Inside the United States

FACT SHEET: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Allocation Plan for 55 Million Doses to be Shared Globally

The White House
Briefing Room 
Statements and Releases
Washington, D.C.
June 21, 2021

These doses are the remaining part of the 80 million President Biden pledged to allocate by the end of June

Today, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing the distribution list for 55 million of the 80 million doses of America’s own vaccine supply President Biden has pledged to allocate by the end of June in service of ending the pandemic globally.  As we continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic at home and work to end the pandemic worldwide, President Biden has promised that the United States will be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. Part of that plan is donating vaccine from our domestic supply, and the President has pledged 80 million doses to be allocated by the end of June. Earlier this month, the Administration announced the plan for the first 25 million doses that we have begun shipping, and today’s announcement completes the list for the remaining 55 million doses. For all of these doses, those most at risk, such as health care workers, should be prioritized, based on national vaccine plans.

In addition to sharing doses from our own vaccine supply, the Biden-Harris Administration is also committed to working with our U.S. manufacturers to produce more vaccine to share with the world. To that end, ahead of the G7, President Biden announced that the U.S. will purchase half a billion Pfizer doses and donate them to 92 low- and lower middle-income countries and members of the African Union. In total, the G7+ agreed to provide an additional more than 1 billion doses starting summer 2021. In addition, the U.S. is committed to expanding local production of vaccines, and through our Quad partnership and the International Development Finance Corporation’s support for vaccine manufacturing, more than 1 billion doses will be produced in Africa and India in 2021 and 2022. This vaccine strategy is a vital component of our overall global effort to lead the world in the fight to defeat COVID-19 and to achieve global health security.

For these 80 million doses, the U.S. will share 75% through COVAX and 25% will be targeted to help deal with surges around the world.  Our goals are to increase global COVID-19 vaccination coverage, prepare for surges and prioritize healthcare workers and other vulnerable populations based on public health data and acknowledged best practice, and help our neighbors and other countries in need.  And, as we have previously stated, the United States will not use its vaccines to secure favors from other countries. 

Based on this framework and pending legal and regulatory approvals, the allocation plan for these 55 million doses will be as follows:  

  • Approximately 41 million will be shared through COVAX, with the following allocations:
    • Approximately 14 million for Latin America and the Caribbean to the following: Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, Dominican Republic, Panama, and Costa Rica.
    • Approximately 16 million for Asia to the following:  India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Cambodia, and the Pacific Islands. 
    • Approximately 10 million for Africa to be shared with countries that will be selected in coordination with the African Union. 
  • Approximately 14 million – or 25% of these 55 million vaccines – will be shared with regional priorities and other recipients, such as: Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, other CARICOM countries, Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Cabo Verde, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Tunisia, Oman, West Bank and Gaza, Ukraine, Kosovo, Georgia, Moldova, and Bosnia. 

Sharing millions of U.S. vaccines with other countries signals a major commitment by the U.S. Government.  Just like we have in our domestic response, we will move as expeditiously as possible, while abiding by U.S. and host country regulatory and legal requirements, to facilitate the safe and secure transport of vaccines across international borders.  This will take time, but the President has directed the Administration to use all the levers of the U.S. government to protect individuals from this virus as quickly as possible.  The specific vaccines and amounts will be determined and shared as the administration works through the logistical, regulatory and other parameters particular to each region and country.

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Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Sudan and South Sudan

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
New York, New York
June 21, 2021

AS DELIVERED

Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Special Representative Haysom, for your briefing today, and congratulations as you’ve taken on this new role. We commend you, as well the uniformed and civilian personnel of UNMISS, for your work to protect civilians, deter violence, support peacebuilding activities, and advocate for human rights – especially, as you noted, in today’s even more challenging environment. Mr. Mohandis, we greatly appreciate your briefing from the perspective of civil society in South Sudan. It’s essential that the Security Council continues to hear views such as yours as we consider next steps on this important issue. And we also welcome participation of the Representative of South Sudan in today’s briefing.

Mr. President, as Mr. Mohandis pointed out, in a few weeks, South Sudan will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of its independence. We recognize the pledge by South Sudan’s leaders to restore peace and stability in the country through implementation of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement, but we are concerned with the slow pace of progress. We strongly encourage South Sudan’s leaders to accelerate implementation of the peace agreement.

Last month, the Presidency announced appointments for the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, but members have yet to be sworn in. We urge the prompt finalization of the legislative assembly and the appointment and swearing in of the members of the Council of States so they can fulfill their duties as legislators. And we note the commitment by South Sudanese parties and stakeholders at last month’s constitutional workshop to a process that includes robust public consultation procedures to achieve a constitution that reflects the will of the people. Now, the transitional government should deliver on this commitment expeditiously.

The United States views free and fair elections in South Sudan that are both timely and peaceful as essential for sustaining peace and stability in the country. We call on the transitional government to develop the institutional and legal framework necessary to ensure elections are peaceful and reflect the will of the people. This includes ensuring the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women in elections. The United States looks forward to the results of the UN needs assessment on the electoral process currently underway. Delays in implementing transitional security arrangements in the peace agreement remain a significant barrier to progress. The transitional government must follow through on its commitment to expedite the graduation of the Necessary Unified Forces and the establishment of a joint command.

