Keynote Address at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum by US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, January 23, 2008
Thank you very much. Thank you, Klaus, for that terrific introduction. I’m tempted to ask if you are the conductor – (laughter) – and to say that it is a very good thing if no one misses any notes,the piano or the orchestra.
I want to applaud you for everything that you’ve done to put this World Economic Forum together and to make it a place where people come to share ideas, and ideas that can indeed lead to a better world. It is a wonderful gathering of civil society, of business, of great leaders from around the world. And also, I note that you’ve also gone out of your way to include young people, and I thank you very much for your effort. (applause)
Let me thank also President Couchepin for the work that the government and people of Switzerland have done in generously welcoming us to this beautiful country.
President Karzai, Dr. Pachauri: Thank you very much for your wonderful work and I’m really just delighted to share the dais with you tonight.
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is an honor to join you here, and as Klaus has said, I have tried to get here several times before. I was determined to make it as Secretary of State and I guess I can say better late than never, Klaus. I spoke at the Forum by video in 2006, and I had the pleasure last year of receiving a group of Young Global Leaders at a first-ever US Policy Summit. And so I understand that some of them are here today. It’s a wonderful legacy that you’re leaving, Klaus, in bringing these young people in.
I was thinking about what I was going to say tonight, and I’ve been watching the news and I’ve been looking at the images on television and I’ve reflected on the events of the day. And of course, what comes front and center for all of us is the turbulence – political and economic – in our world:
The violence in Kenya. The tragic assassination of Mrs. Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan. The ongoing and at times halting efforts of Iraqis and Afghans to build peaceful, functioning governments. The looming danger of climate change. The forecasts of market woes and economic troubles. Even a growing concern about globalization itself – a sense that increasingly it is something that is happening to us, not controlled by us.
As I took a look at all of this, I decided to do something risky: I want to talk about the importance of ideals and I want to talk about the need for optimism in their power.
Now, I know that whenever Americans start talking about idealism and optimism, international audiences groan. Perhaps there is a little concern that you’re going to hear a long, moralizing lecture. Well, I promise not to do that.
And another common concern when Americans talk of idealism and optimism is, “Well, there they go again, the innocents abroad. ” Indeed, there is a long international tradition of viewing America as kind of young and naive.
Well, in our defense, I would just say we’re not that young.
And if you are tempted to think that we are naive, then you should hope that Bismarck was right when he said, “God has a special providence for fools, drunks, and the United States of America.” (laughter)
Seriously though, I recognize that there is a climate of anxiety in our world today. And it is tempting for many people to turn inward, to secure what they have, and to shut others out. Some want to go it alone. And there is certainly cynicism about the salience of our ideals when it seems that it’s just hard enough to protect our interests.
I know that many are worried by the recent fluctuations in US financial markets, and by concerns about the US economy. President Bush has announced an outline of a meaningful fiscal growth package that will boost consumer spending and support business investment this year. My colleague, Hank Paulson, who had hoped to be with you, is leading our Administration’s efforts and working closely with the leaders of both parties in Congress to agree on a stimulus package that is swift, robust, broad-based, and temporary.
The US economy is resilient, its structure is sound, and its long-term economic fundamentals are healthy. The United States continues to welcome foreign investment and free trade. And the economy, our economy, will remain a leading engine of global economic growth. So we should have confidence in the underlying strength of the global economy – and act with confidence on the basis of principles that lead to success in this world.
And on that note, I would submit to you this evening that there is not one challenge in the world today that will get better if we approach it without confidence in the appeal and effectiveness of our ideals – political and economic freedom, open markets and free trade, human dignity and human rights, equal opportunity and the rule of law. Without these principles, backed by all forms of national power, we may be able to manage global problems for a while, but we will not lay a foundation to solve them.
First, let us take development. Amidst the extraordinary opportunities of the global economy, which we will talk about here, the amount of deprivation in our world still remains unacceptable. Half of our fellow human beings live on less than $2 a day. That’s simply not acceptable in a civilized world. But as we approach the challenges of development, let us remember that we know what works: We know that when states embrace free markets and free trade, govern justly and invest in their people, they can create prosperity and then translate it into social justice for all their citizens.
Yes, some states are growing economically through a kind of “authoritarian capitalism.” But it is at least an open question whether it is sustainable for a government to respect people’s talents but not their rights. In the long run, democracy, development, and social justice must go hand in hand.
In recent years, the United States has been trying to put these principles into practice in our core development policies. Indeed, under President Bush, and with the full support of our Congress, the United States has launched the largest international development effort since the Marshall Plan.
We have met or are clearly on course to meet all of our international commitments to increase official development assistance: Since 2001, we have doubled our assistance to Latin America, we’ve quadrupled it for Africa, and we’ve tripled it worldwide, all while reforming it to better support responsible policies of developing states.
We have put $7.5 billion into our Millennium Challenge Account initiative, which is rooted in the ideals of the Monterrey Consensus. And we have also launched historic efforts to combat malaria and HIV/AIDS. In fact, President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is the largest effort ever by one nation to combat a single disease.
But more and better aid has to be accompanied by the global expansion of free and fair trade. It isn’t easy – I will tell you, it is not easy -- for the American president to advocate free and fair trade at a time of growing economic populism. Yet President Bush remains committed to completing a successful Doha Round, and my colleague Susan Schwab, who is here tonight in Davos, is working hard to do just that.
The President has pledged that the United States will eliminate all tariffs, subsidies, and barriers to free flow of goods and services – including agriculture – as other nations do the same. We expect our partners to join us in finding a way to make Doha a success.
If we are to continue expanding global economic growth, we also need to find a new approach to energy and the environment. If we proceed on our current course, we have an unacceptable choice: Either sacrifice global economic growth for the health of our planet – or sacrifice the health of our planet for fossil fuel-led growth. We cannot do that. We have to reject this course – and work instead to cut the Gordian Knot of fossil fuels, carbon emissions, and economic activity.
I want to assure you that we Americans realize how central a solution to climate change is to the future health and success of the international system. And we will be tireless in helping to lead the search for that solution: through the UN Framework Convention and through the Major Economies Meetings that President Bush proposed, the first of which we hosted this past September.