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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > From the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Remarks by the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2006)

Remarks to the Institute of Democracy in South Africa

Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy
South Africa
April 10, 2006

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Thank you all very much. Well, Richard, you said it very diplomatically. My son says I'm loud. So thank you all. I'll try to project a little so those of you in the back can hear.

I want to thank you for that warm introduction and I thank IDSA for hosting this, especially on short notice, and I thank all of you for being here. I'm delighted to be here with you. This is my first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa and I was delighted to have South Africa be a part of that trip. I found that it's a place of great natural beauty, but what I think has impressed me the most about my three days here has been the warmth of the people here that I've met, I had the opportunity to meet throughout Cape Town.

While America and South Africa are, as you know, many kilometers apart, in the mind of President Bush and his family, I think the two continents seem much closer indeed. It's been my experience as I've traveled the world that many people across the world, as I go to different places, people will ask me about Africa and some of them tend to view Africa as the sum of its problems. They look at the continent and they see conflict and they see disease and they see famine, and those are the news stories they hear about. But for President and Mrs. Bush, I think they view Africa very differently. They view it as a continent of great promise and great potential. And as I've met the people of Africa these past few days, I'm also filled with great hope and belief that this is a moment of great opportunity.

We were discussing at Premier Rasool's home last night -- he hosted very graciously a dinner for me and we were discussing that one of the things that America and South Africa have in common is a great sense of optimism. And I certainly found that optimistic spirit here and I think there's good reason for that optimism because I've been inspired by what I've seen as I met people here, particularly as I've seen what so many dedicated volunteers and the NGO community are doing to make a difference in people's lives.

I think of a woman I met named Ann (Anne McKeller) on Saturday who works at the Living Hope Center, where they are caring for people with AIDS as she told me that they try to love them, and I just believe that those people there feel very loved and appreciated and cared for and supported.

I met a wonderful reverend yesterday and his wife, Reverend Nomdoe (Reverend Jacobus Nomdoe), who he and his wife had started when they picked up a teenager who was hitchhiking, and the next -- they took her home with them, and the next day her friend came and a few days later two more friends came, and now they have a vibrant teen challenge program where they're seeking to rescue kids from gangs and prostitution and dependency on drugs and alcohol. And it was a very inspirational opportunity to witness that program there.

I just came this morning from the Saartjie Bartman Centre, where I was able to meet with a group of activists there, women who are working to build legal rights for women and help protect women and children from violence and exploitation. And we had a very fascinating discussion about our approach, about empowering women and about whether we need to equally work on addressing men and particularly young boys as they grow up and what kind of attitudes they have. So we had a fascinating discussion.

During his five years in office, my boss, President Bush, has worked very hard to try to strengthen the ties between our nations by both visiting Africa and by initiating and expanding historic programs to support democracy, to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, to foster economic growth and development, to encourage trade, to expand education particularly for girls and to work together to fight terrorism throughout this continent and throughout the world.

And the United States recognizes the tremendous leadership being shown by South Africa in the progress that's being made not only here in this country but also throughout the continent of Africa. And we believe we must continue -- our two nations -- to work together as partners to help end conflict, to advance democracy, to improve development, to expand educational opportunity and of course to increase access to health care.

And in all these activities, as I said, we view South Africa as a partner, as a vital partner, as a friend. And I want to today talk in a little more detail about four specific areas where we're working in close partnership and then sort of briefly tell you a little bit about public diplomacy and how I see my role.

Those four areas that I'd like to highlight where I think we're making great progress together are in the areas of democracy, of development, of education and of health. One of the most important bonds, of course, between America and South Africa is our shared belief in the power of democracy and liberty. Both of our nations have struggled to overcome racism: in our case, in segregation; in your case, in apartheid. As the Civil Rights Movement was building in our American South, our own visionary leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, said, "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood." And that is still sometimes a challenge in my country. We've made great progress, but I don't think anyone would say we've arrived at a perfect point yet. We still battle every day to live up to our founding conviction that all men and women are indeed created equal.

In a similar way, I know young Africans, South Africans, have been inspired by the visionary and courageous leadership of Nelson Mandela. I had the privilege to visit Robin Island yesterday and just being there inspired a couple of thoughts in me. First of all, you can't stand in that prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years without thinking of the horror of man's inhumanity to man and how we can mistreat each other. At the same time, the end of the story is a story of triumphs, of the triumph of the human spirit. And the man who was our guide, Denmark (Denmark Tungwane), who had spent eight years at Robin Island as a political prisoner, talked with us and I think in a very profound way we were all very struck by the fact that he talked about how as Nelson Mandela came out of that prison he could have come out with a sense of bitterness or a sense of hate, and instead he came out with a message of hope and of reconciliation. And I think the rest of the world -- South Africa is certainly an example for the rest of the world to look to, that places of conflict can look at South Africa as a great example of how to engage in dialogue and reconciliation and to try to work in common cause to solve problems of a country.

