Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Briefing on the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun

Briefing on the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun
Todd Stern
Special Envoy for Climate Change
Washington, DC
December 14, 2010

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. It is, of course, a very sad day here at the State Department. We have lost one of our own and a legendary figure in Richard Holbrooke, who could fill a room, including this one, as he did many times, and took great pleasure in engaging the press in advancing whatever it was he was working on, whether it was peace in the Balkans, peace in Congo as UN Ambassador, or most recently, peace in South Asia in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan. A number of world leaders have already checked in today and to express their condolences to the Department and to the Holbrooke family. Obviously, we’ll have more details as they determine funeral arrangements and memorial services for Richard. And he was always known as Richard.
But first, to start off our briefing today, we have another special envoy, Todd Stern, who has returned from the climate change negotiations in Cancun and just wants to put what happened last week in perspective. So we’ll start off with Todd.
MR. STERN: Thanks, P.J. And I second what P.J. said about Richard Holbrooke who was a good friend of mine and actually very supportive of our work on this issue and of me personally, so a sad day in that regard.
Let me turn to the events of the last couple of weeks. Over the last two weeks, representatives from more than 190 nations met in Cancun for the 16th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change with the goal of reaching new agreements to advance our collective efforts to meet this challenge. In the early morning hours of Saturday in Cancun, the parties largely achieved that goal. This result was fundamentally consistent with U.S. objectives. Throughout the year, our strategic vision was to consolidate and elaborate on the progress made last year in Copenhagen by many of the world’s leaders, including President Obama, and to have such outcome fully endorsed by the Conference of the Parties, all the nations to the Climate Treaty, as the Copenhagen Accord obviously was not.
The resulting Cancun agreement advances each of the core elements of the Copenhagen Accord. Specifically, it anchors the accord’s mitigation pledges by both developed and developing countries in a parallel manner. It outlines a system of transparency with substantial detail and content, including international consultations and analysis; that was the negotiated phrase from the Copenhagen Accord. And this will provide confidence that a country’s pledges are being carried out and help the world keep track of the track that we’re on in terms of reducing emissions.
The agreement in Cancun also launches a new Green Climate Fund with a process for setting it up, creates a framework to reduce deforestation in developing countries, establishes a so-called technology mechanism which includes – will include a new technology executive committee and a climate technology center and network, and it will also set up a framework and committee to promote international cooperation and action on adaptation.
The U.S. is pleased that parties show the flexibility and pragmatism that was necessary to make progress in each of these areas. The two-week conference posed a number of quite difficult challenges. It was anything but clear for a long time that we were actually going to get this agreement. But guided by what I think was a really outstanding Mexican team, parties worked through the various problems with patience, and again, pragmatism, allowing us to reach the result that we did.
This package obviously is not going to solve climate change by itself, but it is a very good step and a step that’s very much consistent with U.S. interests and will help move the path – the world down a path toward a broader global response to changing – to stopping climate change.
And let me stop here and take any questions that you have. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you explain to a layperson why they shouldn’t conclude that Cancun basically punted the hardest issue, which is to say mandatory emissions caps, until next year when there’s nothing particularly to suggest that there will be any more success on that issue next year?
MR. STERN: That’s actually not what happened. The issue that was rolled over to next year is what happens in the Kyoto Protocol track. One of the complicating things in this – or complicated things, particularly for lay people in this negotiation, is that there are simultaneously two negotiating tracks going forward. One is the Kyoto Protocol track, which doesn’t involve the United States, because we’re not part of it. And the issue there is will there be a second so-called commitment period of Kyoto, the first being 2008-12. And the question is: Does – do you go on for a period after that? There is a lot of eagerness on the part – mostly, of developing countries, although not only – to have such a second period. And there is a lot of resistance from a number of the parties, like Japan, Australia, Russia, Canada, to having such a period for a pretty understandable reason, actually.
I mean, again, we don’t take a side on this. We are comfortable with however the Kyoto issue gets resolved. But you can understand the hesitance on the part of some countries to want to go into a second period, given that a second Kyoto period would probably only cover 20-something percent of global emissions. It doesn’t have the United States in it and you don’t have any commitments from the major developing countries. Still, it is, again, a very passionately felt issue on the part of both developing and developed countries. So the issue there is would there be binding caps under Kyoto. But again, Kyoto is not the larger agreement that covers – that includes emission commitments from the U.S., China, India, Brazil, et cetera.
On that track, at the moment, while there may be something – some kind of legal treaty down the road, that’s not happening, I think, anytime soon for the reason that we’re not prepared to enter into legally binding commitments to reduce our emissions unless China, India, and so forth, are also prepared to do that. And at the moment, they’re not, so a little bit of a complicated answer, but it’s a complicated question.
MR. STERN: Yeah.
QUESTION: Let me just ask you, climate is changing around the globe, as you can see outside, including in South Asia, where you have seen a lot of disasters, including tsunami and all that. And they will be on their way in the future. What have you done since the last tsunami and earthquakes and all that as far as India is concerned and South – the region there? What are you doing? Anything with – for those tsunamis in the area?
MR. STERN: In the region?
QUESTION: Yes, sir.
MR. STERN: Well, first of all, we are doing things certainly in the region. This is a global problem, so that we are – the purpose of the global treaty is precisely that this is one of those issues that is – it obviously has local effects. I mean, if you have a problem in your region, that’s local. But unlike other kinds of environmental problems where you have local water or air pollution, climate pollution is the same whether the pollution is in India or, as they say, in Indiana. So it is a truly global problem which we are trying to deal with in a global way. We do have significant aid programs with India and other countries in the region.
One other little just kind of point of fact: Earthquakes and tsunamis, tsunamis coming from kind of underwater earthquakes, at least as I understand it, are actually not – that’s one of the – maybe one of the rare phenomena that we find that we see that actually has absolutely nothing to do with climate change. Earthquakes are not climate change related.
QUESTION: What I meant was that are you working on something. Those nations were asking to put some kind of warning system so – like we have here in the U.S., advanced warning systems and so on.
MR. STERN: Yeah. I think the United – I can’t speak authoritatively on all of the kinds of systems that we are putting in place, but I know that through agencies like NOAA the U.S. is actually doing a lot on that, in that area.
QUESTION: Can you give us an indication about your impression about India’s role at Cancun, how it went and all?
MR. STERN: I think India played, actually, a particularly constructive role in Cancun. I think that India was very much faithful to its own national interests and faithful to its role in the G-77, but at the same time creatively looking for solutions to difficult issues in the negotiation in a way that could bring in both developing countries – and by the way, developing countries are not a monolithic group at this point, there’s all sorts of different – there’s the large ones, there’s Africans and least developed nations and island states and so forth.
I think India really played a particularly constructive role in trying to find solutions that would bring everybody to the table. And one good example of that is on the issue of transparency, which was very important. It’s important because if you don’t understand – it’s great for countries to make pledges, but it’s important for all countries to have confidence in each other that they pledges are actually being carried out and implemented and so forth. And so this is an important issue – again, very different views – and India found – India made a proposal that I think people fundamentally came around. The ultimate language wasn’t exactly what India suggested, but it was really quite important that India did that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Given the way the major industrial countries feel about a second commitment period in Kyoto, and what you’ve just said about the U.S. position of finding agreement under the convention presumably, then what’s the best the U.S. hopes to happen in Durbin? What outcome would –
MR. STERN: Well, look – from our point of view, what just happened is really very significant. All right? It outlines – it kind of lays out the structure of an international agreement in all of the crucial areas. These are – the language that was used last year was politically binding. I think that’s a good way to look at it. It’s not legally binding but it is – but these are serious decisions made under the auspices of a legally binding treaty. These are all decisions made under the kind of umbrella of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Governments do not take these things lightly.
I think what you could have, what I would hope to see, is countries start implementing – I think they already are starting to implement their mitigation pledges to put in place, following the elements, the outline if you will, that was negotiated in Cancun: a system of transparency; set up a green fund; set up the technology institutions and the adaptation institutions that were agreed to in Cancun; set up a system for increasing assistance to avoid deforestation and the like. You could do all of these things – not only you could do all of these things; that’s the program now. That’s what we have agreed to do to start implementing and further elaborating all of these things. And the day will come in the future when countries can come together in a legal format, but you can get an awful lot done on the way to that, and that’s what we’re trying to do.
QUESTION: Phil Jones, the director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, he told BBC News that there has been no statistically significant global warming since 1995. What would be your reaction to that data? Would you agree or disagree with those findings?
MR. STERN: Well, I’m not a scientist, so I’m not going to comment on it and I’m not familiar with exactly what he said. I think that if you look at the warming that has been recorded on a steady basis for over the last 20 years or so, you will see a very significant rise in temperatures over time. We have – and I think if you look at the last 20 years, you have something like the 15 or 18 warmest years in history having happened during that period.
So – I mean, I think it’s – I think there is a very, very broad consensus of scientists who see a marked warming trend, and again, a very large percentage of scientists who study in this area who attribute that to human activity.
QUESTION: I was wondering where you see the process going from here. There’s – coming out of Cancun, even with the agreements, there are details that have to be discussed over the next year.
MR. STERN: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you expect to hold another meeting of the Major Economies Forum in the near future, or where do you see things going in terms of the --
MR. STERN: Well, we – I think that there’s going to be a lot of work that will need to be done this year to carry out and implement the various agreements that were just made. In some areas, there’s a whole set of new guidelines that need to be written, and the transparency area is a good example of that. But there’s a lot of work to be done to flesh out the technology agreements and so forth. So I think in the – I mean, I certainly don’t have the whole vision of 2011 laid out yet since we just finished this agreement 48 hours ago. But I think clearly, the implementation of the elements of the agreement that just happened will be an important piece of that.
As for the Major Economies, I’m sure that we will meet again, but we don’t have any time set for that yet.
QUESTION: Hi, two questions along those lines. What does the U.S. specifically need to do, what’s its role in the next year to move this process forward? And as sort of a corollary to that, a number of senators have expressed concern about even arguably modest international financing commitments by the U.S. How do we move forward, given that?
MR. STERN: I think that the U.S. role this coming year is going to be much like the U.S. role this year, which is to be a very active player in setting the agenda and working with countries in really every conceivable grouping, and to try to push for pragmatic and meaningful steps forward, which is what we did this year. I mean, we were, I think anybody would say, quite central players in the diplomacy in 2010. And I think that we would – we will continue to do that in 2011.
With respect to financing, look, the financial promises that were made in the first instance in Copenhagen and continued in the Cancun agreements are extremely important. I mean, they’re – they are a core part of the deal. Obviously, the fiscal situation is exceedingly tough in the U.S. It’s tough in Europe and other places as well. And we are going to have to do the best we possibly can to carry out, to make good on the – in the first instance, the fast start pledge that was part of Copenhagen and reiterated here. In the second instance, to work with parties to set up a good structure of the good architecture for the new Green Fund that has been agreed on.
And then in the slightly longer-term front, to continue thinking through how sources can be put together for the $100 billion – the commitment to the goal of mobilizing that money from all sources, public and private, that we made by 2020 – again, that’s a joint commitment, and it’s a commitment that is conditioned on meaningful action in the area of mitigation and transparency. But that’s a lot to work on.
QUESTION: On the issue of China taking on binding commitments, is it the U.S. position still that China has to both sign on to those binding commitments internationally and take on real reductions, or is there something short of real reductions that the U.S. could accept as part of a treaty?
And on the MRV issue, it seems like your comments since the COP decisions were adopted have been pretty positive toward the MRV and the ICA issues that you were so strong on in there. And I’m wondering, is – what is missing there, or what would you like to still see strengthened or done on that issue, or is the U.S. position that you’re pretty satisfied where we are on those?
MR. STERN: Yeah. Right, let me take the China question first. Our position on China is that China needs to make significant reductions in its emissions. But for China or other developing countries, at this stage, those are going to be relative reductions. Those are going to be reductions against the so-called business-as-usual path that they would be on.
So given – when countries, whether it’s China or India or others, are growing at 6, 8, 10 percent, you can’t slam the brakes on completely and say you’ve got to be making absolute reductions tomorrow. It just – it couldn’t work. Because don’t forget, while the critical direction that we need to move on is to separate growth from the path of emissions, so that growth goes up but emissions can still go down, because you’ve got so much of your energy coming from low carbon sources, and so forth.
At this stage in life, the movement of emissions is very much – is very linked to the movement of economic growth. So you’re not going to get a Chinese economy growing at 10 percent to have a below-zero reduction in emissions. But what you can have is a very significant reduction against what they would otherwise be doing. And so that is the focus, and we – that has been our focus consistently. And it’s really the only rational focus that you could have.
We’re not calling – I mean, it’s not so much that we’re calling on China or India to make legally binding commitments right now. What we’re saying is we will do legally binding commitments only if they are symmetrical, if the emerging market countries do that also. If they’re not ready to do it, it’s not so much that we’re criticizing that, it’s just that we say in that – if that’s where we are globally, then we need to push forward in the kind of politically binding structure that we’re doing now. And we’re comfortable with that, and we can do it either way. We’re just not going to have a completely asymmetrical system. So that’s really what we mean in terms of – both of the real reduction question and the binding question.
With respect to MRV, I think that we’ve made a very good start. I think the elements that we cared about are in the Cancun agreement, so that – those elements still need to be put – still need to be used as the architecture or the outline for a set of guidelines that’ll kind of spell out in a little bit more detail how the things works. But what we – our focus, the real issue, the debate in Cancun was do you just agree to ICA with a 50,000-foot agreement on principles that it will be facilitative and non-punitive and we’ll figure everything else out later, which we said “unacceptable,” because we won’t have any idea where we’re going? Or do you lay out a whole set of elements that will then guide you in what you have to do this year, which is what we held out for and what was ultimately agreed to?
QUESTION: You said earlier the day will come for a legally binding accord. There are many people who say that the expectation of legally binding in the LCA track is creating – just setting the talks up for failure. What – do you think for the time being, I don’t know, the next five or 10 years, that that should not be an expectation given where big developing countries are?
MR. STERN: Well, first of all, I don’t think that there is a strong expectation of a legally binding track in the LCA part of the agreements. I think that the LCA agreements made it clear that a legally binding outcome was not being taken off the table. That’s still something that could happen, that any agreements that were being done in Cancun were being done without prejudice to whether – to the prospects for a legal agreement or the content of a legal agreement, and we agree with all of that. But I don’t – that’s different from saying that there’s an expectation that next year or the year after there’s going to be a legal agreement.
So I think that the hot issue that remains on the table with respect to something legally binding right now is on the Kyoto track. And the LCA track leaves absolutely open the possibility of a legal outcome, but doesn’t – I don’t think sets an expectation for immediate resolution of that.
You asked five, 10 years – I’m not going to put any timeframe on it. I think it depends a lot on how things develop in ways that we might just not be able to predict right now. Again, the United States is not against it, but we’re just – we do not believe in the Old World kind of old paradigm where all obligations go to developed countries and none to even the major developing countries, and it’s for a simple reason. I mean 55 percent of global emissions are already coming from the developing world. In the next 20 years, that’s going to go up to 65 percent. All the growth in emissions is coming from the developing world. We’re the largest historic emitter, make no bones about that. I mean we have to act. We recognize that. And the developed world generally has to do that. But if you’re trying to think about how to solve this problem going forward, it makes no sense to perpetuate that hard division.
I think I’ve exhausted you. Thank you very much.

