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Secretary Clinton: At the Launch of a Global Partnership on Maternal and Child Health

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
The Ronald Reagan Building

Washington, DC

March 9, 2011


SECRETARY CLINTON: Good morning, everyone. What a wonderful way to start my day, to be here with all of you and talking about something which is so important. It goes, for me, without saying, but it’s nice to hear it said over and over again that America’s commitment to saving lives at birth and meeting the great challenges of development is not only the right thing to do, and derived from our moral obligations, but it is the smart, strategic decision to make as well.

And so I want to thank Raj for his leadership. It is a joy working with him, watching him lead, watching him bring the AID community together on behalf of the changes that are critically necessary in order to produce those results that we are all seeking. And I also am delighted to be here with Melinda, someone whom I admire so much, who has really rolled up her sleeves in every way imaginable to be a great champion for women and children, and to keep preaching the goal of innovation in order to maximize the impact of everything we do in the lives of those whom we serve.

It is, for me, a great honor to be a partner in this collaboration. I want to thank Dr. John Holdren, the President’s science advisor, for being here and for lending his support to AID’s innovation agenda. I want to thank Peter Singer from Grand Challenges Canada. It’s a real delight to be working with our Canadian friends on this matter as well as everything else that we partner on around the world. I want to thank Tore Godal from the Government of Norway, one of our strongest partners on every single imaginable cause, and we turn to Norway, which punches way above its weight all the time. I want to thank Tamar Atinc from the World Bank.

And as you look at the list of those organizations you’ll be hearing from in a minute, you can see that this truly is a collaboration, and that is how we think development has to be done going forward. We don’t want to be duplicating the good work of Canada or Norway. We don’t want to be just repeating what the Gates Foundation does so successfully. We want to coordinate so that we can have a better outcome from all of the efforts that we bring to the table.

So I’m delighted to be here during International Women’s Week to help launch Saving Lives At Birth, the first Grand Challenge for Development. I believe this partnership will spark revolutionary advances that can dramatically reduce maternal and newborn deaths around the world.

Now, you may have noticed there’s a lot going on in the world right now, and you don’t exactly see global health leading the nightly news. But it should be, because improving the health of people around the world isn’t separate or distinct from our foreign policy goals. Many of you have heard me say this over and over again, I’ve come here to AID and said it, I’ve said it on the Hill, I certainly say it all the time at the State Department and in the White House, but I can’t say it often enough, because I see it so clearly, it to me is absolutely the case that we must make. It is essential to our foreign policy goals and to advancing our national security. We invest in global health to strengthen fragile or failing states. We have seen the devastating impact that AIDS has on countries stripped of their farmers, their teachers, their soldiers, their health workers, their professionals, as well as leaving behind millions of orphaned and vulnerable children.

We see the impact that investing in global health has as it promotes social and economic progress and helps the rise of partners who can then turn around and work with us to solve regional and global problems, from climate change to violent extremism. And none of us needs to be reminded, I hope, of how quickly disease can spread in a world where every day, thousands of people step on an airplane in one continent and get off on another.

Now of course, there’s another reason why we do invest in global health. It is a powerful expression of who we are as Americans. It is simply unacceptable that millions and millions of people, women and children, die from conditions that we know how to prevent in a cost-effective way. So the Obama Administration has made a priority of improving health.

We are building on the work started by President Bush with the bipartisan support of Congress on HIV and malaria. We are increasing investments through our Global Health Initiative which sets ambitious new targets for progress and focuses our funding on the areas where we believe we can have the most impact. We’re intensely focused, as Raj has eloquently advocated, on reforms that deliver better results for less money, because we know in the 21st century our old approaches, as Melinda said, are not adequate. And it is somewhat ironic that in a time when 2 billion people have cell phones, we’re still kind of going along in the horse and buggy. We cannot permit that to continue.

Raj and his team – and there are a number of you here today – have put a special focus on advances in science and technology, breakthrough ideas that will drive down the cost of delivery and make it possible to reach more people and save more lives than ever before. We want to focus the world’s best researchers and thinkers on some of the toughest challenges.

