USAID Administrator Mark Green's Keynote Speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace Conference, "A Governance Agenda for Preventing Violence in a Fractured World"

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For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
Office of Press Relations
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January 7, 2020
U.S. Institute of Peace
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Lindsay, thank you for those kind words. It's good to be with all of you. And it's great to be with my old friend, Secretary Madeleine Albright, but daunting to be with her. I will say the first time I spent any considerable time with her was actually my very first election observation for IRI. I'd been on the job for a couple of weeks. And here I was with Madeleine Albright in Ukraine watching the elections there.

Quite frankly, it's just as daunting today. So, Madam Secretary, it's great to be with you. It is an honor to be joining you for these important discussions that you're undertaking. We're obviously here at a historic moment for America and her role on the world stage. As we look around us, there's an awful lot to process. Challenges of sorts in nearly every corner of the world.

So, I know we're tempted at times to feel like the story of the swimmer at the millionaire's pool party. And as that story goes, a millionaire had a party at his home around the swimming pool. It wasn't just any pool, though. It was a pool filled with man-eating alligators. And the millionaire turned to his guests and said, "Okay, I will give a million dollars or the hand of my daughter to the first man who will swim across this pool." Silence, but as he turned to walk away, he heard a splash and sure enough, there was a guy in the water fighting his way across, pushing the alligators out of the way. Got out, climbing, dripping wet.

And the millionaire ran over to him and said, "You know, that is the most courageous thing I think I've ever seen. What's it going to be? A million dollars or the hand of my daughter?" And of course, the swimmer said, "Neither. I just want to know who the hell pushed me in the pool!"

We feel like that sometimes.

But in reality, many of the problems that we see, while they have their own distinct context, the underlying causes have much in common.

Many, if not most, relate back to something simple yet profound: the innate desire of every person, every family, every community to have a meaningful voice in their own future and where that desire is unmet or attacked by government; that's where we need to focus.

For example, I understand why many are confused, even confounded by what's going on in the Eastern DRC. The Ebola outbreak there is now the second deadliest in history and it continues to claim lives. Even though we have an approved vaccine, even though we have promising treatments, too few of the vulnerable are coming forward for testing and treatment. Worse yet, we see community protests and armed attacks that seem aimed at the very officials and facilities that are leading the response. The insecurity is so great that humanitarian and health care workers are unable to get to some of the most important hotspots. So, I understand why we're confused, but then we pause and reflect, and we realize that these are the same communities that have been betrayed by their leaders for so very long. DRC has an abundance of officials interested more in self-enrichment than serving everyday people. An election system so broken that many of the most Ebola affected communities weren't even allowed to vote in the last elections. And a political system so messed up that Joseph Kabila is still serving in their Congress and his family appears still to be holding hundreds of millions of dollars in mining interests.

I appreciate that people are frustrated, even bewildered by what's happening in Haiti, less than 600 miles from our shore. The U.S., Canada, OAS, and others, have provided hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance and relief; facilities have been built to create new export opportunities; hospitals and clinics have been launched or rebuilt to improve access to health care; and agricultural training and technology provided to help alleviate hunger.

And yet, violent protests have often shut nearly everything down in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere. For weeks on end, kids couldn't attend school. Haitians couldn't get to market. Patients were hindered from reaching clinics, promising small businesses couldn't get supplies and equipment, and donors like the U.S., we couldn't even get humanitarian relief to where it was needed most. Yeah, it's true. Haiti often seems like a magnet for misery in terms of natural disaster.

Ten years ago this month, it was rocked by a terrible earthquake and there have been tropical storms before and since.

But the Haitians aren't picketing Mother Nature. They're not raging against the hurricanes. They're outraged by a political class that has let them down time and again. They're protesting a parliament that rarely seems to even meet, let alone author reforms. Officials linked to aid and investment that never quite reaches the people and outside peacekeepers who have been linked to the spread of cholera and even sexual misconduct. On a recent flight that I took from Port-au-Prince to an up-country orphanage, I asked my helicopter pilot how he would describe Haiti and its challenges to those who had never been. And he paused and then he said flatly, "Never forget, at 500 feet Haiti's a Caribbean island."

Some even seem puzzled by what's going on in Hong Kong. I mean, let's face it, the island's been doing pretty well economically. Per capita income is among the highest in the world. Unemployment less than 3 percent. But, when Chief Executive Carrie Lam and her Beijing-oriented government tried to push through a law authorizing quick extradition to the mainland and its system of justice, all in the name of peace and stability, everyday citizens, especially students, well, they immediately took to the streets. Lam seemed to believe that the protests would quickly and quietly fade away, that citizens were willing to surrender individual liberties for the mainland's version of tranquility. But, the crowds grew to 1 million and then by some accounts, two. Even in the face of tear gas and rubber bullets and batons and more. Since the extradition bill appeared seven months ago, more than 2,000 protesters have been injured and 6,000 arrested.

