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Monday, January 19, 2015


Remarks by Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Debate on Inclusive Development for the Maintenance of International Peace and Security
Samantha Power
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
New York, NY
January 19, 2015

Thank you, President Bachelet, for chairing this critically important session, and for Chile’s leadership on these issues and many others in the Council and around the world. Thank you, as well, for your lifelong efforts – including during your tenure here as director of UN Women, and as Chilean President – to advance the causes of development and peace. Thanks also to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, we can all see why you have made the difference that you have in Liberia and well beyond. You are truly formidable. And thank you Mr. Secretary-General and Ambassador Patriota for your very important contributions.

As threats to international peace and security have evolved, so has the Council’s conception of them. Consider two of the great crises we face today: the Ebola epidemic and violent extremism. While neither represents the kind of risk that may have been imagined by the architects of the United Nations, each threatens the stability and prosperity of multiple countries. And both highlight the way that underdevelopment can pose a risk to peace and security. One of the main reasons that Ebola spread as quickly as it did in West Africa – and has killed such a high proportion of the people that it has infected – is the acute underdevelopment of the public health systems in the affected countries. And as President Obama observed in his remarks before the General Assembly in September, violent extremist groups have found their most fertile recruiting grounds “in the Middle East and North Africa, where a quarter of young people have no job, where food and water could grow scarce, where corruption is rampant and sectarian conflicts have become increasingly hard to contain.”

The connection between development and peace and security extends beyond Ebola and violent extremism. The average civil war sets back a medium-sized developing country more than 30 years in terms of economic growth, trade levels after major violence take an average of 20 years to recover, and the global economic impact of stemming such violence is estimated at 9.5 trillion dollars, or approximately 11 percent of the Gross World Product. These figures show what should be clear to all: the economic and social health of countries is intrinsically linked to their ability to secure and maintain peace. More than 80 percent of extremely poor people – those who survive on less than a dollar a day – are expected to live in countries affected by conflict and chronic violence by 2025. We know that this is not a challenge we can ignore. We have to do something more.

One place to start is with women and girls. Leymah’s story is testament to the critical goal that women can play in advancing peace and security. In the middle of Liberia’s second brutal civil war, she rallied thousands of women to pray for peace, and founded a group that staged weeks-long non-violent protests calling for an end to the conflict. Women’s activism helped build grassroots pressure on Liberia’s president at the time, Charles Taylor, to engage in peace talks with rebels. When those talks faltered, she and 200 women formed a human chain to prevent the government and the rebels from leaving the negotiating table. Of course, the government and the rebels could have pushed their way through that chain. But the women’s symbolic demand for peace, together with international pressure, helped keep both sides at the negotiating table, and within weeks they reached a deal.

If we agree that international peace and security is bound up with inclusive development, it follows that one of the best ways for the international community to consolidate peace, and to help end conflict, is to bridge enduring development gaps.

That is why, in addition to investing unprecedented resources in stopping the Ebola outbreak at its source, and in leaving the affected countries with stronger public health systems than they had before the outbreak – including the efforts of more than 3,000 American engineers, epidemiologists, doctors, and others on the ground, mainly in Liberia, President Obama has launched the Global Health Security Agenda. The GHSA is aimed at preparing countries to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics. During a meeting with President Obama last September, 43 countries joined us in announcing more than 100 specific commitments to strengthen global health security, together with the WHO and other international institutions.

That is why we have invested so much time in the Post-2015 development agenda, which aims for inclusive and equitable development that leaves no one behind in any country – developing or developed – and not only in terms of gender equality and global health, but across other areas such as education, water and sanitation, sustainable energy, and inclusive and responsive governance. That is why the United States has strongly advocated for Goal 16, which focuses on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies, providing access to justice for all, and building accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. If we can achieve this goal – through reducing corruption, promoting universal free and legal identity, and ensuring public access to information – we can ensure that the UN’s next development agenda will help empower those who need it most.

And this is why, in Afghanistan, we have invested robustly in ensuring that women and girls are more fully integrated into Afghan society. Since 2001, school enrollment there has increased tenfold, with nearly 10 million children now signed up, 40 percent of whom are girls. Maternal mortality has fallen from 16 percent to 3 percent. And today women hold 28 percent of the Afghan Parliament’s seats – a higher proportion than in my own country. All of these investments, all of this progress, not only make women more equal partners in Afghanistan’s future, but they give Afghanistan far brighter prospects for a more secure and prosperous future.

Today, as has been said, we commemorate the life of another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and one of the world’s greatest human rights champions – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In one of his last speeches, Dr. King spoke of what he called, “the Other America” – a country he contrasted with the America of opportunity and equality. The Other America, he said, had a “daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into the fatigue of despair.” Dr. King spoke of men without work; of families living in miserable conditions; of children denied access to a quality education. And he spoke of how such inequality posed an enduring obstacle to American prosperity, calling on all Americans to bridge these gaps.

It has been nearly fifty years since Dr. King spoke to the need to address these gaps in the United States, and yet so many of the gaps persist, here in the United States and around the world. His call to action is as resonant and urgent today as when he first made it. We must do everything in our power to do our part to fulfill it.

Thank you.