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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Interfaith Partnerships for the Common Good

Elizabeth Frawley Bagley
Special Representative, Global Partnership Initiative
The Tony Blair Faith Foundation Conference, "Faith And Malaria - Towards An Integrated Solution
New Haven, CT
September 10, 2009


Date: 09/10/2009 Description: Special Representative Elizabeth Frawley Bagley speaking at the conference, 'Faith And Malaria  Towards An Integrated Solution,' hosted by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. © State Dept Image

Thank you so much for the invitation to speak with you today. I would like to thank President Rick Levin and our gracious hosts here at Yale University; the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and especially Ruth Turner, Ian Linden, and Charlotte Keenan; Lord Michael Hastings of KPMG; Yale Divinity School Dean Harry Attridge; Yale World Fellows Program Director Michael Cappello; my dear friend Tim Shriver, Jean Duff, and the incredible team they have at CIFA; and of course former Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom I will have the honor of introducing in just a moment.

I am so glad to be here with this distinguished group to address an issue that is close to Secretary Clinton’s heart: how religion and foreign policy should interact in a positive way, and how meaningful partnerships with faith communities can help the United States achieve its foreign affairs aims. The Secretary has stated that “promoting understanding between and among faiths is one of the most important tasks ahead of our world.” On a wide range of issues, but particularly malaria, we have seen how interfaith and cross-sector cooperation can lead to results and how fair minded words can lead to action. We have seen the very best of those times when practical policymaking – doing what works best – meets our moral duties of doing what is right.

In essence, we are pursuing together what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright described with these words: “To lead internationally, American policy-makers must learn as much as possible about religion, and then incorporate that knowledge in their strategies… to take fully into account the immense power of religion to influence how people think, feel, and act.” In a world where nearly 3,000 people die each day of Malaria, we can do no less.

Nearly one million malaria victims die each year. And nearly 90 percent of malaria’s victims are children under the age of 5. The economic losses caused by malaria are staggering—an estimated annual toll of $12 billion. Malaria is a disease that ravages the economies of nations, tears apart the fabric of societies, and destroys the aspirations of individuals. A world stricken by malaria is a world no one should ever accept, and we must organize around our shared values and stand united in the fight against it.

As President Obama has stated, you are here “at a moment of great consequence for our nation and the world – a rare inflection point in history where the size and scope of the challenges before us require that we remake our world to renew its promise; that we align our deepest values and commitments to the demands of a new age.”

How do we align our values in our ever changing world? Divisions along religious lines have too often created conflict rather than understanding. Even high-level dialogue among religious groups has too often yielded results only for the elite. And government engagement with faith communities has been ad hoc and uncoordinated. But I believe that a new emphasis on partnerships with faith communities can engage the powerful force of religious identity in a truly constructive way – and in a way that has become a necessity given the divisions and dangers we see in our world.

In this young century, the world has flattened, information exchanges have quickened and new technologies have become interwoven into the lifestyles of people everywhere. These powerful networks increasingly define a changing world. This has expanded the influence of new players in international affairs, including faith-based groups, and diminished the impact that traditional actors, including governments, can have simply by doing business as usual.

That is why on April 22, Secretary Clinton announced my appointment as the first Special Representative for Global Partnerships and declared that “the State Department is opening its doors to a new generation of public-private partnerships.” In creating my office at the Secretary’s level, the Department of State is beginning to fulfill the Secretary’s mandate for America to “lead by inducing greater cooperation among a greater number of actors and reducing competition, tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world.”

We recognize the fact that faith-based groups provide an estimated two-fifths of all health services in Africa, and a quarter of all groups partnering with PEPFAR are faith-based organizations. On the frontlines of foreign affairs, faith-based groups are having an impact that goes beyond the reach of any government. 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 – and that includes faith-based groups. In fact, according to the Hudson Institute, US Religious Organizations send $8.6 billion to other countries. This makes up over two-fifths of all US private philanthropy directed at the developing world.

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, or ‘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 have laid out our vision for the Department of State’s Global Partnership Initiative as the “three Cs” of global partnerships:

First, the Department of State will be a convener on behalf of this cause, bringing people together from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest.

Second, we also know that religious groups can often work in ways, and in places, where our government cannot. We want to support your efforts to do the good work you are doing around the world, and to do it well – so we will also act as a catalyst for your work, with our diplomats abroad launching projects in tandem with those faith groups, philanthropies, NGOs, and corporations at the front lines of foreign affairs.

