Administrator Green's Participation with UK Secretary of State Mourdant on a Panel to Launch the Humanitarian Grand Challenge Event

Overseas Development Institute London, UK

For Immediate Release

Monday, February 19, 2018


February 19, 2018
Overseas Development Institute
London, UK

MR. THEIR: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome and good afternoon.  We have a very exciting event for you here today.  Creating Hope in Conflict -- A Humanitarian Grand Challenge.  My name is Alex Thier and I am the executive director here at ODI.  And it is my delight to welcome several special guests, some old friends, and some new ones.  We’re particularly honored to be joined today by Ambassador Mark Green, the Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, and Penny Mordaunt, the Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom.  

The humanitarian impulse did not start with the founding of these two great organizations led by our guests, nor will it end with them.  But together, they represent almost 50 percent of international humanitarian assistance from public donors.  It is also interesting to note that public spending on humanitarian crises as a proportion of overall public spending has risen nearly 50 percent in the last decade.  And when we contemplate the scale and the complexity of need in our world, we are thankful that not only have they picked up the reins of leadership, but that they are here today to challenge us to do better.  

Ambassador Mark Green was sworn in as the 18th administrator of USAID last August.  He previously served as president of the International Republican Institute, which is a global beacon for promoting basic rights and freedoms.  He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania and four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  

The Right Honorable Penny Mordaunt was appointed to lead the UK Department for International Development as Secretary of State in November of 2017.  Elected as a conservative member of Parliament in 2010, she served previously as the Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions and the Minister of State for the Armed Forces -- the first woman to do so.  We are also joined here by a terrific audience in London.  Many former colleagues from USAID and DFID and we welcome you here today.  We also have hundreds of people watching us online.  

If you are in the room, please silence your phone, but don’t turn it off because those of you both inside and outside of the room today are asked to join us in conversation.  You can do that through the Twitter handle humanitarian, #humanitariangc, for grand challenge.  And also using our Twitter handles @ODIdev and @humanitariangc.  You’ll also notice that we have a film crew in the room filming today.  

Now, I would like to turn over to my colleague, Sara Pantuliano, a Managing Director here at ODI who is going to start off by framing the urgent need for change in the provision of humanitarian assistance and who will be leading the discussion with our distinguished guests.  Over to you, Sarah.  

MS. PANTULIANO: Thank you so much, Alex.  And let me add my own welcome to you all.  Before we start, I’d just like to also give a special mention to Peter Singer, who is a CEO of Grand Challenges Canada.  Grand Challenges Canada is the implementing partner for humanitarian and grand challenge and brings a wealth of experience to the initiative.  And for those who will stay for the reception, you know, I encourage you to go and talk to Peter to have a more detailed discussion.  

But before we start the discussion, let me just offer a few reflections as to why this conversation is so important today.  I mean, the conduct of war, the nature of disasters has changed dramatically since 1945, when the humanitarian sector came of age.  Or even the ‘90s, when, you know, the former humanitarian system as we know it actually took shape.  Disasters are more intense, more costly.  Urban violence is on the rise.  Conflict has changed dramatically, if you think about it.  It has become more internal rather than international.  They are fought by no-stay actors, transnational terrorist networks, and actually, we see every threat of the nation state as a reference point for engagement for humanitarians.  And they have become more protracted.  They invariably lead to very large-scale and long-term displacement crisis, particularly internal crises.  

They have also been fought through new forms of warfare.  If you think about how many conflicts we see with increased use of remotely-controlled weapons and automated weapons.  And these have, you know, massive implications for compliance with international humanitarian systems.  These changes in the nature and in the conduct of, you know, conflict and disaster and actually coinciding with a crisis of legitimacy of the traditional humanitarian system.  This is a consequence, on one hand, of, you know, perceived hypocrisy toward humanitarian principles, but also because of the evolution of the wider international political environment.  And the move towards a multi (inaudible) order.  

So, what we see is a growing number of countries or political entities -- they are blocking or restricting or controlling humanitarian response on their territories, and rising powers that are no longer, or very reluctant, you know, to join multilateral networks.  We see local organizations and diaspora who have become very central in humanitarian discourse and they are playing a really vital role in providing assistance on the ground.  And businesses, both local and corporate businesses, they are providing substantial amounts of aid also in conflict zones.  Remittances more increasingly significant, consistent, more reliable than international aid and foreign direct investment.  

And the people themselves, they are actually the primary agents of their own protection.  They’re making their voices heard through, you know, new technological -- new communication technology, media platforms.  They’re challenging the priorities and actually, I would say the authority of humanitarian aid agencies.  

So, we actually are really witnessing a de facto transformation of the actors, the networks, the frameworks -- are at the heart of humanitarian action.  But actually, the former systems struggle to recognize to enable to support these transformations.  And this is why an initiative like the Humanitarian Grand Challenge is so important, and why I’m really honored to be associated with it as a member of the sitting group.  The humanitarian organizations really need to be more attuned with the innovations that are happening around us.  As a humanitarian community, there are many here in the room today -- we really need to be more introspective, you know, in the way we think about innovation.  And really think about how we need to shift internally in our organizations of our own behavior to adapt to the processes of change that we’re seeing around us.  

So, this is less about incremental improvements in products or processes.  You know, that might help reduce costs or, you know, improve certain features.  But it’s more about the systemic shift in the culture under which the humanitarian sector operates today, which is something here with the humanitarian policy we (inaudible) will be arguing for many years.  The current public debate about the collective failure of, you know, our sector in safeguarding the people that we are meant to serve is a fatal reminder of how critical the need for change really is.  

So, ultimately, the real innovation for me is going to be a change in the current power relations, you know.  Incentive structures, so that we move away from this unmitigated drive to expansion and competition and we move toward greater complementarity, corporation, and trust.  And this collaboration will be critical to identify, you know, appropriate non-standardized solutions to address these evolving conflicts and worsening disasters, which is what the Humanitarian Grand Challenge aims to incentivize.  And that’s why today’s conversation is so important.  So, I’m really delighted to, you know, be able to host you, such distinguished guests who have this critical conversation for our sector.  

But, you know, before I open the discussion, I actually would like to give you opportunity to both Secretary of State Mordant and Administrator Green to tell us a little bit about the initiative, so that people can get a better idea.  Let me to start with you, Secretary of State.  

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Thank you.  Well, thank you very much for inviting us here today.  And for those of -- who are joining online.  Obviously, I’m coming to this event in the wake of the Oxfam scandal and the other issues that have been raised around that.  I don’t want to dwell on that today.  I’m going to be making a statement in the Commons tomorrow, bringing everyone up to date on what has been going on and what we’re intending on doing.  

But I think that that is an example of organizations not putting as their priority the beneficiaries of what they’re doing.  And I think in other areas, although less dramatic and less likely to receive media attention, we are also, perhaps, guilty as a sector of doing that sometimes.  

And in the short time that I have been in post where I have seen things work amazingly well, and people deliver more for the money and resources that they have and really deliver lasting impact that’s building resilience as they go, is when people put the beneficiaries first.  When they forget that they’re working at a different organization from the one that’s working alongside them, where they share data, where they share good ideas and good practice.  And part of that is about the commissioners and the funders creating a culture which really promotes that kind of attitude, but it’s also about the organizations themselves always putting the beneficiaries first.  How can they do something which will help that overall picture?  

And, clearly, our humanitarian response efforts are a key area where that is very relevant.  Innovation, for us, is about delivering essential humanitarian aid better, faster, and cheaper.  And that means making use of the opportunities that technology brings, and that’s a huge priority for DFID at the moment.  And clearly what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to reach more people more quickly, a greater number of people, and make a bigger impact to their lives. 

One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen, in the humanitarian sector most recently, is the shift from giving aid in kind to cash.  And at the World Humanitarian Summit, DFID committed to more than double its use of cash in crises by 2025, and this, I think, will be transformational.  The World Food Program estimates that it has reduced its delivery costs to reach Syrian refugees in Lebanon by 30 percent in using cash, saving huge amounts of money and enabling resources to go further.  And there are broader benefits to local economies too.  Every dollar spent generates up to about $2 of GDP for the Lebanese economy. 

And I want to know what the next big thing is going to be.  What will be the critical change to how we deliver humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable?  Mobile technology has huge opportunities.  For instance, data used to be collected laboriously by hand.  Now, it can be transmitted through mobile systems almost instantaneously.  

We supported, at DFID, a mobile app that allows household food security data to be collected from areas that we could not otherwise get to, and that tool has now been rolled out to 28 countries including DRC, Yemen, and South Sudan.  And we’re also looking at how we use unmanned aerial vehicles more effectively.  

By mapping areas devastated by natural disasters, locating where people are and what they need, and restoring emergency communications, or delivering critical supplies in areas where roads are impassable.  And that is the thing I can tell you that exercises the House of Commons greatly is when we know there’s a group of people that we want to get help to, and we don’t have the answers as to how to do that. 

And it is essential to me that all of those innovations are benefiting people most in need -- women and girls and people with disabilities.  For example, DFID supported the design of a new lightweight emergency response wheelchair, but that level of investment is nowhere near enough.  And we are really stepping up our activity in this area.  And as we prepare for the Global Disability Summit in London this summer, I want to see more innovation to meet the needs of people with disabilities. 

And the focus of this new Challenge Fund on conflict areas is right because that’s where people need our help the most.  It’s important as we do this that we do it in partnership with the private sector.  That’s not replacing the vital work other sectors do, but it’s bringing in a new set of skills, new technologies, and ideas, and helping us really pick up the pace.  Equally, we need the voices and experiences of effective communities to be front and center in this work.  I really want to champion in my tenure the use of technology and innovation, and that’s why I am pleased today to be announcing this new partnership with USAID and the Grand Challenges Canada today.  

We and USAID are each contributing just over £5 million to launch this new Grand Challenge: Creating Hope in Conflict, and by working together we can bring about real change and have a deep and long-lasting impact on the lives of those people who need our help most.  Thank you. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Thank you so much!  Exciting to hear!  


Really excited to hear DFID is joining the Grand Challenge.  That’s great!  Ambassador Green, tell us more about the initiative.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Right.  Well, thank you.  First off, let me say how much of an honor it is to be here with, first off, with my friend the Secretary and with many of you who I’ve known for some time.  Also, my mother’s from London.


My father’s South African.  His parents are from England.  So, I feel like I’m coming home, and I appreciate that very much. 

So, I’ve been an Administrator for just over six months, and it seems to me that the two great movements or thrusts that I see in the world today, one very negative and one very hopeful.  
The one that’s very negative is the displacement of people.  We have 70 million displaced people in the world today.  It’s an extraordinary thing.  We have children being born in camps and in settlement villages.  They’re being raised in those camps and villages.  And the challenge to all of us -- and being able to provide services so we give them some semblance of normality in their lives so that, God willing, the gates open, the fence comes down, they’re not vulnerable to some of the worst possible exploitative forces.  So, that, to me, is the great dark trend. 

The great positive trend -- I’ll put even one notch above technology, and that’s the burgeoning relationship I think the development community has with the private sector.  For the longest time, we in the development community believed that we were the only ones entitled to move in these communities.  That we were the source of all goodness and lifting lives.  And then, eventually we said, “Okay, we’re not the only ones.  You can join us if you give us money.” Right?  

So, we did work with the private sector, but only if we could get them to perform and dance exactly as we wanted.  In this day and age, everything has changed, and we recognize that enterprise itself, the ingenuity the spirit of innovation that it brings to projects and problems and solutions, is a good unto itself.  It’s what makes technology work.  It’s not simple -- obviously the tool itself.  It’s how we apply it, and it’s working with local entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, to design solutions to long-standing challenges.  And to me, that’s a very, very hopeful trend and one that we should embrace. 

Which is really what’s at the heart of the humanitarian -- excuse me, the Humanitarian Grand Challenge.  As was mentioned, a little over £5 million, 7.5 million U.S. dollars apiece will be applied over the next three years.  Submissions -- you’ll hear more, but submissions are due on April 12th and we expect 10 to 15 seed projects coming from this that’ll be funded over the next 24 months.  

And of these seed projects, two to four of them we hope to have as transition-to-scale projects where even more funding will be available to them to hopefully scale up some of the solutions that we’re seeking to really provide, now proven, answers to some of the daunting challenges that we see. 

So, why is it that USAID is interested in this?  And, quite frankly, it’s because of the scale of the humanitarian need that’s out there.  My background’s in development.  I started 30 years ago as a teacher in East Africa.  When I came to USAID, I had my groundings in development.  I don’t think I was fully prepared for the scale of humanitarian need and really how daunting this is and how it’s only going to grow. 

Last year, the United States spent $8 billion on humanitarian assistance.  Eighty percent of that humanitarian assistance response was in conflict zones, and for all of that money that we spend, and we’re proud to spend it because we believe that is our moral obligation, less than 1 percent of that money actually goes into innovations, into testing out ways to improve the delivery of services.  And we, simply, believe that a truly compassionate nation, a truly compassionate people, our obligation is not only to provide assistance but to do so in the most effective way possible, the most efficient way possible.  And also, at the same time to design local solutions that help communities and people withstand future shock because we know all too often those shocks will come.

So, we are excited about the Humanitarian Grand Challenge.  This is our 10th Humanitarian -- this is our 10th Challenge.  Our first Humanitarian Grand Challenge.  It’s been a great experience for us.  We think it taps into the natural creativity that’s out there, and my sense is that there is more creativity in this sector than almost any other.  So, like the Secretary, I’m eagerly anticipating the results of what we’ll see.  

So, again, I’m delighted to be here, and I’m very excited about being able to partner with DFID.  We think this is a great opportunity for us all to help meet needs, but also to do so in ways that are transformative.

MS. PANTULIANO: Great.  Thank you. 


Let’s watch a short video on the Humanitarian Grand Challenge.  Just a minute. 

[music playing] 

Great.  Let me start with a question to you both.  What do you really hope the Humanitarian Grand Challenge can achieve?  Is there any particular area or any particular, you know, the problem with humanitarian delivery that you hope in this can be addressed with the new initiative?
SECRETARY MORDAUNT: We’ve got a big long list --


-- but I think for me, this can be a catalyst I think, really, to getting more eyes on those problems.  I think that -- again coming into this sector, and I have been in the post marginally less than Mark, but it’s very clear to me that if you look at our Sustainable Delivery Goals, we are way off actually delivering them, sorry, Sustainable Development Goals.  We’re way off delivering them. 