PRN: 2010/1815

Friday, December 3, 2010

Climate Change and Human Illness

Climate and human health are linked, and a warming climate intensifies that connection. Not only does climate change increase the risk of illness and death from extreme heat, but warming reduces air quality and can promote diseases transmitted by food, water and insects. Extreme weather events even threaten mental health. Scientists can already see effects on some aspects of health from rising temperatures. No continent faces these challenges more acutely than Africa. Read about a range of international efforts across Africa to adapt to these challenges.

To see the full photo essay on climate and health, please visit: http://www.america.gov/multimedia/photogallery.html#/30145/climate_health/

Photo caption: The Climate Change and Adaptation in Africa program, funded by Canada and the United Kingdom, is raising the capacity of African people and organizations to cope with climate change. One project is assessing vulnerability in Ouagadougou’s health and water sectors, identifying urgent adaptation needs and raising awareness among local officials and citizens.

Photo credit: AP Images.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

U.S. Center at Cancun 2010

The U.S. Center is hosting dozens of live, 90-minute programs, from the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP-16 in Cancun. Each program is centered around one of six elements necessary for an effective global response to climate change: mitigation and transparency; adaptation; finance; technology; forests/REDD+; and climate science.

From November 29 through December 10, programs begin daily at 10:00 and will end at 18:15 CST (GMT-6 hours). CO.NX will open an online window into U.S. technical work on climate change through interactive webcasts and webchats with leading climate change experts.

For a complete schedule of events, please visit: http://www.connectsolutions.com/cop16/events/completeEvents.html

Photo courtesy of www.nasa.gov

Friday, November 5, 2010

Upcoming Climate Change Webchat November 10

In late November, representatives from nearly 200 nations will gather in Cancún, Mexico, to work toward a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The leading U.S. climate change negotiator, Todd Stern, has said that a global deal is possible if nations prove willing to reach compromises that are fair to all parties.

In a November 10 webchat with students and participants worldwide, Jeff Miotke, climate change coordinator for the special envoy for climate change, will answer questions about the United Nations–led summit in Mexico and discuss ways that countries can work together to fight climate change.

Miotke will also talk about U.S. priorities and expectations, and how his office hopes to build on progress made at last year’s climate summit in Copenhagen. The upcoming negotiations, known as Conference of Parties (COP-16), will be held November 29 through December 10.

The webchat, held at 8 a.m. EST (13:00 GMT) on November 10, is titled “COP-16: Collaborating on Climate Change.” It’s the fifth and last program in this season’s webchat series, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to build a dialogue and spread knowledge about climate change — an issue that affects people worldwide.

If you’d like to participate, please go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/climatechange. No registration is needed.

Simply choose “Enter as a Guest,” type in your preferred screen name, and join the discussion. We accept questions and comments in advance of, and at any time during, the program.

The program will also be webcast in Portuguese at https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/special.

America.gov’s online conversations allow people on every continent to interact with climate change experts and activists from the government and nonprofit sectors, and from grass-roots organizations in the United States and beyond.

Miotke is a former State Department foreign service officer who has held positions in Lesotho, Hungary, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. He has also worked in different capacities with the State Department in Washington, including as a senior climate change negotiator for the Office of Global Change. He has earned a number of awards for his work, including the agency’s prestigious Frank Loy Award for Environmental Diplomacy.

Before joining the State Department, Miotke worked with overseas customers for Hewlett-Packard, as a management consultant for SRI International, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in Swaziland.

We hope to see you online November 10!

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)

Read more: http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2010/November/20101104120715nirak0.5746729.html#ixzz14OBsgENH

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swapping Kerosene for the Power of el Sol

"We have this enormous opportunity to create new businesses, to create a new more sustainable path towards economic development with energy." - Michael Callahan ||

Meet Michael Callahan. He’s starting a business to introduce renewable energy technology to Peru. He calls his business PowerMundo.

