“This week, the United States signed a new Declaration on Women’s Participation. Next year, we should each announce the steps we are taking to break down economic and political barriers that stand in the way of women and girls. That is what our commitment to human progress demands.”
–President Obama’s Address to the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2011
President Obama has made empowering the world’s women and girls a guiding principle of his Administration. At home and abroad, the President understands that the world can no longer afford to do without the full contributions of half of its population: women and girls. When social order breaks down, when natural and man-made disasters hit, when the world’s economy slows, it is women and girls who suffer most. At the same time, evidence shows that women’s empowerment is necessary to maintain international peace and security, to build stable, democratic societies, to grow vibrant market economies, and to address pressing health and education challenges.
That’s why the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps at home to empower women and girls to realize their full potential, and steps abroad to put women front and center in our diplomatic and development assistance initiatives.
Since the day he took office, President Obama has fought for American women and girls, achieving historic victories that give them the support they need to succeed, while ending the discrimination that holds them back. President Obama understands that supporting women translates into stronger families and a stronger economy. From creating the White House Council on Women and Girls, to appointing a strong team of women leaders to his Cabinet and White House staff, to nominating two women to the Supreme Court, the Obama Administration has ushered in a new era of gender equality. And in March of 2011, the Council on Women and Girls published “Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being,” the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years. Over the past two and a half years, additional examples of the Obama Administration’s accomplishments in support of women and girls have included:
-Ensuring Equal Pay for America’s Women: The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law was Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination, including giving women who have been discriminated against in their salaries their day in court to make it right. And President Obama has convened an Equal Pay Task Force to ensure that existing equal pay laws are fully enforced. The President also continues to advocate for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, commonsense legislation that gives women the tools they need to fight pay discrimination.
-Securing Affordable and Accessible Health Care for America’s Women: For the first time, the Institute of Medicine has set forth guidelines for women’s preventive health care, and, as part of the Affordable Care Act, new insurance plans must cover these services, including: mammograms, STD/HIV testing and counseling, domestic violence counseling, contraception, gestational diabetes, with no deductibles, copayments, or coinsurance. Additionally, starting in 2014 all health plans will be required to cover the cost of a pregnancy, and it will be illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
-Creating Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women: President Obama has taken a number of vital steps to ensure that women in America have true economic security. Just most recently he sent the American Jobs Act to Congress – a bill that would save 280,000 teacher jobs, modernize 35,000 public schools, extend unemployment insurance for more than 2.6 million women, support 900,000 women who own small businesses by cutting their payroll taxes in half, give companies incentives to hire the long-term unemployed including 2.8 million women, and create new job-training opportunities for women who want to break into traditionally male-dominated fields like construction.
-Preventing Violence Against Women: In July 2010, President Obama signed the Tribal Law and Order Act, bringing new tools and resources to tribal communities to address the high rates of violence committed against Native American women. In April 2011, Vice President Biden announced historic new guidelines for schools and universities about their responsibilities under federal civil rights law to respond to and prevent sexual assault.
-Integrating Women into U.S. Foreign Policy: The State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review prioritized the empowerment of women as a key element of U.S. foreign policy, and its implementation will institutionalize the integration of U.S. support to women across the Department and USAID.
-Promoting Women as Central to U.S. Development Efforts: Through the creation of a new Agency-wide policy on gender equality and women’s empowerment, USAID is ensuring better development results through enhanced attention to gender globally; and through the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, State, USAID, MCC and the Peace Corps are investing in women, families, communities, and nations.
-Advancing Women’s Economic Participation: As evidenced at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum’s September 2011 Women and the Economy Summit, the first-ever high-level ministerial on women and the economy held in the United States and Chaired by Secretary of State Clinton, the United States is building consensus among regional partners to maximize women’s contributions towards economic growth.
-Advancing Efforts on Women’s Political Participation: From the Declaration on Women’s Political Participation signed by Secretary Clinton and other women leaders at the UN this week, to its actions in support of women as critical actors in conflict prevention and peacemaking, the United States continues to support efforts to elevate women’s leadership, to build the capacity of women legislators, to expand access to technology and the technology industry, and to increase the role of women in peace processes and democratic transitions.
Building on this knowledge and these efforts, in his Address today, the President challenged the assembled heads of state to announce, with him and in a year’s time, new steps that their governments will take to break down barriers and ensure women participate fully and equally in their countries’ economic and political spheres. Over the coming year, the Obama Administration stands ready to work with its partners in the international community, civil society, and the private sector, as well as with the UN and other international organizations, to broaden and deepen efforts to increase equal economic and political opportunity for women around the world. The President expects that this effort will take different forms in different countries, but may include commitments aimed at:
-Investing in women’s and girls’ health and education;
-Eliminating barriers that hinder women’s access to property, inheritance, capital and markets, while supporting women farmers, business owners and entrepreneurs;
-Implementing policies to ensure women are paid equal wages for equal work;
-Working to ensure that both men and women can contribute fully in the workplace while attending to family needs;
-Examining and amending discriminatory laws and practices;
-Reflecting on and revisiting attitudinal biases;
-Taking steps to increase women’s participation in elections and governance bodies;
-Enhancing the international community’s ability to respond effectively to the needs of women and girls in disaster and conflict-affected countries;
-Implementing steps to increase women’s participation in decision-making affecting peace and international security;
-Preventing sexual and gender-based violence; and
-Supporting UN Women and other national and international actors focused on women’s rights, protection, and empowerment.
In keeping with the President’s challenge, over the coming year, the White House Council on Women and Girls and National Security Staff will coordinate the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to support women’s political and economic empowerment at home and with partners abroad. President Obama looks forward to joining his fellow heads of state in jointly announcing progress made on these worthy efforts in the year to come.
Good morning. Good morning. (Applause.)
Good morning everyone. Thank you. Thank you so much. Oh, it is absolutely a pleasure to see all of you here today and I’ve been getting reports about the conference, and I am so excited to join you today to talk about what we are focused on here at this Summit on Women and the Economy.
Before I begin, I want to apologize for the delay but there were so many people who showed up, and because this is the largest gathering of distinguished foreign diplomats in San Francisco, since the founding of the United Nations – (applause) – there was a little more of a delay in getting everyone in, and there are still people outside we hope will be able to get in. Before I begin my remarks, let me recognize a few of our special guests here. We have two members of Congress, Zoe Lofgren and Jackie Speier. Thank you very much for being with us. (Applause.)
And we have two distinguished mayors. I want to welcome Mayor Edwin Lee and his wife Anita from right here in San Francisco. Mayor Lee? (Applause.) And Mayor Jean Quan from Oakland. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) And on a personal note I want to acknowledge a wonderful and former chief of protocol, Charlotte Shultz. Thank you, Charlotte. (Applause.)
Now as this summit comes to a close, we will adopt a declaration for the first time in APEC’s history that will affirm this organization’s and each member economy’s commitment to improving women’s access to capital and markets, to building women’s capacities and skills, and to supporting the rise of women leaders in both the public and private sectors. And it is fitting that this declaration would be adopted here in San Francisco because it was just one mile from here, in the Herbst Theater, where the United Nations Charter was signed 66 years ago. In fact, the APEC Summit, which brings you all here is a celebration of that important occasion and a recognition that history is made right here in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is an appropriate venue for this economic discussion. Because this is a community that is renowned for its spirit of inclusion and opportunity for all. So on behalf of the United States and our people I give each of you, and you nations, my heartiest welcome and my heartfelt thanks for being here and undertaking this great mission with us.
Now there will be a temptation on the part of those observing or covering this summit, perhaps on the part of those of us attending it as well, to say that our purpose is chiefly to advance the rights of women, to achieve justice and equality on women’s behalf. And that is, of course, a noble cause to be sure and one that is very close to my heart. But at the risk of being somewhat provocative at the outset, I believe our goal is even bolder, one that extends beyond women to all humankind. The big challenge we face in these early years of 21st century is how to grow our economies and ensure shared prosperity for all nations and all people. We want to give every one of our citizens, men and women alike, young and old alike, greater opportunity to find work, to save and spend money, to pursue happiness ultimately to live up to their own God-given potentials.
That is a clear and simple vision to state. But to make it real, to achieve the economic expansion we all seek, we need to unlock a vital source of growth that can power our economies in the decades to come. And that vital source of growth is women. With economic models straining in every corner of the world, none of us can afford to perpetuate the barriers facing women in the workforce. Because by increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can bring about a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies. Because when everyone has a chance to participate in the economic life of a nation, we can all be richer. More of us can contribute to the global GDP. And the gap between the developed and the developing countries would narrow significantly as productivity rises in economies from Haiti to Papua New Guinea.
But that great, global dream cannot be realized by tinkering around the edges of reform. Nor, candidly, can it be secured though any singular commitment on the part of us here. It requires, rather, a fundamental transformation, a paradigm shift in how governments make and enforce laws and policies, how businesses invest and operate, how people make choices in the marketplace.
The transformational nature of this undertaking that lies ahead is, in my view, not unlike other momentous shifts in the economic history of our world. In the 19th century, many nations began moving from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Then the inventions and mass productions of that era gave rise in the 20th century to the information age and the knowledge economy, with an unprecedented rise in innovation and prosperity.
As information transcends borders and creates opportunities for farmers to bank on mobile phones and children in distant villages to learn remotely, I believe that here, at the beginning of the 21st century, we are entering the participation age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is poised to be a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.
In some APEC economies, this transformation has been underway for quite awhile now. In others, it has begun more recently. But in all, progress has been too slow and too uneven. But there is no doubt that the increasing numbers of women in the economy and the rising productivity gains from improving the distribution of their talents and skills has helped fuel significant growth everywhere. And economies that are making the shift more effectively and rapidly are dramatically outperforming those that have not.
So if we are serious about this undertaking, if we really want to achieve parity for women in the workforce, both that they participate and how they participate, then we must remove structural and social impediments that stack the deck against them. Now, I don’t urge this because it is the right thing to do, though I believe that it is, but for the sake of our children and our nations, it is necessary to do. Because a rising tide of women in an economy raises the fortunes of families and nations.
Now, my husband often says, in making the argument that everyone should be involved, that we don’t have a person to waste. I think that’s true. When it comes to the enormous challenge of our time, to systematically and relentlessly pursue more economic opportunity in all of our lands, we don’t have a person to waste, and we certainly don’t have a gender to waste either.
