Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto

Ambassador Hamamoto Remarks to Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce: Why Multilateralism Matters

Remarks by Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto
Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce – American International Club

Hotel Mandarin Oriental, Geneva, Switzerland

June 2, 2022

As Prepared for Delivery

 Good afternoon everyone.  I am delighted to be here today.  I’d like to thank Martin Naville for inviting me and for giving me the opportunity to discuss my work with the United Nations here in Geneva, why multilateralism matters to the United States and why it should matter to you.

As Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, I lead the U.S. Mission in our multilateral engagement to advance U.S. foreign policy interests – which sounds pretty “wonky” – but what it really means is that I head up our efforts to improve the lives of men, women and children all over the world by working with the UN system and the myriad of International Organizations in Geneva.

Since I arrived in Geneva almost a year ago, there have been quite a number of high profile issues that have kept us busy, including working with the World Health Organization on the response to the Ebola crisis and repeated visits by Secretary Kerry – including this past weekend – as part of the negotiations with Iran.

Before I proceed further with my remarks, I would like to show you a brief video that I think will give you a glimpse of the depth, breadth and pace of the work we do here in international Geneva.

As you can see, it has been an exciting year, to say the least!  In some ways it feels like I just got here, but you know the saying: “time flies when you’re having fun!”

During my remarks today, I will focus on U.S. government engagement with international organizations, describe the multi-stakeholder approach to multilateral diplomacy, and discuss how the public and private sectors can work together – and why they should work together to drive better results.

Looking Back

I’d like to first take a quick look back. Fifteen years ago, heads of state gathered  at the Millennium Summit at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to discuss how the UN and its member states could work together to confront the challenges of the next millennium and improve the lives of people in developing countries.  At that time, world leaders committed to eight objectives – concrete targets called the Millennium Development Goals or MDGs:  the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; universal primary education; gender equality and the empowerment of women; the reduction of child mortality; an improvement in maternal health; defeating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and the creation of a global partnership for development.

The Summit cited freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility as six values fundamental to international relations for the 21st century.  It also recognized the need to “give greater opportunities to the private sector, non-governmental organizations, and civil society…to contribute to the realization of the organization’s goals and programs.”

Over the past 15 years, the MDGs have succeeded in bringing together governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector to achieve concrete results for development and poverty eradication.  Much has been accomplished – saving and improving the lives of many people.  For example, malaria vaccines for women and children in countries ranging from Nigeria to Guatemala were provided through partnerships with organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund .  The U.S. government, in collaboration with the government of Haiti, the Inter-American Development Bank and a Korean garment manufacturer, funded an industrial park with the capacity to support 60,000 jobs and decentralize the Haitian economy.And Coca-Cola’s 5by20 initiativecontinues to bring women into their global value chain with the aim of empowering 5 million women entrepreneurs by 2020.

Overall, we reduced extreme poverty by half.  We improved access to clean and safe drinking water for the world’s poor, the political participation of women has continued to increase, 90% of children in developing regions now have access to primary education, and disparities between boys and girls enrollment have narrowed.

More Work Remains

But, the work remains unfinished.  One in four children is still undernourished and child mortality is still distressingly high.  Women continue to face significant economic, political, and legal hurdles that their male counterparts do not.  Only one least developed country is actually on track to meet all 8 of the Millennium Development Goals (Laos).  Natural disasters related to climate change seem to be increasing, and environmental sustainability may be out of reach unless the international community can truly come together this year.  Not just around the world, but even in the United States we see the consequences of this unfinished business in the economic, social, and development challenges that we continue to face today.

The migration crises we are addressing today illustrate the complexity of the issues we are facing as a global community.  From the unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America, to the Rohingya stranded in the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, to those seeking to enter Europe by both land and by sea from Africa and the Middle East, these crises are truly a global phenomenon.  Men, women, and children are fleeing war, economic insecurity, famine, state-sponsored aggression and more.  Furthermore, these persons are often subject to cruelty, abuse, and mistreatment at the hands of human traffickers.  The result is that today we are confronted with the highest number of forcibly-displaced persons since World War II.

 2022 is Critical

Like me, you may feel at times that the challenges of the 21st century are overwhelming.  And it’s true, that the burden on all of us is indeed heavy.  But in reality, I’m excited to have arrived in Geneva when I did.  Because 2022 provides a unique opportunity for the global community – the public and private sectors – to work together to tackle the problems in front of us – to get it right – and I am excited to be here at this point in time to help champion collaborative and innovative solutions.  I hope historians will say that this was the beginning of a turning point when the international community came together and acted.

