U.S.-Brazil Cooperation on Global Issues

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
Getulio Vargas Foundation
Brasilia, Brazil
March 26, 2010


Thank you for the kind introduction.

And many thanks to the Fundacao Getulio Vargas for organizing this wonderful event. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here with you today.

I've had the good fortune to meet with some of the great leaders of this institution, and I have come to appreciate the excellent work that you are engaged in around the country. In fact, my son frequently works with FGV in Sao Paolo.

I should start by saying that Brazil has long felt like a second home to me. Of course, I was raised in Bolivia, but I have been visiting and working in this country for a very long time; And so it is a great joy for me to be here now in my capacity as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.

Next month will mark one year since President Obama and Secretary Clinton traveled to Trinidad and Tobago for the Summit of the Americas.

It was at that Summit - just three months into his term - that President Obama set a new tone for the United States' foreign policy towards our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere: when it comes to true, honest partnership, the President reminded us that there is "no senior partner; no junior partner." There is only exchange among equals - with an emphasis on results that reach the people.

The Summit marked the beginning of a time of great promise for our two nations and for the region at large.

Today, I want to talk about how we have moved forward since last year's Summit, especially in recent weeks with the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But first, allow me to explain my role a bit more. As Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, I oversee a broad range of global issues: Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Oceans, Environment and Science; Population, Refugee and Migration; and Trafficking in Persons. Though the portfolio is diverse, it is united by a common thread - that of human security and protection.

Human security is a concept centered on guaranteeing security in all aspects - political and economic security, food security, and health and environmental security - to both individuals and communities. It also reflects the full range of initiatives to protect individuals fleeing persecution or those suffering in slavery, to empower civil society and human rights advocates, and to protect the earth in an era of increased pressure from climate change and competition over scarce natural resources.

We are in the business of protecting the most vulnerable, giving a voice to the repressed, and empowering the marginalized. From the threat of climate change to our fragile environment to the scourge of labor and sex trafficking that plagues so many of our nations.

And though these issues have not always been at the forefront of US foreign policy, under the Obama Administration and Secretary Clinton's State Department, they are receiving unprecedented attention. They are, in fact, at the heart of all of the United States' foreign policy priorities.

So it is of great satisfaction to me that the United States and Brazil are collaborating on many of the issues that fall under my purview.

The US-Brazil relationship over the past year of the Obama Administration reflects a healthy and productive alliance between our two nations. No matter the issue or challenge at hand - democracy in Honduras, relief for Haiti, clean air and water, or jobs for our citizens - we are working from a place of shared goals and mutual respect. We may not always agree, but we are in consistent, honest dialogue - and I believe both our nations are the richer for it.

Our relationship is rooted in the basic understanding that growth and prosperity should uplift all citizens; it is an understanding that no person - female, indigenous, young, uneducated, or poor - should be left behind in the wake of progress.

On this - the importance of opportunity for all - Brazilians and Americans are of similar mind, and of similar heart.

Of course, expanded opportunity will do little good in the absence of safety. From a responsible and effective police force that honors the rule of law to better environmental conditions and access to water, we must ensure that our citizens are safe and able to live healthy lives. That is why the United States has made citizen safety and the environment foreign policy priorities in Latin America.

We also share a mutual respect for - and commitment to - the institution of democracy. It is the foundation on which our societies are built. And as we know, the strength of a democracy is measured not only by the peace or stability of the electoral process, but also by the active participation of civil society and an unwavering commitment to political empowerment for all. And Brazil is an example in implementing democracy.

Expanding Opportunity, Protecting our Citizens and Environment, and Strengthening our Democracies. I think you'll agree that these three areas alone present a broad platform for shared goals and collaboration between our nations and around the region.

In the past year, the United States and Brazil have made significant progress in each of these areas, advancing towards a better future of financial and social inclusion that uplifts and protects all members of our societies.

For example, I know that our two countries met last October Brazil-US Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination , and we discussed cooperation on labor rights and the International Labor Organization's (ILO) Decent Work Agenda. Through this joint action, we are exploring ways to combat forced labor and promote green jobs. Brazil and the United States have partnered to provide significant funding for an ILO project that fights the worst forms of child labor around Latin America, and we are exploring additional cooperation in Haiti, Lusophone Africa, and beyond.

Furthermore, under the Brazil-U.S. Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racism, we are sharing best practices on hiring and training programs, supporting minority business, and enhanced educational opportunities - all of which contribute to inclusive economic growth, especially among micro, small, and medium enterprises where so much of our Brazil's business takes place.

Of course, our collaboration is not limited to the business realm. Brazil is a premier South American country for science and technology (S&T) and a strong partner for S&T cooperation in the hemisphere.

In November 2009, we saw a formal expansion of S&T cooperation through the signing of four new MOUs: two on biofuels covering standards and research; one on post-doctoral education in health sciences; and an agreement related to USAID support for Brazil providing remote sensing data to Africa.

When it comes to the sciences and technology, the scope and scale of our innovation is boundless - and we will do far more working together than we would ever do alone. That is the driver behind the four science MOUs and all of our work together.