Callahan says there are 7.5 million people in Peru who continue to rely on kerosene lamps for light. Worldwide, he says over three billion people do not have access to appropriate technology to meet their basic needs for simple activities such as cooking meals, lighting homes, or purifying water. As a result, billions of people suffer from energy poverty, preventable illnesses, and deplorable living conditions.

There are hundreds of affordable products, like efficient cook stoves, solar lanterns, and UV water purifiers that can safely meet people’s daily needs and conserve the environment. Callahan says, for example, a $30 solar-powered lantern can light a home and save $15 per month in fuel costs while at the same time reducing carbon emissions. PowerMundo’s goal is to link impoverished populations with these products.


Conservation in a Changing Climate

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service sees firsthand what happens to animals and their habitats when nature reacts to rising temperatures. The federal agency recently unveiled an ambitious plan outlining how it plans to deal with climate change over the next 50 years.

All U.S. government agencies are rethinking how they do business as a rapidly warming climate disturbs natural resources, but few may be as focused on these changes as the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Charged with protecting and managing animals and sensitive habitats in America’s vast wilderness areas, many of the agency’s 9,000 employees spent more than 18 months planning and consulting with environmental groups, state wildlife conservation agencies and other outside partners before unveiling an ambitious, long-range climate action plan.

The title of the recently released document — Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change — reflects a growing concern within the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) that new and bold tactics are needed to help preserve species that may otherwise not make it. To view the strategic plan, please visit http://www.fws.gov/home/climatechange/strategy.html .

Climate change is already wreaking havoc on wildlife in many areas of the United States, the report shows.

In North Carolina, rising sea levels are pushing salt water into sensitive swamp lands and estuaries such as the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, leading to plant losses on thousands of hectares. Two-thirds of the area’s swamps will be lost within a century if the trend continues, FWS staffers report.

In the Rio Grande, the river marking the border between the United States and Mexico, the water is getting warmer due to hotter air temperatures. This threatens the Rio Grande cutthroat, a fish that depends on cool water.

Across the continent in Minnesota near the Canadian border, FWS reports an alarming decline in the moose population. The Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge, once home to as many as 400 moose, now counts fewer than 40. A state study has shown that warmer winter and summer temperatures are causing heat stress in the large animals, making them more prone to parasite-induced, chronic malnutrition.

“Climate change is the driving force for the Fish & Wildlife Service,” said Rowan Gould, the agency’s acting director. “Climate change is real, climate change is something we all need to deal with, climate change is something we need information on. And remember, we’ve got to think not five years from, 10 years from now, but what’s happening that’s going to affect our mission 100 years from now.”

Read more: http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2010/October/20101028135426nirak0.7310297.html?CP.rss=true#ixzz141FdXidU

Photo caption: Melting sea ice forces polar bears to swim longer distances.
Photo courtesty: USFWS

Help for Africa’s Women Farmers Combats Poverty

In Africa, the hand that rocks the cradle also tills the field.

Women grow most of the crops and perform most of the farm labor, as they do in much of the developing world.

It is hard work, and they do it with distinct disadvantages because, as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton noted in a recent speech, women farmers “are very often denied access to the best seeds and fertilizer and other assets” that would yield bigger crops.

The feminization of agriculture, as academics have called it, is a trend that has accelerated as the AIDS epidemic claims men’s lives and as male breadwinners leave the farm to seek better-paid work in cities. Women “are left managing a very unproductive and risky asset,” said David Kauck of the International Center for Research on Women, a Washington nonprofit that studies how to overcome the problems poor women face.

Women often farm with rudimentary tools and without the advice of government extension agents, who can show farmers how to get more from the land. Often the family farm is not in the woman’s name, so she cannot mortgage the land or get crop insurance, said Kauck, a senior gender and agriculture specialist. “And often they don’t control the sale of their produce. They don’t see what it sells for. They don’t capture the gains of their labor.”

With eradication of extreme hunger and poverty topmost on the list of the Millennium Development Goals, the United States, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), major foundations and development agencies all have made securing equitable help for women farmers a cornerstone of their anti-hunger strategies. It is embedded in Feed the Future, the Obama administration’s $3.5 billion effort to help poor countries provide enough food for their populations, principally by investing in agricultural development.

Women farmers are “the untapped solution to this problem,” said William Garvelink, a senior U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) official who helps coordinate Feed the Future. As their crops and profits grow, women are “far more likely to spend those gains improving their families’ access to health, education and nutrition,” said Garvelink, the former U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

U.S.-supported programs are helping poultry farmers in Kenya such as Eunice Mukai raise healthy chickens. Mukai sells vaccines to farmers throughout her district in eastern Kenya. The Kenyan Ministry of Livestock helped her get electricity so she would be able to refrigerate the vaccine. Jennifer Grems of Winrock International, a nonprofit organization that works with the farmers, said, “Raising chickens is one of the few agricultural activities women in Kenya are able to manage without approval from a husband, father or brother.”

Agnes Moraa, who grows maize and other crops on a .4-hectare farm in Nyansiongo, Kenya, doubled her yields after training by ACDI/VOCA, another nonprofit. “Farming has changed for me,” Moraa said. “Before, I would plant leftover seed. I would put three or four seeds in every hole. I knew nothing about fertilizer, insecticide or herbicide. I have learned the value of good seed.”

A third Kenyan farmer, Evelyne Wanyera, said, “Initially, I didn’t take farming seriously, just grew maize and dry beans for my family’s meals.” But after training by AGMARK and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture, “I realized that farming can be a business.” She opened a successful farm store in Bungoma County in west Kenya, selling seeds and grinding maize into flour. Instead of growing just five to 10 bags of grain on the family’s small plot, she now leases 4.5 hectares from a neighbor and fills up to 300 bags. And farmers throughout the community now are getting higher prices by doing their own milling at Wanyera’s facility.

One study cited by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute found that when women farmers in Kenya have the same education, experience, seeds and fertilizer as their male counterparts, “they increase their yields for maize, beans and cowpeas by 22 percent.”

“We will integrate gender concerns into all of our investments and help partner countries and implementing partners strengthen their capacity to consider and address the negative impacts of unequal access to and control over assets that affect women involved in all stages of the agricultural value chain,” USAID said in guidance for the Feed the Future initiative.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the WFP last month announced a nearly 10 percent drop in the number of people who live in chronic hunger. But the number still represents almost one-sixth of humankind. The proportion of undernourished people remains highest in sub-Saharan Africa: 30 percent.

Progress is being made, in part with efforts to help small farmers — most of them women — reap more of what they sow, WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran told the National Press Club in September.

Read more at http://www.america.gov/st/develop-english/2010/October/20101013155328rehpotsirhc0.9769251.html

For more on USAID's programs in Africa, please visit www.usaid.gov

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rules for U.S. Trucks Would Cut Emissions, Oil Consumption

Washington — For the first time in U.S. history, the government is proposing fuel-efficiency standards for trucks and buses, starting with vehicles that hit the market in 2013.

The new rules, if made final, would save 500 million barrels of oil for vehicles of the model years 2014 through 2018, and 250 tons of greenhouse gas emissions during the lifetime of the trucks, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told reporters October 25. With the targeted vehicles responsible for 20 percent of all emissions from the U.S. transportation sector, the proposed rules are a “win-win-win,” LaHood said, because they will benefit American industry, truckers and consumers as well as the environment.

“We have more work to do, but we’re making progress,” he said. “This represents another step forward.”

Earlier this year, the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation’s first greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and sport-utility vehicles, and new rules aimed at limiting emissions from factories are expected to go into effect next year. President Obama has said that lessening the nation’s dependency on foreign oil and reducing the country’s contribution to greenhouse gases that cause climate change are top priorities for his administration.

So even though Congress has yet to pass comprehensive climate legislation, federal agencies are pushing a series of regulations that, over time, will have a significant impact on emissions and should help the United States meet its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent by 2020, officials say.

The 1970 Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to protect U.S. air quality. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling held that as part of that responsibility, the agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, setting in motion a number of initiatives in the past year.

Read more: http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2010/October/20101025160922nirak0.9020349.html?CP.rss=true#ixzz13j9K63WA

Photo caption: The Obama administration is extending fuel-efficiency rules to trucks.
Photo copyright AP Images.

Democracies promote environment, health, per capita income

The Legatum Institute just released a global study that confirms what many democracy advocates already believe: Democracies are good to their citizens. The study, which took into account per capita income, health, and environment among other factors, ranked the United States as the tenth most prosperous country. Where did your country place? Go to http://bit.ly/cUiQl6

Friday, October 22, 2010

Upcoming Webchat: Adapting to a Changing Climate

Even if the world manages to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to slow the rise in global temperatures, change is inevitable. In fact, many parts of the world are already experiencing droughts, floods, disease outbreaks and other challenges aggravated by climate change.

In an October 27 webchat with students and participants worldwide, America.gov’s guest Jennifer Kurz of the U.S. Climate Action Network will discuss how countries and communities can prepare and adjust to new living conditions in a challenging environment.

The webchat, “Adapting to a Changing Climate” is the fourth program in this season’s webchat series, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State to build a dialogue and spread knowledge about climate change – an issue that affects people worldwide.

America.gov’s online conversations allow people on every continent to interact with climate change experts and activists from the government, the nonprofit sector, and from grassroot organizations in the United States and beyond.

Ms. Kurz will discuss how climate change is forcing people in many countries to rethink how they grow crops, build their homes and manage their natural resources – but also how people and governments are joining forces to help them cope.