And we have many opportunities to do so.  This September, the UN will convene in New York to adopt the Post-2022 agenda, which will likely cover a wide range of issues such as building resilient communities, improving infrastructure, eradicating poverty everywhere, and promoting trade.  The goals will integrate key sustainability priorities, including climate change, and will target areas such as agriculture, renewable energy, and healthy oceans.  They will ensure that transformative issues such as gender equality, governance, and inclusive growth are captured. And the goals will reflect a new “global partnership” that will mobilize the actions of both the public and private sectors.

We will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, and in November and December, governments will meet in Paris to negotiate a new international agreement on climate change, and in Nairobi at the WTO Ministerial to continue efforts to advance global tradeAdditionally, global consultations are underway for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, which will take place next year.  And these are just a few examples.  The coming months will be very busy indeed, and provide many important opportunities for us to engage multilaterally.

 Multi-stakeholder Approach Key

The complexity of the challenges facing us is too great for governments alone to overcome.  Now, more than ever, the private sector has a central role to play in creating practical and sustainable solutions to global problems.

This is exactly why the United States continues to press for a multi-stakeholder approach in multilateral arenas – the involvement of all relevant stakeholders from government, the private sector, civil society, and academia.  We recognize that open collaboration with business and civil society is necessary to better reflect and respond to the globalized, interconnected, and highly complex world of today.

For instance, nowhere are the benefits of the multi-stakeholder approach more apparent than in the area of international communication and information technology.  As we transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, we continue to work towards a more people-centered information society. Of course, stakeholders, public and private, are critical to making this happen.

IT institutions, which include UN agencies, are increasingly incorporating the expertise and participation of the private sector, and in turn, technology is being used to more effectively address a wide range of economic, social, and development issues.  The result has been an increase in innovation and a transformative effect for human empowerment and development, with mobile phone technology epitomizing the possibilities – as well as the results – of what can happen when we integrate technology and development priorities.

Today, 94% of rural populations are covered by mobile networks – a game changer for those residing in developing countries.  People around the world now have greater access to valuable information, and in Africa, 64 million people are now linked to the formal banking sector through mobile accounts, many of whom had no previous banking relationship.

Beyond access to banking, mobile networks are having a transformative impact in other important fields, such as education and global health.

And speaking of global health – another great example of the benefits of multi-stakeholder engagement?  The international response to the recent Ebola outbreak.  We could not have made the progress that has been made without the coordinated efforts of the World Health Organization, along with governments, health care professionals, scientists, pharmaceutical companies, NGOs, and foundations – all working together toward the common goal of stopping the spread of Ebola and saving lives.

The reality is – the countless benefits that public-private collaboration has produced over the last fifteen years are proof positive that the multi-stakeholder model should not only continue, but deserves praise and recognition, reaffirmation, and reinvestment.

 Personal Background

 So why is public-private collaboration so important to me?  As many of you know, I come from the private sector.  I started my career in engineering, working to maximize energy production at hydroelectric power plants.  I worked in telecommunications when the industry was undergoing rapid deregulation leading to new products and new market opportunities.  And I worked as an investment banker with companies from many sectors, including health care, consumer products, energy, telecommunications, real estate and finance.

My experience in engineering, computer programming, energy, telecommunications and investment banking – are all fields that at their core seek and value constant innovation, improvement, and collaboration – an approach it is clear we need when it comes to solving global problems, and an approach that I am committed to following.

I recognize that businesses, like those of many of you in the room today, provide the “reality check” that at times our governments need.  We live in a world where statistics and indicators from companies such as Western Union, about the volume and impact of remittances to developing countries, are just as valid as data coming from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.  Where the price of a Big Mac can predict an economic bubble or where Google search cluster data can predict a flu outbreak.

And it is increasingly from business that the tangible solutions necessary to address complex issues are being provided – whether it is through the provision of capital, technology, equipment, or training.

Official development assistance, which is assistance directly from governments, is no longer the main source of aid.  Thirty years ago, 70% of resource flows from the U.S. to the developing world came in the form of Official Development Assistance, or ODA. Today, 80% of those resource flows come from foreign direct investment, private donations, remittances, and other non-governmental sources.  ODA accounts for only 14% of these resource flows today, underscoring the increasing importance of the private sector in the development process.

Now that doesn’t mean that ODA doesn’t matter.  It remains critically important.  Last month the Organization for Economic Development (OECD) released its preliminary 2014 net Official Development Assistance estimates.  The data shows that once again the United States led all other donors, providing $32.73 billion in net assistance, an increase of $1.23 billion over the prior year.

This consisted of $27 billion in bilateral aid and 5 ½ billion dollars in core contributions to multilateral organizations supporting development, both record amounts.

