Speech by former President of the United States, William J. Clinton

IAPA Midyear Meeting Casa de Campo, Dominican Republic Monday, March 18, 2002 Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much, Ramon, for that wonderful introduction, and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for that kind welcome. I must say I always have mixed feelings about speaking before lunch. The good thing is that I feel very much like eating when I’m done. The bad thing is I have the feeling that half of you wish I were finished already. I am delighted to be here back in this country that I love very much. I’d like to thank your officers for the invitation, Robert Cox, Andrés García Gamboa. I’d like to also say that I just learned that in the line of officers is my old law school classmate Jack Fuller, whom I have not seen in a long time. Since we almost never agreed on anything politically I didn’t have enough chance to see him as President, but I have always thought he was a great person, and I read his mysteries with greater interest than his editorials. I’d also like to say how deeply honored I am by the presence here of the President and the Vice President of the Dominican Republic. I thank them for their work in keeping democracy alive and helping this wonderful place to move forward, and I have many friends in the audience today, all of whom I appreciate your coming. Thank you very much. I admire this organization because it is reflection of a belief that I share as well, that the people of the Americas must work together to advance the cause of freedom. From your first meeting in Washington more than 75 years ago, you have shown that different countries and cultures can share common values, interests and perspectives. You have broadened your membership and your horizons over the last three quarters of a century. This group stretches all the way from Alaska to Patagonia. In defending the freedom of the press in Colombia and elsewhere and helping newspapers thrive in Argentina and so many other endeavors many of which have been quite costly to your members as we are all reminded by that incredibly moving piece of sculpture out there, that is the typewriter of a late journalist on fire, and all these endeavors you have shown time and again your solidarity and the benefits that can come from it. The growth of this organization is matched by an amazing evolution of the countries from which you come. Thirty-five years ago when President Johnson visited Uruguay for only the Second Summit of the Americas in history about half the leaders there had taken office without ever having faced a vote of their people. By 1994, when I was honored to welcome the hemisphere’s leaders to Miami for the Third Summit of the Americas in the 20th Century, every leader in this region but one had been democratically elected. In the past few years we have seen elections usher in new leaders in Chile, Guatemala, Uruguay. We have seen free elections in Peru and Mexico, the first genuinely contested party election there since the inauguration of the new system almost a hundred years ago. I just came from Ecuador which has emerged from some terrible economic and political times with its democracy intact rewarded last year with the highest economic growth in the hemisphere. People like you through progress and pain have dealt a powerful concensus that in this hemisphere leaders should come to power by force of law, not force of arms. I think it’s fair to say that most of us in this room share a vision of the Americas in the 21st Century rooted in freedom, peace, prosperity and growing cooperation. One of my primary objectives as President was to build that kind of future for all our children. Economically, those efforts were represented by NAFTA in 1993, by the commitment of the Summit of the Americas to a Free Trade Area of the Americas, by the efforts we made to help the Mexican economy in 1995, and to avoid a crisis in Brazil in 1998, by the almost completed Free Trade Agreement with Chile in 2000 and the expanded Caribbean Basin Initiative which the United States Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan majority in my last year as President. Politically, that vision was manifested in our restoring the democratically-elected President of Haiti, and working with Peru and Ecuador to settle there very long border dispute finally completed in 1998, in using our influence to preserve democracy in Paraguay when it was threatened, and the Second Summit of the Americas in Chile with its social commitments in 1998, and the efforts we made in all of Central America to support democracy and growth, and of course, with Plan Colombia in 2000 something about which you may want to discuss more. Socially, we worked for education, health, and institution-building initiatives. We had environmental cooperation with Costa Rica, the world’s most environmentally advanced country I believe, and many other nations. We made efforts to help Central America, especially Nicaragua, overcome the affects of natural disasters. Not all my efforts were successful. I tried for example without success to urge a different political course on both Presidents Fujimori and Chavez, and after I left office I tried without success to persuade my government and the international financial institutions to work with the governments of Argentina and Brazil to minimize the damage of the Argentine financial crisis, because I thought it was the right thing to do and because America has had no more moral