And the Most Corrupt Countries Are…

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North Korea and Somalia, says the latest corruption perceptions index from Transparency International. “More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark comes out on top in 2014 with a score of 92 while North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight. The scores of several countries rose or fell by four points or more. The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4). (TI http://bit.ly/1pUDLeX)

Desperate times….The World Food Program is resorting to crowd funding to feed 1.7 million Syrian refugees because our humanitarian system is broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

Ebola

A health official says another Sierra Leonean doctor has tested positive for Ebola, the 11th from that country to become infected. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yPNhSc)

British actor Idris Elba and a host of international football stars launched a public awareness campaign on Wednesday to help halt West Africa’s Ebola epidemic and recognise the health workers fighting the deadly disease. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNOKGp)

To understand how Ebola came to Taylortown, how it spread in the village and how it eventually ended in the village is to understand how the epidemic might end in Liberia, and what will be left behind. (NPR http://n.pr/1pUEtZE)

Africa

Four Somalis were killed when a car bomb hit a United Nations convoy near the capital’s international airport on Wednesday, showing the threat still posed by insurgents despite their recent loss of territory. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPAvmB)

Kenyan trade unions have urged non-Muslim public sector workers including teachers and doctors to leave the country’s lawless northern region, site of two deadly attacks by militants in the past two weeks, because of the security risks. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPuW7U)

Lawmakers in Cameroon, which is battling to stop the advance of Nigerian Boko Haram militants on its territory, will vote in the coming days on whether to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of involvement in acts of terrorism. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMCi4)

Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday rejected prosecutors’ attempts to have the trial against Kenya’s president adjourned until they had enough evidence and set a week deadline to proceed or withdraw the charges. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1vNMUFH)

The UN-sanctioned military mission to Somalia, known as AMISOM, is taking on a new role after freeing much of the country from al-Shabab control. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRaos)

A multilingual mobile phone-based resource operated by Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, and Ethio Telecom, and created by the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), has proved a huge hit. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1yPIkZw)

Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRXGc)

MENA

An Egyptian judge sentenced 185 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death on Tuesday over an attack on a police station near Cairo last year in which 12 policemen were killed. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1yPBgvW)

Syrian refugees across the Middle East, some in exile for a fourth winter, face freezing temperatures, hunger and increasing hostility from locals as governments struggle to cope with the humanitarian crisis. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPGrMu)

The United Nations has begun investigating Israeli attacks that hit UN facilities during last summer’s Gaza war and how Palestinian militants came to store weapons at several UN schools, officials said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNRfc3)

HRW urged Turkey on Wednesday to remove from its border with Syria landmines which have killed three people and wounded nine among more than 2,000 Syrian refugees camped in a minefield. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1pUAcFE)

Belgian legislators from the ruling coalition are working on a non-binding resolution to recognize a Palestinian state, adding to the groundswell of support within the European Union. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNnvx3)

Asia

Research on a male birth control pill from Indonesia shows that it is 99% effective. (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1yPBLGz)

Hundreds of people marched through the central Indian city of Bhopal Tuesday, waving flaming torches to commemorate the thousands who perished in the world’s deadliest industrial disaster 30 years ago. (VOA http://bit.ly/1vNPYSd)

India is forcing women and girls with disabilities into mental institutions where they are “treated worse than animals,” said Human Rights Watch in a new report. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPFbZP)

The two top generals of the junta running Thailand on Wednesday defended the May 22 coup that ousted the civilian government but told international audiences in Bangkok they are committed to a return to democracy. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPH6h8)

It looks like Tajikistan is following a regional trend by drafting legislation that may sharply restrict the activities of foreign-funded non-governmental organisations. Activists say the bill threatens to hinder the operations of hundreds of organisations working on everything from human rights to public health. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNStnC)

Afghanistan will send a delegation to Iran to ask the government to extend temporary visas to allow 760,000 Afghan refugees who have no documents and risk deportation to stay on for at least a year, an Afghan government spokesman said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzB6H)

Afghanistan’s foreign donors should press the Afghan government to prevent a further deterioration in the country’s human rights situation and support services crucial to rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said. (AI and HRW http://bit.ly/1yNA7nQ)

The Americas

Venezuelan opposition leader faced questions from prosecutors Wednesday over her alleged involvement in what the government says was a plot to kill President Nicolas Maduro. (AP http://yhoo.it/1yNpzFd)

Mayor of the Honduran municipality of Victoria, Sandro Martínez, assumed the commitment of turning it into a model of food and nutritional security and environmental protection by means of municipal public policies based on broad social and community participation and international development aid. (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNS9VT)

Destruction of the Peruvian Amazon is rising after expanding over more than 145,000 hectares (560 square miles) last year – an 80 percent jump from the start of the century, the government said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1vNT2xx)

Afghanistan has the world’s highest number of children killed or wounded by landmines and other explosive remnants of war, followed by Colombia, according to a leading anti-landmine group. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzM21)

In the past 15 years, studies in Africa have found that circumcision lowers men’s risk of being infected with HIV during heterosexual intercourse by 50 to 60 percent. Being circumcised also reduces men’s risk of infection with the herpes virus and human papillomavirus. Those health benefits prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s proposed recommendation that doctors counsel parents of baby boys and teenagers, as well as men, on the benefits and risks of circumcision. (NPR http://n.pr/1yNt7XY)

Opinion/Blogs

Did the movement to reform development start above a Chipotle? (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1vOyvZW)

The World Food Program is Crowdfunding to feed Syrian Refugees Because our Humanitarian System is Broken (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/12ngoPX)

One Village’s Story: How Ebola Began And How It Ends (Goats and Soda http://n.pr/1vOywgl)

#ISurvivedEbola Campaign Releases First Video (Global Voices http://bit.ly/1yPCUxH)

Why are people with disabilities being denied their right to food? (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNRnrT)

‘Why we need to end drug war’ (CNN http://cnn.it/1vNPziz)

How to make the developing world’s cities better … and it’s not just about money (Guardian http://bit.ly/1vNPHia)

Stand in Solidarity with Courageous Women’s Human Rights Defenders (IPS http://bit.ly/1vNRKm9)

Bob Geldof’s Band Aid – Thank You but Africa’s Image Is Sagging (The Independent http://bit.ly/1yNyEOp)

The ADB Says Poverty Is Rising in Asia: I Have My Doubts (CGD http://bit.ly/1pUGvJd)

Research/Reports 

Marleen Temmerman, director of the WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that a safe, effective vaccine exists to stop cervical cancer and that it’s advisable for girls age 9 to 13 to get vaccinated before they become sexually active. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yPEAHF)

This year is on track to be the hottest on record, or at least among the very warmest, the United Nations said on Wednesday in new evidence of long-term warming that adds urgency to 190-nation talks under way in Lima on slowing climate change. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1pUzJmJ)

Thousands of men, women and children fleeing war-ravaged countries face dreadful holding conditions and a dysfunctional reception system after risking their lives in smuggling boats to reach Greece’s Aegean Sea islands, an international medical aid organization warned on Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1pUAXP4)

Developing nations called on the rich to do more to lead the fight against climate change in line with scientific findings that global greenhouse gas emissions should fall to net zero by 2100 to avert the worst impacts. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1yNsbmy)

Read More

U.S. Engagement in the Asia Pacific

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 15, 2014

University of Queensland

Brisbane, Australia

1:11 P.M. AEST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much!  (Applause.)  Thank you!  Thank you, everybody.  Everybody, please have a seat.  Hello, Brisbane!  It’s good to be back in Australia.  I love Australia — I really do.  The only problem with Australia is every time I come here I’ve got to sit in conference rooms and talk to politicians instead of go to the beach.  (Laughter.) 

To Chancellor Story, Professor Høj, faculty and staff, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and most of all, the students of the University of Queensland — it is great to be here at UQ.  I know that we are joined by students from universities across this city, and some high school students, as well.  And so I want to thank all of the young people especially for welcoming me here today.   

On my last visit to this magnificent country three years ago, I had the privilege to meet some of the First Australians; we’re joined by some today.  So I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of this land and by paying my respects to your elders, past and present.

This university is recognized as one of the world’s great institutions of science and teaching.  Your research led to the vaccine that protects women and girls around the world from cervical cancer.  Your innovations have transformed how we treat disease and how we unlock new discoveries.  Your studies have warned the world about the urgent threat of climate change.  In fact, last year I even tweeted one of your studies to my 31 million followers on Twitter.  (Laughter.)  Just bragging a little bit.  (Applause.)  I don’t think that’s quite as much as Lady Gaga, but it’s pretty good.  (Laughter.)  That’s still not bad.

I thank Prime Minister Abbott and the people of Brisbane and Queensland for hosting us at the G-20 Summit.  This city, this part of Australia, is just stunning — “beautiful one day, and then perfect the next.”  (Laughter.)  That’s what I understand.  (Applause.)  We travel a lot around the world.  My staff was very excited for “Bris Vegas.”  (Laughter.)  When I arrived they advised I needed some XXXX.  (Laughter.)  You have some?  (Laughter.) 

Part of the reason I have fond memories of Australia is I spent some time here as a boy when I was traveling between Hawaii and Indonesia, where I lived for several years.  And when I returned three years ago as President, I had the same feelings that I remembered as a child — the warmth of the people of Australia, the sense of humor.  I learned to speak a little “strine.”  (Laughter.)  I’m tempted to “give it a burl.”  That’s about as far as I can go actually.       

But I do want to take this opportunity to express once again the gratitude of the American people for the extraordinary alliance with Australia.  I tell my friends and family and people that I meet that there is an incredible commonality between Australia and the United States.  And whether that’s because so many of us traveled here as immigrants — some voluntary and some not; whether it’s because of wide open spaces and the sense of a frontier culture — there’s a bond between our two countries. 

And Australia really is everything that you would want in a friend and in an ally.  We’re cut from the same cloth — immigrants from an old world who built a new nation.  We’re inspired by the same ideals of equality and opportunity — the belief everybody deserves a fair go, a fair shot.  And we share that same spirit — that confidence and optimism — that the future is ours to make; that we don’t have to carry with us all the baggage from the past, that we can leave this world a better, safer, more just place for future generations.  And that’s what brings me here today — the future that we can build together, here in the Asia Pacific region.

Now, this week, I’ve traveled more than 15,000 miles — from America to China to Burma to Australia.  I have no idea what time it is right now.  (Laughter.)  I’m completely upside down.  But despite that distance, we know that our world is getting smaller.  One of Australia’s great writers spoke of this — a son of Brisbane and a graduate of this university, David Malouf.  And he said, “In that shrinking of distance that is characteristic of our contemporary world, even the Pacific, largest of oceans, has become a lake.”  Even the Pacific has become a lake.

And you see it here on this campus, where you welcome students from all across Asia and around the world, including a number of Americans.  You go on exchanges, and we’re proud to welcome so many of you to the United States.  You walk the streets of this city and you hear Chinese, Vietnamese, Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, Hindi.  And in many neighborhoods more than half the people you meet were born somewhere else.  This is a global city in a globalized world. 

And I often tell young people in America that, even with today’s challenges, this is the best time in history to be alive.  Never in the history of humanity have people lived longer, are they more likely to be healthy, more likely to be enjoying basic security.  The world is actually much less violent today.  You wouldn’t know it from watching television that it once was.

And that’s true here in the Asia Pacific as well.  Countries once ravaged by war, like South Korea and Japan, are among the world’s most advanced economies.  From the Philippines to Indonesia, dictatorships have given way to genuine democracies.  In China and across the region, hundreds of millions of people have been lifted from poverty in the span of one generation, joining a global middle class.  Empowered by technology, you — the young people in particular of this region — are connecting and collaborating across borders and cultures like never before as you seek to build a new future.

So the opportunities today are limitless.  And I don’t watch a lot of Australian television, so — as you might imagine, because I’m really far away.  (Laughter.)  So I don’t know whether some of the same tendencies that we see in the United States — a focus on conflict and disasters and problem — dominate what’s fed to us visually every single day.  But when you look at the facts, opportunities are limitless for this generation.  You’re living in an extraordinary time. 

But what is also true, is that alongside this dynamism, there are genuine dangers that can undermine progress.  And we can’t look at those problems through rose-tinted glasses.  North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs — that’s a problem.  Disputes over territory, remote islands and rocky shoals that threaten to spiral into confrontation. 

The failure to uphold universal human rights, denying justice to citizens and denying countries their full potential.  Economic inequality and extreme poverty that are a recipe for instability.  And energy demands in growing cities that also hasten trends towards a changing climate.  Indeed, the same technologies that empower citizens like you also give oppressive regimes new tools to stifle dissent.

So the question that we face is, which of these futures will define the Asia Pacific in the century to come?  Do we move towards further integration, more justice, more peace?  Or do we move towards disorder and conflict?  Those are our choices — conflict or cooperation?  Oppression or liberty?

Here in Australia three years ago, in your parliament, I made it clear where the United States stands.  We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace; that an effective security order for Asia must be based — not on spheres of influence, or coercion, or intimidation where big nations bully the small — but on alliances of mutual security, international law and international norms that are upheld, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

We believe in open markets and trade that is fair and free — a level playing field where economies play by the same rules; where the purpose of trade is not simply to extract resources from the ground, but to build true partnerships that raise capacity and living standards in poor countries; where small business owners and entrepreneurs and innovators have the freedom to dream and create and flourish; and how well a country does is based on how well they empower their individual citizens.

