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 Home > News & Policies > May 2007

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
May 31, 2007

President Bush Discusses United States International Development Agenda
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
Washington, D.C.

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     Fact sheet Fact Sheet: Commitment to International Development

10:07 A.M. EDT

MRS. BUSH: Thank you, George, for that kind introduction. Thanks to the United States Global Leadership Council for hosting us this morning. Next week, leaders from around the world will gather in Germany to advance goals shared by people of every nation: economic empowerment, education, and good health.

President George W. Bush delivers remarks on the United States International Development Agenda Thursday, May 31, 2007, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, D.C. "We're blessed to live in the world's most prosperous nation," said the President. "And I believe we have a special responsibility to help those who are not as blessed. It is the call to share our prosperity with others, and to reach out to brothers and sisters in need."  White House photo by Shealah Craighead The eagerness of children to learn, the desire of individuals to provide for themselves and their families, and the longing of mothers to see their babies grow up healthy are universal. Yet poverty, a lack of education, and disease have kept millions from around the world from fulfilling these fundamental desires. Today the governments and citizens of many countries are working to overcome these crises. And the American people are proud to stand with them.

Through our government, the American people have given billions of dollars to lift the burdens of crushing debt, illiteracy, malaria and HIV/AIDS. At the end of June, I'll travel to the African nations of Senegal, Mozambique, Zambia and Mali to see the results -- some of these results firsthand. I'll visit homes protected by mosquito sprays, and go to clinics supported by the President's Malaria Initiative. There, volunteers distribute mosquito nets so that mothers can sleep knowing that their babies are safe.

I'll visit a pediatric hospital supported by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, where doctors and nurses care for thousands of HIV-positive babies. I'll see new wells installed by the Play Pumps Alliance, which will provide as many as 10 million Africans with clean water. And I'll visit schools supported by our government's African Education Initiative. By supplying textbooks and training hundreds of thousands of teachers, the African Education Initiative gives African children hope for security, prosperity and good health.

These are just some of the things our government is doing around the world that Americans should be proud of. Through our development initiatives, we're helping to build free economies, teach children how to read, and save the lives of millions of men and women -- women like Kunene Tantoh. I first met Kunene two years ago when I visited a Mothers to Mothers center in South Africa. At Mothers centers, which receive PEPFAR seed money, HIV-infected women receive information and support to keep their unborn babies HIV free. When Kunene first arrived at the Mothers clinic, she had just discovered she was pregnant -- and HIV positive. A normal CD4 count, which measures a person's immune cells, is between 500 and 1,500. Kunene's count was 2. It seemed unlikely that she would survive.

President George W. Bush addresses the United States Global Leadership Campaign Thursday, May 31, 2007, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, D.C. "This is a fine organization and it's an important organization," said President Bush. "It's rallying businesses and non-governmental organizations and faith-based and community and civic organizations across our country to advance a noble cause, ensuring that the United States leads the world in spreading hope and opportunity." White House photo by Chris Greenberg But with the treatment Kunene received at the Mothers clinic, she did survive, and delivered a beautiful boy named Baron. He's HIV free. Kunene became a mentor to other mothers, and now she serves as a site coordinator at the largest Mothers facility. Today she and Baron stand as a symbol of hope to everyone living positively with HIV. Kunene and Baron. (Applause.) Kunene also represents the many lives that have been touched and saved by the compassion of the American people.

Now I'm proud to introduce a man of extraordinary compassion. Ladies and gentlemen, my husband, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Laura, thanks for that short introduction. (Laughter.) I'm proud to be introduced by my wife. I love her dearly. She's a great First Lady. (Applause.)

And I appreciate the chance to address the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. This is a fine organization and it's an important organization. It's rallying businesses and non-governmental organizations and faith-based and community and civic organizations across our country to advance a noble cause, ensuring that the United States leads the world in spreading hope and opportunity. It's a big deal, and I appreciate your participation.