ally than Argentina over the last several decades. The problems of Latin America today, poverty, lack of sufficient schooling, health difficulties, environmental degradation, terror and narcotrafficking, have common elements with other trouble spots in the world, from the Middle East to Indonesia to the Indian Subcontinent to Africa. What I would like to do today is to try to put where I believe our hemisphere is in the context of global affairs as we seek to realize our vision and as we examine the role of a free press the absolutely essential role in going forward. The fundamental character of the 21st Century world is its interdependence. With global economics, the global reach of information and technology, global travel across increasingly open borders, but as September 11th showed, this interdependence is not an unmixed blessing, for good or bad. In a world without walls we cannot escape each other’s fate. For though our world and our region are interdependent, every day we see examples which show us they are not fully integrated. Therefore, I believe a hundred, two hundred years from now when historians look back on this period, they will say at the dawn of this new millennium the contest of the world was between the forces of integration and harmony, economic growth, education, information-sharing, diversity within communities and the forces of disintegration and chaos, poverty, ignorance, sickness, environmental destruction, narco-trafficking and organized crime, the threat of weapons of mass destruction and terror too often rooted in ancient hatreds of race, religion, tribe, and ethnicity. The world we live in is filled with paradoxes. Consider the economy. The global economy has lifted more people out of poverty in the last 20 years than in any comparable period in history, and yet half the people in the world still live on less than $2 a day, a billion people less than a dollar a day, a billion people go to bed hungry every night. Education. In developing and developed countries alike, the benefits to education have never been more apparent. Indeed, in developing countries every extra year of schooling yields on average a 10% increase in annual income, and in so many places more people than ever are going to school and going to school longer, and yet a hundred million people, children in this world never go to school at all. A fair number of them living in countries like Pakistan where the system of education is broken down wound up in the radical Islamic madras’s where they are indoctrinated rather than educated. This is a great loss to the children and to the national economies where they live. Or, consider the paradox of health care. In the world today, life expectancy is up and infant mortality is down. There are breathtaking new discoveries in biomedical sciences, which I believe will soon lead us to babies being born in countries with good health systems with a life expectancy in excess of 90 years. The sequencing of the human gene by the International Coalition of Scientists has already led us to identify the primary genetic indicators of breast cancer and we are getting very close on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The development of super micro technology, nano technology, has raised the prospect that we might be able to develop digital chips that will replicate sophisticated nerve movements in the spine, chips which could supplant spinal cords that had been otherwise irreparably damaged and leave people along paralyzed with the capacity to get up and walk, and yet, for every minute we sit here another woman in the world will die in child birth. Ten million children die every year of infectious diseases, most of them completely preventable. Forty million people in the world have died of AIDS, but unless we turn the trends around the figure, or have AIDS today, 22 million have died and 40 million have it, and unless we change the trends, the experts tell us we will have 100 million AIDS cases by the year 2005, and as many of you know while AIDS today has two thirds of its cases in Africa the fastest growing rates of AIDS are in the former Soviet Union on Europe’s back door. The second fastest growing rates of AIDS are in the Caribbean, on America’s front door. My wife represents nearly a million people from the Dominican Republic alone in the United States Senate from New York. The third fastest growing rates of AIDS are in India, the largest democracy in the world, and the Chinese just acknowledged that they have more than twice as many cases as they had previously thought. Consider the anomaly and the paradox of the environment. Environmental growth is very good for specific countries. In the United States, in the 8 years I served as President, we had unprecedented economic growth but we also got cleaner air, safer drinking water, safer food, and much, much, more preservation of our natural resources, and this is a typical pattern which we have seen followed right across the globe. On the other hand, the aggregate impact of industrial-aged growth has created some enormous problems and puts enormous pressure on specific countries. We know that there is a dire shortage of water in the world today; about one in four people don’t have access to clean water. We know that in many places in the world the oceans are deteriorating and they are the major source of oxygen for the world, and we certainly know that global warming is real. If the world warms for the next 50 years at the rate of the last 10, whole island-nations