And we believe in democracy — that the only real source of legitimacy is the consent of the people; that every individual is born equal with fundamental rights, inalienable rights, and that it is the responsibility of governments to uphold these rights.  This is what we stand for.  That is our vision — the future America is working toward in the Asia Pacific, with allies and friends.

Now as a Pacific power, the United States has invested our blood and treasure to advance this vision.  We don’t just talk about it; we invest in this vision.  Generations of Americans have served and died in the Asia Pacific so that the people of the region might live free.  So no one should ever question our resolve or our commitment to our allies. 

When I assumed office, leaders and people across the region were expressing their desire for greater American engagement.  And so as President, I decided that — given the importance of this region to American security, to American prosperity — the United States would rebalance our foreign policy and play a larger and lasting role in this region.  That’s exactly what we’ve done.  

Today, our alliances, including with Australia, are stronger than they have ever been.  American exports to this region have reached record levels.  We’ve deepened our cooperation with emerging powers and regional organizations, especially in Southeast Asia.  We expanded our partnerships with citizens as they’ve worked to bolster their democracies.  And we’ve shown that — whether it’s a tsunami or an earthquake or a typhoon — when our friends are in need, America shows up.  We’re there to help.  In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America.

Now, there have been times when people have been skeptical of this rebalancing.  They’re wondering whether America has the staying power to sustain it.  And it’s true that in recent years pressing events around the world demand our attention.  As the world’s only superpower, the United States has unique responsibilities that we gladly embrace.  We’re leading the international community in the fight to destroy the terrorist group ISIL.  We’re leading in dealing with Ebola in West Africa and in opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine — which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17, a tragedy that took so many innocent lives, among them your fellow citizens.  As your ally and friend, America shares the grief of these Australian families, and we share the determination of your nation for justice and accountability.  So, yes, we have a range of responsibilities.  That’s the deal.  It’s a burden we gladly shoulder.

But even in each of these international efforts, some of our strongest partners are our allies and friends in this region, including Australia.  So meeting these other challenges in the world is not a distraction from our engagement in this region, it reinforces our engagement in this region.  Our rebalance is not only about the United States doing more in Asia, it’s also about the Asia Pacific region doing more with us around the world.

So I’m here today to say that American leadership in the Asia Pacific will always be a fundamental focus of my foreign policy.  It won’t always make the headlines.  It won’t always be measured in the number of trips I make — although I do keep coming back.  (Laughter.) But day in, and day out, steadily, deliberately, we will continue to deepen our engagement using every element of American power — diplomacy, military, economic, development, the power of our values and our ideals.  And so in the time I have left, I want to describe, specifically, what America intends to do in the coming years.

First, the United States will continue strengthening our alliances.  With Japan, we’ll finalize new defense guidelines and keep realigning our forces for the future.  With the Republic of Korea, we’ll deepen our collaboration, including on missile defense, to deter and defend against North Korean threats.  With the Philippines, we’ll train and exercise more to prepare for challenges from counterterrorism and piracy to humanitarian crises and disaster relief.  And here in Australia, more U.S. Marines will rotate through to promote regional stability, alongside your “diggers.”

Although I will say when I went out to Darwin to inaugurate the new rotation of our U.S. Marines there, that the mayor, I think it was, took out crocodile insurance, which disturbed me.  (Laughter.)  I mean I was flattered that he took out insurance on my behalf.  (Laughter.)  But I did ask my ambassador what this was all about.  (Laughter.)  And he described to me how crocodiles kill more people than sharks, and there are just a lot of things in Australia that can kill you.  (Laughter.)  But that’s an aside.  (Laughter.)

We have an ironclad commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and security of every ally.  And we’ll expand cooperation between allies, because we believe we’re stronger when we stand together.

The United States will continue to modernize our defense posture across the region.  We’ll deploy more of our most advanced military capabilities to keep the peace and deter aggression.  Our presence will be more distributed, including in Southeast Asia with partners like Singapore.  And we’ll increase military training and education, including working with the military partners we have in this region around the respect for human rights by military and police.  And by the end of this decade, a majority of our Navy and Air Force fleets will be based out of the Pacific, because the United States is, and will always be, a Pacific power.

And keep in mind we do this without any territorial claims.  We do this based on our belief that a region that is peaceful and prosperous is good for us and is good for the world.

The United States will continue broadening our cooperation with emerging powers and emerging economies.  We intend to help Vietnam pursue economic reforms and new maritime capabilities.  We will continue to move ahead with our comprehensive partnership with Indonesia, which is a strong example of diversity and pluralism.  We’ll continue to expand ties with Malaysia, a growing center of entrepreneurship and innovation.  And we support a greater role in the Asia Pacific for India, which is the world’s largest democracy.

The United States will continue expanding our engagement with regional institutions, because together we can meet shared challenges — from preventing the horror of human trafficking to countering violent extremism, to stemming the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.  Together, we can improve maritime security, upholding freedom of navigation and encouraging territorial disputes are resolved peacefully.  We’ll work with partners to develop the East Asia Summit into the region’s leading forum for addressing political and security challenges.  And we’ll support ASEAN’s effort to reach a code of conduct with China that reinforces international law in the South China Sea.

And speaking of China, the United States will continue to pursue a constructive relationship with China.  By virtue of its size and its remarkable growth, China will inevitably play a critical role in the future of this region.  And the question is, what kind of role will it play?  I just came from Beijing, and I said there, the United States welcomes the continuing rise of a China that is peaceful and prosperous and stable and that plays a responsible role in world affairs.  It is a remarkable achievement that millions of people have been lifted out of poverty in China because of the extraordinary growth rates that they’ve experienced.  That is a good thing.  We should want and welcome that kind of development. 

And if, in fact, China is playing the role of a responsible actor that is peaceful and prosperous and stable, that is good for this region, it’s good for the world, it’s good for the United States.  So we’ll pursue cooperation with China where our interests overlap or align.  And there are significant areas of overlap:  More trade and investment; more communications between our militaries to prevent misunderstandings or possible conflict; more travel and exchanges between our people; and more cooperation on global challenges, from Ebola to climate change. 

But in this engagement we are also encouraging China to adhere to the same rules as other nations — whether in trade or on the seas.  And in this engagement we will continue to be frank about where there are differences, because America will continue to stand up for our interests and principles, including our unwavering support for the fundamental human rights of all people. 

We do not benefit from a relationship with China or any other country in which we put our values and our ideals aside.  And for the young people, practicality is a good thing.  There are times where compromise is necessary.  That’s part of wisdom.  But it’s also important to hang on to what you believe — to know what you believe and then be willing to stand up for it.  And what’s true for individuals is also true for countries.

The United States will continue to promote economic growth that is sustainable and shared.  So we’re going to work with APEC to tear down barriers to trade and investment and combat the corruption that steals from so many citizens.  We’ll keep opposing special preferences for state-owned companies.  We’ll oppose cyber-theft of trade secrets.  We’ll work with partners to invest in the region’s infrastructure in a way that’s open and transparent.  We’ll support reforms that help economies transition to models that boost domestic demand and invest in people and their education and their skills.

We’ll keep leading the effort to realize the Trans-Pacific Partnership to lower barriers, open markets, export goods, and create good jobs for our people.  But with the 12 countries of the TPP making up nearly 40 percent of the global economy, this is also about something bigger.  It is our chance to put in place new, high standards for trade in the 21st century that uphold our values.  So, for example, we are pushing new standards in this trade agreement, requiring countries that participate to protect their workers better and to protect the environment better, and protect intellectual property that unleashes innovation, and baseline standards to ensure transparency and rule of law. 

It’s about a future where instead of being dependent on a single market, countries integrate their economies so they’re innovating and growing together.  That’s what TPP does.  That’s why it would be a historic achievement.  That’s why I believe so strongly that we need to get it done — not just for our countries, but for the world.

But that’s also why it’s hard — because we’re asking all these countries at various stages of development to up their game.  And it requires big transitions for a lot of these countries, including for the United States.  And TPP is just one part of our overall focus on growing the global economy.  That’s what the G-20 meetings are all about. 

Over the last few years, the United States has put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  But America can’t be expected to just carry the world economy on our back.  So here in Brisbane, the G-20 has a responsibility to act — to boost demand, and invest more in infrastructure, and create good jobs for the people of all our nations.

As we develop, as we focus on our econ, we cannot forget the need to lead on the global fight against climate change.  Now, I know that’s — (applause) — I know there’s been a healthy debate in this country about it.  (Laughter.)  Here in the Asia Pacific, nobody has more at stake when it comes to thinking about and then acting on climate change.

Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands.  Here in Australia, it means longer droughts, more wildfires.  The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threated.  Worldwide, this past summer was the hottest on record.  No nation is immune, and every nation has a responsibility to do its part.

And you’ll recall at the beginning I said the United States and Australia has a lot in common.  Well, one of the things we have in common is we produce a lot of carbon.  Part of it’s this legacy of wide-open spaces and the frontier mentality, and this incredible abundance of resources.  And so, historically, we have not been the most energy-efficient of nations, which means we’ve got to step up. 

In the United States, our carbon pollution is near its lowest levels in almost two decades — and I’m very proud of that.  Under my Climate Action Plan, we intend to do more.  In Beijing, I announced our ambitious new goal — reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2025, which will double the pace at which we’re reducing carbon pollution in the United States.  Now, in a historic step, China made its own commitment, for the first time, agreeing to slow, peak and then reverse the course of China’s carbon emissions.  And the reason that’s so important is because if China, as it develops, adapts the same per capita carbon emissions as advanced economies like the United States or Australia, this planet doesn’t stand a chance, because they’ve got a lot more people.

So them setting up a target sends a powerful message to the world that all countries — whether you are a developed country, a developing country, or somewhere in between — you’ve got to be able to overcome old divides, look squarely at the science, and reach a strong global climate agreement next year.  And if China and the United States can agree on this, then the world can agree on this.  We can get this done.  And it is necessary for us to get it done.  (Applause.)  Because I have not had to go to the Great Barrier Reef — (laughter) — and I want to come back, and I want my daughters to be able to come back, and I want them to be able to bring their daughters or sons to visit.  (Applause.)  And I want that there 50 years from now.

Now, today, I’m announcing that the United States will take another important step.  We are going to contribute $3 billion to the Green Climate Fund so we can help developing nations deal with climate change.  (Applause.)  So along with the other nations that have pledged support, this gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early-warning system, with stronger defenses against storm surges, climate-resilient infrastructure.  It allows us to help farmers plant more durable crops.  And it allows us to help developing countries break out of this false choice between development and pollution; let them leap-frog some of the dirty industries that powered our development; go straight to a clean-energy economy that allows them to grow, create jobs, and at the same time reduce their carbon pollution.

So we’ve very proud of the work that we have already done.  We are mindful of the great work that still has to be done on this issue.  But let me say, particularly again to the young people here:  Combating climate change cannot be the work of governments alone.  Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable.  But that is not going to happen unless you are heard. 

It is in the nature of things, it is in the nature of the world that those of us who start getting gray hair are a little set in our ways, that interests are entrenched — not because people are bad people, it’s just that’s how we’ve been doing things.  And we make investments, and companies start depending on certain energy sources, and change is uncomfortable and difficult.  And that’s why it’s so important for the next generation to be able to step and say, no, it doesn’t have to be this way.  You have the power to imagine a new future in a way that some of the older folks don’t always have.   

And the same is true when it comes to issues of democracy and human rights.  There are times where when we speak out on these issues we are told that democracy is just a Western value.  I fundamentally disagree with that.  (Applause.)  Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, they have built thriving democracies.  Filipinos showed us the strength of People Power.  Indonesians just voted in a historic election.  I just came from Burma; this is a place that for 40 years was under the grip of a military junta, one of the most closed and oppressive nations on Earth.  And there, I was inspired by citizens and civil society and parliamentarians who are now working to sustain a transition to a democratic future.  I had a town hall meeting with young people like you, in which they were asking, what does it mean to create rule of law?  And how should we deal with ethnic diversity in our city?  You could feel the excitement.  What does a free press look like, and how does it operate?  And how do we make sure that journalism is responsible?  Incredible ferment and debate that’s taking place. 

Those young people, they want the same things that you do.  The notion that somehow they’re less interested in opportunity or less interested in avoiding arbitrary arrest, or less interested in being censored is fundamentally untrue.  Today, people in Hong Kong are speaking out for their universal rights. 

And so here in Asia and around the world, America supports free and fair elections, because citizens must be free to choose their own leaders — as in Thailand where we are urging a quick return to inclusive, civilian rule.  We support freedom of assembly, and freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, a free and open Internet, strong civil societies, because the voices of the people must be heard and leaders must be held accountable — even though it’s uncomfortable sometimes.  I promise you, if you lead a country, there are times where you are aggravated with people voicing opinions that seem to think you’re doing something wrong.  You prefer everybody just praise you.  I understand.  (Laughter.)  But that’s not how societies move forward.

We support strong institutions and independent judiciaries and open government, because the rule of force must give way to the rule of law.

