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U.S.-Led Approach to Sustainable Development

U.S.-Led Approach to Sustainable Development

John F. Turner, Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Remarks to Global Perspectives Distinguished Visitors Series, University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida
October 21, 2004

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Thank you, John for that generous introduction. It's an honor to join you here in Orlando. I want to salute you for the work that you do to expose the UCF community to international issues.

As John said, I'm privileged to work at your State Department on an exciting portfolio of international environmental issues. This includes climate change, clean energy, biodiversity, forestry, fresh water, toxic substances, oceans, fisheries, space exploration, free trade, and infectious diseases.

What I'd like to visit with you about today is what I feel is one of the most significant and unreported stories of our times. And it has to do with the issue of sustainability. How do we sustain ourselves as a global family? How do we sustain our environment, our economies?

Many of the facts, I'm sure you're aware of:

* 2.8 billion people live on less than $2 a day. * 42 million people live with HIV/AIDS--concentrated heavily in Sub-Saharan Africa. I fear that new epicenters of this disease will emerge in China, India, and Russia. * 1.1 billion people lack access to fresh water. * 2.3 billion people lack access to sanitation. * A child dies somewhere in the world every 15 seconds from a water-borne disease. That's equivalent to two World Trade Centers daily. * 2 billion people lack access to modern energy supplies. * 75% of the world's fish stocks--that great factory of protein--are over-exploited or headed downhill; and an area the size of Virginia is deforested each year.

Of course some cynical people say, "Why should those of us in the United States care? We've got problems at home. Why should we care about these issues out around the world." I submit to you that there are at least three reasons why we should care.

First, we have a moral responsibility. We ought to care about the dignity of other members of the human family. We are blessed as a nation with great resources. And we have a moral obligation to help people out around the world.

Second, we've all learned that the world is connected. Our economies are connected. Our social networks are connected. Certainly our environment is connected. On any given day, we probably have part of the yellow dust cloud coming from China over the Orlando area. We have toxic chemicals in all living tissues throughout the world.

But, the most important reason has everything to do with America's safety. The horrific attacks of September 11th awakened our country to the link between poverty and terrorism. Let me be clear: poverty doesn't cause terrorism. But we have seen instances in which persistent poverty and environmental degradation destabilize countries and make them havens for despair, lack of hope, hatred, and violence.

In Afghanistan, the ravages of war created the conditions that allowed a terrorist regime to seize power. In many other states around the world, poverty prevents governments from controlling their borders, policing their territory, and enforcing their laws.

Well, what is the U.S doing about all of this? We all read about the accusations that the U.S. is isolated, is disengaged, is not involved, and is not respected. But when I travel abroad, I find the opposite is true. More than ever before, the U.S. is deeply engaged with the world community in reducing poverty, accelerating economic growth, fighting disease, feeding the hungry, eliminating corruption, and enhancing environmental stewardship. I find it very exciting, very bold, very effective, but generally unrealized here at home, but more and more realized out around the world.

At my brief time at your State Department, the last three years, the U.S. has embarked on a journey that is changing the way the world is doing the business of sustainability. I'd like to relate some stopping points on that journey.

The first was in Doha, where the world community came together and recognized for the first time the relationship between trade and promoting economic development and poverty eradication.

This second gathering that was really important was Monterey, Mexico. Here, three things happened.

One: governments agreed that they alone could not finance development. Instead, they agreed to work to mobilize resources from all sources public, private and international.

The second issue they agreed to was governance rule of law. We cannot educate children, empower women, or have environmental stewardship if we have corruption. If we are going to advance economically, socially, environmentally, we must root out corruption, stamp out violence, and promote the rule of law. The developing world agreed to this principle for the first time.

The third thing that happened at Doha was that President Bush committed the U.S. to the largest increase in development assistance in the history of our country.

The next step on this journey was the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa. I had the pleasure of molding the package that the U.S. took to Johannesburg. Here we moved beyond words to substantive action on the ground by launching about 20 sustainable development partnerships. These projects spanned the areas of health care, fresh water, energy, tropical forestry, famine, housing, and biodiversity.

At their core, these voluntary public-private partnerships strive to take care of people by providing basic services through programs that encourage economic growth, social development and environmental stewardship.

What does this mean on a human scale? It means putting clean water in the mouths of thirsty boys and girls; it means preserving the biodiversity of a fragile African ecosystem; it means preventing the transmission of a deadly disease from mother to child.

For example, in the area of tropical forestry, the United States, together with some 30 partners including governments, international organizations, business and environmental groups, has formed the Congo Basin Forest Partnership. The largest conservation project ever undertaken on the continent, it aims to establish national networks of protected areas across central Africa in order to safeguard one of the two largest intact tropical forests. At the same time, it offers local people a stake in the forest by promoting sustainable harvesting and providing livelihoods such as nature-based tourism.

Driving forces in this partnership are the six Congo Basin countries that have courageously bet their future well-being on the benefits of forest conservation. The United States will contribute up to $53 million over four years to the partnership. In total, we have the potential of developing as many as 27 national parks and protecting more than 25 million acres.

Another such initiative the White Water to Blue Water partnership recently convened more than 700 public and private stakeholders to forge a unified approach to safeguarding the wider Caribbean's marine and terrestrial ecosystems. As a result, more than 100 partnership initiatives were strengthened or launched to advance the goals of the initiative.

Additionally, the Water for the Poor initiative is a three-year, $970 million endeavor working in over 60 countries to improve access to clean water and sanitation services, improved watershed management, and increasing the productivity of water in the agricultural and industrial sectors.

These are just a handful of more than 20 flagship partnerships that the U.S. has launched or joined to create a more hopeful and secure world for all of us. And, together, they mark a sea change in the approach to development assistance.

All told, the new resources the U.S. put together in Monterey, the President's $15 billion, five-year commitment to fight the global pandemics of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, and the money from our climate change program and other environmental initiatives, represent the largest international assistance package for the developing world in U.S. history. It is in the spirit of President Truman's Marshall Plan and President Kennedy's Alliance for Progress.

The benefits of this revised approach are obvious. It will foster greater security and stability in the U.S. and around the world. It will help the U.S. engage constructively with the international community. It will leverage vast amounts of untapped resources with public dollars and establish opportunities for business. And most importantly, it will create a more hopeful world for millions of our fellow human beings.

President Bush put it best when he said, "We cannot leave behind half of humanity as we seek a better future for ourselves. We cannot accept permanent poverty in a world of progress. There are no second class citizens in the human race."


Released on October 29, 2004

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