Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama Meets with World Leaders at the U.N. General Assembly — President Obama Speeches with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai & Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

 

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Meets with World Leaders at the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-20-11

President Obama had a full day in New York City visiting the United Nations General Assembly to address a range of issues on the historic progress that has been made over the last year and the opportunities that lie ahead, including human rights abroad and the promotion of democracy.

The President began his day meeting with Transitional National Council (TNC) Chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil at the United Nations North Lawn Building.

UNGA: potus greets Chairman Mustafa Abdel jalil

President Barack Obama greets Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil of the Transitional National Council at the United Nations North Lawn Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton September 20, 2011.

Next the President headed to a meeting to demonstrate support for the new Libya. President Obama explained that Libya, “is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together:”

This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do.

Late morning President Obama met with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to address the tragic loss of former Afghani President and Chairman of Afghan Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabban. Watch the video of the President’s remarks below:

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (33MB) | mp3 (3MB)

After lunch, the President met with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil before holding a meeting with the Open Government Partnership, a global initiative to promote transparency, fight corruption, energize civic engagement and leverage new technologies to strengthen the foundations of freedom.

To close the day at the U.N. General Assembly, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

UNGA: Potus w/ Turkey Prime Minister

President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 20, 2011.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and President Karzai of Afghanistan before Bilateral Meeting

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan
September 20, 2011 6:38 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

12:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome President Karzai and his delegation. We have a lot of important business to do. And I very much appreciate the efforts that he’s been taking in rebuilding Afghanistan and proceeding on the transition path that will ensure that the Afghans are ultimately responsible for their security and their prosperity.

We received some tragic news today that President Rabbani, who had been heading up the reconciliation process, was killed in a suicide attack. He was a man who cared deeply about Afghanistan and had been a valued advisor to President Karzai, and was a enormous contribution to rebuilding the country. So it is a tragic loss. We want to extend our heartfelt condolences to you and to his family, and the people of Afghanistan.

But, Mr. President, I think we both believe that despite this incident, we will not be deterred from creating a path whereby Afghans can live in freedom and safety and security and prosperity, and that it is going to be important to continue the efforts to bring all elements of Afghan society together to end what has been a senseless cycle of violence.

So we very much appreciate your presence here today. I know that you’re going to have to leave after our meeting. But we want to give you an opportunity to speak to the press, as well.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your message of condolence and support to myself and to the Afghan people on the very tragic loss and martyrdom of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chairman of the Afghan Peace Council, the former Afghan President, and Afghan patriot, who, as we see, has sacrificed his life for the sake of Afghanistan and for the peace of our country.

The mission that he had undertaken was vital, Mr. President, for the Afghan people and for the security of our country and for peace in our country. We will miss him very, very much. I don’t think, Mr. President, that we can fill his place easily. He was one of the few people in Afghanistan with the distinction that we cannot easily find in societies. A terrible loss. But as you rightly say, this will not deter us from continuing on the path that we have, and we’ll definitely succeed.

Thank you, Mr. President, for condemning this act of brutality and cowardice against President Rabbani. I will take that message from you to the Afghan people. This is a hard day for us in Afghanistan, but a day of unity and a day of continuity of our efforts.

Thank you.

END
12:10 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey before Bilateral Meeting

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
September 20, 2011 10:51 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

4:46 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Erdogan and his delegation to New York City and to the United States.  Turkey is a NATO ally, a great friend and partner on a whole host of issues.  I want to thank him for all the work that we’ve done together — the cooperation in Afghanistan, the work that we most recently did in trying to provide freedom for Libya, and, in addition, the NATO obligations that both of us carry out together, most recently symbolized by the agreement of Turkey to host a missile defense radar.

Prime Minister Erdogan has shown great leadership on a range of issues and promoting democracy.  And we are very grateful to him for the work that we’ve done together.

