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Opening Remarks by Secretary Hagel and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel; USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah
April 02, 2014

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: Good morning.

SEC. HAGEL: Welcome. We first want to thank Dr. Sullivan and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for your hosting all of us this morning and today. We are grateful for these accommodations and your efforts and the good work you do for the United States, but also for the world, and I appreciate it very much. My colleagues and counterparts from the 10 ASEAN nations taking some time this morning to come here in particular, and I got a briefing on the capabilities, capacities that you have, and how important that is to interconnect with their responsibilities and their countries.

In a world that knows no boundaries climate and human -- humanitarian assistance, natural disasters, are with us every day, will continue to be, and the more we can understand the science behind those natural disasters, the more we can communicate and coordinate our efforts to help each other I think is the real objective. So thank you again, Dr. Sullivan, and to all the NOAA people who do such good work.

Again, I want to welcome all the ASEAN ministers here and their teams. I know how busy you are, and I know how much of an effort it is to coordinate schedules, and to make those schedules work. It's a privilege to host you here in the United States, and as was noted last night, this state of Hawaii is about as good a place to do that, I think, as we can find, and I want to thank Governor Abercrombie and his team.

And also to our commander of Pacific Fleet, Admiral Locklear, and his team for their support and their coordination and their continued efforts here in this part of the world, and I know how much the United States depends on our Pacific Command, and the good word of the men and women who work so hard on behalf of all of us.

I now want to introduce a friend who I spend a considerable amount of time with in our government, the United States government, on different issues. He has brought an immense amount of energy, and focus and talent to USAID (United States Agency for International Development), and I very much appreciate Dr. Rajiv Shah and his team taking some time to come here to be with us today to talk a little bit about what USAID's role is, what we do, and I saw "we" as part of our government; how we connect with the ASEAN nations, where there are many mutual opportunities to do more, and I Dr. Shah will talk a little bit about that this morning, and I want this to be informal, where everyone can participate, and feel free to participate.

I want to also thank the NGOs and the representatives from the United Nations who have come here to participate as well.

NGOs are a particularly important part of humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, all of our efforts, and if for no other reason than it's just a smart cooperation and blending of our private and public institutions, so that we can maximize our talents, our efforts, our resources, in smart ways, to help all of the people of the world.

So their presence here this morning is important, and I particularly appreciate them making their time available to us and to our United Nations representative. Thank you for you coming.

So with that, let me present to you a very distinguished Midwesterner from Michigan. He had a tough Saturday I know. Those of you who follow NCAA. Both of his teams were eliminated, but nonetheless, they have soared like eagles all year. And this is one of the proud products of the University of Michigan, and I've very proud to call him a colleague and a friend, and so Rajiv, thank you coming. We're grateful to you.

DR. RAJIV SHAH: Thank you.

SEC. HAGEL: Dr. Rajiv Shah.

DR. SHAH: Thank you, Secretary Hagel, and thank you for your generosity in inviting USAID and our many partners from around the world to be part of this important discussion, and for your vision of using this forum to help us build greater cooperation across all of the range of issues that bring us together as a common community. It's an honor to be here.

And yes, I had a very rough weekend there with both of my teams losing, not making it into the Final Four, but we're happy to get close.

I'd like to also recognize Admiral Locklear and Lieutenant General Robling for your partnership in hosting us here today, and Dr. Sullivan.

And for that outstanding presentation and -- that reminds us why we've gathered here.

I'd like to take just a moment to introduce a few of my colleagues that really lead this effort. Al Dwyer is the leader of our principal regional efforts to provide humanitarian support and prepared through the Asia Pacific, and Nancy Lindborg at the table here is our fearless leader of humanitarian efforts and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to the task.

One of things we're particularly excited about is to have some very special leaders from the NGO and United Nations and corporate sectors here, all of whom have come to really help support your efforts, ministers, in carrying out your duties as effectively as possible at time of crises.

Dr. Carolyn Woo from Catholic Relief Services works in 91 counties. Her organizations reaches more than 100 million people and has a lot of capacity to provide with support.

Neal Keny-Guyer is the CEO of Mercy Corps. Neal is a good friend. They work in over 40 countries around the world, and he's been recognized -- as has Mercy Corps -- for its innovations that it brings in the context of response to help save more lives.

Dr. Kyung-wha Kang from the United Nations is the deputy emergency relief coordinator, and in that role, is responsible really for bringing together all of the various partners and supporting your efforts as host governments in carrying our emergency relief effectively.

Paul Muser, vice president of international development and partnerships at Mastercard is a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy, so I'd imagine very excited to be here, and is doing some extraordinarily good work in helping companies like Mastercard bring technology and support to get resources to people when they have nowhere else to turn, and those types of private sector partnerships are transforming our field and we hope to learn more about that today.

And Elizabeth Rasmusson is the assistant executive director of the World Food Program. The World Food Program is really the logistics hub for emergency relief for all of the U.N. agencies and all of its partners like USAID. So we're very glad you're here Elizabeth.

I think we all just noted how important this subject is. We saw it just last week, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, note that at one, two or three degrees Celsius temperature increases we will see a massive wave of erratic weather events wreak havoc on societies all around the world.

What that report also highlighted is that the Asia-Pacific is hit by more than 70 percent of all of these natural disasters, and so you bear a greater brunt of the burden of those consequences.

Natural disasters have cost the world roughly $300 billion and 30,000 lives in the last two years alone. And so this is a unique opportunity for us to learn together how we can be supportive of your efforts as defense ministers often called in when the times are toughest and expected to perform under conditions of little information and extraordinary crisis.

I hope that our discussion covers and achieves sort of three main objectives.

The first is a recognition that we're really all in this together. President Obama, Secretary Hagel have laid out a vision for our common national security that's grounded in shared preparation, and in an ability to tackle global challenges like these types of natural disasters more effectively, and we're fully committed to working with and supporting you in this effort.

Second, we hope that this conversation helps to better introduce a range of partners, including the United Nations, NGOs, and corporations, that can be leveraged and used to help you better achieve your goals during moments of crisis and in training and preparation.

And, third, I hope that we all learn from our military colleagues that how you practice is how you play. And at the end of the day, if we come out of today with some enhanced ambitions to, in an inclusive way, be more effective in our preparations, our drills, our planning exercises, and our relationships, we can help each other on security issues, but we can also help each other prepare for and better respond to the crises that we know are coming.

So I look forward to an informal and effective dialogue. And thank you, Secretary Hagel, for this unique opportunity that we're very excited about.

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