Perhaps our greatest area of scientific collaboration is in our efforts to combat climate change. President Lula and President Obama, along with other world leaders, showed leadership at the Copenhagen Conference last December to forge the Copenhagen Accord on climate, an important step towards combating climate change. And I will be discussing this with my Brazilian counterparts on Monday during the U.S./Brazil Common Agenda for the Environment meeting in Brasilia.

Secretary Clinton was recently in Brazil, and while here, signed an agreement to expand our climate and energy cooperation on forests, technology, renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation, and scientific research, among other areas.

Next month, countries from this hemisphere will converge in Washington to advance the Energy and Climate Change Partnership of the Americas which President Obama announced last year. ECPA's focus is to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner fossil fuels, development of energy infrastructure, and to address issues related to energy poverty.

And of course we've seen an enormous emphasis on this area with this week's World Urban Forum, which has attracted more than 13,000 professionals from around the world. The United States will no doubt be looking to Brazil and other partners to build on the great momentum generated here this week.

The strong S&T partnership between the US and Brazil is also being leveraged to strengthen health systems in third party countries. In the Western hemisphere, we are working together to improve El Salvador's health infrastructure through the creation of a National Public Health Institute (NPHI) - a science based organization that will build national capacity to identify and prevent health risks, and save lives.

This is an excellent example of the work that we are doing through the memorandum on trilateral development. Working together, Brazil and the United States are enhancing efforts to improve healthcare, widen the circle of prosperity, and give people the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty - especially in those countries that have the greatest need - both here in our own hemisphere and in other regions around the world.

In particular, we are turning our attention to Africa. Brazil and the United States share a common link with our African brothers and sisters, whose cultures and customs have affected our own societies in many profound ways.

Brazil is a natural partner for the United States as we seek to address food security in Africa and other regions, having implemented a highly successful program that has significantly reduced malnutrition in this country. As Secretary Clinton has said before, it should be our goal that every child born in the Americas, or anywhere in the world, has the opportunity to live up to his or her full God-given potential.

Of course, Brazil and the United States' assistance towards other nations can only go so far. When looking at the long-term, we must ensure that countries are capable and willing to carry out programs for their own citizens. And we must ensure that those citizens' voices are being heard by their governments. This is why the strengthening of democracies is a cornerstone of US foreign policy.

Drawing on the solid democratic traditions in both countries, the U.S. and Brazil should work together closely bilaterally and in multilateral fora like the UN and OAS to promote strong democratic institutions and respect for human rights in Latin America.

That is why, during Secretary Clinton's recent trip, she and Foreign Minister Amorim signed an MOU that will promote US-Brazil cooperation on the Advancement of Women. Together, we will work to eliminate violence against women, combat the trafficking of men, women and children, promote the participation of women in decision-making processes, and expand economic opportunity and equality in the workplace. We are jointly considering programs such as public awareness campaigns, exchange programs, and private sector partnerships.

The Brazilian government is to be commended for its sustained efforts to free victims of forced labor and sex trafficking and improved efforts to prosecute their exploiters. The United States supports Brazil's anti-trafficking efforts, and seeks to strengthen the ability of law enforcement and the judicial system to bring traffickers to justice.

The U.S. also supports activities led by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Brazil and Latin America, such as the Caritas Refugee Assistance Center in Rio, which provides crucial assistance and seeks durable solutions for urban refugees, especially those in vulnerable situations - such as women and children.

The promotion and protection of human rights is vital, necessary work for every democratic nation - and the United States stands ready to work with Brazil to uphold the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter in the region. We worked closely with the members of the OAS on the restoration of democracy in Honduras, and we are committed to helping countries uphold democratic principles throughout the region.

This holds true in even the most difficult and challenging nations of our hemisphere. Because, as I mentioned before, democracy is not just about holding elections, but ensuring those elections reflect the choices of the people. And it also means that you allow for genuine competition in elections, on a periodic basis, in accordance with constitutional and legal precedent.

Democracy means a free press. It means protection of minorities. It means an independent judiciary and a free market economy. It means all of these institutional elements that make democracies sustainable.

The good news is that the Western Hemisphere is characterized by strong democracies and economies that anchor this great region. Brazil is an unequivocal bastion of strength in the Americas, and the United States is proud to be aligned on many matters with such a leader.

On the issue of Iran, Secretary Clinton had a series of meetings to discuss the issue while she was here several weeks ago. The U.S. and Brazil share the same goal - and that is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. What's important about these conversations is the partnership aspect – that we can talk about our common concerns, respect each others' differences, and figure out a way to move forward together.

So allow me to reiterate the message that you heard from President Obama last year at the Summit of the Americas and that you have heard from Secretary Clinton many times since. The United States is committed to a new era of partnership in which our rhetoric is matched only by our actions. In the past year, we have forged stronger avenues of collaboration, and we seek to learn from you as much as we seek to support you.

The plain truth is that there remains a great reservoir of potential between our two nations and throughout Latin America. We are committed to tapping that reservoir so that we can continue building on the progress of the past year and the decades of cooperation between our two nations.

We want to do a better job of partnering with friends and allies in the region and highlighting the core values that we share: a passionate commitment to democracy and freedom. And a mutual sense of social responsibility. The belief that, above all else, we are capable of building a better future for the next generation, and that the most sustainable progress is that which has been generated, shaped and implemented by the very people who progress touches.

Thank you.