Remarks By Vice President Al Gore
Summit of the Americas on Sustainable Development

Vice President Gore delivers his address at the Summit of Americas

Santa Cruz, Bolivia
December 7, 1996

Thank you very much. President Sanchez de Lozada, Presidents, leaders of delegations, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. It is a high honor to be here this morning. It also is a pleasure to return to Bolivia, and to Santa Cruz, which I had the good fortune to visit two years ago.

Let me begin by congratulating the President and peoples of Bolivia, who together have done such a magnificent job as our hosts.

You honor me by giving me the first opportunity to speak as the representative of the host of the 1994 Miami Summit. It is fitting that our ceremonies will close today with remarks from President Frei for Chile, the next host of the Summit of the Americas in March of 1998. We all look forward with great anticipation to gather once again as friends and partners in Santiago.

But it is a special privilege to be here today at the realization of a vision that was shared with me at the outset of President Sanchez de Lozada's term in August. On his first visit to Washington, President Sanchez de Lozada spoke about how he wanted his country to play a leadership role in the entire western hemisphere by advancing the cause of sustainable development. And he has done so with tenacity and foresight, creating the region's first Ministry for Sustainable Development. We salute you, Mr. President, and we thank you and your wife Ximena for your gracious hospitality today. I know that our First Lady from the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton, greatly appreciated the kind welcome you extended to her and our hemisphere's other First Ladies in La Paz. It was a magnificent gathering, and we have all heard wonderful things about it.

As the Vice President, I wish to also thank Vice President Cardenas. We have worked very hard together on behalf of our presidents to promote sustainable development, and I remember fondly the opportunity we had two years ago to sign an historic joint agreement between our nations to promote the responsible stewardship of parks.

I would also like to thank Secretary General Cesar Gaviria for the crucial leadership role the OAS played in preparation for the Summit -- especially the historic engagement of civil society in Summit preparations.

Under the Secretary General, the OAS has undertaken a program of reform and modernization which has enabled it to take on important new hemispheric assignments.

Also here today is Enrique Iglesias of the Inter-American Development Bank, and I think all of us join in appreciation for all the good work he and his colleagues are doing to improve the lives of our citizens. Allow me also to acknowledge my friend and countryman and colleague Mack McLarty, who traveled with me to Bolivia today, as he has been with all of us every step of the way as we have built our hemispheric partnership into something grand and historic. I wish to thank Mack McLarty for his leadership in my country.

It is hard to believe that it was only two short years ago -- almost to the day -- that the thirty-four democratically-elected heads of state of our region met in Miami and began our journey towards a future built on free trade, strong democratic institutions, poverty eradication and growth that enhances the lives of our people while protecting our environment.

For the United States, the Bolivia Summit on Sustainable Development is among the most promising fruits of Miami. We view this conference and its substantive agenda as core elements of the Hemispheric partnership we seek to build for the 21st century.

Though we come to this meeting from different nations and different backgrounds, we are united in the fundamental understanding that we cannot be responsible stewards of our freedom if we are not also responsible stewards of our hemisphere's land and air and water. To sustain the development of democracy requires the sustainable development of the resources that nourish our freedom.

In many ways, the Hemispheric Summit on Sustainable Development is a bridge built on the intellectual foundation of Rio and the Hemispheric partnership begun in Miami. In the past two years, we have begun to work towards a higher synthesis between economic development, social equity, and environmental protection. And we are learning that each of these processes can not proceed without the others.

Working together, we have come to understand that we can not fight poverty without addressing environmental degradation. And we have come to understand that we cannot protect the environment without effectively combating poverty.

On the way to Santa Cruz this morning, the storm diverted us to Cochabamba. When the skies cleared, our flight from Santa Cruz to Cochabamba gave me an opportunity to see from the air even more of this beautiful country. On the right side of my plane, through a break in the clouds, I looked far in the distance almost to the lands of the fabled Cerro Rico. It stands as perhaps our hemisphere's most powerful symbol of the linkage between the way we take and use what the earth gives us, and the poverty or wealth which can result from our stewardship of nature's resources.

The Cerro Rico was once rich with precious silver. It sustained what was for a long time our hemisphere's largest city -- and supported what was then the world's most powerful empire, thousands of miles away. But this bounty was exploited quickly and cruelly, and the wealth was short-lived. When the riches were completely exploited, the mountains were left denuded. And the people of this beautiful land suffered along with the earth. Both were impoverished.

