THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
Immediate Release November 6, 2000
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON FUNDING FOR DEBT RELIEF
The East Room
12:00 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. I'd like to welcome you all here
to the White House, especially the distinguished members of the Diplomatic
Corps who are here, and four of the members of the United States Congress,
who helped to make this possible: Representative Spencer Bachus,
Representative John Kasich, Representative John LaFalce, and Senator Paul
Sarbanes. I thank you all for being here. (Applause.)
You know, in Washington, D.C., if you get a group this diverse in the
same room, you're normally there for a roast. (Laughter.) Today, happily,
it's a celebration.
Just a few moments ago, with the members of the administration who are
here, I signed into law a bill to provide funding for the entire $435
million needed for the United States to do its share in debt relief this
year for the world's poorest countries. It also gives the International
Monetary Fund the authority it needs to do its share, as well.
I am so grateful for everyone here who made it possible, including
Secretary Summers and Albright, Gene Sperling, Sandy Berger and the other
members of the administration, representatives of the religious
organizations, the NGOs, the business community, members of the Diplomatic
Corps, and especially the members of Congress who had the most astonishing
bipartisan coalition for this endeavor.
I would like to thank one member who is not here, Nancy Pelosi, for
all the work she did on this as well. And I am sorry that Bobby Shriver,
who also played a key role in this effort, could not be with us today
because of his mother's illness, and I ask for your prayers for him and his
family, and especially for his remarkable mother, Eunice, who has fought
for so many good humanitarian causes in her long and rich life.
Our nation is taking this important step today because we understand
that making the global economy work for everyone is not a political nicety,
but an economic, strategic and moral necessity. Open markets and open
trade are critically important to lifting living standards and building
shared prosperity. But they alone cannot carry the burden of lifting the
poorest nations out of poverty. While the forces of globalization may be
inexorable, its benefits are not. Especially for countries that lack the
most important building blocks of progress -- a healthy population with
Here in our nation this will be remembered as a time of great plenty,
but we cannot forget that for too many of the world -- too many in the
world, it is still a time of astonishing poverty. Nearly half the human
race, 2.8 billion people, lives on less than $2 a day. In many countries,
a child is three times more likely to die before the age of five than to go
to secondary school. One in 10 children dies before his or her first
birthday. One in three is malnourished. The average adult has only three
years of schooling. This is not right, not necessary, and no longer
I have committed our nation during my service as President to wage an
intensified battle against global poverty. I never accepted the idea that
millions have to be left behind while the rest of us move ahead. The
health of nations is not a zero sum game. By lifting the weakest, poorest
among us, we lift all the rest of us, as well.
I hope that this idea will be a priority in our foreign policy for a
long time to come, no less important than promoting trade, investment and
financial stability. It will be good for our economy, because it
represents an investment in future markets, good for our security because
in the long run it is dangerously destabilizing to have half the world on
the cutting edge of technology while the other half struggles on the bare
edge of survival.
But most of all, as the religious leaders around the world have told
us, and as those here will make clear again, it will be good for our souls,
because global poverty is a moral affront and confronting the challenge is
simply the right thing to do.
The United States has greatly increased funding to combat diseases
like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries, which
combine to claim one in four of the lives lost on the planet every year.
With the bill I just signed, we will have more than doubled our support for
HIV/AIDS prevention treatment and care in just two years. And again, this
is a great tribute to the bipartisan agreement achieved in Congress.
I hope soon Congress will put even more resources behind the World
Bank's AIDS trust fund, a bipartisan initiative that I think deserves every
American's support, and pass a vaccine tax credit to increase immunization
in the world's poorest countries.
We have also launched a $300 million pilot initiative to provide free
meals, to encourage the parents of 9 million boys and girls in poor
countries to send them to school. We are working to dramatically expand
support for nations committed to expanding basic literacy and reducing
abusive child labor. We have initiated the digital opportunity task force.
And we're working to help 20 African countries now connect to the
Internet, training 1,500 government and civic institutions to do it.
But none of these efforts is more important than relieving the world's
poorest nations from the crippling burden of massive debt. Debt that was
often piled up by dictators who have now fled the scene. Debt so crushing
that in some instances, the annual interest payments on it exceeds the
national budgets for health and education. Debt that is a drag on growth
and a drain on resources that could be used to help meet the most basic
human needs: clean water, schools, medicine, food.
More than a year ago, His Holiness the Pope called for debt
forgiveness in this, the jubilee year. With the help of countless others,
this grass-roots effort grew into Jubilee 2000. The United States made
this issue a centerpiece of the G-7 summit in Cologne last year. We
crafted a plan for creditor nations to triple the debt relief available to
the world's poorest nations, provided -- and this is an important
"provided" -- that they committed themselves to economic reform, that they
channel the savings into health and education, and that they resolve to
have peaceful relations with their neighbors.
