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State's Hughes Highlights U.S. Role in Pakistan Quake Relief

16 November 2005

In White House webchat, says United States is leading donor nation

By Vince Crawley
Washington File Staff Writer

The United States is the leading donor nation in the worldwide effort to provide emergency assistance to Pakistan following the devastating October 8 earthquake, says Karen Hughes, State Department under secretary for public diplomacy and public affairs.

“Americans can be very proud of the work of our military personnel and embassy and aid workers who are working around the clock to help Pakistan’s government save lives, deliver supplies and care for the many who are injured,” she said in a White House webchat November 16.

Hughes just returned from a visit to Pakistan, where she was accompanied by U.S. business leaders who are heading private efforts to raise funds for earthquake victims. The U.S. government has pledged $156 million to Pakistan for earthquake assistance.

In additional to financial assistance, “our military is providing many unique capabilities such as helicopter rescue operations,” she told the Internet audience.

Hughes and the U.S. business leaders met with Pakistani government authorities to discuss how American contributions could be used most effectively, she said. (See related article.)

“The business leaders will be coordinating with our American relief agency, USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development], to make sure money they raise to help the earthquake victims is spent on projects that have the maximum impact,” she said. “The Pakistani government is also planning a ‘sponsorship’ program where individuals, companies and communities can agree to sponsor the construction of a school, a hospital, etc., and they assured us those funds will be closely audited and tracked.”

The government of Pakistan estimates that at least 74,000 died in the earthquake, “including an estimated 18,000 children who were crushed when their schools collapsed,” Hughes said. Another 70,000 people are injured and 2.8 million are homeless and in need of shelter as winter sets in.

“This is a humanitarian mission, and we are providing help because the people of Pakistan need it,” Hughes said. However, she emphasized, “Pakistan is also an important friend and a vital partner in our war against terror. Since the days immediately after September 11, when President [Parvez] Musharraf pledged his cooperation, Pakistan has been a key ally in the fight against terrorism. Pakistan’s military has captured more than 600 al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.”

U.S. PUBLIC DIPLOMACY STRATEGY

In the webchat, Hughes also was asked about her job of telling the American story to the world. A longtime close adviser to President Bush, she assumed her senior State Department post in August.

“Our public diplomacy strategy consists of what I call the four ‘E’s’.” Hughes said. “Engage, Exchange, Educate and Empower.”

“We have to engage more vigorously, advocating our values, policies and the many ways we are helping the citizens of our world,” she said. “We also have to be faster and more aggressive in our response to rumors and misinformation about our country that travel the world in seconds on the Internet.”

Hughes said she has been told that exchange programs and multicultural visits “have been the single most successful public-diplomacy tool of the last 50 years.” Education also is critical to cross-cultural understanding, she said. For example, the State Department is promoting English language training abroad, while also working on an initiative to encourage more Americans to learn important languages such as Arabic and Chinese.

In addition, “we must empower our most important natural resource – our citizens – to help represent our country to the world,” Hughes said.

“In the war against terrorism, we must also empower the voices of Muslim Americans and Muslim leaders who speak out against violence because those voices often have the most credibility within the Muslim world,” she said.

Hughes also discussed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s recent negotiations in Israel. On November 15, Rice announced an agreement to open an international border crossing between Gaza and Egypt for the first time since 1967. (See related article.)

“This builds on Israel’s courageous withdrawal from Gaza in August and will make Rafah, a Gazan city on the Egyptian border, an international crossing,” Hughes said. “This will give the Palestinian people greater freedom to move, to trade and to live lives of dignity. As they are able to export products, it will allow their economy to grow and produce jobs.”

The agreement also outlines important security measures, she said. “The agreement is a very positive step, and the international community, Israel and the Palestinian Authority must now work hard to make these measures work in practice so that, as they are implemented, trust can grow.” (See related story.)

The text of Hughes’ webchat is posted on the White House Web site.

For more information on the earthquake and its aftermath, see U.S. Response to Earthquake in South Asia.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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