Claims by some South Sudanese officials that the UN arms embargo prevents graduation of Necessary Unified Forces are disingenuous. The arms embargo, which was recently renewed by this Council, includes straightforward exemption procedures should South Sudan require arms and materiel necessary for implementation of the peace agreement. We call on South Sudanese officials to work together with the Security Council on achieving the benchmarks in Resolution 2577 so that we can consider appropriate adjustments to the sanctions regime.

The United States is also alarmed at the rise of subnational violence in South Sudan, often involving large and well-equipped armed groups, sometimes with support from political actors and members of the security services. We deplore the violence against civilians, which has been documented by UNMISS, including extrajudicial killings and sexual and gender-based violence. This year has also seen a significant increase in the killing of, and attacks on, humanitarian personnel. We call on South Sudan’s leaders to take immediate and effective measures to protect civilians, humanitarian workers, and internally displaced persons, and to hold accountable those responsible for attacks on humanitarians.

South Sudanese authorities continue to obstruct ceasefire monitors and peacekeepers, and this is unacceptable. Ongoing restrictions on UNMISS patrols and movements – as reported by UNMISS – violate obligations under the Status of Forces Agreement. These restrictions put civilians and UNMISS personnel at risk. We call on South Sudan’s leaders to cease obstruction of the mission and to view UNMISS for what it is – a full partner in the process of transition.

Mr. President, the United States remains committed to the people of South Sudan and to working closely with the transitional government, the Security Council, and all stakeholders to enable peace and prosperity for the country and for the region.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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USAID, DFC and AUDA-NEPAD Collaborate on the “100,000 MSMEs” Initiative

U.S. Mission to the African Union
Press Release
Johannesburg
June 21, 2021

The U.S. Mission to the African Union, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) have announced their collaboration on the “100,000 MSMEs Initiative.”

This Initiative contributes to the “1 Million Jobs Initiative” of the African Union (AU) and aims to reach 100,000 micro- small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) across the continent by the end of 2021 and 1 million MSMEs by the end of 2024. This AUDA-NEPAD-led Initiative is joined by strategic resource partners, Ecobank, McKinsey & Company, The World Bank Group, Microsoft, and UNDP, among others, and seeks to support MSMEs across the continent with access to finance, capacity building, networking and mentoring, and introduction to new markets and procurement opportunities.

In 2021, DFC will engage with select local banking groups in Africa to provide guaranties and/or loans in support of access to finance for MSMEs and help connect these banking groups to AUDA-NEPAD’s platform and support services.  AUDA-NEPAD will offer support services to African MSMEs receiving DFC-supported financing across the continent.  DFC will also seek additional transactions in support of AUDA’s initiative in future years, leveraging support from USAID to partner with African financial institutions focused on MSMEs across the continent.  Additionally, the U.S. Mission to the African Union will continue to provide technical assistance directly to AUDA to advance the 100,000 MSMEs initiative.

DFC collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD builds on existing U.S. Government efforts to increase investments that strengthen economic growth, technology, energy independence, and infrastructure in Africa.  DFC’s collaboration with AUDA-NEPAD, along with the support of USAID and the U.S. Mission to the African Union, adds to a range of existing DFC partnerships.

Deputy Secretary Sherman’s Meeting with Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister Francis

Readout
Office of the Spokesperson
June 21, 2021

The below is attributable to Spokesperson Ned Price:

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman met today with Sierra Leonean Foreign Minister David Francis in Washington, D.C.  During their discussion, Deputy Secretary Sherman and Foreign Minister Francis emphasized the strength of U.S-Sierra Leone relations and our longstanding relationship based on the shared values of improving democratic governance and respect for human rights, combatting corruption, and improving Sierra Leone’s investment climate.  The Deputy Secretary and the Foreign Minister highlighted the importance of multilateral cooperation in contributing to a prosperous democratic future in the region.

Ministerial Meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
June 21, 2021

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will join Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Luigi Di Maio in co-hosting a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS on June 28 to discuss efforts in the campaign to achieve the enduring defeat of ISIS.

Ministers will discuss ways to sustain pressure on ISIS remnants in Iraq and Syria, and to counter ISIS networks elsewhere, including in Africa. They will also assess priorities for the Coalition’s lines of effort related to stabilization, foreign terrorist fighters, counter-ISIS financing, and counter-messaging efforts.

The 83-member Global Coalition, of which the United States is a leading member, remains unwavering in its commitment to the enduring and global defeat of ISIS.

Briefing With Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Cherrie Daniels, and Special Envoy for Libya Richard Norland On Secretary Blinken’s Upcoming Travel to Berlin, Paris, Rome, and Matera

Special Briefing
Acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues Cherrie Daniels, and Special Envoy for Libya Richard Norland
Via Teleconference
June 21, 2021

[Excerpted …]

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Yeah, okay.  Good afternoon or good evening, everyone.  It’s a pleasure to speak with you today in my capacity both as special envoy and as ambassador to Libya.  As Assistant Secretary Reeker just noted, Secretary Blinken will participate in the second Berlin conference on Libya on June 23rd, on Wednesday.