I do want to stress my deepest condolences for the loss of life through the explosion that took place in Ankara.  And I understand that the investigation is ongoing, but I think that this reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world, and that Turkey and the United States are going to be strong partners in preventing terrorism.  And we look forward to working with you on these issues.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your service and thank you for your friendship.

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN:  (As translated.)  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I’m very pleased that we have this occasion to meet during this week as we meet here for the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations.

And as you have described the relationship between Turkey and the United States, we have a model partnership.  And this is a process which is ongoing, in which we have taken some very important steps and we will continue to take some important steps.  One of those issues that is very common to both of us is fighting against terrorism, and fighting against terrorism based on a common platform.  We have, unfortunately, lost three citizens today as a result of the blast in Ankara, but in the later hours there was another attack in Siirt, in a city in the eastern part of Turkey, where four young girls were killed as a result of an attack in a car, and these were civilian citizens.  And so these are events which give us great sadness.  And this is an area which we have to work on.

As for whether or not we can completely eradicate terrorism I’m not very optimistic in thinking that perhaps we can completely eradicate it.  But I think that we have a lot of room to work together to make sure that we minimize terrorism to the lowest possible extent.  And to do that we have to keep working together on many areas of this effort — work together in — use technology so that we can continue to take joint steps in trying to fight against terrorism.  And those are some of the issues that we all will talk about.

I have also recently visited Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, and we have also worked together in those countries, and Afghanistan as well, and also in Iraq.  So these are many of the areas where we will continue to talk to each other, so that Turkey and the United States continue with this model partnership to move into a better future.

And let me take this opportunity also to thank you for your hospitality today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q Was there any discussion of the Palestinian —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We’re starting the meeting now.

END
4:54 P.M. EDT

Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama Speech at High-Level Meeting on Libya at the (UN) United Nations General Assembly — “We will Stand with You”

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama and the Open Government Partnership

White House Photo, Pete Souza, 9/20/11

President Obama at the U.N. on Libya: “We will Stand with You”

Source: WH, 9-20-11

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (118MB) | mp3 (12MB)

Today, at the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama addressed a meeting of international partners to show support for the new Libya and plan for a post-Qaddafi future:

The Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation.  After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant.  They are making their voices heard — in new newspapers, and on radio and television, in public squares and on personal blogs.  They’re launching political parties and civil groups to shape their own destiny and secure their universal rights.  And here at the United Nations, the new flag of a free Libya now flies among the community of nations.

Make no mistake — credit for the liberation of Libya belongs to the people of Libya.  It was Libyan men and women — and children — who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who faced down the tanks and endured the snipers’ bullets.  It was Libyan fighters, often outgunned and outnumbered, who fought pitched battles, town-by-town, block-by-block.  It was Libyan activists — in the underground, in chat rooms, in mosques — who kept a revolution alive, even after some of the world had given up hope.

It was Libyan women and girls who hung flags and smuggled weapons to the front.  It was Libyans from countries around the world, including my own, who rushed home to help, even though they, too, risked brutality and death.  It was Libyan blood that was spilled and Libya’s sons and daughters who gave their lives.  And on that August day — after all that sacrifice, after 42 long years — it was Libyans who pushed their dictator from power.

At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one.  I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world.  Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale.  And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save.  But this time was different.  This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act.

During his remarks, the President also spoke directly to the Libyan people:

Your task may be new, the journey ahead may be fraught with difficulty, but everything you need to build your future already beats in the heart of your nation.  It’s the same courage you summoned on that first February day; the same resilience that brought you back out the next day and the next, even as you lost family and friends; and the same unshakeable determination with which you liberated Benghazi, broke the siege of Misurata, and have fought through the coastal plain and the western mountains.

It’s the same unwavering conviction that said, there’s no turning back; our sons and daughters deserve to be free.

In the days after Tripoli fell, people rejoiced in the streets and pondered the role ahead, and one of those Libyans said, “We have this chance now to do something good for our country, a chance we have dreamed of for so long.”  So, to the Libyan people, this is your chance.  And today the world is saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise, as you reach for the freedom, the dignity, and the opportunity that you deserve.