I came here from Benin, where I was privileged to lead the U.S. delegation to the inaugural of the new president, Yayi Boni. And last month, as many of you know, there was some reluctance on the part of the previous regime to -- our Ambassador said -- stall or delay the elections. And our Ambassador -- I was very proud as an American that our Ambassador, as well as ambassadors from throughout the international community, spoke up and helped give the people of Benin confidence that they could go forward with free and fair elections, that they were able to assert their right to vote. And it was an important reminder of the power of democracy and it was very satisfying to see the people of Benin, who obviously were just thrilled.

I told the President I had some experience with elections myself and ours was a little closer than his 75 percent margin that he was able to win, so I asked how a political newcomer was able to do that, I'd like to learn some lessons to take back to America. But it was -- obviously there's a great spirit of hope and optimism in Benin and they're going to be -- and it's also a reflection of the leadership being shown in South Africa through your commitment, the commitment of your government to the democratic process and to making sure that democracy does indeed become the norm in choosing leaders across this continent.

We know that every nation's government will be somewhat different, reflecting local history and culture and tradition, but the best governments typically share certain traits: they're chosen by the people in a free and transparent process; they're responsive to the needs of their people; and they work to implement the conditions necessary for greater peace and prosperity. Here in Africa, more than two-thirds of Sub-Saharan African countries have held democratic elections since 2000. Power has changed hands peacefully in a number of nations, from Senegal to Kenya, from Ghana to Zambia.

And these elections and peaceful transfers of power are obviously very important but they are not -- they do not alone a democracy make. To ensure that the benefits of democracy are long lasting, we must also focus on strong institutions and good governance practices, for without them democracy is only skin deep. We must ensure that the continent's democratic transformation and momentum is lasting and reinforced by the essential components of democracy: a free press, an independent judiciary, sound financial systems, strong labor unions and vibrant political parties. And I appreciate so much IDSA's work in working to build capacity for democracy across the continent of Africa, Richard.

A free and open society must also protect the rights of minorities and women and all societies, including mine, have a great deal of work still to do on this important front. Last year, President Bush introduced the Women's Justice and Empowerment Initiative so that the United States and South Africa can work together to advance and empower women by helping to secure their safety, improve their legal status and their opportunity for economic independence.

As we work to strengthen participation of all citizens in our democracy, democracy is strengthened, and as a result as that strengthening takes place, the result is a continent that is not only freer and more open to opportunities for its own citizens, but also less prone to conflict. And we very much appreciate the leadership role that South Africa continues to play in peacekeeping and working to reduce conflicts across the continent and we want to work in partnership in expanding economic opportunity because we know that economic opportunity also is so important to helping preserve stability and peace.

That brings me to the second area that I wanted to focus on today, and that is development, where again we believe there is significant progress. There's a lot of work still to be done, but significant progress taking place across the continent. As many of you know, President Bush has made it a priority to work on breaking the cycle of loan and debt by giving more direct grants as opposed to loans to the poorest nations. He's also pushed for total debt forgiveness. And I remember when he first suggested that and people -- many people sort of looked at that as the stuff of fantasy, and then it started to happen. And so he has worked very effectively for the elimination of and forgiveness of debt across the developing world.

Similarly, the fact that the United States is spending $4 billion -- that's $4 billion -- it's easy to throw these numbers around, but $4 billion on aid to Africa in 2005 is really remarkable when you look at the historical context. I remember only five years ago when even the most committed, proactivist -- pro-Africa activists dared to ask for a billion dollars in aid, and I think most of them would not have believed it had they realized that five years later America was actually committing $4 billion, four times that amount, in aid to Africa.

President Bush has also sought to try to spend that development assistance in new ways and to have it be guided by certain principles, that first and foremost a recognition that governments that are likely to use aid best are those who have a track record of good governance practices and those who are spending the money they have by investing in the health and the education and the progress of their people. And that notion is what formed the genesis for what we now know as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC. It was created to be a new way to deliver aid, where instead of reacting to crises after crisis, that we would be more proactive and help enter into compacts to invest in governments that have a track record of investing in their people and using their resources wisely.

