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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at the Fifth World Urban Forum


Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
March 26, 2010

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On behalf of the U.S. delegation, I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to Brazil, our Global South co-chair and President Lula for his instrumental role and support of the World Urban Forum. Thank you for your hospitality and for hosting the forum in your beautiful country, and for this opportunity to strengthen our bond by co-chairing WUF V together. The common democratic values between the United States and Brazil have forged a strong and deep relationship, one of the strongest in the Western Hemisphere. And now this partnership is even more important as we work toward our mutual goals of a sustainable, innovative and responsible urban growth.

Thank you to the UN and UN-HABITAT, and for Anna Tibaijuka, UN Under Secretary and Executive Director of UN-HABITAT and to Clifford Warmington, President of UN-HABITAT Governing Council and the Jamaican Minister of Water and Housing.

Thank you to Minister Fortes, Governor Cabral, Rio Mayor Paes, representatives of youth, gender, the private sector, civil society, and others who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend.

Thank you to my fellow U.S. Government representatives Ambassador Shannon, Consul General Hearn, Secretary Donovan, Undersecretary Otero, Assistant Secretary Brimmer, Deputy Secretary Ron Simms and White House Director of Urban Affairs, Adolfo Carrion.

I am honored to return to Brazil, now, six years from my last visit. Today, the energy of your country is just as dynamic as I recall. I am glad to know that Brazil is still enjoying its robust GDP growth despite the world’s widespread economic troubles. In fact, there is hardly an issue of global importance that Brazil does not have a voice on, as seen from your immediate and sustained generous efforts on Haiti relief. I just flew in from the International Conference on World Cities and Regions for Haiti, and have been working alongside your Brazilian counterpart, Mayor Silvio Barros, with Haitian mayors to discuss the Haitian vision for reconstruction efforts. The U.S. Government and USAID look forward to the upcoming UN Donor conference in New York, to continuing to partner with the Haitian Government, UN Habitat, Brazil and the rest of the international community to build Haiti back better.

The message I want to leave with you is about the importance of partnering on the federal, state and local levels to address the specific challenges of urbanization. The theme of WUF V is also very important to Secretary of State Clinton, so she would like to share a few words. ..[roll tape]

As you just heard from Secretary Clinton, seizing the opportunities of urbanization is essential for the sustainability of our world and will require hard work and dedication. Whether you live in Rio, Shanghai, Nairobi, or Los Angeles, urbanization is a phenomenon that requires the attention of all nations concerned. There are also associated challenges we will have to face together.

That’s why bilateral, multilateral and creative partnerships are so critical at this moment in time in addressing these challenges. We need your help and everyone has a role to play. Efforts like this biennial WUF build a network to better leverage existing resources of national and sub-national governments, business, NGOs, and academia to expand the global arena of cooperation.

As you are stewards of your cities and leaders in your industries you know that we must plan for our common futures. This will ensure that our cities can continue to provide high quality services in spite of rapid growth, create infrastructure, and develop in an environmentally responsible way to provide our urban dwellers, who contribute so much to our nations’ economies, the quality of life that they deserve.

And as you heard, Secretary Clinton understands the importance of urbanization and is incorporating its consideration in the context of our diplomatic and development priorities. By making it a Department-wide priority we are changing the way we address the challenges of Climate Change, Food Security, Global Health, and the empowerment of women and girls with an eye toward urbanization across all levels of the U.S. Department of State.

Secretary Clinton has worked with U.S. Governors for over 30 years, and as a former first lady of Arkansas and a former U.S. Senator from New York, she understands the importance of working closely with state and local officials to successfully address these global challenges. Many instances, for example, with climate change, mitigation, adaptation and implementation of solutions, are occurring largely on the ground on the local levels.

Secretary Clinton announced in January the creation of the new role in the Office of the Secretary, the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs to:

  • work directly with state and local officials both in the U.S. and with their sub-national counterparts abroad; and
  • build and enhance global relationships between state and local officials so that we can collaborate on international issues that have been so widely discussed this week.

Going forward, we must work to sustain this robust dialogue on urbanization and the partnerships that come out of WUF on a regular basis. A first step will be to support the World Urban Campaign that focuses on providing governments and partner networks with an advocacy instrument to articulate a shared vision for a better urban future.

Thank you again for your hard work day in and day out on the frontlines of these issues facing our cities. We need your energy, ideas, and talent. So, in equal partnership we can create a safer, more prosperous world for our future generations. I would like to leave you with the wisdom of an old African proverb: If you want to go fast, go alone, and if you want to go far, go with others.

In closing, I would like to leave it to you to work together as we collaborate on the major urban challenges in the future. On behalf of the Administration and Secretary Clinton, thank you for allowing us to work alongside all of you this week.



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