|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at National Foreign Policy Conference for Leaders of Non-Governmental Organizations, U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC, May 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am really sorry that my schedule today didn't really permit me to spend more time with you. As you know, there is an awful lot going on in the Middle East and the Balkans and Sierra Leone and PNTR, and we're preparing for the summit that the President is going to do in Moscow. And I have to leave time for working with the 535 secretaries of state on Capitol Hill. (Laughter.)
But, still, I did not want to miss the chance to say hello and to deliver a very brief message, in two parts. First, I have to tell you we so value your help and advice, and more and more NGOs are setting the international agenda and playing a key role in getting things done. As Secretary, I have been almost everywhere, but everywhere that I've been, you all were there first. And around the world, you are building democracy, creating jobs, advancing the status of women, fighting disease and nourishing children, and teaching and teaching and teaching so that your skills are picked up and passed on.
Second, we need your help. And if we're to have the kind of democratic and broadly prosperous future that we all want, America has got to be out there and leading the way. And every nation contributes, but no other nation has the capacity that we do, nor the global reach, the capacity not only in the money that we should be spending on this, but also the capacity and the incredible skills of our individuals who go out and really do everything that you all can.
But I must say that, at times, I have felt very frustrated because there is so much to do. And during the past three years, I have seen children in refugee camps who have survived slavery and exploitation and war, and often been able to promise them more than just hope. And I've seen courageous women come together across cultural lines to prevent a recurrence of ethnic cleansing, and often been unable to promise them real help. And I've seen mothers dying of AIDS and often been unable to promise care for the children that they would leave behind.
I think you've all heard the numbers, and America is dead last in the proportion of our wealth that we devote to overseas development. We've got to do better, and we should do better. And with your help, if we all pull together, I think we can do better.
And I am actually tired of telling people that only one penny out of every federal dollar goes to the things that we care about. It's unacceptable for a country like this. Unacceptable. And we spend a lot of time being very proud of our expanding economy and of the surplus, and I frankly, when I go out and meet with foreign leaders, I'm embarrassed. I'm embarrassed. And so I need your help, and I thank you so very much for coming here and meeting with us. And as I said, I'm really sorry that I was not able to spend more time with you.
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