So let’s look at the evidence. The case for unlocking the potential of women and including them more fully in the economic life of our nations begins with the accounting of how women already are driving growth. The 21 economies of APEC are among the most dynamic in the world. Together, we represent more than half of total economic global output, and more than 60 percent of women in the APEC economies are part of our formal workforces. They’re opening stores, they’re running businesses, they’re harvesting crops, they’re assembling electronics, and designing software.
The Economist points out that the increase in employment of women in developed countries during the past decade has added more to global growth than China has, and that’s a lot. And in the United States, a McKinsey study found that women went from holding 37 percent of all jobs to nearly 48 percent over the past 40 years, and that in sheer value terms, these women have punched well above their weight.
The productivity gains attributable to this modest increase in women’s overall share of the labor market accounts for approximately one-quarter of the current U.S. GDP. That works out to more than three and a half trillion dollars, more than the GDP of Germany and more than half the GDPs of both China and Japan.
So the promise is clear. What then is the problem? If women are already making such contributions to economic growth, why do we need a major realignment in our thinking, our markets, and our policies? Why do we need to issue a declaration from this summit? Well, because evidence of progress is not evidence of success, and to be sure, the rate of progress for women in the economies of our region varies widely. Laws, customs, and the values that fuel them provide roadblocks to full inclusion.
In the United States and in every economy in APEC, millions of women are still sidelined, unable to find a meaningful place for themselves in the formal workforce. And some of those who get to enter the workforce are really confined by very clear signals to a lower rung on the job ladder, and there’s a web of legal and social restrictions that limit their potential. Or they are confronted with a glass ceiling that keeps them from the most senior positions.
Only 11 of the CEOs of the Fortune Global 500 companies are women. That’s less than 3 percent. Some women in the APEC region don’t have the same inheritance rights as men. So they can’t inherit property or businesses owned by their fathers. Some don’t have the power to confer citizenship on their children, so their families have less access to housing and education, and they must constantly renew residency permits making it harder for them to work. Some are even subject to different taxes than men. Too often they are denied access to credit and may even be prohibited from opening bank accounts, signing contracts, purchasing property, incorporating a business, or filing lawsuits without a male guardian. Some women earn almost as much as men before they have children but less afterwards and even less if they are single mothers.
These barriers and restrictions, some formal, some informal, erode women’s abilities to participate fully in their economies and to support their families whether as employees or entrepreneurs. Now, these barriers are certainly not unique to this region, the Asia Pacific region. Variations of them can be found everywhere in the world. But because this is the most dynamic economic region in the world, what we do will have an impact on everywhere else.
Some barriers are left over from a different time and haven’t changed to reflect new economic realities or concepts of justice. Some seek to preserve an economic order that ensures that men have the higher paying jobs to support their families. And some reflect lingering cultural norms, the belief that women need to be protected from work that is thought to be dangerous or unhealthy for them.
In truth, what is dangerous is denying ourselves the level of economic growth we need to build stronger societies. And what is unhealthy is for women to be denied the chance to contribute fully to that growth, because that denies everyone, first and foremost their families, a chance at greater prosperity.
Now, economic orders do not perpetuate themselves. They are made and remade through countless decisions, small and large, by economic policymakers, political leaders, and business executives. So if we want to see opportunities for women improve, we must begin with sound economic policies that explicitly address the unique challenges that limit women. And here’s why: A Goldman Sachs report shows how a reduction in barriers to female labor force participation would increase America’s GDP by 9 percent. We admit we still have such barriers. It would increase the Eurozone’s by 13 percent – and they need it – and Japan’s by 16 percent. Unlocking the potential of women by narrowing the gender gap could lead to a 14 percent rise in per capita incomes by the year 2020 in several APEC economies, including China, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea.
Of course, rising income means increased spending, which in itself helps to fuel more growth. And here, too, women make a strong contribution. A Boston Consulting Group survey concludes that, globally, women will control $15 trillion in spending by the year 2014. And by 2028, BCG says women will be responsible for about two-thirds of consumer spending worldwide.
Digging a little deeper into the data, we can see positive benefits that flow from both the quality of spending and the quantity of saving by women because multiple studies have shown that women spend more of their earned income on food, healthcare, home improvement, and schooling for themselves and their children. In short, they reinvest, and that kind of spending has a multiplier effect leading to more job growth and diversified local economies. And that, in turn, can help ensure better educated, healthier citizens as well as provide a cushion in the event of market downturns.
The research also shows that women are stronger savers than men. Data – does that surprise any of the women in the audience? (Laughter.) Data from 20 semi-industrialized countries suggest that for every one percentage point increase in the share of household income generated by women, aggregate domestic savings increased by roughly 15 basis points. And a higher savings rate translates into a higher tax base as well.
Integrating women more effectively into the way businesses invest, market, and recruit also yields benefits in terms of profitability and corporate governance. In a McKinsey survey, a third of executives reported increased profits as a result of investments in empowering women in emerging markets. Research also demonstrates a strong correlation between higher degrees of gender diversity in the leadership ranks of business and organizational performance. The World Bank finds that by eliminating discrimination against female workers and managers, managers could significantly increase productivity per worker by 25 to 40 percent. Reducing barriers preventing women from working in certain sectors would lower the productivity gap between male and female workers by a third to one half across a range of countries.
Now, these gains are achieved because removing barriers means that the talent and skills of women can be deployed more efficiently. And in our globalized world today, this is a competitive edge that is more important than ever. All of this underscores my primary point: When we liberate the economic potential of women, we elevate the economic performance of communities, nations, and the world.
Take just one sector of our economy – agriculture – to illustrate what I mean. We know women play an important role in driving agriculture-led growth worldwide. Agriculture is a powerful engine for development, as we have seen in the remarkable rise of China and India. And in several APEC economies, women comprise nearly half of the agriculture labor force. They sustain every link in the agricultural chain: They plant the seeds; they care for the livestock; they harvest the crops; they sell them at markets; they store the food, and then they prepare it for consumption.
But as for the role of women in agriculture nowadays, despite their presence in all of these kinds of jobs, they have less to show for all of their work. Women farmers are up to 30 percent less productive than male farmers, and that’s not because they are working less or are less committed. It’s because women farmers have access to fewer resources. They have less fertilizer, fewer tools, poorer quality seeds, and less access to training or to land. And they have much less time to farm because they also have to do most of the household work. When that resource gap is closed and resources are allocated equally – and better yet, efficiently – women and men are equally productive in agriculture. And that has positive benefits. In Nepal, for example, where mothers have greater ownership of land because of their inheritance rights, there are fewer severely underweight children.
So what we have here is an opportunity to accelerate growth in developing economies while, at the same time, producing more and cheaper food for our planet. Close the resource gap holding women back in developing economies, and we could feed 150 million more people worldwide every year, and that’s according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, and that’s in addition to the higher incomes for families and the more efficient markets and the more agricultural trade that would result.
The same kind of impact can be seen in other sectors in our economies, because we know that the entrepreneurial spirit of women is strong. More than half a million enterprises in Indonesia and nearly 400,000 in Korea are headed by women. They run fully 20 percent of all of China’s small businesses. All across Asia, women have and continue to dominate light manufacturing sectors that have proved crucial to the region’s economic takeoff. And economists predict that women-owned businesses, which now provide for 16 percent of all U.S. jobs, will create nearly a third of the new jobs anticipated over the next seven years.
So with that kind of evidence at hand, it is little wonder that the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report finds a direct correlation between the gender gap and economic productivity – the lower the former, the higher the latter. As Klaus Schwab, the executive chairman of the World Economic Forum concludes, “Women and girls must be treated equally if a country is to grow and prosper.” The declaration we will adopt here today can begin to close that gender gap, by making it possible for more women to unleash their potential as workers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders.
And the goals in this declaration are very specific. We commit to giving women access to capital so women entrepreneurs can turn their ideas into the small and medium enterprises that are the source of so much growth and job creation. We urge examining and reforming our legal and regulatory systems so women can avail themselves of the full range of financial services. And such reforms can also help ensure that women are not forced to compromise on the well-being of their children to pursue a business career.
We must improve women’s access to markets so those who start businesses can keep them open. For example, we need to correct the problem of what’s called information asymmetric problems, meaning that woman are not informed about the trade and technical assistance programs that are available, as we just discussed in agriculture.
There are two State Department programs that we are using to try to model a lot of these approaches. A program called Pathways to Prosperity connects policymakers and private sector leaders in 15 countries across the Americas. It’s aimed at helping small business owners, small farmers, craftspeople do more business, both locally and through regional trade. And the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program reaches out to women that are part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act countries to provide them with information and tools to take advantage of what AGOA has to offer.
And then finally, we must support the rise of women leaders in the public and private sectors because they bring firsthand knowledge and understanding of these challenges, and their perspectives will add great value as we shape policies and programs that will eliminate barriers to bring women into all economic sectors.
Several businesses already are taking significant steps to meet such goals. Goldman Sachs is training the next generation of women business leaders in developing economies with its Ten Thousand Women campaign. Coca Cola’s “Five by Twenty” campaign aims to support five million women entrepreneurs worldwide by 2020. And just this week, Wal-Mart announced that it will use its purchasing power to support women entrepreneurs by doubling the amount of goods it will buy from women-owned businesses globally to $20 billion by 2016. (Applause.) In addition, Wal-Mart will invest $100 million to help women develop their job skills, including women who work on the farms and factories overseas that are Wal-Mart suppliers.
Now, these programs are just the start of the type of permanent shift we need to see in how businesses worldwide invest in women.
Now, I do not underestimate the difficulty of ushering in what I call the participation age. Legal changes require political will. Cultural and behavioral changes require social will. All of this requires leadership by governments, civil society, and by the private sector. And even when countries pursue aggressive structural reforms to get more women into their economy and enhance their productivity, they don’t always produce the results that we would like to see. So we have to stay with this. Persistence is part of our long-term plan.
And while economic orders may be hard to change, and policy strategies—no matter how good—can only get us so far, we all have to make a choice, not simply to remove the barriers but to really fill this field with active investment and involvement from all of us. Those of you who are here today are leaders from across the APEC region, and it is your choice to come here, it is your choice to focus on women and the economy that will send a message rippling across APEC. And the countless decisions that will be taken by leaders and citizens to encourage young girls to stay in school, to acquire skills, to talk to that banker, to understand what it means to give a loan to a woman who will work her heart out to produce a result for herself and her children. And when we do that, we are going to really make a big difference in helping elevate the age of participation for women.