And what we need to do, if we really want to deliver them, is pick up the pace, and we have to work much smarter in doing that.  There is massive waste within the humanitarian delivery system at the moment.  And there are many examples I can point to, just in recent years being in Parliament, where you see a situation that you -- if you could only get there, if you could only deliver a particular piece of equipment or find a way of getting through obstacles, you could help someone.  But you just don’t have that option. 

So, we need some new answers, and we need smart people everywhere to be focused on these issues.  And -- so, I think this can be a catalyst -- as well as addressing that specific list -- a catalyst to really helping other sectors wake up to the opportunities that are that are out there.  I know from previous ministerial roles that I’ve held, people move quicker than commissioners in government.  Technology moves quicker than we can ever hope to keep up with.  

And so, by changing that dialogue, by throwing problems out there, by asking for help, and being explicit about it, and building networks around that -- which is I think it will be one of the effects of this -- that will be game-changing.  And, to me, that is the only way we are going to meet those objectives, and we’re going to meet the demand on the humanitarian front which is out there now. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Absolutely.  Any particular ambition for you?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I’m like Penny.  It’s more general.  I don’t want to prejudge, but, you know, I think one of the problems in the development sector, the development community, is for far too long when faced with a challenge, what we’ve done is look inward first.  Spend a lot of time looking inward, craft something that’s almost certainly not quite a perfect match for the communities we’re trying to serve or they were simply outdated.  

What I’m always struck by is the enormous creative energy that we see at the local level, local communities.  It’s often frugal technology.  I often tell this story: when I was a teacher in Kenya 30 years ago we had one wind-up telephone in the village.  You literally had to wind it up, and you’d say, “Operator, you know, give me Nairobi,” and you’d put the phone down and a half an hour later your call would go through. 

Ten years after I left that school I returned, and I ran into one of my former students.  And I asked him if he knew where a certain student lived.  He said sure.  I said can you go get him?  Of course, he pulled out his mobile phone and called him.  Ten years later, when I visited my driver was taking SIM cards and sticking them in and out and moving calls around and doing transactions.  And I was watching malaria tests get processed. 

Back here in London, and in Washington, D.C., we’re so far behind.  You know, we think we’re really smart, and we think we’re cutting it -- we’re so far behind.  I think on the local level there are wonderfully creative solutions that will help all of us in what we do if we just listen and incentivize.  And so, I think the great thing about what we’re undertaking here is that’s just what it is.  We’re going to listen.  We’re going to incentivize.  We’re going to test, and whatever works, and I’m certainly not smart enough to prejudge it, will scale up.  We’ll take it to scale, and I think great things can happen.  I really do. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Tell us a bit more what’s unique about this initiative?  You know, how is it different from other things we’ve tried before?  Why do you think it’s going to succeed? 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: First off, we’re inviting and listening.  I think that’s the single most important thing that we can do, and we’re also focusing it on the particular nature of challenges in conflict.  You know, if we focus only widely I don’t think we really deal with the particular challenges that we see. 

Some months ago, we had global innovation week back at USAID with the Gates Foundation, and I walked through the Innovation Marketplace, it was called.  I had been on the job but two-week, so I had nothing whatsoever to do with it.  I contributed nothing to it other than seeing incredible things, where we saw briefcase size solar batteries that could power all the electrical needs for a significant part of a refugee camp.  

It was fantastic and instantly changing things.  Providing refrigeration so you could get meds from the capital, from the port, out to the local area that needed refrigeration.  So, to me, it’s incentivizing smart people, often young creative people, to take on the specific problem of trying to provide assistance in these very difficult conflict-ridden settings.  And I think we’ll see -- as I said I’m very excited.  I think we’ll see great things. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Great.  Secretary of State, why do you think the Secretaries have struggled so much to innovate deeply, systematically in the past?  Of course, there is the odd exception, but, largely, you know, there’s been a difficulty for the secretary to overcome a number of barriers.  How can the challenge help that? 

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Because I think, it is it is calling a greater number of people to come and help, and I think it is ruthlessly focused on the results.  “We’ve got this much resource, guys.  Here’s the need.  Here’s things that we have failed to do in the past that we know are problems.  Do you want to carry on like that, or do we want to change that?”

So, I think it will -- it will really get an interest I hope and some focus from other sectors.  I think it, also, it will hopefully be a catalyst to the humanitarian sector recognizing what it’s got that can help.  I have to say, you -- the kind introduction earlier on -- yeah, I used to command UK Armed Forces but I’ve never felt more powerful as a minister than when some geek said to me, “You can mandate a data set?  Wow.” 


So, you know, there are -- sometimes we actually don’t recognize what we’ve got that can help.  And sometimes we need someone else to tell us to, you know, “If you could just tell me these things I could solve this for you.”  So, I think it’s really about getting smart people to work on these problems.  

