Hillary Clinton: No ‘Dignity’ in Violence

In a rousing speech at the Clinton Global Initiative summit, the secretary of state weighed in on the deadly attack in Libya, as well as global development, taxing the rich, and the importance of human dignity. Abigail Pesta reports.

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The Arab world did not set out to trade “the tyranny of a dictator” for the “tyranny of a mob,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday in New York at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, the organization launched by her husband to tackle world problems such as poverty and disease.

Marking the start of the second day of the three-day summit, Clinton began her address to cheers and a standing ovation. “It’s good to be among so many friends,” she said.

In a broad speech about global development, Clinton mentioned the recent deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and said countries that focus on “fostering growth” as opposed to “fomenting grievance” are the nations that are racing forward.

"Dignity does not come from avenging insults, especially with violence,” she said, clearly in reference to the anti-Muslim video that has sparked heated riots around the world, including the one that preceded the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, and Sean Smith. Clinton noted that in the wake of the attack, residents of Benghazi had “forcefully rejected” militia groups, pushing to shut down their compounds. “All of us need to stand together,” she said, so extremists don’t “drive us apart.”

Clinton called on countries to stand up for “democracies that unlock people’s potential” and to champion “the universal human rights of all people.” She cited the importance of human dignity, noting that an Egyptian revolutionary had once said, “Freedom and dignity are more important than food and water. When you eat in humiliation, you can’t taste the food.”

Arguing that the Obama administration had made global development “an essential pillar of our national security,” Clinton cited three overall objectives of the administration’s approach to development around the world, starting with the goal of America’s transitioning “from aid to investment.” For example, she cited a recent shipment of sewing machines to Haiti that is creating thousands of jobs in a new garment business.

The second objective, Clinton said, is “country ownership,” meaning that individual countries should work toward taking responsibility for developing their own programs to improve health care and the economy. She cited a program in Sierra Leone in which more than 1,700 women serve as health monitors, checking up on clinics and reporting any problems to the government so that the issues can be resolved. In Botswana, she said, the government manages and pays for its national HIV program. “Country ownership means ownership by the whole country—men and women,” she stressed. “When more women enter the workforce, it spurs innovation, increases productivity, and grows the economy.”

The third objective, Clinton said, is “putting ourselves out of business.” In other words, the goal is for the U.S. to reach a point in which “our development assistance is no longer needed.”

Clinton also stressed the importance of collecting taxes around the world equitably, especially from the “elites” of society. “There are rich people everywhere, and yet they do not contribute to the growth of their own countries,” she said. For world leaders, this means “telling powerful people things they don’t want to hear.”

Clinton was introduced by her husband, Bill Clinton, who said of his wife, “She tries to make good things happen.” The former president drew a laugh when he said, “More than 40 years ago when I met Hillary, she was already sort of a walking NGO.”