Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Burma has embarked on a long and challenging road of political and economic reform. The reforms that began in 2011 have set in motion ongoing transitions that will see important developments over the coming year including the election on November 8th, ongoing ceasefire negotiations with ethnic armed groups, the treatment of Rohingya, and the changing strength and vibrancy of civil society. The United States has a fundamental interest in the success of Burma’s reforms and remains a committed partner to those who seek greater freedom, prosperity and dignity in Burma.
Land rights are not only an economic issue, but a human rights issue. In countries around the world, the absence of secure property rights protected by an effective rule of law is a major constraint to poverty alleviation and security. This is the reality for millions in the developing world, where over 70 percent of land is unregistered. In Southeast Asia, we know from our decades of work in the region and public surveys that property rights are either the top or among the top concerns of the people.
Today, we are grappling with the largest global displacement in recorded history. Nearly 60 million people have been uprooted from their homes, fleeing across borders as refugees or within their own countries to escape rampant violence, persecution, and destruction. More than half of all refugees are children, too many of whom have had their innocence stripped away after suffering abuse, seeing parents or relatives killed, or leaving their homes in the chaotic fog of war. More than a quarter of all of the world’s displaced persons are in Africa. Conflict is now driving enormous numbers of people from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. In Mali and Nigeria, governments are struggling to beat back the scourge of violent extremism, especially in communities where weak governance and lack of economic opportunities provide breeding grounds for radicalism. South Sudan is mired in a spiral of brutal violence and retribution that has left more than two million people displaced, hungry, and terrorized. Political unrest in Burundi has caused 150,000 people to flee to neighboring countries. Today’s flashpoints are layered on top of decades-long instability in Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that continue to drive millions from their homes.
Thanks to your generosity, the United States is the largest provider of food assistance in the world. With Congressional support, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace has reached more than three billion of the world's neediest people in over 150 countries with life-saving food assistance – perhaps the largest and longest-running expression of humanity seen in the world. I want to also thank our partners – American farmers, mariners, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations – for supporting USAID in our work. Our efforts would not be possible without them, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership to make millions of people around the world more food secure. I am also pleased to testify alongside my colleague, Phil Karsting, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service, and am proud of the ongoing partnership between our two agencies.
Since being nominated, I have had the opportunity to consult with several members of this Committee, and I have appreciated your guidance and counsel to ensure that USAID remains the world’s preeminent development agency. From the humanitarian emergency in Syria and ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, to the pressing needs in Central America and the Ebola virus in West Africa, today’s world demands creative solutions to increasingly complex problems.
Over the past two Administrations, we have seen unprecedented bipartisan support for the Agency’s key initiatives, from global health and food security to humanitarian assistance and science and technology—as well as a recognition that the Agency’s work must be informed by a rigorous use of evidence and data to guide decision-making. These are principles that have driven my own approach to international development across a thirty-five year career, and principles that I will continue to uphold as Administrator, if confirmed.
It is an exciting and pivotal time for U.S. policy in the region. More people live in Asia than anywhere else on the planet. Over the past three decades, the region has experienced an unprecedented period of prosperity, propelling hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. A growing middle class has expanded trade opportunities and driven reciprocal growth in countries around the world, including the United States. The 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) alone comprise our fourth largest export market. In the next decade, trade volume in Asia is expected to double, and by 2050, Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is projected to account for more than half of the world’s GDP.
U.S. assistance provides balance as well as choices for Central Asian countries to develop the wherewithal to determine their own futures. USAID is strengthening democratic governance systems and helping to shape regionally and globally connected economies not wholly dependent on remittances, as well as meeting urgent human needs through a focus on health, food security and modest but important support to specific issues like combatting human trafficking.
The U.S. government’s “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific recognizes that our future prosperity and security are inextricably tied to the region. Over the past three decades, the region has experienced an unprecedented period of prosperity, propelling hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty. A growing middle class has expanded trade opportunities and driven reciprocal growth in countries around the world, including the United States.
As Acting Administrator Alfonso Lenhardt testified before you last week, USAID’s mission across the globe is to partner to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. In Latin America and the Caribbean, USAID assistance has helped expand financing for small businesses and supported macroeconomic policies to help reduce inequities and create opportunities through improved access to quality health and education services. Several countries in the region are now donors in their own right.
For more than two decades, USAID has partnered with the Government of Nepal to strengthen its governance system, especially its disaster management and emergency response capabilities. While the April 25 earthquake and subsequent aftershocks caused significant damage to the country, preparedness measures put in place prior to the earthquake—such as the pre-positioning of supplies and training on earthquake-resistant construction—helped to save lives and mitigate damage. To date, the U.S. Government has provided nearly $47 million in humanitarian assistance to earthquake-affected populations. We know that our investments before the crisis and after will be critical to ensuring that Nepal can overcome this latest tragedy and build a democratic, resilient future.
Last updated: November 27, 2015