Dear Ministers, and members of the government delegation,
Fellow members of the diplomatic corps,
Friends from the business community, civil society and the government,
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen, honored guests.
Good evening. I am honored to welcome you, on behalf of President Joe Biden and our entire Embassy community, to this celebration of the 247th anniversary of America’s Independence.
The 4th of July is the most American of our holidays. It marks the day our Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776, making the U.S. a united, free and independent nation. Americans to this day celebrate the occasion with parades, concerts, fireworks, and family gatherings, much as we are doing together tonight.
But like every national day, underneath all the celebration, there is a great deal of meaning and historical significance that we want to remember and honor.
This evening, we come together as Americans and Mauritanians, friends and partners, working together towards our common, shared goals. In the US, like here Mauritania, people are celebrating the principles of democracy and freedom. And we celebrate, as President Lincoln so eloquently noted, “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
As we all know, Democracy is messy at times. It is infinitely flawed, and far from perfect. But in the end, it is the one form of government that ensures all voices are heard and that we work together for the good of all, rather than just the narrow interests of the few.
And here in Mauritania, together with our Mauritanian partners, we are doing just that, working for the good of all and I am pleased to say that we have seen many achievements and advances in our relationship towards that goal over the past year.
First and foremost, I would like to congratulate the Mauritanian government and civil society on the advances made to improve the situation in trafficking in persons through prosecuting perpetrators and assisting victims over the past year. I applaud these efforts and urge the government and civil society to continue working together to end trafficking in persons and hereditary slavery once and for all.
For more than a decade, Mauritania has served as a generous host to 90,000 Malian refugees who have fled their homes in search of stability. The US has contributed millions of dollars in assistance, but Mauritania has provided this welcoming refuge, for which the international community is grateful.
Mauritania has also taken a strong stand in support of the rules-based international order and we thank the government for its actions and votes in the UN General Assembly regarding the international community’s support for Ukraine. We remain united in our call for Russia to end its unacceptable and unjust war.
Our economic partnership also continues to grow. A special congratulations to Mauritania on being selected for the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s threshold program – a significant boost for reform efforts that has the potential to unleash economic and development opportunities for decades to come.
At the same time, we will continue to work to increase trade and investment between our countries, and I note that we don’t undertake these efforts alone. Thank you to the US-Mauritania Business Council for your collaboration.
Our security cooperation remains robust. We welcome Mauritania’s leadership role to combat violent extremism, and opportunities to enhance our military partnership. In recent months, US and Mauritanian Special Forces conducted important training events; and the US Coast Guard worked with the Mauritania Coast Guard to confront illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing.
And the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Assistance teams continue to train with the Gendarmerie on crisis response and other law enforcement activities to better protect us all.
Some of my favorite programs focus on the people to people aspect of our bilateral relationship. Our commitment to youth and economic development remains a priority, and USAID’s Tamkeen and Nafoore programs continue to train hundreds of young people on how to effectively engage in their communities and build economic opportunities.
In addition, the Embassy continues to offer highly motivated Mauritanian students and young professionals with opportunities to train and study in the US through a variety of programs. These programs are among my favorites, because of their investment in Mauritania’s future. Our alumni include imams, mayors, wali, professors, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, and human rights activists.
One highlight for me this past year was meeting the young football players who went on a three-week exchange to the U.S., many of whom are here with us tonight. Those five young women came back speaking English, and filled with confidence to play the sport they love. They know that the American Embassy supports women and girls to follow their dreams and become athletes, doctors, Ministers, professors, or whatever profession they aspire to. Please join me in recognizing these young women for their already impressive contributions to their country as they proudly represented Mauritania in the United States.
Another highlight of the past year was the robust participation of the Mauritanian government at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in December, and the progress made over the last six months in implementing the initiatives that came out of the Summit. As President Biden said, we are “all in” on Africa, on the business and economic front – accelerating our engagement to promote trade and investment, as well as the focus on Africa’s youth, and bolstering African resilience to the impacts of climate change.
As a testament to the progress Mauritania has made of late, Mauritania was also invited – for the first time – to the Summit for Democracy, co-hosted by the United States. At the Summit for Democracy, the US, Mauritania, and 120 other nations demonstrated to global audiences how we are working together to deliver for citizens, and organizing to address the world’s most pressing challenges.
In all these endeavors, the United States acts first and foremost in partnership with Mauritania. Tonight, I give my thanks to our Mauritanian partners from all walks of life – government, civil society, media, private sector, and everyday citizens – for their enthusiasm and efforts in working together every day to achieve our shared goals and confront global challenges.
And finally, I need to thank everyone who came together to make this night possible. Our talented musicians from Burn the Ballroom came from Washington, DC to play for us this evening; sponsors KOSMOS, US-Mauritania Business Council, and SOBOMA; and a special thanks also to the Embassy staff who worked months on making tonight happen, in particular, Heidi Sierra, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Joshua Parker, Sarah Benchiba, our entire management, general services, facilities, security and public affairs teams. Let’s give them a round of applause.
In closing, M. Minister, I thank you, and the entire delegation here this evening for celebrating democracy with us, on our national day. I thank you for our countries’ great friendship, and I commend our shared vision, and our bright future.
Thank you, remerciement, shukran.