THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of The Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 2, 1995
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
at the 6th CNN World Report Conference
MRS. CLINTON: Thank you very much. Thank you, Tom, for
that introduction. Thank you, Ted Turner, for the vision you had
which is spread out before us through out the world. I am
delighted to be here, to participate in this conference, and I
want to commend all of you, especially those of you who have come
great distances, for helping to enrich the dialogue about current
affairs among our countries and around the world.
Your work for CNN helps all of us sort out the very complex,
important issues, and it also promotes a greater understanding
among the world's people. Those of us who watch, sometimes around
the clock, are grateful for your contributions.
This conference takes place at an historic time. As we
approach a new century, we also find ourselves on the frontier of
a new world. It is a world undergoing profound change. We have
watched as dictatorships and controlled economies have given way
to democracy and free markets in country after country. We have
watched old divisions and hatreds recede or vanish. And we have
watched new opportunities for peace and prosperity unfold.
At the same time, we have watched change generate new
challenges, and intensify old ones: The challenge of poverty.
The challenge of shrinking resources and accelerated global
competition. The challenge of peaceful co-existence in the face
of ethnic, religious, cultural and political differences. And
most of all, the challenge of putting people first, of including
all citizens -- men and women, rich and poor, people of all races
and creeds -- as full participants in our societies.
Today, too many nations waste precious resources on building
and acquiring weapons of mass destruction, on staging wars, and
doing violence to basic human rights, instead of investing in
their people. Too often, natural resources are destroyed, and
human ones exploited, through irresponsible social behavior.
And, too much time is spent in naked pursuit of power instead of
working for peace and prosperity.
So our job -- whether we are in the media, in public life,
in corporations or as volunteers -- is to think hard about how
governments, businesses, and citizens can help create conditions
that encourage individual initiative and a vibrant civic life.
As you may know, I recently had the privilege of traveling
through South Asia. And the lesson I took away from every
country I visited -- Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri
Lanka -- was that social development and economic development go
hand-in-hand. You cannot have sustainable markets and trade
without investing in human potential.
During my trip to South Asia, I saw example after example of
women struggling to overcome poverty, illiteracy, inadequate
health care and long-standing forms of discrimination. I saw
poor and illiterate women who had organized around their capacity
to borrow and save money, and were beginning to lift themselves
and their families out of acute poverty. I saw women who had
acquired skills to make crafts they could sell for profit. I saw
women insisting that their daughters be given the same
opportunities for schooling as their sons.
As I said in South Asia, and I have repeated many times
since returning home, girls and women represent the best
investment any nation can make. Women represent over half the
world's population. They comprise a disproportionate number of
the world's poor and illiterate. Yet in country after country
they are denied access to the tools of opportunity. They are
denied education, health care, credit, political and legal
The consequences are not only unfortunate for women
themselves, but for their families, their communities and their
Development experts tell us that where women lack the tools
of opportunity, children tend to be less educated and less
well-nourished. Families tend to be larger and poorer.
Where women remain illiterate, we find that democratic
institutions are more fragile and the environment less well
managed. We know that investing in education is part and parcel
of providing economic opportunity because, as capital and
technology become even more mobile, differences in the quality of
labor forces will become that much more apparent.
We have seen how the education of girls and women in parts
of Asia and South America has lifted whole regions out of
poverty. We are learning around the world, and re-learning here
at home, that where women prosper, countries prosper.
I understand that issues such as education and health care
are still regarded among some as "soft issues." Often they are
cavalierly shunted aside as "traditional women's issues" that do
not belong in any serious discussion of the problems we face in
the 21st century.
But I believe strongly that issues relating to social
development, especially of women, are the epicenter of our
political and economic challenges. And I believe we can build on
the work of world summits in Cairo, Vienna, Rio, and Copenhagen,
and the upcoming conference on women, to encourage governments,
businesses and citizens to recognize that women are critical to
future global prosperity.
