28 October 2013

Africa: U.S. Envoy on Africa at Opening of Model U.N. Conference


Remarks by Robert P. Jackson, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs in the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, DC at the Opening Ceremonies of the Department of State Model UN Conference

Thank you, Shelly for that wonderful introduction, and also to Congressman Davis for allowing me to speak at this illustrious event. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak with all of you this afternoon. Model UN is an excellent way for students to become engaged in-international relations, diplomacy, public service, and the work of the United Nations (UN). Of course, such an event would not be possible without the support of the Osgood Center's good work to guide young minds in foreign policy dominion.

One of the best days of my life was when I was sworn-in as Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon on September 17, 2010. I have also served as the Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Rabat, Morocco, and in Dakar, Senegal, and worked in Burundi and Zimbabwe. Although I am passionate about the continent of Africa, I have also worked in countries as varied as Portugal and Canada. I have had a wide variety of jobs: commercial work, visa officer in three different countries, entry level officer training, and in oversight at the Office for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights after 9/11. As U.S. interlocutor, I frequently worked to obtain consensus with my foreign counterparts on the hot topics under UN consideration.

The UN and the United States are about building relationships. Though bilateral relationships between nations remain crucial, it would be hard to overstate the evolution of multilateral diplomacy over the last 50 or 60 years, as the world has grown smaller and our shared challenges have increasingly demanded shared solutions in the multilateral sphere.

Multilateral diplomacy requires flexibility and compromise. It provides a platform for voices with which we do not agree. You will see all of these realities during the conference, and I salute you for your energy and dedication. I did not have the opportunity to participate in the Model UN program, but was determined to join the Foreign Service after reading "The Ugly American" which reinforced my belief in the importance of living abroad and learning about other cultures. You should consider yourselves very fortunate to have this amazing opportunity - one which I hope you will take full advantage of.

Shared solutions are at the heart of Model UN as well as the UN itself. When President Obama took office, he made a point of emphasizing the centrality of multilateral diplomacy to advancing U.S. interests. He called it an "era of engagement," and he charged the Department of State, USAID, and other federal entities to reenergize U.S. interaction with the UN and the dozens of its organizations that form the center of global governances.

I do not think it is an accident that when one looks around today's world, the 120 members of the Community of Democracies (CD) are generally more prosperous than the 75 partly-free and not-free states.

Democracy is very important for every country and for all people. It is a fundamental step necessary to fulfill the aspirations of communities of people.

Mali serves as an example of the role that pressure from the international community can play in rebuilding democracy. Less than a year and a half after a military coup that sparked months of conflict and political instability, Mali held peaceful, inclusive, and credible elections just last month. Voters turned out in extraordinary numbers to cast their ballots, and they included thousands of Malians refugees in neighboring countries who had been driven from their homes by the conflict. This month, the United States has resumed its full portfolio of assistance to Mali and remains a committed partner, working together with President Keita, as Mali continues to make progress toward peace, security, development, and national reconciliation.

In Kenya, a credible electoral process, a peaceful election day, and the transparent adjudication of disputes in the Kenyan legal system are testaments to the years of work that Kenyans put into strengthening their democratic institutions. The March elections also demonstrated the Kenyan people's resilience and fortitude, in putting the 2007/2008 post-election conflict behind them.

The end of Somalia's political transition, a new provisional constitution, a new parliament, and the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mahamud are hopeful signs of a new era. This, combined with the continued security gains by the Somali National Security Forces (NSF) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), presents new opportunities to make real progress toward stability and development.

The engagement of civil society has played an important role in making each of these successes possible. Civil society can hold governments accountable and that is why President Obama has emphasized strengthening civil society throughout his tenure. President Obama has encouraged African nations to participate in the Open Government Partnership as a means of building their institutions with transparency.

I have a great deal of respect for the UN as an organization which was created as a forum for peace after World War II. When I was in Cameroon, where I served as Ambassador until this year, I saw first-hand the importance of UN efforts to promote security and to achieve sustainable peace. The UN works not only with individual countries, but also with regional organizations, such as the African Union. A joint UN-African Union mechanism oversees UN support to the New Partnership for African Development, which is the African Union's strategic framework for pan-Africa socio-economic development.

Whether it is providing food to the needy (WFP), assisting refugees (UNHCR), supporting children's education (UNICEF), supporting human rights (UNHRC), promoting opportunities for women, battling disease or confronting environmental challenges, the United States and the UN working together to make a difference around the world. I am afraid that many Americans do not hear enough about the UN, but having worked closely with it and partner nations, I have seen its value, and I am pleased you are learning more about it. I regularly remind people that the UN is not some foreign entity we must fight against but that we are as much of the UN as anyone else.

President Obama emphasized the importance of three priorities following his trip to Africa this year: Power Africa, Trade Africa, and the Young African Leaders Initiative, better known as YALI. Each of these priority efforts aim to further accelerate the region's impressive economic growth and lay the foundation for lasting development. Power Africa aims to double access to electricity on the continent by complementing government resources with private sector investment. Trade Africa will expand trade among East African countries, strengthen their economic ties with the United States, and cement the region's position in the global marketplace. With one in three Africans being between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 60 percent of the population below the age of 35, YALI is supporting the development of the next generation of African leaders through educational exchanges, internships, and mentoring.

Trade and investment are vital to creating jobs in Africa. To further support U.S.-Africa trade, the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) ensures that more African goods can compete successfully in the global marketplace. Since 2000, (AGOA) has created 300,000 jobs in Africa. Last year, African countries exported goods worth nearly $35 billion under AGOA to the United States.

Empowering women and girls cuts across of our development efforts. Where women are empowered and engaged, child well-being improves, family incomes rise, violence and conflict are curtailed, and societies advance.

We need to ensure that women have access to equal rights and opportunity including in politics, education, and the economy. It is in everyone's interest to promote laws, policies, and social protections that prevent violence against women and secure their well-being, with special attention to the needs of women in conflict zones. We continue to support African women entrepreneurs through the African Women Entrepreneurship Program, which identifies and builds networks of women entrepreneurs across sub-Saharan Africa.

Our work on HIV/AIDS through PEPFAR is a great example of the new kinds of partnerships we are forming and whether you become a career diplomat, or a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, as long as you are a pillar in the community in which you live, you are a global citizen.

In closing, I would like to once again thank the United Nations Association for assembling this great event. It is an honor to welcome so many bright minds to the State Department. And if you choose public service, may you serve honorably and productively. But no matter what profession you choose, enjoy every challenging moment that lies ahead. Learn as much as you can and share as much as you can. Your experience will serve you well for years to come.

Thank you for attentiveness and I look forward to your questions.

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