Monday, April 30, 2012
A U.S. View of the Americas -- through Rose-colored Glasses?
Roberta S. Jacobson
as prepared, by Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, U.S. State Department, before the U.S. House of Representatives'
Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere
Chairman Mack, Ranking Member Engel, Members of the Committee, it is an honor and privilege to be here today. I am
genuinely pleased to be able to speak with you again after an absence of several months, and I greatly appreciate this subcommittee's
engagement and support for both U.S. assistance and our policies and engagement in the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Chairman and
Ranking Member Engel, it is especially good to see you again after our visit to Colombia, and I look forward to sharing with
you my reflections on the Summit of the Americas.
We are fortunate that
our hemisphere overwhelmingly presents opportunities to advance U.S. interests and objectives and promote greater prosperity
and growth for the United States and all countries of the region. The President's and the Secretary's engagements
in Colombia demonstrated the power of this positive vision to expand social and economic opportunity, the Summit also provided
an opportunity to continue our work to stand up for shared democratic values in the Americas. We are especially engaged in
responding to threats against democratic governance and freedom of expression, threats to citizen security and threats from
external actors in the Western Hemisphere that directly impact the security of the United States. Addressing these challenges
bilaterally and at the Organization of American States remains our top priority; without improvement in these fundamental
areas, economic development, social equity, and democratic institutions will falter. These objectives will continue to be
the focus for U.S. assistance resources.
The Summit of the Americas, which
I am pleased so many of you had the chance to attend, showcased the region's rapid change. Although obscured by reporting
on other issues discussed, the Summit highlighted the many practical ways that countries and societies in the Americas are
coming together to solve problems and build a more successful and interconnected future. President Obama reinforced the spirit
of partnership that has been at the core of his administration's policy in the region. The Colombian government's
program for this year's Summit -- including both CEO and civil society forums -- was a successful example of what Secretary
Clinton calls the "other legs of the foreign policy stool" -- accountable governments, prosperous economies, and
engaged civil societies. A robust business sector and strong civil society are essential counterparts to an effective and
responsible government in achieving regional progress.
for the Summit included: establishment of a Small Business Network of the Americas, the SBNA, to provide technical assistance
to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and to encourage American SMEs to take advantage of the market opportunities that the
region presents; announcement of the Women's Entrepreneurship network; advancement of the President's 100,000 Strong
in the Americas effort to increase academic exchanges; expansion of regional broadband capacity; and support for innovation
efforts in development; and launching a security partnership with Colombia to provide enhanced levels of citizen security
assistance in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. I am especially enthusiastic about the United States' role
in the creation of Colombia's Connect 2022 initiative to expand electrical connectivity throughout the Americas, which
will further reduce energy poverty in the region and foster a vast regional market for electrical grid technologies and equipment.
Our shared goal is that by 2022, all people of the hemisphere will have access to the electricity they need to do their work
productively and to educate their children for the future.
partnership and the power of proximity, the United States is working effectively with capable regional partners to address
key challenges facing the people of the Americas. Increasingly, these partnerships do not require U.S. assistance, as more
and more countries become global players and donors of global goods in their own right. North America is an example of such
a partnership. There, our initiatives to enhance regulatory cooperation and improve border management, including infrastructure
at our ports of entry, will further expand trade and create jobs for all involved.
At the same time, trafficking and transnational crime in the hemisphere have created a violent environment that makes
day-to-day life for some of the region's people intolerable, creating situations where people are afraid to leave their
homes or send their children to school. Sustained U.S. engagement and assistance on this front is required to counter these
threats, improving the lives of people throughout the region and protecting U.S. security interests. In addition to our support
for the Partnership for Growth in El Salvador, food security, inclusive economic growth, promoting energy security, and mitigating
the effects of climate change, the Administration's FY 2013 request of $1.65 billion for the Western Hemisphere prioritizes
the Merida Initiative in Mexico, security assistance in Colombia, the Central America Regional Security Initiative, and the
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. These U.S. assistance investments support partner governments' efforts to make their
streets safer for their citizens by strengthening the institutions of governance, including the judiciary, law enforcement,
and defense institutions.
Our FY 2013 requests for these initiatives reflect
an emphasis on enhancing capacity and strengthening institutions over the long term. We are also emphasizing prevention assistance,
to ensure a comprehensive approach to crime and violence and enhance the rule of law. Our assistance draws upon the capacity
of partners in the hemisphere, such as Colombia, Brazil, and Mexico, Canada, and other international donors, such as the European
Union, Spain, and the Inter-American Development and World Banks, to contribute to greater security. Engagement with our partners
on issues that they care about, including social inclusion, energy and the environment, will help us build stronger relationships
and contribute to a holistic approach to the difficult security problems we face.
Our FY 2013 request also prioritizes assistance for Haiti to support the country's ongoing development efforts,
focusing on: sanitation and health services to help prevent and treat cholera and other water-borne diseases, expansion of
energy infrastructure, and economic growth to increase agricultural incomes and get Haitians back to work, and improving the
government's ability to deliver needed services and restore faith with its people.
In Mexico, the FY 2013 request continues a shift from equipment items toward training and institutional capacity
building assistance, especially state-level programs that will strengthen Mexican capacity to sustain the rule of law and
reach young people at risk.
Assisting Colombia in its whole-of-government
efforts to expand state presence in former conflict areas, protect human rights, and promote economic development, remains
a priority for U.S. assistance. The ongoing transfer to Colombia of financial and operational responsibility for counternarcotics
and military assistance permits the planned reductions of our aid there.
the Summit of the Americas, President Obama announced our intention to seek an increase to at least $130 million in FY 2012
assistance under the Central America Regional Security Initiative in response to continued high levels of violence in that
region. Our assistance under CARSI is heavily oriented toward training, professionalization and capacity building. Community
action and municipal crime prevention will help at-risk and vulnerable members of society and marginalized communities.
Our FY 2013 request also supports the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and is consistent
with our comprehensive approach to transnational crime and trafficking in our hemisphere.
Finally, democracy assistance is also a critical component in achieving our goals, and our commitment to democracy
and human rights throughout the hemisphere is unwavering. While our security assistance seeks to strengthen democratic institutions
threatened by transnational crime, we continue to support human rights activists and fundamental freedoms around the world
through democracy programming, including in challenging environments like Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Cuba. As with
all our assistance requests, our request reflects the needs as best understood at a particular moment in time. Should the
underlying conditions change, we will adjust and discuss our needs with you.
I am pleased to be working with you, and I look forward to continuing our joint efforts to advance U.S. interests and objectives
in the Western Hemisphere and promote greater prosperity, growth, and security for our region.
Thank you very much for your time.
Testimony of Roberta S. Jacobson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs,
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, Apr. 25, 2012; Remarks as prepared to the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign
Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere