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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 

95/01/10 ADDRESS:  T. WIRTH ON ADMINISTRATION GOALS AT SOCIAL SUMMIT 

 

 

           Address by the Under Secretary for Global Affairs

                              Timothy E. Wirth 

                   before the National Council of Churches

                               New York City

                             January 10, 1995   

 

               Making the Social Summit Work:  The U.S. View 





Thank you. It is a pleasure to be with you this morning to share some 

thoughts on social development and on the goals of the Clinton 

Administration as we approach the Copenhagen World Summit for Social 

Development. 

 

I am especially pleased to be talking about this important issue with 

you--representatives of broad communities of faith so important to our 

country. 

 

The Administration deeply appreciates the large number of relief and 

development agencies based in religious communities of all denominations 

which have established aid delivery systems with international 

capacities. Church World Service, International Orthodox Christian 

Charities, Lutheran World Relief, the American Jewish Joint Distribution 

Committee, Catholic Relief Services, the United Methodist Committee on 

Relief, American Friends Service Committee, World Vision--these are some 

of the organizations that illustrate the wide array of international 

religiously based aid agencies on which we depend. The U.S. Government 

is proud to work with the more than 300 national religious bodies, 

located in every country, in a vast international partnership. 

 

In many cases, these are churches rooted in the lives of ordinary 

people, often those bearing the greatest burdens of human suffering when 

natural disasters strike and human exploitation occurs. Effective 

cooperation in relief delivery builds on such local experience, as well 

as long-established and trusted relationships. Further, many of these 

are the very organizations that hold positions on development and 

population issues that most closely parallel the progressive positions 

of the Administration. 

 

So much of what we in the government hope to accomplish is based on the 

perspective, commitment, and hope that you bring to your work. We are 

all striving for a more just and humane social and political order here 

on earth, one that respects and promotes human dignity. 

 

We depend on you to help ground us in the spiritual values which bind 

the world together and guide our lives. I hope that soon we may pick up 

on Joan Campbell's good proposal that we convene, at the State 

Department, a major meeting of international aid agencies to discuss 

ways in which we can strengthen our partnerships. 

 

This is a time of profound change for our country and the world. Indeed, 

change is all around us--in the angry election results of November, in 

the altered nature of geopolitics in the aftermath of the Cold War, and 

in the relationship between human beings and the natural world. 

 

Nations are beginning to recognize their opportunity and their 

responsibility to look beyond the crises of the moment toward the 

underlying causes that are making the world ever-more complex and 

redefining the priorities for long-term national security and global 

stability. 

 

The Cold War, which defined long-term security for more than 40 years, 

is fast becoming a distant era. In its place, we face a range of 

unfamiliar challenges in a world itself so unfamiliar as to be nearly 

unrecognizable. The changes and the choices that the United States and 

the world community now confront are every bit as demanding as those we 

have known since 1945. But the nature, diversity, and speed with which 

the new challenges emerge dictate an urgent effort to understand the 

long-term challenges of our foreign policy and to reassess the 

priorities for American leadership in meeting new tests and forging a 

better world. 

 

As always, our interest is in sustained peace and prosperity. What is 

novel are the diffuse trends that will determine those interests in the 

future, when we pass on the task of governance to our children. These 

new challenges point us toward the pursuit of sustainable development--

the lofty idea launched at the Earth Summit. 

 

Change is nothing new in the natural world. It has been occurring for as 

long as this planet has existed. For our atmosphere and our climate 

these changes have historically been shaped by gradual, natural, and 

millennial shifts in chemistry, biology, and geology. We do not 

understand all aspects or every force that caused these long-term 

changes in the past. But we do understand a phenomenon at work in the 

natural world of the present--humankind has emerged as a powerful force 

for transforming our environment and our planet. 

 

Recognition that we collectively have the ability to fundamentally alter 

major ecological systems places an enormous burden on all individuals to 

understand the concept and the consequences of sustainable development. 

