Remarks by Ambassador Abraham at the YSEALI Marine Warriors Regional Workshop
As-Delivered Remarks by Ambassador Yohannes Abraham
YSEALI Marine Warriors, Friday, December 2, 2022
D’Qua Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam
I’m thrilled to be here today. There’s nothing that I enjoy more about my role as U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN, there is nothing that excites me more in my role as U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN than supporting YSEALI. Because when you think about how dynamic and exciting this region is, at the core of that is the dynamism of its young leaders. I am extremely grateful to have a chance to be here with everybody today.
Before I go into more of my remarks, let me just start by thanking the Khanh Hoa People’s Committee, the implementing partner World Learning, and local partners GreenHub and Nha Trang University. Without your efforts and help, this workshop would not have been possible.
You know I can’t think of a better setting than this to have this conversation, because looking out at the beautiful waters off of Nha Trang, one cannot help but think about what we will lose if we don’t take better care of our marine ecosystems. Each year, 11 million metric tons of plastic pollution enter our oceans. This rate is expected to double by the end of this decade and triple by 2040—threatening the world’s delicate marine ecosystems, major industries such as fishing and tourism, food security, and ultimately human health.
Of course, the problems we face are not only in the salt-water oceans. We see problems in our fresh-water rivers; we know that the climate crisis presents a real threat to the communities who depend on the Mekong River here in Vietnam, as well as in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. And this crisis obviously isn’t limited to marine ecosystems.
But you don’t need to hear about the problems we face from me. You all know them better than most.
So, let’s focus today and moving forward on solutions, because we all must work together if we hope to address the climate crisis.
I am proud to say that the United States continues to devote time, energy, expertise, and resources to address this critical crisis. For example, just a few weeks ago at COP27, sixteen nations joined us in taking the Ocean Conservation Pledge – a commitment to protect and conserve at least 30 percent of the waters under our jurisdictions by 2030. We did so because we recognize the importance of ocean stewardship in support of sustainable ocean ecosystems and the communities that depend on them. We also recognize that conservation efforts are most effective when they include and, to the extent possible, are co-developed by relevant stakeholders, particularly Indigenous Peoples and local communities.
We are also working closely with partners and allies to tackle these problems regionally and globally. For example, in 2019, we launched the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership, or JUMPP, to help the shift to green energy production in the Mekong region, with an initial investment of just under $30 million. In mid-November, Vice President Harris announced that the administration would request an additional $20 million in funding.
At the same time, USAID’s Clean Cities Blue Oceans Activity is aimed at protecting the marine environment and improving life in coastal cities here in Vietnam, as well as in Indonesia and the Philippines, by stopping land-based sources of plastic pollution, growing the market for recycling, and improving solid-waste management.
While government efforts are critical in addressing the climate crisis, your efforts – as young leaders in your communities – are essential. As I am sure you have heard many times, YSEALI is one of the United States government’s premier programs to foster young leaders and their visions – our common visions – for the future of society and the region. You and your efforts are critical.
That’s why this November we announced the YSEALI Enviro-Tech Regional Workshop on climate mitigation and adaptation, set to take place in Thailand in 2023. There, YSEALI participants will discuss how areas such as AI, clean energy, and biotech can address environmental challenges in the Mekong sub-region. In addition to that, the theme for next year’s YSEALI Women’s Leadership Academy will be “climate and the environment.”
I look forward today to taking inspiration from your ideas, commitments, and actions to defend our collective environment, our livelihoods, and our very existence.