And in that same fashion, the United States will continue to stand up for the inherent dignity of every human being.  Now, dignity begins with the most basic of needs — a life free of hunger and disease and want.  So, yes, we’ll speak out on behalf of human rights, but we are also going to invest in the agriculture that allows farmers to feed their families and boost their incomes.  We’ll invest in the development that promotes growth and helps end the injustice of extreme poverty in places like the Lower Mekong Delta.  We intend to partner with all the countries in the region to create stronger public health systems and new treatments that save lives and realize our goals of being the first AIDS-free generation.

And what we’ve learned from the Ebola outbreak is that in this globalized world, where the Pacific is like a lake, if countries are so poor that they can’t afford basic public health infrastructure, that threatens our health.  We cannot built a moat around our countries, and we shouldn’t try.  What we should be doing is making sure everybody has some basic public health systems that allow for early warning when outbreaks of infectious disease may occur.  That’s not just out of charity.  It is in our self-interest. 

And again, I want to speak to young people about this.  When we talk about these issues of development, when we invest in the wellbeing of people on the other side of the globe, when we stand up for freedom, including occasionally having to engage in military actions, we don’t do that just because we are charitable.  We do that because we recognize that we are linked, and that if somebody, some child is stricken with a curable disease on the other side of the world, at same point that could have an impact on our child.

We’ll advance human dignity by standing up for the rights of minorities, because no one’s equality should ever be denied.  We will stand up for freedom of religion — the right of every person to practice their faith as they choose — because we are all children of God, and we are all fallible.  And the notion that we, as a majority, or the state should tell somebody else what to believe with respect to their faith, is against our basic values. 

We will stand up for our gay and lesbian fellow citizens, because they need to be treated equally under the law.  (Applause.)  We will stand up for the rights and futures of our wives and daughters and partners, because I believe that the best measure of whether a nation is going to be successful is whether they are tapping the talents of their women and treating them as full participants in politics and society and the econ.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to continue to invest in the future of this region, and that means you, this region’s youth — all of you — your optimism, your idealism, your hopes.  I see it everywhere I go.  I spend a lot of time with young people.  I spend a lot of time with old people, too.  But I prefer spending time with young people.  (Laughter.)  I meet them in Tokyo and Seoul, and Manila and Jakarta.  It’s the spirit of young men and women in Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon, who are participating in our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.  And like you, they’re ready to lead. 

To the young woman with an idea who dreams of starting her own business — if she just had the network, if she just had the capital, America wants to be her partner, because we believe in the entrepreneur that you can be, the innovations you can spark and the jobs you can create.  And when you succeed, we’ll all be more prosperous. 

To the young man who’s working late in a clinic, tending to a patient, who dreams not just of treating diseases, but preventing them — if I just had the resources, if I just had the support — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the advocate that you can be, and in the families you can reach and the lives you can save.  And when you succeed, our world will be better.

To the young woman tired of the tensions in her community, who dreams of helping her neighbors see beyond differences — if she could just start a dialogue, if she knew how others had walked the same path — well, America wants to be your partner, because we believe in the activist that you can be, and the empathy that you can build, and the understanding you can foster between people.  And when you succeed, our world will be a little more peaceful. 

And to the young man who believes his voice isn’t being heard, who dreams of bringing people like him together across his country — if he just knew how to organize and mobilize them — we want to be your partner, because we believe in the leaders that you can be, in the difference you can make to ignite positive change.  And when you succeed, the world will be a little more free. 

So that’s the future we can build together.  That’s the commitment America is making in the Asia Pacific.  It’s a partnership not just with nations, but with people, with you, for decades to come.  Bound by the values we share, guided by the vision we seek, I am absolutely confident we can advance the security and the prosperity and the dignity of people across this region.  And in pursuit of that future, you will have no greater friend than the United States of America. 

So thank you very much.  God bless Australia.  (Applause.)  God bless America.  God bless our great alliance.  Thank you.

                        END                1:51 P.M. AEST

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Helen Clark: Lecture on The Future We Want– Can We Make it a Reality? at the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation

04 Nov 2014

Uppsala, Sweden

It is an honor to deliver this lecture in memory of the life and work of Dag Hammarskjold, the second Secretary General of the United Nations, and a man who was so memorably described by United States President John F. Kennedy as “the greatest statesman of our century”.

Fifty years after Dag Hammarskjold lost his life in a plane tragedy near Ndola in what is today Zambia, his contribution to international solidarity and co-operation continues to be highly and widely regarded, and deservedly so. All of us at the UN today stand on the shoulders of Dag Hammarskjold and all others who played such a significant role in establishing the mission and values of the organization.
    
Dag Hammarskjold’s contribution was made when the UN was still in its formative years. He was among the architects of its peacekeeping efforts, and he was committed to small states getting a fair hearing at the UN. Against the backdrop of the Cold War, the decolonization of Africa has been described as the defining issue of his term. All up, his reputation at the time of his death was consolidated as an independent-minded man with great integrity and intellect. He is indeed one of Sweden’s greatest sons.

The world which Dag Hammarskjold and the United Nations of his era were confronted with is different in countless ways from that of today. The nature of conflict, for example, has changed considerably – these days, armed conflicts are far more likely to occur within states than between them, and to involve disparate non-state actors.

Yet it is a tribute to the foresight of those who drafted the UN Charter in 1945 that its three pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights remain as relevant today as they did almost seventy years ago. Yes, progress has been made on all three fronts, but there is also serious unfinished business. The debate around the post-2015 development agenda is one entry point for addressing that. I know that the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation with its broad vision for a fair and peaceful world has itself been focused on what this new agenda might look like, and how the UN development system might equip itself to support its implementation.

The Millennium Development Goals experience

The beginning of the new millennium was a good opportunity for the UN to launch a big new initiative for development. Hopes were high at the Millennium Summit, which I attended as New Zealand Prime Minister, that we might collectively do better in the new century than in the bloody one which preceded it. The Millennium Declaration painted a broad canvas, setting out hopes for more progress on all three pillars of the UN Charter. On development, the Declaration was specific, and its elements formed the basis of what were to become the MDGs.

Around the world, the MDGs were widely embraced as global development priorities. They set out to tackle extreme poverty and hunger; protect the environment; expand education; advance health, gender equality, and women’s empowerment; and foster global partnerships for development.

At the global level, there has been significant progress towards a number of the MDG targets:

•    There are hundreds of millions fewer people living in extreme poverty today than there were in 1990 – the baseline date against which progress is measured.

•    The target of halving the proportion of people without access to an improved drinking water source was achieved in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. Over 2.3 billion people gained such access between 1990 and 2012.

•    On average around the world, gender parity in primary education has been achieved, and most children now enrol in a primary school.

•    The lives of many urban slum dwellers are said to have improved.

•    Levels of infant and child mortality have decreased significantly, and there is a downward trend in maternal, tuberculosis, and global malaria deaths. The tide is turning on HIV. The evidence is that the health areas targeted by the MDGs have seen faster progress than would have been expected from the trends existing before 2000.

Bleak as the news can be on environmental degradation, some priority areas for action which were reinforced by MDG targets are showing results. It is now reported, for example, that most of the ozone layer will recover to the relatively healthy levels of the 1980s by 2050.

This is the glass more than half full view of the MDGs. The downside we all know – for example, that progress has been uneven within and between countries, and that the targets set for 2015 did not aim to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, but only to halve the levels. By any standards, there is work to do to realize the vision of the Millennium Declaration.

The obstacles in the way are a mix of new and old problems. For example:

•    Our old enemies, war and conflict, continue to deny development and human rights to significant numbers of people. It is hard to think of a time when more crises were jostling for space in the headline news than there are right now. From Afghanistan to the Arab States region, to a number of countries from the Sahel reaching across to the Horn of Africa, and to Ukraine and elsewhere, conflict continues to take a heavy toll on communities with the impacts spilling across national borders.

•    As extreme poverty has been declining, income inequality has been rising in many countries. We estimate that more than 75 per cent of the population in developing countries are living in societies where income distribution is less equal now than it was in the 1990s. High levels of inequality make poverty reduction even harder to achieve. Both inequality and poverty reduction need to be specifically targeted.

•    The threats from environmental degradation, including of our climate, have gathered speed. More extreme weather events endanger lives, livelihoods, and whole nations. Health-damaging air pollution is a price which many are paying for fast development underpinned by fossil fuels.

•    Gender inequality is persistent and pervasive – along with the sexual and gender-based violence which blights the lives of women and girls in societies at war and allegedly at peace.

•    The rights of LGBTI people have scarcely registered on the Richter scale in many societies. Members of these communities often live in fear of violence, and even of imprisonment in those countries which have harsh and discriminatory laws.

•    Infectious disease is another old enemy. Just as we note the progress in fighting the diseases specified by the MDGs – HIV, malaria, and TB, Ebola arrives in three of the world’s poorest countries with the least capacity to fight a disease outbreak like this one. If there is ever a case for international solidarity, it is the need right now to contain the spread of this disease, and through early diagnosis to give those who are infected the best possible chance of survival.

So where now on the global development agenda?

The good news is that the emerging post-2015 agenda looks like being bolder and more transformational than what preceded it. There is also broad agreement that it should be a universal agenda – applying to all countries. This recognizes that development is not just something which happens somewhere else to other people. Developed countries have substantial development challenges too, as I know well from leading one for nine years.

Sweden has for many years promoted a vision of a world which aims for human development within the context of environmental sustainability. The very first major UN conference on the environment was held in Stockholm over four decades ago. It is telling that it was called a conference on the human environment – and that it connected the problem of poverty with that of environmental degradation. Now in 2015, we have a good chance of getting a global development agenda which recognizes that continued human development requires us to stop the unsustainable use of the ecosystems on which human life and progress depend.

Two years ago the UN Secretary-General called for “an open, inclusive and transparent consultation process with contributions from a wide range of stakeholders” for shaping the post-2015 development agenda.

Responding to this call, our UN development system has facilitated an unprecedented consultation. This has enabled people from all walks of life around the world to share their priorities for the new agenda – both face to face and online.

National consultations were held in almost 100 countries. Every effort was made to reach out to the poorest and most marginalized communities, which are not usually asked for their perspectives on global agendas. There were eleven consultations around major themes, involving civil society, academia, and officialdom. They discussed in depth governance, food security, conflict, inequalities, health, education, the environment, and other areas. The global on-line MY World survey has enabled more than five million people to rank their priorities for the future they want for our world. It will come as no surprise that health, education, and jobs came out as top priorities, but next in line was honest and responsive governance – which is so necessary for getting sustained and inclusive development results.

We greatly value Sweden’s support for these public consultations. SIDA and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a national consultation in December 2012, and also co-convened the global thematic consultation on health in Botswana in March last year.  

The findings from the global consultations informed the deliberations of the Open Working Group on SDGs which was appointed by the UN General Assembly. The seventeen goals and 169 targets which it has proposed do reflect much of what people have said they want in the new agenda, including some of the most transformative elements. It is important that the new agenda does reflect the hopes and aspirations of the world’s people. That will increase both its legitimacy and the level of confidence people have in global processes.

A major concern in the public consultations was to finish the unfinished business of the MDGs and to “leave no one behind”. Without doubt the new agenda will seek the eradication of poverty, along with hunger and more equitable outcomes from development.

For UNDP, it is very significant that the OWG proposal contains a goal on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. The targets recommended include promoting the rule of law and participatory and representative decision-making, tackling corruption, and promoting and enforcing laws against discrimination.

Increasingly we are seeing high levels of extreme poverty and development setbacks concentrated where there is conflict and/or poor governance, a weak state, low social cohesion and political and economic exclusion, and/or high exposure to natural disasters. There are development interventions which can address all these factors – and thereby endeavor to avert the deadly and complex humanitarian emergencies which are currently draining official development assistance budgets.

What will make achievement of an ambitious agenda a reality?

As the old saying goes, money isn’t everything, but it helps. Next July, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development will take place in Addis Ababa. Its outcome will be critical in enabling agreement to be reached on the SDGs. Funding is considered a central component of what UN Member States refer to as “means of implementation”.

Compared to the MDGs, the new sustainable development agenda will also be much more about making good policy choices. Nonetheless, the availability of official development assistance is still very important for low-income countries in particular, and commitment to ODA at adequate levels is important for building trust in the post-2015 negotiations.

The discussions on financing for development should take into account the wide range of contributions and partnerships.  ODA these days is dwarfed by the funding flows from trade, investment, and remittances, and by the domestic resource mobilization made possible by more rapid growth in developing and emerging economies. In this sense the partnerships for development are far bigger than ever before, involving significant levels of interaction across the South, as well as between North and South, and involving major private sector contributions too.

But money aside, there are also “softer” means of implementation which can help the SDGs to be a success. The UN Development Group is currently supporting a second round of consultations on a number of these, and I will comment on each in turn:

1)    The role of local government is vital. By definition this is the layer of government closest to the people, and it often has significant decision-making and spending power.

By 2030, almost sixty per cent of the world’s population will be urbanized. That puts a premium on the quality of urban governance, and that is even more essential in the world’s mega-cities which far outstrip in size many of the UN’s Member States.