As the outreach director for the U.S. Climate Action Network, the largest coalition of U.S. climate advocacy groups, Ms. Kurz focuses on bringing people together for a common cause. Before joining the network, she worked on the Sierra Club’s Global Warming and Energy Team and political action committee. She also ran the environmental group’s population and sustainability program.

If you’d like to participate, please go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.com/climatechange . No registration is needed. Simply choose Enter as a Guest, type in your preferred screen name and join the discussion. We accept questions and comments in advance of, and at any time during, the program.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Foreign officials study Santa Fe water policy

Representatives from Jordan, Sudan, Botswana, Pakistan, Yemen and Romania spent a couple of days in Santa Fe, part of a three-week tour they are taking to explore water management and policies. They started their tour, hosted by the U.S. State Department, in Washington, D.C., and go next to San Francisco and Chicago. Officials from six countries visited with Santa Fe water managers this week, hoping to learn how the City Different protects and manages that precious natural resource.

Communities in their countries are dealing with some water challenges similar to those in Santa Fe. Residents in some of their countries use a lot less water than all but the most droplet-pinching Santa Feans.

In Jordan, where each person lives on about 25 gallons of water a day, the government is still concerned about depleting water supplies. "We're hoping to learn more about ways to manage our limited water resources and avoid environmental problems," said Abeer Albalawneh, a water and environmental researcher with the National Center for Agricultural Research and Extension in Jordan.

Yemen is totally dependent on groundwater, and 90 percent is used for agriculture. In Botswana, the concern is how to balance human needs with the health of rivers and their watersheds, according to Geofrey Michael Khwarae, water component manager at the University of Botswana. It is a subject familiar to Santa Fe, which is struggling to ensure future water supplies to residents while trying to revive a dying river.

Sudan has plenty of water in the rainy season, but no good way to capture and conserve it during the dry months, according to Eisa Osman Sharief, director general of the Ministry of Social Development for the South Kardofan State. His interest was learning how to help communities organize to develop their water resources and construct more reservoirs.

And in Pakistan, where people live with a devastating cycle of floods and droughts, water managers want to figure better ways to protect and enhance water supplies. "Pakistan is very vulnerable to climate change," said Shakeel Ahmad Ramay, head of the Climate Change Study Center of Pakistan's Sustainable Development Policy Institute.

After a couple of days in Santa Fe, Ramay said he was interested in the idea of "community ownership" as part of water management and said that he learned more about ways of resolving disputes at the community level. Like Santa Fe and many other places in the U.S., he said, his country is "struggling to handle the wastage of water."

Romania has water resources. The Danube flows through the country. But officials are grappling with water pollution and the protection of ecologically diverse wetlands in a country that has little understanding of environmental issues, said Livia Cimpoeru, editor in chief of the Green Report, an environmental magazine in Bucharest.

The group toured the Buckman Direct Diversion Project, acequias, and Cochiti Pueblo during its visit. Claudia Borchert, Santa Fe's water-resource coordinator, gave the group a primer on water rights and water use in New Mexico. Their trip in Santa Fe was coordinated by the Council on International Relations.


Water usage per capita per day

Santa Fe: 100 gallons

Jordan: 25 gallons

Yemen: 33 gallons

Sudan: 15 gallons

Updated at 2:49 p.m. Sept. 22.
Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or smatlock@sfnewmexican.com.

Photo caption: Mark Ryan, second from right, board engineer with CDM, a national environmental engineering firm, takes a group of water managers and climate officials from the drought-prone countries of Yemen, Jordan, Romania, Sudan, Botswana and Pakistan on a tour Tuesday of the new treatment plant for the Buckman Direct Diversion Project. - Luis Sánchez Saturno/The New Mexican

Join Our Next Climate Webchat: “Individual Action, Global Impact”

Climate change requires action on all fronts, and there are things everyone can do to make a difference.

In a September 29 webchat with students and participants worldwide, America.gov will present two speakers who believe in grassroots power. Both are helping people make changes in their lives and communities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve their local environment.

Gabe Klein, director of Washington’s Department of Transportation, will discuss changes he’s pushed to get commuters in the U.S. capital out of their cars and onto bikes, buses and trains. Many of these initiatives are coming as much from the ground up as from the mayor’s office.

The second speaker, Ranjeet Walunj, will discuss The Sapling Project, a social media–based campaign that snowballed from a small tree-planting project in Mumbai to a nationwide movement to green India’s cities.

The online gathering, scheduled for 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT) September 29, is titled “Individual Action, Global Impact.” It’s the second program in this season’s climate webchat series sponsored by the U.S. State Department to build a dialogue and spread knowledge about climate change — an issue that affects people worldwide.

Children and women in Chennai, India, show saplings they will plant to green their city.If you’d like to participate, go to https://statedept.connectsolutions.
com/climatechange. No registration is needed.

Simply choose “Enter as a Guest,” type in your preferred screen name and join the discussion. We accept questions and comments in advance of and at any time during the program.

The online conversations allow people on every continent to interact with climate change experts and activists from the U.S. government, the nonprofit sector and grassroots organizations in the United States and beyond.

We hope you’ll also make it to one of our upcoming programs. All start at 8 a.m. EDT (12:00 GMT) the day of the webchat (8 a.m. EST, 13:00 GMT after November 7).

“Can We Slow Down Climate Change?”
Date: Wednesday, October 13
Speaker: Rick Duke, deputy assistant secretary for climate policy, U.S. Department of Energy

“Adapting to a Changing Climate”
Date: Wednesday, October 27
Speaker: Jennifer Kurz, outreach director, U.S. Climate Action Network

“COP 16: Collaborating on Climate Change”
Date: Wednesday, November 10
Speaker: Jonathan Pershing, deputy special envoy for climate change, U.S. Department of State

Read more: http://www.america.gov/st/energy-english/2010/September/20100923134451KseviR0.7004053.html?CP.rss=true#ixzz10iFQCpQj

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Global Effort to Address One of Worst Overall Health Risks in Developing World

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today announced the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a new public-private partnership led by the United Nations Foundation (UNF) to create a thriving global market for clean and efficient household cooking solutions that will save lives, improve livelihoods, empower women, and combat climate change. The Alliance will work to tackle the severe health, economic, and environmental consequences associated with smoke from traditional cook stoves and open fires used by over half the world’s population. According to the World Health Organization, toxic smoke from cookstoves is one of the top five health risks in poor developing countries and prematurely kills nearly 2 million people each year.

In an unprecedented and coordinated effort by the United States and our partners to address this challenge, the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will mobilize key financial resources, top experts, and research and development tools to help the Alliance achieve its “100 by 20” target -- 100 million households adopting clean cookstoves by 2020. The initial U.S. financial commitment to the Alliance is $50.82 million over the next 5 years.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves will work in cooperation with other leading international nonprofit organizations, foundations, academic institutions, corporate leaders, governments, UN agencies, local NGO’s, women’s civil society groups and community members to help overcome the market barriers that currently impede the production, deployment and use of clean cookstoves in the developing world.

For more information on the Alliance, go to www.state.gov/s/partnerships/cleancookstoves or www.cleancookstoves.org.

Secretary Clinton on Clean Cookstoves Initiative


Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton
With John Broder of the New York Times

September 20, 2010
Via Telephone
New York, New York

QUESTION: Give me, in your words, a sense of the scope of the problem we’re addressing here tomorrow with this cookstove initiative. What – globally, what is the nature and the size of the problem, and how are you going to go about attacking it?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, this is one of those problems that has enormous implications for the environment, for women, for the health of populations that use the cookstove, because exposure to toxic smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires accounts for nearly 2 million premature deaths annually, according to the World Health Organization. And it also has a very serious impact on the environment. So while we’re looking at some of the large issues that we know affect climate change, we’re not always focused on what people do every day that pollutes the climate and emits carbon dioxide, methane, and black carbon.

So this is a global alliance that will advocate and operationalize the campaign for clean cookstoves by establishing stove standards and field-testing leading technologies and encourage applied research to create a cleaner cookstove and look for innovative financing tools and market influence through creating supplies that will lead to the diminution of all of the problems that we see with cookstoves.

So it’s a win-win. And the United States has decided that it’s such an important initiative that we are contributing $50 million over the next five years: It’s a whole-of-government approach, because it’s not only the State Department, it’s EPA, and USAID and the Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control. And we will partner with other governments and the private sector in getting this alliance off the ground.

QUESTION: Given – and I’ve had a couple of background conversations with people at EPA and at the UN Foundation. But given the scope of the problem, we’re talking about as many as 500 million households worldwide cook using these methods and are exposed to this indoor pollution, billions of people, literally. Fifty million dollars sounds like a fairly small amount of money. How are you going to leverage this into the kind of major impact that you’re looking to accomplish?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it won’t only be U.S. Government money. We have 20 founding partners of the alliance, from the United Nations Foundation to the Shell Foundation to Germany and Norway and other governments, along with private sector contributors. So we’re expecting a lot of financial assistance and technical expertise to come from all of the partners in the alliance. And like anything, we have to start somewhere. We think that the sector that cookstoves is part of, namely everyday activities of individuals, is amenable to a sustainable solution on a global scale if we all unify our efforts.

And I think that the commitment that we’ve seen coming from so many others around the world suggests that we have a fighting chance here. So when we make the announcement tomorrow at the Clinton Global Initiative, there will be a representative sampling of those countries that are already attempting their own national cookstove programs, like Peru, that has recognized this as a national problem, as well as others who can help create a market for clean cookstoves. I mean, the fact is that we have to provide an alternative to what people are so used to doing.

