Restoring Human Dignity and Protecting Creation: U.S. Efforts in Global Development and the Environment

Restoring Human Dignity and Protecting Creation:
U.S. Efforts in Global Development and the Environment

Address by
James Nicholson
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See

I am very pleased to be here today and to be able to provide an American perspective on how the international community can work together to confront the vital and urgent challenges of global development and environmental protection.  I thank Antonio Gaspari and the Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum for organizing this event and for providing a forum for an open and constructive exchange of views.

Dottore Gaspari has framed our discussion around the idea of the “unsustainability of underdevelopment” and the need for action after Johannesburg.   The United States shares your view that continued underdevelopment and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor is unacceptable – politically, economically, and morally.   That is why we are committed to bringing relief to the world’s poorest people, and thereby giving them hope and dignity.

President Bush underscored the basis for this commitment earlier this year in Monterrey, Mexico, when he observed that “we fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity.  We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it.  And we fight against poverty with a growing conviction that major progress is within our reach.”

We also recognize that sound development and responsible stewardship of our planet – for all countries, rich and poor – go hand in hand.  That is why in Johannesburg we committed to taking action to meet environmental challenges – including climate change.

At the heart of the United States approach to sustainable development is the belief that successful development places responsibility on all nations.  Since the break-up of colonial empires after World War II, the United States and other donors have poured in massive assistance to developing countries.  Some countries have made great progress –such as  Singapore, South Korea, Chile, Costa Rica,  Barbados, and, recently, Mozambique.  Others have fallen into a spiral of despair – including Sierra Leone, the Congo, and Haiti.  Many others are somewhere in between.

These differences make clear that successful development is possible, and that development assistance can play a vital role in that process – but only if developing countries govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.  As the President observed, “ pouring money into a failed status quo does little to help the poor, and can actually delay the progress of reform.”

Responding to the successes and failures of the past, the President in Monterrey outlined a new American approach to development – a “new compact for development” — and backed it up with new resources  (50 percent more over the next three years).   This new approach challenges developed and developing countries alike.  To developed countries, we say that our duty is not only to share our wealth, but also to promote the values and institutions that generate wealth:  economic freedom, political liberty, private property, the rule of law, and respect for human rights.  To developing countries, we say that no amount of aid can ever be enough if they do not respect their people, open their markets, invest in better health and education, and abide by a legal system that is fair and consistent.  Insisting on reform is a challenge, but it is also a work of compassion.  For by taking the side of liberty and good government, we can restore dignity and hope to millions, defeat despair, resentment, and paranoia, and draw whole nations into an expanding circle of opportunity and enterprise.

The “new compact for development” seeks to tie increased aid directly to political and economic reforms.   The new resources the President announced in Monterrey – a fifty percent increase from our current $10 billion to $15 billion over the next three years – will go into a Millennium Challenge Account.  This account will be devoted to projects in nations that govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.  The experience of the past decades is clear:  when nations adopt reforms, each dollar of aid attracts two dollars of private investment and four times as many people can be lifted out of poverty compared to old aid practices.

We must never forget that the goal of our development aid is for countries to grow and prosper beyond the need for aid through increased private investment and trade.  Indeed, the real engine for development is not foreign aid, but the domestic and foreign investment that can create new jobs and opportunity.  Where worldwide development aid currently provides $50 billion annually to developing countries, foreign investment in these countries is four times that amount, and annual earnings from developed country exports amount to $2.4 trillion.

Trade, in fact, can have a direct impact on the economies of developing nations.  In a single year, the African Growth and Opportunity Act has increased African exports to the United States by more than 1,000 percent, generating nearly $1 billion in investment, and creating thousands of jobs.  Most developing country agricultural products enter the United States with few barriers, and we continue to work for lower barriers.  Existing agricultural subsidies are bad development policy, bad environment policy, and bad trade policy.  We are committed to further reducing subsidies and other trade barriers to developing countries, and we call on Europe to join us in this effort to negotiate the elimination or reduction of these distorting practices.

While we do so, developing countries also have to face up to their challenges in agriculture.  Over two-thirds of the world’s poor live in rural areas and three-quarters of these earn their livelihood from farming.   In Africa, however, agricultural productivity has barely increased in the last two decades, placing an unbearable strain on land and water resources to in order to meet the rising demand for food.  To respond to this challenge, developing countries need to strengthen property rights for farmers, ensure that women – who produce most food in developing countries — have a fair chance to own land and obtain access to financing, and bring new production and marketing information to farmers.

