Secretary Antony J. Blinken Addresses a Working Lunch with the Joint Summit Working Group

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. (AP)

June 10, 2022

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to see everyone, and I don’t want to be the only thing standing between you and – I guess it’s lunch. Well, yes, we’re in Latin America, so it’s lunch. Wonderful to see everyone here today and thank you all for joining for lunch. Folks will be flying home in just a few hours, and that’s actually when the real work begins – implementing, doing what we said we would do here at the summit.

But I just wanted to take a minute to say, first of all, how grateful we are that everyone here has put so much into making this summit a success. What we’ve accomplished in Los Angeles is the result of months of consultation and coordination among all of our teams.

And now, as I said, we have to make good on our pledges and turn them into concrete progress, and to do that, we have to keep that collaboration going. So I hope we can take the spirit that we have here and work together to turn it into real results.

I wanted to say a few words about the Joint Summit Working Group organizations, because you will play a key role in making this happen. This, as you know, is a network of regional and international institutions that gives critical technical guidance and other support for summit commitments across our hemisphere.

To cite a few examples, last month, the Pan-American Health Organization launched a new information platform for our countries to share data on public health and on migration, so that we can better meet the medical needs of migrants, from COVID-19 to pre- and post-natal care.

Last year, the Caribbean Development Bank – another Joint Working Group organization – helped to mobilize $80 million to support the pandemic response in the Caribbean.

The Organization of American States played a critical role in the Energy and Climate Partnership that came out of the Fifth Summit of the Americas back in 2009 – holding more than 40 technical meetings, workshops, policy dialogues to advance renewable energy and to mitigate the dangerous effects of climate change across our region.

Speaking of the OAS, we have a law in the United States known as the OAS Legislative Engagement Act, and that calls for the creation of a forum for legislators across the hemisphere to increase their participation in OAS activities. We have a bipartisan team of U.S. senators, led by Senator Ben Cardin, Senator Roger Wicker, who are helping to drive that process. Many of the members of Congress here today will be part of that endeavor, and we’re grateful for that.

Having elected officials from across our region become more involved in the OAS – a leading institution for supporting democracy in the Americas – that will make its work stronger.

Speaking for the United States, we look forward to working with partners across the region to carry out the initiatives that our leaders announced in these days.

This includes the Americas Health Corps, to train half a million – I’m going to repeat that number – half a million health professionals across the region over the next five years. Imagine what that can do to lift the foundation of health care across our region, not only in dealing with potentially future pandemics but in day-in/day-out health care for all the peoples of our region. Half a million trained workers.

The Digital Agenda for Transformation in the Americas, to try to increase access to digital tools, to training and opportunities – that too has tremendous potential to bridge the digital divide, to connect small businesses to the marketplace, to bring education to students where it’s needed.

The Cities Forward initiative, to direct more support to cities, because we know that’s where so much innovation and problem-solving is actually taking place. Parenthetically, I think as many of you know, next year we’re going to have our first Cities Summit of the Americas – Denver will host it – because again, so much is happening at a local municipal level. We want to tap into that.

On these and all the ambitious initiatives that our countries made, we will lean on our Joint Working Group partners to actually make them real, to actually produce concrete results.

So that’s why we wanted to convene one more time before leaving California – so we can get started on hammering out our next steps.

Let me say again how much I’ve appreciated our time together here in Los Angeles. It has been inspiring. It’s been energizing. And I think seeing representatives come together from across the region – not just from government, as important as that is, but from civil society, from the private sector, young people, international organizations – all driven by a fundamental desire to deliver results that will make a real difference in the lives of our people, to actually be responsive to what our citizens demand, what they’re looking for.

Last word. The theme of this summit – “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, Equitable Future” – that speaks to many of the challenges facing our countries, from climate to COVID to building stronger economies. But we throw these words around – sustainable, resilient, equitable. They have a real meaning, and that’s important. We need to focus on what they actually mean.

So we seek a sustainable future, through long-term investments – not just expensive short-term fixes – on energy, on economic development, and so much else, so that we have a real and durable foundation for progress that can pay off not just in the next months but over many years and over many decades.

We seek a resilient future, and that simply means that our governments and our societies will be better placed to respond to crises of all kinds, to do it swiftly, to do it capably, learning from the lessons of the past to try to protect our people and help them get back on their feet when emergencies happen.

And we seek an equitable future, and that simply means that everyone – no matter where they live, no matter who they are – have access to economic, social, educational opportunities, and are treated with equal respect and dignity.

That is the meaning of those words, and now our challenge is to make them real, to make them concrete, to make genuine progress. It’s a shared vision for the hemisphere that we share. And as President Biden said on Wednesday, there has never been a greater need for cooperation, for common purpose, and yes, for transformative ideas. Here in Los Angeles, we’ve actually deepened that cooperation. We’ve affirmed a common purpose. And we’re embracing transformative ideas, which we now have to turn into lasting progress.

That’s what the partnerships represented in this room are charged with now. And as we think about leaving Los Angeles, I can say that we’ve come together for three days. I’m looking forward to the next 362 days, and then the 365 days after that, and after that, when we demonstrate that what we did here is going to bring real positive change in the lives of our people.

Thank you all so much for being here. Let’s carry on the work. Thank you. (Applause.)