“Localizing the Post-2015 agenda” was one of the themes at the 9th annual meeting of the Development Partners’ Working Group on Decentralization and Local Governance (DeLoG), which took place in Sweden. Sweden and UNDP are both members of this group. In its work the empowerment of local government has repeatedly been cited as critical for development success.

2.    Effective institutions are also vital for implementing development agendas. They have critical roles in designing and implementing the policies needed to advance sustainable development. Strengthening institutional capacities was not mentioned in the MDGs, but as a “means of implementation” it must not be neglected in the SDGs.

This strengthening ideally needs to go beyond improving the effectiveness and efficiency of institutions and into making them more open and responsive to stakeholders in policy design, implementation, and monitoring. If inclusion of all stakeholders, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized, is made a cornerstone of institutional strengthening, UNDP believes that the implementation of the post-2015 agenda will be more successful.

Strengthening the capacity of institutions is a key area of UNDP’s work around the world. In many countries we enjoy Sweden’s direct support for this, not least in fragile states from Liberia to Afghanistan and South Sudan.

3.    To elaborate further, the importance of broad participatory monitoring and accountability in implementing the new agenda is widely recognized. What has come through in the global consultations is that people want to be engaged, not just in debating what the global agenda should be, but also in driving it through. They want to hold their leaders to account, and they want access to the information and open data which will enable them to monitor what is happening.  

A number of best practices aimed at broadening participation and strengthening participatory monitoring of development processes have been highlighted in the consultations. They include the Citizen’s Evaluation for Good Governance in Albania which uses a scorecard for social auditing and gender budgeting; Zambia’s use of M-WASH, a mobile and web-based monitoring, evaluation, and reporting system which reaches 1.7 million people focusing on water and sanitation services; and Thailand’s iMonitor application which tracks and evaluates the delivery of HIV services, allowing people to log ‘alerts” if ARV medicines and condoms are not available in health centers, and to report discrimination against HIV positive people in the workplace.  

4.    The full, active, and meaningful engagement of civil society is required to support participatory monitoring and accountability. An enabling environment for that needs to be created, including through legislation, so that civil society can contribute systematically.
 
There are a number of models of effective civil society engagement in advancing development. For example, the Zambia national dialogue noted that the Citizen Voice and Action model, which facilitates dialogue between communities and government with the goal of improving services (such as health care and education), has been highly effective.

5.    The role of the private sector in implementation is also essential, as a source of investment, employment, and innovation, and as a partner in pooling resources and sharing risks. Overall, how businesses do business has a significant bearing on whether poverty is eradicated and sustainability is achieved.

The private sector has shown considerable interest in the post-2015 development agenda, including through the work of the UN Global Compact. Here in Sweden, Leadership for Sustainable Development – a group of some twenty leading companies – has committed to take action on sustainable business and poverty reduction, and in finding long term solutions to today’s major development challenges.

6.    In implementing the new development agenda, culture and heritage needs to be recognized as a source of values and a driver of economic opportunity.

Culturally sensitive approaches are important in getting development results, including in education and in the promotion of gender equality. Around the world such approaches have enabled girls, for example, to stay at school and ward off pressures for early marriage and childbirth, thereby expanding their choices throughout their lifetimes.

In addition to taking part in the consultations on the “softer” means of implementation, UNDP is also working with a number of partners to trial how indicators for new areas of goals might be designed and measured.

The main focus of this exercise has been on proposed Goal 16 on the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice, and the importance of effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions. We think success on such a goal would help drive progress on all the others. Yet it is considered one of the more controversial goals and many countries are unfamiliar with how such a goal could be measured, and how broadly-defined universal targets and indicators could be translated at the national level. Our pilots, therefore, seek primarily to address these practical measurement questions, as well as the processes which countries would need to go through to set, implement, and monitor appropriate national targets and indicators.

Pilots are currently underway in Indonesia, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Albania, and others are planned. These are at an early stage and concrete results are not yet available. The exercise is confirming, however, that while the topic of “governance” is often politically charged in intergovernmental processes in New York, at the national and sub-national levels it can be operationalized in non-controversial ways. Usually these efforts are led by planning divisions or departments which are focused on the nuts and bolts of how to design, implement, and measure progress on the agenda.

Across all the consultations on post-2015, a persistent call has come for a “data revolution” to ensure that the information and analysis needed to monitor progress are available. This requires strengthening capacity at the national level and UNDP is backing initiatives addressing this; for example, by supporting a community of African statisticians working on how to address the gap in availability of high-quality, nationally-produced peace and governance data in its Strategy for the Harmonization of Statistics in Africa (SHaSA).

The central role of the United Nations in driving the post-2015 agenda

The UN’s universality, legitimacy, strong normative foundation, and unparalleled global operational presence gives it a unique platform from which to facilitate the global partnerships needed to implement the post-2015 agenda.

UNDP itself has also unique strengths. We have a proven ability to influence policy and build capacity, and a long-standing role as a trusted partner working across sectors and with multiple stakeholders, often on sensitive issues. Our large country network and our core co-ordination function for the UN development system reinforce UNDP’s strengths. We are able to contribute to the design and implementation of the kinds of integrated solutions so urgently needed for sustainable development. Our new Strategic Plan for 2014 to 2017 is both more strategic and more focused, and we are adjusting our structures, systems, and processes to enable us to deliver consistently better advice and support for development results.

A broader reflection is also occurring in the UN Development Group to ensure that as a collective we are “fit for purpose” for post-2015. The aim is to build on the strengths and added value of the UN system and to make it more agile. We need all agencies working collaboratively in support of national and global priorities and to be able to demonstrate the value of what they do.

Conclusion
So: can we make “the Future We Want” a reality? Yes, we can, if Member States commit to playing their part, and also open up the space for citizens, civil society, the private sector, and other voices.

The hard issues can’t be dodged. We can’t eradicate poverty in countries at war or where human rights are systematically violated.  We can’t avoid development setbacks unless there is more investment in disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention, and resilience to other shocks.

Strong global partnerships and national ownership of the post-2015 agenda could move mountains. We count on Sweden, a strong multilateralist and one of the world’s most committed development partners, to be a voice for the things which matter in driving the post-2015 agenda.

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Secretary’s Remarks: U.S. Vision for Asia-Pacific Engagement

MR. MORRISON: Well, thank you. Aloha. I want to welcome everyone. And for our online audience, and also for the Secretary, I’d like to describe who is here in our audience. We have the mayor of Honolulu, Mayor Caldwell. We have our senator, Mazie Hirono. We have our former governor, George Ariyoshi, and our other former governor, John Waihee. We have many members of the business and intellectual and public affairs community here in Honolulu. We have members of the diplomatic corps. We have members of our men and women in uniform. We have the members of the board of governors of the East-West Center. We have the staff of the East-West Center. We have friends of the East-West Center. And most importantly, we have future leaders of the Asia Pacific region. And I was just telling the Secretary, I think yesterday we welcomed 130 new participants from the United States and 40 other countries. They’re here on a unique program to prepare them for being future regional and global leaders.

Now, how do you introduce a man who is so well-known for his own leadership and —

SECRETARY KERRY: First thing, you can just tell everybody to sit down.

MR. MORRISON: Oh. (Laughter.) Please sit down, yes. (Laughter.) Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Anyway, as you know, he has served in war and peace. He was a senator for 28 years; 59 million Americans voted for him for president, including 54 percent of the voters of Hawaii. (Laughter and applause.) But as a former senate staff person, I thought the way to really check him out was to see how his confirmation hearing went. Now, the issues were controversial but the nominee was not controversial, and what his former colleagues said about him, Republicans and Democrats, I think give the essence of the man: extremely well prepared, born in a Foreign Service family, served all 28 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, four years as the chairman of that committee. He knows the languages – several foreign languages, countries, leaders, and issues. He is a man of incredible moral and intellectual integrity. He brings conviction and compassion to his job and great energy. He has been, I think, on his seventh trip to Asia, coming back and so we want to welcome him back to the United States. We want to welcome him to our most Asia Pacific state, and we want to welcome him to the East-West Center, an institution that’s building community with this vast region which is so systemically important to the future of the United States.

Mr. Secretary of State. (Applause.)

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Aloha. It’s wonderful to be here in Hawaii, and man, I can’t tell you how I wish I was as relaxed as some of you in your beautiful shirts. (Laughter.) Here I am in my – whatever you call it – uniform. Uniform, some would say. But it is such a pleasure to be here. Mr. Mayor, it’s great to be here with you. And Mazie, thank you. It’s wonderful to see you, Senator. I’m very happy to see you. Thanks for being here. And governors, thank you for being here very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests all, it’s a great, great pleasure for me to be able to be here. And President Morrison, thank you very much for that generous introduction. I appreciate it very much.

Charles was way ahead of the curve, folks, in seeing the trend towards regionalism in the Asia Pacific in the early 1990s. And he was calling for community-building within East Asia well before it became a standard topic of discussion on the think tank circuit. So clearly, and to everyone’s benefit, he’s had an ability to focus on the long game. And that is a talent that he actually shares with one of the founding fathers of this institution, a former colleague, beloved to all of you, who became a great friend to me, and that’s Senator Dan Inouye. During my sort of latter years, I actually moved up to about seventh in seniority or something in the United States Senate, and had I not been appointed to this job, with all of the retirements that are taking place, I don’t know, I might have been third or fourth or something, which is kind of intimidating. But as a result of that, I got to sit beside the great Dan Inouye for four or five years in the Senate. Our desks were beside each other, and we became very good friends. He was one of the early supporters of mine when I decided to run for President in ’04, ’03. But most importantly, Dan Inouye, as all of you know, was a patriot above all who commanded remarkable respect and affection of all of his colleagues. And Hawaii was so wise to keep him in office for so many years.

Having just visited yesterday Guadalcanal, having stood up on what was called Bloody Ridge, Edson’s Ridge, and walked into one of the still remaining bunkers that Marines were dug in on against 3,000-plus Japanese who kept coming at them wave after wave in the evening, it’s – it was a remarkable sense of the battle that turned the war. And no place knows the meaning of all of that better than here in Hawaii.

Yesterday commemorated really one of the great battles of the Second World War, and so it gave me a chance to reflect with special pride and with humility about Dan’s service to our country. He was a hero in the war, against difficult circumstances which we all understand too well. But he became the first Japanese American to serve in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, against all the odds of what was still a prevailing sense in our country of misunderstanding between people. And he just never let that get in the way. He shared a very personal commitment to strengthening ties between the United States and the Asia Pacific. And that’s why he championed the East-West Center for decades, and I want you to know that President Obama and I strongly support your mission of bringing people together to think creatively about the future of our role in the region and how we overcome the kinds of inherent, visceral differences that sometimes are allowed to get in the way of relationships, and frankly, in the way of common sense.

We remember too well in America that slavery was written into our Constitution long before it was written out of it. And we all know the struggle that it took – excuse me – to write it out. So as we look at the world today – complicated, difficult, tumultuous, volatile – for so many of us who have spent decades working on issues central to the Asia Pacific, there’s actually something particularly exciting about this moment. It’s almost exhilarating when you look at Asia’s transformation. And like Dan Inouye, I have had the privilege, as many of you have here I can see, you’ve lived a lot of that transformation firsthand.

A number of my – (coughing) – excuse me, it’s the virtue of many hours in an airplane. A number of my ancestors from Boston and from Massachusetts were merchants whose ships dropped anchor in Hong Kong as they plied the lonely trade routes to China. My grandfather, actually, was born in Shanghai and was a businessman who had a partnership with a Chinese businessman. So in our family and in Massachusetts, we’ve had a long sense of the possibilities and of this relationship. Today, East Asia is one of the largest, fastest growing, most dynamic regions in the entire world. And when the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are complete, about 40 percent of global GDP will be linked by a high-standard trade agreement, a trade agreement that creates a race to the top, not a race to the bottom, where people understand the rules of engagement and there’s accountability and transparency, and business and capital know exactly what the rules of the road will be so they’re attracted to invest each in each other’s countries.

After college, I had the privilege of serving in the United States Navy. And I went through Pearl Harbor. I had a remarkable several days here as a young officer on a frigate before we set sail to cross the Pacific. And I drove all over the island everywhere, in places I probably wasn’t supposed to. But I loved it and then spent a second tour in the rivers of Vietnam. And back then, the word Vietnam – just saying Vietnam – carried with it an ominous meaning. It meant war. It meant huge dissent in America, families torn apart. But today, Vietnam, when you say it, has a whole different meaning to most people. It’s now a dynamic country filled with economic opportunity. It’s a market for our businesses and our investors. It’s a classroom for our children. It has one of the largest Fulbright programs in the world. And it’s a partner in tackling regional economic and security challenges.

Such extraordinary transformations have actually become almost the norm in this region. I’ll never forget, 15 years ago, I visited in then Burma – no confusion with Myanmar but now people choose what they want to call it. But I visited with Daw Aung Sung Sui Kyi in the very home in which she was imprisoned for nearly two decades. And this week, I had the privilege of again going back to the very same house – it hadn’t changed, looked the same. She, by the way, 20 years later looks the same. And she is now free to speak her mind as a member of parliament.

It’s remarkable. It doesn’t mean all the president are solved. But these transformations are just some of what makes Asia the most exciting and promising places on the planet.