Today, the United States follows through on our part of that
international commitment. Already, debt relief is making a difference
around the world. Mozambique, for example, is buying much-needed medicines
for government clinics. Uganda used its savings to double its primary
Now, with the United States' contribution, Bolivia will save $77
million and will start using it on health and education. Honduras will
begin to offer every child nine years of schooling, instead of six. I
believe everyone here is clear about why we have had the success so far.
We have worked together across lines that too often divide -- lines of
party, religion, geography -- to accomplish a common aid.
In this group, we have evangelists and economists, Democrats and
Republicans, nongovernmental organizations, labor unions, the business
community, advocates for Africa. When you get this many people from this
many different backgrounds pointing in the same direction, you can be
pretty sure it's the right direction.
I thank all of you again for your inspired work. I also want to thank
one more person who couldn't be here today, Bono. (Laughter and applause.)
Bono has done -- I can't help noting, there have been a lot of ancillary
benefits to Bono's passionate devotion to this. (Laughter.) I'll never
forget one day Secretary Summers coming in to me saying, you know, some guy
just came in to see me in jeans and a tee-shirt and he just had one name,
but he sure was smart. Do you know anything about him? (Laughter.)
So Bono has advanced the cultural awareness -- (laughter) -- of the
American political establishment, embracing everyone from Larry Summers to
Jesse Helms. It's been a great gift to America's appreciation of modern
One of U2's biggest hits is, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking
For." Well, with this bill and these funds and this diverse coalition,
Bono and the rest of us, we've found what we're looking for, and we need to
build on it. And let's give Bono a big hand today. He'll be watching, I'm
sure. (Applause.) Thank you.
The song goes on to say that, we have found the spirit to climb the
highest mountains, to break the bonds and loose the chains. It shows that
when we get the Pope and the pop stars all singing on the same sheet of
music, our voices do carry to the heavens. The question now for us is,
where do we go from here? We have to implement this program well; and if
we do implement it well and it works, then there will be broad support
around the world to extend it to other nations.
We need to find the same energy to develop a real, comprehensive and
adequate consensus on helping nations to turn around the AIDS struggle. We
need to direct this energy toward making sure that every child, even in the
poorest countries, gets the chance to develop his or her full potential in
a decent school. We need to develop the capacity to help struggling
countries that have totally inadequate public health systems and inadequate
clean water systems, the basics of a decent life, develop those systems.
In short, we need to redirect this energy toward a worldwide consensus
on the importance of building a global economy with a human face that
leaves no one behind. Based on what I have seen in these last several
months, I think we can do that, if we bring the same dedication, the same
commitment, the same energy that have brought about this celebration today.
Let me say, for me, this last year and a half or so has been an
incredible experience, thanks to so many of you. I thank particularly the
members of Congress. I embarrassed, I think, Spencer Bachus -- I was
afraid it would generate a write-in campaign to beat him in his heavily
Republican district because I said that he had absolutely nothing to gain
by doing this. He just did it because he thought it was the right thing to
do. And that's true of so many of you.
So I just want to say that I believe this is one of the most important
moments of the last eight years for the United States of America. I
believe that this will put our country squarely on the side of humanity for
a very, very long time to come. And I am profoundly grateful to all of
And now I would like to ask the President of Bread for the World, the
Reverend David Beckman to come to the podium.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
* * * * *
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. This is the conclusion of our
program. I would like to say that I am personally grateful to a lot of
people who didn't get to speak today, but who worked like crazy on this --
Gene Sperling, who found an excuse to sleep even less at night until this
passed -- (laughter); and John Podesta; Steve Ricchetti; Chuck Brain, who
lobbied this for us so heavily in the Congress. And I thank Sylvia Mathews
and Jack Lew at OMB, and all the others who worked on this. And, Secretary
Albright, I thank you.
One of the things that we do with our AID program to try to alleviate
poverty is we make 2 million microenterprise loans a year to poor people
trying to develop functional economic enterprises in poor countries. It is
absolutely impossible if they're being weighed down. I completely agree
with the conclusion of Secretary Summers' talk. But the instruments for
creating opportunity that the United States has now are far more likely to
succeed in those states where the debt has been relieved.
What a happy day. Let's remember the admonition of all the speakers
and keep on working at it. And next year when I'm just Joe Citizen, I'll
do my part, too. Let's keep going.
Thank you very much. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 12:32 P.M. EST