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Remarks at the Offices of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Washington, DC
September 15, 2008


AMBASSADOR HERBST: Madame Secretary, distinguished guests, thank you all very much for coming today. This office, the Offices of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction, exists and we have a Civilian Stabilization Initiative that is now with some momentum and some money because of one person. And that perSecretary Rice, right, and S/CRS Coordinator Herbst at reception, Sept. 15, 2008. State Dept photo.son is standing to the left of me, Secretary Rice whose vision of transformational diplomacy is a vision of putting diplomats in the field where our efforts are definitely needed. No further ado, Madame Secretary. (Applause.)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. But I just have to say that it really wouldn’t have happened without Ambassador John Herbst. That is absolutely the case. (Applause.) And I want also just to acknowledge that John has been promoted to Career- Minister, which is the highest rank in our Foreign Service and it is richly deserved, because John is an – (applause) -- John is an innovator. He is someone of integrity and he’s someone who inspires the people who work with him. And when you’re going to start a new initiative, that’s exactly what you need in the head of the initiative. John was, of course, our Ambassador in Ukraine and I asked him personally to come back and take responsibility for trying to jumpstart this important initiative.

I’d like you to understand that the reason that we wanted to do this is that we fully recognize that diplomacy has changed. Yes, some of it is still done in rooms like the ones upstairs, and some of it is still done in long meetings in which one speaks in very, very measured and very careful terms. But some of our most exciting work as diplomats is really now done in the field. In helping people to transform their lives, because we now know that perhaps in the post-Cold War era, the greatest threat to international peace and security is really failing states, states that cannot provide for their people, states that cannot do the simplest of governmental functions, whether it is to secure their borders or to be able to have law enforcement or systems of governance that both provide for their people and that fight the scourges of drug-running and arms-running and terrorism.

We know that the stabilization of countries that are coming out of conflict -- countries that are coming out of civil wars, countries that perhaps just haven’t developed the strong instruments of governance -- that helping to stabilize those countries will, indeed, make for a much safer world. And the United States has had plenty of experience. We’ve been involved in 17 stabilization missions over the last 20 years. But frankly, we’ve never really had the right institution within the United States Government to bring together all of the elements that it requires to help states to build governing capacity and to deliver for their people. Indeed, whether it was in the Balkans or in Afghanistan or most recently in Iraq, but also in places like Liberia and Southern Sudan, our ability to reach out as diplomats and to provide civilian expertise has really been fairly meager. And in our wake, what has happened is, very often, the military, which is organized and very good, will reach in and do those functions. But it’s put a strain on our military, and if we’re not careful, it will corrode both their mission and ours. And we want the face of America in reconstruction and stabilization to be a civilian face; to be a diplomatic face.

We also want to draw on the great talents of Americans. To be able to do this, I will never be able to have, and no Secretary of State will ever be able to have within the Department of State, all of the kinds of expertise that are needed in stabilization and reconstruction, whether it is city planners or judges or law enforcement officials or people who can help with tax collect – and to learn how to do tax collection or border security. We’re never going to be able to have all of those people in the Department of State, but the United States of America has plenty of them.

People – first of all, in other agencies of government, but also more broadly, which is why the Civilian Response Corps is an exciting idea, think about the prosecutor in Arizona who might want to spend a year serving his country and also serving others in helping to develop rule of law programs in countries recovering from civil conflict. Think about the city planner in Denver, who might want to go to a place recovering from conflict or perhaps building a major city for the first time to go and to help. We want to mobilize the great talent of the American people as well to support these missions, but we want to do it, not as the United States going into the world, but as the United States as a good partner for the international community in doing these functions. And so we intend to partner with nongovernmental institutions. And the reason that we’ve asked you to be here is with other governments as well.

We believe that together, through regional organizations, through bilateral and multilateral efforts, we can pool the great resources that we can bring to conflict resolution, to – and to stabilization and reconstruction. And so that’s the idea -- it is taking shape, it is taking form, people are being recruited. But I wanted to let you know that this is going to be an effort that has to be more than an American effort, because throughout the world, there are new governments, recovering governments, stabilizing governments that need our help in delivering for their people.

We don’t want there to be ever again the kind of failed state that Afghanistan became, which then became a haven for terrorism. And one terrible day -- and it’s not too long ago, the seventh anniversary here in September -- that failed state produced the territory from which evil men planned and plotted the attack on the United States. It’s perhaps the most dramatic example of why failed states are a problem.

But the most important reason that failed states are a problem is that they are a problem for their people. People who live in failed states don’t have much of a future. And so we owe it to ourselves morally, as well as in terms of our interest, to help those states develop. And that’s what our Office of Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, our Civilian Response Corps will be intending to do. So thank you very much, John, for the work you’re doing. (Applause.)

Released on September 22, 2008

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