U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Opening Remarks to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

February 27, 2019
Capitol Hill
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you, Madam Chairwoman, and upfront, I apologize for my voice. I picked something up in one of those travels, and until this morning, I actually thought I was winning. Now, I'm not so sure, but I appreciate forbearance of the committee. So Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Rogers, members, it's good to be with you. Thank you for this opportunity.

I'd like to begin this morning by discussing USAID's efforts to address a few of our more pressing humanitarian and development situations across the world. As many of you have alluded to, at USAID, we have urgent work to do, and that work has never been more important. To name one, I have just returned from Cúcuta, Colombia, a short distance from the border with Venezuela. There, I saw firsthand the devastating effects of the Maduro regime's corruption, economic mismanagement, and oppression. I heard stories of unimaginable suffering: children starving, hospitals running out of medicine and people walking, in some cases, hundreds of miles over several days to reach the border in search of help.

Of course, this tragedy is all the worse because Venezuela was once one of the region's wealthiest countries. At the request of Interim President Juan Guaidó, we have been pre-positioning humanitarian assistance close to the border for eventual delivery into Venezuela.

While in Cúcuta last week, I welcomed the arrival of a new tranche of humanitarian assistance. Since February 4, USAID, with support from the Department of Defense and State and others, has pre-positioned approximately 195 metric tons of crucial relief supplies, including emergency medical kits, food aid, hygiene kits, and nutritional supplies. This past weekend -- as I'm sure you were watching, this past weekend was tragic. As thousands of Venezuelan, Colombian, and other humanitarian volunteers sought to transport, life-saving food, medical supplies into Venezuela, they were met with death, tear gas, rubber bullets, and violence ordered by the Maduro regime.

The United States, over the last couple of years, has contributed more than $195 million in funding to support Venezuelan migrants and the communities hosting them. We're far from alone in that effort. Fifty-four countries now recognize the interim presidency of Juan Guaidó. Many of our closest allies have pledged assistance and many private citizens have already provided assistance to the region. However, as I know you agree, in order to fully respond to these crises, we need to address their underlying causes. Just as we lead the world in humanitarian assistance, we should also lead in our commitment to democracy, human rights, and citizen-responsive governance.

USAID stands in solidarity with Interim President Guaidó and those in Venezuela who seek a government that represents their interests and is responsive to their needs. So long as Maduro and his cronies continue to crush the people of Venezuela, their economy, and their hope, we know this crisis will continue.

The people of Venezuela, like those in Cuba and Nicaragua, who are also suffering under authoritarianism, deserve freedom and a return to rule of law. Some observers talk as though democracy is in irreversible decline, but the only way that freedom and democracy will fall is if we let them. As President Trump recently said in Miami, we can see the day ahead when all the people of Latin America will at last be free.

Members of the subcommittee, we're hard at work addressing another humanitarian crisis, this one of a fundamentally different nature. The outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where health officials have recorded at least 869 confirmed cases and 544 related deaths, all since 2018, should be of concern to all of us. USAID disaster and health experts, part of the U.S. government's Disaster Assistance Response Team, are on the ground working side by side with WHO and the Ministry of Health in DRC. The team is applying tools and valuable lessons-learned developed in the 2014 epidemic response in West Africa. The strategy is to break the chain of transmission and ultimately end the outbreak. It's a complex working environment: poor access to certain areas, security concerns, and community distrust have presented remarkable hurdles to our work.

Despite these challenges, responders are conducting their vital work in affected areas, including surveillance and case finding, case management, and raising community awareness about transmission. We'll continue to monitor and adapt accordingly in coordination with our colleagues from the CDC. This response is a priority, not only because of our commitment to those affected, but also to prevent the outbreak from spreading throughout the broader region and, quite frankly, beyond.

Unfortunately, we're experiencing humanitarian crises in nearly every corner of the world, and what makes the tragedy of the Rohingya even more painful is that, similar to Venezuela, it's entirely manmade. Bangladesh now hosts 1 million Rohingya refugees from Burma, as well as the world's largest refugee camp; 730,000 of these migrants arrived in the wake of an ethnic cleansing campaign conducted by the Burmese security forces that began in August 2017. I traveled to Bangladesh last May to visit the refugee camps and to hear from those who escaped the violence and bloodshed.

I met with government representatives. I conveyed America's gratitude to Bangladesh for hosting the refugees, but I also encouraged them to allow humanitarian organizations to provide refugees with the full range of support necessary for their well-being, not just food assistance and healthcare, but access to education, weather-resistant shelter, and livelihood opportunities. USAID, in close coordination with State, continues to provide emergency food nutrition assistance to refugees in Bangladesh. We're also working to insure that host communities are not overly burdened by the significant population influx, and we continue to call on the Government of Burma to take concrete actions to respect the dignity and the rights of all Rohingya in Burma to return voluntarily, safely, and in a dignified manner.

Members of the subcommittee, those are just a few of the most pressing situations at the forefront of our work, but I would also like to say a quick word about USAID's Redesign process, or Transformation. When I last appeared before the committee in March of 2018, I provided an overview of several planned initiatives. After consultations with many of you and your staff, we have since launched many of them, and we are eager to answer any questions that you might have as you look to review our remaining notifications.

As you've heard me say before, private enterprise is perhaps the most powerful force on earth for lifting lives out of poverty, strengthening communities, and building self-reliance, and so just in December, we launched the Agency's first-ever Private Sector Engagement Strategy. This policy is a call to action to increase and strengthen our work with the private sector, moving beyond mere contracting and grant making to true collaboration, co-design and co-financing.

Another key initiative -- and Chairwoman Lowey, I have to thank your unbending leadership on this issue -- aims to enhance a core aspect of our work: improving learning outcomes, especially for marginalized youth in communities in need. One aspect of USAID's new education policy, that I'm especially excited about, is its focus on insuring that we tailor our education programs to the unique needs of each country. We're engaging all stakeholders in order to deliver quality, sustainable education. This includes universities, traditional education institutions and, where appropriate, private-sector, faith-based organizations, and more. These new education strategies will insure that we're considering every innovation to achieve the very best possible learning outcomes.

Finally, I would like to mention USAID's support for the White House-led Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, also known as W-GDP. On February 7th, I joined Ivanka Trump in launching this initiative and announced USAID's new fund to support and scale-up innovative programs that advance women's economic empowerment around the world. This fund will have an initial allocation of $50 million and will support high-impact proposals, including those that support training and skills development, expand access to finance, and reduce barriers to women's free and full participation in the economy.

Members of the subcommittee, with your support and guidance, we will ensure that USAID remains the world's premiere international development agency. And with that, Madam Chairwoman, thank you again for the opportunity to appear and to continue our conversation. I welcome questions.