We can make progress in this area if governments rethink how
to protect their most vulnerable populations, particularly at a
time of growing budget pressures and of world competition, and if
governments respect basic human rights, which include the rights
of women and girls to be protected from exploitation and abuse.
Governments are responsible for promoting disciplined
economic policies. They must strengthen the conditions that
sustain democracy and market economies that we know can unleash
the creative energies of millions of people -- if these people
are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities available to
Governments around the world can begin by investing more
resources in the health and education of children, especially
girls. In parts of South Asia, I saw government programs in
which poor parents are given weekly allotments of food -- and of
cash -- as incentives to keep girls in school. I saw health
clinics that had been placed in the areas of greatest need,
however remote or impoverished.
I also saw that government seldom acted alone. Although
governments have primary responsibility for creating a climate
that fosters economic growth and social development, businesses
and non-governmental organizations also have a role to play.
Businesses must recognize that the social costs of their
activities often have long-term economic consequences. Depleting
natural or human resources destroys markets. Now more than ever,
the world needs socially responsible business leadership.
And non-governmental organizations must remain a vital force
in the march for social development. These NGOs are operating on
the front lines, delivering services to people, listening to
their concerns, and acting as their advocates.
They are not dispensing charity or creating a system of
dependence. They are empowering people to take control of their
lives through education, better health methods, access to credit,
political participation and legal protections.
NGOs are critical to development for several reasons. Their
leaders are often volunteers, and they come to their projects
with great enthusiasm and energy. They have a vision of a better
world and the commitment to see that vision take hold. And they
give voice to the aspirations of people left out of the modern
economy and whose influence over government is small or
Such organizations have always been a vital foundation of
American democracy, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed more than a
century ago. They also have been vital to the creation and
survival of democracy and open markets in many regions of the
So we must recognize that to meet the human needs of
nations, we should build strong partnerships between governments,
businesses, and NGOs.
As an American, I was pleased to learn that many of the most
successful programs I visited in South Asia had received
assistance from this country. I saw how small American
investments were paying off in the form of lower birth rates,
safer medical care for pregnant women, better treatment of fatal
diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, protection for abused
women and girls, and more opportunities for schooling.
In Copenhagen, I was privileged to announce a new 10-year,
$100 million dollar USAID Girls and Women's Education Initiative
that will begin with an initial grant to India and be followed
with grants to other countries.
These investments not only benefit the countries and the
NGOs receiving the aid, but also the United States as well
because they offer support to people and governments who are
working tirelessly, and often at great price, to uphold the
underpinnings of democracy and market economies.
Finally, let me say that investing in human potential --
particularly in women and girls -- also means paying more
attention to the importance of family. Families usually
determine how daughters are treated. Deeply rooted attitudes
about the value of girls are hard to change, but we must try.
Try to persuade mother and father to invest the love, attention,
and resources in their children, particularly their girls,
starting with education and health care. The success of that
persuasion will rest on a new vision of a world in which the
distinctions between men and women are not viewed as reasons to
demean each other, but as complementary parts of a greater whole.
In this new world, both boys and girls are loved and cared
for, first by the family they are born into -- by parents who
want them and invest in them; then by their extended family; then
by the families they create as adults and by the children they,
in turn, invest with love; and finally by societies that value
every child as a gift to be nurtured and savored.
And of course, women must also be responsible for their own
lives and their own futures. Women must find their own voices
and become participants and decision-makers in the home, work
place, community and nation. We must develop a new vocabulary, a
new language, to replace the terrible silence that sounds too
often when women's concerns are raised.
So let us not leave it simply to government, or simply to
individuals, to solve the problems we all confront. We know that
we need to work together, in partnership, men and women, if we
expect to achieve change that will benefit all of us. Simply
put, no government, no business, no community, no individual can
remain idle, given the magnitude of the challenges we face and
the uncertainties of the world we live in, and the opportunities
we all have.
I hope all of us will give voice to the political and
economic aspirations now being sought and expressed by women
around the world so that we can create a more peaceful and more
prosperous society for us all.
Thank you very much.