QUESTION: Right. I know I’ve only got a couple more minutes of your time. But is this an environmental issue? Is this a health issue? Is this a women’s empowerment issue? I mean, is –

SECRETARY CLINTON: It’s all of the above.

QUESTION: -- microfinance? Yeah, I know.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, it truly is all of the above, which makes it such a good subject for a coordinated global approach, because some people do come to it from the health perspective like in our own government, NIH and CDC. Some come to it from the environmental perspective, like EPA and DOE. Some of us see it as a cross-cutting issue that is unique because it also has tremendous impact on women, particularly vulnerable women in conflict zones and refugee camps who have to spend so much of their time out looking for either wood or dung or some other fuel.

So I think that what makes this a really attractive option is that as we saw in the ‘80s with the first global efforts to address HIV/AIDS in Africa, and then in the ‘90s to address malaria, this is an opportunity to bring many different forces to bear, all of whom have a reason for supporting the alliance and can supplement the work that others are doing.

QUESTION: Okay. Is the Clinton Global Initiative itself going to be an active participant in this alliance, or are they just sort of providing the venue for you to make this announcement tomorrow? Is this a Bill and Hillary deal?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes, they are actively supporting it because it also affects their – the health and environmental work that is done through CGI. And of course, the way CGI works is that you enlist private sector partners from the not-for-profit and business community as we’ve done here, and then CGI, since it’s going to be announced at CGI, will be an active participant in making sure that people carry forward on their commitments. And we’re obviously committed to doing our part in the federal government, but we also want to be sure that all of the partners step up and deliver on what they’re claiming to do tomorrow.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thanks. I really appreciate your reaching out to me.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you for your interest in this, John. I mean, this is one of these issues that I think is maybe a little bit of a sleeper issue, but with very (inaudible) implications.

QUESTION: Well, once we start looking at the numbers – and we have written about the black carbon problem and the cookstoves and that relationship. But I didn’t realize there were 2 million premature deaths a year and that it’s the third or fourth environmentally caused factor in deaths in the developing world, and now I do.

All right –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, thank you. Thank you for your interest.

QUESTION: Have a great day. All right, good luck today.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Businessman in Chicago Launches Solar Ovens in Uganda

Washington — An immigrant from Uganda now residing in Chicago has used the first portion of a $100,000 business competition prize he won in January to begin setting up an operation in his homeland to produce and distribute ovens that cook with the heat of the sun.

Ron Mutebi won his $100,000 prize at the African Diaspora Marketplace competition in Washington in January. The competition, sponsored by Western Union Company and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided awards of $50,000 to $100,000 to 14 winners. All of them are Africans residing in the United States who had submitted proposals to establish or expand businesses in their home countries with local partners.

After Western Union disbursed $60,000 of the prize money in May, Mutebi arranged to ship from Chicago the components for 365 solar ovens and tools to assemble them in July. The shipment is scheduled to arrive in Uganda in October. In November, Mutebi will travel to Uganda to oversee the completion of an assembly plant and the training of staff to produce, distribute and service the cookers, made by Sun Ovens International in Elgin, Illinois. The ovens will appear in Ugandan markets in January 2011, according to Mutebi.

Mutebi has already compiled a list of nearly 1,000 people who want to buy one of the ovens, which he said will be sold for $170 each.

“We know the payoff is going to be there. It will be big when it happens,” Mutebi said. “There is no other technology that can have such an impact on environmental degradation and global warming in a practical sense.”

After acquiring solar ovens, villagers will not have to spend their meager incomes to buy firewood or charcoal, the prime sources of cooking fuel in Uganda, Mutebi said. The use of firewood and charcoal has caused widespread deforestation in Uganda.

Mutebi will arrange a second shipment of oven parts when he receives the rest of the prize money, which he expects to be in November.

The Chicago-based businessman said that as Ugandan companies start to provide locally made components over the next two years, he expects the cost of the ovens to come down to about $100, a 41 percent drop in price but still a substantial sum for many Ugandans, whose per capita income is $1,200 per year.

His biggest challenge to growing the business, he said, is the high interest rates that Ugandan banks charge for consumer loans — around 24 percent. Mutebi said he is looking for ways to allow oven purchasers to buy on installment. “We can’t run a business sustainably the way we want to because of the lack of support from financial institutions,” he said.

Mutebi also is looking at nonmonetary methods for villagers to buy an oven.

For example, as Mutebi explains it, a Ugandan farmer may plant fruit trees on his land in exchange for an oven. The trees would be Mutebi’s property. The farmer and his family would be free to consume the fruit, but Mutebi would have rights to harvest and sell the surplus. This way, he said, “the ovens not only will stop deforestation but also will promote planting of new trees. Farmers will have an economic incentive to do this.”

Since winning the prize, Mutebi has spoken on frequent occasions about entrepreneurship in Africa. He was a featured speaker at the Africa Infrastructure Conference, sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa in April in Washington, and at President Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders in August.

“I am blessed to have this opportunity to bring solar ovens to my people. I’m helping alleviate poverty and global warming and make a profit at the same time,” Mutebi said.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

UN Launches Decade-Long Efforts to Tackle Desertification

Fortaleza, Brazil/Nairobi, Kenya, 16 August 2010 - The United Nations is launching the Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification (2010-2020) today, an 11-year long effort to raise awareness and action to improve the protection and management of the world’s drylands, home to a third of the world’s population and which face serious economic and environmental threats.

“Continued land degradation – whether from climate change, unsustainable agriculture or poor management of water resources – is a threat to food security, leading to starvation among the most acutely affected communities and robbing the world of productive land,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a statement announcing the launch.

“As we begin the Decade on Deserts and the Fight against Desertification, let us pledge to intensify our efforts to nurture the land we need for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and guaranteeing human well-being,” he added.
On a global scale, desertification - land degradation in drylands - affects 3.6 billion hectares, which accounts for 25 percent of the Earth’s terrestrial land mass. It threatens the livelihoods of more than 1 billion people in some 100 countries. Against this backdrop, member states of the United Nations addressed growing desertification and land degradation by adopting a resolution to dedicate the next decade to combating desertification and improving the protection and management of the world’s drylands in 2007.

The global launch took place in Fortaleza, Brazil, in the State of Ceara, Brazil’s semi-arid Region, during the Second International Conference: Climate, Sustainability and Development in Semi-arid Regions. Also today, the regional launch for Africa was held in Nairobi, Kenya, at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Other regional launches are scheduled to take place in New York, in September, for the North American Region, in the Republic of Korea in October, for the Asian Region, and in November for the European region.
While concerns about desertification are growing, it is not all doom and gloom. Efforts have been made to address land degradation and while there have been positive outcomes, more action is needed to arrest and reverse land degradation and creeping desertification worldwide.

Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification warned that the international community is at a crossroads, and must decide between a business-as-usual approach that will be characterised by severe and prolonged droughts, flooding and water shortages or an alternative path, that “channels our collective action towards sustainability”.

He added that the Decade’s message stresses that land is life, “so, we must ensure the drylands, remain productive and working” and that the vision for the Decade is to “forge a global partnership to reverse and prevent desertification and land degradation and to mitigate the effects of drought in affected areas in order to support poverty reduction and environmental sustainability”.

Decade’s History and Purpose
In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2010-2020 the UN Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification and in December 2009, it mandated five UN agencies to spearhead activities related to the Decade. These are the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and other relevant bodies of the United Nations, including the Department of Public Information of the United Nations Secretariat. The Decade is designed to heighten public awareness about the threat desertification, land degradation and drought pose to sustainable development and ways leading to their alleviation.

Value of Deserts and Drylands
• 2.1 billion people, about 40% of the world’s population, live in the world’s deserts and drylands
• 90% of this population is in developing countries
• 50% of the world’s livestock is supported by rangelands
• 46% of global carbon is stored in drylands
• 44% of all cultivated land is in drylands
• 30% of all cultivated plants come from drylands
• 8 of the 25 global hotspots are in the drylands. These are areas where 0.5% of the plant species are endemic to the region but habitat loss exceeds 70%
Desertification Threats
• Desertification affects 3.6 billion hectares of land worldwide - or 25% of the Earth’s terrestrial land mass
• 110 countries at risk of land degradation
• 12 million hectares of land, an area the size of Benin, are lost every year
• Annual land lost could produce 20 million tons of grain
• US$42 billion in income is lost every year from desertification and land degradation

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally biding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 193 signatory countries, or Parties, work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity and mitigate the effects of drought. The Convention expects Iraq to be its 194th member next week with Iraq’s accession on 28 August.

Links to additional materials

United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight Against Desertification (UNDDD): http://www.unddd.unccd.int

Downloadable photos at: http://www.unep.org/downloads/UNDDD_PressKit.zip (Always give credit to the photographer)

Short desertification video: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/5122774/Desertification%20is%20a%20silent%20killer.mpg

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Obama Holds Town Hall Meeting with Young African Leaders

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release August 3, 2010


East Room

2:07 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat.

Well, good afternoon, everybody.

AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.

THE PRESIDENT: Welcome to the White House, and welcome to the United States of America. And that includes even our friends from Ghana, who beat us in the World Cup. (Laughter.) Where are you? Over there? That's all right. It was close. We’ll see you in 2014. (Laughter.)

It’s my great privilege to welcome all of you to this Young African Leaders Forum. You’ve joined us from nearly 50 countries. You reflect the extraordinary history and diversity of the continent. You’ve already distinguished yourselves as leaders —- in civil society and development and business and faith communities —- and you’ve got an extraordinary future before you.

In fact, you represent the Africa that so often is overlooked -- the great progress that many Africans have achieved and the unlimited potential that you’ve got going forward into the 21st century.