It's a big deal because your efforts are needed. Millions suffer from hunger and poverty and disease in this world of ours. Many nations lack the capacity to meet the overwhelming needs of their people. Alleviating this suffering requires bold action from America. It requires America's leadership and requires the action of developed nations, as well.

That's the message I'm going to take with me to Europe next week, when Laura and I go to the G8. At that meeting I will discuss our common responsibility to help struggling nations grow strong and improve the lives of their citizens. And today I'm going to describe some of the initiatives that I will be discussing with world leaders next week to help developing nations build a better future for their people.

Before I do so, I want to thank George Ingram, the President of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. I thank the members of my Cabinet who share the same passion I do for helping those less fortunate around the world -- that would include Carlos Gutierrez, Department of Commerce; Secretary Mike Leavitt, Department of Health and Human Services; Secretary Sam Bodman at the Department of Energy; Administrator Steve Johnson of the EPA. Thank you all for coming. Proud to be serving with you.

Mrs. Laura Bush delivers remarks about the United States International Development Agenda Thursday, May 31, 2007, at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Center in Washington, D.C. "The eagerness of children to learn, the desire of individuals to provide for themselves and their families, and the longing of mothers to see their babies grow up healthy are universal," said Mrs. Bush. White House photo by Chris Greenberg I am glad that the Acting Director of the U.S. Foreign Assistance and Acting Administrator of USAID is here, Henrietta Fore. Thanks for coming. I appreciate John Danilovich, who is the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Rob Mosbacher, the head of OPIC. I appreciate other members of my administration who joined us today.

I thank the members of the Diplomatic Corps who are here today. I thank the members of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign.

We are a compassionate nation. When Americans see suffering and know that our country can help stop it, they expect our government to respond. I believe in the timeless truth, and so do a lot of other Americans, to whom much is given, much is required. We're blessed to live in this country. We're blessed to live in the world's most prosperous nation. And I believe we have a special responsibility to help those who are not as blessed. It is the call to share our prosperity with others, and to reach out to brothers and sisters in need.

We help the least fortunate across the world because our conscience demands it. We also recognize that helping struggling nations succeed is in our interest. When America helps lift societies out of poverty we create new markets for goods and services, and new jobs for American workers. Prosperity abroad can be translated to jobs here at home. It's in our interest that we help improve the economies of nations around the world.

When America helps reduce chaos and suffering, we make this country safer, because prosperous nations are less likely to feed resentment and breed violence and export terror. Helping poor nations find the path to success benefits this economy and our security, and it makes us a better country. It helps lift our soul and renews our spirit.

So America is pursuing a clear strategy to bring progress and prosperity to struggling nations all across the world. We're working to increase access to trade and relieve the burden of debt. We're increasing our assistance to the world's poorest countries and using this aid to encourage reform, and strengthen education, and fight the scourge of disease. We'll work with developing nations to find ways to address their energy needs and the challenge of global climate change.

Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires opening new opportunities for trade. Trade is the best way to help poor countries develop their economies and improve the lives of their people. When I took office, America had free trade agreements with three countries. Today we have free trade agreements in force with 14 countries, most of which are in the developing world. Three weeks ago, my administration and Congress agreed on a new trade policy that will be applied to free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea. And I look forward to working with Congress to get all these trade bills passed. These bills are good for our economy.

But it's important for members of Congress and the people of this country to understand free trade is the best way to lift people out of poverty. And so the United States also seeks to open markets to the Doha round of trade negotiations. Doha represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help millions in the developing world rise from poverty and despair. If you're interested in helping the poor people, you ought to be for trade and opening up markets for their goods and services. And the Doha round gives us an opportunity to do just that.

We put forward bold proposals to help conclude a successful Doha round. And at the G8 summit next week, I'm going to urge other nations to do the same. A successful Doha round will benefit all our countries and it's going to transform the world.