And there are many other areas we have to be attentive to. Our medical research dollars need to be sure that we are equally investing in women as men. Our tax systems have to ensure that we don’t either deliberately or inadvertently discriminate against women. And women should be given the same opportunities to be productive and contributing members of society.
But big and bold ideas, I think are called for in our world today, because a lot of what we’re doing is not achieving the outcomes that we are seeking. There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic fortunes of their families, their communities, and their countries. Many people say that there are all kinds of benefits that will flow from this, but I want to be somewhat modest in our goals. Yes, I do think it will produce more food and more educational opportunity and more financial stability for more families around the world, and that will have dividends across the full spectrum of society.
But our declaration will be meaningless if we don’t put our will and effort behind it. I think this summit just might make the history books if people look back in years to come and say, that meeting in San Francisco with all of those important people from across the Asia Pacific said something that had never been said before. They didn’t just assert that involving women was the good thing to do or the right thing to do. They put their heads together and came up with a declaration committing themselves to really tackle the obstacles, because it will benefit the people we all represent.
And then we need to measure our progress to be sure that we are tracking what we care about. We obviously do that in our own lives, but it’s important we do it across our countries and our regions. And I am sure that if we leave this summit and go back to our governments and our businesses and focus on how we’re going to improve employment, bring down national debts, create greater trade between us, tackling all of that, and always in the back of our mind keep in focus what more can we do to make sure women contribute to those results, we will see progress and we will be in the lead at not only asserting what we think should be done, but in measuring and tracking how well we are doing.
So I thank you for gathering here in San Francisco, mindful that we’re on a long journey together. I look out and I see friends from across the region representing countries that have been so amazing in the progress that you have made in the last 50 years, even in the last 30 years. It will take time. It will take our concerted effort. But I am convinced that if we come into pursuing the promise of this participation age and unleashing and harnessing the economic potential of women, we will see a new and better future.
That is why I am honored to be here representing the people of the United States, bearing witness to what begins right here in San Francisco, on September 16th, 2011. This is the beginning of a very promising future for us all. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Good morning. It is such a delight for me to be back in the Netherlands. Your country and mine have enjoyed close ties for more than 400 years when Henry Hudson first landed in Manhattan and we had very strong diplomatic ties going back to the earliest days of the United States. We have worked together bilaterally to address a range of global challenges and we have worked together multilaterally to address peace and security around the world. So it is so fitting that we come together today to address another extremely timely and important subject.
But before I add my comments, I want to thank Ambassador Hartog-Levin for the extraordinary service she has rendered on behalf of us in your country for the last two years and for bringing us all together this morning. And I know from my conversations with her, that it is very difficult for her to take leave of a place she loves. I know she will take a good chunk of your country home with her. So thank you, Ambassador Levin.
I also want to thank Foreign Minister Rosenthal for his comments today and for his leadership. We had a very excellent meeting yesterday and he conveyed to me personally much of what he said this morning.
And I want to mention the two Palwashas who are with us today. One, Palwasha Kakar, is in her government as a deputy minister and is doing excellent work. The other Palwasha is Palwasha Hasan – she is with the Afghan Women’s Network. She is an exceptional leader in civil society. And I think the two Palwashas represent a kind of coming together of women leaders in powerful positions, one in government and one in civil society. They are making a strong difference for their country, particularly in these times. And I want to add my acknowledgement to the Atlantic Commission for its great leadership in co-hosting this session.
Now in the aftermath of 9/11, the world’s eyes focused on Afghanistan and we made collective efforts to root out al-Qaeda, to overthrow the Taliban and to usher in peace, stability, and a better life for the people of that country. And I also want to add my acknowledgment to the role that the Dutch have played as a partner in Afghanistan, especially your contributions to security, stability, humanitarian relief, reconstruction and development in Uruzgan Province and more broadly across the country. You have been a key partner in organizing elections, fighting the epidemic of opium production and trafficking, and assisting aid organizations with clearing away deadly land mines. And this summer you have launched the initiative that the Foreign Minister talked about this morning in the northern providence of Kunduz to better equip Afghan police forces with training that they need to strengthen the rule of law and assist in the very hard work of reconciliation. You have understood both in your development work broadly and in your engagement specifically in Afghanistan that the future of Afghanistan depends, in many ways, on the degree to which women have an active role, a power sharing role in participating in the political process – certainly in re-integration and reconciliation – and are fully engaged in the economic sector and and have their rights protected. Investing in women and girls is one of the most effective investments that can be made for poverty alleviation, for security, for a country’s prosperity – and even to decrease corruption. Yes, there are studies that show as women’s roles increase in government decision making, corruption decreases.
Now I have read about your government’s recently propagated policies on development cooperation and your focus on the four areas in which the Netherlands can bring special value. And I am pleased that Afghanistan will continue to be one of your partner countries in that work. I was also pleased that the Dutch government launched the Funding Leadership Opportunities for Women fund – (the acronym, FLOW, I like the sound of that) – to promote security, economic opportunity, and political participation. You’ve clearly been guided by the research and the data which documents the soundness of these priority investments. I couldn’t agree more with your Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation, Minister Knapen, who said, “Investing in women and girls is smart politics, smart economics, and smart security.” The concept of women as agents of peace and stability is also embodied in President Obama’s national security strategy, which says in part, “countries are more peaceful, more prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunities.”
And Secretary Clinton has echoed this view countless times. “The status of women,” she said, “is not only a matter of morality and justice, as important as that is – but is also a political, economic and social imperative. Put simply, the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls in the 21st century are denied their rights and left behind.”
Following their bilateral meeting a few months ago in Washington, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Rosenthal issued a joint statement on supporting women’s political empowerment in emerging democracies. Their statement said, “Experience shows that integrating women into transition, reconciliation and peace-building processes from the start helps to promote long-term peace and stability by ensuring a focus on critical broader priorities and needs.” They went on to say, “Where women are oppressed and marginalized, those societies become more dangerous and breed intolerance. The subjugation of women is a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations goes hand in hand.” The United States is implementing this understanding in our strategy in Afghanistan – and obviously the Netherlands is also. We agree that Afghan women need to be involved in every step of securing and rebuilding their country.
Now let me turn for a moment to the continuing commitment of the United States to Afghanistan in this time of transition and add to what Ambassador Hartog- Levin has said this morning. In a recent address in India, Secretary Clinton described the Obama administration’s policy. “The United States is committed to Afghanistan and to the region. We will be there. Yes, we are beginning to withdraw combat troops and transfer responsibility for security to the Afghan people, a process that will be completed in 2014, but drawing down our troops is not the same as leaving or disengaging. We and the Afghans are making progress on a new strategic partnership declaration that will define our relationship after 2014. And through that partnership, we will continue to assist the Afghan army and police and the Afghan Government. And we will do everything we can to help the Afghan people rebuild after decades of war. At the same time, we are pursuing an active diplomatic effort with all the countries in the region toward two goals: First, a responsible political solution in Afghanistan, and second, stronger economic ties through South and Central Asia so that goods, capital, and people can flow more easily across borders.”
Those unambiguous redlines that Ambassador Hartog-Levin laid out, including she said, ensuring that the rights of women will be protected as the Constitution of Afghanistan provides – and let me say clearly that those rights include the right to an education, to participate politically and economically in their country’s public life, to be free from violence in their homes, workplaces and communities.
Now no one wants to see the conflict end more than the Afghan women and I have spent much time with many of them and you will hear from them again this morning. They have suffered unspeakable atrocities under the Taliban. So they want this conflict to end and they want a better life for themselves and their country but they want to be part of the process to ensure that the eventual peace agreement is sustainable. They want to be part of that power sharing that the Foreign Minister discussed this morning. This is not a favor to the women of Afghanistan. It is not just a nice thing to do. It is a necessity. Because any potential for peace will be subverted if women’s voices are silenced or marginalized. The United States will not abandon our values or support a political process that undoes the progress that has been made over the last decade. Secretary Clinton also noted that the diplomatic and political effort will only succeed if it is paired with a strategy to increase economic ties in all the countries of the region. None of us can provide aid forever. It is critical that Afghanistan’s economy gets going in a very strong way, that it achieves trade and investment. An Afghanistan firmly embedded in the economic life of the region would be able to attract new investment and connect to markets abroad. This is the vision of a new Silk Road – a 21st century regional economic network that enlists the international community and private sector to ensure a sustainable, economically viable future for Afghanistan.
I had a glimpse of what is possible just a few weeks ago because the State Department sponsored as significant coming together, a conference for female entrepreneurs from Central Asia and Afghanistan that took place in Kyrgysztan. It was called “Invest in the Future.” The women were so eager to accelerate their economic journey together, across borders, in order to grow economic opportunity. As a result of the conference, the United States, multilateral organizations and the private sector have committed resources to provide women with greater opportunity for success. So simply put, neither reintegration and reconciliation nor the promotion of economic opportunity can succeed without Afghan women’s full participation.
The United States, like the Netherlands, has been committed to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325. It links women with peace and security. It says that we must ensure justice for acts of violence against women and ensure that women’s participation in conflict prevention, management, and resolution, and strengthening the conditions for lasting peace and prosperity, are real. Evidence shows that integrating women into peace building processes helps promote long-term peace by ensuring that a broader set of critical priorities and needs are on the table and addressed. Moreover, women’s leadership in peace processes positively correlates with a reduction of violence and armed action, the sustainability of those peace agreements and post conflict political frameworks, as well as the evolution of democratic systems of governance.
Women have been distinguishing themselves in Afghanistan. As you heard from the Foreign Minister, the role they’re playing in Parliament, ministries and in the provincial government – and they also need to be fully included in the peace and reconciliation process as it moves forward. We and your country have advocated for their inclusion, as we have for women’s participation in the London Conference that the Foreign Minister mentioned, Kabul conference, in the Consultative Peace Jirga where the women so distinguished themselves several months ago and where they constituted roughly 20 percent of the participants, and now the High Peace Council – the lead Afghan body guiding the ongoing reintegration and reconciliation process. This has to take place on all levels – the national, provincial and local level, where real reconciliation will have to take place if the prospects for peace will truly take hold.
