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Science, Technology, and Foreign Policy

Science, Technology, and Foreign Policy: The Essential Triangle

Science, Technology, and Foreign Policy: The Essential Triangle

Paula J. Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Remarks to the Council of Scientific Society Presidents Washington, DC May 5, 2003

Thank you Dr. Harrington and Dr. Apple for that kind introduction. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you what I see as the nexus of science and foreign policy -- and especially on the occasion of the Council s 30th anniversary. It is a fitting symbol that the National Academy and the State Department are right across the street from one another. The proximity brings to mind the old debate about the purported disconnect -- that dangerous gap between the culture of Science and that of the Humanities. Well, C.P. Snow s Two Cultures thesis may have had some kernel of truth back in 1959 when he propounded it. But today, the idea that -- to borrow a more current phrase -- science is from Mars -- and the Humanities (and policy makers) are from Venus -- simply doesn t apply.

Indeed, the opposite is true: science and technology are integral elements in the shaping of our foreign policy. And our neighbor, the National Academy, is an important partner in foreign policy as are the many scientific societies represented here today. The proximity of science to diplomacy is as old as the Republic. Recall that our first Minister to France, Ben Franklin, was one of the leading scientific minds of his time, as was our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson.

A strong partnership between American science and American statecraft is increasingly critical to addressing the global challenges of the 21st century -- whether the issue is terrorism, homeland security, sustainable development, HIV/AIDS, or the environment. Science to understand problems, and technology to redress those problems, are critically important. Indeed, in my view, science, technology, and foreign policy form an essential triangle.

Let me explain why I see this close interconnection. In 2001, the National Intelligence Council issued an important study called Global Trends 2015. The report identified seven key drivers that will shape the world of 2015. A central driver underlying each of these trends is science and technology. Moreover the report highlighted information technology, biotechnology, materials science, and nanotechnology as key S&T elements. Many of the other drivers identified in the report -- particularly, the depletion of natural resources; the global economy and globalization; and future conflict -- are also informed in no small way by science and technology.

In my view, the whole spectrum of global issues is playing an ever-larger role in our overall foreign policy. And S&T pervades most of them. Meeting the challenge of providing fresh water to poor people; addressing the challenge of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases; and increasing access to modern energy services are key to enabling poor countries to take off economically.

Climate change is another issue that, as the President has said, must be addressed on a global basis. Central to doing so is R&D to better understand the phenomenon and the necessary investment to create new energy technologies. Think for a moment of the implications for both energy security and our foreign policy if we succeed in commercializing technologies such as hydrogen.

One measure of the growing importance of science and technology to foreign policy is in our efforts to enhance the role of science and scientific literacy at the State Department. In 1999, the National Research Council completed a report for the Department entitled, The Pervasive Role of Science, Technology and Health in Foreign Policy. The report stated that of the 16 stated objectives of United States foreign policy, 13 of them encompass science, technology, or health considerations. One of its key recommendations was for State to create an S&T adviser to the Secretary.

We heeded those recommendations and the result is a new expanded policy role for S&T at State. An S&T Adviser to the Secretary was created, a new position to which Dr. Norman Neureiter was appointed in fall 2000. Norm has made a significant difference, focusing on three key interrelated objectives: injecting more S&T capacity into State; assuring that S&T considerations are integrated into foreign policy decisions; and maintaining a close working relationship with the scientific community. Norm has also been very successful working with groups like the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Institute of Physics; and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to bring what is now a small army -- thirty-three to be exact -- of science fellows for assignments in bureaus throughout the State Department. Working closely with the President s Science Adviser, Dr. Marburger, and the Department s Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science (otherwise called OES ), the Department has been able to pursue important new initiatives with respect to science and technology cooperation with Vietnam, Pakistan, and India.

The Science Advisor s office works closely with OES, which manages bilateral S& T agreements with over 31 governments and multilateral agreements on behalf of the U.S.Government. Those agreements provide a framework for other federal agencies to collaborate internationally on a full range of science issues. Another important effort to strengthen science and diplomacy is our Embassy Science Fellows Program. Under that program, scientific representatives from the federal agency community (agencies like NOAA, NASA, and NSF) serve on short-term assignments at U.S. diplomatic posts. This program has done much to enrich our science presence overseas. Moreover, the Department has been deeply involved in multilateral science diplomacy such as the President s recent decision to rejoin the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) negotiations to develop fusion technology as well as our recent move to rejoin UNESCO.

Let me share some other thoughts about how our international cooperation in science and technology fits into the larger picture of American foreign policy. First, I cannot overstate the importance of the fact that we live in an era of remarkable technological innovation which profoundly impacts our lives. Science and technology is also an important component of the "soft power" in our foreign policy. Nation after nation is keenly interested in working with us and, as you know, thousands of foreign students choose to study science and engineering in our universities. I have been directly involved in expanding our collaboration with China and India in which S&T is an important element of our bilateral relationships. To help realize President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee s pledge to transform U.S.-India relations, we have initiated a new cluster of issues in our bilateral relationship that we call the Global Issues Forum, and S&T is an important part of it. We see similar enthusiasm for S&T cooperation throughout the developing world from Bangladesh to Brazil.