I know that trade can transform lives, I've seen it firsthand. Laura and I were recently in Guatemala. We went to a small village and saw what can happen when markets are open for local entrepreneurs. In this case, we met some farmers who for years had struggled to survive, worked hard just to put food on the table for their families by growing corn and beans. That's all they were able to do. It's a hard way to make a living, growing corn and beans. When we negotiated the trade agreement called the CAFTA DR, which opened up new markets for Guatemalan farmers, the entrepreneurial spirit came forth. There are entrepreneurs all over the world, if just given a chance, they can succeed.

Today, the farmers in that village are growing high-value crops, because they have new markets in which to sell their product. The business we met -- the entrepreneur we met now employs a thousand people. Trade will improve lives a lot faster than government aid can. It's in our interest that we open up markets, for our products, and for the products of others. People just want to be given a chance. And the United States will take the lead in making sure those markets are open for people to be able to realize a better life.

Building progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires lifting the burden of debt from the poorest countries. That makes sense. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in economics to figure out, if you're paying a lot of money on interest, you're not having enough money to support your own people. In the past, many poor nations borrowed money, and they couldn't repay the debt. And their interest payments were huge. And, therefore, they didn't have the opportunity to invest in education and health care. So the administration, my administration worked with G8 nations to ease the debt burden. We're not the first administration to figure this out. My predecessor did the same thing, because it's the right policy for the United States of America.

Two years ago at Gleneagles, the G8 nations agreed to support a multilateral debt relief agreement that freed poor countries of up to $60 billion in debt. This year, we built on that progress, when the Inter-American Development Bank approved another debt relief initiative for some of the poorest nations in our neighborhood, in our own hemisphere. This initiative will cancel $3.4 billion owed by five countries: Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua. And that represents more than 12 percent of their combined GDP, an average of nearly $110 for every man, woman, and child in these countries. And this money is now free to help these nations invest in improving their lives of citizens. It makes sense to forgive debt. If you're interested in helping the poor, it makes sense for the developed world to forgive the debt. And that's what the United States will continue to do.

Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires increased American assistance to countries most in need. Since I took office, we have more than doubled U.S. development spending across the world -- from about $10 billion in 2000, to $23 billion in 2006. It's the largest increase in development assistance since the Marshall Plan.

The first four years of my administration, we doubled our assistance to Africa. At the G8 summit in 2005, I promised our assistance to Africa would double once again by 2010. I made a promise to the people. People expect us to deliver on that promise, and I expect the Congress to help. We must not shortchange these efforts. Congress needs to approve my full funding request for development assistance this year. We need to get the job done. (Applause.)

We're focusing increased American assistance for developing nations on three key goals -- in other words, we have some goals, we're not just going to spend money. We have a reason to spend the money and we expect there to be results when we spend that money -- so do the taxpayers of this country. It's one thing to be compassionate, it's another thing to be accountable for the money.

First, we're going to use our aid to help developing countries build democratic and accountable institutions and strengthen their civil societies. To succeed in the global economy, nations need fair and transparent legal systems; need free markets that unleash the creativity of their citizens; need banking systems that serve people at all income levels; and a business climate that welcomes foreign investment and supports local entrepreneurs.

The United States is helping developing nations build these and other free institutions through what we call the Millennium Challenge Account. Under this program, America makes a compact with developing nations. We give aid, and in return they agree to implement democratic reforms, to fight corruption, to invest in their people -- particularly in health and education -- and to promote economic freedom. Seems like a fair deal, doesn't it -- taxpayers' money from the United States in return for the habits and procedures necessary for a solid society to develop. We don't want to give aid to a country where the leaders steal the money. We expect there to be accountability for U.S. money and that's the principle behind the Millennium Challenge Account. Eleven nations have compacts in place worth nearly $3 billion. And now 14 additional nations are eligible to negotiate compacts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, headed by Ambassador Danilovich.

