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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks to the Young Leaders Dialogue Conference


Remarks
Judith A. McHale
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs 
Prague, Czech Republic
November 11, 2010

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Thank you for that kind introduction. I am absolutely delighted to be here with you today.

Since the theme of this conference has been all about dialogue, I really do want to have a dialogue with you; but to get the conversation started, I thought I would share a few thoughts from our perspective.

From the very first days of this Administration, President Obama and Secretary Clinton have sought to redefine America’s engagement with the world as one based on mutual respect, mutual interests and collective action.

We believe that, at a time where citizens everywhere are more connected and more informed, governments acting alone cannot solve the problems which confront us or seize the opportunities which surround us. We are working hard to find new and innovative ways to expand and strengthen the relations between the people of the United States and people all over the world.

We also recognize that, in a world where 60 percent of the world’s population is under the age of 30, we must engage directly with young leaders everywhere who have the power right now to remake the world, to innovate, and to build bridges across legacies of animosity and mistrust.

Over the past few days, as representatives of a new generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, we asked you to focus on areas of critical importance to the future of our transatlantic partnership. We asked you to challenge yourselves and us to find innovative solutions to some of today’s most pressing problems, from security to climate change to tolerance.

We know that you are critical thinkers, evaluating and reevaluating the systems and perspectives handed down to you from prior generations on both sides of the Atlantic. And as we move forward, we hope you will help us define our partnership not on the basis of fading memories of relations across an iron curtain, but on a basis of cooperation and shared understanding that is relevant in today’s world.

For decades the United States and its European partners have worked together on some of the most difficult issues of our time. Now we must reaffirm our commitment to our transatlantic partnership as we work together to forge new paths to peace and prosperity.

Each of the critical areas you examined this week -- security, climate change, and tolerance -- provides an opportunity for deepened transatlantic partnership. Indeed, I would argue that partnership is more important than ever.

On security, Europe and America confront many shared challenges. The threats we face today—from terrorism to cyberwar to ballistic missiles—do not discriminate by continent or country. Though the September 11 attacks occurred on American soil, the last ten years have seen more terrorist activity in Europe, from London to Madrid to the recent threats to European capitals. 21st century threats such as piracy and cyber-attacks endanger the economic life of all our countries. These are shared threats, and they require a shared approach to address them. No country and no government can do this alone.

In the coming weeks, at the NATO and EU summits in Lisbon, Americans and Europeans will work together to ensure that our architecture for cooperation continues to match the evolving security and economic landscape and the global nature of our challenges. We will work together to ensure an effective transition in Afghanistan that provides a stable and prosperous future for Afghans and continued security for Europe and America. And we will continue our efforts to promote global economic growth, coordinate development resources, and cooperate on global challenges from counter-terrorism to Iran to Middle East Peace.

On the environment, we all understand the consequences we face as the result of global climate change. It is truly a shared challenge -- one that can’t be solved by actions from Europe and America alone.

It is no secret that our Administration has not yet been able to pass the comprehensive climate legislation we had hoped for. Europeans have done an excellent job in mobilizing the public coalition needed to drive climate change policy forward—both in terms of navigating the economic implications of transitioning to a more green economy and convincing citizens about the basic science of climate change. These are tremendous challenges and there is much the United States can learn from Europe about how to build coalitions among its citizens and move forward more rapidly.

However, as we continue our efforts to pass legislation, the United States has not stood still. We have made serious progress on this issue. We have enacted the first comprehensive national fuel efficiency standards in 30 years. As part of our stimulus bill last year, we took major steps to spur innovation and jobs in renewable energy and other green sectors. On the international front, our commitments at Copenhagen were an important step forward in setting targets for temperature change and financing the hard structural adjustments that will help us get there.

Still, there is more that we must all do to confront this challenge, in our own countries and through international negotiations. Transatlantic partnership is essential on this issue, but we know that Europe and America cannot solve it alone. If we are to make progress, all major economies--developed and developing--must be part of the solution.

Today’s topic —tolerance—is a never-ending struggle in all our countries. On both sides of the Atlantic, the last century brought both tremendous advances and setbacks on this front—points of light and periods of darkness. And the challenges continue.

We are all grappling with problems of integrating foreigners and immigrants into our societies. We are all confronting issues arising out of the fundamental freedom of religious expression, whether it is a controversy over a mosque near ground zero or protests over building a mosque in Warsaw. In recent weeks, we have also been reminded of the continuing fight for gay rights. In New York, three gay men, including two teenagers, were abducted and tortured simply because they were gay. The same week, Serbian gay pride marchers were harassed by violent protesters.

Each of these issues demonstrates the common challenges we face and the need for collaboration. We cannot solve climate issues with a summit or simply declare an end to extremism or discrimination. We must forge partnerships, mobilize broad coalitions and galvanize public opinion across all sectors of society: activists and academics, business and civil society leaders, faith communities and NGOs. In the 21st century, power will not belong solely to those with government titles, but to citizens across all sectors of society who act as individuals and through broad networks of partners.

In a world where information is at people’s finger tips, the competition for citizens’ attention, partnership, and allegiance is increasingly fierce. Those with credibility and ideas that resonate with audiences across the world will garner attention and generate partnerships. As today’s young leaders, you are in the best position to mobilize and activate the citizens of the world. You are a diverse group and you represent the pieces that must be brought together. You grew up in a networked world. You live it every day and you intuitively understand the importance of connections. You understand the power of technology to spur groups to action but you also appreciate that technology can be used to spread fear and incite hatred.

Sitting in Prague, you have used global networks to get the message out--through Facebook, Twitter, your own blogs, and even your own radio shows. And I thank you for using those tools to take this dialogue beyond these walls. But this is just the beginning. This week, you have met with leaders in your field who are passionate about promoting tolerance and diversity, increasing transatlantic security, and protecting our environment. You have forged relationships with peers in Central Europe and the United States who share many of your goals and who are ready to work with you to advance your shared interests.

But where will you go from here? What will you do with the partnerships you have created this week, and with the ideas you have generated during the Young Leaders Dialogue Conference? It is now time to decide what you will do with the opportunities presented by this conference and the doors that have been opened for you.

We hope you do not see this conference as just a nice chance to network, to enjoy Prague, or to talk about critical issues in transatlantic relations. If so, then it will have been a wasted opportunity for you and for all those depending on your leadership. We hope you will stay connected and work together to make progress on the issues you discussed. We hope you will bring together your diverse networks and make this alumni group just one node in a broader network working for progress.

And we want to help you take the next step, by putting resources at your disposal to take this dialogue to action. This is an opportunity for you to implement projects that will benefit your communities and strengthen our transatlantic partnership to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Grants will help, and we are looking forward to learning more about the projects which our grants will fund. But we need you to think beyond limited grant programs. We know you have many innovative ideas and we encourage you to run with them and turn them into action.

This is your moment. Use this conference as a stepping stone to make a real difference on these issues. I know you are doing a great deal in your nations and communities as individuals, and I am confident that you will do even more as transatlantic partners.

Now, I have done enough talking. I would like to hear from you about your ideas and open up the conversation.



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