US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking spoke before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Departments FY2017 budget, said that important democratic gains have been witnessed in, among other places, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and Burma.
The US Government is seeking the approval of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for approximately $50 billion in the 2017 budget for foreign affairs.
“Our diplomatic priorities include support for human rights and the continued evolution of an open and democratic political process in Burma, where a freely-elected parliament has been seated for the first time, and where we have called for an end to discrimination and violence directed at the Rohingya Muslim minority. Our FY 2017 budget includes $1.25 billion in assistance to the national unity government of Afghanistan to strengthen its institutions, bolster its security capabilities, repel attacks by violent extremists, implement economic reforms, preserve gains made over the last decade (including for women and girls), and move forward with a wide range of social programs. We are requesting $742 million in aid to Pakistan to support its citizens as they seek security, build democracy and sustain economic growth and development – even as the country continues to suffer from terrorist attacks. Last October, I traveled to every state in Central Asia to reaffirm America’s friendship with the people in that part of the world and to discuss shared concerns in such areas as security, energy policy, development, and human rights. Also in 2015, we strongly endorsed democratic progress in Sri Lanka, while elevating our important strategic dialogue with India to include a commercial component, reflecting the five-fold increase in bilateral trade over the last decade,” he said.
Over the course of his testimony Secretary Kerry outlined how this funding supports the State Department’s and other development and national security agencies’ efforts to tackle transnational challenges ranging from countering violent extremism, nuclear proliferation, global health, cyber warfare, and widespread migration caused by conflict and instability.
Secretary Kerry also pointed to areas where the State Department and its partners are working to leverage opportunities created by unprecedented international coordination on issues like climate change and trade. (Colombo Gazette)