US secretary of state opens new conflict resolution institute at DCU
HUMAN RIGHTS: US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said internet freedom was a key issue at the “frontline of human rights” when she launched a new conflict resolution institute at Dublin City University yesterday.
Mrs Clinton described the internet as the public space of the 21st century and praised “digital activists”, but said oppressive governments were working harder and harder to limit their citizens’ freedom online.
“The right of individuals to express their views, petition their leaders, freely associate with others are universal, whether they are exercised on a university’s campus or on a university’s Facebook page. Freedom is freedom, online or off,” she said.
Mrs Clinton said the US believed it was in the interests of all Governments to respond to criticism rather than repress it. One of the most important things she had learned in politics was to take criticism seriously but not personally.
“Oftentimes your critic can turn out to be your best friend. A free and open debate about real issues presents governments with opportunities and ideas for reform, if they are willing to accept them,” she said.
She said global health programmes had been refocused to ensure that women and girls lives were saved and their health improved. “Health programmes, as you know, can be imbalanced, often in ways that are not obvious, but the result is women and girls don’t get the care they need when they need it, and many die unnecessarily.
“So our starting point must be this: women’s lives matter. And promoting the human rights of women begins with saving the lives of women whenever we can.”
Mrs Clinton said there were few things oppressive governments feared more than citizens banding together for a common purpose. “It’s true that many governments attempt to squeeze civil society in a steel vice,” she said.
The US was providing emergency support to “embattled” human rights activists who ran into trouble because of their work. Legal representation and communication technology such as mobile phones and internet access were being provided. Mrs Clinton also said ensuring the human rights of women and girls were respected was the “unfinished business of the 21st century”.
She warmly recalled “as if it were yesterday” having tea in Belfast in 1995 with women from cross-community groups.
The speech in DCU’s Helix Theatre was attended by a number of Government Ministers, including Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn and Minister of State for Small Business John Perry. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald and Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello were sitting in the same row as businessman Denis O’Brien.
Last night, Mrs Clinton was due to dine with Mr O’Brien at the Residence Club on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin.
Mr O’Brien was among a number of guests, several of them prominent Irish Americans including publisher Niall O’Dowd and New York attorney Brian O’Dwyer, invited by hosts John Fitzpatrick of Fitzpatrick hotels in New York, and Tipperary-born US-based entrepreneur Declan Kelly.
DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the International Conflict Resolution Institute would focus on the implementation phase of peace processes and post-conflict reconstruction. He said it was fitting that Mrs Clinton should launch the institute, given her “commitment to peace on this island”.
Mrs Clinton received an enthusiastic reception from DCU students. The young people she had met in Dublin “exuded talent, energy and optimism”. She said they had all the tools they needed: “your voice; your vote; your intellect and education; your compassion and conscience”.
She told the young people the fight for human rights should be their fight. “I can certainly promise you it will continue to be mine,” she said.