UNGA: POTUS listens in

President Barack Obama listens to remarks during a high level meeting on Libya at the United Nations North Lawn Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama at High-Level Meeting on Libya

United Nations
New York, New York

11:12 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good morning. Mr. Secretary General, on behalf of us all, thank you for convening this meeting to address a task that must be the work of all of us — supporting the people of Libya as they build a future that is free and democratic and prosperous. And I want to thank President Jalil for his remarks and for all that he and Prime Minister Jibril have done to help Libya reach this moment.

To all the heads of state, to all the countries represented here who have done so much over the past several months to ensure this day could come, I want to say thank you, as well.

Today, the Libyan people are writing a new chapter in the life of their nation. After four decades of darkness, they can walk the streets, free from a tyrant. They are making their voices heard — in new newspapers, and on radio and television, in public squares and on personal blogs. They’re launching political parties and civil groups to shape their own destiny and secure their universal rights. And here at the United Nations, the new flag of a free Libya now flies among the community of nations.

Make no mistake — credit for the liberation of Libya belongs to the people of Libya. It was Libyan men and women — and children — who took to the streets in peaceful protest, who faced down the tanks and endured the snipers’ bullets. It was Libyan fighters, often outgunned and outnumbered, who fought pitched battles, town-by-town, block-by-block. It was Libyan activists — in the underground, in chat rooms, in mosques — who kept a revolution alive, even after some of the world had given up hope.

It was Libyan women and girls who hung flags and smuggled weapons to the front. It was Libyans from countries around the world, including my own, who rushed home to help, even though they, too, risked brutality and death. It was Libyan blood that was spilled and Libya’s sons and daughters who gave their lives. And on that August day — after all that sacrifice, after 42 long years — it was Libyans who pushed their dictator from power.

At the same time, Libya is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. I said at the beginning of this process, we cannot and should not intervene every time there is an injustice in the world. Yet it’s also true that there are times where the world could have and should have summoned the will to prevent the killing of innocents on a horrific scale. And we are forever haunted by the atrocities that we did not prevent, and the lives that we did not save. But this time was different. This time, we, through the United Nations, found the courage and the collective will to act.

When the old regime unleashed a campaign of terror, threatening to roll back the democratic tide sweeping the region, we acted as united nations, and we acted swiftly — broadening sanctions, imposing an arms embargo. The United States led the effort to pass a historic resolution at the Security Council authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect the Libyan people. And when the civilians of Benghazi were threatened with a massacre, we exercised that authority. Our international coalition stopped the regime in its tracks, and saved countless lives, and gave the Libyan people the time and the space to prevail.

Important, too, is how this effort succeeded — thanks to the leadership and contributions of many countries. The United States was proud to play a decisive role, especially in the early days, and then in a supporting capacity. But let’s remember that it was the Arab League that appealed for action. It was the world’s most effective alliance, NATO, that’s led a military coalition of nearly 20 nations. It’s our European allies — especially the United Kingdom and France and Denmark and Norway — that conducted the vast majority of air strikes protecting rebels on the ground. It was Arab states who joined the coalition, as equal partners. And it’s been the United Nations and neighboring countries — including Tunisia and Egypt — that have cared for the Libyans in the urgent humanitarian effort that continues today.

This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do.

Now, even as we speak, remnants of the old regime continue to fight. Difficult days are still ahead. But one thing is clear — the future of Libya is now in the hands of the Libyan people. For just as it was Libyans who tore down the old order, it will be Libyans who build their new nation. And we’ve come here today to say to the people of Libya — just as the world stood by you in your struggle to be free, we will now stand with you in your struggle to realize the peace and prosperity that freedom can bring.

In this effort, you will have a friend and partner in the United States of America. Today, I can announce that our ambassador is on his way back to Tripoli. And this week, the American flag that was lowered before our embassy was attacked will be raised again, over a re-opened American embassy. We will work closely with the new U.N. Support Mission in Libya and with the nations here today to assist the Libyan people in the hard work ahead.

