United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green on U.S. Government Development Engagement at the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Press Release Shim

Speeches Shim

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Office of Press Relations

New York City, New York

MR GREEN: Hello, everyone. Thank you for having me. So I thought I would take a few moments to update you on some of the highlights from USAID meetings this week. As you know, at USAID we believe the purpose of foreign assistance is to end the need for its existence. And we believe that our job is to work with countries on their journey to self-reliance. There is plenty of work to do all around as we support the world’s most vulnerable populations that are affected by humanitarian crises, promote human rights, democracy, citizen-responsive governance, and improve development outcomes in the areas of economic growth, education, and environment, and health worldwide.

I spent this week meeting with colleagues and groups across governments, private sector, NGOs. We’re all passionate about revolutions in the development space. We shared our priorities on strengthening development models and using tools like private sector engagement as countries take on the challenges and choices that they need to do for that journey to self-reliance.

I met with our colleagues from JICA, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, to discuss our areas of cooperation. We have a long and deep relationship with JICA. I met with the new prime minister of Sudan, that country’s first civilian head of government in more than 30 years. I assured him the United States remains committed to stand alongside the people of Sudan during this time of opportunity; this hopeful time.

I met yesterday with the Venezuelan ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, and the rest of the Venezuelan delegation to announce $52 million in new funding to support the government of Interim President Juan Guaidó and the people of Venezuela as they seek to restore citizen-responsive democratic governance in that country.

I also had a chance to be part of the meeting today that President Trump had with members of the Lima Group in the region along with representatives of the Juan Guaidó government. I also took part and spoke at the Concordia Summit, and there talked about the importance at USAID of private sector engagement. We believe very much that the future of development is enterprise-driven, and we are excited about the ways in which technology, investment, and private-public collaboration is changing the work that we do for the positive and helping our partner countries accelerate their rise and journey to self-reliance.

Tomorrow I will meet with Dr. Tedros, Director-General of the World Health Organization. I will thank him and his staff for the sustained courage and hard work on the front lines of the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and our support of the government as they work to end this outbreak. I have been to the DRC twice myself in the last three months. I also had a chance briefly last night to speak with President Tshisekedi. As you might imagine, we remain very concerned about the situation on the ground in the DRC. As I said, in my opinion this is not just a public health emergency, but it’s also a public development emergency. And as the WHO and the Ministry of Health in DRC lead the response effort, we are working with the DRC and other donor governments and NGO partners to rebuild trust in communities. That trust is irreplaceable if we’re all going to bring an end to this epidemic.

So those are a few highlights of my sessions, and with that I’d be happy to respond to questions that you might have.

QUESTION: Hi. Yeah, thanks, Luc Cohen from Reuters. I was just wondering if in addition to the $52 million for Guaidó, are there any plans for the United States to support the United Nations-led humanitarian efforts within Venezuela, as well as any funding for other countries in the region with respect to migrants?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure. So let me take the second part of that first. As you know, the U.S. Government is by far the largest humanitarian donor in the world, and we are by far the largest humanitarian donor when it comes to Venezuelan migrants in particular, and the host communities who are generously hosting and supporting them. I won’t speak for Secretary Pompeo. Secretary Pompeo and the President also announced additional funds in humanitarian and development assistance. But I can say of this figure, nearly $36 million is aimed at helping the most urgent needs inside Venezuela, as identified by the UN humanitarian response plan. It will be provided through impartial relief agencies, including international, local organizations, and UN agencies that are working inside Venezuela.

As I think all of you know, the challenge for the longest time in terms of providing humanitarian assistance inside Venezuela is that Mr. Maduro has weaponized assistance for so long and used it to support and reward his friends and to punish his enemies. As you might imagine, we have no interest in partaking of that kind of weaponization.

I have been to the border. I have been to Cucuta three times myself. The level of suffering on the part of the Venezuelan people, in terms of my conversations with those who have fled, I think it is very hard sometimes for we Americans to fully comprehend how great the suffering is. We often think about this level of suffering as being something very far off. Of course, in fact, this is in our very neighborhood, and the level of suffering is indeed deep.

QUESTION: How would you quantify – obviously, USAID is donating to all sorts of humanitarian conflicts across the world. What is – where’s the largest pot of American dollars going at this point? Also, your deputy the other day voiced some frustration that the Europeans were not donating very much. There’s a conference happening late next month. How is USAID trying to get the Europeans to donate more, and why do you think they are not?

MR GREEN: That’s a lot of questions --


MR GREEN: -- but I’ll take the second one first. So it is indeed true that we need, the world needs, to see much more in the way of humanitarian contributions from our allies, from other donor nations. To be clear, when we talk about these challenges that we all see, we’re not arguing for the U.S. to do less; we’re arguing for other countries to do more.

I was commenting earlier today, USAID’s principle humanitarian response structures – so Food for Peace, OFDA, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance – they were largely created when humanitarian crises were earthquakes and tornadoes and the occasional flood, and very sadly in the modern world, far and away manmade regime-driven crises, whether it be Syria or the fallout from Venezuela – and it is important as these are crises that are not bilateral, but affect regions if not the world, we think it is very important that nations join with us.

In terms of why they don’t, I can’t tell you. It’s a better question to pose to them. But what I will say is that at a time of great challenge, when countries of Europe, countries in the West talk about the importance of international engagement and leadership, this is one of those times when we need our friends and colleagues and allies to step to the plate and to do more.