I am returning, as President Morrison has said, from actually my sixth trip to the Asia Pacific in 18 months as Secretary of State. And later today, I’ll be meeting with our outstanding Commander of United States Forces in the Pacific to review a range of America’s formidable military presence issues. I have returned again and again to this region – I can’t tell you how many times I went, Mazie, as a senator to the region. And we are now – we take our enduring interests there, obviously, very, very seriously.

We know that America’s security and prosperity are closely and increasingly linked to the Asia Pacific. And that’s why President Obama began what is known as the rebalance to Asia in 2009. That’s why he’s asked me to redouble my own efforts in the region over the next two and half years. And that’s why I want to talk to you today about four specific opportunities: creating sustainable economic growth, powering a clean energy revolution, promoting regional cooperation, and empowering people.

Now, these important opportunities can and should be realized through a rules-based regional order, a stable regional order on common rules and norms of behavior that are reinforced by institutions. And that’s what holds the greatest potential for all of us for making progress. We support this approach, frankly, because it encourages cooperative behavior. It fosters regional integration. It ensures that all countries, big and small – and the small part is really important – that they have a say in how we work together on shared challenges. I want you to know that the United States is deeply committed to realizing this vision. President Obama is excited about it. He wants us all to be committed to fostering it and also to understanding why we’re doing it. And frankly, it is this vision that is the underlying reason that so many countries in Asia choose to work with the United States.

You hear some people today talking about the United States retrenching or disengaging. Nothing could be further from the truth. I think we’re more engaged and more active in more countries and more parts of the world than any time in American history. And I can tell you that because just driving over here I was on the phone to people in the Middle East, talking about a ceasefire which is now going to be in place in the next days; talking about the road ahead. Just came back from Afghanistan, where we’re working on the transition to the people of Afghanistan, to their future. We’re engaged with Iran, working on the nuclear program; with the DPRK, with China, and Sudan, and Central Africa. We just had 50-plus African leaders to Washington to talk about the future of American engagement there. We are deeply engaged in a very, very complex world.

But this speech and this moment here at the university and at the center, and the trip that I just made to Asia, are meant to underscore that even as we focus on those crises that I’ve just listed and on conflicts that dominate the headlines on a daily basis and demand our leadership – even as we do that, we will never forget the long-term strategic imperatives for American interests. As Secretary of State, my job isn’t just to respond to crises. It’s also about defining and seizing the long-term opportunities for the United States. And having just traveled to Burma, Australia, and the Solomon Islands, I can tell you that nowhere are those strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia Pacific.

That’s why we are currently negotiating a comprehensive and ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement that will create thousands of new jobs here in America as well as in other countries, and it will spur this race to the top, not to the bottom. It raises the standards by which we do business. That’s why we’re elevating our engagement in multilateral institutions, from the ASEAN Regional Forum to the East Asia Summit. And that’s why we are revitalizing our security partnerships with our treaty allies: Japan, Australia, South Korea, and the Philippines. And that’s why we are standing up for the human rights and the fundamental freedoms that people in Asia cherish as much as any people in the world.

I have no illusions about the challenges, and nor does President Obama. They are complex in this 21st century, in many ways far more complex than the bipolar, East-West, Soviet Union-versus-West world – the Cold War that many of us grew up in. This is far more complicated. It’s far more, in many ways, like 19th century and 18th century diplomacy, with states asserting their interests in different ways and with more economic players in the planet than we had in the 20th century with power and with a sense of independence. But what I want to emphasize to you all today is there is a way forward. This is not so daunting that it’s indescribable as to what we can do.

So how do we make our shared vision a reality for the region and ensure that Asia contributes to global peace and prosperity? First, we need to turn today’s economic nationalism and fragmentation into tomorrow’s sustainable growth. I say it all the time: Foreign Policy is economic policy, and economic policy is foreign policy. They are one and the same. There’s no denying that particularly in Asia Pacific. Asia Pacific is an engine of global economic growth, but we can’t take that growth for granted.

Because what we face something that is really a common challenge. Across the world, we have seen a staggering growth in youth populations. At the Africa summit it was just underscored to us there are 700 million people under the age of 30. We’ve seen staggering growth in these youth populations. And guess what. In the 21st century, in 2014 when everybody’s running around with a mobile device and everybody’s in touch with everybody every day all the time, all of these people are demanding an opportunity. They’re demanding dignity. And juxtaposed to their hopes, a cadre of extremists, of resisters, of naysayers are waiting to seduce many of those young people into accepting a dead end. And let me tell you, when people don’t have a job, when they can’t get an education, when they can’t aspire to a better future for themselves and for their families, when their voices are silenced by draconian laws or violence and oppression, we have all witnessed the instability that follows.

Now happily, many, if not most governments, in Asia are working to present booming youth populations with an alternative, with a quality education, with skills for the modern world, with jobs that allow them to build a life and a confidence in their countries. That is part of the reason why the young people in Asia are joining the ranks of the middle class, not the ranks of violent extremists. And the fact is that too many countries around the world are struggling to provide those opportunities. There’s a lack of governance, and we ignore the importance of this collective challenge to address the question of failed and failing states in other parts of the world.

In the 21st century, a nation’s interests and the well-being of its people are advanced not just by troops or diplomats, but they’re advanced by entrepreneurs, by chief executives of companies, by the businesses that are good corporate citizens, by the workers that they employ, by the students that they train, and the shared prosperity that they create. That is why we are working with partners across the Asia Pacific to maintain and raise standards as we expand trade and investment by pursuing a comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

Now, the TPP represents really an exciting new chapter in the long history of America’s mutually beneficial trade partnerships with the countries of the Asia Pacific. It is a state-of-the-art, 21st century trade agreement, and it is consistent not just with our shared economic interests, but also with our shared values. It’s about generating growth for our economies and jobs for our people by unleashing a wave of trade, investment, and entrepreneurship. It’s about standing up for our workers, or protecting the environment, and promoting innovation. And it’s about reaching for high standards to guide the growth of this dynamic regional economy. And all of that is just plain good for businesses, it’s good for workers, it’s good for our economies. And that’s why we must get this done.

Now, every time I travel to Asia, I have the privilege of meeting with young entrepreneurs and business leaders. In fact, at the Africa summit the other day we had this wonderful group of young African leaders – all entrepreneurs, all these young kids in their 20s doing extraordinary things. It’s call the Young African Leaders Initiative, which President Obama started.

In Hanoi last December, I launched the Governance for Inclusive Growth Program to support Vietnam’s transition to a market-based economy. I’ve met with entrepreneurs in Seoul and Manila to talk about how we can drive innovation. On Saturday, I discussed with my ASEAN counterparts the framework for creating business opportunities and jobs that we call Expanded Economic Engagement, or E3. And just yesterday, I met with business leaders in Sydney, Australia to explore ways to reduce the barriers to trade and investment.

To broaden the base of support for this strategy, we need to focus not only on rapid growth, but we also need to focus on sustainability. And that means making the best use of regional institutions. President Obama will join APEC economic leaders in Beijing this fall to focus on promoting clean and renewable fuels and supporting small businesses and women’s participation in the economy and expanding educational exchanges. And just a few days ago, I met with ministers from the Lower Mekong Initiative countries to deepen our partnership and help them wrestle with the challenges of food and water and energy security on the Mekong River.

Ultimately, the true measure of our success will not be just whether our economies continue to grow, but how they continue to grow. And that brings me to our second challenge: We need to turn today’s climate crisis into tomorrow’s clean energy revolution. Now, all of this – all of us in this room understand climate change is not a crisis of the future. Climate change is here now. It’s happening, happening all over the world. It’s not a challenge that’s somehow remote and that people can’t grab onto.

But here’s the key: It’s happening at a rate that should be alarming to all of us because everything the scientists predicted – and I’ll tell you a little addendum. Al Gore – I had the privilege of working with Al Gore and Tim Worth and a group of senators – Jack Heinz – back in the 1980s when we held the first hearing on climate change in 1988. That’s when Jim Hansen from NASA came forward and said it’s happening. It’s happening now in 1988. In 1992 we had a forum down in Brazil, Rio, the Earth Summit. George Herbert Walker Bush participated. We came up with a voluntary framework to deal with climate change, but voluntary didn’t work. And for 20 years nothing much happened. Then we went to Kyoto. We went to all these places to try to do something, and here we are in 2014 with a chance next year in 2015 to do it.

And what’s happening is the science is screaming at us. Ask any kid in school. They understand what a greenhouse is, how it works, why we call it the greenhouse effect. They get it. And here’s what – if you accept the science, if you accept that the science is causing climate to change, you have to heed what those same scientists are telling us about how you prevent the inevitable consequences and impacts. You can’t – that’s why President Obama has made climate change a top priority. He’s doing by executive authority what we’re not able to get the Congress to do. And we’re working very hard to implement the Climate Action Plan and lead by example. We’re doubling the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks on America’s roads. We’ve developed new standards that ensure that existing power plants are as clean as possible and as efficient as possible. And we’re committed to reducing greenhouse gases and emissions in the range of about 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

So we’re heading in the right direction. But make no mistake about it: Our response has to be all hands on deck. By definition, rescuing the planet’s climate is a global challenge that requires a global solution. And nowhere is all of this more evident than in the Asia Pacific. And no two nations can have a greater impact or influence on this debate or this challenge than China and the United States.

During the Strategic and Economic Dialogue last month, Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew and I were in Beijing for two days. And we and China together sent a clear message: The world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, the United States and China, are committed to advancing a low-carbon economic growth pattern and significantly reduce our countries’ greenhouse gases. And we’re working together to launch demonstration projects on carbon capture, utilization, and storage. We’re adopting stronger fuel efficiency standards for heavy- and light-duty vehicles. We’re advancing a new initiative on climate change and forests, because we know that the threat of deforestation and its implications of a changing climate are real and they’re grave and they’re growing. And I’ll just say to you this is not an issue on which you can be half pregnant. No such issue. If you accept the science, you have to accept that you have to do these things about it.

Now, the United States and China have a special role to play in reducing emissions and developing a clean energy future. But everybody – every nation – has a stake in getting it right. I just came from the Solomon Islands yesterday, a thousand islands, some of which could be wiped out if we don’t make the right choices. The Pacific Islands across the entire Pacific are vulnerable to climate change. And just yesterday, I saw with my own eyes what sea level rise would do to parts of it: It would be devastating – entire habitats destroyed, entire populations displaced from their homes, in some cases entire cultures wiped out. They just had flash flooding in Guadalcanal – unprecedented amounts of rainfall. And that’s what’s happened with climate change – unprecedented storms, unprecedented typhoons, unprecedented hurricanes, unprecedented droughts, unprecedented fires, major damage, billions and billions of dollars of damage being done that we’re paying for instead of investing those billions of dollars in avoiding this in the first place.

That’s why we are deepening our partnerships with the Pacific Island nations and others to meet immediate threats and long-term development challenges. And we’re working through USAID and other multilateral institutions to increase the resilience of communities. And we’re elevating our engagement through the Pacific Islands Forum. And we’ve signed maritime boundaries, new maritime boundaries with Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia in order to promote good governance of the Pacific Ocean and peaceful relations among island nations. And we’re also working on a Pacific Pathway of marine protected areas that includes President Obama’s commitment to explore a protected area of more than a million square miles in size in the U.S. remote Pacific.

We just held a conference on the oceans in Washington the other day with nations all over the world came to it – unbelievably productive. We produced $1.8 billion of commitments to help with fisheries enforcement, anti-pollution, dealing with acidification, and to protect these areas as marine sanctuaries.

The good news is in the end – and this really – it really is good news. Sometimes you have an issue – Mr. Mayor, I know you know this. Governors, you know this. You’re looking at an issue and, man, you scratch your head and you’re not quite sure what the solution is, right? And you work through it. Well, the good news is the biggest challenge of all that we face right now, which is climate change in terms of international global effect, is an opportunity. It’s actually an extraordinary opportunity because it’s not a problem without a solution. The solution to climate change is simple. It’s called energy policy. Energy policy. Make the right choices about how you produce your energy – without emissions, without coal-fired power plants that don’t have carbon capture and storage or aren’t burning clean – then you can begin to produce clean energy.

And the new energy market that we’re looking at is the biggest market the world has ever seen. Think about that for a moment. The wealth that was generated in the 1990s – I don’t know if you know this, but most people think that America got the richest during the 1920s when you had the so-called, even in the late 1800s, robber baron years, and then you had the great names of wealth – Carnegie, Mellon, Frick, Rockefeller, and so forth. And no income tax – wow, gonna make a lot of money.

Guess what. America made more wealth and more money for more people in the 1990s than at any other time in our history. And what it came from, the wealth that was generated then, was the high-tech computer revolution of the 1990s, and guess what. It came from a $1 trillion market with 1 billion users, 1 for 1. The energy market that we’re looking at in the world today is six times bigger, by far more important. It’s a $6 trillion market today with 4 to 5 billion users today, and it will go up to 7 to 9 billion users in the next 30 years. The fastest segment by far of growth in that market is clean energy.