At a conference in Moscow some years ago, Dean Morton said:  

 

Our relationship with the biosphere is not scripturally based on 

ownership, but rather on the privilege of living in God's creation and 

the obligation to be its caretakers. The Earth is the Lord's. 

 

What does this mean for our governmental strategy?  To me, it points to 

sustainable development, meaning that the economies of the world, 

including our own, should attempt to meet the needs of today's 

generation without compromising or stealing from future generations. 

Understood and pursued, the idea of sustainable development can 

integrate and harmonize the powerful economic and environmental forces 

at work in today's world. It is a concept rooted in a recognition of the 

mutually reinforcing nature of economic and environmental progress. 

Ecological systems are the very foundation of modern society--in 

science, in agriculture, in social and economic planning. Over the long-

term, living off our ecological capital is a bankrupt economic strategy. 

At the same time, most people and nations aspire to economic growth and 

scientific and technological progress, which, in turn, are the essential 

building blocks of environmental security. 

 

Security is now also understood in the context of human security. Human 

security is about the 1 billion individuals who live in abject poverty. 

It is about the 800 million people who go hungry every day--and the 240 

million malnourished. The 17 million who die each year from easily 

preventable diseases fall into this definition of security, as do the 

1.3 billion people without access to clean water and the more than 2 

billion people who do not benefit from safe sanitation. There are more 

than 20 million refugees, moving across national lines, and alarming 

numbers moving within nations and escaping one another. 

 

The United States' approach to the upcoming World Summit for Social 

Development and its agenda of creating jobs, eradicating poverty, and 

social integration--which we take to mean a focus on strengthening 

communities--is rooted in our commitment to sustainable development. 

 

Sustaining personal, environmental, and economic health should be our 

basic framework, and is the foundation of our approach to the upcoming 

World Summit for Social Development. 

 

In two months, the United Nations will convene the Social Summit in 

Copenhagen. The stated purpose of the summit is to further the 

commitment, made in the Charter of the United Nations, to promote 

"higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic 

and social progress and development." 

 

This is a noble purpose, which 170-plus nations agreed to in chartering 

the summit. The challenge now is to make the summit process and 

documents specific enough to create a modern, workable result. 

 

The United States delegation has been working to focus the Social Summit 

on a short set of important, doable outcomes. We believe the summit will 

be successful if, at its core, it accomplishes three things: 

 

First, if it advances a global discussion on creating more and better 

jobs; 

 

Second, if it reinforces and strengthens global resolve to eradicate the 

most abject forms of poverty in the poorest countries by early in the 

next century; and 

 

Third, if it highlights the critical need to empower women. 

 

Let me take these three outcomes one at a time. 

 

First, creating more and better jobs. The passing of the Cold War ended 

the global debate over the relative merits of the capitalist and 

communist systems. But it did not end discussion over why some nations 

are much more successful than others in job creation. To the contrary, 

dramatic changes in the global economy require that such discussions 

continue and expand. 

 

The Social Summit should serve as an information exchange on successful 

strategies for creating more and better jobs and reducing unemployment, 

as was done in Detroit at last year's successful Jobs Conference. Other 

countries have much to learn from the job creation ability of the U.S. 

economy, and we want to learn from the successes of other countries. We 

recognize that there is no single magic solution to the unemployment 

problems that many countries confront; that is precisely why this 

discussion must continue. 

 

The United States leads the world in the ability to create jobs. Our 

economy has created over 5 million new jobs in the last 22 months. We 

have the lowest unemployment rate in four years. Recent statistics 

announced by the Labor Department show that more jobs were created in 

1994 than at any time since 1988. The American economy is creating more 

jobs and lowering unemployment faster than the experts thought possible, 

with a continued low rate of inflation. This is very good news. 

 

We hope that the meeting which immediately precedes the summit will be 

used to showcase successful efforts to create jobs. Arthur White is here 

this morning, and his organization--Jobs for the Future--is one of many 

successes in matching needs with resources, and really doing something 

about it. 

 

The Clinton Administration is also acutely aware that creating jobs and 

lowering unemployment are not sufficient alone to bring about social 

well-being. 