Donors and commissioners, we need to behave differently.  I was wrestling with all sorts of problems as a minister for disabled people, and the normal way of responding to that was that we would -- we would figure out what the answer was, badly.  We’d then run a very lengthy procurement process to get someone to deliver it for us, badly.  And what we did was we just posted the problem up and created a network of smart people working in tech who were interested in this.  And I’d do that about 9:00 a.m., and at noon someone would come back with the answer and say, “We’ll give it to you for free.” 

So, I think there are -- it’s really mobilizing other organizations to this cause and recognizing, actually, how we can help do that.  And I hope that will be something else that will come from this initiative.

MS. PANTULIANO: You’ve both mentioned engaging the private sector, and we’ve seen, you know, tremendous progress in the last few years in, you know, colleagues from the corporate sector engaging in humanitarian action.  But they, you know, they often say how frustrating it is for them to engage with the (inaudible).  They move slowly.  There is, you know, not always appreciative of the capabilities that they bring.  Of the, you know, the great skills and strengths that they bring.  How can we better incentivize them, both through this initiative and generally to engage with the humanitarian sector? 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, again I think a Grand Challenge is one of many mechanisms, but it is one that begins with listening, which is not something we’re very good at in the public sector traditionally.  You know -- and I think it’s also recognizing that, you know, that we’re willing to look at almost anything in terms of what can be done.  

Let me give you an example of a very simple innovation that came out of a challenge like this that I think is small but remarkable.  We’re doing something with MasterCard, the Smart Communities Coalition, which is bringing together 15 different organizations.  They’re working in five refugee camps, and they’re working around a very simple problem.  

When refugees go to these camps, they have to fill out something like 20 different hard paper forms, stand in line, go through, get them processed -- it’s a system that is just open, as you can imagine, to mistake if not something more serious than mistake.  So, we could digitize these with a simple card.  One application, take it with a card.  We get instant oversight, absolute transparency, and we’re able to make sure that the people that need services are getting them. 
So, it is being open to that which the private sector has been -- this isn’t even cutting-edge technology.  All right?  This is old technology, we’re just catching up.  I think the way that we change things is a system that says, “What do you got?  We want to work with you, and we’re interested in trying things out.”  

And, again, we’re not even talking about earth-shattering, headline-breaking technology.  We’re talking about fairly simple applications of technology that’s long since been in place.  It helps us fight fraud.  It helps us fight corruption, and, most importantly, those poor people, who are already under tremendous stress, we get them their services faster, more effectively, more efficiently when we make sure that we get those things to them that they can use to help raise their family under the most trying conditions.

MS. PANTULIANO: Thanks, we need to open to the audience already, but I just want to ask you one last question.  What do you hope to see in the initial submissions? 

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Oh, well I think we should not -- we should not be prescriptive about this because that’s what we’re trying to get away from.  

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Yeah, if she and I could figure it out, it’s old.  Right?


It’s not good enough.  

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: What I would come up with would not be the correct answer.  So, I mean I think this is the power of this initiative.  We’re saying -- you know, we’re describing some of the challenges that we face, and we’re saying, you know, “What would you do?  Come up with ideas.” 

I’m always struck, actually, from the little I know of technology as I travel I see situations where I think, “God, if only we could -- if only we could just -- you know, there’s that product which if we could use it here we could protect these people.  We could, you know, we could -- we could prevent this situation this person has been through happening.” 

So, there’s already technology which can deliver solutions to a whole raft of issues.  The exciting thing about this is, for me, as someone that sat in the House of Commons when we’ve -- you know, whether it’s been in defense or at DFID and we’re trying to explain to colleagues why we can’t help somebody, why we can’t get the water back up, why we why we can’t get this medicine to this community, why we can’t get this aid out.  These are the things that we really want to crack, and, so, that’s the excitement I think of the Challenge and the fund. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Great.  Well, there is a lot of interest out there.  I’m told that #humanitariangc is trending on Twitter in the UK  So, lots of people are following, clearly interested, but let me open to the audience both here and online.  I will start with my fellow member of the steering group of the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, James (inaudible). 

QUESTION: Good afternoon everyone.  I think, for the sake of the people that are behind me, I will go to the front if you don’t mind.  So, my name is James (inaudible).  I’m from Toronto, and I am the Executive Director and founder of Rainmaker Enterprise.  A social enterprise that is launching water systems, solar-powered water system, as well as sensor-driven drip irrigation system to conserve water and manage water properly for farming in South Sudan to lift communities out of extreme poverty and hunger. 

I am really honored to be on the steering committee of the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, and I bring on this -- this humanitarian -- I bring on this humanitarian committee an intricate knowledge of experiences in the conflict-affected zone as someone who was born in water on Sudan and grew up into it and got forced to flee the country, escaping becoming a child soldier, to a refugee camp and later on coming to Canada. 

