Pandemics, Partnerships and the Promotion of Democracy

Pandemics, Partnerships and the Promotion of Democracy

Paula J. Dobriansky at FPC briefing

Remarks by Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky

Asia Society, New York

Thank you Jamie for that kind introduction. It is a pleasure to be
with you today. Congratulations to the Asia Society on fifty years of
successfully promoting greater knowledge and understanding among the
peoples of Asia and the United States. Asia is one of the most dynamic
regions of the world today. Our ties are both broad and deep – thanks
in part to your diligent efforts.

In his recent speech to the Asia Society, President Bush observed
that “Fifty years ago, there were only a handful of democracies in
Asia; today there are nearly a dozen. Fifty years ago, most of Asia was
mired in hopeless poverty; today its economies are engines of
prosperity. These changes have been dramatic,” President Bush
continued, “and as the Asian continent grows in freedom and
opportunity, it will be a source of peace and stability and prosperity
for all the world.”

As Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, I am
responsible for the handling of a number of transnational issues
impacting Asia, including avian flu, the Asia Pacific Partnership on
Clean Development and Climate, and democracy.

Avian Influenza

Over the past year, the growing threat posed by avian flu has come
to the forefront of policy-making in many Asian countries. A recent
CNN/TIME survey of 66 Asian nations identified avian flu as their
foremost global concern in 2006 -- even more than economic slowdown,
terrorism, AIDS, or environmental issues. The current avian flu threat
comes from the H5N1 strain, which was first transferred from birds to
humans in 1997 and 2003 in Hong Kong. It has started to spread rapidly
and widely, first throughout Asia in 2005, and more recently, Europe,
Africa, and the Middle East, totaling now over 45 countries. Since
1997, almost 200 people have contracted the virus, and more than half
have died.

While the current strain does not allow for efficient human to human
transmission, we are concerned that it can mutate to evoke rapid human
to human transmission. This would be catastrophic to the health,
security and economies of nations throughout Asia, and around the
globe. Our challenge is to take specific actions to prevent such an
outbreak, and to be prepared to address the threat as a global
community.

In September 2005, at the opening of the UN General Assembly,
President Bush announced the International Partnership on Avian and
Pandemic Influenza, a network of over 90 countries and 9 international
organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and
Agricultural Organization (FAO), and OIE (World Animal Health
Organization). The partnership is built on a set of core principles for
action – including a common commitment to transparency in reporting,
immediate sharing of viral samples, and rapid response to handling
outbreaks of Avian Influenza. Last October, the United States, hosted
the first meeting of the Partnership to identify concrete actions that
countries could take to improve preparedness and communication,
surveillance and detection, and response and containment.

The shared threat of avian flu has generated unprecedented
cooperation among most Asian countries. The region’s recent experience
with SARS - which killed nearly 700 people and caused more than $80
billion in damage worldwide - underscores the importance of decisive
action and effective multilateral cooperation.

In cooperation with the WHO and FAO, as well as bilaterally, we are
working closely with countries throughout Asia to build avian flu
handling- related capacity, increase reporting, ensure scientific
cooperation, and enhance overall preparedness.

During January’s International Pledging Conference on Avian and
Pandemic Influenza in Beijing, the United States announced $334 million
to support international programs -- the largest contribution to the
nearly $1.9 billion pledged.

Regionally, we are participating in Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) initiatives to inventory regional experts on avian
flu; to launch a region-wide tabletop exercise; to hold a Symposium on
Emerging Infectious Diseases to be held in Beijing this month; and to
hold workshops on risk communication and assessing pandemic
preparedness plans. We also have joined Indonesia and Singapore in
establishing a model avian influenza-free province in Tamarang,
Indonesia, to develop best practices to prevent infection and spread of
avian influenza in both animals and humans.

Bilaterally, we committed $18.4 million last year to improve
surveillance, preparedness, response, and communications in Vietnam,
Cambodia, Laos, and Indonesia -- the most affected countries in
Southeast Asia. In Vietnam, we are working closely with the
international donor community to restructure the poultry industry and
develop a human vaccine. We are assisting Laos and Cambodia to build
their essential capacity and infrastructure to combat an avian
influenza outbreak. The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit-2 (NAMRU-2)
lab in Jakarta is augmenting that country’s surveillance and diagnostic
capabilities.

We are working with China to strengthen vaccine development, disease
surveillance and rapid response and pandemic planning through the
U.S.-China Joint Initiative on Avian Influenza. The CDC is providing
technical training in Bangladesh throughout its 64 districts, and we
are funding the WHO to support bird surveillance in Nepal.

Businesses in the region have also played a pivotal role. As part of
my visit to Southeast Asia last October to discuss avian flu, WHO
Director General Lee and I met with the Singapore chapter of the
American Chamber of Commerce. I was impressed by the level and extent
of planning underway. Many company representatives described their
plans to have employees telecommute to work during an outbreak and how
they would ensure continuity of operations, including funding
alternative ways to transport goods and services.

In fact, a recent New York Times article reported Southeast
Asian corporations are better prepared than ours. A survey of corporate
officials found most had someone in charge of avian influenza policy;
60 percent had clearly defined plans. On the other hand, a survey done
by Deloitte & Touche of U.S. business leaders, found that most had
appointed no one to be in charge of policy, and two-thirds had not
prepared adequately.

Clean Development and Climate Change

Another issue of importance to the Asia Pacific
region is the integrated decision-making among three key policy areas
-- energy, development and the environment. The East-Asia Pacific
region alone accounts for one quarter of global GDP. Eight out of the
world’s ten fastest growing economies are found in Asia. This economic
growth is beneficial -- it reduces poverty, increases longevity, and
improves living conditions.