 

Much of the great American middle class has not shared in the benefits 

of recent strong economic growth. Labor Secretary Reich recently 

described the problem when he said:  

 

The old middle class has become an anxious class--worried not only about 

sustaining their incomes but also about keeping their jobs and their 

health insurance. . . . One out of five [Americans] who lost a full-time 

job since the start of 1991 is still without work. And among those who 

have landed new jobs, almost half--47%--are now earning less than they 

did before.  

 

Why is this? Two forces have rewritten the rules: 

 

First, technology has eradicated or devalued routine jobs which can be 

done now by a computer, while enriching high-end jobs which require the 

problem-solving skills of the human brain. 

 

Second, global competition imperils the jobs of low-skill, low-wage 

workers while rewarding high-skill employees. 

 

The solution is to implement strategies that encourage individuals to 

learn and improve their skills throughout their lives. That is our 

challenge in America. The private sector has the biggest role to play in 

making this happen. But government also has a significant support role. 

 

The Clinton Administration has already taken important steps to respond 

to these new challenges: The Earned Income Tax Credit helps lift 16 

million working families out of poverty, low-interest loans help 

students attend college, one-stop career centers link unemployment 

insurance to job training. And new initiatives for a "Middle Class Bill 

of Rights" will, if enacted by the Congress, reduce taxes for the middle 

class, make college more affordable, and expand lifelong learning 

programs. We also hope to streamline and consolidate current job-

training programs as part of the focus on restoring prosperity to all 

Americans. 

 

The United States also believes the Social Summit should advance the 

effort to improve adherence to core labor standards, such as 

prohibitions on forced and child labor, freedom of association and the 

right to organize and bargain collectively, and non-discrimination in 

employment. 

 

Our second goal is poverty eradication. We have proposed that the Social 

Summit further cement the international agreement of the 1990 World 

Summit for Children and other international meetings that the worst 

forms of poverty in our world should be eliminated by early in the next 

century. 

 

We believe that the Social Summit is a time for all governments, 

international organizations, and non-governmental organizations to 

recommit themselves to a global effort to eliminate severe malnutrition, 

provide basic health care, promote universal access to safe and 

voluntary family planning and reproductive health services, ensure that 

all children learn how to read and write, and provide safe drinking 

water and sanitation for everyone. These are the basic conditions for 

the elimination of poverty. 

 

We believe that governments and international organizations should agree 

at Copenhagen that eradicating the worst forms of poverty is such an 

essential priority that they will undertake special efforts to promote 

and protect progress in attaining these aims. 

 

We have set a series of ambitious goals at previous UN conferences. 

Let's see how well we are doing--let's monitor ourselves--rather than 

set other new agendas that may sound good but will not be achieved as 

long as such basic goals as poverty alleviation remain unattained. 

 

Our proposal also addresses the central role which international 

financial institutions play in helping countries generate the economic 

growth needed to reduce poverty. Economic adjustments should be planned 

to put people first. We expect governments and the international 

financial institutions to accord high priority to identifying and 

reducing policies which hurt the poor, and to promote instead policies 

which enhance the earning power of poor people. 

 

We also encourage the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and other 

donors to help establish well-targeted safety nets to protect the most 

vulnerable from the negative impacts of essential adjustments; they 

should also complement adjustment lending with effective, "pro-poor" 

investments. 

 

The Clinton Administration is committed to working with other countries 

to strengthen the impact of MDB operations in promoting sustainable 

development. We seek a concerted effort by the MDBs to reach and engage 

the poor in a transparent process. 

 

Of special note, and like the Social Summit documents, our poverty 

proposal focuses on the plight of the poorest people in the poorest 

countries, and therefore is of great relevance to Sub-Saharan Africa. We 

are prepared to discuss other measures for Africa in the context of the 

Social Summit. 

 

The Social Summit also must discuss efforts to reduce poverty in all 

countries. As the Declaration of Principles of the recently completed, 

successful Summit of the Americas states:  

 

It is politically intolerable and morally unacceptable that some 

segments of our populations are marginalized and do not share fully in 

the benefits of growth. 