First, and most immediately: security. So long as the Libyan people are being threatened, the NATO-led mission to protect them will continue. And those still holding out must understand — the old regime is over, and it is time to lay down your arms and join the new Libya. As this happens, the world must also support efforts to secure dangerous weapons — conventional and otherwise — and bring fighters under central, civilian control. For without security, democracy and trade and investment cannot flourish.

Second: the humanitarian effort. The Transitional National Council has been working quickly to restore water and electricity and food supplies to Tripoli. But for many Libyans, each day is still a struggle — to recover from their wounds, reunite with their families, and return to their homes. And even after the guns of war fall silent, the ravages of war will continue. So our efforts to assist its victims must continue. In this, the United States — the United Nations will play a key role. And along with our partners, the United States will do our part to help the hungry and the wounded.

Third: a democratic transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. President Jalil has just reaffirmed the Transitional National Council’s commitment to these principles, and the United Nations will play a central role in coordinating international support for this effort. We all know what is needed — a transition that is timely, new laws and a constitution that uphold the rule of law, political parties and a strong civil society, and, for the first time in Libyan history, free and fair elections.

True democracy, however, must flow from its citizens. So as Libyans rightly seek justice for past crimes, let it be done in a spirit of reconciliation, and not reprisals and violence. As Libyans draw strength from their faith — a religion rooted in peace and tolerance — let there be a rejection of violent extremism, which offers nothing but death and destruction. As Libyans rebuild, let those efforts tap the experience of all those with the skills to contribute, including the many Africans in Libya. And as Libyans forge a society that is truly just, let it enshrine the rights and role of women at all levels of society. For we know that the nations that uphold the human rights of all people, especially their women, are ultimately more successful and more prosperous.

Which brings me to the final area where the world must stand with Libya, and that is restoring prosperity. For too long, Libya’s vast riches were stolen and squandered. Now that wealth must serve its rightful owners — the Libyan people. As sanctions are lifted, as the United States and the international community unfreeze more Libyan assets, and as the country’s oil production is restored, the Libyan people deserve a government that is transparent and accountable. And bound by the Libyan students and entrepreneurs who have forged friendships in the United States, we intend to build new partnerships to help unleash Libya’s extraordinary potential.

Now, none of this will be easy. After decades of iron rule by one man, it will take time to build the institutions needed for a democratic Libya. I’m sure there will be days of frustration; there will be days when progress is slow; there will be days when some begin to wish for the old order and its illusion of stability. And some in the world may ask, can Libya succeed? But if we have learned anything these many months, it is this: Don’t underestimate the aspirations and the will of the Libyan people.

So I want to conclude by speaking directly to the people of Libya. Your task may be new, the journey ahead may be fraught with difficulty, but everything you need to build your future already beats in the heart of your nation. It’s the same courage you summoned on that first February day; the same resilience that brought you back out the next day and the next, even as you lost family and friends; and the same unshakeable determination with which you liberated Benghazi, broke the siege of Misurata, and have fought through the coastal plain and the western mountains.
It’s the same unwavering conviction that said, there’s no turning back; our sons and daughters deserve to be free.

In the days after Tripoli fell, people rejoiced in the streets and pondered the role ahead, and one of those Libyans said, “We have this chance now to do something good for our country, a chance we have dreamed of for so long.” So, to the Libyan people, this is your chance. And today the world is saying, with one unmistakable voice, we will stand with you as you seize this moment of promise, as you reach for the freedom, the dignity, and the opportunity that you deserve.

So, congratulations. And thank you very much. (Applause.)

