Following a major speech outlining security and foreign policy objectives for 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke today at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, where he underscored the nexus between economic opportunity and foreign policy.
While recognizing the challenges facing the international community, Secretary Kerry took the opportunity to outline recent successes -- the Paris climate agreement, the nuclear agreement with Iran , the re-establishment of U.S.-Cuba diplomatic relations, and the fight to end Ebola -- as well as positive trends in maternal health, education, and poverty reduction-- each providing hope for greater progress.
Speaking of ongoing U.S. efforts to address the global refugee crisis, the Secretary announced President Obama will host a summit at the UN General Assembly in New York to focus the world’s attention on several goals:
- increasing by 30 percent the response to UN humanitarian funding appeals;
- increasing the number of regular humanitarian donors;
- doubling the number of refugees who are resettled or afforded other safe and legal channels of admission;
- expanding the total number of countries admitting refugees; and
- getting a million children in school and a million people working legally.
The United States is seeking new international commitments regarding the global refugee crises. Learn more in this new fact sheet. [State Department Photo]
In his remarks, the Secretary also stressed how the United States intends to pursue long-range economic goals. He made clear, to succeed in reaching our collective goals, we must meet three interrelated challenges:
Addressing the Demand for Good Governance
Secretary Kerry highlighted countries where populations suffer from a lack of good governance. The Secretary noted, “We have to acknowledge in all quarters of leadership that the plagues of violent extremism, greed, lust for power, sectarian exploitation often find their nourishment where governments are fragile and leaders are incompetent or dishonest. And that is why the quality of governance is no longer just a domestic concern. And I say to all of you who are businesspeople who engage in the politics of one country or another and support people in them, you need to demand accountability from those potential leaders or existing leaders.”
Secretary Kerry also emphasized that we must address corruption. He said, "Corruption is a social danger because it feeds organized crime, it destroys nation-states, it imperils opportunities particularly for women and girls, it facilitates environmental degradation, contributes to human trafficking, and undermines whole communities. It destroys the future. Corruption is a radicalizer because it destroys faith in legitimate authority. It opens up a vacuum which allows the predators to move in. And no one knows that better than the violent extremist groups, who regularly use corruption as a recruitment tool. Corruption is an opportunity destroyer because it discourages honest and accountable investment; it makes businesses more expensive to operate; it drives up the cost of public services for local taxpayers; and it turns a nation’s entire budget into a feeding trough for the privileged few.”
A woman wears a headband reading "Knock Out Corruption" as she prepares to march during an anti-corruption demonstration in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, December 1, 2015 [AP Photo]
The impact of corruption touches everyone -- businesses, the private sector, every citizen. We all pay for it. So we have to wage this fight collectively -- not reluctantly, but wholeheartedly by embracing standards that make corruption the exception and not the norm. - John Kerry, WEF 2016
Secretary Kerry charged leaders to “demand a different standard of behavior, that we deepen the fight against corruption, making it a first-order, national security priority.” He continued, stating, “All told, corruption costs the global economy -- global GDP -- more than a trillion dollars a year and costs the global economy on an international basis about $2.6 trillion... this corruption complicates every single security, diplomatic, and social priority of the Government of the United States and other governments who are trying to help countries in the world. And this in and of itself creates tension, instability, and a perfect playing field for predators.”
Providing Youth Economic and Social Opportunity
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry listens as State Department Senior Adviser for Development Daniella Ballou-Aares introduces him on January 21, 2016, before he addresses a Young Global Leaders Forum at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. [State Department photo]
The same emphasis on excellence and openness also needs to define our approach to the second challenge – and that’s meeting the demands of booming youth populations for economic opportunity. - John Kerry, WEF 2016
Secretary Kerry also spoke to the frustrations of economically-disadvantaged women, youth facing a staggering 25 percent global unemployment rate, and growing youth populations, such as the 700 million young people under age of 30 in Africa.