The conference we see is an opportunity for the international community to support the progress made by the Libyan people.  The participation of the Libyan interim Government of National Unity will mark the first time that Libya will be included in the Berlin process as a participant.  It underscores the significant achievements in Libya since the first Berlin conference on Libya in January of 2020.  It was a summit held on January 19th, 2020.

We thank Germany for hosting this vital conversation.  In Berlin, the United States and our partners will reaffirm support for the interim Government of National Unity as it continues its most important task, namely of preparing for national elections on December 24th of this year as outlined by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum Roadmap approved through the UN-facilitated political process.  This is a key step towards ending a decade of conflict through an inclusive negotiated political solution.

The U.S. goal is a sovereign, stable, unified Libya with no foreign interference and a state that is capable of combating terrorism within its borders.  We strongly oppose all military escalation and all foreign military intervention, which only deepen and prolong the conflict.  To this end, the conference will also underscore support for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 2570 and 2571 adopted earlier this year, along with the October 2020 Libyan nationwide ceasefire agreement, which addressed the withdrawal of foreign military forces, foreign fighters, and mercenaries.

The United States is committed to increasing our diplomatic focus on supporting the progress made by the Libyan people.  Working with our international partners and the UN, we will continue to support the interim Government of National Unity in the months ahead as it prepares for the December elections and works to end the conflict.

Thanks …

QUESTION:  Hello.  Thanks, Ned.  Thanks, everyone.  I just have two questions.  One is about Libya.  The other one is about Vatican.  Ambassador Norland, I’m just wondering what United States wants to see achieved until the planned elections in December.  I know that the withdrawal of the foreign mercenaries and foreign troops is something Washington has pushed for for a while, but that hasn’t materialized until now.  I’m wondering if you or other administration officials in their various meetings with officials from interested parties – say, like, Russia, Turkey – have gotten any assurances even remotely that these fighters will be pulled out anytime soon. 

And then on Secretary’s meetings in the Vatican, the last administration had a rather rocky relationship with the Vatican, and former Secretary Pompeo criticized the Vatican over the renewal last year of 2018 agreement with China.  On what issues does the State Department see any convergence?  Where do you see divergence, and do you think the recent stand by the American Catholic bishops and the communion issue will come up in the Vatican talks?  Thank you. 

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Yeah — 

AMBASSADOR REEKER:  Do you want to go ahead and take — 

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  Yeah, sure.  Dick Norland here.  So you asked about the Berlin conference and elections and foreign forces.  In terms of the elections, we see this conference as providing key momentum for some things that need to happen basically in July if the elections are going to take place as scheduled in December.  There needs to be a constitutional basis and a legal framework established, approved by either the parliament or by the LPDF, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, basically in July, according to the election commission, in order for the elections to take place in December.  And this process has been delayed.  We think it needs urgent attention, and this conference is an opportunity to reinforce that message. 

On the foreign forces, you’re quite right that forces have not departed yet, and our basic position is we should not wait until after the elections to try to make some progress on this goal.  The elections – one of the reasons elections are so important is so that a fully empowered, credible, legitimate Libyan government can turn to foreign actors and say, “It’s time to take your troops out.”  And that will be a very important development and we think a very impactful one, but we’re not suggesting that we have to wait until next year to try to make some progress. 

So, to your point, there are negotiations underway with some of the key actors aimed at trying to remove some of the mercenaries, the foreign fighters.  I don’t want to predict in this particular call where that might lead, but certainly that’s on the agenda in Berlin here, along with other confidence-building measures like reopening the coastal road in Libya, something that has been talked about.  Some progress is being made even this week, but it’s not a done deal yet, and we’d like to see progress on that as well as on forming a joint military command in Libya so that these various Libyan armed elements come under one hat, and that’s directly related to the issue of trying to achieve the withdrawal of foreign forces, because when foreign forces leave, they’re going to need to be replaced by a viable united Libyan national military and police structure. 

… 

MR PRICE:  We’ll take a final question from Cindy Saine. 

OPERATOR:  Your line is now open. 

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you.  In conversations with allies, do you expect Secretary Blinken to also focus on the increasing Islamic State threat in Africa?  Thank you. 

AMBASSADOR REEKER:  Well, I guess I can take that one noting that, obviously, in the – in Rome, we will have the D-ISIS ministerial, which Secretary Blinken will co-host with Foreign Minister Di Maio of Italy.  But as I mentioned at the top, we’ll have a more detailed readout and focus on that multilateral forum.  I would think that’s the sort of obvious question of discussion in terms of a D-ISIS conference, but let me leave it for the briefing that we’ll have as we get closer to the date and see what kind of details they can go in on the agenda of that multilat forum on the D-ISIS. 

AMBASSADOR NORLAND:  If I could just inject a footnote, Phil – Dick Norland here – it is true that on the Berlin agenda – Libya – there is concern stemming from the recent events in Chad where rebel groups trained by armed elements in Libya, assisted by Wagner mercenaries, carried out destabilizing actions.  And there are signs that the – there is increasing evidence of this kind of activity.  And so in addition, there have been a couple of ISIS-claimed attacks in Libya over the last month.  So I think the agenda of destabilizing actions by armed groups and terrorism is also on the agenda in Berlin at the Libya conference. 

[For full text of briefing, please follow this link].

