Remarks
William J. Burns
Deputy Secretary
Bogota, Colombia
July 31, 2012


Good afternoon. On behalf of the Department of State and the other United States agencies represented here today, I would like to thank Foreign Minister Holguin and the Santos administration for hosting a successful and productive third high-level dialogue between our countries.

The relationship between the United States and Colombia grows more committed, more productive, and more important every day. President Obama recently affirmed that Colombia is one of the United States’ strongest partners and we commend the remarkable progress Colombia has made over the last decade. Through the High-Level Partnership Dialogue, we seek to deepen our bilateral cooperation to benefit citizens of both our countries and strengthen the region as a whole. Today we discussed initiatives and affirmed joint objectives that will build a more prosperous and secure future for both of our countries.

I applaud Colombia for its support of the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas’ newest initiative, “Connecting the Americas 2022.” Reliable and affordable electricity is critical for development and prosperity. The United States and Colombia are already working with the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank to support Connect 2022, including in the Andean region. Meanwhile, USAID’s $18.6 million Clean Energy Program, which we are pleased to announce today, moves us one step closer to ensuring access to clean, secure, and sustainable energy resources for everyone in Colombia, including those who currently have no access to electricity. Our regional energy and climate change cooperation will help deliver reliable, clean, and affordable energy to the region.

During today’s dialogue on democracy, human rights, and good governance, we re-affirmed our joint commitment to protect human rights, civil society activists, and vulnerable populations. Our conversation covered critical issues, including Colombia’s framework for coordinating efforts on citizen security, justice reform, and human rights. Today, I am pleased to announce U.S. government grants totaling $50 million that will help Colombia implement its Victims’ and Land Law, which provides reparations and land restitution to thousands of victims of Colombia’s internal conflict.

In 2010, our countries signed a Science and Technology Agreement. In today’s science and technology working group, we identified areas for collaboration to be explored at the next Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation. Both our governments are committed to enhancing our joint cooperation on research and development projects in health and agriculture, and earth, atmosphere, and space cooperation that will improve our economies and the lives of our citizens for years to come.

Our discussion on education and culture included bringing our countries closer together by increasing educational exchanges and encouraging Spanish/English bilingualism in our populations. Increasing such academic cross-pollination is the goal of President Obama’s “100,000 Strong in the Americas” initiative. Through initiatives like the AmCham-U.S. Embassy English Language Scholarships we announced today, which will sponsor English language instruction for underprivileged Colombian youth, we can harness the power of public-private partnership to help fulfill the tremendous potential of both our nations’ youth.

With all these initiatives, our goal is to expand the economic opportunities that are available to every citizen, especially those who have been historically marginalized. As Secretary Clinton has noted on numerous occasions, investing in women-owned businesses and empowering women economically is one of the best ways to achieve lasting peace and prosperity. In 2010, we made a joint commitment to improving racial and ethnic equality with the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality. I’m pleased to see that the objectives of that plan are embedded in each and every working group here at the High-Level Partnership Dialogue.

As we consider the progress we have made to strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to build a better region and a better world, I’d like to reaffirm President Obama’s pledge at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena earlier this year that, “as Colombia forges its future, Colombia will continue to have a strong partner in the United States.” After our meeting today, it is clearer than ever that the United States also has a strong partner and good friend in Colombia. Thank you.