Obama Talks Global Poverty to CGI

Senator Obama just addressed the Clinton Global Initiative via a live satellite feed and spoke of his commitment to embrace the Millennium Development Goals, “erase” the global education gap, and advance global health.

Below, an excerpt and video from his remarks.

(Senator McCain spoke at CGI a couple of hours ago, and we covered it here.)

We all have a stake in reducing poverty. There is suffering across the globe that doesn’t need to be tolerated in the 21st century. And it leads to pockets of instability that provide fertile breeding grounds for threats like terror and the smuggling of deadly weapons that cannot be contained by the drawing of a border or the distance of an ocean. These aren’t simply disconnected corners of an interconnected world. That is why the second commitment that I will make is embracing the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015.

This will take more resources from the United States, and as President I will increase our foreign assistance to provide them. But resources must be focused on the right priorities. No one wants to put good money after bad, or ignore the underlying causes at the root of these problems.

We shouldn’t just settle for a status quo – anywhere – where you can’t start a business without paying a bribe. Corruption wastes our tax dollars. It also ruins lives. This is a human rights issue, and we need to treat it like one.

We shouldn’t help those in need without helping them help themselves. That’s why I’ll partner with the private sector in creating a new fund for Small and Medium Enterprise, so we’re investing in ideas that can create growth and jobs in the developing world.

Above all, we must do our part to see that all children have the basic right to learn. There is nothing more disappointing than a child denied the hope that comes with going to school, and there is nothing more dangerous than a child who is taught to distrust and then to destroy.

That’s why the third commitment I’ll make is working to erase the global primary education gap by 2015. Every child – every boy, and every girl – should have the ability to go to school. To ensure that our nation does its part to meet that goal, we need to establish a two billion dollar Global Education Fund. And I look forward to signing the bipartisan Education for All Act that was first introduced by Hillary Clinton – a true champion for children.

Finally, we must continue the progress that’s been made to advance the cause of global health. I’ve been proud to support the PEPFAR program. I think President Bush – and many of you there today – have shown real leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. This is a fight that I will continue as President.

Disease stands in the way of progress on so many fronts. It can condemn populations to poverty, and prevent a child from getting an education. And yet far too many people still die of preventable illnesses. Today, I’d like to focus on one: malaria.

We have eliminated malaria in the United States, but nearly one million people around the world still die from a mosquito bite every year. 85 percent of the victims are African children under the age of 5. In Africa, a child dies from a mosquito bite every thirty seconds. Beyond the devastating human toll, malaria weighs down public health systems, setting back global capacity to fight other disease.

So today, I want to join with the global malaria community that is meeting here in New York in making a new commitment: when I am President, we will set the goal of ending all deaths from malaria by 2015. It’s time to rid the world of death from a disease that doesn’t have to take lives. The United States must lead, and when I am President we will step up our focus on prevention and treatment around the world to get this done.

The first project of my Small and Medium Enterprise fund will be investing in the developing world’s capacity to meet the demand for 730 million bednets. We’ll also increase access to doctors and nurses through a new program – Health Infrastructure 2020 – that trains medical professionals in countries around the world, and gives them incentives to stay there. And we’ll invest in research and development into new vaccines, and ensure that low cost anti-malaria drugs are available everywhere.

This effort must bring together governments from around the world. It must be a public-private partnership that draws on the resources, and ideas, and resilience of business and non-profits and faith groups. It must be a cause for countless individuals, and a common goal that unites us all.

In short, the effort to eradicate malaria must draw on the spirit that drives not simply the commitments at CGI – but the commitment that is visible everywhere that people go to work to make their communities, their country, and our world a better place.

The scale of our challenges may be great. The pace of change may be swift. But we know that it need not be feared. The landscapes of the 21st century are still ours to shape.

We see the potential for progress every time someone starts a job creating new energy, or an idea carries a community out of poverty; we see it every time a girl walks through the doors of a new school, or a boy lives to see another day because he had a simple net around his bed. These are the dreams that we must make our own.

We live in a time when our destinies are shared. But our destinies will be written by us, not for us. Now, it falls to us to get to work.

-Virginia Simmons