He explained,”All of them are seeking opportunity, but they’re also seeking dignity and respect. And most of them nowadays have a smartphone. On the other side, we see these people in touch with the world and we know all too well that there are extremists out there who are totally ready -- not even ready -- they count on this, they rely on malfeasance and misfeasance and corruption, because they come at these guys in an organized fashion to seduce them into accepting a dead-end future. It’s not just a lack of jobs and opportunity that gives an extremist the opening for recruitment. They’re just as content to see corruption and oligarchy and resource exploitation fill the vacuum -- because it may look like economic growth on paper, but it is another way to build frustration and indignity and then seize on the anger of those young people who are denied real opportunity and turn them into the radical religious extremists of today.”
Secretary Kerry made clear that “governments, the private sector, the international community -- everybody’s got to do more to proactively take advantage of the opportunities that do exist. And that imperative applies all around the world. Governments everywhere have to remove barriers to innovation; they have make it easier to start a business; they have to be more open to foreign investment; and focus like a laser on diversification; streamline bureaucracies; prevent military establishments from crowding out private enterprise; and above all, give women and girls an equal chance to compete in the classroom and in the workplace. This is the only way to provide for the needs of nation and of the modern world.”
Winning the Campaign Against Violent Extremists
Hearkening back to his remarks at the World Economic Forum in 2015, Secretary Kerry reiterated his assertion that “the fight against violent extremism may well be the defining challenge for our generation.” At the same time he also emphasized, “this confrontation with the forces of terror is not separate from reforming governance or from strengthening our communities in other ways, because doing so, as I’ve tried to describe, is fundamental to eliminating the opportunity for extremism.”
The Secretary continued, “Some terrorists say that the greatest advantage they have -- or as some people say of the terrorists -- that the greatest advantage they have is that they have the dedication of fighters who are willing to blow themselves up. But the truth -- our advantage is we would never ask anyone to blow themselves up. The terrorists drive people apart; we want people and nations to come together -- and they are. Governments from Niger and Chad are helping Nigeria to fight Boko Haram. The African Union is coordinating with Somalia to oppose al-Shabaab. And the coalition to counter Daesh now has 65 members and is making steady gains.”
Secretary Kerry said, "In the end, nothing would do more to terminate the threat of Daesh than, to negotiate an end to the war in Syria." The Secretary then outlined important first steps we have taken in negotiating an end to the war in Syria. He noted, “We’ve assembled a 20-member support group that includes every major country with a direct stake in Syria -- including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran, and Russia. We’ve all been together at the same table. Second, we’ve agreed on a list of principles endorsed by the UN Security Council, pointing the way toward the kind of stable, sovereign, inclusive, and non-sectarian Syria that we all seek. And third, we’ve set in motion a plan for direct negotiations between the government and the opposition, soon hopefully to begin in Geneva, to try to find the political settlement that everybody says is the only way, ultimately, to end the war. We’re trying to find a political transition and internationally supervised elections. And we have agreed on a timetable for taking these steps so the process is not allowed to drag on endlessly. That’s the outline and now it has to be implemented."
Secretary Kerry was clear that many obstacles remain, but noted, “there are also compelling reasons why this initiative is so important. Every country in the region opposes Daesh, and even governments that disagree with each other on other issues acknowledge that the war has to end and a diplomatic solution has to be found. No one has more incentive to do that than the Syrians themselves to try to write a new chapter in their history.”
Secretary Kerry led a gathering in the U.N. Security Council in New York, where Council members voted on a draft resolution concerning Syria on December 18, 2015 [AP Photo]
In the 21st century, we’re learning every day that 'next door' is everywhere, and there can be no limit to our vigilance either in territory or in time. - Secretary Kerry, WEF 2016
Secretary Kerry concluded his remarks by underscoring the tremendous advantages of living in the 21st century and the immense progress we can continue to make for the average global citizen. As Secretary Kerry said, “By insisting on the rights and dignity of every human being, we will ensure the defeat of Daesh and similar groups who have nothing to offer anyone except destruction and death. That is how we choose to have a world defined not by shutting off the world, but by opening it up -- not by conflict, but by opportunity.”
For more information:
- Read Secretary Kerry’s full speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
- See how the United States is working to strengthen the international response to the global refugee crisis.
- Find out how the United States is combating crime and corruption.
- Learn more about the work of the Global Coalition to Counter-ISIL.
- View photos on Flickr from the Secretary’s travel to Davos, Switzerland and follow @JohnKerry on Twitter for the latest updates from his trip.