AFRICOM’s Gen. Townsend meets African leaders at exercise African Lion

U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs
United States Africa Command 
AGADIR, Morocco 
June 21, 2021

The Commander of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, visited Morocco to attend the closing ceremony of Exercise African Lion 21 and to meet with several African defense leaders June 17-19. 

“African Lion is our largest and most important exercise in Africa,” said Townsend. “The exercise helps us build readiness as well as build and strengthen partnerships to best operate in a complex, multi-domain environment.”

Townsend visited several exercise locations, where he met with troops who took part in the exercise.

“We did not allow a COVID environment to change our focus and long-term commitment to our partners,” said Townsend. “We remain focused on maintaining strong relationships with our allies and partners. We worked extremely hard to make this year’s training a reality and no doubt we all benefited from it tremendously.”

Townsend met with senior Moroccan military leaders, including the Inspector General of the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces, Abdelfattah Louarak.

“The 17th iteration of Exercise African Lion 2021 has just wrapped up, and it has been a great success at all levels, by having fulfilled all its objectives,” said Louarak. “I am confident that this exercise will succeed in promoting the values of peace and solidarity among the nations, and is an essential milestone in the path towards peace and solidarity in the region and in Africa.”

Townsend thanked his Moroccan colleagues, particularly the Southern Zone Commander Lt. Gen. Belkhir El Farouk for outstanding efforts by the Royal Moroccan Armed Forces in planning and executing African Lion 2021, as well as opportunities to deepen the U.S.-Morocco security partnership.

Townsend also met with Senegal’s Chief of Army Staff, Brig. Gen. Fulgence Ndour. During their discussion, he thanked Ndour for Senegal’s role as a security leader in West Africa, and for hosting or participating in multiple U.S. Africa Command exercises, including Exercises Flintlock and Obangame Express.

On the margins of the exercise, Townsend met with defense leaders from other nations, including Libyan Government of National Unity representatives and the Chief of Staff of the Libyan Army, Gen. Mohamad al-Haddad. During their meeting, Townsend and Haddad discussed the need for foreign forces to withdraw from Libya immediately. Townsend and Haddad also discussed ongoing efforts to unify Libyan military institutions, and opportunities for greater military cooperation with the United States.

During the visit, Townsend also met with other U.S. military leaders who were on the ground for African Lion 21, including Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the U.S. National Guard Bureau. A number of National Guard troops from Utah, Wyoming, and D.C. took part in the exercise. 

Secretary Antony J. Blinken At the Atlantic Council’s Front Page Pride Edition Virtual Conversation with Jonathan Capehart on “Pressing for Equality: Engaging on LGBTQI Issues Around the World”

Remarks to the Press
Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
Washington, D.C.
June 21, 2021

MR CAPEHART: Hello and welcome to this special edition of AC Front Page, the Atlantic Council’s premier live ideas platform for global leaders. I’m Jonathan Capehart, a journalist with The Washington Post and MSNBC. Thank you for joining us today.

Across the country and around the world, the month of June is dedicated to celebrating and recognizing the LGBTQI community from all walks of life. However, both at home and abroad, there are significant challenges that affect the everyday lives of LGBTQI individuals. In his first year in office, President Biden and his administration have an opportunity to advocate for the social, economic, and political equality for sexual and gender minorities. Already the State Department has encouraged U.S. missions abroad to fly the pride flag in solidarity with a global LGBTQI community and by taking a more assertive approach to LGBTQI foreign policy, so that the U.S. Government has a chance to effect change and move the needle on human rights around the world.

Today, I am delighted to be joined by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to hear more from him about the Biden administration’s priorities for protecting and promoting the LGBTQI community, starting at the State Department and reaching beyond our borders. Secretary Blinken served as deputy secretary of state for President Barack Obama from 2015 to 2017 and before that as President Obama’s principal deputy national security advisor. Mr. Secretary, I’m looking forward to your remarks and our conversation.

This event is hosted by the Atlantic Council which, through its LGBTI Advisory Council and LGBTI in Foreign Affairs Fellowships and Out in Energy network, is promoting LGBTI leadership throughout the foreign affairs and national security community. The event is also co-hosted by GLIFAA, the LGBTQI+ employee affinity group for the U.S. State Department and other foreign affairs agencies. GLIFAA has been working for nearly 30 years to ensure LGBTQI employees can serve their country proudly and with dignity. We welcome you to engage in the conversation using the hashtag #ACFrontPage.

Mr. Secretary, before we begin our discussion, your opening remarks.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Jonathan, thank you very, very much. First of all, Happy Pride, everyone. I am delighted to be part of this conversation. And I especially want to thank you, Jonathan, for serving as moderator today.

And thank you to the Atlantic Council and all of my friends there for many, many years for helping to bring us together, and to GLIFAA for bringing us together as well for what is an important discussion.

So let me just say a few words to get us started, and then look forward to having a conversation with you and other colleagues who will join in.

One of the leading human rights issues of our time is the treatment of LGBTQI people around the world. You know this better than I do. In many countries, they face violence, harassment, stigma, rejection. They aren’t protected equally by laws – in fact, they’re often targeted and scapegoated by those who make and enforce the laws. They’re denied equal access to health care, housing, employment, justice. And for some, simply living openly as their true selves can be incredibly dangerous.