Decisions based on sound science -- and building the science and technology capacity of developing countries -- is a key element in the new consensus on development that President Bush helped shape at the Financing for Development Summit last year in Monterrey, Mexico. Specifically, he proposed the largest increase in foreign assistance since the 1960s, the Millennium Challenge Account. The President has asked for $1.6 billion for fiscal 2004, ramping up to $5 billion a year by 2006. The hope is that such resources for countries that invest in their people, exercise good governance, and encourage entrepreneurship will foster a new model for development that other donors will also pursue.

The Monterrey meeting was followed by the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. Our emphasis in Johannesburg focused on showcasing public-private partnerships. In all, the Summit produced well over 200 partnership initiatives among all nations represented. The United States exemplified this approach by launching major initiatives in the areas of water, energy, health, and hunger. One of the key public-private partnerships we showcased was the Geographic Information for Sustainable Development project. This project makes satellite imagery available to people around the world -- to policy makers, to scientists and technicians, to natural resource managers, and to farmers. This technology will help developing nations map watersheds, plan agricultural crop strategies, and trace urbanization trends.

We are all keenly aware that when we speak of sustainable development today, nothing is more essential to economic growth than health. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is especially troubling. AIDS is destroying workforces, orphaning millions of children, and extinguishing hope in communities, countries, and continents. Although at present the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS pandemic is in Sub-Saharan Africa, the National Intelligence Council reports that unless we act urgently, we will see similar or even worse epidemics in other parts of the African continent, as well as India and China.

In response, President Bush announced in this year s State of the Union address the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a 5-year, $15 billion initiative to turn the tide in the global effort to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic. This AIDS initiative comes on top of our already substantial efforts both bilaterally and in the instrumental role the United States played in launching the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in 2001. The United States is the leading contributor to the Fund and leads the world in having committed $500 million to it 23% of total fund pledges to date. The S&T investments made by both the public and private sectors will create new generations of antiretrovirals, vaccines, and microbicides that will help stem the tide of HIV /AIDS and other infectious diseases.

Finally, I want to highlight a series of Presidential technology initiatives related to energy. The success of these international initiatives may have an incredible impact on sustainable growth worldwide, and amount to a revolutionary transformation of the way the world uses energy.

The Administration is fully committed to expanding use of renewable energy. But the hard reality is that fossil fuels account for approximately 85% of energy use today, and they will remain the dominant source of global energy for the coming decades. Consequently, the President recently announced an international effort to advance the development of carbon capture, separation, and storage technologies. The initiative has two components. The first is a multilateral initiative called the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum. It is designed to initially bring together 14 countries to promote research, development, and deployment of these technologies. Ministers and other high-level officials from Europe, Japan, India, China, Latin America, and South Africa will meet in a major international conference in Washington next month to kick-off this initiative.

The second element of the carbon sequestration initiative is a pioneering $1 billion multi-year, public-private effort to construct the world s first fossil fuel, emissions free power and hydrogen production plant. This pilot plant will try to capture and separate CO2 before emissions are released into the atmosphere, and at the same time generate electricity and produce hydrogen.

Another major initiative that we have embarked on is the President s hydrogen initiative. This initiative will provide $1.7 billion over the next 5 years to develop hydrogen powered fuel cells; a hydrogen infrastructure; and advanced automobile technologies, with the hope of commercialization by about 2020.

Just last week, Energy Secretary Abraham outlined at a ministerial meeting of the International Energy Agency our proposal for an International Partnership for a Hydrogen Economy. We intend to work with a group of OECD and key developing nations that have a strong interest and R&D capacity on hydrogen and fuel cells. The initial international response to our proposal has been overwhelmingly positive.

With regard to nuclear fusion technologies, we are also taking actions to actively engage our international partners. Earlier this year, the President made the decision to have the United States rejoin the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor consortium (ITER) to build a nuclear fussion reactor. If successful, this $5 billion, internationally-supported research project will advance progress toward producing clean, renewable, commercially-available fusion energy by the middle of the century. Our partners in this endeavor include the United Kingdom, the EU, Russia, Japan, China, and Canada. While it remains a great challenge, if our efforts are successful, fusion -- the energy of the sun and stars -- can provide an abundant source of emission-free energy.

Clearly, science and technology is enormously important to more facets of our foreign policy and national security than any one speech could elaborate. If it is not a secret weapon, it is one of the most indispensable tools in our policy toolbox, which is why I refer to science, technology, and foreign policy -- with no apologies to C.P. Snow -- as the essential triangle. Thank you.


Released on May 6, 2003

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