END
11:24 A.M. EDT

Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on the Open Government Partnership

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Open Government Partnership

Today the U.S. and seven of our global partners released the action plans detailing how we are working to make our governments more transparent, effective and accountable

President Obama Calls for Open Government at the U.N. General Assembly, Septembe

President Obama calls for Open Government at the U.N. General Assembly,, White House Photo, Samantha Appleton

The United States Releases its Open Government National Action Plan

Source: WH, 9-20-11

“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”

–President Barack Obama, September 23, 2010

On September 23, 2010, President Obama challenged the members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people.  To meet that challenge, in July 2011, the United States and Brazil announced the creation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative that supports efforts to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable institutions globally.  The OGP effort builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first full day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness.

And today, as part the OGP effort, the U.S. and other members of the OGP Steering Committee are coming together in New York to welcome new members to the partnership and to unveil Open Government National Action Plans. As we developed a U.S. National Action Plan (“National Plan”), the Federal Government engaged in extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector. We solicited input from the Administration’s own Open Government Working Group, comprised of senior-level representatives from executive branch departments and agencies. White House policymakers also engaged the public via a series of blog posts, requesting ideas about how to focus Open Government efforts on increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, and improving public services.

Among the highlights of the Plan:

  • “We the People.”  The White House announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions.  In addition, the Administration plans to publish the source code of the new “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public.
  • Whistleblower Protection.  Recently, Congress nearly enacted whistleblower legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process.  The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation.  But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.
  • Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  The U.S. is committing to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).  EITI requires governments to publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets, and for companies to make parallel disclosures regarding payments.  By signing onto the global standard that EITI sets, the U.S. Government can help ensure that American taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for the extraction of these valuable public resources.

Other initiatives include: expanding the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration; overhaul the public participation interface on regulations.gov to help the public find, follow, and participate in Federal rulemakings; and launching ExpertNet, a platform to communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. There are a lot of exciting initiatives in our Plan – too many to recount in this post – but you can view the full plan here .

At the President’s State of the Union Address in January 2011, he said that the American people deserve a government that is “open and competent.”  Building on the efforts inaugurated by the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the President’s continued leadership, we look forward to the work ahead.

You can watch the Heads of State launch of the National Action plans today at 2:15 pm on www.whitehouse.gov/live

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Opening Remarks by President Obama on Open Government Partnership

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

2:35 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to this inaugural event of a partnership that’s already transforming how governments serve their citizens in the 21st century.

One year ago, at the U.N. General Assembly, I stated a simple truth — that the strongest foundation for human progress lies in open economies, open societies, and in open governments. And I challenged our countries to come back this year with specific commitments to promote transparency, to fight corruption, to energize civic engagement, and to leverage new technologies so we can strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries.

Today, we’re joined by nations and organizations from around the world that are answering this challenge. In this Open Government Partnership, I’m pleased to be joined by leaders from the seven other founding nations of this initiative. I especially want to commend my friend, President Rousseff of Brazil, for her leadership in open government and for joining the United States as the first co-chairs of this effort.

We’re joined by nearly 40 other nations who’ve also embraced this challenge, with the goal of joining this partnership next year. And we’re joined by civil society organizations from around the world — groups that not only help hold governments accountable, but who partnered with us and who offer new ideas and help us to make better decisions. Put simply, our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government. So I welcome our civil society representatives — not as spectators, but as equal partners in this initiative.

This, I believe, is how progress will be achieved in the 21st century — meeting global challenges through global cooperation, across all levels of society. And this is exactly the kind of partnership that we need now, as emerging democracies from Latin America to Africa to Asia are all showing how innovations in open government can help make countries more prosperous and more just; as new generations across the Middle East and North Africa assert the old truth that government exists for the benefit of their people; and as young people everywhere, from teeming cities to remote villages, are logging on, and texting, and tweeting and demanding government that is just as fast, just as smart, just as accountable.

This is the moment that we must meet. These are the expectations that we must fulfill. And now we see governments around the world meeting this challenge, including many represented here today. Countries from Mexico to Turkey to Liberia have passed laws guaranteeing citizens the right to information. From Chile to Kenya to the Philippines, civil society groups are giving citizens new tools to report corruption. From Tanzania to Indonesia — and as I saw firsthand during my visit to India — rural villages are organizing and making their voices heard, and getting the public services that they need. Governments from Brazil to South Africa are putting more information online, helping people hold public officials accountable for how they spend taxpayer dollars.

