U.S. Department of State
U.S. and Afghanistan Announce $18.2 Million in Good Performers Initiative Awards for Provincial Counternarcotics Achievements

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 13, 2013


On February 12, 2013, Afghanistan’s Minister for Counter Narcotics Zarar Moqbel Osmani and U.S. Embassy’s Coordinating Director for Rule of Law and Law Enforcement Ambassador Stephen G. McFarland announced $18.2 million in Good Performers Initiative (GPI) awards. GPI awards are given to provinces that achieved or retained poppy-free status, reduced net poppy cultivation by more than 10 percent over the previous year, or made other exceptional counternarcotics efforts during the cultivation season. Twenty-one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces received GPI awards, including 17 provinces that earned $1 million awards for being poppy-free. MORE

Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs Johnnie Carson delivers remarks on finding a lasting solution to instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. on February 12, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/af/rls/rm/2013/204511.htm

A Diverse and Socially Inclusive America Needs to Share Its Story

Wheelchair athlete, left, races along side able-bodied high school runners, April 19, 2006 in Rockville, Md. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Tara D. Sonenshine serves as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.

Diversity is our strength, and everyone, including persons with disabilities, has important contributions to make.

That was one of the overarching messages at the 10th Special Olympics 2013 World Winter Games in South Korea this month, where athletes Tae Hemsath and Henry Meece — born in South Korea with developmental disabilities — returned to their birth country as Special Olympics athletes. Tae competed as a snowshoe racer, Henry as a snowboarder.

That same message resonated today throughout a public forum, where participants at Gallaudet University came to learn about opportunities in international exchange for persons with disabilities, and for members of the deaf community.

The audience was moved by the words and experiences of speakers, including U.S. Representative Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former Army helicopter pilot who lost…more »

American Athletes Promote Life Skills for Indian Youth

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
February 12, 2013


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces Major League Baseball Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin and Olympian Natasha Watley will travel as sports envoys to India from February 12-18. Working with Major League Baseball and USA Softball, this trip marks the Department’s first joint baseball and softball program to encourage youth participation in sports.

In New Delhi and Imphal, Larkin and Whatley will lead baseball and softball clinics for underserved youth and their coaches, as well as engage in dialogue on sports and diversity. In both cities, the sports envoys will meet with officials from the Indian Baseball and Softball Associations as well as representatives from NGOs that promote youth sports opportunities. Throughout the exchange, they will speak with local media about how sports encourage in the development of good sportsmanship, leadership, and teamwork skills. MORE

International Writing Program Sends Former U.S. Poet Laureate to Burma

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass speaks with university students in Rangoon, Burma, January 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Ann Stock serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For centuries, great writers have opened windows into other worlds, and allowed countries — often for the very first time — a glimpse into a different culture and a different way of living. Through their work, writers connect cultures on a people-to-people level. The art of creative writing is fundamental to freedom of expression and a reason why the U.S. Department of State has sponsors exchange programs like the International Writing Program.

This past month, the State Department sent four of the best American writers and poets on our first International Writing Program delegation to Burma. The group included former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, writers Brenda Hillman and ZZ Packer, and Christopher Merrill, director of the… more »

Resignation of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 11, 2013


The United States is grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI for his leadership of and ministry to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics. He has been a man of action and principle, working to promote human rights and dignity in places around the globe where they are too often denied, and a voice of clarity and conviction about our obligations as stewards of a fragile planet. As I heard Pope Benedict say during the Mass he celebrated in Washington nearly five years ago, Americans remain a people of hope and America a land of freedom and opportunity. He believes, as we do, that the qualities that have made our nation strong can also help make the world freer and more just. We have been honored to work with the Holy See during the nearly eight years of his papacy and look forward to continued collaboration in areas of common interest to our nation and to the Catholic Church. We wish Pope Benedict great peace and health and we will keep him in our prayers.

Breaking Down the Numbers of the Syrian Refugee Crisis

A Syrian refugee stands on top of a water tank at Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, January 9, 2013. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Caroline Raclin is a Special Assistant in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) at the U.S. Department of State. She traveled with a joint State Department-USAID delegation to Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait January 22-31, 2013.

It was near midnight. We were driving in the desert with no headlights, and Syria was 20 feet to my left. To the right was a mass of shapes — it took me a minute to realize I was looking at 850 Syrians who had just crossed safely into Jordan. One man was carrying designer luggage normally seen in airplane cabins; one girl had no shoes. I walked amongst these scared, war-numbed people, and it hit me that this was only a tiny portion of those leaving Syria.

Roughly 763,000 people have fled Syria — 240,000 to Jordan — and an estimated 2.5 million are displaced internally. Before that night, those numbers seemed horrific, but had little real meaning to me. They are round statistics, indicators of an escalating war. But after hearing a woman recall her husband’s death and a family describe their village being leveled by barrels of explosives, I better understood the scale… more »

Small Grants: Huge Impact

Three WEAmericas Small Grants awardees (from left) -- Founder and President of Comunidades de la Tierra Maria Pachecho (Guatemala), Board Member of Women Entrepreneurs Network Caribbean Yaneek Page (Caribbean), D.C. Director of Fundación Paraguaya Mary Liz Kehler (Paraguay) -- pose for a photograph at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., February 4, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

About the Author: Roberta S. Jacobson serves as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Small grants: huge impact. That was the recurring theme of an inspiring event Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer hosted earlier this week at the Department of State. As part of the WEAmericas initiative to support economic empowerment for women-owned businesses in the Western Hemisphere, we announced 25 small grants for organizations in 15 Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as two regional projects. The Walmart Foundation and the Secretary of State’s International Fund for Women and Girls sponsored the grants.

We… more »

Secretary Kerry’s First Week
About the Author: Richard Buangan serves as Director of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of State.
Today’s “Photo of the Week” is not just one, but several photos we selected highlighting Secretary Kerry’s first week at the State Department. Since the warm welcome he received from hundreds of colleagues when he walked through the doors of the State Department for the first time as Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry wasted no time getting to work, meeting his new colleagues, and getting acquainted with the Harry S Truman building. Pictures tell the story better than words as Secretary Kerry assumed his responsibilities as America’s top diplomat. more »

Secretary Kerry’s First Week

About the Author: Richard Buangan serves as Director of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of State.

Today’s “Photo of the Week” is not just one, but several photos we selected highlighting Secretary Kerry’s first week at the State Department. Since the warm welcome he received from hundreds of colleagues when he walked through the doors of the State Department for the first time as Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry wasted no time getting to work, meeting his new colleagues, and getting acquainted with the Harry S Truman building. Pictures tell the story better than words as Secretary Kerry assumed his responsibilities as America’s top diplomat. more »

International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM: Working Together To End a Devastating Practice

A Masai girl holds a protest sign during the anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) run in Kilgoris, Kenya, April 21, 2007. [AP File Photo]

About the Author: Melanne Verveer serves as Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues.

On February 6, 2013, in observance of the tenth anniversary of the International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, I had the privilege of leading a panel discussion at the State Department to help bring global attention to a harmful traditional practice that risks the lives, dignity, and well-being of women and girls in far too many places around the world. 

I was honored to be joined by such dedicated leaders and practitioners as Amina Salum Ali, Ambassador of the African Union to the United States; Dr. Nawal Nour, a Sudanese-American from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston; Bacary Tamba from Tostan, a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Senegal; and Jessie Hexpoor from Hivos, an NGO based in the Netherlands. They each have made, and are continuing to make, extraordinary contributions toward putting an end to female genital mutilation/cutting… more »