Frank E. Loy
Under Secretary for Global Affairs
U.S. Department of State
Luncheon Remarks to National Foreign Policy Conference for Leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC , May 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Well, I'm glad I get to speak after you've had lunch. I'd hate to be between you and lunch.
One of the things I do bring, as Martine* pointed out, is I bring a long history of participation in the NGO movement. So I am particularly glad to be here, both because of that past but also because of the present. In the job I have today, we probably deal more with the NGOs than any other part of the Department, and therefore it's a very good opportunity to talk together.
I want to thank the Office of Public Affairs, and particularly Jamie Rubin and Jim Foley, both of whom have now left Washington, for putting this event together. It's been too long since we've had this kind of a session, and I want to thank Harry Blaney for pulling everyone here together.
Let's just be very clear about it. We could not operate -- we could not do the kinds of things that we do in the Department without the active participation and cooperation of the NGO community. We've built it into our system, and we're glad we've done so.
And when you think in a longer term and you ask yourself the question what is it that the NGO community can contribute to the field of foreign affairs, I tended to divide the answer into several categories. And it's sort of useful because they involve different roles. One is the service delivery category. A second one is the think tank category, the production of ideas and concepts. And the third is the advocacy category. I might say that everybody else today has had very specific topics. I know that Wendy Sherman talked to you about resources and Hattie Babbitt talked to you about USAID. Tom Pickering later on is going to talk to you about some hot spots where we also need NGO assistance.
When I looked at what my topic was, it said, "Frank Loy, Lunch." (Laughter.) I view that, however, as a positive. It gives me an opportunity to talk about anything I want to. I once spoke someplace and I was introduced, my job and the range of my job, and I said to the introducer, "Well, I don't see how the hell I can speak about all the issues that I know something about in the 15 minutes you've allotted me." And he said, "Well, speak slowly." (Laughter.) So I'm going to speak slowly because I don't want to use up everything I know.
But let me say a few words about these three categories of NGO organizations that we deal with and we deal with with great pride. One of them is the service delivery organizations. When we deal with humanitarian assistance overseas, when we deal with refugee resettlement in the United States, when we deal with the need to build capacity in developing countries to handle the jobs that they take on when they join international commitments or international organizations, or when they try to deal with their problems in the area of environment or in the area of human rights or the like, we can't get that done without the help of many of you in this room.
And I must say that that is an enormously important extension of our efforts, and it in very large part works because of the capability and the competence of the people in this room.
Less well known perhaps is the area of what I call the development of intellectual capital. And here, for example, in the area of the environment, we have organizations -- I don't know if they're represented physically here today -- such as the World Research Institute or Researchers for the Future -- which are private organizations that provide again and again ideas, data, analysis, that we need that, to be quite honest, is hard sometimes for us to produce and certainly hard for us to spread.
Another category of organization that is represented here, because I saw several of them, is the category of organization that puts us in contact with parts of America, and sometimes part of the rest of the world, but often parts of America that we don't have easy contact with. I saw John Riley of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. That is an important venue for us to go to and to talk with. I saw somebody from the Islamic Supreme Council of America. That is a part of the American society that we would not have easy contact with were it not for the intervention and the intermediation of an organization such as that.
The most interesting, and I think in some ways the most complicated, kind of NGO, however, that we do deal with are the advocacy NGOs. And there, because I don't want this to be simply a love feast, let me be a little more pointed in my remarks. (Laughter.) The advocacy non-governmental organizations are a necessary part of American life. It is their job to push us to do things that we ought to be doing, or that we think we ought to be doing and that frequently we ought to be doing, and that are hard.
And we agree with most of those most of the time, and we work with them very closely. Let me give you an example. Last year, we had Cairo Plus Five, which was an effort to take stock of what has happened in the area of population and family planning and empowerment of women, all those aspects of the Cairo Conference of 1994; what has happened in the five years since then.
And we did that in collaboration with the NGO community, and we did that, it seemed to me, with great success. The first part of that event was an event in The Hague where we sort of took stock and we had stories from NGOs and others around the world that told what had happened since Cairo, what had worked, what hadn't worked. And there were four American NGOs that were particularly involved in the process and particularly helpful, and the collaboration was really quite spectacularly successful, I thought.
Population Action International took on the task of developing data and information on resources that were needed and developing a handout that we could use to talk about what resources were available and what had not been made available. I was afraid, I have to tell you, that the United States was on a list of countries that hadn't fulfilled the obligation, not a legal obligation but the intent that it had expressed earlier, and so I stood on a stage with somebody from Population Action International who said, "I want to read some names of laggards." And the United States was on that list.
So it might have looked to some as if we were working at cross purposes, but I couldn't complain about that because the fact is we hadn't done enough, and we had asked Population Action International to make a list like that. And if we were on it, so be it.