When Hong Kong held its district council elections in the midst of all of this, the results were historic and unambiguous. Now, let's face it, these district councils don't have a lot of power. And so the elections really generally don't see much in the way of turnout. But, sending the clearest possible signal on the value they place on democracy, nearly 3 million turned out to vote. The highest turnout in Hong Kong's history. Pro-democracy candidates captured 17 of the island's 18 district councils.

Some would argue that none of this is an American concern. We didn't bring Kabila to power. We certainly didn't push Hong Kongers into the streets, but I think in reality we all realize the health of freedom and democracy does affect our own interests and our own fortunes.

History tells us that states with more democratic characteristics are usually more prosperous, stable, and reliable partners. They're better economic partners, because they possess the characteristics and conditions that we believe are vital for economic vibrancy and sustainable growth. They're better strategic partners because they're citizen-centered, making them less likely to produce terrorists, proliferate weapons of mass destruction or engage in armed aggression. Conversely, authoritarian regimes are, at best, unreliable partners and, at worst, pose significant risks to peace and stability.

Authoritarian regimes like Maduro and Ortega's, they give rise to forced migration and refugees burdening and potentially destabilizing their neighbors. And in order to maintain their hold on power, regimes like these, regimes like Iran, repress their people by isolating their citizens from outside influences and ideas. They often attack, directly or indirectly, physically or digitally those outside their borders who represent the freedom that they fear. So, as we look to troubled lands and fragile turf, I think these are the principles that we need to keep in mind. And that's why at USAID, we are placing a new, even stronger emphasis on fostering democratic governance, citizen responsiveness. We believe it is crucial.

We've institutionalized it through our Transformation process that aims to build the USAID of tomorrow. Among other things, we're launching a new Bureau for Development, Democracy and Innovation. DDI will bring together expertise from across the Agency and will serve as a one stop shop for technical support and designing solicitations and programs. And as its name implies, it will elevate democracy and governance with the goal of promoting human liberty and citizen responsiveness in all of our programing and offerings. DDI will feature Centers of Focus that will help carry this out like our Center for Youth and Inclusive Development, the Center for Equality and Women's Empowerment, and the Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.

And thanks to President Trump, and with the bipartisan support of the Senate, DDI will be led by a long-term democracy hand, Assistant Administrator Michelle Bekkering.

You can also see our stronger emphasis on democracy and democratic governance in the country by country metrics that we are assembling that we use to guide our investments and our priorities. The Country Road Maps, as we call them, incorporate metrics that measure a country's commitment to elements like freedom of expression, association and conscience, the rule of law, protection of civil liberties, and government transparency.

When countries score low in these areas, it will challenge us to ask if we're dedicating enough resources to those causes. When countries score well, it will challenge us to find ways to best leverage their strength. In coming months, you'll also see our greater emphasis on democracy in the new democracy-focused communications plan that I'm announcing today. That campaign will highlight our democratic governance investments all around the world, as well as how this work tackles the underlying challenges and causes that I've mentioned and how all of that serves America's strategic interests.

We want to help Americans understand how modest investments in country institutions and self-governance can prevent or extinguish the brushfires that seem to be burning in so many places. It will feature personal stories of individuals who are promoting democracy and human dignity in their own communities, in countries. People like Archana Tamang, a tireless advocate for equality and inclusively in Nepal. Aferdita Bytyci, the first female president of the Basic Court of Pristina, the largest district court in Kosovo. We'll tell their stories to help Americans understand our story. That campaign will run through World Democracy Day on September 15th.

But most importantly, you will see our stronger commitment to democratic governance in our programmatic offerings. So, what will this look like? I'm going to take a few minutes to give you a brief overview. In many countries, particularly those countries struggling to emerge from an authoritarian shadow, we want to emphasize programs that help bring greater transparency to institutions. You know, in the West, I think we're guilty of too often assuming that transparency and openness and decision making is the natural state of governance. For countries that are emerging from, say, communism, there is no tradition of openness, and it's never really occurred to officials that they might want to keep their citizens effectively informed.

We're looking at ways to train a new generation of officials to make routine such matters as the public release of meeting schedules and reporting that shows compliance with procedural rules in decision making. In my recent visit to Albania, the Prime Minister told me how much he appreciated all the investments that USAID and the larger U.S. government had made over the years. But then he said to me, You know, those traditional development programs, that's no longer what we need. And when you look at the metrics, they're off the charts. It's a high achieving country. He said we need help to fight corruption. We need help to restore people's faith in government and their leaders.

And so we plan to respond to him with tools and technical assistance that can help foster a true culture of government transparency. Pending congressional approval, we're looking to partner with his government to establish the U.S. Albania Transparency Academy. We hope this Academy can focus on three pillars: promoting budget transparency in government, ensuring public visibility on government procurement procedures, and creating demand for transparency among youth.

