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September 23, 09

NEWS / Obama Says Partnerships Are Defining U.S. Foreign Policy

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington — President Obama paused briefly during the whirl of United Nations events and diplomatic conferences to speak to volunteers who are committed to resolving some of the world’s most pressing concerns, including poverty, health, education and the impact of rapid climate change.

“Around the world, even as we pursue a new era of engagement with other nations, we’re embracing a broader engagement — new partnerships between societies and citizens, community organizations, business, faith-based groups,” Obama said September 22 at the fifth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York.

The initiative, begun in 2005 by former President Bill Clinton, brings together the public sector and private sector to address solutions to four problem areas: climate change, poverty, health and education. It meets at the same time as the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly, and those who attend — world leaders, business executives, activists and celebrities — make commitments to work on these problems. CGI Chief Executive Officer Robert Harrison told reporters that since the first conference, 1,400 commitments have been made, including some worth billions of dollars.

Building partnerships based on mutual interests and mutual respect, Obama said, is driving the current thrust of U.S. relations around the world.

“This spirit of partnership is a defining feature of our foreign policy. We’re renewing development as a key element of American foreign policy — not by lecturing and imposing our ideas, but by listening and working together, by seeking more exchanges between students and experts, new collaborations among scientists to promote technological development, partnerships between businesses, entrepreneurs to advance prosperity and opportunity for people everywhere,” Obama said.

Obama said that while extremists largely are committed to the destruction of societies, the United States is committed to building a future that invests in people’s education, health and welfare. That requires, he said, building new partnerships across regions and religions, while religious leaders, nongovernmental organizations and ordinary citizens need to work toward good governance, transparent institutions and basic services on which security depends.

“We’re making substantial increases in foreign assistance. But we still need civil society to help host nations deliver aid without corruption,” Obama said. “The purpose of aid must be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed — where we help build the capacity for transformational change in a society.”

Obama said the United States is building on its successes in thwarting HIV/AIDS and working to end deaths from malaria and tuberculosis and to end polio. “These efforts will only be sustained if we improve the capacity of public health systems to deliver care, especially for mothers and children.”

And Obama said the United States is making new investments in global food security, but it cannot be just more handouts. The more pressing need, he said, is to share new farming methods and technologies so that countries and communities can become more self-sufficient.




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