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TRANSCRIPT: State's Carson Discusses U.S. Priorities in Africa at Lisbon Security Conference
I would like to thank Ambassador Bellamy and the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) for inviting me to speak this evening. Since its creation in 1999, ACSS has played an important role in facilitating dialogue among African security
I would like to thank Ambassador Bellamy and the African Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) for inviting me to speak this evening. Since its creation in 1999, ACSS has played an important role in facilitating dialogue among African security professionals and their American and international counterparts. ACSS events such as this conference have helped U.S. policymakers improve their understanding of African issues and expand their network of contacts among African security professionals and civilian leaders. In his speech last year in Ghana, President Obama pledged to elevate Africa's strategic position in U.S. foreign policy and to help ensure Africa's voice is heard on the international stage. He pledged to work with Africans as friends and partners in a spirit of mutual respect and accountability as we respond to the continent's many challenges and opportunities, and to the many challenges we -- the United States and Africa -- face as part of the global community. His speech made clear that the success of this approach would depend largely on African initiative and leadership, with the United States playing a supporting role. Conferences like this allow us to live up to that pledge. The insights and ideas we generate together can help shape better policies in our respective nations and institutions. Transparency and accountability are core values in the Obama administration -- as they should be in every democracy. And in that spirit, I would like to use this opportunity to provide as much insight as possible into our African policies. The overarching objective of United States policies in sub-Saharan Africa is to nurture the development of stable and democratic partners who are committed to the rule of law, human rights, transparent governance, and the welfare of their citizens. The United States and the international community need stable and democratic partners throughout the world to deal effectively with the challenges we all face today. The Obama administration recognizes that, to achieve this objective, the United States must elevate Africa's strategic position in U.S. foreign policy and on the global stage. Over the past year, the administration has stepped up the pace of its high-level engagement with African leaders. This engagement is substantive and serious, not ceremonial or cosmetic. Vice President Biden recently concluded a week-long trip to Egypt, Kenya, and South Africa -- a trip in which I participated. Vice President Biden focused on one of the Administration's highest priorities in Africa: the current situation in Sudan. In Egypt, he met with President Mubarak and other senior officials to discuss how Egypt could play a positive role in Sudan. In Kenya, we met with Salva Kiir and other Southern Sudanese leaders. And in South Africa, the Vice President had an extended meeting with Thabo Mbeki, the AU's point person on Sudan. Vice President Biden's trip was only the most recent example of high-level engagement. President Obama's visit to Ghana last July was the earliest visit made by a U.S. president to the continent. Over the past year, he has also met in the oval office with the Presidents of Liberia, Tanzania, and Botswana and the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. And during the Nuclear Summit in April of this year, the President also met with President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria and President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Africa's new position in U.S. foreign policy was best demonstrated last December at Copenhagen, where President Obama worked closely with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles and South African President Zuma, along with other major heads of state, to finalize a new accord on climate change. All of the President's senior foreign policy advisors have followed his lead by traveling to Africa. These high-level visits are a testament to our efforts to forge a stronger partnership with the continent and our commitment to meet and work with African leaders -- in and outside of government. Our engagement, however, is not limited to travel. We have a very clear policy focus -- a focus that we believe reflects the values of the United States and also the aspirations of most Africans. We have defined five areas of focus for our specific policies and programs: 1) democracy and governance; 2) conflict mitigation; 3) economic growth and development; 4) health; 5) and transnational issues such as terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, and climate change. Democracy and Governance Our number one priority is democracy, good governance and adherence to the rule of law. Let me tell you why. As President Obama said in Ghana last year (and I quote): "Development depends on good governance." It is no accident that the vast majority of countries that are doing better, making faster progress and providing more opportunities to their citizens are those that adhere to the rule of law, practice good governance and are democratic. Good governance opens the door to progress. Bad governance slows down progress and fosters both political and economic problems. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy -- its oil, its minerals and its rich reserves of timber -- to enrich themselves. No company -- foreign or domestic -- wants to invest in a country where commercial laws are disregarded in favor of corrupt practices, capricious rules and poor courts. No citizen wants to live in a country where the rule of law is disregarded and personal safety is always in doubt and where policemen and customs officials are bought off by outside drug traffickers. If we turn our backs on good governance, we are turning our backs on political and economic progress. Since the 1990s, we have witnessed an impressive wave of democratic transitions, during which dozens of African countries moved from dictatorship to democracy. Recent democratic elections, including those in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Mauritius, and Ghana, have served to remind the world of the importance that Africans attach to democracy. Nonetheless, we have seen signs of backsliding in a number of countries as a result of flawed elections, harassment of opposition groups, and attempts by presidents to extend their term limits. We have also seen a recurrence of military coups and interventions in several countries including in Niger, Madagascar, Guinea-Conakry and Guinea-Bissau. Our commitment to democracy and governance is not just rhetorical. Over the past eighteen months, the United States has been proactive in working with African and international partners to ensure democratic norms are followed. Following the death of President Conte in Guinea, U.S. diplomats worked with officials from Burkina Faso, Morocco, France, ECOWAS and the African Union to end the unrest and human rights violations in that country, encourage its military rulers to stay out of politics and to put in place a transitional government that would return the country to democracy rule. In some cases, aggressive diplomacy and collaboration with African partners has not been sufficient to reverse military interventions and illegal government takeovers, and we have taken tougher actions. In Madagascar, where an illegal government occupies power, the United States terminated a $400 million Millennium Challenge grant and prohibited Madagascar from participating in the preferential trade program under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). We have also taken a tough stance on Zimbabwe, where ZANU-PF government officials continue to harass opposition politicians, encourage illegal farm invasions, and hinder the full implementation of the Global Political Agreement. We recognize that some governments are reluctant to open democratic space because of concerns over stability, and we certainly do not want to create conditions that would make them susceptible again to armed conflict and atrocities. Nonetheless, we believe that progressive opening of democratic space is the only real path to lasting long-term stability. We are confident that our relations with such countries are sufficiently mature that we can press their governments respectfully in this governance area while continuing to partner in other areas such as security and economic development. Conflict Mitigation Our second priority is to work collaborative with Africa and the international community to prevent, mitigate and stop conflicts in Africa. Most of you in this room know all too well the consequences and challenges associated with conflict in Africa. From a strategic perspective, the Obama administration recognizes that failure to make progress in this area jeopardizes progress in our other four focus areas. The administration also recognizes that mitigating conflict is largely contingent on the quality of our diplomacy and our ability to collaborate with African governments and multilateral institutions in an atmosphere of trust. Conflict resolution programs such as security sector reform and institutional capacity building are important but ineffective without the full and sustained participation and confidence of all the players in the overall peace and post-conflict transition processes. With regard to conflict, our greatest concerns are Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a little over six months, Sudan is scheduled to hold a referendum on Southern independence as part of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by the NCP government and SPLM in 2005. The United States believes the integrity of the referendum process and the successful implementation of its outcome will have enormous consequences for East Africa's stability for decades to come. The international community, especially Sudan's neighbors, cannot afford to allow this process to become derailed. The United States and its African and other international partners must bring all our diplomatic skills and conflict mitigation expertise to bear to avoid such a scenario. Towards this end, we are enhancing our diplomatic presence in South Sudan by assigning ten new officers to our Consulate in Juba. In the next few days, a former U.S ambassador will arrive in Juba to head up this expanded presence. And we have stepped up our engagement with the international community as well. Last Thursday, President Obama and Secretary Clinton, met with former South African President Mbeki and Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sudan Haile Menkarios to discuss African Union and United Nations strategies for achieving credible referenda and implementing their outcomes. Next year, the Democratic Republic of Congo is scheduled to hold its second post-conflict national election. Although the overall security situation is much improved from where it was at the height of the war in the 1990s, we remain concerned by episodic violence in the east, particularly against women and children, and the lack of progress in reform of the security sector. Rampant corruption and the lack of development in much of the country have eroded confidence in the post-conflict transition among many Congolese. Our Special Advisor for the Great Lakes, Howard Wolpe, has been working intensely to revitalize