|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the American Red Cross Board of Governor's Dinner
February 26, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
[As Prepared for Delivery]
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Chairman Augustine, President Healy, Secretary and Mrs. Eagleburger, Assistant Secretary Taft, Ambassador Jones, fellow friends, supporters and leaders of the American Red Cross. Good evening.
I want to start by thanking the Corcoran for providing tonight's elegant venue. I'm flattered that the Annie Leibowitz show here includes a picture of me - although being included in a museum exhibit does have a way of making one feel older. I'm not ready to be an artifact just yet, nor have I quite recovered from learning that a fourth-grade class in Minnesota has put me in its wax museum, alongside Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Moses and Dr. Seuss.
But I sincerely want to thank Norm, Bernadine and their staff for organizing this splendid dinner, and for their work all year long at the Red Cross.
I especially appreciate President Healy's renewed emphasis on the International Movement and on responding to global humanitarian needs. And in that regard, I was very happy to learn that former Secretary Eagleburger is now advising the ARC. He brings with him a wealth of experience and wisdom, and we're lucky to have him as part of the team.
I also want to recognize the Board Members who are here representing over 1,200 local chapters. This reflects the Red Cross tradition as a true grass-roots organization nurtured by the incredible generosity of the American people. In his Second Inaugural Address, President Lincoln referred to "the better angels of our nature." Throughout its history, the Red Cross has gambled on those angels -- and always won.
There are many worthy organizations that ask for a commitment of money or time. But the Red Cross has always stood out in my mind because it also asks donors for their blood.
That may seem macabre, but to me your blood drives epitomize what the Red Cross is all about -- delivering what is most precious to those most in need.
During the worst of crises, you provide food and water, clothing and shelter, medicine and counseling.
Your aid and compassion are not meted out begrudgingly. You help the victimized and the vulnerable, regardless of ideology, race or creed.
And by working in this principled way internationally as well as here at home, you win friends for America within a safer and more humane world.
I have especially vivid memories of the work that the International Red Cross did in August 1998, after the American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed. State Department colleagues were killed, and thousands of innocent African civilians were also victims. When I visited the Kenyan Red Cross Compound in the days following the bombing there, I was deeply grateful for the assistance being provided to traumatized families. You were there when it counted, and I thank you for that.
I also applaud the ARC initiative to help improve the capacities of other Red Cross organizations in our own hemisphere. In recent years, a number of Latin American nations have played an increasing role in responding to crises in neighboring countries. For instance, in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, a fleet of Mexican ships and aircraft delivered more than 54 tons of medical supplies and 1,300 tons of food to Central America -- and got all of it there within a matter of days.
I know the ARC is playing a vital role in continuing to expand these kinds of regional capabilities. And I am proud that in November, at the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, our government pledged to step up support for your capacity-building efforts.
The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent includes 176 countries, making it the world's largest humanitarian network. And I hope you agree that we need to make it larger still, by welcoming Israel's Magen David Adom into the International Movement.
That would be in keeping with the essential mission of the Red Cross. Because the work of the ARC and ICRC is characterized not only by rigorous efficiency, but also by universality and a belief in the fundamental and equal worth of every human being, by a conviction that the full potential of humanity resides in each of us, and that because each of us has something to contribute, each of us is worth the time and trouble to save.
In the remainder of my remarks to you tonight, I would like to address three pressing international issues: HIV/AIDS, landmines, and the need for better civilian policing in times of humanitarian crisis. I have picked these three issues because they are each more urgent now than ever before; and because the United States has a special role to play in addressing them.
We all know that no numbers can describe adequately the human destruction being caused by HIV/AIDS. Over the next decade, tens of millions of children in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will be orphaned by the disease, and in some countries, average life expectancy has already declined to levels we associate with the Middle Ages.
But we also know that with local leadership and international assistance, the tide can be turned. For instance, Uganda was the first nation in the world to be devastated by AIDS; but thanks to President Museveni's campaign against the disease, and strong international support, HIV infection rates in that country have fallen by 50%.
And today, more and more political leaders around the world are joining NGOs and community officials and--most courageously--victims of the disease in educating and warning and slowing its spread.
Not surprisingly, the Red Cross movement is making an important contribution to this crusade. The African Health Initiative is a great example of how the American Red Cross can share its expertise in areas like blood quality assurance to save countless lives. I applaud all of you who have been involved in this effort.
