Independence Day Reception
May 30, 2012 | 7:00 PM
Remarks by Ambassador Robert P. Jackson
U.S. Embassy Yaounde, Cameroon
Your Excellency, Mr. Vice Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies, Ministers (by title/name where known to be present),
Your Excellencies, Ambassadors and Other Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Babs and I welcome you to our celebration of the 236th anniversary of the independence of the United States of America. Some of you know that the actual anniversary date is July 4 and may wonder why we are celebrating in May. Because several of our senior staff members will be departing soon, we wanted to use this as an opportunity for them to say farewell. We are also planning, for the first time in many years, to hold a celebration in Douala closer to July 4.
The United States has a multi-faceted partnership with the Republic of Cameroon. That partnership advances both our countries’ interests and has grown over the last year. Like all friends, we do not agree on everything, but we are partnering in health, agriculture, education, environmental protection, security, and trade, as well as in United Nations fora, to the benefit of both countries.
Over two centuries ago a group of ordinary but courageous citizens gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. At that time the American continent seemingly offered unlimited natural resources, but today we recognize that those resources are finite. In fact, it has become clear that we have to carefully manage our resources for the benefit of generations to come.
A year ago, we celebrated volunteerism and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Peace Corps. In their now 50 years in Cameroon, one of Peace Corps volunteers’ five primary activities has been working with their host communities to preserve Cameroon’s fantastic natural heritage. Through environmental education activities, they have created awareness of improved waste disposal techniques and contributed to building cleaner and healthier communities. Their outreach has also helped protect endangered species by raising awareness of the impact of the bush meat trade.
As you can see from our displays and brochures, this year, we have chosen to underscore environmental preservation. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Robert Hormats recently declared, "Approximately one-third of the world's biodiversity has been lost since 1970; three-fourths of the world's marine fisheries are fully or over-exploited; and two-fifths of the planet's original forests are gone. Business as usual is not a viable option."
However, most countries now recognize that we must preserve our environment. I am happy to note that Cameroon is among the countries featured in the poster show on biodiversity being used by American embassies around the world this year. I particularly want to acknowledge Cameroonian artist Joseph Francis Sumegne whose found-object art is on display. Moreover, the stuffed gorillas you may have noticed highlight the importance we place on protecting Cameroon’s priceless, and increasingly rare, gorillas, drills, elephants, and other endangered species from the truly dangerous trade in bushmeat and other wildlife products.
As you know, the United States is in a presidential election year, and as the election campaign moves toward its conclusion in November, the environment, global warming, its impact on climate change, and the best way to address these issues will be one of the key subjects of debate. While the environment may not have been an issue in Cameroon’s recent presidential election, I hope it will be raised in the upcoming legislative and municipal elections. For Cameroon, the challenge of balancing economic development and environmental stewardship to achieve a “Green Economy” is greatest at the local level. At the same time, grassroots communities possess much of the untapped traditional expertise from which practical solutions can arise.
In a Green Economy, sustainable development meets the needs of the present, without making it more difficult for future generations to meet their own needs. All groups and levels of society, especially youth and women, need to be involved in sustainable development. The young people who are such a large portion of Cameroonian society don’t want to inherit or pass on a world threatened by climate change, degradation of natural resources, poverty, and illness. They want to use their creativity, energy, and persistence to ensure a sustainable future. Their efforts can only flourish in an environment of transparent and inclusive governance, which lays the foundation for sustainable choices. Cameroonian women often manage natural resources to ensure food, fuel, and shelter for their families, bringing a practical perspective on biodiversity and ecosystems. All governments should, in fact, strive to create an enabling environment for private sector and civil society innovation, investment, and entrepreneurship in an environmentally sustainable way.
Rio+20, the 20th anniversary of the ground-breaking 1992 Earth Summit is just days away. The United States sees this as an opportunity to re-energize global efforts and better integrate the three pillars of sustainable development: economic, environmental, and social. Rio+20 presents an unparalleled opportunity to harness new technologies, promote effectiveness and transparency, and integrate government, business, civil society and academia into the process of advancing sustainable development.
Moving from the global to the regional level, we must reinforce our collective efforts to protect one of the most important carbon sinks in the fight against global warming -- the Congo River Basin. With the world’s second-largest tropical forest, this region provides a livelihood for millions of people and is an enormous biodiversity habitat. U.S. assistance seeks to strengthen Cameroon’s technical and scientific expertise to better manage this valuable resource. The U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID’s) Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE) supports significant conservation activities. CARPE also provides grants to civil society organizations to research the impact of policy choices and works with the Cameroonian Government to better monitor forestry concessions and improve governance. The U.S. Forest Service and Fish & Wildlife Service both have programs in Cameroon. We support Cameroon’s fight against deforestation and environmental crimes such as wildlife trafficking, illegal logging, and poaching. While confronting poachers may seem as if it benefits only animals, the best practices established in these efforts can help law enforcement and military services better assure the security of all Cameroonians. Poaching is truly a national security issue that requires a whole-of-government response.
Finally, coming to the very local level, we have worked to live our environmental principles. We now use low-volume drip irrigation instead of sprinklers. We are using more energy-efficient lighting, and we are reducing the number of printers and the amount of paper we use. Local trees planted during construction of this embassy are now bearing fruit. We have reduced our fuel use by almost half. We also recently installed solar heating for our swimming pool and will soon coat the roof of the chancery with reflective material to significantly reduce cooling costs. In addition to saving money, every one of these measures also reduces our carbon footprint. These are the kinds of steps we can all take to ensure that we are leaving the treasures of nature for future generations to enjoy.
Before closing, allow me to thank the generous sponsors who made tonight possible: AES-Sonel, Beneficial Life, les Brasseries du Cameroun, Le Bus, COTCO, CRELICAM, Deloitte & Touche, General Electric, Hilton Hotel, Kemal Trading, Kosmos Energy, Le Meridien Hotel, and Noble Energy.
Let me also thank my many colleagues in the embassy, led by Patrick Connally, Julie Tully, and Gid Bullock, who organized tonight’s wonderful reception and led the set up.
Please join me in thanking our terrific Marine Security Guard detachment and our great band, the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Topside Brass Band.
Finally, please allow me to thank the numerous American staff members who are departing this summer: Deputy Chief of Mission Lisa Peterson, Defense Attaché Lt. Col. Scott Morgan, Peace Corps Director LaHoma Romocki, Peace Corps Director of Programming and Training Kim Ahanda, Regional Security Officer Chris Berry, Consul Steve Royster, Vice Consul Joe Fette, Deputy Political/Economic Section Chief Erik Martini, Cultural Attaché Mignon Turner, Financial Manager Judy Johnson, Human Resources Officer Nigel Grainge, Educational Advisor Fatimah Mateen, Assistance Coordinator Lida Becerra, Community Liaison Coordinator Susette Mathis, Major Gerald Mathis, as well as their families who have contributed to our community in ways large and small.
I now invite Deputy Chief of Mission Lisa Peterson to say a few words. … Thank you, Lisa.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Please join us in raising your glasses to fruitful and growing cooperation between the United States and Cameroon, especially in environmental protection.
Thank you very much for joining us this evening.
Please look behind you for the next phase of our program.