State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to be moved to the Red Cross building?
Sources in the human rights community tell The Cable that the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) is being kicked out of its prime real estate on the second and seventh floors — the latter with key proximity to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — in the department’s main building and ...
Sources in the human rights community tell The Cable that the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) is being kicked out of its prime real estate on the second and seventh floors -- the latter with key proximity to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- in the department's main building and sent to the American Red Cross building on E. St.
Sources in the human rights community tell The Cable that the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) is being kicked out of its prime real estate on the second and seventh floors — the latter with key proximity to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — in the department’s main building and sent to the American Red Cross building on E. St.
The sources complain that the move will reduce the access and impact of the bureau, which according to its Web site is “dedicated to the U.S. mission of spreading democracy and respect for human rights globally.” Each year, the bureau produces country human rights reports, among other activities, and has been a visible presence in meetings of visiting foreign delegations with the State Department leadership.
They also say the way it went down was slightly Machiavellian. A week before the inauguration, a source says, Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management who is expected to hold over under Secretary Clinton, gave what one source says was an ‘ultimatum’ to the acting head of DRL David Kramer, saying the bureau had to choose whether it wanted to move to administration office space in Rosslyn, Virginia, or to the Red Cross building. Kramer held a town-hall meeting with DRL staff to convey the choice, the source said, and staff chose the Red Cross building.
The reason given for the move was the main State Department building is expected to undergo renovations next fall, sources heard, but that other department leadership was eyeing a permanent takeover of the prime seventh floor office space.
“I’ve been arguing that we should be patient with the Obama team,” says Andrew Albertson, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). “Before they can have much of a positive impact on human rights and democracy, they need to clean up the mess, so to speak. They need to take some basic steps to rebuild our capacity on these issues: close Guantánamo and definitively end torture; reengage our allies to advance human development in key regions like the Middle East; and take constructive steps on the big ticket issues like Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Iran.
“But rebuilding is one thing,” Albertson added. “Kicking the human rights component out of the building is another thing altogether. At the outset of the administration, this is a disastrous signal to send. If it was done in the dark of night and then ratified by Clinton — I think that’s just as bad or worse.”
A State Department spokesman said he had not heard of the matter, but said the department is chronically short of office space. He declined to seek comment from Kennedy on the issue.
Kennedy and Clinton incidentally addressed a State Department “town hall” Wednesday. Asked a question by a member of the DRL bureau about expanding rights for women and people with disabilities, Clinton said it would be a priority: “It’s important to recognize that expanding the circle of opportunity and increasing the democratic potential of our own society, as well as those across the world, is a continuing process of inclusion. And I
look forward to working on behalf of the rights of women and people with disabilities, and others as well, as we pursue our foreign policy. Because I think it sends a clear message about who we are as a people, the evolution that we have undergone.”
Department and NGO sources said it is likely that Eric Schwartz, a former Clinton-era NSC staffer who led the U.S./U.N. transition team for Obama-Biden and helped Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, prepare for her Senate confirmation hearings, will be named head of DRL, and that he held meetings with Clinton last week about a job (head of DRL or Populations, Refugees and Migration). Schwartz, now executive director of the Connect U.S. Fund, declined to comment.
UPDATE: Charles J. Brown of the foreign policy blog Undiplomatic writes to say he hears differently: “I hear Eric is going to take PRM. The leading candidates for DRL are Bill Schulz (former ED of Amnesty International), Tom Carothers (Carnegie), Mike Posner (former ED of Human Rights First), and, if he gets an exemption from the lobbying ban, Tom Malinowski at Human Rights Watch. Then again, Eric may change his mind.”
A well-informed Washington foreign policy hand adds, “About this DRL issue — the staff did not opt for Red Cross. They asked Kramer to fight for them or to wait and let his successor fight for them. … The religious freedom people could stay [because] their guy fought to stay.”
UPDATE II: David Kramer, the former head of the DRL bureau, says that the front office of the DRL bureau will stay on the main State Department building’s seventh floor, but move to a different suite of offices because of planned renovations on its current space. He said the point of taking the
option for the Red Cross building across the street from the main State building as he was leaving last month was “to keep that option alive.” If DRL did not accept it, he feared that option would be gone. “It’s possible my successor would face even worse options,” he said.
Photos: Google Street View; State Department
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