Good morning, and thank you very much Dr. Nadia Ebeid and Dr. Laila Iskandar, for inviting me to join you this morning with very distinguished Egyptian and international guests.
As a guest myself in Egypt, I can also warmly endorse Dr. Nadia’s invitation and recommendation that while you are visiting Egypt you take advantage of one of the most fascinating set of cultural and historic opportunities that you will ever have. I know many of you come from places also with deep and long of histories, but certainly a visit to the Pyramids or the Egyptian Museum is well worth your time.
It is an honor to be here to participate in this conference. It’s a good chance, obviously, for national and international organizations to share their experiences, identify common needs and approaches, and plan a way forward around the theme of sustainable development.
And I think that, as Dr. Nadia said, sometimes it seems that international cooperation can be improved in this area. And I suspected that is much of what we will focus on today.
Back in January of this year, President Obama used his inaugural speech to make a pledge to people all around the world. He said, “we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”
Today, we are gathering for the United States side to help turn those words into deeds. Over the next three days, you will discuss and think about broad topics like globalization and its impact on urban and rural development, health, water and sanitation, environmental degradation and conservation, alternative livelihoods systems, economic justice, and civic participation.
I hope that the discussions here will also move us collectively forward to finding common ground as partners and common solutions to challenges that we all face. Secretary Clinton said, our work together reflects a commitment to people “in the rural villages and distant cities where people strive to live, work, learn, raise families, contribute to their communities, and grow old with dignity. These are universal dreams that we seek to make a reality for more of the world’s people.”
- The U.S. government is proud to have worked in partnership with the Egyptian government and local partners for over thirty years to make these lofty words a reality in Egypt. Over the past thirty years, the United States people have contributed $28 billion in economic assistance to Egypt, including $2 billion in the last five years.
- Our collaborative efforts and partnerships have produced tangible results. Now I will just give you a few examples taken from what this partnership has produced in just the past five years:
- We built more than 30 water and wastewater facilities in Fayoum, Beni Suef, and Minia governorates, benefitting more than three million people;
- We have placed 24 million new books in 39,000 Egyptian public school libraries,
- We have helped to increase child immunization rates to 92%,
- We have worked together with local partners to decrease lead pollution levels in Shoubra El Kheima by 75%,
- We have helped again to support the establishment of the Child Protection Committees in all 29 governorates across the country, produced a nationwide human rights education campaign and distributed 180,000 children’s books on human rights,
- And we have contributed to the conservation of major historic sites at Bab Zuweyla in Islamic Cairo.
I could go on, but I just cite these few examples to make a point: our work together advances progress, peace and prosperity. But our work is far from finished. We have much work to do, starting right here at this conference.
This conference is part of the USAID-funded Education for Sustainable Development Project, which has worked across a range of development areas in order to help communities in Egypt sustain their own development in the future.
For the past two years, the project has introduced the concept of Education for Sustainable Development to communities across the country. The project aims to help people develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge necessary to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others. The project’s activities have assisted people to better understand the world in which they live and have empowered them to act for positive economic, environmental and social change.
Becoming better informed about sustainable development begins with an understanding of the global realities we all face, including our interdependence with one another. Connecting those global realities to local circumstances is the key to empowering people to make a difference through their own actions.
This project has brought learners and teachers together to think about and discuss a broad range of topics including health, water and sanitation, environmental degradation, and conservation. It has raised awareness and promoted civic participation and inclusion. The project has also provided NGO’s and schools with the training and tools they need to play a vital role in the transition to sustainability.
Socially responsible, environmentally sensitive, and economically viable communities are crucial as we work towards a sustainable future in the 21st century.
Being here in Egypt, a magnificent country with unprecedented natural resources – the mighty Nile River, the pristine mountains of Sinai, the unspoiled beaches and coral reefs, and the seemingly endless deserts – we are constantly reminded of both the splendor and fragility of the world we all share. The U.S. government is proud to be your partner and to work alongside you to fulfill President Obama’s vision of a future in which farms flourish, clean waters flow; bodies are nourished and every child has the opportunity to learn, thrive and prosper.
Thank you for inviting me to join you here today.