Statement by Vice President Albert Gore, United States of America

To The World Summit for Social Development
Copenhagen Denmark, March 12, 1995

Mr. Secretary General, [recognize Danish hosts, other VIPs], it is an honor 
to represent President Clinton and the American people at this important 
summit meeting. At a time of great opportunity and yet considerable 
uncertainty within the international community, we welcome this occasion to 
address issues that are common to all nations and to all peoples.

 A century notable for its turmoil and suffering is drawing to an end. 
Looking at its many tragedies, it would be understandable to view the 
future with some cynicism. My country, however, as always retains its 
optimistic vision.

We believe in a world organized by law rather than by violence; we believe 
in a world based on justice; we believe in the defeat of intolerance by the 
steady ascendancy of our common humanity. We believe above all in freedom-- 
political and spiritual freedom -- as a birthright of human kind, and 
freedom from want as a goal by which we measure the quality of our 

 Are these hopes impractical? On the contrary. Over time they have emerged 
with ever greater clarity as the common aspiration of humankind. It seems 
to me, in fact, that this series of great UN global conferences represents 
an effort by the entire world to think through the principles and the 
practical requirements for the creation of that kind of world.

  These meetings -- most recently in Rio, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen, and in 
the fall, Beijing -- have focused on a set of interlocking questions. What 
is the proper relationship between human civilization and the earth's 
environment? What can be done to create just societies that nurture the 
human spirit and protect human rights? What can be done by democratic means 
to protect our world from the consequences of rapid and destabilizing 
population growth and create instead an equitable pattern of sustainable 
development? What can be done to lift the poorest of our citizens into 
productive lives? What can be done to remove the barriers now blocking the 
full empowerment of women throughout the world?

 These gatherings are town meetings of the globe where individual citizens, 
non-governmental organizations and governments are working together to 
hammer out a new consensus on the nature of the challenges we face and how 
we can rise to meet them successfully.

 We have gathered here to deal with the issues of poverty, unemployment and 
social disintegration. These problems exist in varying degrees in all 
countries represented here, including certainly my own country. The numbers 
that characterize these problems are staggering: five hundred million 
people live in absolute poverty without access to clean water, proper 
sanitation, or decent nutrition; thirty percent of the global labor force 
is now unemployed or underemployed, in what has been called the worst 
employment crisis since the Great Depression; one billion people have daily 
incomes totaling less than one dollar.

 But as the novelist Arthur Koestler once said, "statistics do not bleed." 
Numbers do not capture the anguish of homeless children roaming the streets 
of prosperous and bustling cities. They don't capture the grief of a parent 
whose child has starved to death or died of disease during the horrific 
events in Rwanda. Nor do they capture the bleak despair of a homeless 
woman, curling up to sleep over a steam grate in Washington, DC, blocks 
from the White House.

 These are personal tragedies, but each results in part from our failure as 
a human family to feel and understand our connections to one another, and 
our failure to appreciate the opportunity every person should have to 
enrich our common future.

 Economic growth cannot be sustained over time unless a proper portion of 
its present fruits are continually invested in the nourishing and 
development of human potential. Even Adam Smith always referred to 
economics as "human economics." Maybe we should have never abbreviated the 
concept. People who are sick, or uneducated, or undernourished, or 
unemployed should not be merely the objects of society's guilty conscience. 
They should also be seen as the embodiment of unrealized economic and 
social potential.

 How should we deal with these issues? In my country that question is 
presently the subject of an intense political struggle. What is being 
tested is whether the United States will turn away from our own most 
disadvantaged citizens at home, and whether we will step back from the 
front ranks of nations that recognize a bond of shared responsibility 
toward men and women elsewhere in the world who are struggling to climb by 
their own efforts out of degradation and despair.

 I believe that at the end of the day, the United States will not step 
back. The Clinton Administration believes that in its commitment to remain 
engaged, we have the support of the vast majority of the American people in 
both our major political parties.