This is also true for the Bonn conference that will take place in December. The Afghan Women’s Network has described this as a step toward defining a vision for Afghanistan beyond 2014 and the transition. But for women to be included in the Bonn II conference, it will be up to the Afghan government, because they are in the chair of the conference and they will be putting together the Afghan delegation. And prior to Bon II, there will be a civil society meeting and it is our hope that representatives from the civil society discussion will also participate in the Bonn conference.
Countries that exclude women do so at their own peril. No country, especially one emerging from war, can afford to exclude and suppress the vital driver of economic growth that women represent. For every dollar a woman earns, up to 90 percent of it is spent reinvested in to her family and in her community. When girls go to school, even just for year, their income dramatically increases after they finish, their children are more likely to survive their families more likely to be healthier for years to come. Women’s capacity to participate and contribute economically is directly correlated to their ability to exercise equal rights, inheritance rights, land rights bear particular significance. Ultimately, access to equal economic opportunity for women and men form a very integral dimension of lasting stability and prosperity.
One of the key sectors for women’s economic participation is agriculture. I know that the Dutch, as has been said, have a great deal of expertise in this sector, as well as water management. And you are the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural goods. You have also developed a robust educational and training system for agriculture that offers so much to places like Afghanistan, which is traditionally an agricultural society. According to USAID, agriculture represents one third of Afghanistan’s economy and 75 percent of its population is engaged in farming – and that includes between 30 –60 percent of women, depending on the region they are from and what the season is. They are involved in farming, herding or otherwise connected to the agriculture industry. Women are playing an extremely important role in all dimensions of agricultural production. Increasingly their role is growing in livestock production and processing of dairy products. They make major labor contributions to a number of the marketed products. Fewer women own either land or livestock because of cultural subordination, traditions, pressure of women to cede inheritance to a relative, lack of credit, and like factors that diminish their prospects.
I remember on an early trip to Afghanistan, I had heard about how the country was importing chickens and I couldn’t understand how, when there was so much potential, that was the case. However, over time I have seen great expansion of poultry programs, through business trainings and other projects. One woman commented that she was now able to open her own poultry business. She said: ”It is unbelievable for all of us how soon our family life changed from misery to prosperity. Many chicks have grown, laid eggs. We are selling eggs, using them as a source of our food for our family and our lives are completely transformed.” And today increasing numbers of women are being trained in veterinary fields as more and more Afghans own their own livestock. The United States development and agriculture programs have focused on improving food security, increasing agricultural productivity and rural employment and to improve family incomes and well being. And this factor is particularly important for the livelihood and security of women. All of this also has a profound impact also on peace and stability. Our agriculture development programs have also focused on the high value fruit and nut production which Afghanistan has always enjoyed an extraordinary reputation. And we are working to train farmers in improving crop yields and business skills, to enable Afghan traders to expand their export markets which will be absolutely critical in the months to come.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) devoted this year’s study – they do an annual study on food and agriculture – on the vital role that women play in the agricultural sector. What the study showed is that there is a very strong economic argument for focusing on investing in women in agriculture. Yet women farmers do not have equal access to resources and this significantly limits their potential in enhancing productivity. They are often at a severe disadvantage when it comes to securing land tenure rights or owning land outright, owning livestock, accessing credit which is a major issue in Afghanistan, receiving the kind of extension training and resources that will grow her output. The FAO study shows that when women are provided with equal resources they can produce yields equal to those of men, if not greater. But because there is a gender gap in access to resources in everything from seeds and fertilizer to training, the opportunity to improve overall productivity has been limited.
We also know from the World Economic Forum’s Annual Gender Gap Report that in the countries that are closer to closing the gap between men and women on 4 metrics, including economic empowerment, those countries are far more economically competitive and prosperous.
When I was at the FAO I participated in a dinner with the Afghan Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock. He described the progress that was taking place in Afghanistan in his sector and he also described some of the key challenges that Afghanistan confronts. And he said that it is absolutely vital to the future success of agricultural production that women play a greater role. His ministry has adopted a gender mainstreaming policy and strategy. However because of a lack of capacity, it has not been implemented to the degree that it needs to be.
Unleashing women’s potential by closing that gender gap in the agricultural sector is a win-win strategy. We all need to do better in our collective efforts to focus on women in the agricultural sector, as well as to ensure that they are getting a greater percentage of resources than they are currently.
Let me just say that to visit Afghanistan, whether in the capital, big cities or in the provincial and rural areas, one is immediately struck by the number of strong, courageous and capable women, many of whom are risking their lives every day in order to work as they do – alongside the men – to create a better life for themselves and their country. One evening when I was in a discussion with some Afghan women, the session opened by one pleading, “Do not look at us as victims but as the leaders that we are.” Afghan women’s contributions are critical, whether in the peace process or advancing economic opportunity and greater productivity in the agricultural sector. They are leading the way. And with our support, they can go that much farther and do that much better.
A friend gave me a small calendar that has a quotation for every day of the year and I think the quotation for today says a great deal about the collaboration between the United States and the Netherlands. It is from an African proverb that says, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk with others.” And your country, together with mine and so many others, are walking the distance, walking together to make a difference for peace and progress in Afghanistan and for a better world for everyone. I thank you for this and I thank you for all the things we are doing together.
Dean Hudgins, thank you for that introduction. I greatly appreciate this opportunity and want to thank the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, its College of Liberal Arts and Department of Political Science who are the hosts of this event. I also want to thank Professor Dr. Joanne Goodwin for participating in this event, and for the important role she is playing here at UNLV and as the Director of the Women’s Research Institute of Nevada.
It is truly an honor for me to be in Las Vegas and to share the Obama Administration’s far-reaching efforts to support the empowerment of women and girls globally. It is also an honor to be with Representative Shelley Berkley who has been a tireless advocate for the advancement of women and girls internationally. Congresswoman: I want to thank you and your colleagues in Congress for supporting our bilateral and multilateral efforts to address critical issues that impact women, girls and families around the world.
As Secretary Clinton and officials across this Administration have stated repeatedly, the major security, governance, environmental, and economic challenges of the 21st Century cannot be solved without the participation of women and girls at all levels of society.
We know that empowering women globally – including farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa, women de-miners in Sri Lanka, a legislator in Afghanistan or a recent college graduate protesting in Tahrir Square in Egypt – is one of the surest ways to create favorable outcomes in poverty alleviation, economic growth, and a country’s general prosperity. In fact, we know that as women progress, everyone in society benefits, including men and boys.
That is why the United States and our international partners are invested in an historic effort to empower women globally. It is clear that tapping into limitless potential of women and girls is not only the right thing to do but it is the smart thing.
As the Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs responsible for U.S. engagement across the United Nations system as well as with other multilateral institutions, I want to focus my remarks today on how the U.S. is working to lift up millions of women and girls across the world through robust engagement multilaterally.
But first, I want to touch briefly on the importance this Administration has placed on our engagement at the UN and other organizations.
As many of you know, our engagement at the UN and across the multilateral system has been a top priority for this Administration, particularly as we face increasingly difficult global challenges including, continued economic instability, famine in places such as the Horn of Africa, complex security challenges such as terrorism and non-proliferation, and breathtaking transformation in North Africa and Middle East. Time and again, we have found that multilateral tools at the UN and elsewhere have been essential for the United States in achieving our foreign policy goals, enhancing our security, and advancing our values.
The UN and multilateral organizations provide the means of cooperation and partnership to find common solutions to complex problems; they offer fora through which the international community can set global norms and standards; and they help states achieve them.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States has sought to strengthen the United Nations and other aspects of the international architecture to respond better to the challenges of our rapidly changing world. That includes leveraging multilateral tools and mobilizing the international community in a coordinated, focused, and concentrated way to empower women and girls globally.
We realize that in the 21st century, the weight and scope of these issues are too great for the U.S. to carry the water alone, and that is why we have strengthened old alliances and built new partnerships – locally, nationally and internationally – to address the challenges of our day.
When you look solely at the breadth of challenges facing women and girls globally – including the lack of education and basic literacy skills, sexual and gender-based violence, rampant discrimination, the lack of economic opportunities and political participation we can understand why institutions like the UN are essential. We can exchange ideas and best practices and rally support to address hard problems.
For example, the United States is working the specialized agencies such as United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to expand girls’ and women’s access to education.
Today, women, mainly in the world’s poorest communities, represent about two-thirds of the nearly 800 million illiterate adults around the world. Seeking to end this imbalance, Secretary Clinton spoke at to UNESCO in May to launch the Global Partnership for Girls’ and Women’s Education. In Paris, she joined UNESCO’s Executive Director Irina Bokova, world leaders, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, including American companies, in pledging to support education for women and girls.
As the Secretary pointed out at the Global Partnership launch, “No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs.” We know that opening the door for women and girls to greater education leads to more choices, opportunities, and useful information in how to live their lives. Indeed, we also know that birth rates, HIV infections, incidents of domestic violence and female cutting all decline when education rises.
That is why we are deeply committed to the Partnership because it has the power to transform the lives of women. Together, we are working to ensure that money and resources are best used to promote basic literacy training and secondary education for girls around the globe. Working together with other governments, NGOs, and private partners also allows us to multiply our impact, reaching more women and girls in meaningful ways than if we acted alone. It is because of the power of these partnerships that we have been at the fore-front of bringing together diverse groups of governments, foundations, and corporations.
For example, the United States helped broker an agreement between Procter and Gamble and UNESCO to fund literacy training for girls in Senegal. Today only 33% of Senegalese women are literate. This modestly funded agreement will impact 40,000 women in Senegal enhancing their literacy and increasing their income and quality of their environment.
We also have partners, like Nokia, with whom we work in multiple venues. Nokia is a partner in the UNESCO Global Partnership, but they are also one of our partners in the mWomen program, an initiative led by the Cherie Blair Foundation and the mobile industry association GSMA which aims to reduce the gender gap in access to mobile technology of 300 million in the developing world, by 50 percent, in the next three years. By increasing women’s access to cell phones, the programs enables them to gain access to mobile education and mobile banking, which are critical tools for girls and women to strengthen their education and participate in developing markets.
The Obama Administration has also focused on the number of women holding leadership positions. We know there has been progress on this front; year after year we see more women entering government and taking on senior positions, including heads of state, yet the road forward has at times been rocky and the numbers disproportionate given that women make half of the global population. When women are not serving in governments, when their voice and experience are muted, when they are not at the negotiating table their absence has direct impact on society, on peace and security, on strengthening democracy in the communities, nations and world in which we live.
