USAID Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the Professional Services Council's 7th Annual Development Conference

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, December 3, 2019
Office of Press Relations
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December 3, 2019
Key Bridge Marriott
Arlington, Virginia

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you for those kind words. We were out back talking about some of the challenges that we all see in the world today. Being up here sort of reminds me of the story of the millionaire's pool party. As the story goes, there was a party around a pool at a millionaire's home, and the host got up and he said to his guests, "I tell you what, I'll give a million dollars or the hand of my daughter to the first guy who will swim across this pool." Trick was the pool was filled with man-eating alligators.

There were no takers, but as he turned to walk away, he heard a splash. He turned around. Sure enough, there's a guy in the pool, fighting his way across. Eventually gets across, gets out, standing there, dripping wet. And the millionaire runs over and said, "You know, that it is the bravest, the most courageous thing I have ever seen. So what's it going to be? A million dollars or the hand of my daughter?" And the guy looked at him and said, "Neither. I just want to know who the hell pushed me in the pool." (laughter)

And I know that all of us these days feel like that on occasion, given all that's going on.

In all seriousness, thank you. Thanks, team, and thanks to all of you for the kind welcome. You know, as I look back over my time at USAID, now two years and a little bit, there are few partners, few stakeholders who have done more to help the Agency pursue our historic mission than all of you and who you represent.

You were the ones delivering results in some of the toughest settings I know, getting tougher by the day. You are helping us shape and meet key objectives. You've served as experienced, constructive counsel to theAgency, and you have helped us as we go through our transformation process, a process that will hopefully better prioritize our investments and work to make sure that we are all doing everything that we need to do to help countries on their Journey to Self-Reliance.

As you know, to operationalize that notion, we have launched an ambitious process to transform USAID and really to reshape how we pursue our work. It's been an interesting process. We began by asking our staff and our partners for the best ideas and reforms that they could find. New ideas, old ideas, from recent administrations, from no administration, whatever we could do that would help all of us here extend American leadership in a rapidly changing world. And I guess more to the point, we ask all of you -- we ask you what it would take to make us and USAID better partners. What would it take to better empower you to do that which you do best?

In the early days of Transformation, we met with the PSC Executive Advisory Council to solicit ideas and suggestions. All told, more than 60 PSC members directly contributed feedback to our efforts. Your ideas guided reforms that touched upon everything from streamlining our business processes, to better equipping our workforce, to changing how we partner by evaluating and elevating your role in local engagement.

You were honest and constructive in your counsel. Okay, sometimes aggressively so. You told us that, despite our best intentions, our partnering, procurement, and award management policies have become too complex and too prescriptive. But that helped us to adapt our focus and shape the path of transformation. And so we streamlined the cost proposal review process to reduce the administrative burden. We revised our policy guidance and training around monitoring and evaluation and learning, because we share your belief that active, adaptive, and collaborative award management is the best way to ensure that all of us meet our goals.

You said that our procurement workforce was not sufficiently resourced or empowered to handle the increasing demands of acquisition and assistance. And so we worked to hire additional contracting staff with more to come. We've already approved a 30 percent increase in our contracting officer workforce, approximately 40 new Foreign Service Officers. But we know that hiring alone isn't the answer. And so we've also worked on improving the experience and capabilities of our staff and creating more development opportunities to increase retention rates. Steps that will help us keep our best and brightest at USAID, complemented with talented new hires, and alleviate a pain point for your hard work.

You also said that USAID had lost sight of your value as our longstanding development partners, who can strengthen the capacity of our partner countries. You reminded us that progress on the Journey to Self-Reliance is not the absence of international partners, but those partners playing the right role in U.S. foreign assistance. And so we reassessed our local engagement approach. We wanted to capture the key role that you play in building local capacity. And so we created a capacity strengthening indicator. Each Mission will now report on the capacity building progress of local partners that received some awards.

We will measure our success by how well you equip those partners to implement programs. Starting this year, we will regularly engage in a dialogue on effective sub-award management. So really what I am saying today is I want to thank everyone here for all that you have done. But I also want to thank all of you for what you are doing right now, armed with some of the reforms that we've undertaken and those that we have begun. On top of all of that, I want to thank you for everything that you're going to do, because we have lots of work ahead. For everything that you have done, I truly salute you.