As this short overview makes clear, the development and environmental challenges before the world community are daunting:  political, economic and legal systems in need of reform, trade barriers that need to be lowered, millions of hungry people to feed, diseases to be treated and prevented, educational systems in desperate need of upgrading.

I want to assure you today, that the U.S. is committed to responding to these challenges.  In inviting me here, Dottore Gaspari asked that I review for you some of the central U.S. development initiatives announced by Secretary Powell in Johannesburg.  Before going into specifics, however, I would like to highlight the depth and breadth of the United States’ commitment to meeting the challenges of the developing world.

The United State has consistently been the world’s largest bilateral donor to the developing world.  Moreover, U.S. assistance is aimed not only at fostering economic growth, but also at creating the stability and security without which development is impossible.  Altogether, the United States provided $17.1 billion in economic and security support this past year.

The U.S. remains the world leader in humanitarian assistance and food aid, providing over $3 billion in 2000.  The U.S. contributed nearly $1 billion in 2001 in support of international peacekeeping.  We are the top importer of goods from developing countries, importing $450 billion in 2000.  This is eight times greater that all official development assistance to developing countries from all donors.  We are also the top source of private capital to developing countries, averaging $36 billion between 1997 and 2000.  Beyond governmental efforts, the American people lead the world in charitable donations to developing countries — $4 billion in 2000.   We are one of the top two providers of official development assistance, providing $10 billion in 2000, with substantial increases projected for 2001-2003  to fight HIV/AIDS, provide basic education, stimulate trade and investment, and promote agricultural improvements.

These are big numbers, which translate into action on behalf of the people in developing countries.  To do so, the Bush Administration in Johannesburg launched a series of partnerships for development aimed at transforming these resources into specific programs to address the most pressing challenges facing the people of the developing world.  These partnerships draw on the combined expertise and enterprise of governments, civil society, business, and international organizations, and are based on shared accountability among developed and developing countries.

      Some of the most critical partnerships include:  

Water for the Poor:

The United States’ “Water for the Poor” Initiative aims to expand access to clean water and sanitation services, improve watershed management, and increase the efficiency of water use in industrial and agricultural activities.  This initiative will help achieve the U.N. Millennium Declaration Goal of cutting in half by 2015 the proportion of people who lack safe drinking water, and help address growing problems such as those facing the coasts of Southeast Asia from the discharge of untreated sewage.  Under this initiative, the United States will invest $970 million over three years (2003-2005), which we hope can leverage an additional  $1.6 billion in private resources for water-related activities globally.  It was United States action that helped forge a consensus for global action for water and sanitation adopted in the Johannesburg Action Plan.

Clean Energy:

The Clean Energy Initiative seeks to provide millions of people with new access to energy services, increase the efficiency of energy use, and significantly reduce readily preventable deaths and respiratory illnesses associated with motor vehicle and indoor air pollution.  Under this initiative, the United States will invest up to $43 million in 2003 to help leverage $400 million in additional investments from other governments, the private sector and development organizations.  Participating governments will include Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Canada and the Philippines.  I might point out that the U.S. has itself pledged some $500 million for the Global Environment Fund. This Fund finances projects that promote clean and efficient energy use, conserve biodiversity, clean up international waters and phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.  The U.S. is the largest contributor to this fund.

This level of financial backing will allow new areas to be included in future projects, such as fighting land degradation, desertification and deforestation in some of the world’s poorest countries.  At the national level, the Bush administration is proposing income tax credits for the purchase of new hybrid and fuel cell vehicles, as well as for people who opt for solar energy for their residences.

Hunger in Africa:

The Initiative to Cut Hunger in Africa will spur technology sharing for small land holders, strengthen agricultural policy development, fund higher education and regional technology collaboration, and expand resources for local infrastructure in transportation, marketing and communications.  The United States will invest $90 million in 2003, including $53 million to harness science and technology for African farmers and $37 million to unleash the power of markets for smallholder agriculture.  The United States will collaborate with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), national and regional trade and science and technology organizations as well as global and African industry partners.  Initial efforts will concentrate in Uganda, Mozambique and Mali.

The U.S. is committed to being a part of the solution to hunger in Africa.  We have been the largest donor by far of humanitarian food assistance, providing as I mentioned, $3 billion in such assistance in 2000.  We have provided maize, which is I know the product of greatest interest to most consumers in that part of the world.  And while it may be a different variety to that grown traditional in Africa, we believe this food can make an extraordinarily importance contribution to the alleviation of hunger.  It is safe, nutritious — it is a food the Americans eat every single day — and we hope that we can work with our partners, especially in southern Africa, to make sure this food is distributed to the people that so desperately need it.