The Administration is implementing policies and programs to bolster women’s leadership capacity in all areas of political participation and decision-making. To that end, we have worked to strengthen the institutional arrangements and mechanisms at the UN for support of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
Indeed, we were at the forefront in 2009 and 2010 in leading efforts at the UN to support the consolidation of the UN’s existing gender-related institutions into a single more effective women’s agency. It was our goal at the UN to elevate women’s issues to their rightful status.
I am pleased to report that our efforts were successful. UN Women formally began operations on January 1, 2011 with a comprehensive mandate to work on all issues related to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Its Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet, is an impressive leader, as you know she is the former President of Chile.
UN Women has several strategic priorities, one of which is expanding women’s leadership and participation. The events of the Arab Spring have focused international attention on the importance and fragility of women’s political participation. In some cases, gains previously made by women in the Middle East and North Africa are being challenged, and women who had taken part in democracy movements are now excluded from negotiations on future systems of government. These trends jeopardize political stability, economic security, and human rights in countries undergoing transition.
To address these concerns, UN Women, in conjunction with the United States and other partners, will hold a high-level roundtable discussion during the upcoming UN General Assembly in September to examine the role of women during periods of political transition, like in the Middle East and North Africa. There will be senior-level participation from UN Women, the United States, Brazil, the European Union, and other member states.
Additionally, the Administration supports UN Women efforts to advance women’s political participation through technical assistance, research, and training, with a focus on countries in transition, including countries in the Middle East. We hope to complement ongoing UN Women projects aimed at greater political participation for women in Latin America and in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Another UN Women strategic priority is enhancing women’s economic empowerment. Executive Director Bachelet has often said that women’s economic security is a precondition for further improvements in their lives.
Every day, women are starting their own businesses. Between 1997 and 2008, women-owned businesses in the U.S. grew at twice the national average for all other business types. An estimated 10.1 million companies, 40% of all privately-owned firms, were owned by women as of 2008.
What we know is that women-run small and medium sized businesses in the U.S. and internationally accelerate economic growth, and many countries have made progress on laws and regulations concerning inheritance and property ownership, working hours, and retirement ages. Yet women face barriers in the U.S. and globally starting these businesses, including challenges connected with access to training, mentors, finance, technology, and markets. These challenges need to be addressed in order for women to fulfill their potential to increase their livelihoods and contribute to the broader economy.
To study these barriers and identify solutions, the U.S. supported the launch of the OECD’s Gender Initiative earlier this year. This initiative will create indicators for measuring women’s economic empowerment, and offer a toolbox of policy options by which member states can unleash the potential of millions of women through education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The OECD is piloting this approach with its Women’s Business Network for the Middle East and North Africa, which is co-chaired by the United States and Jordan.
The United States is also playing a leading role, along with international partners, in supporting empowerment of women, within the UN system, through our participation in the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The theme of the spring 2011 UN Commission on the Status of Women session was “Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science, and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work.”
At that Commission meeting, the U.S. pointed out that the emerging green economy is shaping employment opportunities, and women can gain a stronger position in the workforce through green jobs. The Department of Labor is leading efforts domestically along with policy-makers, employers, workforce professionals, educators, and trainers to focus their efforts on having women participate in and benefit from the new green economy. Women have made great strides in some male-dominated occupations, but still make up only a small portion of the workers in these jobs.
At the Spring session, and with the goal of further advancing the capacity of women in addressing climate change policy, our delegation led by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, announced a new international exchange program, which will target women climate leaders from the developing world and the critical role they play in developing climate-related policies.
Participants will travel to the United States for three weeks to learn about the development of new policies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation, as well as information about cutting edge small scale clean technologies and how to promote women’s entrepreneurship opportunities and markets for them in their countries.
Building on the Administrations’ strong commitment to expand educational exchanges and new opportunities in entrepreneurship and science, the U.S. established the TechWomen Program in 2010 to promote professional development and sustainable relationships for women technology leaders from the Middle East and North Africa. Some of the most prominent U.S. technology companies are committed to participating in the program. This summer we saw the first graduates from this program, thirty-seven women from places such as Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza. Building on the success of the TechWomen program Secretary Clinton recently announced a similar initiative called TechGirls that will bring teenage girls from the Middle East and North Africa for educational programming in the United States.
Before concluding, I want to highlight the Administration’s continued effort to work multilaterally including through the UN to address some of the most vexing challenges facing women and girls, including the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on women, the role of women in peacekeeping, conflict resolution and peace-building and combating sexual and gender-based violence.
This Administration is deeply committed to increasing women’s representation at all levels of conflict resolution, including in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. It is a priority for the U.S. in areas of post-conflict and transition, to ensure that participate in peace processes, political transitions, new constitutions, and the electoral process. Thus, we have been blunt in urging others join us in implementing the series of UN Security Council resolutions on these topics, including those we have taken leadership on, such as Resolutions 1325, 1888 and more recently 1960.
Resolution 1888 was a major achievement for the Administration because it established a Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sexual Violence in Conflict as well as a team of experts to support accountability mechanisms targeting impunity for rape as a weapon of war. The Special Representative position is currently held by Margot Wallstrom.
Resolution 1960, passed at U.S. urging last December, further empowered the UN to address sexual violence in armed conflict by establish monitoring, analysis, and reporting arrangements.
Today we are continuing to work hand in hand with Special Representative Margot Wallstrom to lead and coordinate efforts to end conflict-related sexual violence against women and children.
Additionally, as the Secretary of State promised during the 10th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 last October, the U.S. is developing a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security that will guide our approach to this issue in the coming years. While making this promise, the Secretary also committed nearly $44 million in U.S. funding to a set of initiatives designed to empower women, with a large share of the funding to support civil society groups that focus on women in Afghanistan. The U.S. has been adamant that rights of Afghan women will not be sacrificed.
President Obama’s 2010 National Security Strategy recognized that “countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunity. When those rights and opportunities are denied, countries lag behind.”
That’s why the Obama Administration is firmly committed to working with the United Nations and with international partners, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector, to advance women’s rights, freedoms, and opportunities. We know our goal to empower women and girls is an historic effort that will not be achieved overnight. It will require persistence and a long-term commitment of the United States and international community to realize the lasting change we seek for women and girls on a global scale.
I will end there. I look forward to your questions and comments.
Ambassador Verveer’s Remarks at the International Women’s Economic Summit “Peace Through Business” Graduation Ceremony
Thank you for that warm introduction. It is an honor and humbling to be here today with so many who are not content to simply dream of a better world, but are actively working toward one. I especially want to thank my friend Dr. Terry Neese, for her service as the founder and CEO of the Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women. Terry could have chosen to simply enjoy the fruits of her extraordinary career in business – instead she has chosen the more strenuous, but rewarding path of “paying forward” her knowledge and skills to others. Looking around this room today, I can tell that her commitment to empowering others is infectious. And while more than 150 women have been directly affected by this program’s training since 2006, there are countless more that have been touched by the ripple effects that alumnae create when they return home.
We have gathered here to celebrate the graduates’ send-off as you prepare to return home to grow your enterprises—women invest upwards of 90% in their family and community—and you share the skills and knowledge you have obtained with other female entrepreneurs. This is a great responsibility that you bear. You have a great deal to share– lessons in financing and marketing, management skills and business strategy development.
All are important lessons, necessary to turn the dreams of your fellow entrepreneurs into reality. But there’s another lesson that I urge you to bring back home with you – and that lesson is that we are all in this together.
3,494 miles separate Rwanda from Afghanistan. I can imagine that when you were first selected to participate in the Peace Through Business program, that must have seemed like an awfully large distance – and not just in terms of geography. The differences are considerable and varied – in language, dress, religion and customs. You might have wondered what, if anything, you shared in common with some of your fellow participants.
So where have you found common ground? The daughters of both Rwanda and Afghanistan have been forced to grow up all too fast, raised in the legacy of horrendous war and violence. No one in either country has been unaffected by the legacy of fighting. Both nations have experienced a terrible void left by so many being killed or forced to flee to safety.
And in both places, it has been ordinary women who have stepped up in an extraordinary fashion to lead the way to progress.
In the wake of the tragedy that unfolded in 1994, women and girls made up 70 percent of the population of Rwanda. With a pressing need to rebuild itself, Rwanda could no longer afford to tolerate the discrimination endured by so many generations of women in the past. Doors that had been shut for far too long were suddenly open to women. Girls who did not dare dream of lives outside the home now have jobs. Rwanda leads the world in political representation for females – at 56%, the highest percentage of women in Parliament of any country on Earth and the first to hold a majority. Rwanda has proven why eliminating gender disparities in elected representatives is so crucial, as female representatives have led the way on landmark legislation: reforming laws on sexual violence, property rights and family law.
Rwanda has rightfully been commended for its efforts to institutionalize the role of women in decision making. It has implemented “women’s councils” and “women only elections” to ensure representation. It has established a Ministry for Gender and Women in Development, with the mandate to install gender posts at all levels of governance. It is including the role of women and girls in the long view, incorporating a national gender framework into its Vision 2020 road map for growth. The Rwandan government has set forth a Girls’ Education policy in recognition of the critical importance of ensuring that our young women are in the classroom where they belong. Altogether 97% of both boys and girls in Rwanda attend primary school and girls comprise a full 50 % of students enrolled in college.
Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, the women of Afghanistan have made their own significant advances toward greater equality. It was the women of Afghanistan who were instrumental in weaving women’s’ rights into the fabric of the 2004 Constitution. Now more women are returning to work. Women have been appointed to government ministries, serve as diplomats and today comprise a quarter of the parliament, with a record number of women standing for office in recent years – including Taj Sirat and Rahela Kaveer, two extraordinary leaders who this program can be honored to call alumni.
You know that under the Taliban, fewer than 900,000 boys were enrolled in school and no girls. Today, more than 6.2 million students are enrolled in Afghanistan’s schools and 35 percent of them are girls.
But you know that we can’t be satisfied, not even with the progress we have seen so far. Overcoming institutionalized exclusion is a lengthy and difficult process. Domestic violence remains at unacceptably high rates in Rwanda and Afghanistan. Only an estimated 21 percent of Afghan women are literate, and the female illiteracy rate is as high as 90 percent in some of the rural areas. And although broader popular support for girls’ schooling and empowerment is building, there are still those extremists who try to impose their brutal agenda by force – whether it is by throwing acid or burning down schools, or gassing brave young women.
