Remarks for Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa at East-West Center Event on the United States’ Enhanced & Enduring Commitment to the Pacific Islands Region

Speeches Shim

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Thank you for the introduction. It’s a pleasure to speak with you today on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.S. Government knows how crucial our Pacific neighbors are in fostering a free and open Indo-Pacific region. And we’ve had a longstanding commitment to the Pacific Islands.

Yet, the region’s stability and vitality continue to be threatened—by debilitating natural disasters, development challenges, and malign actors who engage in predatory economic activities.

For the Pacific Islands region to flourish, each nation must be free to determine its own course. And we are working with allies and partners to help the countries of this part of the world achieve true self-reliance.

Our partnerships in the Pacific region—including with regional institutions such as the Pacific Islands Forum, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the Pacific Community—advance shared priorities in the region, which include natural disaster resiliency, transparent and high-standard infrastructure financing, private sector-led growth, good governance, and sustainable development.

And we are so thankful to collaborate with partners in the Pacific like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan, who have similar goals to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific. Together, we believe in the promise of transparent and inclusive development.

Under the Pacific Pledge, which is what the United States’ calls our commitment to the region under the Indo-Pacific Strategy, our partnerships are stronger than ever. And USAID is advancing this pledge through even more engagement.

Today, we are excited to announce an expansion of new staffing in the Indo-Pacific—specifically in the Solomon Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau—as well as increased staffing in Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Along with the expansion in staffing comes a surge in financial assistance. In fact, our assistance to the Pacific region has more than quadrupled over the past 10 years—from roughly $20 million to $85 million today.

And as a part of that increase in funding, I am pleased to announce that we are in the process of awarding the first two of what will be dozens of grants under USAID’s new Pacific-American Fund. Launched just last month, this five-year, regional grant facility is designed to support civil-society organizations and private-sector enterprises in advancing locally designed and led development solutions. The goal is to increase resilience, improve quality of life, and provide access to services in vulnerable and remote Pacific Island communities.

The first two grants that will be awarded under the Pacific American Fund are COVID-19 rapid response grants, given to local organizations to respond to and mitigate economic and social impacts.

These two proposed recipients are expected to improve food security and increase incomes for rural coastal communities in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands through the development of small-scale, sustainable aquaculture enterprises.

We are excited and proud to ramp up support for economic development in the Indo-Pacific. And this announcement today follows on other major announcements from USAID in recent weeks.

One of these had to do with our commitment to build a new fiber optic cable connection to the Republic of Palau. This will give the country greater reliability and security in both telecommunications and internet access.

In another major announcement, we launched a new project that advances the U.S. Government’s commitment under the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership. This project will significantly boost efforts to expand electricity access from 13 to 70 percent of the population by 2030.

And a final example of the commitments we’re making to advance Indo-pacific development is USAID’s new program in the Solomon Islands. This program will strengthen the enabling environment to unlock economic opportunities; improve natural resource management; promote agribusiness and small enterprise development; and expand critical small-scale infrastructure.

And we have even more activities to announce in the weeks and months ahead. We are committed to putting resources and effort into our shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. And we’re doubling down on this commitment by preparing to launch three new regional programs.

Together, these new programs will have major impacts in the region. They will advance citizen-responsive democratic governance by strengthening institutions and improving public financial management. They will improve the enabling environment for trade and investment. And they will expand access to open, reliable, and secure digital connectivity infrastructure in remote atolls and islands.

I am excited to watch these programs come to fruition. We’ve made tremendous progress with our partners in the Pacific region and we know that great things await us all in the future.

Thank you, and back to Dr. Limaye.