We need to build a grid in America. We need to – we could use solar thermal to produce heat in Massachusetts, in Minnesota, take wind power from our states, sell it somewhere else. We can’t even do that because we don’t have that grid in place.

So I want to emphasize to all of you: We’re not going to find a sustainable energy mix in the 19th century or 20th century solutions. Those are the problems. We need a formula for 21st century that will sustainably power us into the 22nd century. And I believe that, working together, the United States and countries across the Asia Pacific can make this leap. That’s an exciting opportunity and that’s what we’re working on with China today.

The bottom line is we don’t have time to waste. If we’re going to power a clean energy revolution, we have to work together to dampen security competition and rivalry in the Asia Pacific and focus on these other constructive efforts. And so our third challenge is clear: We need to turn maritime conflicts into regional cooperation.

All of us in this room understand that these disputes in the South China Sea and elsewhere, they’re really about more than claims to islands and reefs and rocks and the economic interests that flow from them. They’re about whether might makes right or whether global rules and norms and rule of law and international law will prevail. I want to be absolutely clear: The United States of America takes no position on questions of sovereignty in the South and East China Sea, but we do care about how those questions are resolved. We care about behavior. We firmly oppose the use of intimidation and coercion or force to assert a territorial claim by anyone in the region. And we firmly oppose any suggestion that freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace are privileges granted by a big state to a small one. All claimants must work together to solve the claims through peaceful means, big or small. And these principles bind all nations equally, and all nations have a responsibility to uphold them.

Now, I just participated in the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we were encouraged there to – we encouraged the claimants there to defuse these tensions and to create the political space for resolution. We urged the claimants to voluntarily freeze steps that threatened to escalate the disputes and to cause instability. And frankly, I think that’s common sense and I suspect you share that. I’m pleased to say that ASEAN agreed that the time has come to seek consensus on what some of those actions to be avoided might be, based on the commitments that they’ve already made in the 2002 Declaration on Conduct.

Now, we cannot impose solutions on the claimants in the region, and we’re not seeking to do that. But the recent settlement between Indonesia and the Philippines is an example of how these disputes could be resolved through good-faith negotiations. Japan and Taiwan, likewise, showed last year that it’s possible to promote regional stability despite conflicting claims. And we support the Philippines’ taking steps to resolve its maritime dispute with China peacefully, including through the right to pursue arbitration under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. And while we already live by its principles, the United States needs to finish the job and pass that Treaty once and for all.

Now, one thing that I know will contribute to maintaining regional peace and stability is a constructive relationship between the United States and China. President Obama has made it clear that the United States welcomes the rise of a peaceful, prosperous, and stable China – one that plays a responsible role in Asia and the world and supports rules and norms on economic and security issues. The President has been clear, as have I, that we are committed to avoiding the trap of strategic rivalry and intent on forging a relationship in which we can broaden our cooperation on common interests and constructively manage our differences and disagreements.

But make no mistake: This constructive relationship, this “new model” relationship of great powers, is not going to happen simply by talking about it. It’s not going to happen by engaging in a slogan or pursuing a sphere of influence. It will be defined by more and better cooperation on shared challenges. And it will be defined by a mutual embrace of the rules, the norms, and institutions that have served both of our nations and the region so well. I am very pleased that China and the United States are cooperating effectively on the Iran nuclear talks and we’ve increased our dialogue on the DPRK. We’re also cooperating significantly on climate change possibilities, counter-piracy operations, and South Sudan.

So we are busy trying to define a great power relationship by the places where we can find mutual agreement and cooperation. We’ve seen the benefits of partnerships based on common values and common approaches to regional and global security. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and I met with our Australian counterparts in Sydney earlier this week and we reviewed the U.S.-Australian alliance from all sides. And though we live in very different hemispheres, obviously, and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States and Australia are today as close as nations can get. Our time-honored alliance has helped both of our countries to achieve important goals: standing with the people of Ukraine, supporting long-term progress in Afghanistan, promoting shared prosperity in the Asia Pacific, and collaborating on the United Nations Security Council. And we also agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan, and that will allow us to further modernize the U.S.-Japan alliance as we address a broader array of security challenges. Similarly, with our ally South Korea, our partnership on a growing range of regional and global challenges has brought much greater security to Asia and beyond.

History shows us that countries whose policies respect and reflect universal human rights and fundamental freedoms are likely to be peaceful and prosperous, far more effective at tapping the talents of their people, and far better partners in the long term.

That is why our fourth and final challenge is so important: We need to turn human rights problems into opportunities for human empowerment. Across the region, there are bright spots. But we also see backsliding, such as the setback to democracy in Thailand.

We all know that some countries in the region hold different views on democratic governance and the protection of human rights. But though we may sometimes disagree on these issues with the governments, I don’t think we have any fundamental disagreement with their people.

Given a choice, I don’t think too many young people in China would choose to have less access to uncensored information, rather than more. I don’t think too many people in Vietnam would say: “I’d rather not be allowed to organize and speak out for better working conditions or a healthy environment.” And I can’t imagine that anyone in Asia would watch more than a 130 million people go to the polls in Indonesia to choose a president after a healthy, vigorous, and peaceful debate and then say: “I don’t want that right for myself.” I also think most people would agree that freedom of speech and the press is essential to checking corruption, and it is essential that rule of law is needed to protect innovation and to enable businesses to thrive. That’s why support for these values is both universal and pragmatic.

I visited Indonesia in February, and I saw the promise of a democratic future. The world’s third largest democracy sets a terrific example for the world. And the United States is deeply committed to our comprehensive partnership. Indonesia is not just an expression of different cultures and languages and faiths. By deepening its democracy, and preserving its traditions of tolerance, it can be a model for how Asian values and democratic principles inform and strengthen one another.

In Thailand, a close friend and ally, we’re very disturbed by the setback to democracy and we hope it is a temporary bump in the road. We call on the Thai authorities to lift restrictions on political activity and speech, to return – to restore civilian rule, and return quickly to democracy through free and fair elections.

In Burma last week, I saw firsthand the initial progress the people and the government have made. And I’m proud of the role – and you should be too – that the United States has played for a quarter of a century in encouraging that progress.

But Burma still has a long way to go, and those leading its democratic transformation are only now addressing the deepest challenges: Defining a new role for the military; reforming the constitution and supporting free and fair elections; ending a decades-long civil war; and guaranteeing in law the human rights that Burma’s people have been promised in name. All of this while trying to attract more investment, combating corruption, protecting the country’s forests and other resources. These are the great tests of Burma’s transition. And we intend to try to help, but in the end the leadership will have to make the critical choices.

The United States is going to do everything we can to help the reformers in Burma, especially by supporting nationwide elections next year. And we will keep urging the government – as I did last week – to take steps to ease the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine state, and push back against hate speech and religious violence, implement constitutional reform, and protect freedom of assembly and expression. The government owes it to the people of those – of that movement to do those things.

And so, my friends, in the great tradition of our country, we will continue to promote human rights and democracy in Asia, without arrogance but also without apology.

Elsewhere in Asia, North Korea’s proliferation activities pose a very serious threat to the United States, the region, and the world. And we are taking steps to deter and defend against North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-armed ballistic missile capability. But make no mistake: We are also speaking out about the horrific human rights situation. We strongly supported the extraordinary United Nations investigation this year that revealed the utter, grotesque cruelty of North Korea’s system of labor camps and executions. Such deprivation of human dignity just has no place in the 21st century. North Korea’s gulags should be shut down – not tomorrow, not next week, but now. And we will continue to speak out on this topic.

So you’ve heard me for longer than you might have wanted to – (laughter) – describing a pretty ambitious agenda. And you’re right; it’s a big deal. We are super engaged. We are ambitious for this process: completing the TPP negotiations, creating sustainable growth, powering a clean energy revolution, managing regional rivalries by promoting cooperation, and empowering people from all walks of life – that’s how we’re going to realize the promise of the Asia Pacific. And this is a region whose countries can and should come together, because there is much more that unites us than divides us. This is a region that can and should meet danger and difficulty with courage and collaboration. And we are determined to deliver on the strategic and historic opportunities that we can create together.

That’s why, together with our Asian partners, we’re developing modern rules for a changing world – rules that help economies grow strong and fair and just, with protections for the environment, safeguards for the people who have both too often been left behind.

That’s why we’re building a region where Asia’s major cities are no longer clouded with smog and smoke, and where people can depend on safe food and water, and clean oceans, clean air, and shared resources from its rivers and its oceans, and with a sense of responsibility one generation passes on to the next to preserve all of that for the future.

That’s why we’re building a region where countries peacefully resolve their differences over islands, reefs, rocks by finding the common ground on the basis of international law.

And that’s why we’re building a region that protects the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms that make all nations stronger.

There is still a long road ahead. But nothing gives me more hope in the next miles of the journey than the courage of those who have reached a different and more hopeful kind of future. And that is the story that I want to leave you with today.

When I became a senator, getting increasingly more and more involved in the region as a young member of the committee and then later as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, the first trip I took in 1986 was to the Philippines. Strongman Ferdinand Marcos had called a sham “snap” election to fake everybody to prove how in charge he was, to preserve his grasp on power. President Reagan asked Senator Richard Lugar and me to be part of a delegation to observe those elections.

And I will never forget arriving in Manila and seeing this unbelievable flood of people in the streets all decked out in their canary yellow shirts and banners of pro-democracy protest. Some of us knew at that time there were allegations of fraud. I was sent down initially to Mindanao to observe the morning votes and then came back to Manila, and was sitting in the hotel there when a woman came up to me crying and said, “Senator, you must come with me to the cathedral. There are women there who fear for their lives.”

And I left my dinner and I ran down to the cathedral. I came in to the Sacristi of the cathedral and talked with these 13 women who were crying and huddled together, intimidated for their lives. And I listened to their story about how they were counting the raw tally of the votes that was coming in from all across the nation, but the raw tally of votes they were counting was not showing up on the computer tote board recording the votes. They blew the whistle on a dictator. We held an international press conference right there in the cathedral right in front of the alter, and they spoke out, and that was the signal to Marcos it was over. Their courage and the courage of the Filipino people lit a spark that traveled throughout the world, inspiring not just a freshman senator from Massachusetts, but popular movements from Eastern Europe to Burma.

Now, I think about that moment even today, about the power of people to make their voices felt. I think about how Cory Aquino rose to the presidency atop a wave of people power when few believed that she could. I think about how her husband fought for democracy, even at the cost of his own life. And I think about how, decades later, their son would rise to the presidency in democratic elections. In his inaugural address, President Benigno Aquino said: “My parents sought nothing less, died for nothing less, than democracy and peace. I am blessed by this legacy. I shall carry the torch forward.”

My friends, today we must all summon up some of that courage, we must all carry that torch forward. The cause of democracy and peace, and the prosperity that they bring, can bring our legacy in the Asian Pacific, it can define it. Our commitment to that future, believe me it is strong. Our principles are just. And we are in this for the long haul – clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.

Thank you. (Applause.)

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East Asia and the Pacific: U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

Today, Secretary Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the U.S.-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The meeting continued 37 years of high-level U.S.-ASEAN engagement since the United States became an ASEAN dialogue partner in 1977. This meeting brought the U.S. Secretary of State together with the foreign ministers of the ten ASEAN Member States for open and constructive discussions of important issues affecting the region. In this meeting, Secretary Kerry highlighted many of the activities the United States and ASEAN have jointly undertaken across ASEAN’s economic, socio-cultural, and political-security pillars. The United States remains committed to close collaboration with ASEAN to promote peace, stability, and inclusive economic growth in Southeast Asia.

Economic Engagement

ASEAN is committed to creating a single-market economic community that allows free movement of goods, services, labor, and capital. As a close partner and largest foreign investor in the ASEAN region, the United States is assisting this effort in areas including trade facilitation, standards harmonization, and the ASEAN Single Window, which will enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness and allow ASEAN to more fully integrate into the global economy, laying the foundation for inclusive and equitable economic development. Each of the programs listed below will facilitate greater ease of trade and improved trade levels.

U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement (E3): Launched in November 2012, E3 seeks to expand trade and investment ties between the United States and ASEAN to create new jobs and business opportunities. We are planning for the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Business Summit to beheld on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers Meeting at the end of August 2014. The Summit will focus on improving the capacity of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to connect to regional and global supply chains. We are also working with ASEAN on joint statements of shared principles on trade- and investment-related issues that will reaffirm the 11 countries’ commitments to improving their trade policy environments.

Trade and Investment Development Cooperation through ACTI: The ASEAN Connectivity for Trade and Investment (ACTI) program continues to strengthen the trade and investment environment in ASEAN by combining the expertise and resources of USAID and major U.S. corporations. The newly formed U.S.-ASEAN Business Alliance for Competitive SMEs, a public-private partnership between ACTI and the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, has held training programs in five ASEAN countries, with more activities planned this fall, and will soon begin creating a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Online Academy to support SMEs in three key areas: access to finance; access to regional and international markets; and access to information and information technology. We are also cooperating with the Government of Japan to promote women’s entrepreneurship through programs such as the ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs’ Network and women’s entrepreneurial centers in Cambodia and Laos.

