Remarks at the Opening Session of the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference
Secretary of State
I want to especially thank again the team that put this together and also Cheryl Mills, who has been both chief of staff and counselor and all-around troubleshooter and problem solver for the last three plus years, for which I am very grateful.
And it’s almost hard to imagine how much has happened in the last year, since we last met. The world has changed very quickly under our feet and before our eyes. The proof is in this room. We have one more person than we did last year, our ambassador to the newest country, South Sudan. When we hold this conference in the future, I hope we can count on an ambassador to Burma among our ranks, because I know that we have no status quo in the world today. It is a dynamic, challenging environment, and each of you is called on to play an increasingly complicated role. Several of you have had to face not only uncertainty, but danger and even physical threats over this past year.
So I really want to extend my thanks to all of you. You truly are the finest colleagues I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I can’t imagine any Secretary of State ever having a better team than all of you, and I am deeply grateful for your service and your support.
Well, over the last three years, we have ended one war, and we’ve begun to wind down another. We are affirming our place as a Pacific power, in case anyone ever doubted. We are strengthening our alliance with our European and NATO partners. We are elevating the role of economics and development within our diplomacy to help create jobs here at home and to advance our strategic interest around the world. And of course, we are reaching beyond governments to engage directly with people. And many of you have been so creative and smart about doing that: conferences, seminars, travel, Twitter, Facebook. I mean, it’s really been remarkable to see the accelerated outreach that I monitor back here in Washington.
And we’re doing this amidst great volatility, but also great possibility. As we watch these transformations, first and foremost in the Arab world, but not exclusively there, we’re watching new powers rise, the redrawing of the strategic map. It brings new opportunities for partnership as well as growing economic competition and yes, new threats. Al-Qaida is weakened, but still dangerous, and we have to be literally on our toes all the time.
I believe that in this fast changing world, American leadership is even more important. Only America has the reach, resources, and relationships to anchor a more peaceful and prosperous world. And as leaders within our country’s foreign policy here at the State Department and USAID, our goal must be to bolster America’s position, not just for the rest of this year, but for decades to come.
Last year, I spoke about our institutional efforts to do so, with the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review that you will hear more about. Now we have implemented many of those recommendations to transform diplomacy and development efforts to better position us to deal with the world we face today and tomorrow. This includes adapting to new foreign policy imperatives, such as cyber security and the full range of cyber issues, standing up the first-ever bureau dedicated solely to energy issues and all that it entails, creating a new family of civilian security bureaus so we can better address the full range of inter-related issues that fuel conflict and instability, and of course, we have a lot of work still ahead of us to try to consolidate the progress we’ve already made and to build on it.
I want to highlight some of the priority policy areas that we are working on to sustain and deepen our leadership. I presented these same themes to Congress a few weeks ago with our budget request. As you know, I’ve worked very hard to make the case to Congress and the American public. And given the difficulties of our budget environment, I am grateful for the support that the President and the Administration and the Congress have given us. They seem to recognize that our efforts to elevate diplomacy and development alongside defense in pursuit of smart power is exactly what we need to be doing in this period of time.
First, as I mentioned to Congress, we are ending a decade of armed conflict. But when all the troops come home, thousands of State Department and USAID employees – American and local staff – will still be there on the frontlines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. They will be working under very difficult conditions to advance our vital interests through civilian power. Tom Nides, our extraordinary Deputy for Resources and Management, is leading our American efforts to help Iraq become a stable, sovereign, democratic partner, and he could not have had a better partner than Jim Jeffrey. I’m grateful to all who have been on the team regarding Iraq because it has been a very big challenge for us to get our arms around.
A critical element of our path forward in Afghanistan will be the success of the Afghans in securing and leading their country for themselves. Ryan Crocker has brought his tremendous lifetime experience to this really difficult job at this moment. They will need help. And I’ve asked many of you, as a key element of President Obama’s policy, to press the governments to which you are accredited to pledge substantial financial support to the Afghan security forces for the period beyond 2014.
