It is an incredible honor to be here and to be here with so many members of Diaspora communities from around this country and around the world. I’m one of you, and so, I’m pleased to be able to join. In fact, joining you last year and hearing about the businesses you’ve started, the volunteer programs you’ve supported, the innovations you’ve generated and the resources and inspiration that you’ve offered to your original home communities was one of my more personal and inspiring moments of the year. So, thank you for allowing me to participate.
Today, more than 62 million Americans, a full fifth of this nation are first or second generation Diaspora community members. That undoubtedly is what makes our country great. We all collectively represent a vast and diverse community, and we do so much both here and with our home communities and the countries from which we came that we’re excited to now have the opportunity to partner more deeply together to improve on the results we can accomplish when we do work together.
At USAID, we understand that our development assistance will never be fully effective unless we draw on the full contributions of the entire population, including previously marginalized groups such as the LGBT community, women, young people, ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities, and displaced persons.
Ten years ago, I took part in the first Tokyo conference on Afghanistan on behalf of the United States Government. In many ways, I have a strong sense of deja vu. In January 2002, in the wake of the fall of the Taliban, the world came together to pledge our mutual commitment to support the stability and reconstruction of a fragile and devastated Afghanistan. Working together as a community in support of the Afghan people and government, we have kept faith over the past decade. This fact is reflected in a 15 year increase in life expectancy for the Afghan people; the presence of some seven million students – of which nearly 40 percent are girls -- in schools; a huge decline in infant and maternal mortality; and a three-fold increase in per capita income.
We come together at a moment of great hope and equal challenge with respect to the refugee situation in Afghanistan. We celebrate the return of nearly six million people to Afghanistan from neighboring countries, a clear reflection of the progress we have collectively achieved in rebuilding and stabilizing the country. People are voting for a better life for themselves and their families. Indeed, this is an expression of confidence in the future, one that the United States government has been able to support with more than $700 million in assistance for refugees and returnees over the past decade.
In Tokyo, the international community and the Afghans will come together to discuss the best way to solidify the progress we've made in the past decade. The timing of this conference is significant because it some so quickly on the heels of the G8 in Chicago that focused on the 2014 transition. As we all know, there are really two transitions in 2014 - the transfer of security operations to the Afghans, and also the first democratic transfer of power in the history of Afghanistan.
Dignity and freedom were the banners of the peaceful revolutionaries. They came carrying dignity, and another banner as well, their humanity. They were searching for the humanity inside them; they lost their humanity because of oppression, corruption and injustice. They came sacrificing their lives, their money, their property, and their children – carrying dignity and humanity. The dignity they were asking for was not in vain. This is something God has granted them.
All religions in the world talk about the dignity of the human being. Islam talks about dignity for humans; this is a part of the Quran. Also, the same thing is in the Holy Bible. This dignity comes from humans as a means for rights. This dignity is a regional value that is carried by all human beings, despite their backgrounds or their beliefs. The youths of the Arab Spring and the women raise a banner of dignity, freedom and justice. Free people of the world – let us work for the dignity of all people.
And in the forefront of the Arab Spring, let us support dignity there; let us support dignity in your own countries. You may be surprised why I say your country instead of our country – because i always believed that humanity, that all of the people of the world are one nation. All of humanity is one nation, and all of the people are brothers.
I am very pleased to witness the signing of the Development Objective Agreements between the United States Agency for International Development and the Government of Ethiopia. These agreements cover the first year of the new five-year USAID Country Development Strategy and reflect the close consultation and cooperation of our two governments in all areas of social and economic development and in all regions of Ethiopia.
Every year, we come to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to sign bi-lateral assistance agreement that describe the mutually agreed upon plans for development cooperation between the U.S. Government, through USAID, and the Government of Ethiopia, through the Ministry, working on various sectors of social and economic development.
JACK LESLIE: Well, good morning, everyone, and welcome to the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. I’m Jack Leslie. I am delighted to serve as chair for our proceedings today. I’ll try to keep things on track. I wanted to start by thanking Georgetown University. They’ve been very nice to provide their facilities all week long for so many activities, and this big tent, which I guess gives new meaning to the word open meeting. We certainly have an open meeting. We’re glad too, that all of you came to join us this morning.
Good morning. I want to thank Dean Lancaster for opening up Georgetown for partnership and hosting this important session today. I want to thank Minister Tedros and Mr. Azad from Ethiopia and India, respectively, for co-convening this effort and the executive director of UNICEF, Tony Lake, for your leadership in making all of this possible.
I know we’re all also quite excited to hear from both Secretary Clinton and Ben Affleck this morning. And so we’re eager to see them and I thank so many honored guests and excellencies who have come from around the world to be with us. Welcome to Washington.
Last updated: March 28, 2015