Advancing a New Paradigm in Foreign AssistanceAmbassador Randall Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator
International Citizen of the Year Keynote Address
May 15, 2006
Thank you very much Jim [Morris]--for your words, and for being here tonight from half way around the world to be a part of this occasion.
It’s a tremendous personal pleasure to be with you tonight – and to be at home here in Indianapolis.
My thanks to the International Center of Indianapolis for this wonderful honor, and to all of you for being here.
I want to thank my wife, Marianne, for her extraordinary support in what has become for us a truly global commuter marriage.
We’re also very privileged to have three of the four sets of parents of our grandchildren here tonight, and I would like to introduce them: Paige Tobias Button and her husband Tim Button, Todd Tobias and his wife Amy Tobias, and Jim Ullyot and his wife Becky Ullyot.
Our daughter Katie Hundley and her husband, Phil Hundley, are unable to be here tonight--in part because they live in Chicago and in part because they have a new baby--our 9th grandchild.
Some months ago, they came home one weekend to announce that Katie was pregnant and that they were going to have a little girl. The said they were going to name the baby Lillian and planned to call her Lily. I told Katie I thought that was a great idea because we already had a number of things around the house – jackets, hats, golf shirts and the like – with her name already on it! Turns out this Lily is spelled with one “L” but her arrival has been a very exciting time.
Five years ago, I spoke at this event, when my good friend and colleague from the other Lilly, Sidney Taurel, was honored by the International Center.
In the years since, I have been impressed in watching all that the Center has accomplished. Thanks to the Center’s efforts and the excellent volunteers serving as Citizen Diplomats, Indianapolis has become increasingly better prepared to welcome international visitors, more and more of whom are visiting Indiana each year – 80% more in 2006 so far.
Not only has the International Center helped the community welcome international talent – which is certainly critically important at companies like Lilly – but it has sought out opportunities to participate in programs like the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program, through which more than 200 current and former Heads of State, 1,500 cabinet-level ministers, and many other distinguished world leaders in government and the private sector have come to the United States from all over the world to meet and confer with their U.S. counterparts, and to experience the United States firsthand.
Exchanges are one way the rest of the world has an opportunity to see what we here in Indianapolis – and all of America – are truly all about. United States foreign assistance – the endeavor to which I have been devoting my time – is another.
Many of you will know that after nearly four decades in the corporate world, I had made a happy transition to spending less of my time on airplanes and in hotels around the world, and a great deal more time mostly here in Indiana, enjoying my children and grandchildren, serving on a number of corporate boards around the country, and working on behalf of issues and institutions that are important to me.
And then the White House called!
As a result, over the past three years, there have been a number of occasions when I have awakened in some unfamiliar hotel in some remote corner of Asia, or Latin America, or Africa, and thought to myself, this is not quite what I had planned for this stage in my life.
But the truth is, I feel enormously privileged that the President of the United States asked me to come to Washington three years ago to lead the creation, development and implementation of his extraordinary $15-billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and then asked me to stay on in my current expanded role.
Prior to the launch of the Emergency Plan, there were only 50,000 people in all of sub-Saharan Africa receiving antiretroviral drugs. Today, still in the early stages of the Emergency Plan’s implementation, the US is already supporting nearly half a million people on life-saving HIV/AIDS drug treatment.
I believe that one of the important reasons the Emergency Plan has achieved such extraordinary early success is because our approach to the delivery of HIV/AIDS assistance around the world represents a much needed paradigm shift in the delivery of U.S foreign aid. And I believe it represents what is possible through a broader transformation of the way this country, and indeed the world, should approach the issue of foreign assistance.
For those of you who may not be familiar with the terminology – as I was not three years ago – international development assistance – sometimes called foreign aid – is the money the United States Government provides to the world’s developing nations. This money promotes such things as economic growth; health; education; famine relief and food security; democracy; good governance, and disaster assistance.
The United States spent about $27.5 billion in 2005 on such assistance--a number that has risen significantly under this Administration. Why do we spend this money?
The first reason is our sense of moral obligation, to be sure. We cannot turn our backs on the millions of children who succumb to starvation and disease each day, when the ability to address it is in our hands. We cannot turn our backs on citizens who toil under oppressive poverty, seeking their families' daily survival, but with little opportunity to secure the future.
The second reason, however, is that our futures are inextricably linked to those we seek to assist.
Promoting freedom, democracy, and development are primary elements identified in the President's national security strategy. It's part of our strategy for addressing the root causes of terrorism.
Governments that rule justly, encourage economic freedom and opportunity, and invest in their people – the hallmarks of democracies – do not produce or tolerate terrorists. By supporting countries to live up to these principles, the United States will strengthen and expand the community of nations united in building global peace and prosperity. People who see a hopeful future for themselves and their families are not as willing to bind bombs to their bodies.
