Remarks at event organized by Connect U.S. Fund and Rockefeller Foundation
New York, 14 December 2010It is a pleasure to be here among good friends and strong supporters of the United Nations.
I look forward to this conversation; we have much to discuss.
As 2010 draws to a close, we are pressed by needs on every front.
Your Governments, the United Nations and this planet need your voice and your work more than ever.
Three issues have been at the top of my agenda this past year -- climate change, development and humanitarian crises. I would like to take them each in turn, and then we can open the floor.
I am just back from the climate conference in Cancun. My advisers briefed you this morning on what an important success it was – on what we achieved, and how we intend to move forward.
The outcome is a triumph -- a validation of multilateralism and the role of the United Nations. It is the continuation of a process that began in Bali and ran through Poznan and Copenhagen to Cancun.
I called on all Parties in Cancun to not allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. And indeed, the common good was served. Member States came together under a common roof, in common cause, to forge a way forward in meeting the defining challenge of our time.
Cancun has demonstrated that multilateralism works -- provided there is sufficient political will from all actors.
That includes, of course, the United States. The role of the United States will continue to be central -- as a major emitter, as a hub of technological innovation, as a source of finance, as a political leader.
The United States faces a twofold challenge: to continue making progress in climate negotiations, and to show that it is taking steps that will reduce emissions.
We all know the high stakes involved. Climate change is at the heart of nearly all the major challenges the world faces today: Development and water, energy and food security, and even international peace and security, given the potential for climate change to contribute to migration and political instability.
Climate change must be a core part of any geo-strategic equation for peace and prosperity.
We need the United States Government and public to be united in recognizing the urgency of addressing this profound threat.
The next big climate conference takes place next year at this time in South Africa. But there is much to be done before then to reduce emissions, strengthen resilience, and help countries move down the low-carbon pathway.
There are many ways your organizations can support this agenda.
First, through public education and outreach.
We must counter cynicism and despair with a positive vision of a more livable, healthier, prosperous future. It is important to make clear that efforts to address climate change are about strengthening a nation's security, competitiveness, energy independence and the health and well-being of its citizens.
Second, by supporting efforts to build a clean energy future in this country and throughout the world. If we are to succeed in combating climate change, we need a clean energy revolution. The United States has a leading role to play in making this happen.
Third, by encouraging the lawmakers to fulfill their pledges of financial and technological support. Assistance to developing countries is not charity. It is an act of historical justice and enlightened self-interest. We will not solve climate change overnight. In fact, we must continually raise our ambitions.
We must also connect the dots between climate change and other core concerns – energy, water, food, demographic trends. My recently launched High-level Panel on Global Sustainability will report next year on ways to build a future of low-carbon prosperity for all.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me turn now to the development agenda.
We have all heard people describe the Millennium Development Goals as a pipedream? and question the value of targets and timetables.
But remarkable progress has been made, including in some of the poorest countries. The articulation of the goals has had its intended effect: it has focused our efforts, and led to dramatic, tangible achievements.
The world as a whole is on-track to reduce poverty by half by 2015.
Many countries have made major gains in school enrollment and access to clean water.
They have expanded treatment for HIV and AIDS, and made significant inroads in controlling malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases.
However, progress has been uneven between and within countries.
Hunger, malnutrition and unemployment remain unacceptably high.
The economic crisis has slowed and reversed some of these advances. Natural disasters have also taken a toll.
Our challenge -- as 2015 approaches and as we look beyond that deadline -- is to put our resources where they will have the greatest impact.
In education and health, in jobs and infrastructure, in smallholder agriculture, if there is one way to accelerate this effort, one investment that pays the greatest dividends, it is the empowerment of women and girls.
We have two exciting initiatives in the works.
First, the recently launched Global Strategy on Women's and Children's Health. Already, it is backed by $40 billion from donors, developing countries, foundations and the private sector.
Second, UN Women -- our new agency -- will be launched next month. With Michelle Bachelet in the lead, we expect it to be a dynamic new player, including on the key question of ending violence against women.
So you are joining a moving train. But that train needs fuel.
The development train runs in part on policy coherence. This doesn't happen easily and needs your help. If you pull us in one hundred directions, we won't succeed. We need your help in shaping a unified women's empowerment agenda.
The train also needs funding. The United States pledged to double official development assistance -- a welcome sign of solidarity. That was meant to happen over the course of four years. Now we are hearing that this period might double, to eight years. We must not let these commitments lag or go unfulfilled.
Therefore I ask you to move development to the top of your agenda. I urge you to call on your Government to do the same, even at a time of financial constraints. Development funding is an investment in a safer and more secure world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The emergencies that claim the headlines also have a claim on our attention.
Natural disasters are striking with greater fury, and in greater numbers, than ever before. Our humanitarian assistance is a growth industry.
Political repression and a rising tide of intolerance throw an ever-brighter spotlight on our work for human rights.
That means strengthening the institutions created to be the guardians of these principles, including the Human Rights Council. Member States have launched a review of the Council. This is an opportunity to assess where it has improved on its predecessor, the Commission on Human Rights, and where it has fallen short. I encourage you to contribute to this process.
Next year will also bring a major conference on racism. Some observers have suggested that this will be a replay of some of the contentious discourse seen a decade ago in Durban -- not at the conference itself, but among some of those who gathered for it. I say we should all join in changing the discourse, and working to make this a meaningful exercise and a positive event.
With respect to humanitarian assistance, we have all spent much of the past year working towards recovery in Haiti. I look forward to talking with you about how the cluster system has performed, and how we can improve coordination and avoid working at cross-purposes there, in Pakistan, and anywhere else where people in crisis look to us.
Let me also add a word on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
Thanks to your efforts, this year's NPT review was successful. Now we face a new challenge: this country's Congressional ratification of the START pact.
The disarmament agenda would suffer a serious setback if the United States and Russia do not conclude this agreement. You have an important role to play in encouraging your Government to get this done.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Civil society in the United States has played a crucial role in advancing the human condition and the values of the UN Charter by pressuring Governments to do the right thing by their citizens.
I know you have many thoughts on how we can work better together. Better access -- transparent and free of politics -- at headquarters and in the field. More opportunities for consultation. More channels for taking advantage of what NGOs have to offer in terms of advocacy and service delivery.
Let us work together on all of these questions, always keeping foremost in our minds our shared vision of a better world for all.
Off-the-Cuff on 14 December 2010