Video Remarks for Concordia Summit

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
October 5, 2015

SECRETARY KERRY: A warm welcome and hello to all of you participating in Concordia’s fifth annual summit. I’m very sorry that I wasn’t able to be with you in person today, but I very much want to thank Concordia and our terrific team at the State Department’s Office of Global Partnerships for their leadership in this effort.

It’s obvious to all of you that we are gathering at a time and in a world that is marked by both stark tragedy, extraordinary challenges, but at the same time by great promise; a world where no fence, no distance, no firewall can fully shield anybody from the threats that span oceans and continents. Now, to some, that may be a cause for dismay, but I don’t think it has to be, and we can’t afford – any of us – to shy away from tackling these challenges head on.

Despite an abundance of trouble spots across the globe, the remainder of this year is actually shaping up as a time of extraordinary opportunity for our international agenda and for the work that all of you are engaged in.

We are partnering with 11 countries along the Pacific Rim to conclude a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade that will encompass 40 percent of the world economy. And if we’re successful, it will raise the standards of doing business and help to write new rules for the 21st century that are essential.

We’re bringing governments – and their citizens – together in support of an ambitious climate change pact in Paris this December. And just two years ago when I went to China, we began a process of collaboration that has now brought China onboard as a critical partner in this effort.

We’re going to continue to move decisively on all fronts, including the diplomatic dimension, in rallying a coalition of more than 60 countries against ISIL and other terrorist groups and in restoring stability in the Middle East. And we’re deeply engaged in putting our political capital, our diplomatic capital on the line in an effort to try to do that in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and of course, the Middle East peace process itself.

Together with our European partners, we are striving to achieve peace based on law in Ukraine. We have joined with nations across Africa to counter violent extremism and civil strife on the continent. We have made progress against al-Shabaab, Boko Haram – an election in Nigeria that was critical to our ability to continue to move. The President recently, in a trip, helped to push and ultimately we helped to broker a peace agreement in South Sudan.

So there are things by which we can measure certain progress. We’ve deepened our partnerships with Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and others in order to ease threats to regional security and to promote shared prosperity in the Asia Pacific.

Now, scanning the horizon, we’re under no illusions about how difficult the demands of leadership are. Problem-solving and danger reduction have rarely been so urgent. And that’s exactly why the Concordia Summit and the work that all of you do is so important, and so particularly relevant at this particular moment. It’s why it matters that so many governments, entrepreneurs, and civil society leaders are combining strengths to build a safer and more humane world. And I am extremely impressed by the long list of those of you attending this conference as speakers or participants, all of whom bring a remarkable amount of experience to the table.

Right now, though, I want to remind all of you that if you look around, not everything is on the downside. I see nations negotiating new and far-reaching trade pacts in Europe and the Pacific. I see countries across Africa joining together with international partners to bring an early end to the Ebola epidemic, and that’s solicited a remarkable response from people all over the world, some of whom – countries – had never been engaged in such an endeavor. Together with five other nations – including the permanent members of the UN Security Council – we have just reached an historic agreement with Iran on ensuring the peaceful nature of that country’s nuclear program. And obviously, doing so will depend on the full implementation of that agreement, and on vigilance in the years ahead.

I also see countries proposing concrete steps on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, all of whom are determined to move beyond the impressive gains that we’ve already made. So yes, we’ve got a lot more to do – much more – but the truth is we are making progress in reducing extreme poverty, expanding access to primary education, increasing life expectancies, bringing health care and health care capacity to countries that never had it, fighting back against HIV/AIDS, improving maternal health, growing the middle class in countries that, through history, have never enjoyed even a glimmer of prosperity.

So there are things happening. This gathering represents a tremendous amount of capacity. All of you – former heads of state, leaders in government, business, academia, all the fields of endeavor that we’ve just been talking about – we need your thinking, because the status quo is not sustainable and the status quo is not static. Setbacks along the way are going to be inevitable. But I think we can draw strength from our democratic ideals. We can draw inspiration from the example of our predecessors, as well as from the road that we have traveled together. And we can draw courage from the conviction that the values guiding us are, in fact, the right ones.

The African proverb tells us, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.” In the coming years, we can go further than anyone could have imagined. That is the road ahead. And I will tell you this: Everybody that I’ve met with, every country that I’ve traveled to, everyone is determined to travel together.

So thanks to all of you for taking the time to participate and for sharing with us the benefit of your energy and your thinking. Enjoy the rest of the summit.