in the Pacific will flood. The Dominican Republic could well lose some of its most valuable beaches that are a source of a lot of the economic growth and opportunity, which this nation is experiencing now. We would lose 50 feet of Manhattan Island in New York and we would lose most of the Florida Everglades that I worked so hard to restore. Or, consider the anomalies of politics. We live in a time where for the first time in history in the last 10 years more than half the world’s people live under governments of their own choosing. This is an astonishing statistic when you consider that that number does not include the largest country on Earth, China. I hope in my lifetime it will, but it doesn’t yet. And when most democracies are growing more and more diverse, racially, culturally, religiously, proving that you can accommodate difference in a strong community. On the other hand, the greatest threat to the stability of the world is hi-tech terrorism, the marriage of modern weapons with ancient hatreds, and often also with organized crime and narco-trafficking. So, what are we to do about this paradox? I believe if our vision is to create an Americas of peace and freedom and prosperity and increasing cooperation in a world that is moving toward those things. If, in other words, we want integration and not disintegration, the wealthy countries, especially the United States, have to do more to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens of this world. The developing countries have to do more to make the changes that only they can make without which progress will not be possible. And the press will have an indispensable role to educate and where appropriate to advocate. Let me just give you a few quick examples and then we will move to the questions. Most of my fellow Americans believe that we are already doing a great deal to help shrink the burdens and spread the benefits of the modern world, and they are dead wrong. This is a gap that those of you in the American press should help to fill. Every survey shows that most Americans believe we spend 10% to 15% of the federal budget on aid and they think most of the money is wasted but we do it because our conscience requires us to do it. The truth is, and they say we’d be happy to spend between 3% and 5% of our budget. The truth is we spend less than 1% of our budget on aid and we have learned an enormous amount on how to do it right over the last 20 years with the help of many people and the countries represented in this audience. Let me just give you some examples of the things I think we should do, some of which involve aid and some of which involve other initiatives. With regard to the economy, I think we need more trade, not less. We need to complete the Free Trade Area of the Americas. The United States needs to reauthorize the Andean Trade Pact Initiative and if possible to include some other areas, including tuna if we can do it without destroying the ecostructure of the Galapagos. The demonstrators against every globalization meeting are right to say that globalization has not solved all the problems in their countries, but they are dead wrong to say that the global economy caused those problems. Just in the last 2 months, there has been yet another study by another distinguished international organization pointing out that in the last 20 years developing countries that chose growth through openness to trade and investment grew at an average of 5%. Developing countries that chose to walk away from that to keep their markets closed to trade and investment grew at an average of 1%. Now, the truth is the global economy and trade are not sufficient to build the world we want for our children, but they are absolutely necessary, and the United States and other wealthy countries should take the lead. Now, the last year I was President, in addition to the Caribbean Basin Initiative, we opened our markets to Vietnam and Jordan. We voted to put China into the WTO. We passed a massive African Trade Initiative. In one year, some of our imports from African countries increased 1000% as a result of that. In Jordan, they more than doubled. In both places that was a signal that there is a path other than terrorism and violence to a future for the children of those countries. The second thing we ought to do in the economic area in my opinion is have another round of targeting debt relief. The millennial debt relief initiative that the United States first proposed in 1999 and was passed around the world in 2000, basically offered debt relief to the poorest countries in the world, 24 poorest countries if, but only if, all of the savings were provably put into education, health care, and development. Now we now have the results of that. We don’t have to guess about this. Uganda took its savings and doubled primary school enrollment and reduced class sizes in one year. Honduras, which as all of you know has had a whole lot of problems over the last several years, took its savings and went from 6 years to 9 years of mandatory schooling in one year, a 50% increase. We should have another round of this and we should include more countries, particularly those that have huge AIDS problems, which means they’re not really as rich as they appear to be. I feel very strongly about this. I’ll just give you one other example of something that I believe we should do. The great Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto, I believe is doing some of the most important work in the world today, by trying