And I’m not just talking about far-off places. Here at home, LGBTQI people have had to fight tooth and nail for every inch of progress. And there are still painful setbacks. There is still hate and violence. There is still too much bias across our society in workplaces, in schools, in churches, in households, and in our government.

This matters to me as a person and an American. It also matters to me as Secretary of State. One of our country’s greatest strengths is our identity as a place where freedom, justice, opportunity are available to everyone. When that rings true, when we make progress toward those ideals, the world notices. When we fall short, well, the world notices that too.

Our ability to stand up for human rights and democracy in other places depends on whether we’re strong on those fronts here at home. And by standing up for human rights worldwide, we’re not only delivering for people in other countries, we’re also delivering for the American people, because human rights and democracy are intrinsically linked with stability, broad-based prosperity, peace, and progress. And that’s all in our interests.

But most important, defending and advancing human rights, including the human rights of LGBTQI people, is simply the right thing to do. And at our best, the United States does the right thing.

That’s why a few days after taking office, President Biden signed a memorandum instructing all U.S. agencies engaged in diplomacy and development to promote and protect the human rights of LGBTQI people around the world.

Specifically, it named combating the criminalization of LGBTQI status or conduct; protecting vulnerable LGBTQI refugees and asylum seekers; ensuring that our foreign assistance protects human rights and advances nondiscrimination; responding swiftly and meaningfully to human rights abuses; and building coalitions of international organizations and likeminded nations – that is, using our convening power to advance global support for the human rights of LGBTQI people.

So here at the State Department, we’re now putting those provisions into action across our bureaus, across the department, on everything from our refugee programs to our global COVID-19 response to our multilateral engagement. For example, this week, we’re sponsoring our first-ever side event at the United Nations on the rights of transgender and gender-diverse people worldwide. Because again, this is a core human rights issue, and we believe the United States belongs at the forefront of the fight, speaking out, standing up for our values. And we couldn’t do that without our people.

I want to give a special thank you to all the members of GLIFAA, past and present, who have blazed the trail, one step at a time, often in the face of great resistance, to change our country and the State Department for the better.

We still have a great deal of work to do before the human rights of all people everywhere are respected. That’s a mission we’re proud to undertake. And I am very grateful to all you for being part of it.

With that, I’m eager to have a conversation, also to hear from some of you. So, Jonathan, over to you.

MR CAPEHART: Well, Mr. Secretary, again, thank you very much for being here. And before we get to the topic at hand, I do, of course, have to ask a news of day question.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: I’d expect nothing less. (Laughter.)

MR CAPEHART: The New York Times is reporting that a bipartisan group of lawmakers is moving fast on legislation to get visas for folks in Afghanistan who helped the United States. Earlier this month, you told the House Foreign Affairs Committee the administration is looking, quote, “at every possible contingency.” Have you narrowed those contingencies, and do they include evacuation to a third country while they await U.S. visas?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first just to emphasize the point because it is vitally important, we have an obligation, a debt, to help those who helped us. We have people in Afghanistan who worked side-by-side with our diplomats, with our soldiers, as guides, interpreters, translators, put themselves on the line, put their lives on the line, put the security and well-being of their families on the line, and we owe them. It’s a simple as that.

And as part of that we’ve had, starting in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, a program to – for so-called Special Immigrant Visas to put folks who’ve helped us in a special place where they can apply, hopefully in a more expedited fashion, to come to the United States. We are doing everything we can to make sure that that program can move forward with the resources it needs to answer the demand that exists.

Just to give you a sense of where this stands, there are about 18,000 people who have expressed interest – or more – in using this program to come to the United States. In other words, 18,000 people who worked directly with our soldiers, with our diplomats in Afghanistan. About 9,000 of those are just in the beginning of the process. They’ve expressed interest, they’re looking at it, they haven’t filled out the forms. Another 9,000, though, have filled out the forms. They’re working through the process, and we’ve got a number of them that are awaiting approval by our embassy in Afghanistan and others who are actually in the immigration process itself.

We’ve surged resources to make sure that we could make good by the people who are seeking these Special Immigrant Visas. We’ve added about 50 people here at the State Department. A lot of the work actually gets done here at State. We have additional people in the field. We’ve reduced and in fact eliminated some backlogs that existed.

We’ve got challenges. We’ve actually got a new COVID emergency in Afghanistan where we’ve had to pull back a little bit on some of the work that we’re doing in country. But the work that happens out of country, which is actually the bulk of it, is going forward.

So that’s basically where things stand. We’re going to Congress to get more of these visa allowances. At the same time, to your point, Jonathan, we continue to look at every possible contingency to make sure that, one way or another, we can accommodate the demand. We haven’t ruled anything – anything out. And right now we’re focused on making sure that we actually can make good on the folks who are in the system, and as it stands today that’s what we’re doing.

MR CAPEHART: Thank you for that response, Mr. Secretary. So as you mentioned in your opening remarks, you and the President have made it clear that LGBTQ+ issues are a part of U.S. foreign policy. How specifically is that manifesting itself 152 or so days in – to the Biden administration?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So there are a few things that are happening. First, on one level it’s show me your talking points and I’ll show you your priorities. This is now something that is much more integrated in the day-in/day-out work that we’re doing in the department in our engagements with countries wide and far. We’re doing it – we’re engaged on these issues on a bilateral basis when we’re dealing country to country. We’re dealing much more on a multilateral basis in international organizations. I mentioned this first-ever side event at the United Nations to put a spotlight on some of the challenges. We are working to coordinate more with likeminded countries.