The threat of – that is posed by the Ebola outbreak in DRC, that is not a U.S. threat, obviously, but one that affects not just the region, but to prevent it from becoming a pandemic. And so it is important for nations at these important times to join with us and to do more.

And I don’t remember the first of your three questions.

QUESTION: What’s the biggest pot – where is the destination of the largest pot of USAID --

MR GREEN: And it keeps changing. So in the – Yemen, Syria, again, Venezuela, our humanitarian response in DRC, and looking back to the back of the room and my staff, quite frankly so many places in the world right now.

QUESTION: You just took part in a roundtable of public and private sector (inaudible) U.S. and Africa. Were there any deliverables out of that event? Was it really just meant as an information exchange? What can you share --

MR GREEN: Sure. As you may know, I’m very passionate about Africa. I’ve lived in Africa a couple of times in my life. My father is South African by birth. I am one of those who believes with all of my heart in the potential of Africa and the future for young Africans.

Today what we discussed is we spent more time talking about some of the details of Prosper Africa. Prosper Africa isn’t a new program; it is a new alignment of all of the tools that we have. What is new perhaps is the new Development Finance Corporation which is coming online in a matter of weeks. But it really is about a renewed emphasis, a pulling together of our tools, an enhancing of our trade hubs that are in Africa, with the purpose of helping give private enterprise – private enterprise companies from America, but leaders in Africa the chance to work together on projects of mutual benefit.

What is very different about the way that the U.S. provides assistance, economic assistance is that we believe fundamentally in self-reliance. That’s what we offer. We offer tools and opportunities to help countries lead themselves. That’s a different model than other powers in the world, and so we were talking about that.

In addition, we were listening both to some of the companies who are there, companies like ExxonMobil and General Electric and Google and Bechtel, and some of the African leaders who were there, each side about what they see as what challenges might be to more enterprise-driven growth, and that was the information exchange. People were busily taking notes. I suspect there will be opportunities coming from the discussion.

QUESTION: You said in response to Lara earlier that you’re not looking for the U.S. to do less; you’re looking for other countries to do more. But that’s not the impression that I think anybody gets from – maybe from OMB or from the White House. This is an administration whose top political level has tried to shorten, reduce, and do less in terms of USAID. Now, they may not have been successful because of Congress and perhaps your efforts, but this idea that America is the largest aid donor – that’s great, but it’s not what this administration wants to do.

MR GREEN: So I’ll answer that a couple of ways. First off, when it comes to humanitarian assistance, we’re the largest bilateral donor by far, by a significant factor.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there are very powerful people in Washington who do not want that to be the case.

MR GREEN: And those powerful people announced – made the announcement today about humanitarian assistance, so I’ll let that speak for itself. It was President Trump and Secretary Pompeo who announced these assistance – made these assistance announcements today. Humanitarian assistance is something that is a point of pride, I believe, for America and Americans. It has deep, broad, bipartisan support, including in the administration. So I am very confident that America’s humanitarian role in the world is – our leadership role will continue. I do believe other countries need to do more because the needs are profound, right? I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. The humanitarian needs are profound.

QUESTION: How much is the United States spending on humanitarian issues at the current moment? Do you know?

MR GREEN: I don’t. We can follow up with you and get you the precise numbers.


MR GREEN: And in part because that number – humanitarian assistance is often like – unlike what we do on the development side. So our humanitarian assistance announcements get made as needs are identified and assessed. So we don’t start in the beginning of the year and announce this is what we’re going to do in humanitarian assistance. Instead, for example, in the case of the Bahamas, we actually had pre-positioned some of our team in the Bahamas as the storm was – as Dorian was bearing down. We had a disaster assistance response team on the ground within 24 hours. As we identified the needs, that’s when the announcements are made, and that’s how we continue to do our work. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to get a good read for you.

Luke, and then Nick.

QUESTION: Yeah, just a quick follow-up on the $52 million committed to Guaidó and his team yesterday. Did that include funds that had been previously intended for Central American aid?

MR GREEN: Some of that was some of the reprogrammed money, yes.

QUESTION: How much of it?

MR GREEN: I don’t know the breakdown, but again, we’ll follow up and make sure you get the numbers.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you, when you talk about other countries needing to do more, can you speak specifically about which countries? I mean, this gets to this broader issue where you talk about how the U.S. is the largest contributor of development, but on a per capita basis that’s not true. It’s the --

MR GREEN: Well, on humanitarian, it’s just – again, there’s no one even close. I mean, if you take a look at the numbers --

QUESTION: But on a per capita basis, I mean, it’s – other countries are contributing double the U.S. amount (inaudible).

MR GREEN: On humanitarian?

QUESTION: Development and humanitarian aid.

MR GREEN: Well, but I’m – see, I’m not trying to be argumentative, but speaking specifically on humanitarian, which is obviously what we’re referring to here, it’s by far – but again, it is by a significant factor. And again, I think the numbers speak for themselves. So the U.S., we’re the leader of the free world; with that comes responsibility, clearly, and I think you see that responsibility exercised. But I look at the growing humanitarian challenges. Earlier today, at the session that we had with some of the leaders from Central and South America, they were throwing around the number of 4.5 million migrants having fled Venezuela, obviously people with needs going to communities and creating further needs. So the needs are there, and we think it is important that we join together to meet these needs and to try to ease some of the suffering.

All right. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR GREEN: Thank you, everyone.