For me, as someone who grew up in war and grew up in a refugee camp, the ineffectiveness and inefficiency of humanitarian aid delivery that both of you are talking about today is something that -- it’s one thing when you read about ineffectiveness and inefficiency from the comfort of a computer and when you are actually experiencing that firsthand.  

And the reason why I joined the steering committee, and the reason why I started a social enterprise, I have an image, an ugly image from my childhood of someone who died of hunger in my presence as a child yet when food aid was being controlled by people who are powerful within the country.  And at the same time, there are reports that are given out in humanitarian work and international development of the aid that has been delivered to people in those places. 
For me, these inefficiencies are so hurting.  Especially when you know that we have a chance as a people with the ingenuity and innovativeness that we all have in order to see this inefficiencies.  

And I feel encouraged to see the political will that both of you Ambassador Green and Secretary of State bring on today on the stage.  I’m really, really encouraged by that.  And I’m also happy to be on the steering committee to steer towards the direction that should actually help the people that are really impacted by this humanitarian crisis.  To get themselves out of the problems that they are in. 

So, my question to you, Ambassador Green and Secretary, is how are we going to avoid the same traditional form of top-down interventions within these innovations that we are trying to seek so that we actually allow the people that are really impacted by these challenges to come up with their own innovations and address their own problems themselves?  And how are we going to level the playing field in an already imbalanced globalized world?  Especially when it comes to issues of technology, conflict-affected areas are the last places that you would expect access to technology.  So, thank you. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Thank you, James.


The lady there -- can you please introduce yourself when you take the floor, and say if you are (inaudible).  I’ll take three or four, and I’ve got a few online as well.  Please be brief so we can get a lot in. 

QUESTION: Thanks.  My name is Joy.  I was interested -- it was great to see this Challenge being launched.  I was wandering, beyond money, what are the important ways that you’ll be helping to accelerate innovation?  I think we’ve seen with the scale-up of cash that what was critical, in terms of enabling that scaling, was for donors to be giving the system a really big nudge.  So, it’s great to have investment in the products and processes, but how will your organizations help to incentivize scale-up?  Thanks. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Thanks.  The gentleman here in the front?

QUESTION: Thank you.  I’m Ken Bluestone.  I work with Age International.  We’re a UK member of the HelpAge Global Network but were also a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee here.  And I’m very pleased to say both USAID and DFID are supporting -- have supported the development of the humanitarian inclusion standards for older people and people with disabilities, which is very soon to be launched.  It is already published.  And, I just want to know, how is it that this initiative is going to be responsive to making sure that inclusion happens in practice for people with disabilities and older people? 

MS. PANTULIANO: Let me get to a question from the online audience.  Nicholas Miller asks, I think that’s particularly for Secretary of State, “DFID along with (inaudible) is supporting the Humanitarian Innovation Fund to help organizations and individuals identified, nurture, and share innovative and scalable solutions.  What does he learn from this program and how does the Grand Challenge initiative build on the lessons of the HIF?”  Maybe we’ll start with this.  I don’t know -- Administrator Green? 

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure, there’s a lot there.  Thank you and thank you so much for that question my friend from South Sudan.  And what you’re talking about, and your life story, is one of the reasons that we do all this.  It’s to try to reach out and provide some access to those in need, and -- you know, I think what drives us in all this, the American people in particular, I think are wonderfully generous.  

I think sometimes their fear is that money is not getting to where it’s supposed to go.  That’s, I think, the great fear that they have.  I think a big part of what we’re all talking about is just that.  It’s providing transparency using these fairly simple tools, not complicated tools, to track assistance, to make sure that it’s not passing through the pockets or the decision-making of the powerful but getting precisely to those in need. 

It is a commitment that we make.  It’s important, and I think the Grand Challenge will introduce new opportunities and new options for doing it similar to what I’ve talked about with the Smart Communities Coalition.  I think that helps in a great way. 

In terms of other ways that this Grand Challenge helps, beyond money, in scaling up what is done.  The convening authority and the marketing capacity that comes with DFID, USAID, and participants and lifting up success and what we see and shining a light upon it and getting it out there, I think that helps as well.  

That’s a big part of this because it’s often no one person, or no one organization, that has the answer.  It’s only when you bring them together, and they have a chance to talk about different applications and the way that these applications can work together.  I view Grand Challenge programs as really getting bright minds, people with local experience, putting them in a room with whiteboards and literally designing some of the answers as you go along.  So, to us, that’s terrifically important. 

And in terms of inclusiveness, our view at USAID is very simple.  No country can be considered a democracy if it’s not listening to all of its people, and no government, no leadership, no community leadership is going to be successful in the world today, given the myriad of challenges that we face, if it doesn’t look to all of its people for the leadership it needs.  And for far too long, sometimes intentionally sometimes unintentionally, we have pushed aside and excluded some of the brightest minds that are there.  