Now, I called this forum for a simple reason. As I said when I was in Accra last year, I don’t see Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world. Whether it’s creating jobs in a global economy, or delivering education and health care, combating climate change, standing up to violent extremists who offer nothing but destruction, or promoting successful models of democracy and development —- for all this we have to have a strong, self-reliant and prosperous Africa. So the world needs your talents and your creativity. We need young Africans who are standing up and making things happen not only in their own countries but around the world.

And the United States wants to be your partner. So I’m pleased that you’ve already heard from Secretary of State Clinton, and that we’re joined today by leaders from across my administration who are working to deepen that partnership every day.

I can’t imagine a more fitting time for this gathering. This year, people in 17 nations across Sub-Saharan Africa are proudly celebrating 50 years of independence. And by any measure, 1960 was an extraordinary year. From Senegal to Gabon, from Madagascar to Nigeria, Africans rejoiced in the streets —- as foreign flags were lowered and their own were hoisted up. So in 12 remarkable months, nearly one-third of the continent achieved independence —- a burst of self-determination that came to be celebrated as “The Year of Africa” -- at long last, these Africans were free to chart their own course and to shape their own destiny.

Now, 1960, of course, was significant for another reason. Here in the United States of America it was the year that a candidate for president first proposed an idea for young people in our own country to devote a year or two abroad in service to the world. And that candidate was John F. Kennedy, and that idea would become the Peace Corps -- one of our great partnerships with the world, including with Africa.

Now, the great task of building a nation is never done. Here in America, more than two centuries since our independence, we’re still working to perfect our union. Across Africa today, there’s no denying the daily hardships that are faced by so many -- the struggle to feed their children, to find work, to survive another day. And too often, that’s the Africa that the world sees.

But today, you represent a different vision, a vision of Africa on the move -- an Africa that’s ending old conflicts, as in Liberia, where President Sirleaf told me, today’s children have “not known a gun and not had to run”; an Africa that’s modernizing and creating opportunities -- agribusiness in Tanzania, prosperity in Botswana, political progress in Ghana and Guinea; an Africa that’s pursuing a broadband revolution that could transform the daily lives of future generations.

So it’s an Africa that can do great things, such as hosting the world’s largest sporting event. So we congratulate our South African friends. And while it may have been two European teams in the final match, it’s been pointed out that it was really Africa that won the World Cup.

So once again, Africa finds itself at a moment of extraordinary promise. And as I said last year, while today’s challenges may lack some of the drama of 20th century liberation struggles, they ultimately may be even more meaningful, for it will be up to you, young people full of talent and imagination, to build the Africa for the next 50 years.

Africa’s future belongs to entrepreneurs like the small business owner from Djibouti who began selling ice cream and now runs his own accounting practice and advises other entrepreneurs -- that’s Miguil Hasan-Farah. Is Miguil here? There he is right there. Don’t be shy. There you go. (Applause.)

As you work to create jobs and opportunity, America will work with you, promoting the trade and investment on which growth depends. That’s why we’re proud to be hosting the AGOA Forum this week to expand trade between our countries. And today I’ll also be meeting with trade, commerce, and agriculture ministers from across Sub-Saharan Africa. It’s also why our historic Food Security Initiative isn’t simply about delivering food; it’s about sharing new technologies to increase African productivity and self-sufficiency.

Now, no one should have to pay a bribe to get a job or to get government to provide basic services. So as part of our development strategy, we’re emphasizing transparency, accountability, and a strong civil society -- the kind of reform that can help unleash transformational change. So Africa’s future also belongs to those who take charge of that kind of transparency and are serious about anti-corruption measures.

Africa’s future belongs to those who take charge of their health, like the HIV/AIDS counselor from Malawi who helps others by bravely sharing her own experience of being HIV-positive -- that’s Tamara Banda. Where is Tamara? There she is right there. Thank you, Tamara. (Applause.) So our Global Health Initiative is not merely treating diseases; it’s strengthening prevention and Africa’s public health systems. And I want to be very clear. We’ve continued to increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS to record levels, and we’ll continue to do what it takes to save lives and invest in healthier futures.

Africa’s future also belongs to societies that protects the rights of all its people, especially its women, like the journalist in Ivory Coast who has championed the rights of Muslim women and girls —- Aminata Kane-Kone. Where is Aminata? There she is right there. (Applause.) To you and to people across Africa, know that the United States of America will stand with you as you seek justice and progress and human rights and dignity of all people.

So the bottom line is this: Africa’s future belongs to its young people, including a woman who inspires young people across Botswana with her popular radio show, called, “The Real Enchilada” —- and that’s Tumie Ramsden. Where’s Tumie? Right here -- “The Real Enchilada.” (Applause.)

As all of you go to -- as all of you pursue your dreams —- as you go to school, you find a job, you make your voices heard, you mobilize people —- America wants to support your aspirations. So we’re going to keep helping empower African youth —- supporting education, increasing educational exchanges like the one that brought my father from Kenya in the days when Kenyans were throwing off colonial rule and reaching for a new future. And we’re helping to strengthen grassroots networks of young people who believe -- as they’re saying in Kenya today -— “Yes, Youth Can!” “Yes, Youth Can!” (Laughter and applause.)

Now, this is a forum, so we've devoted some time where I can answer some questions. I don't want to do all the talking. I want to hear from you about your goals and how we can partner more effectively to help you reach them. And we want this to be the beginning of a new partnership and create networks that will promote opportunities for years to come.

But I do want to leave you with this. You are the heirs of the independence generation that we celebrate this year. Because of their sacrifice, you were born in independent African states. And just as the achievements of the last 50 years inspire you, the work you do today will inspire future generations.

So -- I understand, Tumie, you like to Tweet. (Laughter.) And she shared words that have motivated so many -- this is what Tumie said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, to learn more, to do more and become more, then you are a leader.”
So each of you are here today because you are a leader. You’ve inspired other young people in your home countries; you’ve inspired us here in the United States. The future is what you make it. And so if you keep dreaming and keep working and keep learning and don’t give up, then I'm confident that your countries and the entire continent and the entire world will be better for it.

So thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)

All right, with that, I'm going to take questions. Now, here are the rules -- (laughter.) People, everybody who has a question, they can raise their hand. In order to be fair, I'm going to call girl, boy, girl, boy. We're going to alternate. And try to keep your question relatively short; I'll try to keep my answer relatively short, so I can answer as many questions as possible, because we have a limited amount of time. Okay?

I'm going to start with this young lady, right here. And please introduce yourself and tell me where you're from also

Q Okay. Thank you very much. I will express myself in French, if that is --

THE PRESIDENT: That's fine. Somebody will translate for me? Yes? Go ahead. Just make sure that you stop after each sentence, because otherwise she will forget what you had to say.

Q Thank you very much. (Speaks in French and is translated.) Mr. President, hello. And hello, everybody. I'm Fatima Sungo (phonetic) of Mali. I do have a question for you and I look forward to getting your answer. But before I do so, I'd like to begin by telling you, Mr. President, how truly honored and privileged we feel to be with you today, and how privileged we are to express the voices of African youth, of African young leaders, and of course fully appreciate your recognizing us and giving us the opportunity to be here, and also recognizing our own responsibility to take your voice back home.

I'd like to say that I'm convinced this is an important watershed moment, this is the beginning of important change, the wonderful initiative you had to call us all here. I wonder when did you see that particular light? When did you imagine that bringing us here would be such a good idea? I'm wondering what your thought process was, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, one of the things that happens when you're President is that other people have good ideas and then you take credit for them. (Laughter.) So I want to make sure that I don't take credit for my ideas -- for these ideas -- because the truth is my staff works so hard in trying to find new ways that we can communicate not just to the heads of state, but also at the grassroots.

And the reason, I think, is because when you think about Africa, Africa is the youngest continent. Many of the countries that you represent, half of the people are under 30. And oftentimes if all you’re doing is talking to old people like me, then you’re not reaching the people who are going to be providing the energy, the new initiatives, the new ideas. And so we thought that it would be very important for us to have an opportunity to bring the next generation of leaders together.

That's point number one. Point number two -- and I’m going to be blunt occasionally during this forum, so I hope you don't mind -- sometimes the older leaders get into old habits, and those old habits are hard to break. And so part of what we wanted to do was to communicate directly to people who may not assume that the old ways of doing business are the ways that Africa has to do business.

So in some of your countries, freedom of the press is still restricted. There’s no reason why that has to be the case. There’s nothing inevitable about that. And young people are more prone to ask questions, why shouldn’t we have a free press? In some of your countries, the problem of corruption is chronic. And so people who have been doing business in your country for 20, 30 years, they’ll just throw up their hands and they’ll say, ah, that's the way it is.

But Robert Kennedy had a wonderful saying, where he said, some people see things and ask why, and others see things that need changing and ask, why not. And so I think that your generation is poised to ask those questions, “Why not?” Why shouldn’t Africa be self-sustaining agriculturally? There’s enough arable land that if we restructure how agriculture and markets work in Africa, not only could most countries in Africa feed themselves, but they could export those crops to help feed the world. Why not?

New infrastructure -- it used to be that you had to have telephone lines and very capital intensive in order to communicate. Now we have the Internet and broadband and cell phones, so you -- the entire continent may be able to leapfrog some other places that were more highly developed and actually reach into the future of communications in ways that we can’t even imagine yet. Why not?

So that’s the purpose of this. I also want to make sure that all of you are having an opportunity to meet each other, because you can reinforce each other as you are struggling and fighting in your own countries for a better future. You will now have a network of people that help to reinforce what it is that you’re trying to do. And you know that sometimes change makes you feel lonely. Now you’ve got a group of people who can help reinforce what you’re doing.