Interestingly, this second reason is tied to the first. No true democracy has ever experienced a famine.
The accountability of government to citizens, the free press that flourishes under democracies, doesn't allow for such failures of government. While well-intended, some of what has been done historically by the donor community – including the United States – has too often, left few lasting traces beyond the immediate impact of short-term programs.
To be sure, charity has its place, especially when it is charity in response to urgent emergencies. For example, in recent months, we in the U.S. government have been working closely with Jim and the World Food Program to address a looming food aid shortage in Sudan. The U.S. has led in this effort, providing about 85% of the confirmed contributions to the WFP to date, and urging other donors to do their part.
Yet it's important to distinguish between charitable humanitarian assistance, and support for a nation's long-term development and transformation. As President Bush has said, true development requires far-reaching, fundamental changes in governance and institutions, human capacity and economic structure, so that countries can sustain further economic and social progress without permanently depending on foreign aid.
The primary responsibility for achieving this transformation rests with the leadership and citizens of the developing nations themselves. The assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role. But to really make a difference, these resources must be focused on transformational initiatives that are owned over time by the developing nations themselves.
My friend, Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, is the leader of the Joint Clinical Research Center in Uganda. He’s one of the most inspiring, creative and effective leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS on the African continent. At a meeting last year in Ethiopia, Dr. Mugyenyi made a comment that really struck me. To paraphrase, he said that it is neither practical nor moral for the people of Africa to expect that the rest of the world will take care of their problems forever. He explained that it is not practical because it means their own destiny will be at the mercy of changing political priorities in nations far beyond their control. And it is not moral, because the people of his continent have many of the tools they need to meet their own needs, and those they do not have they can and must develop. There was a murmur of agreement in the largely African audience. They understand that too.
Dr. Mugyenyi has made incredible progress through his own organization in making drug treatment available in Uganda. In one largely rural district, his organization has now succeeded in providing access to antiretroviral therapy to 100% of those who need it, with a locally-designed strategy they can sustain in the future. To be clear, for now Dr. Mugyenyi is working in close partnership with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, utilizing the extensive financial support we are providing. Indeed, at this point, our support is indispensable. But he is already developing capabilities and resources so that a time will come when he will no longer depend on us. We didn’t tell him to do that; he totally understands what’s required for the long-term sustainability of his very important work. And “sustainability” has to be the operative word.
Perhaps my favorite example of a project focused on sustainability has roots right here at home. In the late 1980s, a small band of Indiana University School of Medicine physician-faculty members persuaded their colleagues to help address unmet healthcare needs in Africa. But instead of setting up a freestanding project of their own, as so often is done, an enlightened decision was made to support a new Kenyan medical school, which an existing university there was trying to launch. IU initially provided support for curriculum and faculty development, and the Moi University Medical School graduated its first class of physicians in 1997, thus growing Kenya’s capacity to serve its own people.
The President’s Emergency Plan has helped to provide resources for a dramatic expansion of the partnership’s HIV/AIDS work. The Indiana-Kenya partnership has established adult and pediatric HIV/AIDS centers, building capacity for care in a network that now spans much of western Kenya. But the most important point here is that this partnership has focused on sustainability: today’s Kenyan patients in that program are being treated almost entirely by other Kenyans, health care providers who in many cases were trained by other Kenyans, many of whom are products of the IU-Moi partnership. What the IU Medical School is doing in Kenya is what we want all our U.S.-based partners to do, that is to say: while we are providing fish to eat, let’s also teach people how to fish for themselves.
A crucial element of the overall equation in helping people help themselves – one too often overlooked – is the role of host governments. It is no secret that many governments in developing nations have demonstrated an inability--or worse, an unwillingness--to be accountable and respond to the needs of their citizens.
The international system, including donors such as the United States, have thus stepped in to deliver those services, often by creating parallel systems of service delivery through international mechanisms. Now that is an understandable response, and for a famine or a major flood or a global pandemic, it is essential. Clearly, within these donor-led responses, the international system has an important role to play.
But the dominance and the permanence of such donor-led responses has had the effect of shifting the focus of responsibility away from the host governments to international donors. We've often created parallel systems of service delivery that have allowed governments to shirk their responsibility, and shifted citizens' expectations away from their own governments to the international donors.
All of us in the international donor community have an important transitional role to play, to be sure. And sometimes that transitional role is going to take many years. But outsiders cannot, with sustainability, secure citizens' health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growth-all of which are necessary for development. Those are the responsibilities of host governments themselves.
If true progress is to be made, the people of these nations, and their governments, must increasingly become equipped to do these things for themselves. Citizens must understand that they and their governments must take responsibility. Once citizens understand this, they can and will make demands of their governments, and reject government excuses for failure. This understanding is a prerequisite for--and exists in--true democracies. By fostering the growth of civil society, of indigenous capacity, our foreign assistance can strengthen fragile democracies.