The Center for Development and Population Activities took on the task of an information campaign relaying the stories that we heard at The Hague to various parts of the world. The Population Reference Bureau, the third of the four NGOs that we worked with, dealt with and developed statistics, analysis and a database that we used in talking to people about what are the facts on population and family planning. And, last, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America took on an extensive grassroots education campaign here in the United States.
It was a wonderful collaboration with advocacy organizations with whom we collaborated from day one through the Cairo Plus Five process.
Another one -- and I will not tell in detail about that -- is the Pew Center for Global Climate Change which has organized 21 of the biggest corporations of America to address the issue of climate change in a way that is not necessarily the same we're undertaking -- their interests are not exactly the same as ours -- but in a way that would not have happened, would not have happened, without the intervention of an effective NGO.
I have to say at the same time that the NGOs, it seemed to me, do not always -- the advocacy NGOs do not always serve, it seems to me, their interest as well as might be or the interests of the cause as [well as] might be. And I think we have to be honest about that; at least, I'm going to be honest about that. Because if we're going to have these meetings such as this, we have to understand where at least we think things work well and where we think things work less well.
Let me say why I think we sometimes run into trouble, and then I'm only going to be about three or four more minutes. When you deal in the world of international agreements and international organizations, almost by definition you're going to work in [a] world where things don't work exactly the way you would like. They don't work the way we would like. They don't always -- they're a function of compromise. Compromise is not a concept easily understood by all NGOs. (Laughter.)
And secondly, and related to that, is I think we have a situation where sometimes the question is whether 99 percent is good enough. And that's another aspect of that. And let me give you just two examples. The first is a rather recent one. It's on my mind because it is now alive, and that involves an elaborate international negotiation in which we dealt with the problem of the death of dolphins and the risk of extinction of dolphins by reason of tuna fishermen. Dolphins swim above schools above tuna and get caught.
And we developed an international program with the help of a number of NGOs who provided both the intellectual and some of the political muscle to get that done. That international program reduced the dolphin mortality from 133,000 dolphins a year to 1,500.
We thought we were the guys in the white hats, and we thought we had really addressed the problem effectively. This was all done under and with the benefit of a domestic statute that sought to address the same issue of dolphin mortality.
We've just recently been sued in an effort to put an end to this process that I've just described -- and I described it very briefly but I hope not unfairly -- because the dolphin mortality is not zero. And without -- neither you or I are really experts on dolphin mortality, I suspect, but let me just say that this is a classic case of is 99 percent enough. And a lot of NGOs feel it is, and some feel it isn't.
And my sense is that if the NGO movement is going to be effective, it's got to be prepared to accept 99 percent, or even sometimes lower numbers, as success.
The other case where I think it's much more complicated and much more confusing is the NGO role in the WTO meeting last November in Seattle, or December. And we don't have time to replay it, but let me say -- let me give two or three thoughts about it.
It's very important to highlight issues before an organization like the WTO, and it is very important to make clear that there are other people, other than the priesthood inside the organization, that has an interest. And the NGOs did that very well -- did that very well.
On the other hand, the question can easily be asked whether the NGO effort was a success. And that depends upon what you're trying to do. If the effort was -- and I think it was on the part of some -- to slow world trade, I think the figures show it was not a success. What happened instead was, I think, an unintended consequence is that it slowed reform of world trade and reform of an organization that is supposed to put rules in the world trade. And that seemed to me to be too bad.
I was at Seattle. I had a certain -- I had certain assignments. One of my assignments was to increase the transparency of the organization, to make sure that there's some light in the organization, to make sure that, in fact, outside influences in some way could deal both with the organization and with the dispute settlement under it. We were making progress until we ended up not concluding it, of course.
A second assignment was to find a way to introduce environmental considerations into trade negotiations. Now, that was opposed by most developing countries and we were making only a little bit of progress, but we were making progress.
And the third assignment was to make some progress in the introduction of core labor standards in the consideration of trade issues around the world. And we were making some progress.
My point only is this: When we deal with international agreements or international situations where the United States is just one of the actors and has to deal with a lot of actors in order to make progress, it is very important to be realistic as to what can be accomplished and very important to make sure that the aim and the goal are actually kept in mind when the advocacy takes place.
I don't want to end on what I think of as a note of caution. I want to end up on a note of thank you and a note of admiration. America, more than any other country, relies on the NGO community to do some of the important work that we need to get done. For better or worse, and I think it is 99 percent for better, we are the richer for having that NGO community, that NGO community that is reflected here.
I pledge to you on behalf of Secretary Albright and all of the people in this Department our total intention of making that cooperation, that partnership, work. We need you. We hope that you will think of us as your partner. We will not always agree. I gave a couple examples where there are some disagreements. If I didn't do that, it would be a bogus picture I would be painting.
But, in the end, the goals that we share will be advanced by that partnership, and I look forward to that continuing partnership in the period to come. Thanks very much.
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