Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs
Lebanese American University
Jbeil Campus, Lebanon
Friday, June 16, 2006
Foreign assistance has never had a higher profile than it does now. President Bush and his Administration have made an enormous commitment to development and transformation. In 2002 President Bush pledged an increase of 50% in U.S. development assistance at the United Nations Conference on Financing Development in Monterrey, Mexico. He has kept and even exceeded that commitment. Official development assistance now stands at over $27 billion annually. In the 2006 version of the National Security Strategy, he upgraded, placed development together with defense and diplomacy at the center of U.S. foreign policy.
Several noteworthy steps have been taken to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that this new globalize world offers. Secretary Rice has redesigned the State Department and called for a “transformational diplomacy” that is: “Helping to build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.” We are in the process of implementing one of the most significant restructurings of U.S. foreign assistance in decades in the creation of a position within the State Department of Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, with a rank of Deputy Secretary of State, and serving concurrently as the Administrator of USAID. The Director of Foreign Assistance has authority over all funding and programs within USAID and the State Department, and coordinates all other development assistance delivered by the United States.
There is a genuine effort to have Americans of Middle Eastern descent with fluency in local languages, a strong understanding of the region, and knowledge of political, social and religious implications to help in these endeavors, as well as to place Arab-speaking official Americans on television and radio to defend our policies in the region and around the world. This is what Secretary Rice said at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service: “In the Middle East, for example, as you well know, a vast majority of people get their news from a regional media network like Al Jazeera, not from local newspaper. So our diplomats must tell America’s story not just in translated op-eds, but live on TV in Arabic for a regional audience. To make this happen, we are creating a regional public diplomacy center. We are forward deploying our best Arabic-speaking diplomats and we are broadly coordinating our public strategy both for the region and from the region.”
A part of the focus on transformational diplomacy I mentioned involves some tough decisions on not only how and where we spend our foreign assistance and how we train our diplomats in languages but also on where we deploy our human resources overseas. For many years, our embassies in Europe have been generously staffed compared to most of our Middle East missions. This of course reflected our NATO ties, our Cold War concerns, our need to secure the peace after the Cold War ended, and so forth. But the Secretary recognized that, for transformational diplomacy to succeed, we also needed to have more eyes and ears on the ground in the Middle East. So the Secretary's Global Repositioning Initiative is bringing more Foreign Service officers to places like Lebanon to work directly with the Lebanese on building a strong, stable, united, democracy and prosperous Lebanon.
President Bush believes development requires far-reaching, fundamental changes in governance and institutions, human capacity and economic structure, so that countries can sustain further economic and social progress without permanently depending on foreign aid. And there is some cause for optimism that the changes he is calling for can take place. The momentum of democracy that was evident in the last century has begun to carry over into this one. What happened in Lebanon in the last 16 months is just one example.
A new Lebanon is being born right before our eyes. The unity that prevailed among all Lebanese on March 14th, the withdrawal of the Syrian army, the election of a new parliament and now the national dialogue among the various Lebanese leaders must lead Lebanon to a brighter future.
It is crucial that the national dialogue achieves positive results in the political issues at hand so that Lebanon’s security, freedom and sovereignty can be firmly re-established. When this happens the natural abilities of the Lebanese people should be able to do the rest. The Lebanese Diaspora will bring more investments in Lebanon, which result in creation of more jobs, and the economy will move forward. This will allow the Lebanese people to start focusing on other pressing issues such as enhancing the rule of law, improving political processes and strengthening its democracy and freedom of expression.
You all must unite in those efforts, because with unity and tolerance you can claim back your Lebanon and press forward with healthy lives and a good economy where every Lebanese man and woman has an equal opportunity to be productive, happy and free.
But Lebanon is just part of a larger set of challenges we need to confront in this region: global terrorism, the spread of new diseases, the spill-over of local conflicts, economic insecurity, and tyrant regimes that stifle their people and hold back their natural desire for freedom and democracy.
Dear friends, nations cannot progress without peace, security and stability. They won’t be able to move forward without just and democratic governance. They will not be able to help the new generations without investments in the human capacity of their citizens and keep their economy growing.
Our foreign assistance will be measured against those goals so we can have a better world, a better human kind and better futures for generations to come.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.