Constructing the ASEAN Single Window: Through ACTI, the United States is providing support for the building of the ASEAN Single Window, a hallmark of ASEAN’s progress in economic integration. Together, we aim to improve the trade and investment-enabling environment and enhance regional integration and private sector competitiveness. The ASEAN Single Window will speed customs clearance procedures and lower costs for businesses, allowing increased trade that supports jobs and business opportunities in the United States and ASEAN.

Building a More Connected ASEAN: ACTI is working with ASEAN senior telecommunications and information technology officials to support ASEAN’s goals for widely available, affordable, and secure broadband access through sharing best practices in universal service obligations and exposure to new technologies, such as TV White Space, to expand connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

Promoting Environmentally Sustainable Energy: The U.S. Department of Energy and the ACTI program collaborated with the ASEAN Center for Energy to hold a workshop on Rural Electrification during ASEAN’s Renewable Energy Week in April 2014. Participants discussed technologies such as small wind and solar thermal and examined climate and weather risk protection attributes of certain renewable energy technologies. Through ACTI, the United States continues to support a major study of the effect of climate change on hydropower.

Promoting Synergies Between ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): The United States has provided funding and technical assistance to ensure that all 10 ASEAN members – including the three that are not members of APEC – have the opportunity to participate in U.S.-funded APEC events on topics of mutual interest. In the first half of 2014, government officials from Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar joined officials from APEC economies at a May workshop on food safety sanitation and a June workshop on oil and gas resource management. Five more workshops are scheduled for 2014 on topics including green building standards, plant biotechnology research, and combatting illegal wildlife trafficking.

Political-Security Engagement

ASEAN established the political-security community to promote the principles of democracy, rule of law, and good governance among the member states. By establishing a rules-based community with a shared responsibility for comprehensive security, ASEAN strives to be an outward-looking institution with enhanced global ties. The United States provides funding and technical expertise through the ASEAN-U.S. Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development, and Security (PROGRESS). The five-year USAID-managed partnership focuses on good governance, socio-cultural issues, and cross-sectoral and institutional capacity building for the ASEAN Secretariat.

Enhancing Maritime Cooperation: Under the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), the United States and the Philippines established the Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training (EAST) program that addresses the need to improve seafarer training, professionalism, and well-being, and will follow up on a successful workshop on seafarer counter-piracy held last year with a second workshop scheduled in Manila this September. The United States is also poised to become the 20th contracting party to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combatting Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), an international organization that serves as a platform for information exchange and for promoting and enhancing cooperation to combat piracy and armed robbery in Asia.

Improving Disaster Management through PROGRESS: The United States is assisting ASEAN with developing training standards for national disaster management offices, creating standards to assess risk and vulnerability to disasters, and enhancing disaster monitoring and information-sharing systems at the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center).

Building ASEAN’s Cyber Confidence: The United States and Singapore will jointly chair the ASEAN Regional Forum Cyber Confidence Building Measures (CBM) Seminar scheduled to be held in Singapore later this year. Participants in the two-day seminar will share information to increase the understanding of state information and communications technology activities.

Training Anti-Trafficking Specialist Units: Following extensive consultations, the U.S.-funded American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA-ROLI) presented a final project plan for approval during the June 2014 meeting of the Heads of Anti-trafficking Specialist Units (HSUs). In September 2014, ABA-ROLI will provide HSU training in Manila focused on crime scene management and victim-centered approaches to investigations. A second HSU training is scheduled for December.

Combatting Trafficking-in-Persons: With support from the PROGRESS project, the United States will lead a seminar later this year to broaden ASEAN’s understanding of the U.S. Government’s annual Trafficking-in-Persons report. Participants will gain a better understanding of the trafficking-in-persons problem, applicable U.S. law, and the publication of the annual report.

Building Judicial Capacity through PROGRESS: We have also been working through PROGRESS to build dialogue and networking of ASEAN’s judiciaries as they consider administrative and technical challenges in the lead-up to the ASEAN Economic Community. In partnership with the Singaporean judiciary and the ASEAN Secretariat in March 2014 the United States supported the Court Excellence and Judiciary Cooperation Forum in which judiciaries from across the region met to exchange knowledge and share best practices.

Promoting Human Rights Cooperation: The United States and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights held a consultation in June and discussed areas of potential cooperation to promote human rights in the region.

Socio-Cultural Engagement

ASEAN aspires to be a people-focused and socially responsible community that reinforces regional peace, stability, and prosperity by supporting mutual respect of its members’ cultures and by promoting human and social development. A safe and healthy environment, in which the basic human rights of all people are protected irrespective of age or gender, will strengthen the foundation for emerging young leaders to continue furthering ASEAN’s role in the global community.

Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Presidential Initiative: YSEALI was launched by President Obama in December 2013 to support the development of young emerging leaders in Southeast Asia. The program targets bright, active participants aged 18-35 years. It provides training, networking opportunities, and a platform to discuss their generation’s greatest challenges. President Obama met with 500 youth from throughout the region at a YSEALI town hall in Kuala Lumpur last April.

YSEALI Generation Workshop: The U.S. State Department sponsored 103 emerging Southeast Asian leaders at the first YSEALI Generation Workshop in Kuala Lumpur in April 2014, with the aim of developing a regional network for ASEAN youth to collaborate on solving common challenges and creating new opportunities. The inaugural workshop is already bearing fruit; a Philippine participant received over $90,000 from UNICEF Philippines for an idea she fine-tuned at the YSEALI workshop.

YSEALI Exchanges and Grant Competition: In 2014, a total of 100 YSEALI participants have taken part or will take part in newly initiated exchanges. The U.S. State Department piloted the first YSEALI Institutes in May and July, bringing 39 university-age students to the United States to deepen their knowledge about environmental issues, leadership skills, and regional issues. The first YSEALI Fellows will bring 61 young professional leaders to the United States in 2014 for working placements at U.S. community organizations, government offices, and businesses; 31 participants took part in May 2014, with 30 additional participants slated for October. In July 2014, the U.S. State Department also launched the YSEALI Seeds for the Future competition to fund innovative public service projects led by ASEAN youth.

ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program: Together with the Government of Malaysia, we were pleased to support the launch of the ASEAN Youth Volunteer Program (AYVP) in August 2013. We are now in the final stages of a multi-year agreement with the National University of Malaysia for ongoing support to the AVYP. AVYP volunteers embody “ASEAN-helping-ASEAN” and a sense of regional identity and supporting the development of young leaders who support solutions to development challenges facing ASEAN communities.

U.S.-ASEAN Educational Programs: The United States continues to support Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Visiting Scholars through the Fulbright U.S.-ASEAN Initiative. Scholars from ASEAN member countries travel to the United States to focus on ASEAN-related priorities, while U.S. Fulbright Specialists and Fulbright Scholars provide capacity-building expertise at ASEAN institutions and universities. We also cooperate jointly with the Brunei Government on the five-year Brunei-U.S. English-Language Enrichment Project for ASEAN.

U.S.-ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow Program: The United States and the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) launched the U.S.-ASEAN Science and Technology Fellow Program in April 2014. In this first year of the program, seven fellows are working on issues related to biodiversity, climate change, water management, health, and early warning systems for disaster risk reduction in Indonesia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, and the Philippines.

Promoting Women and Children’s Rights: The United States supports ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) efforts to establish minimum standards for implementing the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Elimination of Violence Against Children. Through the PROGRESS project we are working to improve ASEAN’s capacity to provide support services by bringing women and children’s rights experts to ASEAN to share best practices on strengthening ACWC’s institutions and engaging civil society and supporting the creation of the ASEAN Network of Social Services Agencies.

Advancing U.S.-ASEAN Climate Change Cooperation: Through the Lowering Emissions in Asia’s Forest (LEAF) program, the United States provides technical support to the ASEAN Regional Knowledge Network on Forestry and Climate Change. The LEAF program engages multiple stakeholders in developing guidelines on lowering emissions for land-related investments to reduce emissions from the agriculture, forestry, and land use sector. We have also begun the second phase of the USAID CityLinks program. Two U.S.-ASEAN city pairs have begun cooperating in areas such as drainage systems capacity and urban climate adaptation.

Advancing Food Security and Fisheries: In June 2014, USAID and the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance regional food security and biodiversity conservation. Through USAID’s Maximizing Agricultural Revenue through Knowledge, Enterprise Development and Trade program (MARKET), the United States supports the ASEAN Public-Private Task Force for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture, which provides a regional platform for companies, farmer and fisher groups, and governments to share information, identify priority issues, and adopt sustainable production practices.

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Press Releases: The Lower Mekong Initiative Sets Course for 2015-2020

On August 9, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry led the United States’ delegation to the Seventh Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) Ministerial Meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. LMI is the region’s only forum for addressing cross-border development and policy challenges facing the five Lower Mekong partner countries: Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. LMI holds four official events and many project and program events annually across six pillar areas: agriculture and food security, connectivity, education, energy security, environment and water, and health, as well as cross-cutting areas such as Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality and the Water, Energy, and Food Security Nexus.

As an element of the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the United States has committed substantial resources to the region, including support for LMI’s regional efforts towards political, social, and economic integration and narrowing the development gap within ASEAN. These efforts have been accelerated in preparation for the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Foreign Ministers praised LMI’s achievements during its first five years in addressing complex, transnational development and policy challenges and announced a renewed Lower Mekong Initiative program for the next five years that includes focusing the organization on its most successful, in-demand Signature Programs, and elevating cross-cutting thematic discussions like the Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus.

LMI Signature Programs

As LMI crosses its five-year anniversary, Ministers agreed to give regular status to activities that have proven successful in meeting the Initiative’s strategic objectives and are strongly supported by partner countries. While LMI currently supports a wide variety of highly valuable programs, and will continue to do so, partner countries and the United States committed to delivering the following regular programs:

  • Connect Mekong – This program promotes physical, institutional and people-to-people connectivity through the delivery of trainings, technical assistance, and Best Practice Exchanges, leveraging U.S. experts from across many agencies and the private sector to foster trade, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Activities seek to narrow the development gap in ASEAN and promote the realization of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.
     
  • Smart Infrastructure for the Mekong (SIM) – In its first year, LMI partner countries submitted twelve proposals through this technical and scientific assistance program which supports environmentally sound and socially equitable infrastructure, clean energy, and land/water use.
     
  • Connecting the Mekong through Education and Training (COMET) – The five-year workforce development project, with an initial commitment of $4 million, will assist universities and vocational centers to increase the number of skilled workers in the ASEAN priority sectors through on-line education and in-person training. COMET will include strategic partnerships with the business community, including Microsoft and Cisco Systems.
     
  • Professional Communication Skills for Leaders (PCSL) – PCSL develops technical English proficiency in mid- to upper-level government officials so that they can present ideas and actively contribute to LMI meetings and other regional fora in the official working language. The program, in its third year, is highly rated by LMI countries.
     
  • Womens Entrepreneurial Centers of Resources, Education, Access, and Training for Economic Empowerment (WECREATE). Ministers affirmed their support for WECREATE and welcomed the upcoming launch of the first Center in Cambodia, which will form part of a regional network to promote women’s entrepreneurship under LMI. Ministers reaffirmed the importance of integrating gender issues across development and policy planning.
     
  • The Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) Program – EPT promotes early detection and response to diseases in animals before they become threats to human health. Ministers affirmed the importance of the White House’s Global Health Security Agenda broadly and the need to enhance regional capacity for disease prevention, surveillance, detection, and response across multiple sectors, including human and animal health and the environment.

Cross-Cutting Themes

In addition to announcing regular Signature Programs, LMI partner countries agreed to focus future policy dialogues on cross-cutting areas that represent the most pressing regional challenges – such as the Water, Energy, and Food Security Nexus; Connectivity; and Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equality. Cross-cutting discussions that bring together stakeholders working to address regional challenges will provide a venue for government officials, academia, research institutions, and the private and banking sectors, and other LMI development partners to jointly improve policy approaches and launch appropriate capacity building programs.

Eminent and Expert Persons’ Group

Ministers announced their countries’ designees to the Eminent and Expert Persons Group (EEPG). Ministers tasked the group with finding concrete ways to promote a sustainable future for the Mekong River Basin. They agreed that the group will subsequently report their findings to Senior Officials at the next LMI Senior Officials Meeting.

LMI and ASEAN

Ministers praised the recent increase in information sharing between LMI members and the ASEAN Secretariat, and strong ASEAN participation at LMI meetings, notably the March 2014 LMI Regional Working Group in Vientiane, Lao PDR, and the June 2014 LMI Senior Officials’ Meeting in Yangon, Myanmar. Ministers agreed to promote continued programming collaboration so that LMI can productively support narrowing the development gap in ASEAN and identified priorities under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration.

The LMI Pillars

LMI’s six Pillars have proactively developed relevant responses to regional development challenges during the first five years of this partnership. On-the-ground activities comprise over twenty active interagency programs, which together with in-depth policy discussions advance economic growth, strengthen regional integration, and promote sustainable development. A representative list and overview of current and trending LMI programs under each Pillar was released at the 2014 LMI Ministerial meeting and is available at the Lower Mekong Initiative website www.lowermekong.org and www.facebook.com/lowermekong.

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Speeches: ASEAN and America: Partners for the Future

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Phil. I’m glad to be in San Francisco, and with all of you here at the Commonwealth Club.