In his latest budget, President Clinton proposed a substantial increase in our government's contribution to the international fight against HIV/AIDS. The President has also proposed a new tax credit to speed the development of vaccines for killer infectious diseases like malaria, TB, and AIDS that disproportionately afflict developing nations. These are important initiatives, and we are working hard to secure support for them in our Congress.
AIDS is one distinctive plague of our era; another is the indiscriminate use of anti-personnel land mines. Today, an estimated 70 million mines lay scattered around more than five dozen countries; each mine a threat to life and limb, each an obstacle to economic recovery and the return of refugees, each a reminder that the costs of war continue long after the guns of war fall silent.
During the past several years, I have met with land mine victims on five continents. I have watched little children without legs propel themselves on wagons through the streets. And I have seen mothers tether their children to trees to prevent them from straying into mine-infested fields nearby.
Since 1993, the United States government has provided over $350 million to demining -- four times that of any other country. And humanitarian organizations such as the Vietnam Veterans of America, Rotary International and CARE are doing magnificent work. Together, we are helping some 30 countries to map and clear their most dangerous minefields, train local deminers, and teach children and adults how to identify and avoid landmines.
But still, there is much more that we, and others in the international community, can and must do. Thirty-nine years ago, President Kennedy set for our nation the goal of enabling a man to walk on the moon. Today, we must all reaffirm the goal of enabling people everywhere to walk safely on the Earth.
Finally, I want to call attention to the decision that President Clinton made this week to address the problem of maintaining order and protecting human rights in refugee camps and in societies recovering from conflict. This is a job the international community has undertaken with mixed success over the past decade, and where we face difficult tests today, especially in the former Yugoslavia and East Timor.
Part of the challenge is to recognize that old models of peacekeeping do not always meet current challenges. The international community needs to identify and train units that are able to control crowds, deter vigilante actions, prevent looting and disarm civilian agitators, while at the same time forging bonds with the communities in which they are deployed.
With those ends in mind, the President has ordered steps to improve our capacity to provide U.S. civilian police for overseas operations. We are also taking measures to enhance our capacity to train foreign police forces for peace-keeping missions. And we are working to improve our ability to help nations in crisis repair their legal systems through emergency training and other necessary support.
Let me add that Americans should be proud of the more than 600 of their fellow citizens who are now participating in civilian police operations around the world. Like Red Cross volunteers, these are people from cities and towns across our country who are sacrificing time with family and friends to share their skills and help others.
That brings me to my final point, and to another way in which the American Red Cross is positioned to have a major positive impact. As community leaders, and as part of a grass-roots network of volunteers, you have the credibility and capacity to raise the awareness of the American people about the need for our active engagement in the world.
Today, our rich and powerful nation devotes a smaller percentage of its wealth to overseas development and humanitarian assistance than any other industrialized country. During the past decade, our rate of investment has declined by fifty percent; and since the days of the Marshall Plan by more than ninety percent.
As the new century dawns, we are allocating only one penny out of every federal dollar we spend for the entire array of international affairs programs. But that single penny -- or the lack of a half-penny more -- could spell the difference between hard times and good times for our people, war and peace for our country, less and more for freedom for our world. So I hope you will support our effort to gain the resources we need to give America the kind of foreign policy leadership our citizens expect and our interests demand.
For almost as many years as I have been alive, the United States has played the leading role in the international system, not as sole arbiter of right and wrong, for that is a responsibility widely shared, but as pathfinder -- as the nation able to show the way when others cannot.
Beneath it all is the simple view that every individual counts. That is the philosophy of America at its best -- and that has been the driving force behind the American Red Cross since Clara Barton founded it.
This view is not based on any illusions about the perfectibility of human character. Rescue workers, especially, have seen far too much of life and death to indulge in sentimentalism.
But we live in a nation and a world that has been immeasurably enriched by the survivors, by those who have emerged from the ravages of man-made or natural disasters to rebuild their lives, recreate their communities and renew the progress of their nations.
It has been said that all work that it is worth anything is done in faith. Let us all keep the faith that each child saved, each refugee returned, each barrier to justice brought down will inspire others and explode outward the boundaries of what is achievable on this earth.
Thank you very much.
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