The American people know that our future well-being is tied inextricably to 
the global economy. And they know that helping to develop the economies of 
the developing world, where four out of five people will live in the year 
2000, will be beneficial to our own economy as well. But, I also believe 
that if the United States is to move forward, and remain engaged in the 
world' s effort to meet the objectives of this summit, we must find new 
approaches for new circumstances.

 For example, we in the United States have come to reeognize that it is 
time to abandon our old model for combating poverty at home based on heavy 
government intervention through massive bureaucracies.

 There was a time when these structures seemed essential to make our 
idealism productive. But their size, inflexibility and expense are now seen 
as obstacles to the purpose we still pursue.

 We are working now to create a more vital relationship between the 
government and the people. We cannot succeed if we treat the poor solely as 
passive recipients of assistance -- whether for welfare, food stamps or 
medical care. We are instead designing an approach that empowers people to 
be active partners in the management of their own fates. We have to find 
new links to our own people -- with a government that works better and 
costs less, and focuses on results.

 We have to find ways to transcend old and limiting concepts, and recognize 
the value of new ways to promote sustainable development and social 
progress for those trapped in poverty -such as government/private sector 
partnerships, technical assistance for institutional development and policy 
reform; and support for south-south partnerships. International 
institutions alsc need to adjust themselves by moving toward greater 
flexibility and responsiveness to the needs of the poor. This Conference 
has paid very useful attention to the U.N. system in particular, and I 
applaud its efforts to focus on the need for change.

 We in the United States have also approached this summit as an opportunity 
for constructive change. Abroad as at home we know that we have to redefine 
the way we fight poverty and transform the relationship between donors and 
recipients to a relationship between partners.

 It is in that spirit that I am pleased to announce the United States "New 
Partnerships Initiative". Under this initiative, the United States Agency 
for International Development (USAID) will be channeling 40% of its 
development assistance through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), both 
U.S. based and indigenous.

 The "New Partnerships Initiative" has three main objeetives: to empower 
small business and entrepreneurs to drive economic growth; to strengthen 
the role of nongovernmental organizations in development programs; and to 
help nations bolster democracy at the local level. All three are linked by 
a single idea--that families and individuals, when given the power and 
opportunity to change their lives, will do exactly that.

 In discussing ways to improve the struggle against poverty being waged by 
government, I wish to make it clear that my country also believes in two 
other central propositions.

 First, we believe that permanent gains can occur only if we encourage free 
markets and individual initiative. In our view, the market system unlocks a 
higher fraction of the human potential than any other form of economic 
organization, and has the demonstrated potential to create broadly 
distributed new wealth.

 Second, we believe that economic development can be and must be designed 
to be environmentally sustainable. Sustainable economic development assures 
that we do not meet today's needs by means that very quickly exhaust 
themselves and deliver us back to even more intractable problems.

 Finally, let me emphasize the importance of one cultural trend that can 
speed the day that we see an end to poverty: an increase in the rights and 
powers of women, who, as the First Lady of the United States pointed out 
here a few days ago, "continue to be marginalized in many countries." With 
women making up more than two-thirds of the illiterate people of the world, 
investing in the health and education of women and girls will diminish 
poverty -- and let me add my voice to those applauding this Summit for 
endorsing the principle of equal rights.

 The documents you have developed here are part of an emerging grand design 
for the common good. Despite the difficulties and severe challenges ahead, 
I believe that we are moving together toward a shared sense of 
participation in a global civilization, whose bonds, though voluntary, will 
be strong enough to hold us together in the face of those forces which 
would divide us. Your work is a very significant contribution to that end, 
and on behalf of my government, and the people of the United States, I wish 
to congratulate you and thank you for your deep and constant commitment.

The electronic version of this document was prepared at the World Summit for Social Development by the United Nations Development Programme in collaboration with the United Nations Department for Public Information.This version has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted: 25/01/2000 15:35:30
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