Now, as all of you know, one of the toughest challenges is maternal and newborn health. It was wonderful hearing Raj talk about his newborn son, who joined his brother and his sister. But in the developing world, birth can be terrifying because the onset of labor begins a very risky period for both the mother and her baby. Every year, some 358,000 women die during childbirth – 1.2 million stillbirths and nearly a million more newborn deaths in just the first 48 hours after birth. So we’ve seen some progress, but those numbers are still shockingly high. I don’t want to live in a world where nearly 1,000 women die in childbirth every day. Every woman, whoever she is, wherever she lives, should be able to give birth without the fear she’s going to lose her baby or that her baby will lose her mother.

Now, to reach the kind of scale quickly that we’re talking about, we cannot solely rely on the traditional path of development – building roads, infrastructure, hospitals; training highly skilled doctors and nurses – because many of these deaths happen in the hardest to reach places, where there’s no reliable electricity or even clean water. We need new ideas that chart a different course, and here are some of those ideas of breakthroughs that we are focused on.

One breakthrough could help more women give birth with a skilled attendant. The evidence is clear that having a skilled attendant present during delivery greatly increases the chances of survival. Unfortunately, many women go without because they can’t afford to pay the attendant. But in Kenya and Uganda, government health agencies already offer women low-cost paper vouchers that subsidize this critical care. But we could reach far more women if we could distribute those vouchers via text messages. By harnessing the powerful ubiquitous development platform that Raj talked about, we could dramatically expand the reach of care, giving any woman with a cell phone the chance to deliver her child safely.

Another breakthrough could dramatically reduce birth asphyxia, problems with breathing that account for more than a quarter of the newborns who die at birth. Resuscitating a newborn can be a very delicate procedure, requiring significant training. So USAID and the National Institutes of Health partnered with Laerdal Medical to design and deliver a cheap resuscitation device that can be used with minimal training to help a newborn take her first breaths. This resuscitation device and the cell phone vouchers are the kind of simple, low-cost solutions that can become ubiquitous and make childbirth so much healthier.

We want to generate dozens of these out-of-the-box ideas. We’ve identified some of the biggest barriers. Through the Savings Lives At Birth Grand Challenge, we’re calling on the inventors and innovators, creative thinkers, whoever they are and whatever their expertise, to help us get beyond the barriers. Now, we’re not interested in technology for its own sake. We will target our funding toward advances that can work in the developing world. They have to be affordable, sustainable, and scalable in even the most remote villages. It might be a way to use cell phones to keep mothers up to date on the best ways to care for their babies and themselves, or a new method for recruiting, training, and paying community health workers, or a new system for identifying pregnant women with severe complications and creating a transportation network to take them to a clinic or hospital. We’re looking for dramatic impact that could increase access to healthcare for women and newborns by at least 50 percent. That is an ambitious goal, but that’s what makes it a Grand Challenge.

And this is just the beginning. There are so many other ways that we can benefit development through breakthroughs in science and technology. Imagine our collective wisdom working to provide lighting for the millions of people who live in darkness off the electric grid, or to educate children who will never, at this point in their lives, step foot inside a schoolhouse. So over the next two years, we’ll be announcing a series of other Grand Challenges. And if you’re a scientist or a technology expert or a dreamer or a creator or a garage inventor, keep your ears and eyes open.

And I just want to end by following up on something Raj said. Everyone knows that we’re in a difficult budget environment. And I have been to the Hill three times, I will go again tomorrow, to make the case for our State Department and USAID budget. I feel so strongly that we are at a turning point in the rebuilding of AID. I feel that the reforms that you are implementing, the ways you’re looking to make everything from procurement to technology more cost-effective, scrubbing contracts and contractors, really deserves support from the Congress. And I am trying to make that case in every way I know. But we need all of you. We need those of you who are not only at AID, but at the Gates Foundation, at our other partners to help us make the case. Because just when we feel like we have the inputs in better order and that we are poised to really go forth in the 21st century in keeping with the 50th anniversary of AID, we’re facing tremendous budget pressures.

This is a grand challenge for us to make a case for development and to make it to everyone across the political spectrum, to make it to those who’ve long been our supporters, that we’ve got to do it differently, that we can’t do everything and be everything to everybody, and they’ve got to help us really focus this agency. And to those who have been the doubters, we need to convince them that we are in a new era of development as evidenced by this collaboration. So I’m deeply hopeful about the progress that we are making and by the revolutionary solutions in health and development that are waiting for us to capture and apply.

