Geneva, May 25, 2010
2nd African Forum for Dialogue hosted by the African Union
Remarks by Ambassador Betty E. King,
Permanent Representative of the United States Mission to the United Nations in Geneva
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thanks to the African Union Delegation for organizing this event and inviting me here. This forum is an excellent opportunity for us to address the issues and talk about our work with Africa. As President Obama stated in Accra, Ghana last July: “The true sign of success is not whether we are a source of aid that helps people scrape by – it is whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change.”
I’m very pleased to hear about the initiatives of our international partners in Africa. We all have such a stake in the success and security of the continent, and I believe that these efforts are strengthened when we work together. The United States has been increasing our cooperation with other countries interested in Africa; here in Geneva, it is both my desire and my privilege to make connections that will enrich some of our multilateral efforts. As some of you may know, I was the principal U.S. negotiator on the Millennium Development Goals and continue to closely monitor progress on implementation of those goals because development issues are particularly close to my heart. I have an active interest in working with our partners in the United Nations to ensure that the important targets set for 2015 are being or will be met. Africa is a key piece in this puzzle and U.S.-Africa cooperation allows us to build capacity in these areas and address shared problems from the ground up. When we advance development issues, we advance security, prosperity, and democratic values by improving the material conditions of people’s lives around the world.
In 2005, at the summit of the Group of 8 in Gleneagles, the United States and other member nations announced a goal to double foreign assistance to Africa within the next five years. Today, we are glad to report that the US has met this commitment, one year in advance of the 2010 target date. An enormous amount has been done in that time and I will get to the specifics of our cooperative efforts in a moment. But it is also important to recognize that financial assistance alone will not automatically produce success across the continent—we need to make progress in food security, public health, economic growth, and democratic governance. And to target these areas, we are, as Secretary Clinton stated in Nairobi, seeking “more agile, effective, and creative partnerships” with African governments and with the people across the African continent. Our success will be defined by how well we work together to build Africa’s capacity for long-term change and ultimately to eliminate the need for continued assistance.
To begin with, we are addressing Africa’s economic growth by working with the private sector, increasing African trade competitiveness, and integrating African nations into the global economy. The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary, helps facilitate cross-border, regional, and international trade to fight poverty and maximize business opportunities for African nations that are willing to take advantage of the program. We know that these types of private sector engagement and investment are fundamental to build a strong and prosperous society, making markets sustainable and accessible to the very poor.
While working to stimulate business in general, we specifically hope to be of assistance in revitalizing Africa’s agricultural sector, which directly or indirectly employs more than 70 percent of Africans. I know that Malawi has made great progress in the field of agriculture as the chair of the AU, and we will contribute to these efforts by increasing development assistance funding for long-term programs to further productivity, raise the incomes of farmers, and improve nutrition and health. Countries that can feed themselves are stronger, more stable, and better able to weather economic downturns.
More specifically on food security, the Feed the Future Initiative will provide $3.5 billion over three years to target the causes of hunger. This initiative aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in twenty focus countries, including twelve on the African continent. Supplying new methods and technologies to African farmers will enhance Africa’s ability to meet its food needs and reduce its reliance on imported food commodities. The U.S. also works multilaterally to ensure food security in Africa. We recently joined forces with other donor nations in the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative at the L’Aquila G-8 summit in July 2009. This fund is intended to reduce hunger through sustainable, country-led plans, putting the power of change in the hands of the African people.
Addressing global climate change is another top priority for the Obama Administration. As President Obama said in Ghana, “while Africa gives off less greenhouse gases than any other part of the world, it will be the most threatened by climate change.” The United States is committed to working with Africans to find viable solutions to adapt to the severe consequences of climate change and to mitigate the impact on vulnerable populations.
Historically, the United States has focused on public health and health-related issues in Africa. We are committed to keeping that focus, not only because it is the right thing to do but because it is essential to the continent’s strength and security. Unhealthy men and women cannot work and contribute to the economy. They cannot serve in the armed forces or police and they cannot provide for the security of their countries. We will work side-by-side with African governments and civil society to ensure that quality treatment, prevention, and care are easily accessible to communities throughout Africa.