And a lot of this involves programmatic support as well, making sure that we’re getting assistance out to groups that can help put a spotlight on challenges, on issues; emergency assistance to people who are in need and who are threatened by violence, by discrimination; and across the board trying as well to empower some of the local groups and local movements that are trying to make good on the agenda.

So what you’re seeing is actually integrating all of this work into what we’re doing every single day. And this is not just – it’s not just me. It’s not just other senior colleagues. We’re trying to do this spread out across the department.

MR CAPEHART: So – I have a a symbolic question and then a substantive question in terms of manifestation. Symbolically, during the Obama-Biden administration one of the hallmarks was the pride flag being flown at embassies around the world.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah.

MR CAPEHART: The previous administration did away with that, in some ways very proudly doing away with the pride flag at embassies. I saw, I believe somewhere on social media, the pride flag flying at an embassy around the world. Is that a stated policy at the Blinken State Department that if you are an ambassador anywhere at an American embassy around the world and you want to fly the pride flag, fly the pride flag?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: The answer is yes. We’ve made that clear. We’ve given our chiefs of mission, our ambassadors around the world the authority to do that. When we’re trying to advance, defend, support the protection of LGBTQI persons around the world, we want to make sure that we’re doing this in a way that takes into account the specific situation, conditions in a given country. But in every single country where we’re represented, our chiefs of mission, our ambassadors, our charges – whoever’s in charge – have the authority to fly the pride flag on an exterior, external-facing pole at the embassy.

And I think that’s hugely important because this is, again, the strength, the power of our own example, the willingness to speak up, to speak out, to show the strength of our own diversity, including at our embassies, I think sends a hugely important message.

One thing that I can actually announce today for the first time is that we’ll be flying the progress flag, a symbol that encompasses the diversity and intersectionality of LGBTQI persons and communities around the world at the State Department later this month.

We’ll fly the flag from June 26th to the 28th, and that’s a period that I know – as so many know – marks a couple of important turning points in our history for LGBTQI rights: June 26th, the anniversary of the historic Supreme Court decision in 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples and is the law of the land; June 28th, I think everyone knows, marks the anniversary of the start of the Stonewall riots, which in many ways back in 1969 was the genesis of the global LGBTQI rights movement. So I think this is going to be a significant couple of days and we will see the progress flag flying at the State Department.

MR CAPEHART: I’m going to just rib you for a moment, because how did the Agriculture Department beat you to this? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, in the category of maybe sometimes a little bit better late than never, look, I’m glad. This is great that we have our administration, our government – across the administration, across the government – firing on all cylinders. And I think it’s a reflection of the fact that President Biden set the tone from day one. So if we have to play a little catch-up, we are.

MR CAPEHART: So in February the State Department – your spokesperson, Ned Price, from the podium – expressed concern over two Chechen brothers who were arrested in Russia and returned to their homeland. You just got back from Geneva, where President Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Did the – did Russia’s LGBTQ rights record come up at that meeting? Did the President push that issue with President Putin?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: The President pushed human rights, including LGBTQI rights, with President Putin. And I think he referred to this in his press conference as well. What he told President Putin is that as an American president, where for all of our challenges – many of which are manifest in recent months and recent years – this is something that is basically stamped into our DNA and he would be abdicating his responsibility as President, as an American president, not to raise these issues. Now, we didn’t get into specific cases in that meeting, but he made very clear to President Putin that this is fundamentally who we are, and who he is, and what we’ll do, and will continue to do going forward.

MR CAPEHART: What was President Putin’s response?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I don’t want to characterize his response. You should ask the Russians.

MR CAPEHART: (Laughter.) You were in the room.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it wouldn’t be fair of me to say what he said or didn’t said. But I think it’s fair to say that there was at least an acknowledgment of that basic fact of life. This is what an American president should do. This is who we are, and this is what we represent to the world.

MR CAPEHART: You’ve said a couple of times in responses, but also in your opening remarks, about how at home and abroad the LGBTQI community is facing all sorts of pressures. Here in the United States right now, there is the Equality Act that passed the House, is sitting in the United States Senate awaiting a vote. No vote has been scheduled. I know it’s either highly unusual or never that a secretary of state gets involved in domestic politics, but could you talk about why for foreign consumption it’s important that the Equality Act be passed by Congress?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Look, I really can’t get into – you’re right, I can’t get into domestic politics. I won’t. It’s one of the maybe some would say luxuries of the job, but I think it’s one of the necessities of the job that I not do that. And one of the things I’ve made very clear in taking the job was that politics stops at the C Street doors, where we are here at the department.

But what I can say is this, because it goes to the larger point: I know as I’m traveling around the world – and thankfully we’re now able to really start to do that – that the effectiveness, the impact of our foreign policy is directly tied to our strength at home. And the power of our example, as President Biden likes to say, is as important as the example of our power. And so when we’re seen as making progress at home, when we’re seen as getting a little bit closer to achieving our ideals, something we’ll never fully achieve – forming a more perfect union by definition says that we’re constantly in that quest. But as we’re seen as trying to do that, that gives us so much greater standing around the world to try to advance rights for all day in, day out.

