December 17th, 2006 10:50 EST
Americans Involved in Humanitarian Efforts Worldwide
(The following byliner by Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen P. Hughes was originally published in the December 17 edition of the Washington Times and is in the public domain. There are no republication restrictions.)
The diplomacy of deeds
By Karen P. Hughes
Last week's White House "Malaria Summit" not only promises major progress against this preventable disease, but also represents the best of American public diplomacy -- the diplomacy of our deeds.
What we do often speaks more emphatically than what we say, especially when our deeds result in a better life for people in meaningful ways such as improved health and education. The malaria initiative, like so many others, sends the clear message that Americans care deeply about the lives of people across the world.
This effort harnesses and mobilizes the collective compassion of our country. It combines the tax dollars of American citizens and the expertise of our government agencies with the contributions and passion of private foundations and individuals. It brings together the research of our health institutions, the reach of private companies and the hands and hearts of religious congregations.
Thanks to this combined effort, 15 countries in Africa will receive an infusion of expertise and $1.5 billion to prevent malaria. The result is the opportunity to save the lives of 3,000 children a day and more than a million people a year who now die from this terrible disease.
The malaria initiative is unprecedented, but not unique. History will show President Bush and the American people have engaged in an unprecedented commitment to humanitarian causes -- from fighting AIDS to educating children to feeding the hungry in some of the world's most difficult places. Yet too few Americans, and even fewer across the world, seem to recognize the extent of these American initiatives.
This fall, while I spoke at a women's conference in California, I summarized a variety of American projects -- business mentoring for women in developing countries, training for nearly a million teachers in 20 countries, scholarships for half a million girls in Africa, the first breast cancer prevention and early detection campaign in the Middle East, and more.
Eunice Shriver, the mother of California's first lady, was in the audience and raised her hand to ask why we don't hear more about these programs.
A short answer is that bad news tends to crowd out good deeds, although it's clearly more complicated than that. Across the world, America feeds the poor, educates the illiterate, cares for the sick and responds to disasters. We support so many different development projects, in fact, that we often get little credit for any of them. And in this time of war, such good news stories are overshadowed by the somber news of loss.
It's understandable that our national attention is focused on our vital mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the need to confront the continuing threat of terrorism. It's understandable that a bombing leads the news, not the digging of a well or the opening of a school. And yet, in this season of giving and good will, it's also important to remind ourselves and the world that America is actively engaged in "waging peace" by helping people improve their lives.
Americans reach out to help people in need because of who we are and what we believe. We share with others because of our conviction all people are equal and each person is uniquely valuable. These convictions prompt us to action in the world. And when the people of the world see Americans in action, they respond.
After the Navy hospital ship USS Mercy revisited areas of Southeast Asia ravaged by the tsunami last year, polls showed the favorable opinion of the U.S. rose to 87 percent in Bangladesh. When earthquakes devastated Pakistan, American military helicopters rushed emergency relief to thousands of people. The Chinook helicopter quickly became one of the most popular toys in Pakistan, and favorable opinion of Americans doubled in polls.
In the case of disaster relief, America's efforts are focused and highly visible. Less well known are the things we do every day. For example:
America is by far the largest donor of food to the people of Darfur, where we have supplied more than half the emergency food aid from the entire world. Since the start of the conflict in 2003, America has spent nearly $1 billion feeding the hungry there.
The U.S. is still the largest bilateral donor of food and medicine to the Palestinian people.
Although we cannot by law or principle give money to the Hamas government because it refuses to renounce terrorism, we have given $234 million this year through non-government organizations.
The U.S. leads the world in the fight against AIDS, providing more than half of all bilateral Global HIV/AIDS funding. President Bush's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) is directing $15 billion over five years for treatment and prevention.
The U.S. is the largest donor to the United Nations' World Food Program. Since 2003, the U.S. has provided $1.27 billion in food aid, leading the fight against the No. 1 risk in global health -- hunger.
These people-to-people programs deliver life, hope and a more positive image of our country. I have talked with women in our literacy programs in Morocco, who expressed gratitude that for the first time in their lives, they can now mail a letter, read the labels at the store and best of all, help their children with their homework. When I asked a young man in one of our English language classes what difference it had made to him, he said, "I have a job and my friends don't." A Somali mother almost reduced to begging told us our food-for-work program had not only saved her life, but restored her dignity.
At this time of year, when people are called on to care for the hungry, sick and abandoned, Americans should know we are giving the gift of hope to thousands of people whose names we will never know. And I will continue to advocate we do even more, because the diplomacy of deeds serves our own national interests and the people of every nation.
(The author is the under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)