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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
I am especially pleased to be talking about this important issue with
you--representatives of broad communities of faith so important to our
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
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
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
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
The Clinton Administration is also acutely aware that creating jobs and
lowering unemployment are not sufficient alone to bring about social
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
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
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
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
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"
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
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,
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
-- 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
-- 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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