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Diplomacy in Action

A Call for a New Era of Global Health Partnerships

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Special Representative, Global Partnership Initiative
Global Business Coalition
Washington, DC
June 24, 2009


Date: 06/24/2009 Description: Global Business Coalition Logo © Global Business Coalition

Thank you so much, Jill. It is an honor to be here with so many respected business leaders and with such a distinguished panel of experts. You not only understand that the HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria crises are global, and that they impact us all, you have joined together to create real progress on these issues as quickly as possible. Thank you for your dedication to the urgency of this mission. I’d like to add that it is great to be among people who get it, and what I mean is that you know both the human costs and the business costs of these diseases. I believe in the power of the Global Business Coalition motto: “Advocacy. Partnerships. Action. Results,” which is a visionary and compelling mantra, one which reflects the very same priorities of our Secretary of State when she asked me to serve as her Special Representative for Global Partnerships.

When Secretary Clinton spoke at the Global Philanthropy Forum in April and announced the creation of this new initiative, she stated that “it’s absolutely essential that we recognize our interconnectedness as we grapple with the difficult challenges sweeping the planet… The problems we face today will not be solved by governments alone. It will be in partnerships – partnerships with philanthropy, with global business, with civil society. We have to find new ways to fill that space that is unfortunately left to create vacuums in too many places around the world.”

Government action is not enough, powerful though it may be; and the attention of businesses on these issues is insufficient, important as it is. We must come together to fill these gaps by leveraging our strengths through public-private partnerships. The Secretary has placed the Global Partnership Initiative at the highest level of the State Department; and she has given me the authority to meet on her behalf with CEOs, philanthropists, and leaders from NGOs, academia, religious communities, and Diaspora groups. Our goal is simple: across the Department, we will take a new approach to 21st century statecraft so that partnering with the people in this room becomes a core part of how the State Department does business.

The organizations you represent are already at the frontlines of foreign affairs; and we are ready to work with you in partnership in order to achieve our foreign policy goals when and where they align with your own business objectives. Once you identify those partnering opportunities that present the best fit with your organization’s core business strategy, our doors are wide open so that we can find ways to catalyze new partnerships, and then work together to scale up and sustain programs for the long term.

Each day, we understand more about the transnational hazards of our young century. We have witnessed global challenges: 9/11 and the rise of non-state actors, global economic, health, and climate crises, and a world that has grown closer and yet more dangerous. New opportunities have also emerged as a result of the paradigm shifts created by globalization. In the 1960s, nearly 70% of all money flowing from the United States to the developing world was official development assistance; today, over 80% is from private sources. America cannot achieve its foreign policy aims without leveraging this capital through cost-effective instruments.

And from the business perspective, you know what it means when you invest your time and resources in hard-working, committed employees in Beijing, Nairobi, or Johannesburg, only to learn that your workforce is suffering the worst from these global health crises. You know what it means to have your products lose market share because whole populations are suffering from debilitating illnesses, when economic empowerment is an impossible goal because your employees are facing the ravaging effects of a disease like HIV/AIDS.

Yet you also know that in many ways, the future market for your products is not Iowa, it is China. You will no longer grow your consumer base as much in Indiana as you will in Kenya, where untold numbers are suffering from these horrific diseases today but where they will be participating in a robust and vibrant economy if we are successful in our efforts to improve upon these tragic realities together. Now, I realize that I’m preaching to the converted. Some of you have already actively engaged with PEPFAR to strengthen our collective response to HIV/AIDS. Take Becton Dickinson for example, who partnered with PEPFAR to strengthen laboratory systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Or the diverse coalition of organizations such as Warner Bros. and MTV, working together to revolutionize HIV prevention for youth through the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation.

In the same way that Secretary Clinton has often said that “it takes a village to raise a child,” we are now realizing that we must apply a similar approach worldwide. It takes a shared, global response to meet the shared, global challenges we face. This is the truth taught to us in an old South African principle, ubuntu, meaning “A person is a person through other persons.” As Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes this perspective, ubuntu “is not, ‘I think therefore I am.’ It says rather: ‘I am a human because I belong. I participate. I share.’” In essence, I am because you are. We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed by building mutually beneficial partnerships among the public sector, civil society, and the private sector. This is Ubuntu Diplomacy: where all sectors belong as partners, where we all participate as stakeholders, and where we all succeed together, not incrementally but exponentially.

On my first day as Special Representative, the Global Partnership Initiative hosted its inaugural event, the first ever government sponsored TED Talks, which began as an organization focused on bringing together the best minds on Technology, Entertainment, and Design but which has expanded to include science, business, the arts and the global issues facing our world. Since 1984, TED has been challenging some of the world’s most inspiring and fascinating thinkers to give the talk of their lives – in 18 minutes or less! Over 800 people attended TED@State, including several hundred Department of State and USAID colleagues. Guests from the White House, DOD, the private sector, and other non-governmental organizations were part of a standing room-only crowd; and before the event, the line of hundreds of guests wrapped all the way up 23rd Street and around the building.

In the first of these talks, which has already been posted online, Clay Shirky explained how social media has generated “the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.” I encourage you to watch it and learn about how technology has turned consumers of information into producers: “it’s as if when you bought a book they threw in the printing press for free.” You will be amazed. As one of my colleagues wrote in an e-mail, TED@State was “hands down it is the best event that I’ve attended in all of the years that I’ve been at State.”

We are creating change in government; and we call on you to change the way you now approach working with government. As you set the goals for your businesses, we at the Department of State want you to have a seat at the table in our planning processes so that we can work together to achieve our mutual goals. This is the first focus of our work, as a convener that brings people together from across regions and sectors on issues of common interest. I am committed to having the U.S. Government’s presence abroad – and your presence abroad –represent not the least common denominator, but rather, the highest possible multiplier effect for the results we can achieve together.

Second, we will also act as a catalyst, with our Foreign Service Officers and PEPFAR country teams working closely with your local and regional directors to implement new projects. Together, we can address global health issues, which will benefit local economies and bolster U.S. business interests overseas. When we say that we are changing the way that we do business, we mean it. And we are equipping our Ambassadors with new toolkits and introducing incentive structures for our Foreign Service Officers in order to make sure that fostering partnerships becomes an integral part of their day-to-day jobs.

Third, we will act as a collaborator. We will lead interagency coordination here in Washington so that when you are speaking to the U.S. Government, you will know that we have already compared notes and can respond with one voice. You have already partnered with PEPFAR and we will expand the base of support to include all U.S. Government presence abroad – through USAID, MCC, and Commerce – so we can take a fully integrated approach. We will maximize our capacity on areas of mutual strategic importance everywhere that your organizations and the US Government are doing business.

There are many opportunities for us moving forward, and I would like to highlight just one that has garnered increasing attention: our new efforts in medical research diplomacy, particularly following the President’s call in his Cairo speech for “new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops.” Medical research diplomacy partnerships have immense potential, because much of the world’s most important research on the diseases that impact the developing world comes from our public and private labs and universities across the country. Medical research serves as a win/win – for U.S. diplomatic and business interests abroad, as well as for U.S. researchers at home. The Global Partnership Initiative will be making medical research diplomacy a key focus of our efforts, because investments in medical research are not only investments in bettering global health, but are also investments in America’s long-term diplomatic, economic, and security interests.

Medical Research Diplomacy is just one new way we are showing the world America’s best, which so often comes from the private and civic sectors. As a convener, a catalyst, and a collaborator, the Department of State will be seeking partnerships with all of you over the coming years. Secretary Clinton has made it a top priority and I am fully invested in making sure that our Global Partnership Initiative succeeds in every possible way. Thank you very much.

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