Today, centuries later, a new understanding is emerging in our hemisphere of the fragility and the true value of the earth's gifts. In the United States, and in all other countries of our hemisphere, we are learning from our mistakes. We are reclaiming our clean water and air and land. We are protecting endangered species. In my country, at long last, we can once again look up into the mountains and see condors soaring in skies once bare.

Here, in these southern skies, pierced by the Cerro Rico, we see a new awareness taking flight, soaring above this place where we have been put by God: This place which is our Tierra Rica.

We gather as brothers and sisters in a new hemisphere; and this is our most solemn pledge: human dignity, the war against poverty, and the future of our planet requires that this Tierra Rica does not become a Cerro Rico. These rich lands will not pass.

This is the course we charted together in Rio, and in Miami, and now here in Santa Cruz, and soon in Santiago.

Working together, we have come to recognize that governments alone can not provide all the solutions to the challenges we face, and the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and international financial institutions have increasingly important roles to play.

Working together, we are scaling the wall of suspicion that surrounds the debate about trade and the environment. We are recognizing that sensible trade policies, such as those created by NAFTA and MERCOSUR can be compatible with environmental protection, economic cooperation, and social development.

And, working together, we have come to recognize that social progress through a commitment to democratic governance and rule of law is the key common objective that link our economic and environmental aims.

In this sense, our work here today is part of a larger global effort to promote sustainable development, democracy, and prosperity.

--In Manila, Heads of State of the Asia Pacific Economic Community just convened, and in addition to their discussions on trade and integration, they also examined ways to clean the Pacific Ocean, and to develop an agenda for sustainable cities and industries.

--In Istanbul, Rome, Beijing, Cairo and Copenhagen we gathered under the auspices of the United Nations to chart new courses on issues central to the future of our planet, including urbanization, hunger, the role of women, population, and other critically important social questions.

--In Managua, I had the opportunity to attend an important meeting in which many of our nations subscribed to the objectives of CONCAUSA -- the Central American Alliance for Sustainable Development.

--Next week, in Geneva, more than one hundred nations will meet to discuss next steps in addressing the extremely important global challenge of climate change.

We now know that we ignore this peril only at profound risk to ourselves and future generations, and I am pleased and encouraged by our efforts here and around the world to combat this looming threat.

Each of these are key components of an emerging global consciousness about our planet. Never before have our nations locked arms to focus so intently on our common challenges. And never before have we so clearly recognized the need for principled action.

Here in Santa Cruz, our work today will propel us forward to new challenges and new issues, and help guide our discussions and our work in the future. Each of these are key components of an emerging global consciousness about the future of our planet. Never before have our nations locked arms to focus so intently on our common challenges. And never before have we so clearly recognized the need for principled action.

The special challenge we face here today and in the months ahead is to do more than embrace ideas; we must implement them. We must do more than enshrine our ideas on paper; we must put them to work on the ground, in behalf of our people. We must move beyond ambitious words and good intentions to concrete results that make a real difference in the lives of real people.

Let us not forget: we are here today for one reason -- and one reason alone: to do all we humanly can to improve the well-being of our children and grandchildren. To ensure that they live in a world at peace; a world with fresh air and clean water; a world in which the promise of prosperity will be more than a dream, but their birthright.

There is no better place to begin that than with this Summit's Action Plan. It is an ambitious document, one that builds on the foundations laid in Rio, Miami and elsewhere. And this document advances the cause of sustainable development by actually refining many of the commitments we made in Rio, instead of trying to break new ground.

After working with the Rio process for several years, we and most of the international community have realized that focusing on a few key issues at a time is the most effective way of advancing the environmental agenda.

I would like to highlight two areas of our Action Plan that hold particular promise for improving people's lives.

First, the initiatives to improve water quality. Clean water is a basic necessity. No person in this hemisphere should be condemned to drink unclean water. Yet far too many do so every day. Many in the United States were shocked several years ago when hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens became sick due to problems with the municipal water supply in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Today we agree the countries of the hemisphere must take a series of innovative and specific steps to improve water quality throughout our hemisphere.

Through our Action Plan, we will broaden our efforts to prevent not just biological contaminants, but also contamination from chemical and heavy metals. And we will do more to promote innovative financing mechanisms to provide revenues for watershed protections efforts.

Second, the Action Plan offers great promise in bringing the benefits of electricity to all our citizens. Electricity lights homes and schools, refrigerates medicines and fuels enterprises. Yet today, more than a third of our citizens lack access to this basic technology. All our citizens must have access to this most elemental of services, and have the right to fully participate and contribute to the sustainable economic growth of our hemisphere.