The members of this organization, this Coalition, have embraced the opportunities. We've observed a greater commitment to data driven designs like pay for performance models. And we've witnessed an openness to phased acquisition procurement, which lowers the barriers to entry, reduces management burdens, and cuts delivery time. We've seen a significant increase in co-creation, which we believe, I believe, is critical to harnessing innovation.

In Fiscal Year 2018, we challenged ourselves to increase the use of co-creation for new awards all across the world in all of our geographic regions. In 2019, thanks to you, we met or exceeded our goals in four of the six regions in which we work. That could never have happened without all of you, your willingness to push the envelope, your willingness to embrace new ideas.

Two weeks ago, Senior White House Adviser Ivanka Trump and I announced several new programs under the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. Near the top of that list was our work with one of your members, Palladium, who is helping us to expand women entrepreneurs' access to credit in Colombia. There is Cambodia, where the sustainable management of the country's natural resources is a challenge that we all recognize, but one, quite frankly, that we at the Agency weren't entirely sure how to best address. And so we issued a request for information, collecting inputs from potential partners to help guide our thinking. That led us to another one of your members, who partnered with us to help Cambodians conserve biodiversity and protect their forests, so they can enjoy them for generations to come. There's Bangladesh, where inadequate access to nutritional food combines with water, hygiene, and sanitation challenges to create health challenges for children and their mothers. And so once again, we turned to you and your members, and we engaged in a robust co-design process, working closely together to develop activities that incorporated the best ideas from each of us; USAID, and all of you are partners, you're members.

Now, we're working together to expand Bangladesh's access to nutritional foods, improve hygiene practices, and empower women to make informed decisions on food consumption habits. Membership of the PSC is showing the world why you are true pioneers of development. We couldn't succeed without you. And I promise we won't try. (laughter)

And so, again, thank you for everything that you've done. Thank you for what you were doing and how you embraced reform and change. And now, thank you for what you will do, what we will do in the months ahead. You see, it's critical that we continue to fine-tune and hone these reforms, because together we're confronting some of the biggest challenges in the world today, challenges that demand we work as efficiently and effectively as possible, as partners for progress. These challenges are in some of the areas where we work most often, but the most demanding environments that any of us can imagine. Like the instability caused by violence, poor governance, and fragility, left unaddressed, these issues contribute to a cycle of crises that prompt people to flee from their homes in search of safety and opportunity.

We see this in regions like the Sahel, where a mix of extremism, environmental degradation and unresponsive governance structures have contributed to large destabilizing population movements. Foreign global health, the spread of infectious diseases, high infant and maternal mortality rates, and limited access to health care services robs communities and countries of their hidden potential.

Each of these is a threat to self-reliance and prosperity. Again, we know that we can't possibly succeed, our country can't succeed, those countries, those peoples cannot rise without all of you. Sometimes you ask what it is that gets me up at night as Administrator: the fact that we have 71 million people displaced. We have families displaced: mothers and children. People are not where they were. They're not where they're going to be. And as they're in motion, the challenge to all of us is to find ways to reach out to those people where they were, where they are. And again, when they're in motion, we need to find ways to deliver key interventions, health services, nutritional interventions. We need to find ways to provide connectivity to the world around them, both in basic education, and just an understanding of the world.

I get up in the middle of the night because I worry about children being born in camps, growing up with kids and not really having a sense of the world around them. And then someday when those gates open and the fence comes down, God-willing, we somehow expect them not to be vulnerable to the worst kinds of forces that we can imagine, exploitative forces, extremist forces, and that to me is the great challenge that we face as a community. But there are lots of reasons for us to be optimistic. Quite honestly, it's the work that you do each and every day that gives me that optimism. We've partnered with you to deliver services, to produce outcomes in settings that, I don't know, test all of us, test technologies, test ideas over and over again that you have been delivering and you will deliver.