discussion between the Democratic Republic of Congo, its neighbors, and the international community to address outstanding security concerns and put the country on a more stable footing. Ongoing violence in southern Somalia and the absence of a functioning government pose a growing threat to the people of Somalia, the surrounding states and the international community. Since last year, we and our African partners, particularly the African Union, have been pushing the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to assume greater responsibility for security and the provision of services to the general population. We have encouraged Somali leaders and the regional players to support the Djibouti peace process. And we -- more than any other country -- have supported the African Union peacekeeping deployment in Mogadishu -- which has kept the TFG from falling to al Shabaab. At the same time, however, we have been trying to broaden our relationships with Somalis through greater outreach to diaspora communities, including those in the United States, because we think they can be a part of the solution. The situation in Somalia is extremely fragile. We intend to remain engaged, but if this problem is going to be resolved, more African governments are going to have to come forward and contribute to the solution -- not with rhetoric and words but with troops and resources. Africa cannot allow Somalia to define its progress or international image. Economic Growth and Development Economic growth and development is our third priority -- and it is a priority for many Africans as well. Africa has done reasonably well in weathering the current global economic crisis, but it is still underperforming compared to almost every other part of the world. Despite the continent's bountiful oil and mineral resources, and its rich forests and agricultural lands, Africa accounts for only two percent of global trade and only eight percent of intra-African trade. These figures -- along with poor governance and persistent conflict -- help explain why Africa remains the poorest continent on the world. But it does not have to be that way. African leadership and initiative is the critical ingredient in reversing this situation, but the United States -- along with others in the international community -- can play a facilitating role. One of our major goals in the economic area is to work more closely with other U.S. government and multilateral agencies to find realistic ways in which African governments can remove bureaucratic and legal impediments to regional and international trade and investment. Several African countries have already made progress on this front and they can serve as role models. Mauritius and Rwanda have been recognized by the World Bank and the international business community for their business friendly environments and their economic policy reforms. We are also working to engage more local and international private sector partners in our dialogue with African governments to shape a more hospitable business environment. We are hoping to improve corporate America's understanding of Africa and appreciation for potential investment opportunities there. This August we will be hosting part of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum in Kansas City to put African participants in direct contact with America's agricultural and transportation industries. The formal strategic engagement mechanisms that we are pursuing with Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa also have economic components. "Feed the Future," a new initiative focused on food security, is being designed with unprecedented input from African and international partners. This global initiative aims to build on existing country-led agricultural development programs to increase food production and reduce rural poverty. Twelve of twenty focus countries selected worldwide for this initiative are in Africa, and over $500 million has been budgeted for the African portions of the program in 2011. Health Our fourth area of interest is the health sector, which is critical for the well-being and economic prosperity of any nation. Public health institutions across Africa are in crisis, under resourced, and are dealing with the largest number of HIV cases in the world and with a host of other diseases like tuberculosis, cholera, polio and malaria -- many of which are easily preventable and curable. The United States government is committed to working in partnership with Africa to address the continent's most serious health challenges. Our current efforts involve close collaboration with government, non-governmental, and private sector institutions, implementing pre-existing programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as initiating new programs such as President Obama's five year $63 billion Global Health Initiative. The Initiative is intended to help African countries and health institutions to deal more effectively with the full range of health challenges in an integrated manner rather than focusing on a handful of individual diseases. This initiative is also intended to improve coordination within the U.S. government and with host African governments and other international partners so that they are more strategically focused and supportive of African-designed and led initiatives. President Obama has said that far too many African men, women and children are dying from curable and preventable diseases, and the time to bring that to an end is now -- not the next decade or the next century. Through collaboration, we think that is possible. Transnational Issues Our fifth policy goal is focused on a range of old and new transnational issues, where collaboration with Africa and our African partners is vital and absolutely essential if we are to have any success in dealing