Deputy Secretary Verma’s Remarks at New Embassy Compound Groundbreaking
Port Louis, Mauritius
May 30, 2023
Good morning, everybody. Thank you, Ambassador Jardine, for that warm introduction and for your stellar leadership of Embassy Port Louis. Prime Minister Jugnauth, distinguished guests, friends, it’s wonderful to be in Mauritius.
As Ambassador Jardine mentioned, I previously served as U.S. Ambassador to India. When I was in Delhi, my Indian friends shared two pieces of advice about Mauritius and the other countries in this region. The first was that I should make a point of visiting because the combination of beautiful islands, warm people, and delicious food was hard to match anywhere. The second was that the United States needed to deepen its engagement in this strategically vital region. Fast forward a few years, and it is an incredible privilege to visit Mauritius in just my second month as Deputy Secretary—and my second official international trip.
I am here to deliver a message from President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Blinken, and the American people: the United States is committed to elevating our engagement with Mauritius and with this vital region. This event is the perfect symbol of that commitment, because today we are here to open a new chapter in U.S.-Mauritius relations. Our $300-million New Embassy Compound, once completed, will be the single-largest U.S. investment in Mauritius ever. It will serve as a strong symbol of the United States’ commitment to Mauritius—and to our deepening engagement in the East African Islands region.
So in a few moments, we will symbolically break ground on the new U.S. Embassy Compound. The ceremony will only last a few moments, but it is the culmination of years of tireless work between U.S. and Mauritian officials. Before we grab our shovels, I want to offer a few thoughts about this new facility and what it represents for U.S.-Mauritius relations.
The word “embassy” comes from the Latin ambactus (am-bak-tuss), meaning servant. U.S. embassies around the world exist to serve—both the citizens of our host country and the American citizens living there. We will ensure this new embassy will serve the people of Mauritius and the United States every step of the way.
During the construction phase, we will be open, transparent, collaborative, and environmentally conscious. First, our project designers will share their expertise on the state-of-the-art technology behind this effort with Mauritian engineering, architecture, and design students. Second, this project will incorporate the latest building technologies to ensure this facility is compliant for energy efficiency and sustainability—LEED Silver at a minimum. Finally, we will make every effort to ensure the facility uses local resources responsibly, including power, water, and other inputs.
Once open, this embassy will serve a testament to our deep and enduring partnership. To reiterate what Ambassador Jardine said earlier, our relations with Mauritius are almost as old as the United States itself. We first established a U.S. consulate in Mauritius during George Washington’s presidency in 1794. And this year marks 55 years of formal diplomatic relations, which came the same year as Mauritian independence.
Our relations are rooted in our shared values—as democracies with free and open societies, our countries are committed to peace and prosperity for our citizens. These values have led to our cooperation on a wide range of shared priorities.
On democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, Mauritius has a strong track record—not just by regional standards, but by global ones. During the first Summit for Democracy, Mauritius made commitments to further strengthen its democracy in the areas of electoral reform, anti-corruption, and disinformation, and we look forward to partnering in those fields.
Mauritius is a vital U.S. partner on security issues as well. We appreciate Mauritius’s important role in combatting transnational crime in the Indian Ocean region. Its participation in U.S.-funded training through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has already paid dividends for both our countries. And we welcome exploring additional ways to cooperate on combatting illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing because Indian Ocean fisheries play a vital role in employing people in the region and feeding people around the world.
On environmental protection, Mauritius has been a leader in protecting the maritime environment and the Indian Ocean’s unique and diverse ecosystems… in close cooperation with the United States and other countries. It has also spearheaded coordination with small island developing states to catalyze action and resources for addressing the impacts of the climate crisis. We applaud those efforts.
The United States recognizes the severe impact of the climate crisis on small island states like Mauritius. That’s why at COP27 we announced $43 million in funding to collaboratively develop and deliver climate information and early warnings in Africa and the Pacific Islands. Of this, $15 million will go to Africa, pending congressional notification. We look forward to our continuing close cooperation to keep the Indian Ocean safe and vibrant.
We also sponsor exchange programs to strengthen ties between the American people and the people of Mauritius. The United States is proud to support programs like the Young African Leaders Initiative, or YALI, which provides young people from Mauritius and throughout Africa with new skills, knowledge, and networking opportunities.
Back in December at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, Vice President Harris announced that the Administration plans to work with Congress to provide over $100 million toward YALI. This funding will help innovative young Africans to excel in the 21st century economy… and by extension catalyze transformational change in their communities and countries.
At that same Summit, President Biden announced support for greater—and long overdue—African representation in international institutions, including supporting the African Union to join the G20 as a permanent member.
He also announced our plans to invest at least $55 billion in Africa over the next three years, working with Congress. All of this serves as a commitment to our partnership with African countries, institutions, and people across the continent and island states.
As you can see, our relationship is dynamic and multi-faceted, and the potential for our partnership is limitless. So it is time for us to into a larger, state-of-the-art facility which reflects our vision for a more ambitious bilateral relationship to tackle the 21st century challenges that lie ahead.
So thank you again for joining us today. It’s now my distinct pleasure to turn it over to Prime Minister Jugnauth to say a few words.