So again, my message to you today is how grateful I am as Administrator, how grateful we are as an Agency for your friendship and your partnership. We believe in true collaboration and we'll keep that collaboration going because there's lots of work to do. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Off-mike) saying if you could ask the Administrator any three questions, what would you ask? We were besieged by them, but we have only three questions, and because I'm in charge, I get to ask one. And because (inaudible), and because Christina Mossi is the Chair of CIDC, she gets to ask the third. (laughter)

So, we're going to ask them all at once, so the Administrator can write them down, and he's going to answer them. And then guess what? He has a meeting at the White House, so he needs to leave. So Administrator Green, my question to you is simply this: as you've noticed as you're walking in the hall, you probably saw all these poster boards. Those are what we call the "from the field" stories, where our CIDC members send us what they do with the American taxpayer dollars in terms of foreign assistance. And you mentioned in your remarks, for some reason, only Palladium, which is like the third shout out that (inaudible) got, so I'm tired of that. (laughter)

So my question is, you sort of teased with Cambodia and Bangladesh, but are there other CIDC members out there that sort of, as you travel, that you're particularly -- you just, you know they're your go-to? The problem we always have is, if you name some, you're not going to name others, but I don't care. So can you tell us, some of the others, what you said you've seen, and some of the other members in this room, that they've done that? So that's question one.

QUESTION: Okay, so question two is, since taking the helm at USAID, you've emphasized the role of private enterprise in USAID's work, as did Jim Richardson this morning in his remarks on F. Why is this a critical priority, and what role do you see CIDC members, who are themselves part of the private sector, playing?

QUESTION: Question three: we've heard from (inaudible) this morning, and you may have seen. And his attempts to offer viable funding alternatives to China and so-called "debt trapped diplomacy," how do you see USAID working with the AOC and what programs specifically within USAID do you think address this issue or try prevent this issue (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Quick questions. So instead of calling out individual members, what I will do is describe some work that I see particularly promising (inaudible). We're delighted with the work that all of you are doing on so many fronts. But I see some really promising areas emerging that are very much in line with some of our plans for the Agency and for U.S.- led development. And one area in particular is in domestic resource mobilization or as we call it increasingly, financing self-reliance. When I was getting ready to come to the Agency, I was getting lots of unsolicited input on different ideas and promising projects. Some of the work that's been done in El Salvador and Central America around building the capacity of government structures, to collect revenue, to budget transparently so that people can have confidence in how revenues are collected and everyone is paying their fair share. That's vitally important.

We have increased, in each of the budgets that I've been a part of, funding for domestic resource mobilization because it is very much in line with our notions of self-reliance and I think that's going to continue. But related to that, other parts of domestic resource mobilization, some of the work that some of you have been involved in, in enhancing and creating greater efficiencies to customs offices, I'll give you an example. In Vietnam, helping Vietnam be WTO-compliant in how they process goods crossing borders, that captures revenues more effectively, enhances their ability to make funding allocations. I think that's crucial work that we are very likely to continue to support. I've also seen some really interesting work utilizing what is no longer cutting edge technology; it is tried and tested technology: the global platforms for paying taxes and providing revenues, which again makes it more convenient for taxpayers, especially in the setting or infrastructure is weak and poor. So, for example, some of the work that I've seen in Liberia, Liberia rocked by weak infrastructure and then the Ebola crisis and some of the internal fighting that occurred coming out of the war left a lot of institutions weakened. And I know that a PSC member working with a mobile phone company and the government, as well as USAID, created such a mobile platform.

And last I saw, 20,000 Liberians were paying their taxes, many for the first time, using that mobile platform. Everybody wins. That enhances the ability of the government to finance some of its own responses to challenges, it adds to our notion of building their capacity and self-reliance. And so that to me is a huge success. And that whole area is one that I think so many members, you hear about just really phenomenal work.

The second question of private sector engagement, so private sector engagement is crucial for a lot of reasons in my mind. Number one, it helps build the sustainability of our investments and the capacity of our partners. We all know that no country wants to, or should want to, be entirely perpetually dependent upon foreign assistance, whether it comes from the U.S. or someone else.

So when we're able to bring and foster the private sector in a country to create jobs, but again, also to provide or collect revenues and to deliver services, that's something that's crucially important. And so that's why I think it's important to work with the private sector and also some more practical reasons. When USAID stood up, something like three out of every four dollars that flowed from the U.S. to Africa was government money, traditional assistance, ODA. That number of these days is below one in 10, not so much because government money is stepped back, but instead because the private sector roared ahead. Some of it's large-scale philanthropy; some of it's remittances. But more than anything else, just commerce. Business has business in the developing world. And so if we can tap into those flows, it helps us fund key development objectives. We will never have enough money to meet every challenge; no budget ever has and no budget will. We can -- when we tap into those private sources, private financial flows, I think make development go much further.

But the reason more than anything else that I talk about private sector engagement is because it enables us to tap into the innovation and ingenuity that we all know powers private enterprise; competitive forces push entrepreneurs to pursue new opportunities, new ideas, and new technologies. We want them in USAID. It allows us to be more effective and efficient in how we deliver outcomes.