Here in the United States, we’ve worked to make government more open and responsive than ever before. We’ve been promoting greater disclosure of government information, empowering citizens with new ways to participate in their democracy. We are releasing more data in usable forms on health and safety and the environment, because information is power, and helping people make informed decisions and entrepreneurs turn data into new products, they create new jobs. We’re also soliciting the best ideas from our people in how to make government work better. And around the world, we’re standing up for freedom to access information, including a free and open Internet.

Today, the eight founding nations of our partnership are going even further — agreeing to an Open Government Declaration rooted in several core principles. We pledge to be more transparent at every level — because more information on government activity should be open, timely, and freely available to the people. We pledge to engage more of our citizens in decision-making — because it makes government more effective and responsive. We pledge to implement the highest standards of integrity — because those in power must serve the people, not themselves. And we pledge to increase access to technology — because in this digital century, access to information is a right that is universal.

Next, to put these principles into practice, every country that seeks to join this partnership will work with civil society groups to develop an action plan of specific commitments. Today, the United States is releasing our plan, which we are posting on the White House website and at OpenGovPartnership.org.

Among our commitments, we’re launching a new online tool — called “We the People” — to allow Americans to directly petition the White House, and we’ll share that technology so any government in the world can enable its citizens to do the same. We’ve develop new tools — called “smart disclosures” — so that the data we make public can help people make health care choices, help small businesses innovate, and help scientists achieve new breakthroughs.

We’ll work to reform and expand protections for whistleblowers who expose government waste, fraud and abuse. And we’re continuing our leadership of the global effort against corruption, by building on legislation that now requires oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose the payments that foreign governments demand of them.

Today, I can announce that the United States will join the global initiative in which these industries, governments and civil society, all work together for greater transparency so that taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources.

So these are just some of the steps that we’re taking. And today is just the beginning of a partnership that will only grow — as Secretary Clinton leads our effort on behalf of the United States, as these nearly 40 nations develop their own commitments, as we share and learn from each other and build the next generation of tools to empower our citizens and serve them better.

So that’s the purpose of open government. And I believe that’s the essence of democracy. That’s the commitment to which we’re committing ourselves here today. And I thank all of you for joining us as we meet this challenge together.

I want to thank you very much for your participation. And with that, I would like to turn over the chair to my co-chair, President Rousseff.

END
2:42 P.M. EDT

Closing Remarks by President Obama on Open Government Partnership

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

3:30 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, thank you, Rakesh, for that wonderful testimony. Thank you all, to the leaders who shared their action plans and the steps that they’re taking, and your willingness to participate in this initiative. We are extraordinarily grateful.

As I said earlier today, it’s just the beginning of this partnership. Those who are the founding members have to go back home and work to meet the commitments that we’ve made, and to be held accountable. The 38 nations joining us today will be working on their own action plans. And we look forward to our next meeting in Brazil next year, when our partnership welcomes more countries who share our commitment to open government.

I want to thank all the participants. I particularly want to thank the civil society organizations that are doing extraordinary work.

I very much appreciated the statement by the representative from the United Kingdom that this is not always comfortable, if done right, because governments are human institutions, which means that even with the best of intentions we are flawed and we make mistakes, and it’s a natural human impulse to try to cover up mistakes, and to resist the kind of openness that’s been discussed here today.

But as Rakesh I think said so well, the more open we are, the more willing we are to hear constructive criticism, the more effective we can be. And ultimately, governments are here to serve the people, not to serve those in power.

And so I’m very grateful for all of you for participating. Thank you for embracing this challenge to make sure our governments are as open and accountable and as effective as they can be, so that we can meet the aspirations of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.

END
3:33 P.M. EDT

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