So far to date, the MCC has signed assistance contracts with Madagascar and Cape Verde, each for approximately $110 million, and most recently we added Benin. This compact will provide $305 million in aid to the people of Benin in the coming years. And when I was there for the inaugural, the President at our meeting told me that the first thing he planned to do after his inauguration was to meet with our Ambassador and talk about how to begin putting that MCC money to work to help benefit all the people in his country.

The third area, education. We all believe, and I know South Africans share this value, that education is one of the most important investments that we can make in another key area of partnership between our two countries. President Bush believes in the power of education because he knows education is the key and the foundation of opportunity. We work to make education accessible to all children so that every child can grow up with the skills they need to be able to try to find work and to try to achieve their dreams, regardless of what they look like or what neighborhood they grow up in.

This notion inspired the President to push for the Africa Education Initiative which funds teacher training throughout the continent and also provides a significant number of scholarships that are focused primarily on getting and keeping girls in school. We offer girls a world of opportunities, as you know, when we offer them the opportunity to learn.

South Africa also believes strongly in education and I have to say here that we are very grateful for something that South Africa did in a wonderfully compassionate and neighborly way in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in my country. After the disaster, South Africa donated $300,000 to Howard University in Washington, D.C., where Ambassador Ruth Frazer is a -- what is your title there? A visiting --

AMBASSADOR FRAZER: Distinguished Advisor.

UNDER SECRETARY HUGHES: Distinguished Advisor. And she is a very prominent member, a career ambassador, at our State Department and I know she and others at Howard University are very grateful for the fact that South Africa provided this $300,000 to offer scholarships to students from New Orleans who had been displaced by the hurricane to attend Howard University.

The final area I wanted to mention is the significant partnership that America and South Africa and many nations across Africa have underway to improve health and especially to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria here on the continent. The impetus for this initiative is the President's belief and our nation's belief in the dignity and the value and the worth of every single life. We believe every person matters and every life counts and therefore we must do all we can to make sure that as many lives as possible are able to achieve their full potential and to end unnecessary suffering.

Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has been working to encourage the international community to focus more on health issues. In fact, one of his first initiatives in office was to spearhead the creation of the multilateral organization, the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The United States strongly supports the work of the Global Fund and is the Fund's largest contributor.

Now, in addition to that, that was started in 2001, but the President realized that the scope of the pandemic was such that we needed to do even more. And so in 2003, the President launched the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, which is the largest single health initiative focused at a single disease in the history of the world. It's a five-year, as many of you know, $15 billion program which aims to support treatment for 2 million people and support the prevention of 7 million new infections as well as supporting care for 10 million others who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Now, PEPFAR is the first program to provide anti-retroviral treatment on a large scale in 14 African countries, including South Africa. I'm very proud at one statistic, that in the first two years of its implementation, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is providing anti-retroviral drug treatment for almost a half million people - 471,000 people - across the continent of Africa, and that is up dramatically from only 50,000 on the entire continent who were receiving anti-retroviral drug treatment when the initiative started just two years ago. And so that is a significant life-saving difference. And I was talking at the Living Hope Center the other day with the medical workers about what a difference they're able to see in the lives of people who are able to receive those anti-retroviral treatments.

But we are not, however, and as everyone who has worked on this issue knows, we are not ultimately going to turn the tide against AIDS solely by treating those who are infected. We also must work to prevent it from spreading. South Africans have adopted the ABC policy, the Africa initiative initiated -- it was initiated in Uganda, HIV ABC plan for prevention of -- transmission of HIV, and the United States fully supports that policy. There's -- as you all know, it's ABC, Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Correct and Consistent Use of Condoms. And there's been -- I've seen in the press here some controversy about that approach, but I think it really is a comprehensive program that makes sense and recognizes that we sometimes have to have different messages for different audiences. You're going to tell a group of elementary school children something different than you would tell a group of sex workers, and so for elementary school children, for example, a message of abstinence is perhaps the most appropriate message, whereas for older teens or sex workers a message of correct and consistent use of condoms if they're already sexually active may be the most important message.

And so I'm very proud that my country is working very closely with South Africa on this comprehensive program. The growing success of the AIDS program really is rooted in partnership. We partner with host governments. We also partner with NGOs that are already familiar with working in a specific country. Here in South Africa, for example, our President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief works with more than 300 different community-based and nongovernment organizations.