So, yes, more than $32 billion in annual ODA is definitely significant.  However, it must be understood in the broader context, because today, 53 of the 100 largest economies in the world are companies, and one company alone (Proctor & Gamble) is capable of reaching 4 billion customers – nearly 60% of the world’s population.  And we all know that businesses today are capable of having an impact that can at times be more immediate and more responsive than government.

Now couple these statistics with the estimate that developing countries face a $2.5 trillion annual investment gap in key sustainable development sectors that include basic infrastructure, food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation, health and education. I believe public-private partnerships will play an increasing role in filling this gap going forward.

But our commitment to multi-stakeholder engagement is not just about closing the financing gap.  Foreign Direct Investment in developing countries can create jobs, develop technology and new production capacity, and help local businesses access new markets.  We need to harness the positive aspects and inherent dynamism of these investments to make them force multipliers.

Returning to the example of international migration, the private sector can play a significant positive, multi-faceted role – as a service provider for migrants and displaced persons, as an employer of migrants, in developing innovative approaches to humanitarian response and providing critical assistance in rescue at sea.


In order to address these humanitarian issues, as well as unemployment, global security, human rights abuses, deplorable working conditions and other development challenges, we must go beyond surface-level interventions.  We must break down silos.  We must innovate.  We must focus on sustainability.  We must consider climate change.  And we must do it together.

It makes no sense to discuss workers’ rights at the International Labor Organization without factory and other business owners at the table, which is why the ILO is unique in its tripartite structure that brings together representatives of governments, employees, and the private sector.

It makes no sense to discuss best practices for promoting investment in developing countries at the UN Conference for Trade and Development without the input of actual investors – which is why the World Investment Forum brings together thousands of stakeholders, including the private sector, to discuss sustainable development investments.

We shouldn’t discuss access to medication in the World Health Organization and World Intellectual Property Organization without pharmaceutical manufacturers and researchers.

Similarly, we shouldn’t discuss Internet policy at the International Telecommunications Union without service providers or Silicon Valley executives, and we must include the perspective of international businesses when discussing trade facilitation at the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

We work hard at the U.S. Mission to promote and defend U.S. economic, social, and environmental interests in every one of the UN and other international organizations that we cover.  But it makes no sense to do this without regularly engaging and consulting with stakeholders like you.

I’m here to ask you to get involved.  Attend meetings at the UN, participate in workshops for developing countries, and reach out directly to us at the U.S. Mission.  We value your input.

Future She Deserves

And I happen to have a great opportunity for you!  As some of you may already know, we recently launched an initiative called The Future She Deserves – with the goal of leveraging Geneva-based institutions to protect and empower women and girls.  The initiative is focused on four key areas: preventing and responding to gender-based violence, ensuring adolescent girls have access to the full range of appropriate health services; promoting leadership opportunities; and empowering women and girls economically.  You may ask – why the focus on women and girls?

Here’s why.  Because women own only 1% of the world’s wealth and account for 70% of the world’s poor.  Because if women had equal access to land, new technologies and capital, the number of hungry people in the world would be cut by 12 to 17%.  Because in 2013, 80% of new HIV infections in the hardest hit countries were adolescent girls. Because 1 in 3 women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence in her lifetime.  Because worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children.  And because every year, 60 million girls are assaulted at or on their way to school.

By focusing our efforts on women and girls, we will reduce gender based violence, improve their access to health services, educate and empower them so that they can reach their full potential, support their families and communities, make their voices heard and fulfill their dreams.

Over the past few months since the launch, we have been bringing this unique multilateral community together in new ways to find innovative solutions through collaboration and renewed commitment.  We are partnering with UNOG Director General Michael Møller, the head of the UN in Geneva, to launch a Geneva Gender Champions Initiative, we are exploring ways to use the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders to broaden our reach to communities around the world, we have brought together key diplomats, agency heads, industry experts and community leaders around the same table to discuss cross-cutting gender issues, urging them to think “outside the box.”  We have actively supported programs and initiatives that align with our four key pillars. And this is just the beginning.

You can learn more about this initiative on our website: FutureSheDeserves.Net.  I also brought some bookmarks with me today to help you remember where to look for more information.

So now I ask you, what is it that you can do to help?  Can your industry or your business have its own Gender Champions Initiative?  Can you help us mobilize resources in creative ways to better protect the most vulnerable?  Can your industry partner with international organizations to empower women and girls through education, mentoring, job opportunities or better access to resources?  I have no doubt that if we held a brainstorming session in this room for the next couple of hours it would result in several promising ideas worth pursuing that could transform a young girls life.

Though the needs are great, I believe the resources we have at our disposal – as governments, civil society, and the public and private sectors working together – are sufficient to take important steps toward creating a more prosperous and peaceful world.  I challenge you and your colleagues to get involved, because by working together we really can make a difference.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your question