We see a leader in Zarha Hossainy, who maintained her grades in high school despite the extraordinary challenge of supporting ten members of her family. She went on to earn a degree in English literature from Herat University and now works with the United Nations in Kabul, when not busy with her home-based carpet weaving company.
We see a leader in Diana Mbabazi, who works a full-time job and still manages to find both the time and energy to run an agro-industrial business that seeks to reduce poverty in her district in Karongi, Rwanda by diversifying agricultural products and reducing crop cultivation.
Chantal and Diana may have grown up a continent away from Mahbooba and Zarha, but it is clear that their struggles – and their triumphs – are linked. As the Secretary of State declared in Bejing in 1995, “human rights are women’s rights” – and that is true on the streets of Kigali and Kabul alike.
These are just a few of the heroes and leaders here today—we see all leaders. The group assembled in this room represents enormous potential that has been stifled for too long in too many parts of the world. You are heading back home as women on missions – to publish online magazines geared toward women. To create the first caring retirement centers for the elderly of Rwanda. To offer specialized technology training to engineers. To establish a fitness center geared toward women. To help others tap their potential and realize their own dreams of self-actualization. And when women progress, everyone benefits: men and women, boys and girls.
The United States is committed to backing you up every step of the way. This is why President Obama and Secretary Clinton have charged the Office of Global Women’s Issues with ensuring that the rights of women are considered across the board, in all of our relationships with our partners around the world. You are the leaders because you are serving on the front lines. It isn’t easy or glamorous. But this is how change comes about – from the woman who decides that she too can be a television graphic designer or a journalist or a school administrator. When times are hard and when change seems to perpetually be an uphill battle, I hope that you will remember the faces around you today. Your fellow leaders. We are all in this together.
I hope that you have taken away from this experience the realization that if a woman is denied a loan because of her gender or denied entry to a classroom because “her place” is deemed to be elsewhere, that makes all of our lives poorer – whether in Africa or Asia or America. However differently we may dress or speak, our differences are dwarfed by the commonality of our struggles and of our humanity. That which divides us is dwarfed by that which unites us.
I have three wishes for new graduates:
That you know the happiness that comes from caring about others;
The rewards of being a visionary activist; and
Experience a world in which women and men are equal, women’s rights are understood as human rights, and women have every opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential and contribute to societies.
Clearly, you already know the happiness that comes from using your activism and your vision in service of others. Work on the third wish. I have total faith that with your leadership, we can make that dream a reality, as well. Because women’s rights are human rights and we cannot settle for anything less.
Congratulations and Godspeed.
Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. (Applause.)
Well, this is such an exciting day for all of us here at the State Department who have been working on TechWomen, and I want to welcome you as you complete this first-ever TechWomen exchange program. I want to thank Acting Under Secretary Ann Stock and everyone in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for the hard work they have done to make this so successful.
I also want to thank our partners at the Institute of International Education, which provides critical support to scholars and students from this country and many others as they forge partnerships across borders, and to the Anita Borg Institute, whose mission is one that I share – to increase the role of women in the field of technology and bring the benefits of technology to more women.
And finally, though, and most importantly, let me thank all of the women of TechWomen, the mentors and the mentees who have spent the past month exchanging ideas and expertise. I know that you’ve embarked on a continuing learning experience, forged new friendships and partnerships, and I hope that you will continue to invest in those for years to come.
Now, being a woman in the field of technology is not always easy. Being a woman in any field is not always easy – (laughter) – but there are so many opportunities in technology that we just have to forge ahead, and we’re doing so around the world because we want to make sure that all the tools that technology has made available are just as open to women as they are to men. And I also believe that innovation thrives on good ideas, and women have a lot of good ideas. And we don’t want those ideas to just die. We want them to be shared and to help others and to create businesses and jobs and improve lives. And it has a greater impact when technology has access for everyone.
So wherever you live, whether it’s in Silicon Valley or in the Middle East or North Africa, we want to support you. We want to support the software that you design, the engineering projects that you manage, the courses that you teach. We want to help you develop and apply new technologies, and we want to help you spread the word about what is available for all people.
Now, we see the impact of new technologies every day. We’re working with farmers in many parts of the world who are now using mobile phones to find the best prices for their crops. We’re working with health professionals so that pregnant women and new mothers can get good advice about how to care for their newborns via text messages. We’re working with students so that they can learn English through mobile language apps. And we’re working with civil society so that you can use the internet to uncover corruption and advocate more effectively for political and economic reform.
So we’re excited about the role of technology, and we want to help facilitate your use of it. Here in the State Department, we do what we call 21st century statecraft. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we are trying to use technology to open up doors that are otherwise closed. And so for example, last week in Lithuania, Alec Ross, who is here and heading up a lot of our efforts along with his great team, convened what we call a tech camp. Now, a tech camp is an opportunity to bring together dozens of civil society activists, human rights defenders, NGO leaders from many different societies. These particularly were from former Soviet states like Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and others, because they’re interested in using the internet and connection technologies to forge political change, and to give people a voice who might otherwise not have one. And what we believe is that technology can be a great facilitator. It can also be used by governments and others to prevent people from being able to communicate.
So we have to stay a step ahead so that people are never deprived of their opportunity, as we saw how important that was in both Tunisia and Egypt over the last months. We’re seeing it in many other settings as well. And we want to help you really fulfill your own God-given potential, however you define that, by using technology as one of the many tools for enhancing relationships, building businesses, creating greater opportunities.
I also think it’s important that these conversations that you have begun this past month continue, and we hope that you will reach out to women and girls back home who can benefit from what you have experienced, because the world needs your contributions, and I know that each of you has such great potential.
So our work is just beginning together and we want to hear from you. I welcome you to stay in touch with us and to offer your suggestions, your recommendations, your constructive criticism, because we’re trying to create this opportunity, but then we’re going to step back and we’re going to expect each and every one of you to really carry on as you decide is best.
And in order to do more to encourage innovation and promote the spread of new technologies to give women and girls the support that they need to become leaders in this field, I’m very pleased to announce a new program that we will launch next year that will complement the TechWomen program. We’re calling it TechGirls and it will bring teenage girls – (applause) – from the Middle East and North Africa for an intensive month of educational activities here in the United States. And since it seems like technology is evolving so fast, we actually think having this opportunity for young women is as important as having it for more mature women, because I think there’s a creativity that can be generated by doing that.
We will look to you, the first class of TechWomen, to help us really make this program a success. I am so honored to join you in this effort. As Ann Stock said, I believe wholeheartedly in the universal rights of all people. One of my heroines, Eleanor Roosevelt, was one of the people back in the late 1940s who worked to write the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. At the time, that was passed unanimously at the beginning of the United Nations. And we’ve seen a lot of progress, but unfortunately, not in every place and not for everyone.
And the 21st century is in many ways the time when women and girls should be fully embraced to be given their universal human rights no matter who they are or where they live. And we have this wonderful new invention that Eleanor Roosevelt could never have imagined, known as the internet, where people can talk across thousands of miles, where they can learn from long distance learning, where they can come up with ideas and share them with people next door or people on the next continent. It has so much potential for unleashing the creativity and building the opportunity that is at the root of any successful society and that should be available to every person.
So I’m thrilled that you are the pioneers, those of you who are the first TechWomen. And those who are the mentors, I thank you for taking time out of your own very busy schedule. I know how challenging it is still today to be a woman in technology in my own country. I look at my friend Lorraine Hariton, who came out of Silicon Valley after having been so successful.
So we know that there’s work to be done here at home as well as around the world, but we think the opportunities are almost unimaginable. So we congratulate you for having the imagination to come here for a month. And I know how exciting it will be to go home and to see your families and your friends and talk about what you’ve done. And I want you to know that we will continue to work with you, we will continue to support you, and we will continue to look for ways that we can empower women and girls through technology.
Thank you all very much.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chipman, and thanks to all of you for being here today. I also wish to acknowledge and thank Mr. Ronnie Chan, chairman of the Asia Society, and Mr. Norman Chan, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
And I am so pleased to be here and to have this opportunity to speak with you today, and it was made possible by the U.S., Hong Kong, and Macau chambers of commerce and the Asia Society. And I thank the chamber very much on a personal level for its support of the U.S. Pavilion at the Shanghai Expo. I have been called the mother of the pavilion, which is actually one of the nicer things I’ve been called – (laughter) – during my very long public career.
And I am delighted to be back in Hong Kong, a city I have admired ever since I first visited about 30 years ago when my husband, who was then governor of Arkansas, led the first ever trade mission to East Asia from our small state. Hong Kong stood out then, as it does today, as a symbol of the open exchange of goods and ideas. People were drawn to this place from every part of the world, even far away Arkansas, as evidenced by a good friend of ours from Arkansas, Nancy Hernreich Bowen, who is here with us today.
Now, since that time, Hong Kong has changed a great deal. Certainly, the skyline attests to that. And after all, few things have stood still in East Asia. But one thing about Hong Kong has not changed – the principles that find a home here. Under the “one country, two systems” policy, this remains a city that bridges East and West and looks outward in all directions, a place where ideas become businesses, where companies compete on the merits, and where economic opportunity is palpable and real for millions of people, a place that defines the fierce and productive economic competition of our time.
That is why businessmen and women continue to flock to Hong Kong, and an opportunity to meet some of the Americans who have called Hong Kong home for 20, 25, even 30 years. And it is why I have come here today to talk about how the nations of this region and the United States can intensify our economic partnership on behalf of ourselves, each other, and the world, and how together we can work toward a future of prosperity and opportunity for people everywhere.
But before I talk about where we need to go together, let’s consider how far we’ve come. The economic rise of the Asia Pacific region is an astonishing historic achievement that is reshaping our world today and into the future. In Hanoi, bicycles and water buffalo have given way to motorcycles and internet cafes. Small Chinese fishing villages like Shenzhen have become megacities with their own stock exchanges. And while much work remains to improve labor practices and expand access to the formal economies, the numbers tell a powerful story.
Thirty years ago when I first came to Hong Kong, 80 percent of the people of this region lived on less than $1.25 a day. By 2005, that number had dropped to 20 percent. In the Lower Mekong Region countries, per capita GAP has more than tripled in the last 20 years. And in Thailand alone, the poverty rate fell from 42 percent in 1988 to 8 percent today. Never in history have so many people climbed so far, so fast.