Let me give you an example of how this program can make a difference. In Madagascar the leaders of this island nation set a goal in their compact to improve agricultural production. In other words, we work with a nation, they have set the goal; we support their goal. They want their farmers to be able to compete in the global marketplace. We agreed to help by investing in agricultural business centers that work with local farmers. In one village, this initiative helped a group of farmers who were surviving by collecting firewood and producing charcoal. That's how these folks were trying to get ahead. They'd find firewood and make charcoal out of it, and hope they could find a market. It's a tough way to make a living in a modern world.

The business center that the compact established helped the farmers work together to identify a new product, a natural oil used in skin care products. I probably could use some of that myself. (Laughter.) The center helped these farmers develop -- helped them to develop a business plan. They acquired financing to set up a distilling plant. They built relationships with buyers in their nation's capital.

Before America and Madagascar signed our compact, a typical farmer in this village could earn about $5 a week selling charcoal. After two months of bringing the new product to the market, the livelihood of these farmers increased. One farmer was able to raise his income enough to save about $500, money he plans to use for a child's education.

We're going to help encourage African entrepreneurs in other ways, as well. Today, I'm announcing a new project called Africa Financial Sector Initiative. Through this initiative, we'll provide technical assistance to help African nations strengthen their financial markets. The U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corps, OPIC, headed by Rob Mosbacher, will work with the financial community to create several new private equity funds that will mobilize up to a billion dollars of additional private investment in Africa.

If you're interested in job creation, there's got to be capital available. It's in our interest that we help provide capital to African entrepreneurs. We want them to find access to capital, and we want them to have access to markets because we want to improve their lives. And when people's lives in countries on the continent of Africa improve, it helps the United States of America. It's what our taxpayers have got to understand. It's in our interest. (Applause.)

All of this will go for naught if people don't have a good education. So the second way we're using our aid is to improve education so that the young in the developing world have the tools they need to realize their God-given potential. Many parents across the world either have no access to education for their children, or simply cannot afford it. It's a fact of life, something the world needs to deal with, particularly those of us who have got some money.

In many nations, girls have even less educational opportunity. It robs them of a chance to satisfy their ambitions or to make use of their talents and skills, and it's really sad, when you think about it. It really is. The question is, does the United States care? Should we do something about it? And the answer is, absolutely. If boys and girls in Africa and other developing nations don't learn how to read, write, and add and subtract, this world is just going to move on without them. And all the aid efforts we'll be trying will go to naught, in my judgment.

And so in 2002, I launched the African Education Initiative to help address the great need. Through this initiative, we have provided about $300 million to expand educational opportunities throughout the continent, and we're going to provide another $300 million by 2010. We will have doubled our commitment. (Applause.)

One young woman who has benefited from this program is a woman named Evelyn Nkadori, from the Masai people of the grasslands of Kenya. In her rural community, girls are rarely offered an education -- just never given a chance. They're expected to care for younger children until they're married themselves at an early age. That was the custom. She had a different vision for her future, and our initiative helped her realize it. Our program helped her complete high school, and now she's attending Chicago State University on a scholarship. She's one of the first -- she is one of the first women from her village ever to receive a college education. She hopes to attend medical school, and then go home and help others.

Evelyn, I appreciate you being here today. I'm honored by your presence. Thank you for your courage. We can't make you want to succeed, but we can help you succeed. Thanks for coming. (Applause.)

And we need to do more, for not only children on the continent of Africa, but poor children throughout the world. And so I'm calling on Congress to fund $525 million over the next five years to make our educational initiatives even more robust. And the goal is to provide basic education for 4 million additional children on the continent of Africa and across the globe.

We've got another interesting idea, and that is to establish new Communities of Opportunity centers in poor nations to provide skills and language training for 100,000 at-risk youth; giving these young people in these countries the skills they need to succeed, we're going to give them keys to a brighter future.

