Partners in TransformationRandall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance & USAID Administrator
U.S.-Arab Economic Forum
June 26, 2006
Thank you, Nijad for that kind introduction and thank you all for the warm welcome.
It is a great pleasure to be here today.
The distinguished group gathered here makes this forum an incredible opportunity for partnership – not only between the United States and our many friends across the Middle East, but between the public and private sectors.
As someone who spent nearly four decades in the private sector, I know that in times of change and transition, having the right partners around the table is essential to success.
And as we all know, this is a time of transition in the world.
Last month, I saw some of the opportunities and challenges of that transition first hand.
The message I took to President Musharraf of Pakistan and President Karzai of Afghanistan, as well as to President Talabani, Prime Minister al-Maliki, and the newly-formed government of Iraq was of our commitment to a long-term strategic partnership between the U.S. and each of their countries.
But what is a true partnership?
The results of a recent Gallup poll that examined views of the West in the Muslim world highlight two of the important elements of a partnership.
When asked what they wanted from the West, the majority of those polled put it simply – people in the Muslim world want the West to respect Islam, and when it comes to their future, they want self-determination – two principles that should, indeed, be driving our behavior.
In his second inaugural address, the President laid out a vision that now defines America’s conduct in the world.
"It is the policy of the United States," he said, "to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."
Achieving that vision requires self-determination among those we support with our foreign aid.
Our international development assistance must support such self-determination through a paradigm that focuses on partnership, not paternalism.
In all that we do as a nation, to assist citizens in nations around the world – and we do a lot, we have to remember that it is not about us, it’s about them.
But good intentions alone do not always add up to transformation—and the challenges we face today require no less than transformation.
For any of you who may be unfamiliar with the terminology of foreign assistance, international development assistance is the money the U.S. Government provides to promote such things as economic growth; social welfare, including health and education; good governance in underdeveloped nations; and the like.
The United States Government 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 quite simply our sense of moral obligation.
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.
To be sure, charity has its place, especially when it is charity in response to urgent emergencies.
For example, more than just addressing our moral obligation to respond to human suffering, our partnership with Pakistan, in assisting in the aftermath of a terrible earthquake has led to increased understanding and dialogue between our two nations.
In fact, nothing could reveal more about what we have in common than the response we shared to the human tragedy we addressed together.
Yet it’s important to distinguish between charitable humanitarian assistance, and support for a nation’s true development and transformation.
Development assistance must truly focus on development. It must engender lasting economic, social, and political progress, through a transformation of institutions, economic structures, and human capacity, so that nations can evolve to sustaining further progress on their own.
The ultimate responsibility for achieving this transformation rests with the leadership and citizens of developing nations themselves.
But in many countries, the assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role.
And the way we implement our assistance can have a major impact on enabling local leadership and local responsibility—if we do it thoughtfully and effectively.
Here, we too have entered an era of transition and change.
Under the leadership of President Bush and Secretary Rice, the United States is now reforming its organization, planning and implementation of foreign assistance in order to achieve this objective—beginning with the creation of my new role as the first Director of United States Foreign Assistance.
We are doing this, in part, by better integrating and leveraging the strengths and the contributions of our foreign assistance institutions across the U.S. Government toward the accomplishment of our goals.
To do so, we have developed a new strategic framework to integrate and focus foreign assistance policy, planning and oversight for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development – which represent about 80% of all U.S. foreign assistance – this will better enable us to achieve our transformational diplomacy goal of "helping to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."
Using our foreign assistance to empower human potential and achieve transformational development requires more than short-term charity—or the long-term provision of services.
Over time, in the countries with whom we partner, citizens must understand that their own governments—not international donors—are responsible for their health and safety, for educating a critical mass, and for creating the conditions needed for economic growth.
Through our efforts, where it is not otherwise happening, we must support citizens to make demands of their own governments, and to reject excuses for failure.
That’s why our strategic framework focuses on achieving well-functioning and accountable states that respond to the needs of their people.
In other words, when it comes to investing in people, the majority shareholders in the future of any nation must be its own people.
Our strategy explicitly identifies a comprehensive approach. It recognizes that nations cannot progress without peace, security, and stability.
They cannot progress without just and democratic governance.
They cannot progress without investments in the human capacity of their citizens.
And they cannot progress without economic growth.
These now are the objectives of U.S. foreign assistance.
