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Dobriansky - Sustainability Leadership Summit

Remarks to the Women's Network for a Sustainable Future -- Third
Businesswomen's Sustainability Leadership Summit

Dr. Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs

New York City
October 23, 2006

Thank you, Kathy, for that kind introduction, and thank you, Ann, for your efforts in organizing this event. I am delighted to be here to address this distinguished group of women business leaders.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has emphasized that a key component of U.S. foreign policy is Transformational Diplomacy, through which we work with partners around the world to foster and sustain democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. The point is to pursue positive change-to employ our diplomatic strength to assist foreign citizens in bettering their lives, improving their nations, and taking control of their own futures.

We are pursuing Transformational Diplomacy because it is the right thing to do. Advancing democratic governance, economic development, and the alleviation of disease and poverty respects and preserves the inherent dignity and worth of every person. In working toward those goals, we manifest our compassion and embrace our global responsibility. At the same time, we promote our vital interests. Countries in which the government is accountable to the people, and in which every citizen can realize his or her potential, are likely to be stable, peaceful, constructive partners in the international community. Promoting positive change abroad thus directly improves the security of the United States and our friends and allies.

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Nations that uphold the rule of law, respect the rights of their own people, and interact cooperatively with other countries are also crucial to the success of international business. Private enterprise cannot flourish where the legal process is perverted or ineffective; where contracts are not enforced; where corruption is extensive; where environmental degradation corrodes social and economic activity; where transport and basic services are dysfunctional; or where there is political instability or conflict. It is in the interest of private businesses, particularly in the case of corporations that have expansive international reach, to promote positive change when and where they can. And just as it is right and proper for the United States and our partners to act as agents of constructive transformation, so there is a moral imperative for businesses to encourage good governance and sustainable development abroad. Each of you is here because you have already realized and accepted that imperative. This group is a successful and hopeful example of how businesses can come together on their own to work for positive transformation worldwide.

I would like to underscore the advantages and synergies that result when government and business cooperate to achieve goals of common interest. Government cannot and should not work alone to promote good governance and sustainable development, and businesses should expect the support and encouragement of government when they undertake international projects in those areas. As President Bush has said: "We agree on the need for partnerships across borders and among the public and private sectors. We must call upon the compassion, energy, and generosity of people everywhere," including in private enterprise. Both government and the private sector bring unique resources and expertise to development projects, and each complements the work of the other.

I also want to give you a sense of the size and scope of the many public-private partnerships already underway in the area of sustainable development. The U.S. government currently participates in several hundred such initiatives with the private sector, involving billions of dollars. The partnerships range widely, including programs aimed at fighting disease, promoting education, and encouraging clean energy and environmental conservation. Let me provide a few specific examples.

We gather here as women who have attained some level of professional success. We should remember and assist those women around the world who do not have the opportunity or the tools to control their own life decisions and goals. One of the public-private partnerships in which I personally have invested significant time and effort is the U.S.-Afghan Women's Council. The Council, launched in 2002 by Presidents Bush and Karzai, mobilizes private resources to help Afghan women attain the skills and education that were denied them under the brutal reign of the Taliban.

Among its many projects, the Council sponsors a Women's Teacher Training Institute in Kabul, which has trained hundreds of teachers who will in turn educate women not just in Kabul but, importantly, throughout Afghanistan's provinces. The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council also assists Afghan women in finding viable livelihood opportunities, such as through its Arzu rug export project. The leadership and generosity of a number of corporations have made enormous difference in the lives of Afghan women. Contributions from Daimler Chrysler, for example, made possible seven community banks in Herat Province that provide crucial microcredit loans to women. And Time Warner donated funds to build one of the Women's Resource Centers that the Council is establishing across Afghanistan.

The U.S.-Afghan Women's Council reaches women who have faced the most severe forms of oppression. Combining government and private sector resources and strengths, it equips Afghan women through education, skills training, and microfinancing to succeed over the long term.

In Iraq, the U.S.-Iraqi Women's Network forges links between U.S. and Iraqi women's organizations and matches private industry resources with critical needs on the ground. The primary focus of the network is on women's economic empowerment, and one of its major projects connects worthy business proposals submitted by Iraqi women entrepreneurs with donations of funding, goods, and training from the private sector.

To be sustainable, development must be based on economic growth, social development, and environmental stewardship, all built upon a foundation of domestic good governance. Opening opportunities for women who once faced oppression and brutality is an important aspect of the social development that lies at the heart of sustainable development. Fair labor practices for all workers is another. Several public-private partnerships help workers around the world better their lives and their communities. Just a few weeks ago, for example, the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, which reports to me, hosted a Stakeholder Forum on Cocoa Labor Issues in West Africa. That Forum brought together government, industry, and non-governmental organizations to encourage responsible labor practices in cocoa farming. And our Partnership to Eliminate Sweatshops Program has provided nearly $18 million for programs that improve labor conditions.

Promoting environmental stewardship is another area in which government and the private sector have cooperated to great effect. Procter & Gamble, for instance, has for several years partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development in leading the Safe Drinking Water Alliance, which provides clean water to those in need. Last month the First Lady, Laura Bush, launched the Public-Private Partnership for Clean Water in Africa, which will work with ten sub-Saharan African countries to provide safe drinking water to millions of people. PlayPumps International and the Case Foundation are helping to spearhead that effort. And you are probably already aware of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which joins the forces of government and private enterprise in improving governance through better resource management, including the control of illegal logging and wildlife poaching.

The partnerships that I have outlined are just a small sample of the joint government-private sector efforts to help people around the world change and advance their lives and their countries. I encourage you to explore the possibility of joining an existing project, and also welcome you to propose new ventures. One of the strengths of private enterprise is its ability to innovate and adapt, and we very much look forward to your input regarding fresh approaches or areas in which to develop partnerships. Together, we can and should help those who currently have few means and little hope to transform their futures. Thank you.

Released on October 23, 2006


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