Ambassador Hamamoto: Work Done in Geneva Touches Daily Lives of Ordinary People in So Many Ways

Ambassador Hamamoto addresses Media Luncheon
Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto addresses Media Luncheon

Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto

Remarks at a Luncheon with the Media

September 5, 2014
Geneva, Switzerland

 Ambassador Hamamoto:  Good afternoon, everybody.  As Paul mentioned, I’m Ambassador Hamamoto, and I’m delighted to have this opportunity to meet with all of you today.  I look forward to getting to know you better and to working with you over the coming years.

I’ve been in Geneva for just over two months now, and although I was told when I arrived that these were the slow summer months, they certainly didn’t feel slow, and with all the rain they certainly didn’t feel like summer.  So for a while I was wondering what kind of a mess I’d gotten myself into.

All kidding aside, I come away from these first couple of months with a great appreciation for the breadth of work going on around this town.  As well as the quality of the work being carried out by the dedicated people in the UN and the international organizations here in Geneva.

What has impressed me most, though, is how the work being done in Geneva touches the daily lives of ordinary people in so many important ways.  For example, let’s take a look at what has been consuming a lot of my time during the past few weeks.  Last week I attended the launch of the World Economic Forum’s NETmundial Initiative.  And I just returned Wednesday night from Istanbul where I was attending the 9th Annual Internet Governance Forum with a delegation of very senior U.S. officials.

In these collaborative forums the international community is endeavoring to chart a course for the future of Internet governance in the 21st Century and how best to preserve the Internet, or better yet enhance it, as a shared global resource for social and economic progress. Clearly something important that touches all of our lives.

The U.S. is committed to defending an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach to the Internet, one in which the voices of civil society, academia and business are all heard — not just governments.  There are some governments who don’t want those other voices to be heard so the results of this debate will have very serious consequences.  They are also related to a whole nexus of other issues such as cyber security, freedom of expression, and privacy.  We are engaged on all of these fronts.

Another issue that has taken up a lot of my time in recent weeks is the Ebola crisis in West Africa and our efforts working closely with WHO to craft an international response to this escalating crisis.  The United States has both expertise and resources to bring to these efforts with the Center for Disease Control being a major player.  But it has to be part of a well-coordinated effort if we are to succeed in containing the outbreak.

As you may know, Margaret Chan is in the United States this week furthering this cooperative approach and our team here at the Mission is in close touch with her team on a daily basis.

The diversity of these two issues I’ve just mentioned is emblematic of the range of work we do here in Geneva.  Our Mission is deeply involved in addressing the humanitarian response to both the crises you read about every morning in the paper such as Iraq and Syria, but also the ones that sadly get little public attention such as the Central African Republic in Mali.

The U.S. remains the predominant donor of funds to a wide array of humanitarian organizations having provided roughly $5 billion last year to our humanitarian partners including ICRC, UNHRC, IOM and many NGOs which together with the logistical and operational support we provide is the difference between life and death for untold numbers of people around the world.

We are actively engaged in protecting intellectual property rights at WIPO which encourages the development of innovations and new technologies in every field and reinforces the foundation for economic development in the developing world. Again, touching the lives of ordinary people in so many ways.

We are deeply engaged on environmental matters, whether contributing to the pooling of global weather forecasting to help farmers in poor countries know when to plant and when to harvest, or working to protect endangered species at IUCN.

I could go on, but you get the point.  We have a very full plate at our mission here in Geneva and we are actively engaged across the board.  It is very exciting and very rewarding work.

I would also like to mention to you what one of my priorities will be throughout my tenure here.  It is a priority of both President Obama and Secretary Kerry.  And that is bringing increased focus to and coherence across activities that protect and enhance the status of women and children.

Our initiative will focus on areas such as gender equality, prevention and response to gender-based violence, child labor laws, increasing women’s participation in political processes, enhancing education and training for women entrepreneurs, and increasing participation in STEM education for children.

While these issues are already being addressed by the international community here in Geneva, our objective is to redouble our collective efforts and to provide a platform for escalating plans and activities to tackle them.

I’ve already been holding discussions with civil society, other diplomatic missions, and the leadership of UN agencies to begin to build a coalition and identify common actions.  I expect that the next time we meet I will be able to tell you more about this important initiative.

So I hope you now have a better understanding of the breadth of issues I have been focusing on this past couple of “slow” months.  We have been very busy here at the Mission, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the important work being done by Ambassador Harper on the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Punke at the World Trade Organization, and Ambassador Wood at the Conference on Disarmament.  You will hear from Ambassador Harper in just a minute.

So to close, I would simply like to say that I realize how fortunate I am.  We have a talented and committed team here at the Mission.  We have a positive agenda to pursue, and a clear strategy for pursuing it.  And now that we’ve had a chance to meet I have all of you to help spread the word about the vital work that goes on here in the Mission as well as throughout international Geneva.  So thank you very much.