And also, it helps to build and foster that sense of innovation, that spirit of ingenuity in the partner countries where we work. And you guys see this all the time. But each and every day, I learn of a new story that's involving private sector engagement, whether it be working with young app designers to create apps that involve citizens in Colombia, give them walking maps that shows them where they can find mosquito nests, mosquitoes carrying Zika, and how they can destroy them. Whether it be a tropical weather forecasting app that sends out automated weather forecasts to farmers in West Africa, so that each and every day they receive the forecast that helps them decide when to plant and when to harvest. The list goes on and on. The role of your members beyond being members of the private sector and having that spirit of entrepreneurship and enterprise, you also, as you partner with other private businesses, private sector enterprises, can help bring a development framework to what they do. Many American businesses are looking for opportunities, but they're sort of putting their toe in the water of places that they aren't entirely familiar with.

They want to do good, as they do well. You can help create that framework. You know how to measure development impact. You do it each and every day in your partnership with all of us. And I think that is an irreplaceable, irreplaceable service, value that you can bring to private sector engagement and I encourage all of you to do that. Some of the most innovative financing projects that I have seen across many sectors, particularly in areas like global health, the framework is provided by PSC members. So, you've got the spirit of private enterprise and you've got the involvement of financial institutions.

But that knowledge, that expertise around development, of how you measure it, and how you take on various challenges, I think that's an irreplaceable role that all of you can play. And I guess related to that is what my friend Adam in the DFC had been talking about. As you know, I serve on the DFC board. China, there are obviously other authoritarian players in the developing world. But China is the one that is most prominent. I don't know what China does with foreign assistance, and (inaudible) predatory financing and I mean that with absolute seriousness and sincerity. What we do is clear. We try to help countries become more self-reliant.

Our goal is to help countries move from being recipients, to partners, to fellow donors. That's what we want. We want to build that coalition of the willing for the West, for the United States. We want to enhance the ability of countries like India to move from when they received sacks of food from us, to a place where they are now the fifth largest donor to Afghanistan in financing key development there. Not every country is India. Not every country has advanced that far on their journey.

But that to us is the model, and I think it is what we offer the world that is a fundamentally different model than what China does. And the other piece of the work with China is, of course, the transparency. Everything that we do is an open book. Everything that we do is above board. You can see the costs and benefits of every project that you and I undertake. Of course, in the case of China, it's the opposite. Almost all is hidden from view. So what is the response? What is it that we do? First off, number one, and I know you know this; you hear it all the time. One of the reasons that China is able to fund projects is that we're not there. We need to be there. America needs to be there around the world. We need to engage with leaders and partners in the developing world.

Secondly, we are also developing tools and rolling them out, that help our country partners analyze the true costs and benefits of proposals that come from other countries. Straight off, let them see what those hidden costs are. And if they choose to go in that direction, it's a sovereign nation, they can make those choices. But when they see what it is that you and I offer versus what authoritarian powers offer, I'm pretty confident as to what the results will be. Then, I think finally, we need to reach out to young people around the world and help them understand that they're the ones that will bear the consequences and burdens of authoritarian financing. Whether it be the external debt, which limits opportunities of potential economic growth in the future, or -- and to me, this is just as dangerous -- the loss of sovereignty over key minerals and key access rights to ports and other facilities. We need to help young people understand that that is what is sold when you engage in authoritarian, predatory financing. And to me, that's the strong difference.

So again, I think what we offer the world is straightforward, principled, purpose-driven opportunity, and leadership. What we want to do is help countries in their journey to rise up and provide for their own people. And that is a different model. And it's one that I think is very much in line with American values. So I'll just close with this: So I come from the Midwest. I come from a former congressional district of lots of small towns and farm communities. And I remember very well as a member of Congress, when people would say to me, "So tell me about this foreign assistance thing that you guys do." And when I explained to them that our purpose, at least as I see it, is to really reinforce and internationalize that long standing American value of not a handout, but a hand up, usually in those small towns, people look at me and say, "Okay, people did that for me. People did that for my father, my mother, and generations before. We're good with that." I think that's what it is that we present the world.

Thanks to all of you, again, for the great work that you're doing. Lots of work ahead. I appreciate the partnership and all the counsel, advice, and assistance that you gave to us. Thank you.

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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