Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
New York City, New York
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Administrator Power, Sam, my friend, thank you – thank you very much, but thank you especially for truly remarkable leadership at USAID. I see that every day, and I see that around the world whenever I go to one of our missions around the world; where the rubber really meets the road is in the work of USAID, and it’s extraordinary, and it’s making a profound difference in lives around the world, including and notably in strengthening democratic institutions and supporting democrats with a small “d.”
To you, also to my friend and colleague Scott Nathan who is also doing extraordinary work at the Development Finance Corporation, so vital as well to supporting democratic initiatives around the world. And to our friends the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, to Darren, to Raj – thanks for hosting us, but more important than that, thank you for quite literally decades – I don’t want to age you – but decades spent improving lives here in the United States but also around the world.
It’s an honor to be here today with leaders from all nine of our Democracy Delivers partner countries. To everyone who is joining in person, online, from governments, from philanthropies, from business, from civil society, thank you – thank you for what are indispensable partnerships.
As Samantha said, a year ago at the last UN General Assembly we launched Democracy Delivers to support rising democratic movements in countries around the world. We started in nine nations across South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean – places where citizens rejected corruption, demanded respect for human rights, called for accountable governments, and elected leaders who shared their vision for the future, including so many of the leaders who are here at this table today.
As this group knows very well, moments of opportunity come with high expectations – to make change fast, to prove that democracies can indeed deliver for their people. And right now our countries also face monumental challenges, including threats posed by the climate crisis and very different challenges posed by emerging technology, reshaping every aspect of our societies and our governments’ capacity to create responsive and effective policies. But we are united by the conviction that democracies are best placed to meet this challenge, to meet this moment, to address these different challenges head on, to help our people in times of change and in times of uncertainty.
And this is something that I’m not just saying as a – out of thin air. Pretty much everywhere I go, this is what I’m hearing. Around the world, what I’m hearing from people as well as officials is they’re not losing faith in democracy, they want more of it. They want more tools. They want more partnerships. They want more help to make sure that their countries can thrive. None of our countries and no single sector of our societies have all the answers, but we all have a lot to learn and a lot to gain when we work together.
One of the things I’ve been convinced of, doing this for more than 30 years, is that for any given problem, somewhere in the world someone has probably found the answer. But if they’re not able to share it, then we’re in a constant process of reinventing the wheel. The power of these partnerships, these groups, is we’re learning from each other. We’re getting best practices. We’re finding solutions to problems that are common to all of us, and that somewhere around this table or somewhere around the world, someone has figured out a good way forward.
So in these times of change, when after years of hard work by citizens, by activists, by reformers, the doors to democracy are opening a little bit wider. We can and we are joining forces to make the most of the opportunity. So over the last year, we’ve worked alongside our partners in government, philanthropy, private sector to tackle our common challenges, to sustain the momentum of democracy, to find new ways to make progress for people on the issues that actually matter most to them, that are having a real impact on their lives. We’re working together to strengthen public institutions so that they can better respond to citizens’ needs.
The Dominican Republic, to cite one example, we’re supporting efforts to bolster government oversight bodies, to increase the transparency of the public procurement system so that there are fewer opportunities for corruption and citizens have greater faith in our institutions.
We’re also helping invest in the sustainability and reliability of critical infrastructure. So, for example, when the Russian Government reduced energy supplies flowing to Moldova as retaliation for standing up against Russia’s war in Ukraine, the United States and other donors redoubled our work with the Moldovan Government to help keep the lights on, to lower prices for citizens, to help diversify the energy sources that Moldova has, and to be able to move away from the dependence on Russia.
As you’ll hear later on, we’re also improving public health through the m-mama Initiative, actually referred to in the video that you saw, launched in Tanzania with the Vodafone Foundation and Vodacom Tanzania Foundation. This emergency referral system connects pregnant women with urgent medical care and has helped reduce maternal mortality rates.
Now, I know there’s sometimes a tendency when we talk about some of these individual initiatives to say, well, good, but it seems like incremental change. But here’s the thing: Taken together, every safer birth, every more transparent government institution, helps give people greater confidence that their government works for them and can actually meet their needs. And all of that comes together in building support and building the power of democracies that are actually delivering concrete results.
In a moment when the future of all democracies are increasingly interconnected, that’s good for our people. It’s good for our countries. It’s good for the planet that we share.
So I’m very much looking forward to getting an accounting, as Sam said, of the work that’s been done, but also to continuing the work so that we can provide for all our people and give them the government that they deserve. These meetings are important. They’re important milestones in taking account of what we’ve done and where we’re going, but we know that for all the work of one day, it’s the 364 that follow that matter the most. So after this, we’ll get back to work.
Sam, thank you.