A second focus in our programing will be fostering and supporting genuine choices in elections. We want to invest in political pluralism, free elections, and strengthening electoral integrity. These days, authoritarians know they can't oppose elections outright. Even Maduro and Ortega say they support democracy. They want elections and then they work to bend them and rig them in any way that they can.

In advance of the elections in Cambodia, for example, Hun Sen not only dissolved the main opposition group and banned it from politics, but he arrested and jailed its leader.

And then at the same time, he announced he actually wanted free elections and he wanted to bring observers in. They would see how smooth elections can be. (Inaudible) side note, especially when you were essentially unopposed. Traditional Democratic voices, the U.S., Canada, and Europe, all of us refused to take part. China, which purchased the election equipment, was only too happy to oblige. And the Chinese praised the election as, "orderly". We'll look for ways to support electoral systems and observation teams meeting international objective standards. And we will express dismay at those which do not.

Third, we want to support citizen responsiveness and governance. Frustration becomes despair when citizens see little hope that officials will listen and respond to their needs and priorities. On the other hand, disagreements have a chance to remain civil when citizens believe they are at least heard. And so we'll support programs that help leaders, especially new leaders, become better constituent driven officials. One of the most uplifting things that I have ever seen was meeting with a young woman mayor in Guatemala.

She had a particular way of conducting town hall meetings. She would have her team bring road equipment to the town hall. And then when someone would say, I have a pothole, she would point. And while the town hall was going on, the guy would go and fix the pothole. And I kept thinking to myself, boy, do I have a use for a person like that. We can't all be as action oriented as that mayor. But we can teach such modest things as town halls, how to utilize polling and surveys, helping parties to construct issue-based platforms that are clear and which lead to accountability. And so those are the activities that we will look to fund and to support.

Fourth: Inclusiveness. No democracy can be called representative if it isn't listening to all of its people. No political system is truly stable if it dehumanizes large segments of its population. Stability isn't merely the absence of conflict. It requires an environment in which all groups have a clear stake in the system's survival and success. And so we'll work to support and foster civic space, help counter dialog that vilifies the vulnerable, and reinforce the independence of journalists and media organizations. We'll pay special attention to the largest marginalized community in nearly every part of the world: women.

And so we're ramping up our work on W-GDP, The Woman's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, which aims to empower girls and women in numerous ways. We'll support investments in women's education and training, expand access to financing and market opportunities, and tackle barriers to economic participation, like the laws which prevent women from holding property.

We'll also work to operationalize the framework known as Women, Peace and Security. History shows that reconciliation and dispute resolution that has women at the table almost always produces more sustainable results.

Furthermore, we know that women are oftentimes the best early warning indicators of the rise of extremism. They are closer to their families. They're closer to particularly their sons. And so they can help spot trouble before it begins.

Finally, there is no more important work for building stability, tackling marginalization, and reinforcing the bond between citizens and their government and creating pathways for youth engagement.

Young people, the world over, are eager to make their mark and to be heard. They're anxious to see a world in which they have a realistic chance to create, to contribute, to provide for themselves and their loved ones. There are over 1.8 billion youth in the world, 90 percent of them live in the developing world. And sadly, studies show that most of them don't believe that their government cares about their views or listens to their ideas. That disconnection cannot continue. It must be addressed if democracy is to succeed in the future.

We'll be looking for ideas and mechanisms that bring young people together, especially across political and demographic lines, and give them a chance to be heard. We'll place a premium on projects that teach young people how to disagree and yet coexist, debate and yet reach conclusions, and help them become productive citizens. We'll place an even greater premium on those that reach out to the many young people caught up in the historic waves of human displacement that we see in so many parts of the world.

A final thought: We recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and I had the honor of being there as the Reagan statue was unveiled not so far from the Brandenburg Gate, but it actually reminded me of the 25th anniversary, which I celebrated and marked in a different way. I was at IRI in those days. And it suddenly occurred to me as we were approaching the 25th anniversary that I had staff that weren't alive when the wall was up. I said, okay, how do I help them understand what this means?

And I went to one of our board members, General Brent Scowcroft, and I said, General Scowcroft, you were there. You were there for Europe whole and free. What do I tell young people? And he looked and he said, "Tell them it wasn't easy." He said, "These days we look back and say of course the wall will fall. Of course, Germany will unify." He said "It wasn't easy and it was often in doubt. There were moments when we did not think it would happen."

He said that when George H.W. Bush brought up to his cabinet that he was going to give that speech, many told him not to do it. Scowcroft told him not to do it. And so I think the lesson for all of us with the topic we take on today, when we talk about those problems in every corner of the world, we remind ourselves what Scowcroft said.

It isn't easy. It wasn't easy. It will never be easy. Building citizen responsive governance, bringing communities together. It's never been easy. But, in that is the greatest glory that we have, the chance to work on responsiveness, the chance to work on those underlying influences that we know are crucial to addressing fragility, to preventing violence, to giving hope to the next generation. Thank you.