You’re here today because you understand the importance of Asia to America. This is especially evident in a Pacific Coast state like California. More than 5.5 million Asian-Pacific Americans live in California, and millions more Californians do business, study, or otherwise benefit from their ties with the region. California exported nearly $70 billion in goods to the region last year, more than any other state. And Asia matters to the entire United States – to our economy, to our security, to our families.

As a Pacific power and a trading nation, we can’t afford not to be in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why President Obama decided, before he even took office, to institute a long-term, strategic emphasis on the region. And I’m confident that strategy will extend far beyond his presidency, because we have strong bipartisan support for it – both parties understand the importance of Asia.

Now, there is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea.

And while I know that as a topic, “strengthening regional institutions” probably ties for last place with “corporate tax policy” in its headline-grabbing power, it’s one of the most consequential undertakings in terms of American interests. And that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today — namely, the effort to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

First let me say that the region I am responsible for–East Asia and the Pacific–is a diverse one. Northeast Asia, Oceania–which includes Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states–and then Southeast Asia, are all quite different.

Northeast Asia is home to two of our important treaty allies – Japan and the Republic of Korea. We’ve modernized defense cooperation with both countries to address the very real threat posed by North Korea. And we’ve deepened economic engagement through free trade agreements such as the one reached with South Korea.

Northeast Asia is also home, of course, to China–with which we’ve dramatically increased our engagement.

I was with Secretary Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and other Cabinet officials earlier this month for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue covering nearly every area of our relationship with China, from concrete steps to combat climate change and wildlife trafficking, to preventing nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, to facilitating business and investment between our two countries.

These exchanges show the conviction of both sides – as the world’s two largest economies, two of the strongest military powers, and the two largest carbon emitters – to cooperate on the world’s toughest problems whenever we can. And just as important, they show our shared commitment to tackle problem areas frankly and openly, instead of merely agreeing to disagree on issues like human rights or intellectual property protection.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states are extremely important partners. We’ve upgraded our defense cooperation with our Australian treaty ally, and we’re working to create jobs and shared prosperity with both Australia and New Zealand through the TPP trade agreement.

We’re also working with the vulnerable island states to protect the environment. Last month, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” conference, a first-of-its-kind diplomatic effort rallying heads of state, scientists and advocates from the Pacific Island nations and beyond to protect this shared resource.

But in many respects, the dynamic center of the region is Southeast Asia, and the ten countries that make up ASEAN.

Let me first say a few words about each.

Our ally the Philippines is a stable democracy with strong economic growth. We completed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement during President Obama’s visit in April, which enables us to better address common security challenges and provide relief for disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Our economies also continue to grow closer, with two way trade reaching $24 billion last year.

We have strong partners in Indonesia and Malaysia, both pluralistic and tolerant Muslim-majority nations with growing economies. Indonesia’s recent presidential election shows the strength of their democracy. And President Obama’s recent visit to Malaysia highlighted our growing economic, people-to-people, and security ties.

Singapore is an influential and effective economic, diplomatic and security partner. Brunei is a major energy producer that, while small, has been a valuable partner for us on crucial regional issues like renewable energy and free trade.

Vietnam, of course, has a complicated history with the U.S. But our relations are now flourishing. Trade is increasing dramatically as Vietnam’s economy grows. And we’re forging closer security ties, even as we encourage greater political openness and respect for human rights.

We cooperate with Laos and Cambodia on a range of development issues, and we also push them to adhere to global standards of human rights.

With our longtime treaty ally Thailand, despite the recent setback of a military coup, we remain committed to our enduring friendship.

Perhaps no other country shows the promise of this region better than Burma, which has made a turn of historic proportions towards democracy and reform.

But that turn is by no means complete. Burma faces many challenges, and the success of its reform process is by no means certain. Burma is working to negotiate a lasting peace to end the world’s longest running civil war. It is grappling now with the key issue of constitutional reform, of military versus civilian control over its government, and of who it deems eligible to serve as head of state.

It continues to face hard choices in determining how to resolve an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. On that issue, we have seen some positive movement in the past week, as the government announced its intent to welcome the return of assistance providers, like Doctors Without Borders, and put forth its strategy on how to bring access to livelihoods and security back to populations that have been living tenuously for many months because of ethno-religious violence and discrimination.

Secretary Kerry will be very focused on seeing how this process is proceeding, when he visits in early August. He, and then President Obama when he visits in November, will be keen to get a sense of Burma’s preparedness for its landmark elections next year. The world will be watching, and we will continue to stand with the government and people of Burma as they enter this testing period. So we will continue to press Burma’s leaders to protect and respect all of their peoples, and their human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to support that country’s transformation.

That’s the overview of Southeast Asia today. The region’s economic dynamism and strategic importance has made it a particular focus of this administration – the ‘rebalance within the rebalance,’ if you will.

These ten countries have many differences, but they are bound by the conviction that they can achieve more together than they can apart. But before we talk about where they’re headed, it’s important to know how they came together.

Today’s ASEAN began in 1967 when the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Cold War seemed never-ending. In this uncertain world, five Southeast Asian nations signed a Declaration that they would support each other as they sought to build prosperous, independent states.

Now, nearly half a century after its founding, ASEAN has doubled to 10 nations with more than 620 million people, and a GDP of $2.2 trillion.

As Southeast Asia has grown and developed, ASEAN’s relations with the U.S. have grown as well. Under our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2006, we have deepened our economic ties.

Since President Obama decided in 2009 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation–a treaty that ASEAN has extended to key neighbors–we’ve deepened our political ties as well. This is shown by the President’s decision to participate annually in the East Asia Summit, as he will again this year in November. This commitment to enhanced engagement with ASEAN is a key feature of the rebalance.

And we’re strengthening our ties with ASEAN across the entire U.S. government. Take this past April, when Secretary Hagel, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Sam Locklear hosted defense ministers from the ASEAN nations in Hawai’i. This was the first-ever ASEAN meeting here in the United States–a recognition that our security and prosperity are more intertwined than ever before.

For instance, California already sells over $11.6 billion worth of goods to ASEAN. Exports to ASEAN support more than 90,000 California jobs [in 2012]. And both of those numbers can grow a lot more. Your state also stands to gain from more tourists and students from the region.

And ASEAN matters to the entire United States. We had $206 billion worth of trade in goods last year. ASEAN is our fourth-largest export market and trading partner. With a diaspora reaching across America, the region contributes to our culture. And sitting astride vital trade routes, it is important to our security.

A stable Southeast Asia that meets the aspirations of its people–for economic growth, clean air and water, education, and a voice in how they’re governed–is in America’s national interest. And one of the best, most efficient ways for America to help the region meet its aspirations is by investing in ASEAN.

Strengthening regional institutions is a long-term strategy. We pursue it because it’s essential to building the foundations for progress–from ease of trade, travel and transport, to systems for resolving legal disputes, to the ability to act together on pressing issues like environmental protection. We all benefit from a rules-based system.

Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics–peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions.

ASEAN is working towards forming a cohesive economic community by next year through lower barriers and increased trade volumes with each other. For the U.S. economy, this will mean easier and more efficient market access to all 10 ASEAN countries. And in the longer term, a more prosperous ASEAN will be able to buy more American exports–from farm products to manufactured goods, to services.

Even as ASEAN pursues its ambitious agenda of internal integration, it has taken on the challenge of bringing the entire Asia-Pacific region closer together. This fills an important gap – APEC is a forum for economic cooperation, but there was no forum in the region where countries could deal with political, security, and humanitarian issues.

So in 1997, ASEAN started meetings with Japan, South Korea, and China… then with Australia, India, and New Zealand… and four years ago with the United States and Russia, bringing the number of world leaders attending what is now known as the East Asia Summit to 18.

The growth of the East Asia Summit shows ASEAN’s measured advance on the international stage as the hub that connects the region.

Less visible than the leaders’ summit, but even larger, is the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual gathering of foreign ministers and other senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the EU.

This is perhaps the region’s most important ministerial meeting of the year, and it takes place in a few weeks in Burma. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss political and security issues, and begin fleshing out the agenda for the East Asia Summit, or EAS, which President Obama plans to attend in November.

Why the emphasis on EAS? In Europe, we’ve seen for decades how a region can develop effective institutions tailored to their unique needs, such as NATO and the OSCE. Those organizations have helped tackle regional, political, security and humanitarian problems. We believe the EAS can become the premier forum for addressing pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is relatively new, and members are still trying to shape it to increase its usefulness and effectiveness.

We joined EAS because, as an Asia-Pacific nation, we want to be at the table for a strategic discussion about how we build and shape the institution over time.

Let me give you a little preview of the issues that will be at the top of Secretary Kerry’s agenda. We expect to advance collaboration on issues ranging from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Disaster response is incredibly important, since the Asia-Pacific is hit by 70 percent of all natural disasters, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years.

We have worked closely with partners, including China, on improving regional responses to problems and accidents such as oil spills, for example. We are supporting the EAS declaration on Rapid Disaster Response, helping spread the lessons learned in the Philippines from the recent Super-typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.

We’ve also teamed up with regional partners to develop a strategic plan for exercises that will prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters. And we are preparing to host an ARF climate change adaptation workshop to help countries protect their people from this growing problem.

In addition to advancing these areas of collaboration, we will have frank discussions about pressing political and security challenges. In recent months, the main security challenge facing ASEAN has been tensions in the South China Sea.

This is, of course, most important to the countries with overlapping territorial and maritime claims there. Let me note up front that the U.S. is not a claimant and does not take a position on others’ claims to land features in the South China Sea. So the United States can be impartial. And we are impartial; we are not taking one claimant’s side against another.

However, peace and stability in the South China Sea is important to the international community, because the South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, pass through the South China Sea. National interests like freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded commerce are at stake.

Rival maritime and territorial claims have existed here for decades, as countries jostle over islands, shipping lanes, historically rich fisheries, and more recently, oil and gas reserves.

The claimants have, at various times, shown that cooperation in the South China Sea area is possible. They have jointly explored for and managed resources. The Philippines and Indonesia peacefully settled a 20-year maritime boundary dispute just outside the Sea earlier this year. China and Vietnam have settled similar issues in the past. And some claimants have jointly developed energy resources further away from disputed land features.

In 2002, the ASEAN nations and China signed a Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea. The Declaration, among other things, said that the parties would resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, and would refrain from actions that would escalate disputes, such as setting up new outposts on unoccupied features. And they agreed to work toward a more detailed Code of Conduct.

But tensions have flared over the years as well, and this year, they are running high. No claimant is solely responsible for the state of tensions. However, big and powerful countries have a special responsibility to show restraint. China’s recent pattern of assertive, unilateral behavior has raised serious concerns about China’s expansive claims, and its willingness to adhere to international law and standards.

Tensions spiked recently when China sent a deepwater drilling rig and armed ships into an area near the Paracel Islands that Vietnam also claims. The resulting weeks-long confrontation resulted in damaged ships, including the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and damaged relations, including anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

At the same time, public evidence indicates the claimants are upgrading outposts on small land features in the South China Sea. What worries me is that China’s projects are far outpacing similar upgrades that other claimants are making. This important, resource-rich area should not be heavily militarized.

And actions off the water can raise tensions as well.

All parties should be able to bring disputes for adjudication under international law if they conclude that regular diplomatic efforts will not succeed. The Philippines has done this in a dispute with China over the validity of its claim that a 1948 Nationalist Chinese map “proves” that China owns the land and water within a “9 dash line” in the South China Sea.

But instead of engaging constructively and arguing its case as the Tribunal has proposed, China has pressured the Philippines to drop its case, and attempted to isolate the Philippines diplomatically.

International law, not national power, should be the basis for pursuing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States works to lower tensions and help the parties peacefully manage their disputes in several ways. We have told the claimants – including the Chinese – directly and at the highest levels, of our growing concern. And we’ve encouraged all sides to avoid provocations and make clear claims based on international law.

We’re working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements, like a meaningful Code of Conduct, to lower tensions and manage disputes.

Rules and guidelines work best when they’re agreed to by the parties, through institutions that build habits of cooperation.

The U.S. is also investing more than $156 million in the civilian maritime capabilities of allies and partners in the area over the next two years. This includes equipment, training, and infrastructure. And it augments our own security presence in the region, which has been enhanced by the rebalance.

These are steps the U.S. is taking. But the claimants are the ones who must manage and settle the disputes. They are the ones who must generate the peer pressure – who must hold themselves to high standards, and then set an example for each other.

For instance, China and ASEAN already committed under the 2002 Declaration on Conduct to avoid activities that “would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

However, these problematic activities are not well defined. We are urging China and the other claimants to have a conversation about what activities are acceptable to each of them – both to help reduce tensions now, and manage differences in the long run.

We have called for claimant states to define and voluntarily freeze problematic activities. The exact elements of a freeze would be decided by consensus among the claimants, and would not prejudice the competing claims.

We’ve offered these ideas, in greater detail, both in public and in private. And we plan on advancing this important discussion at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Burma.

Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress.

The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.

We do this through our alliances and our security partnerships–and through our growing business and people-to-people ties, in which California plays an incredibly large role. And together, the American people and our government will continue to help provide a foundation of peace and stability on which the region can grow.

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