to replicate what was done in Peru early in Mr. Fumitory’s presidency before politics took the country down. He basically discovered through his studies that in his view America grew strong and wealthy not primarily because we developed a good financial system first, but because we resolved all questions of property rights first; even for very poor people. They had easy ways of establishing title to their homes or their businesses and they could prove it without going to court, take that to a bank, use it for collateral for a loan, that then created the financial system that gave us all the rest of what has happened in the last hundred and twenty or so years. So, what he set out to do in Peru was to legalize the property of the poor. He now estimates there’s 5 trillion dollars worth of assets in businesses and homes in the hands of poor people today, but not in the legal sector. Not primarily because the poor wish to avoid taxes, but because the regulatory and other burdens of legalizing businesses especially are so great that they can never do it. I have spent a good deal of time with him, and I’ve seen for example the map he just completed of Cairo, Egypt, where 85% of the small businesses are not in the legal sector. Are they all crooks? No. If you and I decided, let’s say if Madam Vice President supposed we decided you and I would go to Cairo tomorrow and set up a bakery. All we want to do is bake bread and rolls and sell it. It would take us 700 days to legalize that business. So needless-to-say, since we don’t have 700 days, maybe you do, I don’t have that much time, we would start baking our bread and we when the tax collector came around we’d give him a little money to look the other way. But we would be far better off paying our taxes, because then we would have a piece of property with a title we could take to the bank and borrow money and help to create a capitalist system. So, we gave De Soto a little money when I was President to do this work. We should do this in a hurry. He’s working in Mexico and in Egypt, as I said, going to Africa later in the year. These are proven strategies that will work. Same thing is true in education. The Bolsa Escola Program in Brazil where they pay the mothers in the 30% of the poorest families to send their kids to school, a similar program in Mexico and there are others that are like that in other countries in this hemisphere. These things work. We ought to pay to put them everywhere. We spent $300 million in my last year as President to give to countries to offer a meal to kids if they would come to school to get it, and we put it together in a hurry and the government just says that we wasted a lot of the money. All I know is that I saw the enrollments in the countries that got the money, before and after, and there are exploding. So there are proven strategies. In health care, we’ve got an easy path here. The Secretary General of the UN has asked us for $10 billion as a world from both private and public sources, to take the fight to AIDS, TB, malaria, and other infectious diseases. One quarter of all the people who die this year on Earth will die of AIDS, TB, malaria, and infections related to diarrhea. Most of them will be little children who never got a clean glass of water. Now America’s share of that would be about $2 billion. You can say well nobody knows how to do that. That’s not true. Uganda cut the death rate from AIDS in half in 5 years with no medicine. Brazil cut it in half in 3 years with medicine and prevention. There are countries on every continent that are making headway on this. We know how to deal with the other problem. Should America pay that $2 billion? That’s about 2 months of the Afghan war. I think it’s a worthy investment. Congress is being asked to increase defense spending alone, never mind domestic defense, just defense spending $43 billion. Should we spend less than 5% of that to make a world with more partners and fewer terrorists? I think it would be a good investment. And, the same thing is true with these other issues. In politics, I think it means America has to help other countries both advance security and democracy and freedom. I feel very strongly that we did the right thing with Plan Colombia, but I think we’ll have to work hard now to make sure it doesn’t fail and the oldest democracy in Latin America doesn’t collapse. But also, that the problems of Colombia are not just transported to its neighbors. We got some money for that in 2000, but I think we will have to work harder at it, particularly if we step up our activities within Colombia. On the other hand, if we do all that, it won’t be enough unless the developing world also makes some changes. There are political, financial, and judicial reforms that have to be enacted in many of the countries represented here. Social service spending has to be increased by governments themselves. There are still too many countries where too much is spent on the military and too little is spent on social services. In places where corruption is a problem, no amount of aide, no amount of economic initiatives will make those countries attractive to foreign investment. People won’t put their money in a place where they think it can be stolen. And finally, all countries have got to respect freedom. Freedom to contract, freedom to speak. Democracy is about more than majority rule; it is also about minority rights, and the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. Which brings me to a few comments I would like to make