I’m also counting on your personal vigorous engagement regarding Pakistan. Cameron Munter, and before him, Anne Patterson, have had a very challenging assignment. There are multiple overlapping worlds in Pakistan and we have to deal with all of them simultaneously. But the country is vital to our counterterrorism, economic stability, and regional cooperation goals for the region. And we will continue to engage where we even have legitimate concerns and disagreements.
In these frontline states and in all countries facing instability, we put a special focus on protecting universal human rights, increasing political participation, and enforcing the rule of law. It also puts an extra burden on us to live our values and to, both on the military and civilian side, demonstrate who we are as a people. Because when people feel safe and empowered to pursue their legitimate aspirations, they are more likely to reject extremism and to invest in their own societies. So human rights and global security are deeply and directly linked. We cannot sacrifice one without damaging both. And we have been working to use our position on the UN Human Rights Council to continue standing up for universal human rights on the international scene.
Now I recognize that sustainable progress on human rights and democracy can only happen from within. But we do have an obligation to help amplify those voices of those advocating for change in their own societies, including nongovernmental human rights and democracy activists. In recent years, a number of governments have taken actions aimed at disempowering these groups. And today in the Middle East and North Africa and elsewhere, governments are challenging the propriety of American support for civil society organizations.
In response to these charges, I need each of you – and especially those of you operating in restrictive environments – to communicate our commitment to working with and supporting individuals and groups that represent not only what we believe are our values, but universal values, freedoms, and human rights. We need to be clear that this support is a fundamental part of our global human rights policy that is aimed at supporting the building blocks of sustainable democracy. Now I do think we have to be smart about how we do it, and perhaps we can talk more about that in the town hall, because a lot of the countries have legitimate questions and particularly a lot of the transitioning new democracies. So I don’t think we can assume anything. We need to be very humble in making our case, and to do so effectively and consistently.
Now for much of the past decade, we have focused by necessity on places where threats and instability are greatest. In the decade ahead, we must also be just as focused on the areas of our greatest opportunities. I think that happens to be the rest of the world. But our second priority is our relationship with the Asia-Pacific region. And when we talk about Asia Pacific, we are talking about from the Indian subcontinent to the Americas. We want to expand the aperture of what this means to the United States. So we are helping lead a government-wide effort to build a new network of relationships and institutions that spans the Pacific to complement the success of our durable Atlantic partnership. We are strengthening our alliances in Asia, launching new strategic dialogues and economic initiatives, creating and joining important multilateral institutions to underscore that America is and will remain a Pacific power.
In the coming century, no region will be more consequential to America’s future. This is not just a concern for EAP. It’s also for WHA and SCA. But it’s really for all of us, because the security and economic interests will affect everything we do everywhere. So we have to engage you in our efforts. And we’ve reached out to, for example, EUR to help us with an Asia dialogue with the EU. We’re working hard with our friends in Latin America to expand their reach to Asia, but to do so in a way that helps themselves and not just creates a market for natural resources.
We should engage everyone as partners to work to establish a rules-based order for coming years. And that is particularly true, but again, not exclusively in the Pacific. Our relationships with Latin America and all the countries of our hemisphere are vital in their own right, and I’m looking forward to participating in the Summit of the Americas in a few weeks and discussing how we will continue strengthening our ties close to home. In talking with counterparts in the Middle East and North Africa, we often use examples from Latin America – transitioning from military dictatorships, autocratic regimes, to the most vibrant democratic region in the world right now.
With such dynamic growth happening on both sides of the Pacific, there are great opportunities and natural affinities for our countries to cooperate, an idea we have proven with free trade agreements that have boosted economic growth from the Canadian north to the Straits of Magellan. Of course, as we invest in these new opportunities in Asia, we must also engage with the most consequential development of the past year: the wave of change sweeping the Arab world. Throughout the region, our missions have responded in remarkable, unprecedented ways, but then again, we’ve had to. It couldn’t be business as usual from Morocco all the way to Yemen, and everyone serving there has had to really work and think outside the box. So our third priority area is helping those countries complete their transitions to democracy. And this will not be easy, and it certainly will not happen overnight.