And though this progress is largely due to the hard work and ingenuity of the people of Asia themselves, we in the United States are proud of the role we have played in promoting prosperity. Of course, we helped Japan and South Korea rebuild, patrolled Asia’s sea lanes to preserve freedom of navigation, promoted global shipping, and supported China’s membership in the WTO. Along with our treaty allies – Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and Philippines, and other key partners like New Zealand and Singapore – we have underwritten regional security for decades, and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth.
And the U.S. continues to contribute to Asia’s growth as a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits Asia’s companies, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, an advocate for universal human rights, and a guarantor of stability and security across the Asia Pacific. The Obama Administration has made a comprehensive commitment to reinvigorate our engagement as a Pacific power – shoring up alliances and friendships, reaching out to emerging partners, and strengthening multilateral institutions.
These efforts reflect our optimism and enthusiasm for what is happening in Asia today. Of course, countries in this region are grappling with challenges. We all are. But we are bullish on Asia’s future, and while the United States is facing its own difficulties, make no mistake: We are bullish on America’s future too.
America remains an opportunity society – a place to excel, a country of possibility and mobility where a brilliant idea hatched in a college dorm room or a product invented in a garage can find a global market and grow into a multibillion dollar company. Our workers are the world’s most productive. Our inventors hold the most patents. And today, we are reinvesting in our fundamentals – infrastructure, clean energy, health, and education. And we are doing the critical work of shoring up our financial system so that it protects investors and curbs excesses.
Now, as I have traveled around the region, a lot of people have asked me about how the United States is going to resolve our debt ceiling challenge. Well, let me assure you we understand the stakes. We know how important this is for us and how important it is for you. The political wrangling in Washington is intense right now. But these kinds of debates have been a constant in our political life throughout the history of our republic. And sometimes, they are messy. I well remember the government shutdown of the 1990s; I had a front row seat for that one. But this is how an open and democratic society ultimately comes together to reach the right solutions. So I am confident that Congress will do the right thing and secure a deal on the debt ceiling, and work with President Obama to take the steps necessary to improve our long-term fiscal outlook. Through more than a century of growth, the American economy has repeatedly shown its strength, its resilience, and its unrivaled capacity to adapt and reinvent itself. And it will keep doing so.
As we pursue recovery and growth, we are making economics a priority of our foreign policy. Because increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And so the United States is working to harness all aspects of our relationships with other countries to support our mutual growth. This is an issue I recently addressed at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and will again in a larger speech about America’s strategic and economic choices this fall. But economic issues have been front and center in my travels during the past two weeks – to Greece, which is working to put itself back on the path to economic stability, and to four rising centers of economic growth: Turkey, India, Indonesia, and then China.
Now, naturally, much of our economic diplomacy is focused on East Asia and the Pacific. The American Chamber in Hong Kong represents 1,200 companies, and thousands more looking to this region for new customers and markets. Last year, American exports to Hong Kong totaled $26 billion – that’s more than the Indonesian export amount of $20 billion — and our exports to the Pacific Rim were $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs.
Now, numbers like these reflect how closely America’s future is linked to the future of this region. And the reverse is true as well. Because the future of the Asia-Pacific is linked to America’s. We are a resident power in Asia—not only a diplomatic or military power, but a resident economic power. And we are here to stay.
Now, while the U.S. economy and those in the Asia-Pacific are well positioned to grow together, our success — neither of ours — is preordained. Prosperity is not a birthright, it’s an achievement. And whether we achieve it will be determined by how we answer a defining question of our time: How do we turn a generation of growth in this region into a century of shared prosperity?
The United States approaches this question with great humility, and with hard-won lessons learned from overcoming difficult economic challenges throughout our history.
We must start with the most urgent task before us: realigning our economies in the wake of the global financial crisis. This means pursuing a more balanced strategy for global economic growth – the kind that President Obama and President Hu Jintao have embraced, and the G20 is promoting.
This demands rigorous reform by all nations, including the United States and the countries of Asia. We in the United States are in the middle of a necessary transition: we must save more and spend less. And we must not only save more and spend less, we must borrow less, as well. Our partners must meet this change with changes of their own. There is no way around it: Long-term growth requires stronger and broader-based domestic demand in today’s high-saving Asian economies. This will raise living standards across the region, create jobs in America, improve business for many in this room, and help stabilize the global economy.
For years, my image of the global economy was an inverted pyramid resting on the shoulders of American women, since we are the primary consumers in the world. And therefore, it seems to me that that is no longer a sustainable model. And so we have to change how we do business internally and externally. And, above all, we must reach agreement on the rules and principles that will anchor our economic relationships in the coming decades.
Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition. And these are very simple concepts, easy to say, hard to do: open, free, transparent, and fair. Hong Kong is helping to give shape to these principles and is showing the world their value.
First, we must seek an open system where any person anywhere can participate in markets everywhere.
Second, we must seek a free system, one in which ideas, information, products and capital can flow unimpeded by unnecessary or unjust barriers. That is why President Obama has mobilized a government-wide effort to attract foreign investment to America. Now, in the past, foreign investment has been seen as controversial. But today we know it helps create growth and jobs, and it can attract American dollars held overseas back into the U.S. economy. As we welcome investors to our country, we hope that all investors, including those from America, will receive an enthusiastic welcome overseas.
Third, we must seek a transparent economic system. Rules and regulations need to be developed out in the open through consultation with stakeholders. They must be known to all and applied equally to all. Hong Kong is a testament to the power of transparency, good governance, the rule of law, freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, and a vibrant civil society, all of which help to explain why so many people choose to do business here.
Openness, freedom and transparency contribute to the fourth principle we must ensure: fairness. Fairness sustains faith in the system. That faith is difficult to sustain when companies are forced to trade away their intellectual property just to enter or expand in a foreign market, or when vital supply chains are blocked. These kinds of actions undermine fair competition, which turns many off from competing at all.
A growing number of countries in Asia are proving the value of these principles. And the United States deeply believes in them, because their value has been proven time and again, not only in times of prosperity but also in times of hardship, as well. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving commentary around the world on the idea of America’s economic decline. That seems to be a theme that kind of repeats itself every couple of decades. But all the while, then and now, these principles were nurturing a system of entrepreneurship and innovation that allowed two college students to found a small tech startup called Microsoft. And today, they are helping power companies like Solyndra, a green-energy startup in California that began producing solar panels in 2007 and now installs them in more than 20 countries worldwide.
Every time in history when the United States has experienced a downturn, we’ve overcome it through reinvention and innovation. Now, these capacities are not unique or innate to the people of the United States. They are activated by our economic model, which we work hard to keep open, free, transparent, and fair, a model that has its imperfections but remains the most powerful source of prosperity known to humankind.
Of course, no nation is perfect when it comes to safeguarding these principles, including my own. We all recognize the temptation to bend them. And we all recognize the inevitability of human nature’s capacity to look for ways around them. Some nations are making short-term gains doing that. Some developing countries—admirably focused on fighting poverty—might be slow to implement at home the same rules they benefit from abroad. And a number of nations, wealthy in the aggregate but often poorer per capita, might even think the rules don’t apply to them.
In fact, all who benefit from open, free, transparent, and fair competition have a vital interest and a responsibility to follow the rules. Enough of the world’s commerce takes place with developing nations, that leaving them out of the rules-based system would render the system unworkable. And that, ultimately, that would impoverish everyone.
The businessmen and women of Asia seek the benefits that these principles offer. Malaysian manufacturers want access to markets overseas. Indian firms want fair treatment when they invest abroad. Chinese artists want to protect their creations from piracy. Every society seeking to develop a strong research and technology sector wants intellectual property protections because, without them, innovation comes with a much higher risk and fewer rewards. People everywhere want to have the chance to spend their earnings on products from other places, from refrigerators to iPods.
Now, these four principles are easily uttered and embraced, but they do not implement themselves. So our challenge is always to translate them into practice. And my country is hard at work doing that, and we encourage other governments to join us in this effort.
The United States is taking steps to promote these principles around the world through multilateral and regional institutions, new trade agreements, and outreach to new partners, to enlist us all in the quest for inclusive, sustainable growth. These steps are connected to and build upon the work we are doing to revitalize our own economy.
First, we are working through regional and international institutions to achieve balanced, inclusive, and sustainable growth. That starts with our commitment to APEC, the premier organization for pursuing economic integration and growth in the Asia-Pacific region. And President Obama is pleased to be the chair and host of APEC this year in Hawaii.
We want APEC to address next-generation trade and competition challenges, like strengthening global supply chains; empowering smaller companies to connect to global markets; promoting market-driven, non-discriminatory innovation policy. We are pursuing a low-carbon agenda by working to reduce barriers to trade in clean-energy technologies, and we hope to reach agreement on implementing transparency principles to promote economic growth and the rule of law on a 21st century field of play.
Because burdensome regulations and incompatible sets of rules in different countries can hold back trade and growth every bit as much as tariffs, we are also working at APEC to find common ground on transparent, effective regulation, with broader public consultation and better coordination. The quality of the rules we put in place is just as important as our willingness to enforce them.
And I have to mention that discrimination against women is another barrier to fair competition and economic growth. A 2007 United Nations study found that the Asia-Pacific loses at least $58 billion of economic output every year because of restrictions on women’s access to employment and gender gaps in education. So, as host of APEC, we are organizing a high-level Summit on Women and the Economy in San Francisco this September.
We are also working though the World Trade Organization to address continuing challenges to fair competition. Take government procurement. The purchases that governments make represent an important part of the global economy, and citizens everywhere deserve to know that their governments are getting the best product at the best prices. Consistent with the WTO Government Procurement Agreement that we signed, America lets companies from other nations who have signed that same agreement compete for appropriate American Government contracts. We would naturally expect countries that want access to our government contracts to offer our companies genuine access to theirs in return.
Across the full spectrum of international institutions—the G8 and G20, the IMF, OECD, ILO, WTO, and others—we are working to level playing fields and encourage robust and fair economic activity. Just as the WTO eliminated harmful tariffs in the 1990s, today we need institutions capable of providing solutions to new challenges, from some activities of state-owned enterprises to the kinds of barriers emerging behind borders.
