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Clinton on women's rights, Middle East peace

<em>In an interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to NBC's Andrea Mitchell about women's rights and Middle East peace efforts.</em></p>
/ Source: MSNBC

In an interview Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to NBC's Andrea Mitchell about women's rights and Middle East peace efforts.

Below is the complete transcript.

ANDREA MITCHELL, HOST, 'ANDREA MITCHELL REPORTS:' Madame Secretary, thank you very much for doing this.  Fifteen years ago, you were in Beijing — we were in Beijing. You declared, memorably, that women's rights are human rights. A concept no one had ever suggested before?  How have done in the last 15 years?

SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON: We've made progress, Andrea.  And I remember so well you were there with me. And I've seen the progress. I have talked about it. It is encouraging. But we have a long way to go. And this 15 year anniversary is a time for stock taking about what else lies ahead.

And it's important that the United States — be a leader in continuing to promote women's rights and women's equality. It is in our interest, our security interest. It is a moral imperative. And it creates a better basis for us to — seek a more peaceful, prosperous, progressive world.

MITCHELL: Now at the UN on this anniversary, you have said that progress in women's rights are progress in human rights. But there's still a big gap.

CLINTON: There is a big gap. You know, I'm — I'm someone who likes to look at the progress, because then you can tell people, "Well, it is possible. Women in Kuwait are now voting.  That wasn't — available to them — in — 1995. Women in parts of Africa now can inherit property and own land, which wasn't permitted.

Countries have passed laws, and some are even enforcing them, against — domestic violence.  We've made a lot of progress in the international effort against human trafficking. There are many points of progress. But there are still so many women who are deprived of education, deprived of health care, denied their basic right to — chart their own course. There are so many brave women who stand up to those rights.

I will never forget meeting a young girl who had been married at the age of ten to a man much older than she by her family — in Yemen, who got away from the house and went to a courthouse and waited until somebody noticed her. And when they asked what she was doing there, she said, "I want a divorce." I mean, I can't even imagine the courage it must have taken for that child. I meet women who — were trafficked into prostitution who are now rescuing other women.

I meet so many extraordinarily courageous women. But I would hope for them that their daughters and their granddaughters wouldn't have to struggle so hard. That they would get to go to school. That they would get to have a better life.

MITCHELL: How do you elevate that to a prime issue of American diplomacy? U.S. Secretary of State have tried to do that. Do you think you're penetrating?


MITCHELL: Succeeding?

CLINTON: I mean we have really worked to integrate gender issues across the board. Not just stuck over in a corner, but to be considered. So for example, three big initiatives that — the Obama administration is — promoting: global health. We are going to emphasize maternal and child health.

Women still die in childbirth. Women are still grievously injured in childbirth. And there is a great need for the United States, along with other nations, to help build better health systems to protect the lives of women. If women are able to survive, if they have access to family planning, they have fewer children, they take better care of those children, it's more likely those children will go to school.

We're gonna do the same with our food security initiative. The majority of the world's farmers are women. Something that honestly, I didn't know before we started working on this. And those women need the same access to seeds and irrigation and technology so that they can produce more from their small plots.

And finally on climate change, we know that women will be in the forefront of having to bear the brunt. They're the ones who have to go far afield, to find firewood and water, and some of them walk for miles and miles, for hours and hours every day. So these are the ways that we're looking at issues that affect everyone. But we're trying to — target a lot of our aid to women because what we have found over many years is that if you help a woman, she helps her family. And then the family and the children are better off.

MITCHELL: Nicolas Kristoff at the celebration of vital voices the organization that you founded. He suggested that the real achievements of our century are going to be advancing women's rights.

CLINTON: I agree with him completely. I have said that many times myself before, it is a sea change. And it is something that — is long overdue, but you have to be patient and persistent. Change doesn't happen just because you wish it. 

But I think that if you look at this century and you look at the instability, the conflicts that we have in so many places in the world, there's a direct relationship between the subjugation and oppression of women and extremism. It is therefore in our interest to stand up for the rights of women. Because by doing so, we enhance our own security.

MITCHELL: When you spoke in your speech to the United Nations about how women are most often affected by conflict.


MITCHELL: Yet they are kept from the negotiating table. Now you're a secretary of state. So you're not kept from the negotiating table. But here you are with the Middle East just beginning to approach negotiations and Israel announces an expansion of settlements. It was really a slap in the face to the visiting Vice President.

CLINTON: It was, Andrea. And — I've expressed that directly to the prime minister. It was —not just an unfortunate incident of timing but the substance was — something that — is not needed as we are attempting to move toward — the resumption of negotiation. And the United States is a strong supporter of the security of Israel. Always have been, always will be.

We share common values and there is so much that — Israel represents that we support. But we believe in the two state solution. The prime minister has said he believes in it. And we wanna see confidence building measures and actions that will — result in the resumption of negotiations and then a move toward the resolution on the final status issues.

MITCHELL: But this is a setback and insulting.

CLINTON: It was insulting. And — it was insulting not just to the vice president, who — certainly didn't deserve that. He was there with a very clear message of — commitment to the peace process solidarity with — the Israeli people. But it was an insult to the United States.