The United States is also supporting a private initiative launched by former Senators McGovern and Dole that seeks to promote school attendance by offering school children meals and in some cases a package of rations for their family.  Last year this program fed 12 million people in 57 countries.

For the longer term, we are working directly with African countries to improve food production capabilities.  The United States will continue to partner actively with African countries to improve agricultural productivity, and increasing harvests in countries where hunger is greatest.


The Congo Basin Forest Partnership initiative will promote economic development, alleviate poverty, improve governance and conserve natural resources in six Central African countries — Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Republic of Congo.  The United States intends to invest up to $53 million over the next four years to support sustainable forest management and a network of national parks and protected areas, and to assist local communities, matched by contributions from international environmental organizations, host governments, G-8 nations, the European Union and the private sector.


President Bush has committed the United States to help fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.  To this end, we are providing financial and technical support for the Global Fund and the International Mother and Child HIV Prevention Initiative.   U.S. bilateral programs and research will contribute to this effort.  The Bush administration has requested congressional authorization for $1,2 billion in 2003 to combat these three diseases.  These efforts will help reach the Millennium Development Goal of halting by 2015 the spread of HIV/AIDS and the scourge of malaria and other communicable diseases.  The United States is the single largest donor to the international fight against HIV/AIDS, with just over half of its support for bilateral HIV/AIDS programs going to Africa.  These projects have to date focused about 70 percent of their resources on prevention efforts.  U.S. funding of efforts to fight mother and child HIV infection has a goal of treating one million women and reducing mother-to-child transmission by 40 percent within five years.  It will target 12 countries in sub-Saharan African and the Caribbean.


The United States wholeheartedly supports debt relief for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) that have demonstrated a commitment to economic growth, economic reform, and poverty deduction.  At present, our contribution to this initiative is $920 million, but the U.S. cannot significantly reduce the debt alone.  Its success will depend on all creditors providing their share of debt relief.

In addition, the initiative will require work on the part of the indebted countries.  At the insistence of the U.S., the IMF and the World Bank developed a new approach for borrower country-led comprehensive national poverty strategies.  These strategies, prepared by national authorities, describe the country’s macroeconomic, structural and social policies and programs to promote growth and reduce poverty, as well as external financing needs and major sources of financing.  The strategies are intended to facilitate the coordination of donor funding and to guide the use of the resources freed up by debt relief.  The strategies process, which includes active participation by civil societies and consultation with creditors, is also designed to increase transparency and accountability.   Some “success stories” include Mozambique, which has committed to use debt service savings to expand the stock of basic medicines in government clinics and to increase primary school enrollment rates by 1 to 2 percentage points annually.  In Uganda, debt relief savings will be committed to lifting school fees for grade school students, and help expand Uganda’s successful HIV/AIDs awareness program.

Beyond these initiatives, the United States has also launched Partnerships on oceans, biodiversity, health, education, sustainable tourism and transport.  We are committed to increasing the number of Peace Corps volunteers over the next five years to help people at the grassroots level meet their development needs.   We are also committed to meeting the problem of global climate change through a multi-billion dollar program to develop and deploy advanced technologies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.   These include federal programs to promote the development of cleaner, more efficient technologies for electricity generation, greater use of renewable resources, more fuel-efficient motor vehicles, and reduced industrial emissions.

All of these initiatives reflect our belief that linking good governance, good policies, and regard for the environment to development assistance can put countries on a path toward a stronger, more prosperous future.  Too often in the past, our focus has been only on the level of flows from the developed world, while neglecting the real source of economic progress – the creativity, skills, and enterprise of the people of the developing world.  We believe that all people deserve governments instituted by their own consent, with legal systems that help spread opportunity, and economic systems that reward individual efforts.   Only then, can we hope to make progress in this momentous struggle.  As President Bush observed in Monterrey, “The spirit of enterprise is not limited by geography or religious or history.  Men and women were made for freedom, and prosperity comes as freedom triumphs.”

The United States welcomes the efforts of our friends and neighbors throughout the world in promoting sustainable development.  In a world in which our interdependence grows every day – in which environmental degradation in one area can have devastating effects in others, and where failed states can harbor terrorists that can bring death half way across the globe – we need to work together to promote the international common good that allows people of all countries to lead meaningful, fulfilling lives.  If we are to advance this common good there are three essential preconditions: first, governments must respect the fundamental and inalienable rights of the human person; second, social and economic well-being must be extended to all; and third, a we must so all without our power to create a peaceful and stable international order free from fear.  The United States is committed to this cause and we are moving ahead, as Secretary Powell said in Johannesburg, “to put plans into action and expand the circle of development to all God’s children.”

Thank you.