Remarks Type: Remarks as Prepared
Speaker: Donald Steinberg, World Learning CEO
Speech Date: February 9, 2016
Speech Location: Atlanta, GA

Honored Guests:

Good evening and thank you for being here this evening. Thanks as well to Ambassador Peters for those kind comments about the work that World Learning is doing globally to empower a new generation of global leaders through education, exchange and development programs. You’ve been a fierce advocate for the principles that drive our work – peace, prosperity, social inclusion, and justice – throughout your distinguished diplomatic career, including as U.S. ambassador to Bangladesh from 2000 to 2003. You’ve also played a key role in training the future leaders of the U.S. military as the Provost of the Naval War College, and we overlapped at the White House when you served as National Security Council Director for European and Canadian affairs from 1995 to 1997.  You’re also an excellent demonstration of the importance of college students studying abroad, having done so in France.

We are here in Atlanta for the World Learning Board of Trustees meeting, where we are highlighting the importance of partnerships to achieving the scale and reach we seek in our global efforts. World Learning has joined with the rest of the global community to endorse historic and ambitious goals over the next two decades to eliminate extreme poverty, reduce infant and maternal mortality, provide universal quality education and literacy, empower women and historically marginalized groups, improve housing and urban environments, expand access to clean water and clean energy, improve governance and respect for human rights, and address other socio-economic measures of well-being.

The broad scope and ambition and scale of the challenge ahead will require a “whole of society” effort to be successful. I don’t want to be political here in election season, but it does indeed take a village. The requirements for development capital, new technologies and innovations, social mobilization, ground truth, and related inputs dwarf the capacity of any institution. We are obliged to work together, recognizing the common but often differing priorities of our institutions, as well as the unique capacities we each bring to the table.

Nowhere are these partnerships more clear than in the promotion of human rights, democracy, good governance and fair elections. World Learning is proud to be part of a global consortium – Advancing Democratic Elections and Political Transitions (ADEPT) – to accomplish this. We have joined not only with the Carter Center, but Freedom House, Democracy International, the Asia Foundation, and IREX to achieve this.

The Carter Center has been in the forefront of this work since 1982. We have just had the opportunity to visit the Carter Presidential Library, and seen the record of achievements as well as the difficult challenges of the Carter Presidency. But on one issue the record is clear: President Carter put human rights fully into the conduct of American foreign policy.

As a young American diplomat in 1976, I had an opportunity to see this first hand. I was serving in the Central African Republic, a country ruled by a brutal dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa. Under the “realpolitik” foreign policy of Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, our Embassy sought to maintain as good a relationship with Bokassa as possible. Many of us at the Embassy, including our Ambassador, wanted to be far more forceful in the defense of human rights.

Then Jimmy Carter was elected president, and it was a game-changer. There is an entire generation of American diplomats – my generation – for whom President Carter changed the terms of our dialogue.

He proclaimed:

“Human rights are the soul of U.S. foreign policy, because human rights are the soul of our sense of nationhood…America did not invest human rights; in a real sense, human rights invented America.”

Under the leadership of civil rights advocate and assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs, Pat Derian, the narrative switched, and we became strong advocates for human rights and human dignity. I’m proud to say that within three years, President Bokassa was ousted from power and the Central African Republic had a new chance at building a just nation. Similarly, other brutal autocrats – including Idi Amin in Uganda and Macias Nguema in Equatorial Guinea – also fell from power, at least in part because of American pressure.

As a nation, we haven’t always lived up to our ideals on human rights: far from it. Even under President Carter, for example, we tended to look the other way on apartheid in South Africa because the white there swore allegiance to the West in the Cold War. But I can say without question that the legacy of President Carter’s emphasis on human rights lives to this day in the proliferation of governments, civil society groups, international institutions, universities, private businesses and individuals committed to free, fair, inclusive, and democratic societies.

One individual leading the cause of journalistic freedom, women’s rights, and social and economic justice is Nobel Peace Laureate Tawakkol Karman. Ms. Karman won the Nobel Prize – the first Arab woman to do so – in 2011 in recognition of her courageous efforts to promote these principles in her native Yemen, throughout the Middle East, and well beyond. She currently serves as head of the organization Women Journalists Without Chains. World Learning is proud that one of Ms. Karman’s earliest international linkages came in the form of an exchange visit to the United States from women journalists from the Middle East that we had the privilege of organizing under the International Visitor Leadership Program in 2005.

It is my pleasure to announce tonight that we are launching with Ms. Karman the “Tawakkol Karman Youth Leadership Program.” The fellowship program will sponsor the participation of youth fellows from Yemen, the broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and the United States in World Learning programs that promote international and inter-cultural understanding. Given Ms. Karman’s global leadership in the area of women’s empowerment and journalism, special emphasis will be placed on scholarships in these areas.  Participants will be eligible to take part in the Advancing Leaders Fellowship, the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures program, master’s degree programs at the School for International Training Graduate Institute, The Experiment in International Living, and SIT Study Abroad.

You will be hearing more about this program in the days and weeks to come, and we hope that you will consider supporting it. And thank you again for your presence here this evening: together, we are building a more peaceful, prosperous, just, and inclusive world.