Recently, I had a conversation with an African friend from my former life as the United States Global AIDS Coordinator. She is an extraordinary doctor named Agnes Binagwaho. Dr. Binagwaho is head of Rwanda's National Commission to Fight AIDS, and an example of inspiring leadership within her nation's government. Given her role, you might expect her to urge more U.S. financial support for the Government of Rwanda. But what Agnes has helped me understand is that United States support for grassroots organizations in Rwanda is important well beyond HIV/AIDS. It is also important because it is supporting the development of democracy in her country.
By fostering the growth of civil society, of local organizations, of indigenous capacity, she believes that we are also strengthening Rwanda's fragile democracy. She has helped me better understand that democracy is not just about having an elected government it's about teaching people to participate, and how. It's about supporting people to identify their own solutions, and teaching them how to advocate for the adoption and implementation of those solutions. It's about empowering them, supporting their ideas, and providing the right tools-and appropriate incentives-to support their leadership and responsibility to sustain further progress on their own.
This, I believe, is what United States foreign assistance must be all about.
Sustainability means helping people develop the tools for independence. It means helping them address not only the conditions they face, but their position in their society – their ability to access and use resources, and to organize and participate in democratic decision-making.
A final key element of this new approach is accountability. For too long, in the world of foreign aid, many have considered “good intentions” to be “good enough.” The era of sprinkling some money around the world and feeling better about ourselves simply has to end. Our foreign assistance must have a strategic focus.
We have to make it clear to our partners, including our partner governments, that our foreign assistance programs are not entitlement programs. Continuing financial support must depend on results. We will fund programs that produce results. We will not fund those that don’t. That too, I’ve discovered, is a new paradigm. But one to which this Administration is committed.
In asking me to take on the concurrent positions in which I now serve--Director of United States Foreign Assistance and Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development--the President and the Secretary of State have charged me with reforming United States policies, planning and implementation of foreign assistance. They have charged me with ensuring that foreign assistance – across the U.S. government – is used as effectively as possible to meet our foreign policy objectives.
The overarching objectives for U.S. foreign assistance will focus our resources on our intent to achieve peace and security; improve governance and democratic participation; promote investments in people; and engender economic growth. These overarching objectives are vital to achieving the goal we seek to accomplish, which the Secretary clearly laid out earlier this year.
Our foreign assistance aims to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people, and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. By focusing on results and sustainability, our new foreign assistance strategic framework will make our intentions and our expectations clear. It will help ensure that all of our assistance is delivered in ways that demonstrate to those we seek to assist that our efforts are rooted in partnership, not paternalism.
I am proud to receive this award because partnership is precisely what the International Center of Indianapolis is all about. And as I look around this room, tonight I am especially proud to be a Hoosier.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to address an event in Washington not unlike this one. In that case, the audience was made up of those attending the seventh annual meeting of the Center for Islam & Democracy – a large group of distinguished American Islamic leaders and scholars from all over the United States. Following my formal remarks, I took a few questions from the audience.
To my surprise, the very first person to approach the microphone was Dr. Sayyid Syeed who identified himself as a fellow Hoosier who simply wanted to bring greetings from home. My staff tells me that Dr. Syeed earned his Ph.D. in Socio-linguistics at Indiana University in Bloomington, and now serves as the Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a national umbrella organization which has more than 300 affiliates in the U.S. and Canada, and is based just fifteen miles from here, in Plainfield.
Now while I’m honored in receiving this award to be in the company of incredible public servants like Jim Morris and Lee Hamilton and Senator Richard Lugar, and a long list of other distinguished Hoosiers--many of them good friends--I am reminded of the many others who call Indiana home, and who, like Dr. Syeed, are simply doing their part in addressing the same goal as the International Center--to connect people of all cultures.
Foreign assistance--which we use to strengthen that connection and sustain partnerships around the world--depends entirely on the support of the American people and their elected representatives.
On Wednesday, I leave from Washington for Iraq and Afghanistan, to meet with the leaders of those fledgling democracies as well as with the U.S. civilian and military leadership who are directing our efforts on the ground to help the people of those two countries achieve peace, prosperity and hope. So our work on behalf of the American people goes on.
In closing, I simply want to thank you for this award, and for your continuing support. In so doing, I ask you to have confidence that the use of your tax dollars in U.S. foreign assistance is not "charity as usual. Rather, I ask you to think about your part our United States foreign assistance strategy as one of helping our neighbors around the world develop the capacity to meet their own challenges, while in so doing, helping your own government to address some of our nation’s most vital diplomatic interests.
The stakes are high. Making the sustainability paradigm our dominant response to the challenges of the developing world won’t be easy. But I believe that doing so is an absolutely essential goal of American foreign policy. And I’m extraordinarily proud to be part of carrying out this effort. Thank you very much.