However, rapid economic growth also presents challenges. The manner
in which these burgeoning Asian countries meet their water and energy
needs, protect their citizens’ health, use their resources, and
preserve the integrity of their natural environments is an issue of
critical importance not just to the region, but to the global
community.

Responses to these challenges should not be to limit the very
economic dynamism that is lifting so many countries out of poverty. The
development and adoption of cleaner energy technologies is an effective
approach that will sustain economic growth, while protecting the
environment and enhancing energy security. During last year’s G8 Summit
in Gleneagles, G8 leaders agreed to such an approach and produced an
action plan for meeting these shared objectives.

Congress, through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, called for renewed
efforts to help developing countries power their growing economies with
cleaner energy technologies. The Administration is responding by
launching the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and
Climate, a major new initiative of six nations -- Australia, China,
India, Japan, South Korea and the United States. Together, these
nations represent about half of the world's economy, population and
energy use.

This voluntary Partnership is designed to accelerate the development
and deployment of cleaner, more efficient technologies in order to
reduce pollution, mitigate climate change, and enhance energy security
through public-private sector collaboration. It focuses on the
development and commercialization of transformational low and zero
emissions energy technologies. As Secretary Rice has said, “Everyone
has something to contribute. Everyone stands to gain. And together we
represent a powerful force for positive change.”

The Partnership has identified eight areas for cooperation: cleaner
use of fossil energy; renewable energy and distributed generation;
power generation and transmission; aluminum; steel; cement; buildings
and appliances; and finally, mining. Partner countries will meet in two
weeks to begin drafting a detailed plan to carry out an ambitious
agenda in each of these areas.

The President’s FY07 budget requests $52 million for this
initiative, which complements the nearly $3 billion spent annually by
the U.S. to develop and deploy clean energy technologies. The private
sector also plays a critical role in the Partnership. Participation by
corporate global leaders in the energy sector is key, since they
account for a good portion of the world's industrial production and
power generation. We are working with business leaders from all the
partner countries to deploy the best technologies and practices to
lower the cost of production, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas
emissions, and develop and bring to the marketplace the next generation
of clean energy technologies. In so doing, we will protect Asia’s
future economic growth, energy security, and the environment.

Democracy

Asia is home to a range of vibrant democratic experiences. There
is, for example, India, an economic powerhouse and the world’s largest
democracy.

In addressing the Asia Society, President Bush highlighted the
Global Democracy Initiative, a partnership between India and the United
States to further democracy and development around the world. As part
of this initiative, India and the United States have made significant
financial contributions, $10 million each, to the United Nations
Democracy Fund. The Fund will provide grants to governments, civil
institutions, and international organizations to help administer
elections, fight corruption, and build the rule of law in emerging
democratic nations. During the President’s visit to India in February,
our nations agreed to cooperate with Hungary’s International Center for
Democratic Transition (ICDT) on democracy promotion activities.

At the other end of the spectrum are Burma and North Korea. In
Burma, rather than respond to the international community’s growing
concerns, the military junta has instead become more intransigent.
Besides keeping Aung San Suu Kyi, the courageous leader of the National
League for Democracy, under house arrest, the regime is also condemning
the Burmese people to repression, brutality and neglect, and subjecting
its neighbors to disease, narcotics and staggering outflows of
refugees.

Meanwhile, North Korea is one of the world’s most closed countries.
During the 1990’s, millions of North Koreans starved to death and
countless others confined to languish in a massive network of prison
camps. Religious faith is severely suppressed and its people have one
of the lowest standards of living in the world. In its assessment of
political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House gives North Korea
the lowest possible score on both counts. Those who have fled North
Korea—estimates in the tens of thousands —also face peril.

Last year, President Bush appointed a Special Envoy for Human
Rights in North Korea, whose work is to improve respect for the
fundamental human rights of the people of North Korea.

T he United States is devoting significant attention to its
relationship with China. As Deputy Secretary Zoellick noted last
September, “It is time to take our policy beyond opening doors to
China’s membership into the international system: We need to urge China
to become a responsible stakeholder in that system.”

China and the United States face many common challenges -- regional
and global, economic and political, social and environmental. We are
encouraged by – and welcome -- growing positive engagement by China on
important issues such as North Korea, peacekeeping, and energy.

Indeed, we are cooperating with China in many ways. Deputy Secretary
Zoellick inaugurated a Senior Dialogue with China. I co-chair the
U.S.-China Global Issues Forum in which our two countries address
common global challenges and areas for cooperation such as sustainable
development; humanitarian assistance, poverty alleviation, development
financing; law enforcement; and public health. 

But clearly, we have differences with China as well. As it grows in
power, China must also grow as a responsible global leader. As
President Bush said in Kyoto last November “b y meeting the legitimate
demands of its citizens for freedom and openness, China's leaders can
help their country grow into a modern, prosperous, and confident
nation.” We would welcome progress with respect to political prisoners,
freedom of press, and freedom of worship. Issues such as these must
remain on the agenda and be resolved even as we recognize our expanding
sphere of common interests. We are encouraged that dialogue between the
Chinese and the Dalai Lama’s envoys is underway, and hope to witness
concrete results in the near term.

Conclusion

All of these issues – avian influenza, clean energy technologies,
democracy – are central to Asia’s economic and stability. The US
Government is actively addressing all these areas, and more, through
robust, results-oriented programs.

But we know we cannot build better relations with Asia alone. We
rely on the key role of the private sector -- businesses, civil
society, educators, scientists and artists. We rely on the Asia
Society, with its long history of fostering understanding between the
United States and all the countries of Asia.

For that, and the opportunity to speak to you today, I thank you. And I wish you all success in the fifty years to come.

 

 

April 6, 2006
by Stephanie Valera