The third way we're using our aid is to fight the scourge of disease in Africa and other parts of the developing world. Epidemics like HIV/AIDS and malaria destroy lives and they decimate families. They also impose a crippling economic burden on societies where so many are struggling to lift their families out of poverty. We've taken action to fight these diseases. We've done so because it's in our nation's interest to do so.

In 2003, my administration launched a new initiative to combat HIV/AIDS -- the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. We pledged $15 billion over five years for AIDS prevention and treatment and care programs in many of the poorest nations on Earth. This level of support was unprecedented. I'm proud to report, on behalf of our citizens, that it remains the largest commitment by any nation ever to combat a single disease. (Applause.)

And the program is working. Three years ago, about 50,000 people on the continent of Africa were receiving antiretroviral drugs for help. Today, over 1.1 million people are receiving lifesaving drugs. And this is a good start. It's a necessary start, and it's a promising start; but we need to do more. So yesterday in the Rose Garden, Kunene and Baron and the good Doc -- and I don't know where the Bishop is -- (laughter) -- anyway, they were standing with me up there when I called on Congress to greatly expand our efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS, by doubling our initial commitment, by dedicating an additional $30 billion to this struggle over the next five years in the year 2009. (Applause.)

And here's the goal: support treatment for nearly 2.5 million people, to prevent more than 12 million new infections, and to provide compassionate care for 12 million people, including 5 million more orphans and vulnerable children. We set the goal for the past initiative, and we met it. And we're going to set the goal for this one, and we're going to meet it. But Congress needs to get that money as quickly as possible so it makes it easier to meet the goal. I proposed this unprecedented investment for a reason -- it's in the world's interest and our nation's interest to save lives. And that's exactly what this program is doing.

We saved a life of a fellow named Robert Ongole. He's with us today. John Robert Ongole -- not yet, not yet, John Robert. (Laughter.) I'm going to make it a little more dramatic than that. (Laughter.) You probably didn't know who I was talking about when is skipped the "John." (Laughter.)

John Robert has a family of two children; he has HIV/AIDS. This disease ravaged his body. His weight dropped to 99 pounds. He developed tuberculosis and other health problems. He and his family felt certain that he would die. Then John Robert began receiving antiretroviral treatment through PEPFAR in Uganda. The treatment restored his strength. He returned to the classroom and he continued being a dad.

John Robert is earning his bachelor's degree in education. He's volunteering to help other people. The American people need to hear what he had to say: "When you talk of PEPFAR, that's my life, because it worked. Because without it, I couldn't have lived. Now I want to save the lives of other people." Thanks for coming, John Robert. (Applause.)

Does it matter to America if John Robert lives? You bet it does. That's why this initiative is an important initiative. That's why it's important Congress continue to spend taxpayers' money to save lives like John Robert's, and Kunene's, and Baron's.

As we increase our commitment to fight HIV/AIDS, we're also continuing an unprecedented commitment to fight against malaria. Malaria takes the lives of about 1 million people a year in the developing world, and the vast majority are under five years old. In some countries, this disease takes even more lives than HIV/AIDS. Every 30 seconds, a mother in Africa loses her child to malaria. It's a tragic disease because it's preventable and treatable. We can do something about it.

In 2005, I announced the President's Malaria Initiative. Through this initiative, we're spending $1.2 billion over five years to fight the disease in 15 targeted African countries. This initiative provides insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying, and life-saving anti-malaria medications. This strategy works. It really isn't all that complicated. It takes money and organization and effort.

In Angola, this initiative helped increase the number of children protected by nets from less than 5 percent to nearly 70 percent. You buy the nets, you educate the people, you get the nets to them, and when they start using them, lives are saved. This initiative has expanded malaria protection for more than 6 million Africans in its first year, and by the end of the second year, in 2007, we expect to reach a total of 30 million people. (Applause.)