I often tell leaders in this region that the United States has been working on our democracy for more than 235 years. We’re still in the process of trying to perfect it. But we have to make steady progress. That’s not an excuse for either standing still or going backwards. Engaging with Islamist parties is going to be a new but necessary effort on the part of the United States, which we are undertaking at every level.
Now obviously, not all countries in the region are embracing the mantle of reform. We continue to apply pressure on Assad and his regime in Syria to stop the brutality, and we work with the opposition and like-minded countries to try to help them be in a position to be part of a successful political transition.
So as the region transforms, so must our engagement. We must be ready to respond to an unanticipated flood of needs in a way that reflects our leadership. As people and governments make meaningful commitments to reform, we will support them in tangible ways. Whether that means advising on how to build a vibrant civil society, ensuring the full participation of women, providing loan guarantees, or promoting educational opportunities, we have to be active across the board. We need to provide the right assistance, at the right moment, to the right people. And this is also true in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia as well.
Promoting democracy and accountable government that delivers results for people should be at the heart of our agenda in every part of the world. In this effort, and in each of the other areas I’ve discussed, Europe remains our partner of first resort. From the frontlines in Afghanistan to the table at the UN Security Council, our alliances and friendships with our European friends and with the institutions that they have built have never wavered. And we look to Europe as we take on these global challenges in the 21st century, just as much as we did in the 20th.
And that brings me to our fourth priority: economic statecraft. I sent a cable on this subject to every embassy and consulate last October, but I want to reinforce in person how important our actions at the crossroads of economics and diplomacy are. At every turn, we should be asking ourselves, how can we use diplomacy and development to strengthen our country? How can we leverage our economic strength to promote our diplomatic goals? How do we build a global economic system that is open, free, transparent, and fair?
Now these are not new questions. But we have to bring them to the forefront of our discussions. I think for too long, Treasury did economics, the Commerce Department and USTR, Export-Import, OPIC, but we have the global presence. We are everywhere. We have a thousand economic officers. We have to be right there, at the point of the spear, looking for these opportunities, working with and sometimes advising our colleagues in government about the best way to cut through all of the barriers.
Several weeks ago, we hosted a unique, unprecedented event. We partnered with the American Chamber of Commerce and invited chambers from across the world, along with business leaders. I told them we’ve made jobs diplomacy a priority mission here at the State Department. And I want to put that phrase jobs diplomacy in front of you as well. So we do need to do more to help American companies expand their business overseas and to promote foreign investment here at home. Where we see corruption, red tape, favoritism, distorted currencies, or intellectual property theft that disadvantages American companies, we must push back, because those practices create unfair barriers to competition and slow our economic recovery.
It was fascinating at the conference, because a lot of the businesses, from very large to quite small but agile exporting businesses said, “You know, I always used to think there was really no role for the government. I was out there. I was competing. It was a free market system. I didn’t need your embassy or your State Department to help me. And now, I look around and I see every other country, from our European friends to our Asian ones, who have a full partner with their government. And we need your help.”
So, what we’re trying to do is to enhance our consular efforts, speed up the visa process – more people are visiting and the more people who visit, the more people here at home actually work. We’re using development dollars to improve the quality of life for millions of people in order to create future trading partners and new markets.
Now oftentimes, people who have a very clear view about what diplomacy and development are for find this kind of jobs diplomacy pitch a little bit jarring because it’s not exactly what either diplomacy or development has been conceived of, but it’s always gone on and it always will go on. We just have to be more intentional and effective in delivering.
My fifth point has to do with continuing to elevate development. It’s an indispensible pillar of our national security strategy. And effective development requires indigenous political will, responsive, accountable and transparent governance, economic frameworks that create opportunities. And to achieve that, we need to broaden our traditional development assistance tools and focus on mobilizing reform through influence and engagement that draws on the strengths and resources of all relevant government agencies.