 

The keys to eradicating poverty everywhere lie in universal access to 

education, increasing employment opportunities, equitable access to 

basic health services, strengthening the role of women in society, and 

encouraging productive, high-performance enterprises, including 

microenterprises and small businesses. 

 

We are aware that what we advocate around the world we must do in our 

own backyard, so the Clinton Administration is working to reduce poverty 

in the U.S. through creative combinations of housing renovation, 

education, job-training, and anti-crime initiatives. In these areas the 

Federal Government should and will increasingly join forces with state 

and local government. The best of these actions draws on the wisdom of 

the communities they are working to strengthen, just as religiously 

based NGOs do in their work around the world. We are improving the lives 

of children through the Childhood Immunization Initiative; we have 

increased support for child care and expanded and improved the quality 

of Head Start. We still have much to learn in such areas as micro-

enterprise, teen pregnancy, and inner-city economics, and hope to learn 

from others of their successes. 

 

Our third goal is the empowerment of women, a theme that has been a 

foundation of the Administration's policy from the start, from the 1993 

Vienna Human Rights Conference to the 1994 Cairo International 

Conference on Population and Development. The empowerment of women is so 

critical to the success of social development that it is justly 

highlighted as a special commitment in the Summit's Declaration. It 

stands as the theme linking the Cairo Conference to the Social Summit 

and this September's Fourth World Conference on Women. 

 

Ensuring full political and economic participation for women is in the 

interest of a host of world objectives--for peace, prosperity, 

environmental protection, and population stabilization. Women are global 

agents of needed changes in all these areas. Promoting the social, 

political, and economic rights of women, and expanding our commitment to 

female education, child survival, and safe motherhood helps make the 

world more stable. The return on these initiatives--in terms of 

stability, environmental quality, and economic productivity--will 

outweigh the costs for generation after generation. 

 

The United States has made the empowerment of women a major objective in 

our assistance efforts. We know, for example, that girls' education is 

essential for development, and that in too many countries there is a 

wide gap between the educational opportunity provided to boys and girls. 

So programs sponsored by USAID are targeted in many countries to help 

close this gap. 

 

The empowerment of women was a central focus guiding our participation 

at last year's International Conference on Population and Development. 

We will continue our leadership efforts at this September's World 

Conference on Women, and the Social Summit should reaffirm our 

collective support for promoting the social, political, and economic 

rights of women. 

 

Finally, let me say a few words about the institutional context in which 

this important agenda will be carried out. Like economic and political 

institutions around the world, our institutions of governance are 

undergoing profound change. 

 

Traditionally, we have depended on capital-to-capital relationships, 

what I would call the "hub & spoke" method of governance. Washington was 

the hub, and spokes went out to other capitals--Delhi, Seoul, Lagos--and 

along these spokes the business of nations was conducted. 

 

This has changed in a profound way, and the way we must govern today has 

become devilishly more complex, emerging toward a new pattern of what I 

will call "relationships up and relationships down:" 

 

--  Up toward more complex, multinational institutions, and 

--  Down, into dependence on a series of grassroots, community-based, 

non-governmental organizations. 

 

Our problems spill across borders, and often do not respect them: 

 

-- Global warming--coal is burned in one country, increasing amounts of 

carbon are emitted, and we all get warm together; 

 

-- Population-- a political revolution occurs in Eastern Europe, and 

refugee laws are changed all over the West; 

 

--  Narcotics--poppies are raised in the Golden Triangle, and 

governments are corrupted by drug money in the old Soviet Union, in 

Africa, and in the Caribbean. 

 

Increasingly, we must depend upon international institutions for 

international cooperation and capacity to solve these problems: the UN 

Drug Control Program, the UN Population Fund run by Nafis Sadik, the UN 

Development Program managed by Gus Speth. The UN must continue to reform 

itself--to reinvent itself, in the lexicon of today. 

 

The Social Summit can help move forward the process of much-needed 

reform of the UN's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). As the place at 

the UN where most social development issues are discussed, it is of 

critical importance that the reform process--which is headed in a 

positive direction, but still has far to go--is furthered in Copenhagen. 