Okay. It’s a gentleman’s turn. This is why there are leaders, everybody has something to say. But you don’t have to snap. No, no, no. It’s a guy’s turn -- this gentleman right here.

Q Mr. President, my name is Bai Best (phonetic) from Liberia. The late Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller was the first black -- the first black psychiatrist in America and probably in the world. In my country in Liberia, where there are a lot of great people who make landmark accomplishments both in their nation and in the world, many of them are not recognized for their accomplishments. Today, Dr. Fuller’s name is etched where there is a medical -- there is a psychiatric center named in his honor at a place in Boston. There are many other young African and young Liberian talented people who have great ideas and who want to come back home and contribute to their countries, to the development of their peoples. But many times, their efforts -- their patriotic efforts -- are stifled by corrupt or sometimes jealous officials in government and in other sectors. It’s an age-old problem. Many times, they want to seek -- that basically leads them to seek greener pastures and better appreciation abroad instead of coming back home. What are your thoughts on this?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a problem that’s not unique to Africa. Given different stages of development around the world, one of the problems that poorer countries often have is that the best educated and the most talented have opportunities elsewhere. And so there’s what’s called the “brain drain” -- people saying, I can make 10 times as much money if I’m a doctor in London as I can if I’m a doctor back home.

And so this is a historic problem. Here is the interesting moment that we’re in, though -- if you look at where the greatest opportunities are, they're actually now in emerging markets. There are countries in Africa that are growing 7, 8, 9 percent a year. So if you’re an entrepreneur now with an idea, you may be able to grow faster and achieve more back home that you could here.

Now, it entails greater risk, so it may be safer to emigrate. But it may be that you can actually achieve more, more quickly back home. And so the question is for young leaders like yourselves, where do you want to have the most impact? And you’re probably going to have more impact at home whether you’re a businessman or woman, or you are a doctor or you are an attorney, or you are an organizer. That's probably going to be the place where you can make the biggest change.

Now, you’re absolutely right, though, that the conditions back home have to be right where you can achieve these things. So if you want to go back home and start a business, and it turns out that you have to pay too many bribes to just get the business started, at some point you may just give up.

And that's why one of the things that we’re trying to do -- working with my team -- when we emphasize development, good governance is at the center of development. It’s not separate. Sometimes people think, well, that's a political issue and then there’s an economic issue. No. If you have a situation where you can’t start a business or people don't want to invest because there’s not a clear sense of rule of law, that is going to stifle development.

If farmers have so many middlemen to get their crops to market that they're making pennies when ultimately their crops are being sold for $10, over time that stifles agricultural development in a country. So what we want to do is make sure that in our interactions with your governments, we are constantly emphasizing this issue of good governance because I have confidence that you’ll be able to figure out what changes need to be made in your country.

I’ve always said the destiny of Africa is going to be determined by Africans. It’s not going to be determined by me. It’s not going to be determined by people outside of the continent. It’s going to be determined by you. All we can do is make sure that your voices are heard and you’re able to rise up and take hold of these opportunities. If you do that, I think that there are going to be a lot of people who -- even if they're educated abroad -- want to come home to make their mark.

All right. Let’s see, I’m going to call on this young lady right here.

Q (Speaks in Portuguese and is translated.) Good afternoon, everyone. And thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity.

THE PRESIDENT: That sounds like Portuguese. (Laughter.)

Q It is, indeed, from Mozambique, sir.


Q Knowing, Mr. President, that, of course, America is a reference point for democracy in the world, and that you, sir, are, indeed a protagonist in that context today, I would love to hear from you, sir, what you would recommend to the young people in Africa and to civil society, in particular, in terms of following principles of nonviolence and good governance and democratic principles in our country. Because, of course, our reality is very often quite starkly different. There are 80 percent abstentionism often in elections, and elections that, indeed, lack transparency. And all too often lead, alas, to social conflict. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say, first of all, that if you are -- just as I said that you can’t separate politics from economics, you can’t separate conflict from development. So the constant conflict, often ethnically-based conflict, that has taken place in Africa is a profound detriment to development and it’s self-reinforcing.

If you have conflict and violence, that scares off investors. That makes it more difficult for business people to create opportunities, which means that young people then don't have work, which means that they are more prone to be recruited in violent conflicts. And you can get a vicious cycle.

So I am a profound believer in not looking at violence as a solution to problems. And I think the moral and ethical power that comes with nonviolence when properly mobilized is profound.

Number two, I think the most important thing that maybe young people here can do is to promote the values of openness, transparency, honest debate, civil disagreements within your own groups and your own organizations, because that forms good habits. If you are part of an organization -- and I’m going to speak to the men here, in particular -- if you are part of an organization where you profess democracy but women don't have an equal voice in your organization, then you're a hypocrite, right? And that is something that -- (applause.) And that is something that we have to be honest about. Oftentimes, women are not getting the same voice in African countries, despite the fact that they are carrying more than their fair share of burdens.

So within your own organizations, within your own networks, modeling good democratic practices, listening to people who you disagree with respectfully, making sure that everybody gets a seat at the table -- all those things I think are very important.

Because part of what I’m going to -- what I’m hoping for is that some of you will end up being leaders of your country some day. And if you think about it, back in the 1960s, when all these -- your grandparents, great-grandparents were obtaining independence, fighting for independence, the first leaders, they all said they were for democracy. And then what ends up happening is you’ve been in power for a while and you say, well, I must be such a good ruler that it is for the benefit of the people that I need to stay here. And so then you start changing the laws, or you start intimidating and jailing opponents. And pretty soon, young people just like yourself -- full of hope and promise -- end up becoming exactly what they fought against.

So one of the things that I think everybody here has to really internalize is the notion that -- I think it was Gandhi who once said you have to be the change that you seek. You have to be the change that you seek. And one of the wonderful things about the United States is that in my position as President there oftentimes where I get frustrated, I think I know more than some of my critics. And yet, we have institutionalized the notion that those critics have every right to criticize me, no matter how unreasonable I think they may be. And I have to stand before the people for an election, and I’m limited to two terms -- it doesn’t matter how good a job I do. And that’s good, because what that means is that we’ve got to -- we’ve instituted a culture where the institutions of democracy are more important than any one individual.

And, now, it’s not as if we’re perfect. Obviously, we’ve got all kinds of problems as well. But what it does mean is that the peaceful transfer of power and the notion that people always have a voice -- our trust in that democratic process is one that has to be embraced in all your countries as well.

Okay? All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. Let me try to get this side of the table here. This gentleman right here. I’m not going to get everybody, so I apologize in advance.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I'm from Malawi. Mr. President, HIV/AIDS is greatly affecting development in Africa. And if this continues, I’m afraid I think Africa has no future. And I think the young people like us must bring change. And we really need a strong HIV prevention program. But, again, access to treatment must be there.

I attended the recent World AIDS Conference in Vienna, and the critics were saying that the worst -- the U.S. government is not supporting enough HIV/AIDS work in Africa through the PEPFAR and the Global Fund. But, again, on the other side, other HIV/AIDS activists are saying that Africa on its own has not mobilized enough resources to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic and they are largely depending on the West.

I think the challenge for us as African young leaders is to make sure that this comes to an end and we really need to reduce the transmission. I don’t know -- from your perspective, what can we do to make sure that this comes to a stop? Otherwise, it’s greatly affecting development in Africa.

THE PRESIDENT: Good. Well, let me start by just talking about the United States and what we’re doing. I had some disagreements with my predecessor, but one of the outstanding things that President Bush did was to initiate the PEPFAR program. It’s a huge investment in battling HIV/AIDS both with respect to prevention and also with respect to treatment. Billions of dollars were committed. We have built off of that.

So when you hear critics -- what the critics are saying is that although I’ve increased the funding of the PEPFAR program, they would like to see it increased even more, which I’m sympathetic to, given the fact that the need is so great. But understand I’ve increased it; I haven’t decreased it -- at a time when the United States is suffering from the worst economic -- just coming out of the worst economic recession that we’ve seen since the 1930s. Nevertheless, because of our commitment to this issue, we’ve actually increased funding.

Now, we have couched it in a broader initiative we call the Global Health Initiative. Because even as we’re battling HIV/AIDS, we want to make sure that we are thinking not only in terms of treatment, but also in terms of prevention and preventing transmission.

We’re never going to have enough money to simply treat people who are constantly getting infected. We’ve got to have a mechanism to stop the transmission rate. And so one of the things we’re trying to do is to build greater public health infrastructure, find what prevention programs are working, how can we institutionalize them, make them culturally specific -- because not every program is going to be appropriate for every country.

I will say that in Africa, in particular, one thing we do know is that empowering women is going to be critical to reducing the transmission rate. We do know that. Because so often women, not having any control over sexual practices and their own body, end up having extremely high transmission rates.

So the bottom line is we’re going to focus on prevention, building a public health infrastructure. We’re still going to be funding, at very high levels, antiviral drugs. But keep in mind, we will never have enough money -- it will be endless, an endless effort if the transmission rates stay high and we’re just trying to treat people after their sick.

It’s the classic story of a group of people come upon all these bodies in a stream. And everybody jumps in and starts pulling bodies out, but one wise person goes downstream to see what’s exactly happening that's causing all these people to drown or fall in the water. And that's I think what we have to do, is go downstream to see how can we reduce these transmission rates overall.

And obviously -- when I visited Kenya, for example -- just in terms of education -- Michelle and I, we both got tested near the village where my father was born. We got publicly tested so that we would know what our status was. That was just one example of the kinds of educational mechanisms that we can use that hopefully can make some difference.

All right? Okay, it’s a woman’s turn. Okay, this one right here.