So I know that my foreign interlocutors are looking to this all the time. So I can’t speak to specific pieces of legislation or laws. I can say that our progress at home is directly tied to our ability to be a force for progress around the world.

MR CAPEHART: So, Mr. Secretary, we have questions from the audience, and I’m going to go to the first question, which is from Meghan Luckett, a public affairs officer from the U.S. Embassy in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea.

QUESTION: Yes, good afternoon, Mr. Secretary, and thank you very much for this opportunity. My question is this: Since 1999, there have been 13 out LGBTQI+ ambassadors, with President Biden nominating three more. However, all of them have been white, gay, cis men. Keeping in mind that the State Department has rightly centered its DEI focus on the importance of intersectionality and representation, what can and should the department do to ensure the full spectrum of the LGBTQI+ identities and experiences, including black indigenous people of color, are reflected at the highest levels?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Meghan, thanks very much. First of all, thanks for your work and service, and second, thanks for the question. And I think it’s an important one. My belief is that when all is said and done, when you see the appointments that the administration makes in senior positions across the department, as well as abroad, that we’ll be able to show a real reflection of the diversity of the community itself in those appointments. So I can’t get into specific names and positions right now. It’s a lengthy process – I think you know that as well – in terms of getting people in place. But I hear what you’re saying and I think – I expect that what you’ll see will be an answer to that question.

MR CAPEHART: All right, our next question–

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR CAPEHART: — sorry – our next question comes from Austin Richey-Allen, deputy consular chief at the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, Nepal.

QUESTION: Hello, sir. Greetings from Kathmandu. Thank you very much for engaging in this important conversation. As an openly transgender employee at the State Department, I’ve spoken to other trans and non-binary employees, as well as those with trans or non-binary family members. The top concerns that I’ve heard relate to the availability of gender-affirming medical care while assigned abroad, policies related to workplace protections, and access to passports and other documents that accurately represent our identity.

Could you talk about what is on the horizon in the State Department to foster a supportive and inclusive environment for gender-diverse people? And if any trans people are watching now who may be considering a career at the State Department, do you have any particular (inaudible) for them? Thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Great. Thank you, and again, thank you as well for everything that you’re doing and for your service. Let me pull this back a little bit, and then address the question more specifically. When it comes more broadly to diversity and inclusion in the department, I’ve made – I’ve made that a priority for however long I’m in this job. And I’ve said this repeatedly, I’ve said it publicly as well as privately, that I’ll consider it a mark of my success or not in this job whether by the time I’m done we’ve put in place a stronger foundation to have a genuinely diverse department that truly reflects the people that we’re supposed to represent. And a lot goes into that, as you know. But one of the things that we’ve done is we’ve appointed for the first time ever a chief diversity and inclusion officer. And that office will – is actually an office with a team. It reports directly to me, and it has the responsibility of making sure that across the board the department is genuinely addressing and making progress on building a more diverse and inclusive – and that word “inclusive” is usually important – department so that, again, we reflect the people that we represent.

This starts with recruiting and making sure that we’re actually reaching out really early on in the pipeline to open people’s eyes and hearts and minds to the possibility of serving the country, and serving the State Department, serving our foreign policy. A lot more to follow on that. But we know that even once we get people through the doors here at C Street, that’s not enough. In fact, we’ve seen time and again that people coming from diverse communities get into the State Department and then leave, because we’ve done a bad job in addressing the particular concerns and particular challenges faced by people coming from diverse communities that many of us are simply not in tune with or aware of.

And so one of the responsibilities as well of the chief diversity and inclusion office is going to be making sure that we’re focused on some of the cultural challenges that come to making sure the department is genuinely inclusive across the board, and that people feel that they’re at home, they’re respected, and that they can actually make a real career out of the department, they can see the possibility of advancing, that they can see the possibility of having the most senior jobs over their careers. And that ties into making sure that, again, our appointments, including at the most senior levels, reflect that diversity.

Finally, accountability. And that starts with me. We’ve got to make sure that as we’re working to create a more diverse department, to put in place a foundation that will sustain that diversity going forward, that we actually have accountability, and that comes with making sure that we can actually show the progress, that we have data that’s disaggregated, which has been one of the challenges in the past, and that’s true across different communities.

Now, when it comes to the LGBTQI community in general, when it comes to transgender, gender-diverse persons in particular, this too is an area I think of particular emphasis, of particular need. We put out guidance back in April regarding transgender employees and management rights and responsibilities on – in the workplace. What’s so important here is that that guidance was the product of a consultation with GLIFAA. We wanted to make sure that we had the input going in, not just presenting something on the landing, that we actually had it on the takeoff. Which is another reason, by the way, why this diversity across the board in our department is so important. If we don’t have colleagues here in the department who can help us with internal policy choices and decisions, we’re not going to get it right.

I think the guidance is a good start. It addresses a number of issues, I think, of real importance, where we needed greater clarity, greater understanding, actually needed policies addressing, for example, the use of pronouns, dress codes, usage of bathrooms in accord with identity, et cetera. And it’s also the first means by which we’re actually providing resources to people who have questions, have concerns, have issues. I hope that’s going to be something that sends a message to future colleagues about the environment, the culture, the welcoming nature of this institution.

