Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony of Special Representative for Global Partnerships Bagley: Opening Our Doors to the Private Sector

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Special Representative, Global Partnership Initiative
Washington, DC
June 18, 2009

Thank you so much. I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to my family: to Smith, Vaughan, and Conor, and of course to my parents, all of whom have given me more love and support than I could possibly put into words, to my brothers and sister, and my stepchildren – I thank them for sharing this special moment with me. I’d also like to thank all of the Ambassadors and Members of Congress who are present, as well as friends who are here from various parts of my life, to join me for this special occasion.

Through the Global Partnership Initiative, we are making the Secretary of State’s emphasis on opening our doors to the private sector a rallying cry for change and a platform for smart power. The last time I stood on this stage was in 1994 when Vice President Al Gore swore me in as President Clinton’s Ambassador to Portugal and now we’ve come full circle. Since that time, so much has changed. In fact, I didn’t even have a laptop or a cell phone when I left for Portugal. We’ve witnessed a host of transnational challenges: 9/11 and the rise of non-state actors, global pandemics, economic crises, climate change, and a world that has grown closer and yet even more dangerous.

New opportunities have also emerged as a result of the paradigm shifts created by globalization. In the 1960s, nearly 70% of all money flowing from the United States to the developing world was official development assistance; today, over 80% is from private sources. And so, we cannot achieve our foreign policy aims without harnessing the wealth of capabilities that our private sector has to offer.

As Secretary Clinton has made clear, the time has come to take a bold and imaginative look, not just at the substance of our foreign policy, but at how we conduct our foreign policy. We must now make the transition to 21st Century Statecraft, engaging with all the elements of our national power – and leveraging all forms of our strength. That is where partnerships come in. Our private sector is an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge; and in the past, we have only scratched the surface.

As I stated at the TED Talks – which has been heralded as one of the most creative examples of the change brought about by the Obama Administration – we are entering into a new Era of Partnerships, an era where we all must play our parts in collaboration with others. We must tap the potential that is inherent in our private sector – our companies, our educational institutions, NGOs, Foundations, investors, religious leaders, Diaspora communities, and every single individual. In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realize that we must rely on each other to lift our world from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime, while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft.

In 21st century diplomacy, the Department of State will be a convener, bringing people together from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest. Our work no longer depends on the least common denominator; but rather, we will seek the highest possible multiplier effect for the results we can achieve together.

We will also act as a catalyst, with our Foreign Service Officers launching new projects in tandem with those NGOs, philanthropies, and corporations at the front lines of foreign affairs to discover untapped potential, inspire fresh ideas, and create new solutions.

And we will act as a collaborator, leading interagency coordination here in Washington and cross-sector collaboration in the field, with our Ambassadors working closely with our non-governmental partners to plan and implement projects for maximum impact and sustainability.

In the same way that Secretary Clinton has often said that “it takes a village to raise a child,” we are now realizing that we must apply a similar approach worldwide. It takes a shared, global response to meet the shared, global challenges we face. This is the truth taught to us in an old South African principle, ubuntu, or “A person is a person through other persons.” As Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective, ubuntu “is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.’” In essence, I am because you are.

We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed by building mutually beneficial partnerships among civil society, the private sector, and the public sector, in order to empower the men and women executing our foreign policy to advance their work through partnerships.

This is Ubuntu Diplomacy: where all sectors belong as partners, where we all participate as stakeholders, and where we all succeed together, not incrementally but exponentially.

To start, we will bring together the most forward-thinking US companies at the Shanghai Expo’s US Pavilion to highlight state-of-the-art technologies and best practices in sustainable design and operation. In Shanghai, we will showcase America’s very best to over 70 million visitors at this historic event, a true win/win for US companies in China.

We must also open our hearts to the one billion people who live with chronic hunger, and open our eyes to the grim reality that half of all child deaths in developing countries result from poor nutrition. In this room one week ago, Secretary Clinton called for partnerships “to end the hunger crisis, to usher in a new era of progress and plenty” by coming “together across all the lines that too often divide us.”

We will encourage a comprehensive approach to agriculture and food security – from the lab, to the farm, to the market, and to the table – in order to create inclusive partnerships for effective, sustainable farming systems in all parts of our world.

We will also respond to the President’s speech in Cairo by encouraging volunteerism and global interfaith service projects, developing networks for online cross-cultural dialogue, and supporting the President’s Summit on Entrepreneurship later this year. Through this summit, we will catalyze partnerships with foundations, business leaders, and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world. As the President declared, “All these things must be done in partnership.”

So let us begin this work. I thank you all for coming to witness the official beginning of my service as Special Representative for Global Partnerships. I am grateful for this unique opportunity to summon the best within ourselves and to open our minds, hearts, and doors to new and exciting frontiers. Let us truly discover how we all belong, as we come together for partnerships in pursuit of the common good.