about you. I would never have done this if I were still in office. I think we all know that free expression is an indispensable part of democracy and an indispensable right of every citizen of the Americas. What I think we forget sometimes is that a free press and a vigorous one is essential to the flow of information and ideas without which free people cannot make good decisions. Even in America, which is probably the most information-drenched place on Earth, it is deeply troubling to me that one of our most important questions of public, whether we should increase assistance to developing nations and if so how, is hopelessly bogged down in complete lack of knowledge and misperception. So, without a free and vigorous press, eventually free people will get in trouble because they won’t have the information or perspective they need to make good decisions. And there are still problems in this region with that. I just want to deal with one. I guess I could deal with more than one, but I’d like to deal with one because I tried to avoid it while I was President with all the counseling I could and that was Venezuela. The broadcasting regulations forbid and I quote, “tendentious news stories that arouse speculation”. Boy, would I’d like to have gotten rid of those while I was President. There were whole years when I never read anything but tendentious news stories that arouse speculation. And listen to this, the regulations require quote “trustworthy sources.” Doesn’t say who gets to judge whether they’re trustworthy or nor. There are a lot of years when I would’ve liked to have judged those. And broadcasts that are, and I quote “limited to stating the facts without any commentary or personal interpretation.” Now these regulations I think are clearly incompatible with the Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, when an Inter-American Court has said, and I quote, “it would not be legitimate to invoke the right of society to be truthfully informed in order to justify a prior censorship regime.” Now, Venezuela is a great country. It’s future is essential to American stability; if for no other reason than it’s a source of enormous part of the petroleum we import and it can be a force for good or ill as we have seen in Colombia, a country under great stress. All I can say is I think this is a terrible policy, and I have learned through trial and error, but on the whole, more access to information by the press is better than less, and more press freedom, even when they make mistakes, is better than less. And as you may have noticed, I have gotten a fair amount of negative press in my life. So if I can say that after all that I have been through, much of which was blatantly false and printed by people who knew it was false at the time, but still, I was able to survive and my country was in good shape when I left office because we had a press that was free enough for me to get my side of the story out. And, I still believe on balance that’s what really, really counts. Now, when I was President I worked hard to open up a lot of documents that had been sealed for years, and generally I think we ran an information-ready administration. I have to tell you, based on my own experience, when I did not make information available that was not related to immediate national security concerns, that was often a mistake. I disagree with the trend in America now toward closing information to the press. We’ve had a big shift back the other way now and I think it’s a mistake, and I hope that it will be changed. But I think there is a lesson in my experience and the experience of the United States for people in the press throughout the Americas. Number one, a free press cannot function without access to information. Number two, from your own experience you know, it cannot exist in an environment, intimidation, coercion and attack. But number three, I hope you will remember this is something that I think is important, you are human too, the harder you work and the more decisions you make, the more mistakes you’ll make, and even some of your judgments might be wrong from time to time. So while I believe that you should be able to both to report the flacks and to express your opinion, I think it is imperative in a complicated world that you make sure all sides of an issue receive adequate coverage. Look, America is around after more than 225 years, because more than half the time, more than half the people were right on the big decisions, not because there’s been a single perfect person in the White House or the press or the business community or anywhere else. Democracy actually works better than other systems, because people look after themselves and their families and if the politicians are not accountable either to the people or the press, they will be more concerned with preserving their power and position than making progress. Democracy actually works, but it won’t work unless you can do your job. So, in summary, we can have the most peaceful, prosperous, interesting time the world has ever known if the wealthy countries do more to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens of the modern world, if the poor countries do more to make the changes internally that make progress possible, if we can preserve and enhance the role of a free press. We live in a world that is interdependent, but it is not yet integrated. In a sentence, in a world without walls, we have to make it a home for all our children. Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.