So, I think by having something for which the cost of participation is nothing, is negligible, we have a much greater opportunity to listen to voices that perhaps haven’t had audiences in the past.  And I think that’s crucial to the success of this. 

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Thanks.  I have to agree with that.  And just that the, kind of, key learnings I think from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund is that we need more investment, and we need more initiatives.  So, I think this is a logical next step from initiatives that both our nations have done to date.  

Going back to you sir, I think the one thing that we can do to guard against this reverting to some sort of top-down initiative, and really undermining the purpose of the whole enterprise, is to, firstly, continually remind ourselves, whatever the pressures are wherever they’re coming from, that it’s not -- we should be judged on not how good we feel about what we’re doing but the good that our work does.  And just remain ruthlessly focused on that. 

If we think something is a good idea, and we’re facing some challenge in that, we need to have the courage to press on.  We need to have the courage to let go of some things.  And I think we also really need to understand, it’s obviously a generalization, but what other sectors bring to this.  This is my fourth ministry.  It’s probably got the best understanding about social enterprise, social finance, and what the private sector can yield than any department I’ve worked in.  But we still need to challenge ourselves and the culture that we have.  How we actually commission things, how we can actually pick up the pace and move quicker. 

And, also, where we are based in the world.  The ability to be engaged at what’s happening at a local level, and to spot opportunities as and when they arise.  So, I think there are still some challenges.  I’m pretty confident my department’s in a good place on this, but there’s still other things that we can do to really ensure we’re moving at a pace and we’re levering in all the help that that is out there and wants to help get behind this. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Say a word on the inclusion question.  I know how you committed you are to the issue.

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Yes, absolutely.  I mean, this is really vital.  We are trying to keep a focus on this in the run-up to the summit, and we feel that we’ve been pushing at an open door.  In part, maybe we’ve given permission for people to do a bit more on this.  I think, sometimes, particularly with issues like disability, people feel because it’s so difficult, or that they’re starting from a bad place, that they can’t do more.  So, I hope we can create a bit of momentum behind this agenda and really push that.  The World Bank have committed to collect disability data in a much more rigorous way and to set some stretch targets of the bank.  

But I think that the other thing that we can do is just to really ensure that those people’s voices are heard in all of this.  You know, we need to ensure that the way we are commissioning things, the things that we are identifying that we want focus on, are the things that actually are going to mean -- make a difference to those individuals. 

And I would also say, finally, that I’ve just been really struck by, through some of the technologies we’ve been talking about in our introductions, the ability for us to find these people.  So, one of the, you know, I suppose unintended consequences of the cash transfer schemes is that because the vulnerable people are locally identified by the community disabled households are being registered in a way that they wouldn’t have done for a long time.  So, I think there are some real opportunities here for disabled people and other marginalized groups.

MS. PANTULIANO: Excellent.  I know lots of people to come in.  I can just bring in one or two telegraphic questions.  You have to be really super short.  The gentleman at the front.  You’ve been --

QUESTION: Good afternoon.  My name is (inaudible), and I’m glad from the top to the bottom today everybody’s been talking about technology.  Technology.  Where’s the technology these days?  Computers.  

I’m the founder and global development director of Care Computers for Developing Countries.  Since 2006 we have been supplying computers to developing countries, but our biggest challenge that is to do -- to go to you the panel is today Oxfam scandal it’s been exposed by DFID.  Right.  Now, how can DFID and ODI help to investigate the scam of UK shipping companies, activity in developing countries too?  We have been victim of all kinds of things.  And my M.P., Tim Loughton, is well ahead of this game.  And I quote a letter here.  He sent it to Ghana High Commission --

MS. PANTULIANO:  Thank you.  We --


MS. PANTULIANO: Really, very short questions to start with, please.  Okay.  The gentleman in the back there, yes.

QUESTION: Thanks.  I’m Rob Williams.  I work for War Child UK.  I’m really excited about this whole prospect of funding for innovation.  We’ve talked about technology.  We’ve talked about technology helping us to deliver basic needs, like food, water, and shelter.  I have lots of other ideas that I want to put in, but I want to check first: is this fund interested in delivering the other things that people in crisis need that can’t necessarily come off the back of a truck?  

I’m thinking about access to education for the children, young people that we work with, access to opportunities to make a living if you’re in a refugee camp, or to find a solution to your livelihood problem if you’re on the move.  Are you open to technological fixes or even other fixes that can open up all of those things that actually people also need, as well as basic food and shelter?

MS. PANTULIANO: Thanks.  And if there is a lady at the back, I’d like to bring -- or, maybe at the front here.

QUESTION: Hi.  I’m (inaudible).  I work for IMC Worldwide.  I’m just interested in two things, really.  One is the IP issue, if you’re working with private-sector companies, and how you make sure that that intellectual property is available to other people too.  And secondly, are you aware of and -- of the European Commission’s prize on High Technology for Humanitarian Aid?  And how are you linking up with that program and process?  Thank you. 