I really believe that we can, in this new era, help more people live up to their own God-given potential starting by helping them survive, saving their lives at birth. We cannot do it without this partnership, and we cannot do it without making the case to our friends on the Hill and the Administration and throughout the country.

The American people are a generous, giving, compassionate people. They believe that our foreign aid budget is about 20 percent of our overall budget and that all we have to do to balance the federal budget is basically eliminate foreign aid. Well, it’s our fault they believe that. That is not the fault of somebody sitting somewhere in our country who thinks that. It is our fault. We have to make the case, and it is a case we can make and convince those who care about what goes on in the rest of the world to also be our partners. Thank you very much. (Applause.)


Deputy Secretary Steinberg meets with Preside Uribe and signs Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality

Deputy Secretary James B. Steinberg met today with President Uribe at Ubérrimo Ranch.  They had a very productive meeting, during which they discussed the current state of their bilateral relationship and how they envision the relationship developing in the future.  Thereafter, Deputy Steinberg signed an Actional Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality with Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez.

Recognizing that ethnic and racial diversity has been a crucial element in the development of democratic and multicultural societies, the United States Government and Colombian Government developed the Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. This plan seeks to eliminate forms of racial and ethnic discrimination in both societies.  It focuses on sharing best practices and implementing cultural programming to address racial discrimination and related issues affecting under-represented racial and ethnic minority communities, particularly Afro-Colombians. The plan establishes a joint Steering Committee which will discuss a variety of important subjects, including: Education, Culture, Housing, Health, Employment and Labor, and Anti-discrimination legislation.

The Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality builds on the work of the 2007 Intersectorial Comission for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal People, as well as the numerous programs funded by U.S. Embassy Bogotá targeting Afro-Colombian and Indigenous populations.  Most notably, since 2008, USAID has allocated $15 million for the Productive Ethnic Territories (TEP) program to create income and employment generating activities.  The U.S. government also funds several exchange and scholarship programs in Colombia, including Martin Luther King Fellows, College Horizons, and the Fulbright Leadership Program.

During the rest of Steinberg’s visit, he will meet with Colombian government officials, civil society and human rights groups, and representatives of the private sector to determine how the bilateral relationship can be strengthened and to ensure that prosperity is broadly shared among both Colombian and U.S. citizens.


Steering Committee to advance Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality meets for the first time

The Steering Committee for the Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality between the U.S. and Colombia met for the first time at the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on June 2, 2010, to discuss progress since the Plan’s signing on January 12 during U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg’s visit to Colombia.

For the U.S. delegation, the Committee was chaired by Deputy Chief of Mission Brian A. Nichols and USAID’s Colombia Mission Director Dr. S. Ken Yamashita. The Colombian delegation was led by Deputy Foreign Minister Clemencia Forero and Deputy Minister of the Interior Vivian Manrique.

The Colombian Government outlined the objectives for the Action Plan. The U.S. presented a summary of the cultural, educational and exchange programs available for Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities. It also put forward ideas for future programs that acknowledge the objectives of the Action Plan. Both Governments agreed to summon their informal work groups to coordinate an agenda during the first session of the Plenary Group – to be held sometime in September or October – to sustain active participation of civil society organizations and the private sector.

The Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality seeks to promote cooperation, understanding, and exchange of information, providing equality of opportunity and eliminating racial and ethnic discrimination. Likewise, they are to work closely in areas already covered under bilateral initiatives and recommendations from the Intersectoral Commission for the Advancement of the Afro-Colombian, Palenquera and Raizal People; as well as many other U.S. Embassy Bogotá programs. The Plan will work to encourage and strengthen key projects such as education, culture, housing, health, work and employment, and an anti-discrimination legislation.

It is important to outline that since 2008, USAID has assigned 15 million dollars in resources to the Productive Ethnic Territories program (TEP) to develop activities that will generate income and jobs. The U.S. Government also finances several scholarship and exchange programs in Colombia, including the Martin Luther King (MLK) Fellows program, the College Horizons Initiative Program and the Fulbright Foundation’s Leadership program. 

