[Central and Eastern Europe Overview]  [Northern Ireland Overview]  [The Americas Conference Overview: Monteviedo, Uruguay October 1998]  [Central Asia]  [The Baltics and Russia

1) Regional Initiatives: Central and Eastern Europe Overview

    "We are here to advance the cause of women and to advance the cause of democracy and to make it absolutely clear that the two are inseparable. There cannot be true democracy unless women's voices are heard. There cannot be true democracy unless women are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own lives."
    - First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Keynote Address at Vital Voices, Austria, July 1997

The Vital Voices Initiative was launched with the Vital Voices Conference in Vienna, Austria in July, 1997. The Vienna Conference convened women leaders from the governmental and private sectors of Central and Eastern Europe, the United States, and the European Union. Three hundred participants explored ways to strengthen the role of women as democracy-builders through three tracks of workshops: law and leadership, politics and public life, economics and business.

The Conference, conceived by Swanee Hunt, then U.S. Ambassador to Austria, forged partnerships among women. As a result of this effort, U.S. government and private sector support for programs and policies directed towards the advancement of women and girls significantly increased.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton affirmed the U.S. government's support for women as democracy-builders and announced a USG commitment of three million dollars for Vital Voices follow-up projects.

2) Regional Initiatives: Northern Ireland Overview

    "I am pleased to announce a Vital Voices Conference to be held in Belfast in early fall, with co-sponsorship from the United States and regional partners. This Conference will showcase and support women's role in the economic and political life of their society. The women of Northern Ireland -- wives, mothers, and daughters -- have borne an enormous share of trauma of The Troubles. Now, their participation will be essential to build a future of peace and reconciliation."
    - President Clinton
    The White House, May 7, 1998

Vital Voices was held in Belfast, Northern Ireland on August 31 - September 2, 1998. The U.S. government co-sponsored this event with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Dr. Marjorie Mowlam, and the First and Deputy Ministers of the Shadow Northern Ireland Assembly, David Trimble and Seamus Mallon. The Conference brought together 400 women from Northern Ireland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and the United States to establish new relationships, expand partnerships, and secure resources to strengthen the roles of women in democracy.

In her keynote address at the Conference, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton announced over $2 million in public-private partnerships to support the Vital Voices objectives, including media training, mentoring, and economic development projects for women. Follow-up activities are underway to implement the partnerships developed in Belfast and to create new initiatives supporting the conference goals.

    "Economic progress depends on woman's progress. Democratic progress depends on woman's progress. Human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights. And this Conference is part of an ongoing, global initiative that is making these points over and over again and in the process transforming women's lives and societies"
    - First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Keynote Address at Vital Voices, Northern Ireland, September 1998

3) Regional Initiatives: The Americas Conference Overview: Monteviedo, Uruguay October 1998

    "Today, more than at any other time in history, women have the opportunity and the responsibility not only to raise our own voices but to empower others to raise theirs as well. The women gathered here, we are among the blessed. Even though many have suffered, the spirit was not broken. And you are here as testimony to resilience and determination."
    - First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
    Keynote Address at Vital Voices of the Americas, Uruguay, October, 1998

The U.S. government and the Inter-American Development Bank co-sponsored a hemisphere-wide Vital Voices Conference in Montevideo, Uruguay on October 1- 3, 1998. Over 400 women leaders from the 34 democracies of the Western Hemisphere gathered to discuss action plans for the full participation of women in the political, social, and economic lives of their countries.

Extensive follow-up is already underway in the region. For example, U.S. Ambassadors are meeting with their host country delegations to plan future activities. Partners from the private sector, governments, and non-governmental communities have committed resources, training, and skills aimed to implement the conference action plans. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton met with some of the Vital Voices participants from Central America and the Caribbean during her visit back to the region.

4) Regional Initiatives: Central Asia Overview

    First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton Hosts
    Vital Voices Regional Roundtable
    "Women of Central Asia and Turkey Building Democracy"
    Albert Long Hall, Bosphorus University
    November 19, 1999
    Istanbul, Turkey

As part of the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will host a Vital Voices Regional Roundtable discussion. The roundtable will bring together women leaders who are forging the way towards democracy in the areas of economics, politics, human rights and the law, representing all sectors of society. Countries participating are Turkey, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

5) Regional Initiatives: The Baltics and Russia

    Conference on Women and Democracy
    In Conjunction with the Vital Voices Democracy Initiative
    October 8-10, 1999 - Reykjavik, Iceland

The Government of Iceland will host a Conference on Women and Democracy at the Dawn of the New Millennium In Conjunction with the U.S. Vital Voices Global Democracy Initiative. The U.S. is co-sponsoring the Conference, along with the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Conference will bring together men and women from the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden), the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Russia, and the U.S. Participants will come from governments, the non-governmental community, and the private sector to develop and put into practice strategies to address the challenges facing women and men as they work to build stable, prosperous societies in the Northern European region. Senior government officials from the Nordic and Baltic countries and Russia as well as the U.S. will attend, including the First Lady of the U.S. and the newly elected President of Latvia, Vaira Vike-Freiberga.