Along with this new strategic approach, we have implemented a leadership and management model that will help us achieve what this strategy intends.
The changes we are implementing will allow us to strategically focus on what works.
And what works is assistance that—through partnership, not paternalism—encourages citizens and governments to develop the capacity, the skills and the will to take responsibility for their own futures.
There are incredible examples of partnership in some of the work we are doing.
In fact, during my recent visit to Afghanistan, we launched a major new program called "Afghans Building Capacity" or "ABC" – a multi-year capacity building program using $125 million in U.S. support.
It will become the largest and most comprehensive such US-funded effort in perhaps 20 years anywhere in the world.
The program will assist the Government and the people of Afghanistan to develop physical and human capacity in the public sector, private sector and civil society, both in Kabul and the provinces.
All of this is driven by our view that democracy is not just about having an elected government – it's about teaching people to participate, and how.
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.
Sustainability means helping people develop the tools for independence.
It means helping them address not only the conditions they face, but their ability to access and use resources, and to organize and participate in democratic decision-making.
By strengthening the Government of Afghanistan’s ability to procure goods and services and financially manage funding, by supporting efforts in the use of technology, and by strengthening skills in the private sector and civil society to engage citizens in the transformation process, "ABC" will provide the primary vehicle through which the US will help Afghans address the challenges they face.
Several days after launching ABC in Jalalabad, I found myself sitting in a small room in Iraq, in a city south of Baghdad, with a group of eight or nine Iraqis who are heads of Iraqi Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
Three years ago, to imagine somebody under Saddam Hussein starting an NGO would have been a ludicrous idea.
But now, through a US-funded program, these organizations have been given the tools and the training and have come to understand in very practical terms that democracy is about empowering citizens.
These citizens have gone from the oppression that they experienced under Saddam to understanding exactly how they can make appropriate demands on their governments.
By partnering with civil society, we are helping Iraqis themselves to develop the capacity to become agents of change.
One of the most important agents of change in any country is represented by the counterparts to many of the people here in this room – the business community.
Business thrives where there is an educated, healthy, and motivated workforce.
It requires transparency, the rule of law, and strong institutions to guarantee a level playing field and a healthy competitive environment.
It is best assisted by policies that encourage open trade and investments in infrastructure to make the most of trade.
Organizations like the American Chamber of Commerce are having an impact on growth in the Middle East.
In Egypt, for instance, with a three-year, $3.5 million grant from the U.S. Government, the AmCham there is fostering business and public support for trade liberalization and increasing competitiveness by establishing a Trade-Related Assistance Center to help Egyptian companies, provide information, and help train junior Egyptian trade executives.
The U.S. Government is committed not only to supporting partnership, but to creating the opportunities that lead to it.
In 2001, the U.S. government started an innovative initiative that unites the unique skills and resources of private companies, foundations, and other partners to identify, design, implement and fund development projects.
Since its inception, USAID’s Global Development Alliances initiative has provided over $1.4 billion to fund approximately 400 public-private alliances worldwide, leveraged over $4.6 billion in committed partner contributions and engaged over 1000 alliance partners
One of these is the Alliance for Junior Achievement and its mentoring program for Arab youth.
Arab nations have some of the world’s youngest populations, but also suffer from the highest youth unemployment rates.
Though an estimated 100 million jobs must be created over the next 20 years, national education systems are not adequately preparing graduates for the needs of today’s workplace.
The problem is particularly acute in oil-producing states that fail to adequately diversify their economic base.
Citibank, Exxon/Mobil, Junior Achievement, and the U.S. Government are now cultivating the next generation of business leaders.
Students learn how the banking sector supports business and industry, how to manage their own budgets and follow stocks, and even set up a model enterprise with a business plan from company startup to final liquidation.
The results of the partnership are nothing short of remarkable.
These young men and women represent a potent force for change in many of your countries of origin.
Those forging a new path – whether that new path is a small business, or a nascent democracy, or a shift in the paradigm under which a bureaucracy operates – succeed when they pool talents and resources to make their efforts yield more than the sum of their parts.
As business leaders, you have talents and resources that can be brought to bear on the challenges we face.
Over the next few days, you have a tremendous opportunity to put them to good use.
You can count on my support in your efforts.
And, as we face our own period of transition and change in foreign assistance, I hope to engage you as partners with that effort as well.
Thank you very much.
Released on June 27, 2006