Bogotá, D.C., June 3, 2010


The United States applauds the work of Colombian Human Rights Defenders

The United States Ambassador, William R. Brownfield, met yesterday with the President of human rights organization Fundación Antonio Restrepo Barco, Marco Cruz. The Ambassador congratulated Mr. Cruz for his work to influence policies and provide health and education assistance to Colombia’s most vulnerable populations, including children, women, the displaced, and victims of violence. The Ambassador expressed sorrow that three of the Restrepo Barco program participants had been killed in May. Ambassador Brownfield underscored the courage of human rights defenders and civil society leaders who frequently receive unwarranted threats because of their valuable work.


Secretary Clinton’s October 30-November 1 Visit to Cambodia

Secretary Clinton’s two-day trip to Cambodia October 30-November 1 highlights the United States commitment to enhanced, sustained, and comprehensive engagement in Southeast Asia, as well as our desire to assist the Cambodian people in their efforts to recover fully from decades of conflict, to achieve political and legal reforms, and to strengthen economic development. This trip is the first Secretary of State visit to Cambodia since then-Secretary Powell visited in 2003.

The United States has a strong interest in a Cambodia that contributes to regional stability, upholds democratic values, and integrates fully into the international economy. Our wide-ranging assistance programs touch on all aspects of Cambodian life and affirm these strategic interests. Secretary Clinton will encourage Cambodia to continue its recovery from conflict and its progress on democratic development. She will stress the importance of a credible opposition and respect for human rights in a stable, well-functioning democracy and highlight our interest in seeing Cambodia continue to play a constructive role in regional stability. She will also express appreciation for the country’s rich cultural heritage and underscore the critical role Cambodia’s young citizens play in the country’s future prosperity and development.

Sustained and Deep Engagement with Cambodia: Our engagement with Cambodia achieves a variety of political, security and humanitarian objectives. The United States provided Cambodia more than U.S. $70 million in foreign assistance this year, which goes to addressing issues such as human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, corruption, maternal and child health, and humanitarian mine action. Our maturing security cooperation with Cambodia represents a joint commitment to ensuring international peace and security, and continuing the transformation of the Cambodian Armed Forces into a transparent, accountable, and professional military. The U.S. partnership with the Lower Mekong Initiative is another example of how we are engaging with Cambodia to promote a multilateral response to the transnational challenges we all share, such as climate change and infectious disease.

A Democratic, Secure, and Prosperous Future for Cambodia: Our commitment to a democratic, secure, and prosperous Cambodia is reflected in the nearly $7 million we have contributed to the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (Khmer Rouge Tribunal), which seeks to bring to justice the Khmer Rouge senior leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities of the late 1970s, while also serving as a model for Cambodian rule of law, judicial independence, and national reconciliation. While in Cambodia, Secretary Clinton will visit Tuol Sleng, the former Khmer Rouge torture and interrogation center, will emphasize the need to fight corruption and improve transparency in all parts of the government, and will meet with opposition leaders to highlight the importance of a vibrant political arena where all voices are heard.

The Role of Cambodia’s Youth: The Secretary’s participation in a town hall event will provide an important opportunity to have a free-flowing discussion with Cambodia youth about challenges and opportunities facing the country, and how the United States can help. In turn, her outreach to Cambodia’s youth will promote an even better understanding of the United States and our shared values.


Announcement of New Iraqi Government

I congratulate Iraq’s political leaders on forming a new, inclusive government that respects the will of the Iraqi people, reflects the nation’s diversity, and demonstrates a commitment to democratic ideals. This government is a testament to the desire of Iraqis to settle their differences through free debate and an open exchange of ideas. Iraq’s leaders must now take the next steps to tackle the many important challenges still facing their nation and realize a brighter future for all Iraqis.

The United States will continue working with our Iraqi partners at each stage to build a strong, long-lasting relationship between our countries that promotes security and prosperity in Iraq, and stability throughout the region. Our partnership is founded on mutual respect and mutual interest as we work to achieve shared goals. With the new government in place, we look forward to expanding our economic and security relationship, promoting cooperation on science, education, and health, strengthening the rule of law and transparent governance, deepening our cultural exchanges, and improving our partnership in all the areas laid out in our Strategic Framework Agreement. We will also continue helping Iraq take up its increasing role as a constructive member of the international community.

The formation of this government is a milestone in the emergence of the new Iraq. It constitutes a resounding rejection of the extremists who sought to derail the democratic process and sow discord among Iraqis. Iraq is a great nation with a promising future, and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with the new government to help our Iraqi friends build on what they have already achieved.