Third, we will act as a collaborator to encourage and facilitate dialogue and transform our words into deeds, with our Ambassadors working closely with our non-governmental partners to plan and implement projects for maximum impact and sustainability.

This is what we are calling Ubuntu Diplomacy: where all sectors belong as partners, where we all participate as stakeholders, and where we all succeed together, not incrementally but exponentially. The President likes to refer to Martin Luther King’s admonition that we must recognize that our fates are tied up in a “single garment of destiny.” As the President has also explained, we will only get there by seeking common ground through exchanging fair-minded words and having open minds and hearts – and there is no better place to discover how we are bound together than when we are working together.

You have discussed successful partnership models in Ghana and Nigeria, but we have so much more to do. Every death due to Malaria reminds us of that, but we should also appreciate the scope of America’s investments in increasingly affordable drugs to treat and prevent malaria.

The President’s Malaria Initiative, which at this point has reached more than 32 million people, represents an historic $1.2 billion, five-year expansion of U.S. government resources to fight malaria in Africa. In Fiscal Year 2009, the United States will commit some $527 million to fighting malaria. And we have contributed more than $3.3 billion to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

To confront Malaria through a comprehensive approach, this Administration will be working together with nonprofit groups, businesses, community leaders, priests, and Imams. Together, we have already begun to spur grass-roots, governmental, and private-sector efforts to defeat this beatable, treatable disease. We are guided by the need to craft an integrated approach to global health, by the need to innovate, and by the need to work closely with partners at home and abroad.

We are truly all in this together, and we will only succeed by building mutually beneficial partnerships among civil society, the private sector, and the public sector, in order to empower the men and women executing our foreign policy to advance our best ideals in this shared fight against Malaria. As Secretary Clinton stated at the Global Philanthropy Forum, “let’s make sure that we not only open the doors of the State Department, but we let people know that America is back, that we care about what goes on in the rest of the world, and we are leading with our values and our ideals, which has always been the best way for America to lead.”

I want to thank you for coming together in this spirit to discuss an integrated approach to solving these issues. And I now have the honor of introducing the man who has inspired us all. Tony Blair served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997-2007, the longest-serving Labour Prime Minister. His commitment to human rights, international peace, public service, and the Third Way complemented that of my own boss, President Bill Clinton, as they worked together to forge a new alliance of progressive world leaders.

But it was during the long and grueling negotiations of the Northern Ireland peace process that I first met then Prime Minister Blair, as he worked side by side with the Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and President Clinton, to bring Nationalists and Unionists together. This finally resulted in the Good Friday Agreement of April 1998, which established a power-sharing National Assembly of Catholics and Protestants, and ended thirty years of sectarian conflict, thanks to their courage in taking risks for peace.

And now, through the pioneering work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, our world is witnessing another extraordinary moment because of Tony Blair’s leadership. Through the work of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, we are all coming to realize how immensely powerful faith can be as a positive and unifying force for justice, compassion, and the common good.

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation is involved in organizing projects and volunteers in almost 40 countries. Their Faiths Act campaign now involves volunteers in 36 countries acting together across faith divides to help eliminate deaths from malaria. And their Faiths Act Fellows program with Eboo Patel’s Interfaith Youth Core supports 30 young people from 5 major faiths who will work together for 10 months in the USA, Canada and the UK to provide leadership and mobilize among faith communities to help achieve the MDGs. These Fellows have just returned from Mali, Malawi and Tanzania, where they have witnessed some impressive interfaith malaria work – they will carry this story of hope with them as they work together over the next few months to motivate others to join the cause.

Their Face to Faith schools program links children aged 10-16 of different religions in 15 countries to learn with and about each other, discern and understand different perspectives, and to counter intolerance and extremism. And the Faith and Globalization course developed in collaboration with Yale University allows students to tackle these questions of the role of faith seriously from a multi-disciplinary and cross-cultural perspective, and – most exciting of all for this leading global university in our global age – they are fostering partnerships with religious leaders, politicians, policy makers, business leaders, and civil society to generate a truly worldwide debate about the relevance of faith in today's world.

And so, with deep admiration and respect, it is my honor to introduce to you one of our world’s great leaders, a visionary, a teacher, and as we all see by looking around this room today, one of the most inspiring champions on behalf of interfaith action, former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

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