Diplomacy is central to that, and part of the work we did through the QDDR to help you as the chief of mission truly become the chief executive of the U.S. Government presence in your countries was to ask you to really support the development side of the ledger as well. I will soon be sending you detailed guidance that covers modernizing our diplomacy to better support development. And as we pursue our signature initiatives – the Global Health Initiative, Feed the Future – we are transforming the way we do development. Now sometimes, it’s a little frustrating because we emphasize country ownership. And a lot of people who have done development over the years, they go into a country and they say, well, here’s what you need, and now countries are saying, no, here’s what we want. And so negotiating that is really a diplomatic effort that requires your participation.
Our Global Health Initiative will reach 6 million people with lifesaving HIV/AIDS treatment by 2013, creating the foundation for an AIDS-free generation. And our Feed the Future Initiative is driving agricultural growth and improving nutrition. So we’re increasing our capacity within countries so they can take on more responsibility. We have to move for – towards sustainability. We’ve had so much rhetoric about that and now we have to translate it into an active agenda. It just doesn’t work anymore that when we go into a country with our aid, the government in the country basically withdraws from that area and uses the money that they were using, for example, on health, to do something else.
So we have to be much more engaged at all levels of the government. It’s not just the ministers of development. It’s the finance ministers, the foreign ministers, and everyone else. So I think where we are looking to move is to partner with governments, local groups, and the private sector – not substitute for them – and then to deliver measurable results. And Dr. Raj Shah has made creating a results-oriented AID his highest priority.
And finally, of course, I couldn’t speak to this group without stressing the global focus that we have on advancing the status of women and girls. You know the arguments. I’ve set them forth in a series of speeches, particularly the APEC speech in San Francisco last fall, making the case that the full participation of women in every economy, including our own – namely knocking down the barriers to participation, whether they be education or access to credit or the right to inherit – would raise the GDP of every country in the world. Now, some would only go up a little bit, like Finland, but some could go up a very long way. And it would be a tremendous step forward for prosperity.
And we also are stressing women’s unique contributions to making and keeping peace. We worked hard with the Defense Department and the White House on the first-ever National Action Plan as to how we could involve women more effectively, because most peace treaties fail, they don’t have buy-in, they don’t have support from the populace, and where – it’s just coincidental, perhaps, but there is a correlation where women have been involved, like Liberia, the chances of it lasting are at least greater than not.
So this week, I am issuing the first-ever Secretarial policy directive on promoting gender equality. It contains specific steps to ensure that we integrate women and promote gender equality in every aspect of our work – in our policy development, our strategic planning, our budgeting and programming, our monitoring and evaluation, our management and training practices.
Women are often the canary in the coal mine. Well, when it comes to transitioning to democracy or sustaining democracy, we need to pay attention to whether they’re thriving or not, because that’s one of the earliest indicators as to whether any society is going to sustain its democratic progress. And I’m counting on your leadership as chiefs of mission to implement this guidance around the world.
Now I should also note that there will be changes in our ambassadorial corps, both this summer and following the November elections, as is customary at the end of a presidential term. The foreign policy of the United States, however, does not stop for elections. It requires consistent direction and management, so it is important that our ambassadors work to remain at their posts until either the Senate has confirmed a replacement or specific departure instructions are given.
As I’ve traveled in so many countries over the last five, six months, a number of you have told me that your time will be up in the spring or in the summer. But we don’t know if we will get people confirmed in the current political climate. We don’t know who will or won’t get confirmed in some last-minute deal that might be worked out before the Congress basically goes out for elections. So we very much encourage you, in so far as possible, to stay. We need you, we look to you, and there is no country in the world that can do without you.
Now, obviously, there are many other important issues that I haven’t touched on. We can, I’m sure, look forward to hearing about those from the speakers today but also at the town hall later this afternoon.
The simple truth is we have a lot to do, but we have a great team, a great team out in the field and a great team here in Washington. I look forward to seeing you at lunch and then later this afternoon, along with my colleagues, to take your questions.
But now I have the great privilege to introduce Deputy Secretary Bill Burns. I kind of think of Bill as a one-person brain trust when it comes to policy and diplomacy. He was here as Under Secretary, the P man, when I arrived, and it didn’t take me longer than a nanosecond to know that I wanted him by my side as we continued to move forward in this uncertain but exciting time. So please join me in welcoming Bill Burns. (Applause.)