Statement by the U.S. Delegation at Informal Session on Article XI-Situations of Risk and Humanitarian Circumstances

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States is pleased that one of the sessions during this year’s Conference of States Parties is devoted to Article 11′s critical focus on the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies, and natural disasters. This Article in the Convention is particularly important because it addresses necessary measures that States Parties must take in unexpected, exigent, life-and-death situations to ensure that individuals with disabilities are safe and protected. Governments across the globe are uniquely situated and have a solemn responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of their citizens in situations of risk.

The United States has a strong commitment to preparing for and responding to these situations to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities. Just last month at a celebration at the White House of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, President Barack Obama specifically recognized the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal governmental efforts to transform the way the United States’ emergency management community thinks about, plans for, responds to, and ensures persons with disabilities are protected and safe in emergency situations.

Our Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties leads the effort for the United States’ inter-agency cooperation and coordination to ensure that the federal government appropriately supports safety and security for individuals with disabilities in all-hazard, emergency and disaster situations. This effort involves the combined and concerted effort of more than twenty United States federal agencies involved in a wide array of national and international emergency situations. These federal agencies work together to ensure that the perspectives and needs of persons with disabilities are incorporated into emergency preparedness plans, and that barriers to their equal access to go governmental programs are removed. In addition, our Department of Health and Human Services oversees the United States’ Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act, which requires the development of plans and strategies that address the needs of at-risk individuals, including those with disabilities, so that emergency planners, managers, and responders will be better prepared for and respond to the needs of at-risk individuals prior to and following a catastrophic event and public health emergencies.

Our state and local governments also play a critical role, as do national and community-based organizations. The federal government partners in these efforts and our Justice Department has issued extensive guidance and practical tools to assist them in developing accessible shelters and emergency response procedures that meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

In sum, the United States takes seriously its international and domestic law obligations to protect all individuals with disabilities and to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk. We look forward to learning about and learning from the active efforts that other States Parties and signatories are taking.


Statement at Round Table I: Article 19-Living Independently and Being Included in the Community

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

The United States is extremely pleased to attend this Third Conference of States Parties and extends appreciation to the Bureau, UN-DESA, panel members, and all who worked to plan the Conference. We are also pleased that a session of this Conference is devoted to the important topic of living independently and being included in the community, which is embodied in Article 19. This is a basic right that is central to the Convention and we appreciate the opportunity to participate with others in this Round Table to discuss best practices to effectuate this right.

The United States has a strong commitment to the right of persons with disabilities to live independently and be included in the community. This commitment arose from the groundbreaking advocacy of persons with disabilities and their organizations, and resulted in the establishment of community based Independent Living Centers (ILCs), which provide supports for people to live independently in their communities, and work on policy reform, self-advocacy, and the empowerment of persons with disabilities. We now see such centers across the United States, and increasingly in other countries across the globe.

In the landmark 1999 Olmstead v. L.C decision, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the right of persons with disabilities to live in the most appropriate integrated setting. Recognizing that the Olmstead ruling was a critical step for our nation because it acknowledged that the choice to live independently is one of the most fundamental rights of Americans with disabilities, President Obama launched a Community Living Initiative on the tenth anniversary of the Olmstead decision.

By establishing a Community Living Initiative as a priority throughout government, the President has signaled the importance of living independently and being included in the community and federal and state agencies are working together to achieve the goals of Olmstead. Our Departments of Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development have a strong collaboration to provide funding and technical assistance to states to help them develop and expand the full array of community services, from housing and health care to transportation and employment. Our Department of Education provides financial support for more than 450 ILCs throughout the United States, which continue to provide independent living skills training, information and referral services, peer counseling, and individual and systems advocacy. Under both the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, additional funding and supports are available to states for innovative programs to strengthen community services for individuals with disabilities.

Our Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice and our Office for Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services, along with a network of federally funded Protection and Advocacy agencies in every state, have strong enforcement programs to ensure compliance with the right to community living. These actions have helped to ensure protection of the right of institutionalized persons to live in the community. They also have helped to ensure that persons at risk of institutionalization receive necessary supports so that they can continue to live in their communities and avoid institutionalization.

The United States is happy to engage in informal discussions with States Parties throughout this conference to provide additional information about our laws and programs related to living independently and being included in the community. In turn, we look forward to learning about and learning from the active efforts that other States Parties and Signatories are taking.


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