The Obama administration will continue the PEPFAR Program to fight against HIV/AIDS, and, with the rollout of Global Health Initiative, has pledged $63 billion over the next six years to meet public health challenges throughout Africa. This new initiative seeks to encourage country ownership and investment in country-led plans to improve health outcomes through strengthened health systems—with a particular focus on improving the health of women, newborns and children through programs that focus on improvements in infectious disease, nutrition, maternal and child health, and safe water. Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development plans to support malaria programs to reduce malaria deaths by 50 percent in each the fifteen priority countries in Africa after three years of full implementation.
We have also been helping to promote citizenship from the entry point into society with President’s Africa Education Initiative, a multi-year initiative that focuses on increasing access to quality basic education in 39 sub-Saharan countries through scholarships, textbooks, and teacher training programs. USAID works closely with African ministries of education and higher education institutions, local and international nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. The partnership includes the active engagement of African leaders and educators, the international development community, and U.S. interest groups. A subset of this initiative, the USAID Ambassadors Girls’ Scholarship Program, provides scholarships to school children in sub-Saharan Africa. We cannot forget the critical role that education plays in society and we believe that these efforts will be the building blocks of Africa’s future success.
However, development does not happen in a vacuum, and success is not guaranteed without strong institutions. As President Obama has said on many occasions, “Development depends upon good governance.” The U.S. has a demonstrated commitment to helping strengthen Africa’s democratic institutions, promoting key governance reforms and building capacity among security forces. We have seen enormous progress in Africa over the past several years, from the end of conflict in Sierra Leone, to reforms in Botswana and Ghana, to democratic elections in Liberia. We work closely with civil society organizations in Africa to ensure that these constituencies will be holding their own governments accountable in the long-term.
The Obama administration has also placed the highest priority on diplomacy in Africa. President Obama’s visit to Ghana in July in many ways set the tone for his foreign policy agenda worldwide; Secretary Clinton’s seven-nation tour of Africa ended with a greater understanding of and renewed commitment to African issues. Many senior policy advisors have followed their lead. Also at the State Department, the head of African Affairs Johnnie Carson has been making a push to assign more US diplomats and expand smaller US missions on the continent, so that we are literally more present in Africa to listen to and work with Africans on their concerns and the challenges they face.
To this end, the U.S. is committed to working with African states and the international community to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflicts and disputes. Throughout Africa, there has been a notable reduction in the number of conflicts over the past decade, and President Obama has demonstrated his commitment to work with African leaders to help resolve those conflicts that continue to linger; this commitment is exemplified by the appointment of special envoys to Sudan and Congo to facilitate the full implementation of peace and stability. Additionally, the United States has consistently been the largest single country donor of humanitarian assistance to Somalia, providing significant resources in humanitarian assistance. We will continue our cooperation with regional leaders to look for ways to end Somalia’s protracted political and humanitarian crisis.
On the security front, I want to tell you about some of the important joint initiatives in capacity building, defense technical assistance, and stabilization that are in progress between the U.S. and Africa. Through United States Africa Command, we have come to listen and learn from our partners to better understand their requirements and to ensure that we are addressing their security needs through tailored programs and activities. Our Department of Defense contributes to the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership through Operation Enduring Freedom, which is designed to assist participating African nations as they improve control of their territories and thus deny safe havens to terrorist groups. Together with European and African forces, we also engage in the Africa Partnership Station, which assists African nations in strengthening maritime security. This is essential to prevent lawlessness in Africa’s sovereign waters for everything from drug trafficking to illegal fishing. The continent must have the right tools to deal with these transnational security challenges.
We remain engaged with partners to reinforce success and continuity, including the Building Effective Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Corps initiative in which we help develop doctrine and training plans to develop capable and sustainable units while also engaging with partner leadership. Through the ADAPT (Africa Deployment Assistance Partnership Team) program, we are developing African military logistics capacities for peacekeeping operations. And we are jointly preparing for complex humanitarian emergencies, such as pandemic influenza outbreaks, through exercises such as NATURAL FIRE, which seeks to improve interoperability and build partner capacity between U.S. and African forces.
As designated by the African Union, 2010 is the “Year of Peace and Security in Africa.” I appreciate all of your commitment to this shared vision and your willingness to work together towards the goals of good governance, individual and state security, and greater prosperity for Africa’s people. The United States has been, and will continue to be engaging and partnering with Africans to tackle the toughest issues in this field and resolve problems together.