Opening Remarks at Science and Technology Working Group - Bogota, Colombia

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
Bogota, Colombia
October 25, 2010

Good afternoon. Esteemed colleagues and Excellencies, it is my pleasure to be with you here today in Bogota co-chairing this session with Vice-Minister of Health, Beatriz Londoño. I am pleased to further our discussions of the Science and Technology Working Group under the U.S.-Colombia High Level Partnership Dialogue.

As the Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, I am responsible for overseeing the State Department’s diplomatic efforts to advance our joint scientific endeavors and ensuring that science and technology are at the core of our foreign policy.

This is a particularly exciting and opportune moment to advance our domestic and international strategies of scientific competitiveness and to build productive S&T international partnerships. President Obama has clearly stated that “Today, more than ever before, science holds the key to our survival as a planet and our security and prosperity as a nation.”

Importance of S&T to Confront Global Challenges

We live in a world of increasing interdependencies and thus of shared global challenges- the challenges of economic development and growth, of providing our youth with a promising future, of improving health care for all our citizens, of sustainable agriculture, of energy security, of clean accessible water, of environmental conservation and of climate change effects.

New technologies and discoveries will be essential to addressing the problems our interconnected world is facing. Science, technology, engineering and innovation are the tools that can deliver workable solutions- solutions to develop hardier crops, to create lifesaving diagnostics and drugs, and to generate clean sources of energy and water.

We live in exciting times where the scale of challenges being discussed here today is being matched by human ingenuity. Investment in S&T to provide joint technological and policy answers that mitigate the impact of global issues is therefore imperative.

Every country’s competitiveness, development, prosperity, and stability will depend on having the capacity to fully participate in the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century.

The Government of Colombia clearly understands this and is taking appropriate measures. President Santos has made innovation one of his pillars to drive economic growth. A constitutional reform proposal is being debated to use royalties from the oil and gas sector to support science, technology, and innovation. The Science and Technology law of 2009 seeks to strengthen the institutional framework for science, technology and innovation (STI) to advance economic and social development and add value to national products and services. Our countries have also elevated S&T to be one of the first pillars to be discussed in this high level partnership dialogue.

Some of America's greatest assets include innovation, science, technology, and engineering. The United States has so much to share, and so much to benefit from, in promoting sound enabling environments and policies supportive of scientific research, and technological innovation.

We realize that solutions to these challenges require building coalitions among partners within the U.S. government, among foreign governments, international organizations, the private sector, and civil society. We seek international partnerships based on shared interests, talents, and mutual respect. We look forward to working closely with you in this area.

U.S. Engagement in the Western Hemisphere

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underscored the strategic importance of Latin America during her recent visits to the region, noting that we can take advantage of our interdependence to solve regional and global problems together. At the Pathways to Prosperity Ministerial in Costa Rica this spring, Secretary Clinton reinforced the U.S. commitment to support education more broadly, to foster entrepreneurship, and to promote a culture of innovation to increase trade and development while contributing to environmental sustainability. The Secretary also emphasized that women and girls should be empowered across the spectrum of such collaboration.

As we continue to pursue shared progress in the hemisphere, we are embracing opportunities for deepened scientific engagement with our neighbors. Technology and innovation are great equalizers and can be used to create opportunity where there is very little.

For example, through the new Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas, we are working with countries, including Colombia, on multi-country and bilateral initiatives to promote clean energy technology, advance energy security, fight energy poverty, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote climate change adaptation.

Colombia, specifically, has taken the lead on an electrical interconnection strategy for the Andean region under the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas and this will be one of the key themes the Energy Working Group discusses today in their session.

Last June, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Bermudez signed the bilateral Science and Technology Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia here in Bogotá.

Today, we have taken a first step in solidifying our science and technology cooperation. We are also using this occasion as a lead up to the more formal Joint Committee Meeting, as outlined in the Science and Technology Agreement to be held here in Bogotá in February of next year. I am pleased that we have begun this dialogue. With that, I wish you a productive meeting and will leave you once again in the capable hands of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, Larry Gumbiner. Thank you for your attention.