We also support innovative partnerships that develop norms and rules to address these new concerns. We should build on the model of the Santiago Principles on sovereign wealth funds, which were negotiated jointly by host governments, recipient governments, the World Bank, IMF, OECD, and the sovereign funds themselves. This code of conduct governing sovereign investment practices has reassured stakeholders – investor nations, recipient nations, and the private sector. And it may prove a useful model for other shared challenges, like ensuring that state-owned companies and enterprises compete on the same terms as private companies.
As a second step, we are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement, or KORUS, will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea’s economy grow by 6 percent. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers to reaching new customers.
But this trade deal isn’t simply about who pays what tariff at our borders. It is a deeper commitment to creating conditions that let both our nations prosper as our companies compete fairly. KORUS includes significant improvements on intellectual property, fair labor practices, environmental protection and regulatory due process.
And let me add that the benefits of KORUS extend beyond the economic bottom line. Because this agreement represents a powerful strategic bet. It signals that America and South Korea are partners for the long term—economically, diplomatically, people to people. So, for all these reasons, President Obama is pursuing congressional approval of KORUS, together with necessary Trade Adjustment Assistance, as soon as possible. He is also pursuing passage of the Colombia and Panamanian Free Trade Agreements as well.
Now, we have learned that, in our system, getting trade deals right is challenging, painstaking work. But it’s essential. We consider KORUS a model agreement. Asian nations have signed over 100 bilateral trade deals in less than a decade, but many of those agreements fall short on key protections for businesses, workers, and consumers. There are a lot of bells and whistles, but many of the hard questions are glossed over or avoided.
Beyond that, there is now a danger of creating a hodgepodge of inconsistent and partial bilateral agreements which may lower tariffs, but which also create new inefficiencies and dizzying complexities. A small electronics shop, for example, in the Philippines might import alarm clocks from China under one free trade agreement, calculators from Malaysia under another, and so on—each with its own obscure rules and mountains of paperwork—until it no longer even makes sense to take advantage of the trade agreements at all. Instead, we should aim for true regional integration.
That is the spirit behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the so-called TPP, which we hope to outline by the time of APEC in November, because this agreement will bring together economies from across the Pacific—developed and developing alike—into a single trading community.
Our goal for TPP is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe the TPP needs to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. It should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains.
We are working to ensure that the TPP is the first trade pact designed specifically to reduce barriers for small and medium-sized enterprises. After all, these are the companies that create most of the world’s jobs, but they often face significant challenges to engaging in international trade. So, the TPP aims to ensure fair competition, including competitive neutrality among the state-owned and private enterprises.
The idea is to create a new high standard for multilateral free trade, and to use the promise of access to new markets to encourage nations to raise their standards and join. We are taking concrete steps to promote regional integration and put ourselves on a path over time to bring about a genuine Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific.
Finally, we need to pursue strategies for achieving not just growth, but sustainable, inclusive growth. Now, it is a maxim of mine that foreign policy must deliver results for people. Because ultimately, our progress will not be measured by profit margins or GDP, but by the quality of people’s lives – whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation’s futures.
The United States supports a number of endeavors to promote inclusive growth in the region. Our Millennium Challenge Corporation, for example, makes large-scale investments in partner countries to reduce poverty through growth. We have a compact with the Philippines to invest in roads, community development projects, and more effective tax collection. We are negotiating a compact with Indonesia to promote low carbon development, and we began a threshold partnership with Timor-Leste earlier this year to fight corruption and improve children’s health.
Across the region, we are partnering with governments to encourage and help them uphold their commitments to inclusive growth by practicing good governance, providing public goods like health and education, and creating tax systems that improve revenue collection and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. We are supporting civil society and citizens alike in holding governments accountable, supplying job training and networking, and being a strong voice for bringing opportunity to places where it is scarce.
And we are working very closely with the private sector. Two years ago, I created a Global Partnership Initiative to support a new generation of public-private partnerships focused on everything from protecting and developing the Lower Mekong region to helping more families gain access to clean cookstoves, to protect them from the harmful smoke that kills two million people worldwide every year, and puts black soot carbon into the atmosphere.
We also launched the Global Entrepreneurship Program, to identify promising entrepreneurs, training them, linking them with mentors and potential investors, advocating for supportive policies and regulations, helping spread best practices. And we are supporting initiatives like Partners for a New Beginning, which supports economic opportunity, education, science and technology exchanges between the United States and Muslim communities worldwide, and we just opened a chapter in Indonesia.
We are connecting entrepreneurs with Diaspora communities in the United States that are eager to help fund new projects in countries where they have family ties. And we are looking to the private sector to help us. There are so many ways that we are grateful to the private sector. After all, it drives what we are talking about today. But we do need to try to consider, even within the constraints of modern financial practices and expectations, not just short-term benefits but long-term consequences. The work that each of you do in your businesses can help lift people’s lives, promote human rights and dignity, and create new markets, creating a virtuous cycle. Or it can further ensnare people in poverty and environmental degradations, creating a vicious cycle.
So that’s our agenda, and you can see why I’ve come to Hong Kong to talk about it, because here, we have a perfect example of what can be done and how important it is to lead in the economic realm with the kind of principles that Hong Kong has developed on. Now, we know very well that the future is arriving at a breathtaking pace, and the choices we make today will define what is possible economically for so many millions of people
And so while the specifics are forever changing, many of the ideals that guided us in the 20th century are the same ones we need to embrace in the 21st – a belief that a good idea is a good idea no matter where it comes from or from whom, a willingness to embrace change, a culture driven by marriage, faith in the notion that a rising tide of economic growth and innovation can improve everyone’s quality of life whether they live in Hong Kong or Appalachia. It is up to us to translate those enduring principles into common practice, shared prosperity, the opportunity for as many people as possible on both sides of the Pacific to live up to their God-given potential.
And what is standing in the way of achieving that vision? Well, there are many issues and challenges we can enumerate, but ultimately, it comes down to leadership – leadership in both the public and the private sector. We were blessed over the last part of the 20th century with farsighted and effective leaders in many parts of the world, leaders who set the rules that created the economic growth that we enjoyed in the 20th century, leaders who changed course in their own nations and catalyzed the extraordinary growth that we have seen in a country like China, leaders who had visions, private sector leaders who were able to look over the horizon and understand the consequences of not just this quarter’s results but the decades. We need that leadership again. We need it everywhere. And we need it both in governments and in business. That’s why the partnership between the public and private sectors is so essential.
Sitting in the office of the Secretary of State and knowing that I’m here in this position after so many luminaries in my own country have held it, it is a very humbling experience. And I often marvel at what they achieved. And I think a lot about George Marshall and Harry Truman and the Marshall Plan. What an amazing decision – to rebuild former enemies with an eye toward the future. And I think about it in very personal terms, because at the end of World War II, my late father had served in the Navy, so when he left service as so many men of that time did and returned to private life, the last thing he wanted to hear his president or secretary of State say was, “Guess what? We’re going to still be taxing you to send money to Germany, to Europe. We’re going to rebuild Japan because we believe it is in the best interests of your children.”
But it wasn’t only our public leadership who sounded that note. It was also our business leadership as well who basically said, “Okay, we get it. And we’re willing to do our part as well.” In fact, when support for the program was flagging, the White House and the State Department called the heads of large corporations and universities and asked them to fan out across the United States making the case. So the United States invested $13 billion over four years, which in today’s money would be about 150 billion.
Imagine leaders today in either government or business going to their people and saying something similar. When the Berlin Wall fell, Helmut Kohl said, “We’re going to pay what it takes to reunify Germany and we’re going to rebuild our neighbors because the wall is gone,” and people said, “Oh, what a incredible investment of our money. We won; we should be the ones getting all the benefits.” But no; it was a decision that was supported by both government and business.
We face a lot of similar challenges today, and we need visionary leaders in both government and business. But those leaders need to be guided by these principles. Whether we’re talking about politics or economics, openness, transparency, freedom and fairness stand the test of time. And in the 21st century, every citizen who is now potentially connected with everyone else in the world will not sit idly by if those principles do not deliver, and if governments and business do not make good on when we’ll provide long-term opportunity for all.
This agenda is good for Asia, it’s good for America, it’s good for business. Most importantly, it’s good for people. And I absolutely believe it will help us create more a peaceful, stable, and prosperous world for the rest of this century. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
U.S. Ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Initiatives Melanne Verveer visited a group of 18 women entrepreneurs in a poor Jakarta community. These women had started or expanded their businesses with U.S. guaranteed micro-financing loans. The women operate small businesses, ranging from a goat farm to a store that sells basic food items. Most are businesses that the women run from their homes.
“These women are great examples of how a small amount of financing can spark the entrepreneurial spirit and empower women,” explained Ambassador Verveer.
Ambassador Verveer visited the women entrepreneurs during a two-day visit to Jakarta. She also met with women businessmen and civil society activists. Support for women entrepreneurs is part of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in November 2010.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a four-year, $13 million loan portfolio guarantee with PT Bank Andara last year to stimulate more loans to small rural bank and non-bank financial institutions. These institutions, in turn, provide loans to Indonesian micro and small enterprises that serve the needs of the poor in Indonesia. USAID agreed to guarantee a loan portfolio of up to $6.5 million.
Bank Andara is loaning to microfinance institutions that they consider pro-poor. Such institutions are comprised of women and youth groups, farmers and disadvantage individuals. Bank Perkreditan Rakyat (BPR) is one such bank. The BPR has 3,704 women borrowers which represents 76% of their total customer base. The amount of the average loan to a woman is about 3 million IDR (est. $350 USD) usually to support small stores set up before their homes.
USAID anticipates that this program will provide positive examples to spur larger commercial banks to target microfinance and microenterprises and begin to lend to these potential clients.
In the harsh climate of the rural Afar region of Ethiopia, DRL supports Project Concern International to promote women’s economic empowerment and protect women’s and girls’ rights. In mostly Muslim and pastoralist communities, over 750 community leaders, comprised equitably of both men and women, have received training on community mobilization techniques, the importance of girls’ education, and diminishing harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriages. The project has had a remarkable impact in the target region and has led to a 60% reduction in the performance of harmful traditional practices; a 10% increase in sustained school attendance by female students; and a 30% increase in women’s participation in community dialogue and mobilization efforts. The program continues to protect women’s rights and seeks to reach over 9,000 beneficiaries.