I would like to make three points as a backdrop for our discussion today about the role of science and technology in promoting sustainable development, and particularly as it relates to advancing United States foreign policy objectives.
As we all know, science and technology represent an extraordinary comparative advantage for the United States, and we should be seeking every means we can to employ that advantage to meet our national and international interests. Our accomplishments and the contributions they have made to economic and social development both here and abroad are well known, but I would note that they have been encouraged and facilitated by a valuable relationship between the Federal Government and the private sector, particularly our universities and our land-grant colleges and, more recently, business, a relationship that is in some cases faring quite badly right now.
We all know that knowledge is the key commodity for human and economic development, and it is the key factor in better intelligence and understanding of global threats and sharpening the possibilities for preventative action. Today's session begins to explore how science and technology can contribute much more successfully to early interventions, from disease control to crop production.
Second, sustainable development is a global goal that is in our national interest. It is not just an assistance program. Earlier this month the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations issued the results of an opinion survey, the first in the post-Cold War period, about United States attitudes toward foreign affairs. It will not surprise you that the list of public priorities did not include many major foreign policy problems.
To the extent that there was interest, it was about stopping the flow of illegal drugs into the country, protecting American jobs, preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, and controlling illegal immigration. There was far less interest in the past broad goals, such as promoting democracy and human rights, or raising living standards around the world. It may not be old-fashioned isolationism that we are dealing with, but rather a confusion about what to do now, and also a sense of insecurity about one's own future within this country.
Third, beyond articulating our goals and objectives, we need to think strategically about how to accomplish them. There is an incredible complexity of issues, players, and levels of decision making that we need to think through to reach meaningful action. We have not spent enough time plotting our strategies and addressing barriers to action. We have to prioritize and explain why certain things should be done today and others can be done later. We have to think through (as Tim said) much more carefully than we have now, how to design better public and private partnerships and how to inform the American public about the importance of these issues.
Our panelists today need little introduction. Our first speaker will be Brian Atwood, who is the Administrator of USAID. Before joining the Clinton Administration, Brian served as the President of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, which promoted democracy in transitional societies around the world and achieved a number of notable successes, including Chile, Nicaragua, Namibia, Panama, and the Philippines; and we are seeing much success in the nations of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. At least he took on the challenge.
Brian Atwood joined the Foreign Service in 1966. He went on to work on Capitol Hill, and then went to the State Department in the Carter Administration, where he served as Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations. It is a pleasure to welcome Brian Atwood here today.
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