MS. PANTULIANO: Thank you.  Would you like to start?

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Yes, please.  Just a couple of those.  I mean, just very, very briefly, on wrongdoing and the Oxfam situation, I’ll be making a statement tomorrow.  But I can assure you, any processes we’re going through with the third sector and the humanitarian sector we will also be doing with the private sector.  This is everyone.  So -- and the other moral of this story is that if you see wrongdoing going on, whether it’s with the shipping company or it’s about aid distribution, report it.  You can report it to DFID’s whistleblower hotline.  I know Tim, and you know, I’m sure he will be beating a path to my door.  So, that’s the first thing I would say on that.  

Just on the IP situation -- I mean, I think we can learn a lot by looking at other sectors.  So, in recent years, there’s been a big push in the UK on research in life sciences in particular and changing the culture of -- whether they be pharmaceutical companies, or academic institutions, or whoever has smart people working on the same problem but not talking to each other -- that we find ways of getting them to talk to each other, and collaborating, and getting to the answer faster.  So, looking at how to share IP -- and I think this is a -- clearly an issue for the sector in the brief time I’ve been here; but also really looking at thinking how we get stuff to scale.

Just to give you a very brief example, you may know the BBC Two program, “The Big Life Fix,” which is kind of like the broadcast version of this.  You know, “What’s the challenge?  Let’s get smart people to solve that problem.”  One of the big challenges they had when they came up with all these solutions was, how do we get them to scale?  And actually, the answer for each one is not necessarily the same.  So, some people would just post the 3D printing instructions online and let everyone use it, and that was the best way to get it to scale.  But in other cases, it was about protecting the intellectual property, and it was actually creating a business from it.  

So, there won’t be one answer, I think, for the brilliant ideas that are going to come from this Challenge.  And we just have to think about -- not necessarily us, but others as well -- what is the best way of getting this to as many people, and getting the most good to come from it as possible?

MS. PANTULIANO: Thanks.  Do you want to address the question about education?  Is the Grand Challenge --


MS. PANTULIANO: -- interested in livelihoods --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: It’s a great question.  And it is something I always tell people.  People always ask the question, “What gets you up in the middle of the night?”  What gets me up in the middle of the night are kids being born in camps, raised in camps, growing up in camps without sufficient access to education, without sufficient access to nutrition, because, God willing, the gate is going to open and the fence is going to come down some day.  And we’re going to expect them to be productive members of society.  And I worry they’re going to be vulnerable to the worst exploitative forces if we fail to find ways to provide education -- and not just the basics in education, but civic education and connectivity to the world around them.  

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Raqqa, Syria.  And the limited role that USAID plays there is helping IDPs, Raqqans who want to go home.  And they’re just looking for the restoration of essential services: water, electricity, meds, some semblance of education.  They all indicated to us, “You do that, we go home.”  And so, it’s being able to provide for those needs so that people can live in their own homes, that they can go back.  Otherwise, these great forces of numbers are transforming the world in a way that troubles all of us.

MS. PANTULIANO: Thank you.  I know there are a lot more questions, but we are out of time.  I just want to check if you have any concluding remarks before we officially launch the challenge.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, I -- first off, my great thanks to Penny for hosting us and this today.  We had a wonderful dialogue this morning.  I’m delighted to be working as closely with DFID as we are.  And I think that there are great, great things ahead, and I think joining together as we are on this Grand Challenge is very promising.  So, I’m very excited and very grateful.

SECRETARY MORDAUNT: Thank you.  And just to reciprocate -- one of the themes of our discussions -- and actually, this is our -- we had our Strategic Dialogue, as it’s called, today.  But it’s our second of the year.  So, I did a trip to Washington earlier this year.  And I think that whatever we’re trying to do, whether it’s get the humanitarian system to be more efficient, to really harness the capabilities in the private sector, or whether it’s safeguarding issues -- whatever it is we’re trying to do, we have this joint agenda for us to do it together -- in concert -- and with other nations.  

So, if we’re pushing the UN for reform, we’re doing it much more explicitly together, with all the other things that we want -- that we’re doing it together.  We will get the results that we want to see.  So, I’m really delighted that -- I look forward to our third Strategic Dialogue imminently.  And thank you very much for your support for this.  It’s brilliant.

MS. PANTULIANO:  Great.  Well, thank you both for the discussion.  And you know, for your leadership for the sector.  This is really exciting at a time, where, you know, we really need to innovate seriously and think how we transform the way in which we operate as a humanitarian sector.  I think all that’s left for us is to officially launch the challenge, and I think we’ve got a short video for that.


Well, thank you, everyone here.  Thank you to the online audience.  But please join me to thank the Secretary of State, Administrator Green.  Join us for tea and coffee, for a bit of a networking reception.  But first of all, a big thank you for being with us today.  

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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