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Obama: US to take on opponents of 'civil society'

The U.S. will support civil society and expression—the idea of free, engaged citizens across the world—even if foreign governments don't like it, President Barack Obama said on Tuesday.

Arriving at the Clinton Global Initiative conference after his appearance before the United Nations, Obama announced a new presidential memorandum to promote civil society work across the globe. The initiatives, he said, will not only be led by the State Department, but through every available facet of the American government.

"When governments try and pass oppressive laws, we'll try to oppose them," Obama said, speaking to the many activists assembled at the meeting. "You are not alone, you are never alone ... the United States of America stands with you, and its president stands with you."

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Among the initiatives announced by Obama are plans to establish centers for promoting civil society advocacy across the global and expanding support for the Community of Democracies to help promote civil freedoms.

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Additionally, Obama said, the U.S. Treasury is working to make it less costly for foundations to make grants overseas.

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But the president highlighted that these initiatives may fly in the face of certain governments, saying that the U.S. honors those killed or detained attempting to promote civil society in countries including Russia and China.

"This growing crackdown on civil society is a campaign to undermine democracy," Obama said, adding that the world needs an "even stronger campaign" to promote it.