WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered opening remarks at the nomination hearing for Dafna Rand to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor; Donna Welton, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste; and Stephan Lang, to be U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, with the rank of Ambassador.
More information about the hearing is available here.
A copy of the Chair’s remarks, as delivered, have been provided below.
Let me just assure our nominees first – thank you for your willingness to serve. It’s a challenge. Public service is not easy, and you have in many cases devoted your whole careers to public service. So we thank you very much for your willingness, and we thank your families. I think we see some of your families in the front row, if not we have some very young people who are here! But we thank you and your families because we know it’s a family sacrifice to serve in the public domain.
Let me also just point out the obvious – this hearing is very important, and we’ll be asking you some questions at this hearing. There will be some questions for the record that we’ll ask you to respond to. Our staffs have already done a lot of vetting in regards to your nominations. So it’s a whole process, and I just want to explain that for particularly the young people that are here. There’s a whole process that we go through in regards to vetting nominees and to the Senate confirmation of nominees. So this is one part of it. The hearing is a very important part of it, but I want to just acknowledge why there may not be as many Senators here today as we normally have. That speaks to two things. First, it speaks to the quality of the people who are nominated. They are outstanding, and we recognize that. And to the conflicts on our schedule today as a result of the supplemental appropriation bills that are being considered as this hearing is taking place.
We do have a scheduled vote for a little later this afternoon, and there’s negotiations going on as to how that vote will take place, etc. So that’s the reason why you might not see the type of normal participation at this hearing. It’s a reflection, I think of the quality – the positive quality of our nominees, as well as the conflicts that are on the schedule today. But we wanted to be able to move these nominees forward. So again, thank you for your cooperation.
I’m going to start with the Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Labor, and Human Rights (DLR). Whether from generals in Myanmar, or the Kremlin in Moscow, repression is on the rise. Attacks against human rights defenders are up across the globe. Coups and democratic backsliding threatens progress on every continent. In Africa, instability now stretches from the Red Sea to the Atlantic.
Behind all of this is the cancer of corruption that undermines the rule of law and good governance, threatening democratic institutions and human rights. That is why we need an Assistant Secretary who will be a powerful voice for democratic values and human rights.
The DRL Bureau has not had a Senate-confirmed leader for more than three years. That’s unacceptable. We need to have a confirmed person at DRL. Why? Because it’s our voice in regards to our values. And there’s a lot of areas that the State Department needs to concentrate on as it deals with diplomacy globally. We recognize that. Our missions have a lot of important tasks that they have to take on. But we need someone to advocate for our values – at the highest levels of the Department. And that requires us to have a confirmed person in that position.
Dr. Rand, if confirmed, I hope you will commit to be a strong voice to protect and advance American values. That means being a champion on DRL’s global democracy programs. That means raising staff morale and strengthening the reach of the bureau in policy discussions in the Department and across the inter-agency deliberations.
That means harnessing the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to advance the human rights agenda. I wrote the Magnitsky Act to honor a young lawyer in Russia. He discovered corruption. He reported it to the authorities. So they arrested him, they tortured him, and he died in a Russian prison. I hope you will commit to strengthening the use of Global Magnitsky provisions if you are confirmed.
More recently in December, a new law was enacted as part of the State Department’s Authorization Act. It mandates that the Administration submit to Congress reports on how the governments of the world are fulfilling their obligations to battle against corruption in all its forms—the Combatting Global Corruption Act. To ensure this is done well, I expect that DRL will have to play a very, very important role. Because it’s not going to be embraced by every mission that we have around the world. It’s going to be your responsibility, if confirmed, to make sure that law is implemented as Congress intended it to be.
Now let me turn to Ms. Welton. Timor-Leste earned independence after centuries of colonial rule under Dutch and then Indonesian governments. Even today, we still see senior figures rising to power in Indonesia that threatens to drag up this nation’s painful past. So whether it is being a partner to their energy transition or supporting our Peace Corps volunteers on the ground, the United States has an obligation to support the youngest country in Asia’s democratic ambitions.
Finally, I want to welcome Mr. Lang who is the nominee to lead the Coordination for International Communications and Information Policy at the State Department. Not many people truly understand the intricacies of this position but it is incredibly important. That is because part of your job will be to continue to build and strengthen our cybersecurity policies – an area where the world’s autocratic regimes have shown increasing interest.
I hope you will commit to making human rights and the protection of democratic institutions one of your priorities. I look forward to hearing from all of you about that. And without objection, I’m going to ask consent to include in the record a statement from Senator Klobuchar in support of Mr. Lang. She had hoped to be here, but she’s engaged in some other activities. But she wanted me to make sure that I express her strong support for your nomination and include her comments in our record.