I am pleased to note that recent advances make renewable energy technologies particularly attractive for providing electricity to rural areas. And I have no doubt that these technologies will become even more attractive -- and cost-effective -- in years to come. Our hemispheric partnership takes advantage of these and other advances by allowing us to learn from each other for the benefit of all.

These are important steps. But let me repeat: Words alone will not get the job done. What matters now is follow-through. What matters is perseverance. And we cannot persevere unless all parts of civil society are engaged.

Indeed, we now know that in the new hemisphere we are building, neither our citizens nor their leaders can look exclusively to governments for answers. Now and in the future, the private sector is -- and will remain -- the primary engine for sustainable development.

Look at the record. Over the past twenty years, private capital flows to this continent have far surpassed official development assistance as the overwhelming source of financing for the kinds of solutions we seek.

Last year, private capital inflows in the hemisphere increased to over $50 billion. We are replacing trade barriers with trade bridges. In seven years alone, trade within the Western Hemisphere has increased two-fold to over $530 billion. Economic growth in Latin America is projected to be a strong three percent this year.

Again, I would like to particularly commend Bolivia, and others here today, for bringing competition into the provision of energy and other sources. A growing body of experience shows clearly that private businesses are better than government-owned enterprises both for the economy and the environment.

To foster and further these impressive developments, all our nations have a strong responsibility to provide the tools that lead to growing prosperity and sustainability. These policies include sound macroeconomic policies, increasing privatization and capitalizations, appropriate regulatory structures, and well-functioning financial markets.

We also must do all we can to promote our environmental aims by broadening the reach and scope of information technologies throughout our hemisphere. The use of advanced information internets will facilitate the flow of biological, geological, and atmospheric information that is the prerequisite to any sound sustainable development plan. The Inter-American Biodiversity Information Network we seek to establish as part of our Action Plan is a solid proposal and deserves our support.

But the future well-being of the planet demands more than what we do or say here today as government leaders.

Our future depends also upon individual citizens working hard in their local communities. Every day, I find deep inspiration in the courage of so many of our citizens; our children and scientists, our artists and indigenous peoples, our developers and diplomats who, often at great risk to themselves and their families, are working to protect the environment and fight poverty.

We have seen visionary leaders like Edwin Bustillo in the Sierra Madres of Northern Mexico as he worked to preserve hundreds of thousands of acres of his local forests and protect the 2,000 year old Tarahumara communities which live there.

We have seen small business people join with local citizens in Kingston, Jamaica and take the initiative to form an innovative private company to improve the delivery and quality of urban services including water and sanitation.

And we have seen extraordinary citizens like Minny Pohlmann, who is 76 years old, and comes from Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland, lead successful grass-roots efforts to promote the sustainable use of local waterways.

For the last thirty years, Ms. Pohlmann has worked tirelessly with her neighbors and her local government to clean up our historic Potomac River, and her work has made a difference in her community and her nation.

These flashes of imagination are illuminating our path to the future. And they teach us, above all, that the destiny of our hemisphere -- and its sustainable development -- demand that we think creatively. And that we act together, and with determination.

We have learned these past years that we can dare to dream of things that never were. Look at the miracles unfolding around us:

-- Today, South Africa is building its way to a democratic and prosperous future.

-- Freedom is taking root in Haiti.

-- Russia and the United States are building peace, not targeting bombs.

Our aspirations for this hemisphere, too, are more than the stuff of dreams. They can -- and will -- be realized with hard work, steady purpose, and steadfast resolve.

In the ancient Quecha language of his Inca ancestors, the Bolivian poet and scholar Luis Morato-Pena writes "Yu Na" "Listen, my friends!"....

This Earth is no more than borrowed.
Neither yours nor mine,
We flash only as a ray of light
Which flares and disappears.....
All of us, the young and old
of this world , all of us are brothers and sisters.
Let us live as one together,
help and love each other,
as once we pass on, we cannot.

And so, here in Santa Cruz and beyond, let us keep the spirit of Miami ever alight and aloft, like the Condor which passes once again overhead. Let us remember that in these ancient land of the Cerro Rico we now can envision a majestic new Tierra Rica on our horizon; and there we will find lands blessed with unimaginable riches -- of wisdom; of faith; of hope -- lands where nature's bounty is sustained for the prosperity of strong families living in communities lit with the smiles of healthy, well-educated children, smiles that shine brighter than all the silver in the new world or the old. With these riches we shall build a bright and sustainable future of peace, prosperity, and freedom for countless generations to come.

Thank you very much. Muchas Gracias. Obrigado.

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