I'm sorry I can't be with you in person, but I am delighted to be able to send greetings to so many of you who are working to open up opportunities for women in the Balkans and around the world.
Madam President, you have made a career out of building bridges to promote peace, progress, and prosperity. As the first female head of state in the region, you are a natural leader for women's empowerment issues. Any young girl who's wondering just how far her talents can take her, need only look to you for the answer. I look forward to continuing our work together in Kosovo and beyond.
I also want to congratulate the people of Kosovo on the end of supervised independence, which marks another tangible step forward in the history of your country. Since independence, you have worked hard to build a modern, multi-ethnic, inclusive, and democratic state. The United States will remain a strong partner and friend as you navigate the many challenges ahead. Around the world, women are blazing new trails. They are removing long-entrenched obstacles and standing up for their rights and opportunities. This conference represents a growing understanding that to create economic opportunity, political progress, and social equality, we need women's ideas, their energy and their perspective.
More women than ever are taking a leading role in politics and government--and that's great news. But we still have a long way to go. We know that when women thrive, societies thrive. There is a mountain of research that shows that investing in women and gender equality is smart economics. And it's not just the bottom line that we should be concerned about. Women are also agents of change and peace; they act as mediators and foster compromise. Time and again, especially in this region, we have seen women build partnerships and networks across ethnic and sectarian lines where men often could not. When women organize in large numbers, they can galvanize opinion and change the course of history.
I have seen firsthand--in places from Kosovo to Northern Ireland--that women can help develop sound ideas and policies. We just need to remove the barriers that prevent them from fully participating in their communities. So we must harness opportunities like this event to build partnerships that will unleash their potential. I can't wait to hear from Ambassador Verveer and Secretary Albright about the new commitments, ideas, and initiatives you come up with. Your unwavering dedication is helping all people -- women and men -- realize a brighter future. Thank you all.