Administrator of USAID
New York, New York
July 14, 2021
Good morning, your excellencies; it’s an honor to address you today.
As a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, I had the privilege to help usher in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious and transformative development plan that was the first to be fully negotiated by member states.
The United States strongly supports the 2030 Agenda, and we are committed to its implementation. But in 2021, this ambitious agenda faces three profound challenges: the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, rising authoritarianism fueled in part by corruption, and climate change. All of these challenges have the potential not just to limit progress, to reaching the SDG’s, but to unwind the progress that countries have already made.
Obviously the most urgent threat to countries everywhere is COVID-19. President Biden has pledged that the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines.” He has announced that we will donate half-a-billion Pfizer vaccines to 92 low-and lower-middle income countries around the world. These vaccines are in addition to the 80 million doses we have committed, and the $2 billion we have donated to COVAX, the multilateral COVID-vaccination effort. But we are not just fighting a disease—we are fighting to secure decades of development progress that the pandemic is unwinding.
As you well know, COVID-19 has swelled the ranks of the poor, pushing 124 million more people into poverty and hunger, and leading to the first global rise in extreme poverty in nearly 30 years. It is pulling over a billion children out of school, millions of whom—specifically girls—may never return. And in addition to halting economies and disrupting food supplies, the pandemic is giving cover for regimes to postpone elections, limit free assembly, and silence the press.
We must be vigilant about the repression that is happening right now because we know that democracy and a government’s respect for human rights are fundamental to truly inclusive sustainable development. Countries with ineffective government institutions, rampant corruption, and weak rule of law have a 30-to-45 percent higher risk of civil war, as well as a higher risk of extreme criminal violence. To solve the complex problems we face, we all must empower our citizens by defending freedom, championing opportunity, upholding universal human rights, respecting the rule of law, and treating every person with dignity.
When I say all, I mean all of us. The United States does not claim to be perfect. At home we’re taking steps, with humility, to address the inequities and injustices in our own democracy. We do so openly and transparently for people around the world to see, even when it’s painful, knowing we will emerge stronger for having done so. At the same time, upholding democratic values and defending democratic institutions must go hand in hand with battling corruption.
Corruption isn’t just a threat to the pocketbooks of ordinary citizens; corruption limits economic growth, it chokes off investment, it extinguishes trust in public institutions, it robs public and private resources, and at its worst, it props up authoritarians and human rights abusers. That’s why President Biden recently designated the fight against corruption as a core U.S. national security interest—becoming the first President ever to do so.
And earlier this month, I established an Anti-Corruption Task Force at USAID to elevate, strengthen, and integrate anti-corruption work throughout our whole Agency—and to partner with the Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury to unify our efforts across government.
Beyond COVID-19 and corruption, the climate crisis represents an existential threat to the security and prosperity of communities in the United States and all around the world. The United States is helping raise global climate ambition by setting more ambitious targets, by committing to reduce our net greenhouse gas emissions by half, from 2005 levels by 2030. The coming decade is going to be decisive. The steps countries take this year to set the world up for success will make the difference.
To keep the vital goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach, President Biden has committed to robust climate action that creates good jobs, fosters opportunity and markets for American goods and services, and builds a cleaner and more prosperous future.
But addressing the climate crisis isn’t just an imperative; it’s an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to speed the economic recovery from COVID-19, to create millions of good-paying jobs, and to promote our resilience to a changing climate. It is an opportunity to, in short, build back better. We look forward to working with Member States under the United Kingdom’s leadership at COP26 in Glasgow later this year to realize this vision of a better world, together. This emphasis on multilateral cooperation is critical.
Our development challenges are shared challenges, they go beyond the ability of any one nation to solve them. We built together the multilateral system in part to solve big, complex problems like these. And it is why the United States will work through multilateral institutions to stop COVID-19, to tackle the climate crisis, and to take on corruption and democratic backsliding. Together, we must translate the bold promise of this historic consensus for sustainable development into better lives for people everywhere.