 

The Secretary General of the United Nations usefully proposed in his 

Agenda for Development that "(a) common framework should be developed to 

follow up major UN conferences." He suggested that the goals and targets 

agreed to at these conferences should be "synthesized, costed, 

prioritized, and placed in a reasonable time perspective for 

implementation." We agree. 

 

Follow-up, to this and other UN conferences, should be monitored 

carefully. ECOSOC should review and assess implementation of the 

Summit's Program of Action and provide guidance to the monitoring 

agencies as well as recommendations to the UN General Assembly on ways 

to improve collective response to the summit's commitments. 

 

I do not have to tell you that there are many in the Congress and the 

American public who are extremely skeptical about the UN as an 

institution that can do more than debate and hold conferences; we must 

work hard to mute this skepticism, to pare down these bureaucracies, and 

to be sure the UN is as worthy of our dollars and support as it is 

needed in this rapidly changing world. 

 

Just as pressures up complicate the job of governing, so do pressures 

down. A number of forces have made the process increasingly horizontal: 

 

--  The quest for democracy and self-government, and the expression of 

increasingly able and articulate movements for ethnic and religious 

expression; 

 

--  Modern communications and transportation, allowing people to know 

what is happening elsewhere, to bond with one another, to share 

information, and making it more difficult, if not impossible, for 

governments to isolate their citizens; and 

 

--  The complexity of the issues and the needed institutions--the 

expertise for measuring carbon emissions, inserting an IUD, or 

developing an accounting system--is more likely to be found in the 

private non-governmental sector than in a government bureaucracy. 

 

The examples of this evolution toward the grassroots are legion: 

 

--  At the Earth Summit in Rio, the agenda for climate change, 

biodiversity, and most of Agenda 21 was set by private experts; and even 

though more than 100 heads of state attended, the heroes of Rio were the 

NGOs, covered by more than 9,000 reporters from around the world. 

 

--  This experience was repeated at the 1993 Human Rights Conference, 

where the NGOs (meeting a floor below the governments) identified the 

central issues; acted as eyes, ears, and instant lobbyists for 

progressive delegations like our own; and, in my opinion, saved the 

conference and the world's commitment to the Universal Declaration on 

Human Rights. 

 

--  This happened again in the run-up to the Cairo Population 

Conference, where women from around the world changed the terms and 

altered the framework whereby nations thought about the difficult debate 

over population and development. 

 

--  I suspect the Chinese Government will learn a great deal about 

democracy when they host the fourth World Conference on Women--and an 

estimated 20,000 women NGOs in Beijing in September. 

 

And it is as promoters of development at the local level that NGOs may 

make their greatest contribution. Already, NGOs dispense 13% of total 

overseas development assistance--a figure that I expect will go up. But 

NGOs are much more than just a cheap conduit of assistance. For example, 

the sorts of things we all want to do with USAID-- get it to the people 

that really need it, and make a real and lasting difference in their 

lives requires the sensitivity, enthusiasm, and, not least, the 

creativity that grassroots groups can offer. 

 

Let me close by quoting President Clinton, who in his speech before the 

UN General Assembly last September  set the tone of optimism that should 

guide the work of the Social Summit. He said:  

 

The end of the Cold War, the explosion of technology and trade and 

enterprise have given people the world over new opportunities to live up 

to their dreams and their God-given potential. This is an age of hope. 

 

In what is left of this last decade of the millennium, we have the power 

and enormous responsibility to shape change for the benefit of the 

United States and the entire world. Sustainable development--to end 

where I started--represents an organizing principle worthy of our shared 

effort and common cause. I know that all of you are deeply committed to 

these goals. Working together, our talents, our energy, and our power 

more than match the challenges and the institutions involved. Let us all 

work to see that our actions, including those at the Social Summit, 

bring people around  the world closer to realizing these new 

opportunities. As was written in the Talmud: "The day is short, and the 

work is great."  Thank you very much.   
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