This also helps ensure the sustainability of the program because every time that we approve a new country plan for PEPFAR funding, there must be provisions for ultimately shifting control of the programs from the United States to local and indigenous groups over a set period of time, because we believe that local ownership is extremely important to long-term success. For example, an example based here, 80 percent of South Africans visit traditional healers before or after seeing a medically trained practitioner, and so our PEPFAR funding plan here, part of its funding is a collaboration between those traditional healers and medical professionals at the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine in Durbin, which allows them to research and work together and come up with strategies that are most effective in helping prevent and treat HIV/AIDS.

I want to conclude by sharing with you the three strategic objectives that guide my work in pursuing America's public diplomacy which, as Richard briefly mentioned, I see as America's conversation with the world. Other diplomats engage in government-to-government conversations and we're in the midst, by the way, of what Secretary Rice calls transformational diplomacy, which is really transforming the way diplomacy is done. It used to be that diplomats would deliver very quietly and discreetly a behind-the-scenes message to a government of a country. As we succeed in fostering democracy around the world, it's increasingly important that we not only communicate with governments but that we also communicate directly with people because people ultimately, certainly in a democracy, ultimately people are the ones who control what their government can and cannot do and what policies that government does and does not pursue.

And so I have three strategic goals in my public diplomacy work, and it strikes me as I've been here that these are three things that, again, America and South Africa share very much in common, because my first goal is to offer to the world a positive vision of hope and opportunity that is rooted in our commitment to freedom and our belief in the worth of every person. And that's certainly something -- those values are values that South Africa shares -- a belief in, again, free press and freedom of religion and a celebration of the diversity of our societies and a belief that every person should have the opportunity to participate in society. And it's important that we offer that vision to the world. I saw an interview with a young man in Morocco who I think summed it all up for me when he said, "For me, America offers the hope of a better life." And it's important that America and South Africa and countries who share our values continue to offer that hope of a better life to people who live in less free and often tyrannical societies across the world.

Second, I'm working to foster a sense of common interests and common values between Americans and people of different countries and cultures and faiths across the world. That thought, it sounds pretty simple but it actually came to me in a meeting that I had with one of our beloved former ambassadors, a man named Frank Wisner, who told me, he said, "Karen, you know, at a time of war and threat and a global conflict against terror, it's really important that we not only talk with our partners about common threats; we also need to talk about common interests and common values." And so I view that as my part of the equation is focusing -- I call my job waging peace and that it's focusing on the things that we have in common, the interests and the values and the things that help lead to greater peace.

And finally, the third part of my strategic mission is to isolate, to work to isolate and marginalize the violent extremists who threaten us all and to undermine their efforts to portray the conflict in the world today as a clash involving religions or cultures, when in fact I view it as a conflict between the civilized world and uncivilized forces who engage in indiscriminate killing of innocents. As Tony Blair so eloquently said, "We have to confront not only the extremist barbaric acts, but also their barbaric ideas." And so that's an important part of my job as well.

And to do this, I have a strategy. I'm a communicator so I like to boil things down to basics and I have a strategy I call the Four E's, and that is to engage, to exchange, to educate and to empower. I see my role as helping spur greater engagement between America and countries around the world. We've made a conscious effort in Secretary Rice's administration to be present more often at global events and debates and dialogues, to be out engaging with audiences like you.

I oversee all of our exchange programs and believe they're very significant. We want young people and leaders and political leaders and business leaders from South Africa to come to America and we want Americans to come to South Africa and to learn more about your culture and your history. We work very strongly on education and we also seek to empower our own citizens and to have them serve as ambassadors on behalf of our country.

And so that's a little bit about my specific role at the State Department, and I just want to again say how much I have enjoyed this trip to South Africa. It's my first trip. It will not be my last. I know I've only scratched the surface, but I've enjoyed the opportunity to begin to learn a little bit and to listen to many of the people of South Africa. It's been a wonderful experience. I leave feeling very positive about the direction of this country and about the direction of this continent, feeling that we're making progress against problems that seemed intractable only five years ago, that being diagnosed with HIV is no longer, as you know, a death sentence and nations are beginning to escape a vicious cycle of indebtedness, more children are going to school.

And the people of South Africa are responsible for a great deal of that progress. We know we have a lot more work to do, particularly in addressing poverty, particularly in addressing development and urgent needs for employment throughout the continent, and we look forward to working with the people of South Africa and the Government of South Africa as partners as we seek to address some of these problems and unleash the great potential of this continent.

So thank you so much for your attention and I look forward to your questions. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)

Released on April 17, 2006

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