At the G8 summit, I'm going to urge our partners to join us in this unprecedented effort to fight these dreaded diseases. America is proud to take the lead. We expect others to join us, as well. If you want to help improve lives on the continent of Africa, and around the world, join with the United States and provide substantial help to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Bringing progress and prosperity to struggling nations requires growing amounts of energy. It's hard to grow your economy if you don't have energy. Yet, producing that energy can create environmental challenges for the world. We need to harness the power of technology to help nations meet their growing energy needs while protecting the environment and addressing the challenge of global climate change.

In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week. The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.

In addition to this long-term global goal, each country would establish midterm national targets, and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs. Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation. These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices.

It's important to ensure that we get results, and so we will create a strong and transparent system for measuring each country's performance. This new framework would help our nations fulfill our responsibilities under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United States will work with all nations that are part of this convention to adapt to the impacts of climate change, gain access to clean and more energy-efficient technologies, and promote sustainable forestry and agriculture.

The way to meet this challenge of energy and global climate change is through technology, and the United States is in the lead. The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment. Over the past six years, my administration has spent, along with the Congress, more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology. We're the world's leader when it comes to figuring out new ways to power our economy and be good stewards of the environment.

We're investing in new technologies to produce electricity in cleaner ways, including solar and wind energy, clean coal technologies. If we can get a breakthrough in clean coal technologies, it's going to help the developing world immeasurably, and at the same time, help protect our environment.

We're spending a lot of money on clean, safe nuclear power. If you're truly interested in cleaning up the environment, or interested in renewable sources of energy, the best way to do so is through safe nuclear power. We're investing in new technologies that transform the way we fuel our cars and trucks. We're expanding the use of hybrid and clean diesel vehicles and biodiesel fuel.

We're spending a lot of your money in figuring out ways to produce ethanol from products other than corn. One of these days, we'll be making fuel to power our automobiles from wood chips, to switchgrasses, to agricultural wastes. I think it makes sense to have our farmers growing energy, so that we don't have to import it from parts of the world where they may not like us too much. And it's good for our environment, as well.

We're pressing on with battery research for plug-in hybrid vehicles that can be powered by electricity from a wall socket, instead of gasoline. We're continuing to research and to advance hydrogen-powered vehicles that emit pure water instead of exhaust fumes; we're taking steps to make sure these technologies reach the market, setting new mandatory fuel standards that require 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by the year 2017. It's a mandatory fuel standard. We want to reduce our gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next 10 years, which will not only help our national security, it will make us better stewards of the environment. The United States is taking the lead, and that's the message I'm going to take to the G8.

Last week, the Department of Energy announced that in 2006, our carbon emissions decreased by 1.3 percent while our economy grew by 3.3 percent. This experience shows that a strong and growing economy can deliver both a better life for its people and a cleaner environment at the same time.

At the G8 summit, I'm going to encourage world leaders to increase their own investments in research and development. I'm looking forward to working with them. I'm looking forward to discussing ways to encourage more investment in developing nations by making low-cost financing options for clean energy a priority of the international development banks.

We're also going to work to conclude talks with other nations on eliminating tariffs and other barriers to clean energy technologies and services by the end of year. If you are truly committed to helping the environment, nations need to get rid of their tariffs, need to get rid of those barriers that prevent new technologies from coming into their countries. We'll help the world's poorest nations reduce emissions by giving them government-developed technologies at low cost, or in some case, no cost at all.

We have an historic opportunity in the world to extend prosperity to regions that have only known poverty and despair. The United States is in the lead, and we're going to stay in the lead.

The initiatives I've discussed today are making a difference in the lives of millions; our fellow citizens have got to understand that. We're talking about improving lives in a real, tangible way that ought to make our country proud. That's why we've asked these folks to come. It's one thing for the President to be talking about stories; it's another thing for the people to see firsthand what our help has done.

I'm so proud of the United States of America. This initiative shows the good character and the decency of the American people. We are a decent people. We feel responsible for helping those who are less fortunate. And I am proud to be the President of such a good nation. Thanks for coming, and God bless. (Applause.)

END 10:46 A.M. EDT