USAID Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the World Food Program USA's McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov | Twitter: @USAID

 
Capitol Hill
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I feel like I should quit while I'm ahead. Governor Beasley referred to a great intellect, so I should really quit right now.

It's great to be with all of you. Honored to be with these two champions. USAID is proudly the largest contributor to the World Food Program, and we were placed on the Board of Directors of the World Food Program. We try to bring our experience and expertise -- what we see on the ground. But we marry that with dynamic leadership, reform-oriented leadership, outcome-based leadership, and all the wonderful relationships that the World Food Program has, and so we're thrilled to be part of this great effort.

I won't repeat what you heard from Governor Beasley. Plus, you got brighter minds than mine coming ahead. I will just say a couple of things. Two developments: first, people have asked me if I've been surprised by -- having taken the helm at USAID. Maybe not surprised, but I've seen some things that I didn't quite expect or perhaps didn't appreciate. And the biggest one is the sheer scope of the humanitarian need. My background is in development. I started off as a teacher in Kenya 30-plus years ago. And so, that's what my training is very involved in -- the MCC and the PEPFAR initiative. But the sheer scale of the humanitarian need that we see right now is, as you've heard, unprecedented. There's 66 million displaced people in the world today -- at least the greatest number since World War II. My guess is probably the greatest in our history.

And it presents all kinds of challenges to those of us who are involved in development and humanitarian assistance. How is it that you provide services to people who are displaced, coming and going from camps? How do you provide basic education so these kids have some semblance of a normal life, a productive life -- they're engaged with their communities? It is challenging.

But one of the most important pieces of that is how do you provide nutrition? We know that those first months, those first years are crucial, and they define so much of what a young boy or a young girl can grow up to be. And so, the types of interventions that we seek through the World Food Program and programs that we celebrate tonight are extraordinarily important. They're irreplaceable.

The second piece to it, as David made reference to, I was an Ambassador to Tanzania. I was there 2007, 2008, the first part of 2009. And one of the great frustrations that I had was that Tanzania, in those days -- a country that's 83 percent rural agricultural land -- precisely this many agricultural staff. Zero. We weren't relevant in the conversations. I would call back to Washington, "Send me -- send, you know, send me an ag officer." They always sent me Treasury officials. Can't use them, don't want them, can't pay for them, can't house them. Send me an ag officer. It didn't exist. And we never got it.

I'm here to tell you that Feed the Future -- the Global Food Security Act, in particular -- are game-changers. Absolute game-changers. And the key to all this, and what we should really celebrate tonight is that -- and you've heard references to it -- we are in a partisan safe-zone. Every administration in modern times has made a major contribution to humanitarian and global development assistance. And I'm proud of this tradition. President Bush was a game-changer with PEPFAR, with the AIDS initiative. Changed the course of human history -- and these nutrition and food security programs. They are similarly game-changers. They make us relevant. We have the tools to provide that which we're being asked to provide.

My philosophy is that the purpose of foreign assistance must be to end the need of its existence -- that we not only have to minister to immediate needs, but we have to help people take care of themselves. The last time I saw David Beasley was in Ethiopia, over breakfast. And later that day, I went out with some of his team, and we went to a food distribution site. And I'll never forget it, because we were there as grains of food were distributed -- and thanks to the World Food Program -- absolutely [inaudible]. We knew where they were coming from. We were able to monitor every point of the way.

But as the food was distributed, we came across a lady -- an Ethiopian lady -- who was just resting. She just received her grain. And she said -- she asked me if I -- if she could ask me a question. I said, "Sure." And she said, "Can you help us with irrigation, so I don't have to do this ever again?" And we had a couple of reporters traveling with us, and said, "That's golden. That's it." That's why we do all of this.

So, we help to give people nutrition. We take care of immediate humanitarian needs. We give them space and tools to provide for their own families. That's why all of this matters. And ladies and gentlemen, all of this -- all that I'm talking about, all the Governor is talking about -- that would not be possible if not for strong, bipartisan voices on Capitol Hill. Republicans and Democrats coming together, and Senators Moran and Casey are true champions. Do not underestimate the role that they play, because in this chaotic environment, there are a ton of demands on the limited resources that we have -- a ton.

You need solid voices. You need respected voices. You need people who not only support you but will go to bat for you, and know how to work the halls, and know how to talk to their colleagues -- Republicans, and Democrats, and men, and women -- and say, "Look, this is why this matters." You are lucky to have them. I'm really lucky to have them. So, I'm here to thank you for what you've done, but I'm here to thank these two great champions. I'm thrilled. Again, it makes us relevant. And the world is on fire. And the fact that we have some tools like the tools that we're celebrating tonight, it's a godsend. And we're all very, very lucky. Thank you and congratulations.

Last updated: October 04, 2017

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