Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice Keynote Address at the Center for a New American Security Annual Conference

June 11, 2014

The following is an excerpt from remarks as delivered by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice. For full remarks, visit the White House website.  

As we approach 2015, we’re pressing our partners to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals and to devise bold new goals that will guide the next phase of the fight against poverty. Building on the extraordinary progress in many developing countries, our approach isn’t simply about pledging more money, it’s about bringing together resources and expertise from every sector to do more with what we have and to support models of economic growth that fuel new markets. We’re building public-private partnerships, investing in academic breakthroughs, supporting non-profits that translate ideas into action, and creating stronger connections among them all.   

Take, for example, the progress we’ve made in agricultural development. Back in 2009, at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, President Obama made food security a global priority backed by billions of dollars in international commitments.  In 2012, the President launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which has now grown to ten African countries, more than 160 companies, and delivered more than $7 billion in responsible planned investments in African agriculture.  And through our Feed the Future partnerships, millions of smallholder farmers are planting better seeds, using better fertilizers, and seeing their incomes rise. 

Which leads me to the third key reason we mobilize collective action. For, however much we might like to, we rarely can force nations to respect the rights of their citizens.  So we must catalyze the international community to uphold universal values, build broad coalitions to advance human rights, and impose costs on those who violate them.  

Human rights must be protected for everyone, especially traditionally marginalized communities such as ethnic or religious minorities, LGBT persons, migrant workers, and people with disabilities. That’s why President Obama decided to join the UN Human Rights Council, so we could lead in reforming that flawed institution from within. In fact, we have made it more effective.  Because of our efforts, the Council has spent far more time spotlighting abuses in Qadhafi’s Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Iran than demonizing Israel. 

At the same time, the Open Government Partnership initiated by President Obama in 2011, has grown from eight countries to 64, all working together to strengthen accountable and transparent governance. Our Equal Futures Partnership unites two dozen countries in a commitment to take concrete steps to empower women in their societies both economically and politically. And, as civil society comes under attack in more and more places, we’re bringing countries and peoples together to counter restrictions and strengthen protections for civil society.

Moreover, we’ve focused the global community on elevating that most basic aspect of human dignity—the health and well-being of the most vulnerable people. We’re partnering with nations that invest in their health systems. We’re working with NGOs to improve child and maternal health, end preventable diseases, and make progress towards a goal that was inconceivable just a decade ago—the world’s first AIDS-free generation. 

Across all these vital and far-reaching challenges, we continue to bring the resources of the United States and the reach of our partnerships to bear to forge a safer and more prosperous world. Our goals are bold and won’t be realized overnight, but the essence of U.S. leadership, as always, remains our ambition, our determination, and our dauntless vision of the possible – the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons; a world where extreme poverty is no more; where people are free to choose their own leaders; and where no child’s potential is cut short by a circumstance of her birth. 

We’ve earned our unparalleled position in the world through decades of responsible leadership. We affirm our exceptionalism by working tirelessly to strengthen the international system we helped build. We affirm it daily with our painstaking efforts to marshal international support and rally nations behind our leadership. We affirm it by taking strong action when we see rules and norms broken by those who try to game the system for their own gain. As President Obama told those graduating cadets at West Point, “What makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” 

As we leave an era of American foreign policy dominated by war, we are in a much stronger position to shape a more just and secure peace. In doing so, we will be vigilant against threats to our security, but we also recognize that we are stronger still when we mobilize the world on behalf of our common security and common humanity. That is the proud tradition of American foreign policy, and that is what’s required to shape a new chapter of American leadership.