About the Author: Ambassador Elizabeth Frawley Bagley serves as the U.S. Department of State's Special Representative for Global Partnerships.
Developing new partnerships around the world is at the heart of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy.
That was the clear message delivered by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her major address at the Council on Foreign Relations July 15, 2009. She called for creating a new architecture of cooperation to meet today’s global challenges and “tilting the balance away from a multi-polar world and toward a multi-partner world.”
This vision extends beyond cooperation with governments and multilateral institutions to include new partnerships with businesses, organizations, philanthropies, universities, religious groups, and Diaspora communities.
In a world of complex challenges and stretched budgets, harnessing the talent, resources, and expertise of the private sector and civil society is both an opportunity and a necessity. In the 1960s, nearly 70 percent of all money flowing from the United States to the developing world was official development assistance. Today, over 80 percent is from private sources.
As Special Representative for Global Partnerships, I am working to tap into the wealth of possibilities beyond government and forge the new partnerships around the world. Under the Secretary’s leadership, we are positioning the State Department to fill three key roles:
First, as a convener, bringing together people from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest.
Second, as a catalyst, launching new projects, actively seeking new solutions, providing vital training and technical assistance to facilitate additional projects.
And third, as a collaborator, working closely with our partners to plan and implement projects – avoiding duplication, learning from each other, maximizing our impact by looking for best practices. One example of how much we can accomplish through innovative public-private partnerships is our Phones-for-Health initiative, which leverages cutting-edge information technology to improve AIDS programs in developing countries. A number of technology companies and development funds joined with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the State Department to launch the $10 million program, which uses mobile phones to relay medical information from areas lacking internet access or hard lines directly to health authorities’ computer systems, enabling rapid interventions such as distribution of medication and education programs for those at risk. This partnership has supported treatment for millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS and has helped prevent millions more from becoming infected.
If done right, public-private partnerships can deliver real results for people around the world and advance our national foreign policy objectives. That is our goal.
Secretary Clinton famously wrote that “it takes a village to raise a child.” We must apply that same ethic of shared responsibility and common purpose to meeting today’s global challenges. No one nation can meet these challenges alone. Only by developing new approaches and new partnerships can we achieve the progress we need.