DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Thank you very much, Ambassador Carson. It really is a pleasure to be here today and I want to thank Jean Ping, the Chair of the African Union Commission, for dodging the ash clouds and the difficulties to travel to Washington and be here for this high-level meeting today.
We are excited to have the opportunity to host the African Union at the State Department for today’s meetings on our common priorities for Africa and to talk about how we can strengthen the U.S.-AU relationship.
The United States is a strong supporter of the African Union, an organization with 53 member-states and over a billion African citizens. It coordinates Africa’s response to complex transnational issues like climate change, and increasingly as the institution that we turn to help resolve some of Africa’s most intractable issues. We are one of two governments to have a dedicated ambassador to the AU and we are the largest financial supporter of the AU’s peace and security programs, including the AMISOM mission in Somalia, which has received $170 million in U.S. support to date.
We believe that the African Union is an essential institution for defending our common principles of democracy and governance. The African Union’s courageous stance against unconstitutional changes in governments in Mauritania, Guinea, Niger, and Madagascar deserve much praise. The members of the African Union have made a clear decision that the AU will not be a club for generals and dictators, and we applaud the strong steps the organization has taken in this regard.
Democracies are never perfect, however, and we want you to know, Chairperson Ping, that the United States stands ready to assist any country striving to strengthen its own democratic institutions. I know how much time the Chairperson and his team spend on these issues, and we thank you for your dedication to supporting democratic institutions and ideals.
The African Union is also Africa’s preeminent actor in the peace and security realm. AU peacekeepers are doing courageous and difficult work in Somalia and Sudan, and the AU has the full support of the United States for both the AMISOM mission in Somalia and the UNAMID mission in Darfur. Achieving stability in Somalia and avoiding further bloodshed in Darfur are tremendously important for the region and for the United States.
We are also counting on the AU to support our Global Health and Food Security initiatives. Our $63 billion Global Health Initiative is a key part of the Administration’s overall diplomatic and development program. The program will increase funding for and, importantly, coordination among the U.S. global health programs, including our programs that deal with HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal and child health, neglected tropical diseases, and family planning. And importantly, there’s a very new and strong emphasis on health system strengthening and enhancement.
As part of the Global Health and Food Security initiatives, the United States is working hard to engage African countries through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program, CAADP, and the New Partnership for America’s Development, NEPAD, which is an AU initiative.
We look forward to continuing to work with African partners to boost agricultural productivity. President Obama said in Accra that he does not see that the countries and people of Africa are a world apart; instead, he sees Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world as partners with America on behalf of the futures that we all want for our children. This Administration is deeply committed to Africa and to the fostering – and to fostering the development of institutions like the African Union. We believe the pursuit of peace and prosperity in Africa is very directly in the interest of the United States and the American people, and finding ways to better support our shared objectives will be the main focus of our discussions.
I’d like to briefly comment on the AU’s program here in Washington. Besides today’s meetings here at the State Department, this AU delegation will discuss issues of mutual concern with some of the most senior officials in our government, including the Attorney General, our USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. We arranged these meetings because we believe that the AU and the United States should have a broad dialogue across the full range of U.S.-Africa issues. Our sincere hope is that Chairperson Ping and his team will expand their range of contacts with the U.S. Government and that this will be the first of many opportunities to meet and work together.
So you can see that we are keeping Dr. Ping and his delegation very busy. Let me just say in closing that we’re thrilled that Chairperson Ping is here, we’re excited about the busy schedule for today and for the team, and we’re very optimistic about Africa’s future with dedicated leaders like Dr. Ping and Mr. Mwencha at the helm of the African Union. We hope this visit is the beginning of a strong and enduring dialogue with our partners in the African Union.
So on behalf of Secretary Clinton, who is now flying the other way across the Atlantic through the ash, I welcome you to the State Department and hope that today’s meetings are productive and the beginning of a process that is very productive in the future. Welcome.
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