State Department’s Religious Freedom Report: All Hat, No Cattle?

Georgetown’s Thomas Farr assesses the latest State Department Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, issued in Washington this week with much fanfare by Secretary Hillary Clinton and Ambassador-at-Large Suzan Johnson Cook. The report, Farr says, lives up to its reputation as “the gold standard” in the field and will, as always, be helpful to scholars, the media, and policy experts. But, Farr continues, there’s also some “bad news”:

Johnson Cook has little authority, few resources, and a bureaucracy that is — notwithstanding the secretary’s fine words — largely indifferent to the advancement of international religious freedom. Unlike other ambassadors-at-large (Global Women’s Issues, Global AIDS), Johnson Cook does not report to the Secretary, but is several levels removed from Clinton. The IRF ambassador controls virtually no resources for IRF programs, and is not present in senior policy meetings involving those countries or any others. A quick look at the “U.S. Policy” sections of the reports will tell you that we have little in the way of a coordinated IRF strategy for any of these countries. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that this issue is not a priority for this administration, except perhaps for the speechwriters (who are doing an outstanding job).

Read Farr’s complete assessment here.

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