Q Thank you, very much, Mr. President. And greetings from Ghana. We are looking forward fervently to 2014 -- (laughter) -- for a repeat. And I recollect that I was hosting a radio program the day of the match. And we have a football pundit in Ghana -- he doesn’t speak English quite well, but very passionate. And so I was interviewing him about what the psyche of our boys should be ahead of the match. And he said to me, “This is not war, it is football. If it were to be war, then maybe we should be afraid because the might of America is more than us.” (Laughter.) This is football. They should go out there and be the best that they could be. And they did.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they did an excellent job. They were a great team.

Q Mr. President, my question now is that I hear a lot of young African leaders wonder how committed America would be to a partnership. I hear those who are cynical about the notion of partnership. They ask -- and always they ask, partnership? What kind of fair partnership can exist between a strong and a weak nation?

And so as we prepare ourselves for the future, we ask the same question of America: How committed is your country to ensuring that the difficult decisions that young people have to make about trade, about agriculture, about support, are made -- to the extent that they may not be in the interest of America? Because they tell me also that America will protect its interest over and above all else. Is America committed to ensuring a partnership that might not necessarily be beneficial to America, but truly beneficial to the sovereign interest of the countries that we represent?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say this. All countries look out for their interests. So -- and I’m the President of the United States, so my job is to look out for the people of the United States. That's my job, right? (Applause.)

Now, I actually think, though, that the interests of the United States and the interests of the continent of Africa greatly overlap. We have a huge interest in seeing development throughout Africa -- because we are a more mature economy, Africa is a young and growing economy, and if you can buy more iPods and buy more products and buy more services and buy more tractors from us, that we can sell to a fast-growing continent, that creates jobs here in the United States of America.

We have a huge interest in your public health systems because if we’re reducing greatly HIV/AIDS transmissions in Africa, then that will have a positive effect on HIV rates internationally, because of the transmigration of diseases back and forth in an international world. And not to mention, if I’m not spending all this money on PEPFAR, that's money I can spend somewhere else. So I’m going to be incentivized to see Africa do well. That's in our interest.

And the truth of the matter is, is that whereas with some regions of the world, we do have some genuine conflicts of interest -- let’s say on trade, for example -- the truth is that the United States, we don't have huge conflicts when it comes to trade because, frankly, the trade between the United States and Africa is so small, so modest, that very few U.S. companies, U.S. commercial interests are impacted.

That's why AGOA, our trade arrangement with Africa -- we can eliminate tariffs and subsidies and allow all sorts of goods to come in partly because you are not our primary competition.

Now, I don't want to pretend that there aren’t ever going to be conflicts. There will be. There’s going to be difference in world views. There are going to be some agricultural products where there are certain interests in the United States or there are certain interests in Europe that want to prevent those from coming in, even though, in the aggregate, it would not have a huge impact on the U.S. economy. And so there are going to be occasional areas of tension. But overall, the reason you should have confidence that we want a partnership is because your success will enhance our position rather than reduce it.

Also Africa has some of our most loyal friends. Every survey that's taken, when you ask what continent generally has the most positive views about America, it turns out Africa generally has a positive view of America and positive experiences. So I think that you should feel confident even if I’m not President that the American people genuinely want to see Africa succeed.

What the American people don't want is to feel like their efforts at helping are wasted. So if at a time of great constraint, we are coming up with aid, those aid dollars need to go to countries that are actually using them effectively. And if they're not using them effectively, then they should go to countries that are.

And one of the things that I’ve said to my development team is I want us to have high standards in terms of performance and evaluation when we have these partnerships -- because a partnership is a two-way street. It means that, on the one hand, we’re accountable to you and that we have to listen to you and make sure that any plans that we have, have developed indigenously. On the other hand, it also means you’re accountable. So you can’t just say, give me this, give me that, and then if it turns out that it’s not working well, that's not your problem. Right? It has to be a two-way street.

Okay, looks like this side has not gotten a question here. So how about this gentleman right here.

Q Thank you, Mr. President -- I'm from Zimbabwe. Currently our government is in a transition between the former ruling party Zanu PF and the Movement for Democratic Change. And within this same context, Zimbabwe is currently under restrictive measures, especially for those who are party in line with Robert Mugabe under the ZIDERA Act. How has been the success of ZIDERA -- the formation of the inclusive government? Because in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is still using the rhetoric of sanctions, racist, property rights abuse, human rights abuse, in violation to the rule of law. How has been the success of that towards the implementation -- the success or the growth of young people?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, you probably have a better answer than me. So you should be sharing with our team what you think would make the most sense. I’ll be honest with you -- I’m heartbroken when I see what’s happened in Zimbabwe. I think Mugabe is an example of a leader who came in as a liberation fighter and -- I’m just going to be very blunt -- I do not see him serving his people well. And the abuses, the human rights abuses, the violence that's been perpetrated against opposition leaders I think is terrible.

Now, Changerai has tried to work -- despite the fact that he himself has been beaten and imprisoned, he has now tried to work to see if there is a gradual transition that might take place. But so far, the results have not been what we had hoped.

And this always poses a difficult question for U.S. foreign policy because, on the one hand, we don't want to punish the people for the abuses of a leader; on the other hand, we have very little leverage other than saying, if there are just systematic abuses by a government, we are not going to deal with them commercially, we’re not going to deal with them politically, in ways that we would with countries that are observing basic human rights principles.

And so there have been discussions when I’ve traveled with leaders in the Southern African region about whether or not sanctions against Zimbabwe are or are not counterproductive. I will tell you I would love nothing more than to be able to open up greater diplomatic relationships and economic and commercial relationships with Zimbabwe. But in order to do so, we’ve got to see some signal that it will not simply entrench the same past abuses but rather will move us in a new direction that actually helps the people.

And Zimbabwe is a classic example of a country that should be the breadbasket for an entire region. It’s a spectacular country. Now, it had to undergo a transition from white minority rule that was very painful and very difficult. But they have chosen a path that's different than the path that South Africa chose.

South Africa has its problems, but from what everybody could see during the World Cup, the potential for moving that country forward as a multiracial, African democracy that can succeed on the world stage, that's a model that so far at least Zimbabwe has not followed. And that's where I’d like to see it go. All right?

How much more time do I have, guys? Last question? I’m sorry -- last question. Last question. No, it’s a young lady’s turn. This one right here.

Q Good afternoon, Mr. President, your excellencies. I am from Somalia. I came all the way here with one question, and that is, living in conflict in a country that has confused the whole world, and being part of the diaspora that went back to risk our lives in order to make Somalia a better place, especially with what we’re going through right now -- how much support do we expect from the U.S.? And not support just in terms of financially or aid, but support as an ear, as a friend, as somebody who hears and listens to those of us who are putting our lives and our families at risk to defend humanity.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think you will have enormous support from the people of the United States when it comes to trying to create a structure and framework in Somalia that works for the Somali people.

Now, the history of Somalia over the last 20 years has been equally heartbreaking, if not more so. You have not had a effective, functioning government that can provide basic services. It’s been rife with conflict. And now the entire region is threatened because of radical extremists who have taken root in Somalia, taking advantage of what they perceive to be a failing state, to use that as a base to launch attacks, most recently in Uganda.

And obviously the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the lives that were lost in Kampala -- at the very moment of the World Cup. And it offered two contrasting visions. You have this wonderful, joyous celebration in South Africa at the same time as you have a terrorist explosion in Kampala.

So we desperately want Somalia to succeed. And this is another example of where our interests intersect. If you have extremist organizations taking root in Somalia, ultimately that can threaten the United States as well as Uganda, as well as Kenya, as well as the entire region.

So right now you’ve got a transitional government that is making some efforts. I don’t think anybody expects Somalia anytime in the next few years to suddenly be transformed into a model democracy. Whatever governance structures take place in Somalia have to be aware of the tribal and traditional structures and clan structures that exist within Somalia. But certainly what we can do is create a situation where people -- young people are not carrying around rifles, shooting each other on the streets. And we want to be a partner with Somalia in that effort, and we will continue to do so.

And some of it is financial, some of it is developmental, some of it is being able to help basic infrastructure. In some cases, we may try to find a portion of the country that is relatively stable and start work there to create a model that the rest of the country can then look at and say, this is a different path than the one that we’re taking right now.

But in the end, I think that this metaphor of the success of the World Cup and the bombing shows that each of you are going to be confronted with two paths. There’s going to be a path that takes us into a direction of more conflict, more bloodshed, less economic development, continued poverty even as the rest of the world races ahead -- or there’s a vision in which people come together for the betterment and development of their own country.

And for all the great promise that’s been fulfilled over the last 50 years, I want you to understand -- because I think it’s important for us to be honest with ourselves -- Africa has also missed huge opportunities for too long. And I’ll just give you one example.

When my father traveled to the United States and got his degree in the early ’60s, the GDP of Kenya was actually on partner, maybe actually higher than the GDP of South Korea. Think about that. All right? So when I was born, Kenya per capita might have been wealthier than South Korea. Now it’s not even close. Well, that’s 50 years that was lost in terms of opportunities. When it comes to natural resources, when it comes to the talent and potential of the people, there’s no reason why Kenya shouldn’t have been on that same trajectory.

And so 50 years from now, when you look back you want to make sure that the continent hasn’t missed those opportunities as well. We want to make sure of that as well. And the United States wants to listen to you and work with you. And so when you go back and you talk to your friends and you say, what was the main message the President had -- we are rooting for your success, and we want to work with you to achieve that success, but ultimately success is going to be in your hands. And being a partner means that we can be there by your side, but we can’t do it for you.

Okay, thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)

END 3:03 P.M. EDT