As I mentioned, we have this – just in a couple of days this first-ever side event in the United Nations that I’m proud to be able to participate in. And beyond that, I think you’re going to see some broader policy announcements that go beyond the State Department that will be coming out of the administration soon, all of which I hope send a very clear, very strong message that not only do we welcome, we want to be part of – this administration to be part of our government, a workforce of talented people that reflect the true diversity of our country.

MR CAPEHART: Austin Richey-Allen, thank you very much for your question. The next question comes from Coco Lim, a program associate for Latin America and the Caribbean at Freedom House.

QUESTION: Hi, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for your time today. So according to Freedom House freedom and the world reports and analysis, the quest to secure greater protections for LGBTQ people in Latin America has lost momentum over the past few years with some Latin American governments pursuing hostile legal frameworks, jeopardizing political and civil rights, especially the rights of trans women as the crimes against this population often go unpunished and sometimes uninvestigated, for instance, in the most recent murder of Guatemalan activists Andrea Gonzalez and Cecy Ixpata.

So in that context with your new leadership in Washington, how can the U.S. help to revitalize efforts to put an end to violence, discrimination, and impunity on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, and perhaps specifically violence against trans folks throughout the Latin American region?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, first, thank you for the work that you’re doing. I read the Freedom House reports very, very carefully every year. And I think, look, you put your finger on something that unfortunately is very stark and very powerful, and that is a wider trend that Freedom House has done more than any other organization to document of this democratic recession that we’ve been seeing around the world, a recession that’s been going on and getting deeper, going on for the past dozen or more years, 15 years or so – and as I said, getting deeper unfortunately over the last few years.

And this is an issue of profound concern to me, to the President, to the administration. And it’s not surprising that one of the markers of that recession has been exactly what you cited, which is not only a slowing of progress, a diminution of progress for the LGBTQI communities around the work, but in a number of cases actual regression, moving backwards when it comes to violence, when it comes to discrimination, when it comes to legal frameworks. And the two cases that you’ve actually cited I’ll be speaking to in a couple of days at the United Nations.

And for us, in terms of what we can do about it, it really starts with putting democracy and human rights, including the rights of the LGBTQI communities, at the heart of our foreign policy. And that goes back to what we were talking about just a few minutes ago, that it is on the agenda in our conversations country to country, that it’s on the agenda in what we’re doing in multilateral institutions around the world, that it’s on the agenda in terms of our programs and the resources that we dedicate, whether it’s emergency assistance to people from these communities who are in need, in danger, or the support that we’re giving to civil society and organizations that stand up for and advance LGBTQI rights. All of that goes to the heart of our foreign policy and what we’re trying to do.

We have in a whole host of countries efforts underway to push pack against discriminatory legal frameworks and laws. This is one of the most pernicious things in many ways that we’re seeing beyond overt instances of violence, discrimination. When you have a legal framework that actually institutionalizes this, that’s maybe the most fundamental problem of all.

We’re working on this day in, day out, country to country as we speak. I’m particularly sensitive to the plight of transgender people, especially people of color, and especially when we’re seeing within this overall regression particular instances of violence and discrimination against that community. So this is something we’re giving a particular focus to.

But the bottom line is this: It has to be and it is integrated in our foreign policy. Unfortunately, it’s not like flipping a light switch. I don’t think we’re going to see or show results from Friday to Monday, but if we’re doing it in a sustained, focused, and determined way, my hope is that over the next few years we’ll actually start to turn the corner and see progress again, not regression.

MR CAPEHART: Thank you very much, Coco Lim. We have one more question. This one, Mr. Secretary, comes from Michael Castellano, Associate Director for Strategic Partnerships at Heartland Alliance International. Unfortunately, he cannot be on camera because of a train mishap. He’s fine.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good.

MR CAPEHART: But he can’t be with us, so I’m going to ask his question for you. And in your response to this, fold in your final remarks because we are running out of time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Sure.

MR CAPEHART: He asks: President Biden’s memorandum committing to promoting LGBTQ rights abroad underscores five priorities, one of which is funding efforts to protect human rights and to advance nondiscrimination around the world, which you’ve mentioned earlier. For those of in civil society engaged in the implementation of such programs in collaboration with LGBTQ partners in the field, can you elaborate on how the Department of State under your leadership will leverage foreign assistance funding to support LGBTQ human rights programming?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So I think there are a number of things. And I appreciate the question but also very relieved to hear that everything’s okay.

MR CAPEHART: Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So that’s good.

There are a number of ways we’re doing this. Look, we have our efforts, ongoing efforts as a founding member, to lead and administer something called the Global Equality Fund, and that is a pretty unique and I think effective public-private partnership that provides emergency assistance, for example, to LGBTQI organizations and persons that are under threat and as well as supporting human rights programming for grassroots organizations to try to catalyze positive change, and it’s operating in more than a hundred countries. So this is something that really covers a lot of ground.

Tenth year that we’ve been involved in this, and what we’re seeing is – as I said, it’s a public-private partnership – we’re drawing strength and support from like-minded governments around the world, businesses, foundations, the – a number of other organizations. And that’s been an essential resource that we’ve actually been able to help catalyze and provide about $83 million thus far to amplify,

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