secretary of State, leaders of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said today.

“Secretary Clinton’s recent efforts calling on all diplomatic missions to design specific strategies to support civil society are critical to promoting greater freedoms throughout the world,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission. “Many groups and individuals who communicate with the Commission and testify at our hearings face threats from their own governments for doing so, which makes the role of our embassies abroad all the more important to help ensure activists can safely function in all countries.”

As she has done throughout her travels, Secretary of State Clinton is to address civil society organizations at an event in Astana, Kazakhstan today ahead of the OSCE Summit Dec. 1-2, the first such summit in 11 years and the first to occur in Central Asia.

“Prompt and forthright intervention is essential whenever civil society activists are threatened,” said Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL).  “I look forward to the effective use of the newly created global fund for embattled NGOs to defend the rights of civil society so they can freely function. Where challenges exist I hope our embassies will work with our international partners to spur reforms in countries that seek to restrict the work of non-governmental organizations.”

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