I mean the United States is deeply invested in trying to — work with the parties in order to bring about — this resolution.  We don't get easily discouraged, so we're — we're working toward the resumption of the negotiation.  But we expect — Israel and the Palestinians — to do their part, and not to take any action that — will undermine the chance that we can achieve the two state solution.

MITCHELL: And it doesn't help as you are trying to work so hard to rally the Arab world for Israel's benefit, as well as the United States, obviously, against Iran. The Iranians threat rests there, the Saudis recently went to China to try to persuade the Chinese that they would be — a good oil supply to them, even without Iranian oil.  How do you get the Iranian negotiations on track?

CLINTON: Well, we're working very hard on that. And here at the United Nations — I had numerous meetings — about what we were — doing concerning the — the security council.  We're working to — obtain support for a strong resolution. And there are several reasons why this is so important.

First, Iranians have violated their obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty. They have — ignored the International Atomic Energy Agency,  the UN Security Council before. And the international community has to demonstrate there are consequences —

MITCHELL: But it's taken —

CLINTON: — to that.

MITCHELL: — so long. The prior administration tried and failed to get the international community united. You have done — this administration has done better at getting the Russians, for instance, and the Europeans really on board. China's still recousitrant. How do you persuade Israel not to take military action?

CLINTON: Well, I think the international community has to demonstrate resolve so that no one takes unilateral action. We're also worried about a lot of the neighbors engaging in their own arms race and creating even more instability with nuclear arms this time in an area that is already — volatile and from which we get a lot of our oil, as does the rest of the world.

But we have been united. And up until now, we've had a very — clear message to the Iranians. Everyone says the same thing: They're not entitled to and should not pursue nuclear weapons. And we're making the case. We've made the case, I think — persuasively — to the Russians. They have — had experiences themselves which have — raised concerns in their own minds.

The Chinese, they're further removed. They don't share a border with Iran. It seems like a long way away. But you're correct that a number of nations, not just the United States, is delivering the same message. That if their concern is that they have a — dependency on oil coming from Iran, other countries can meet those needs.

But even more importantly, if there were to be — a destabilized situation or a conflict — in the region, it would disrupt the oil supplies.  It would send oil prices through the roof.  That's not good for China's economy. So, you know, a lot of times you just have to marshal your arguments. You have to come from many different perspectives to make them. And I think that's what's happening.

MITCHELL: All right. Just returning, finally, to the issue of women. You pointed out that this recent issue of the Economist —

CLINTON: It's just —

MITCHELL: — startling when you look at it.

CLINTON: It took my breath away. I just took a quick glance at the cover and I thought it said "genocide," a word that we're all familiar with in many different settings. But no. It says, Gendercide: What happened to 100 million baby girls?  There has been so many cases where girls are either not born or allowed to die or denied health care, so they die before they're five years old.

With the result that there is an imbalance between women and men of 100 million. Think of what that's going to mean in certain parts of the world, particularly Asia — where this imbalance is most acute — when you have a very large population of young men who can't find wives.

A kind of — potential social instability that that breeds. So this is not only about the tragedy of young girls not being given what is needed in order to survive and live, but what it might mean in terms of too many young men.

MITCHELL: You and your generation have led the way on this. Your daughter was here to hear you speak at the United..

CLINTON: Yes.  Yes

MITCHELL: — Nations. Chelsea and her generation, how do you see them leading in this whole area?

CLINTON: I am so impressed with young women today. I know a lot of young women because they are-- Chelsea's friends, or the young women who work for me. They are confident.  They're independent. We now have more young women in universities and colleges than we have young men. So, come on young men, you know. Let's get back into the pipeline.

We are very lucky in this country, and in many of advanced economies, to see young women given opportunities that their mothers and grandmothers were not able to pursue. And with that kind of opportunity comes a responsibility.

So I see a lot of young women who are very committed to public service, who are committed to charitable activities. Who give time and money in many different settings. Who are very interested in what's going on around the world. And I think that they will continue to make the case for women's rights.

MITCHELL: And 15 years after Beijing, the State Department comes out with its annual Human Rights Report and reports that human rights are getting worse —

CLINTON: In some places.

MITCHELL: — not better in some parts —


MITCHELL: — of China.

CLINTON: In some places, that's right. Well, you know, this Human Rights Report is — an accounting that the United States has done for 34 years. And to the best of our ability, we do put the facts out. It's the most comprehensive —document of its kind.
Wwe try to be accurate as possible. And there are some disturbing trends. Because it's not only gender-based — human rights violations that we're concerned about. It's the denial of free expression. It's the censorship of the Internet.

It's the suppression of religion. I mean, there are so many ways that governments now, as we've seen in Iran in the last months use the tools that are available through modern technology to find new ways of invading people's privacy, of intimidating them, of denying them their rights. And we are becoming much more aggressive in the State Department in fighting back. We're gonna provide more tools to people in more places.

We want to try to have a fair fight here. You know, for a government to close down Internet sites, to shut down cell phones to prevent people from being able to communicate is as inimical to our beliefs as the old First Amendment ways we used to operate, where you'd go out to the town square and speak. Well, the Internet is the is the global square now. So  we're in a battle to do everything we can to advance human rights.