with them. "Transnational challenges" encompasses a wide variety of problems that are not specific to individual countries or bound by borders, and often require a multilateral response. Most of these are directly related to security, such as terrorism, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons, and piracy. But we include new transnational challenges such as climate change in this category as well. In the security realm, our greatest concern is with local or third-country nationals using Africa's weak border controls and policing capabilities to traffic in drugs, people, and weapons, or to carry out terrorist attacks in Africa or other regions. Africa's often poorly paid and trained security personnel do a remarkable job given their limited resources. But, the sad reality is that they can be easily bribed, outgunned, or outmaneuvered. This is particularly true when it comes to narco-trafficking -- which in the past two decades has become a scourge across West Africa. In 1990, the UN estimated that less than one ton of cocaine was moving between West Africa and Europe, today the number is estimated to be between 25 and 50 tons. And it is generally believed that more than 25 percent of the cocaine going into Europe today passes through West Africa. Narco-trafficking is a transnational issue that we must all confront together, or it will defeat us individually. The same is true with respect to terrorism and violent extremism. Since 2005, the Department of State's Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) program has focused on training and equipping members of the region's military and civilian security institutions. It also includes modules focused on development, governance, and advocacy of moderate ideologies. Ten West and North African countries participate in the program, which encompasses a geographic area and population comparable to those of the United States. A similar program called East Africa Regional Strategic Initiative (EARSI) has an annual budget of about $24 million for assistance to Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Given the competing preoccupations and limited capacity of African governments to deal adequately with terrorism, some individuals in our government occasionally clamor to do the jobs ourselves, by whatever means possible, including kinetic military strikes. I believe such an approach has serious shortcomings in Africa. It would only worsen the problem over the long run, unleash new unforeseen conflicts, and alienate our African partners. As is the case all over the world, terrorism is often interwoven with localized conflicts and criminal activities. The lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan are clear. Military action must be followed by costly support for social and political reconstruction, and, even with the infusion of massive resources, a positive final outcome is not guaranteed. The United States is simply not resourced to resolve all the problems in this area. Our best option for dealing with terrorism and other security challenges in Africa is to form effective partnerships and to work harder at bolstering democracy and governance with our existing diplomatic and development tools. We need to work together to continue to strengthen the border control, law enforcement, and judicial capabilities of our African partners and multilateral organizations such as the African Union. Our State Department Budget for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement programs in Africa in 2010 is approximately $33 million. These programs include a wide range of training and equipment for countries across the continent, with an emphasis in West Africa and Mozambique on building counternarcotics capacity. However, the success of our efforts remains highly dependent on the good will and luck of African officials trying to interdict drug traffickers. Drug busts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and most recently The Gambia are examples of what can be done but also highlight the severity of the problem. Climate change might not seem like it belongs with terrorism and drug trafficking as a transnational security challenge. It is a slower moving trend with no visible human villains that require interdiction. Nonetheless, rising global temperatures are expected to trigger dramatic changes in weather patterns, ecology, and sea levels that will have tangible and measurable consequences on human security across Africa. It is a problem which argues for a multilateral response. The Copenhagen Accord represents an important step forward by the global community to combat climate change and its impacts. As I noted earlier, our African leaders, particularly Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles and South African President Zuma, played an important role in the final hours working with President Obama to shape the final agreement. The agreement calls for significant new funding and financing mechanisms to support "adaptation" -- helping vulnerable countries, particularly in Africa, prepare for and respond to the consequences of climate change -- and "mitigation" -- reducing green-house gas emissions by all major economies and others in a position to do so. Conclusion In conclusion, I would like to reemphasize the importance we place on developing stable and democratic partners in Africa. As much as we and our African and international partners share common goals, there remain actors who are indifferent or even opposed to those goals. This makes it all the more imperative that we work as closely as possible together. We believe this is the best approach for building African will and capacity to meet the many daunting challenges effectively over the long term. We also believe this is the best approach for realizing Africa's full potential. Thank you.