U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at InterAction Forum 2018

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For Immediate Release

Thursday, June 14, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Washington Convention Center
Washington, DC
June 14, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good morning everyone, welcome. And thank you for those kind words. I know that for some of you here, this may be your first trip to Washington, DC, and so, a particular welcome to all of you. You are in the Beltway, the Swamp, (inaudible), home of the Stanley Cup.

So, I know Washington may be a confusing place to all of you, but I now have been working in DC on and off about 10 years. And the best way that I can explain Washington, DC to you is to recount one of my first experiences here. I had just been elected to Congress, and was getting ready to be sworn in. It was literally like the day before, so this would be early 1999. And it was snowing in Washington.

And, I'm from Green Bay, from Wisconsin. My family and I were in a taxi, going down Pennsylvania Avenue. And as we were going down, there was a snow plow in front of us, pushing all the snow off the road onto the sidewalk, and, from the other direction, there was of course a municipal vehicle taking all the snow off the sidewalk and pushing it back into the road. And I didn't realize it at the time, but that would sort of symbolize everything about Washington, DC.

In all seriousness, as we get underway, I want you to know that we at USAID really do look at you as irreplaceable partners in our mission. You were the foot soldiers of compassion, the greatest American generosity to the needy around so many forgotten corners of this world. For me, personally, you are also partners in the drive to shape a more effective framework for humanitarian involvement and assistance. And it really is in that spirit that I come to you today. Couple of announcements to make, but also in many ways more importantly, to enlist your help and your support.

First, couple of announcements. As many of you know, we've been working hard for some time to help support persecuted communities in this world -- religious communities, ethnic communities. It's an important priority for this Administration. It's true with respect with the Rohingya in Burma and Bangladesh. Some months ago, the State Department concluded that the Rohingyas had been the victims of an ethnic cleansing campaign in Burma, and we continue to take actions and to advocate on that score. 

Iraq Broad Agency Announcement: A New Initiative to Assist Persecuted Communities in Iraq

But it's also true in many parts of the Middle East. In Iraq, although the coalition has largely driven ISIS from the battlefield, much of Northern Iraq now faces the daunting task of repairing broken infrastructure and rebuilding a shattered social fabric. In many cities, towns, and villages, Christians, Yazidis, and other minority communities were especially victimized by the evil group that is ISIS. This week, we informed Congress of our intention -- USAID -- to launch a five-million-dollar program in Iraq, implemented by our Office of Transition Initiatives. Working with local partners across Iraq's diverse religious and ethnic landscape, OTI will help to support local-level reconciliation, and to promote long-term community cohesion in periods that were victimized, affected, by ISIS.

In addition, I'm happy to say that we are signing the first of the rewards resulting from our Broad Agency Announcement. I'll touch upon the BAA a little later. But that Broad Agency Announcement is to assist persecuted communities in Iraq. We will be investing a total of 10 million dollars in two coalitions, one lead by Catholic Relief Services, and the other by the Heartland Alliance, respectively. And this will begin to address the long-term barriers to prevent displaced persons who are returning in Ninewa, such as access to livelihoods and preparing social cohesion. CRS and the Heartland Alliance will each work with coalitions of local Iraqi groups and faith-based organizations that are already active in Ninewa Plains and Sinjar. These awards are not the end of the BAA, and in coming days and weeks, I look forward to announcing new projects and partners as we finalize them.

And so, those are my announcements for this morning. That they, I think, help you realize how actively engaged we are, working in the world's trouble spots. But now, I'd like to enlist your help. Your help in our efforts to build what we call the USAID of Tomorrow. By way of back, since the first day I was nominated, I tried to set forward a simple organizing principle for our work: we believe quite simply that the purpose of foreign assistance must be ending its need to exist. And I say that not because we seek to withdraw from the world. And certainly, not because we don't wish to help our friends.

I say it because we believe in our friends. And we believe in their vast potential to lift lives and to build communities. We believe in the inherent dignity of every human being. We believe that every person, every community, and every country wants to be empowered to lead its own bright future. And we refer to that as the journey to self-reliance that good leaders instinctively seek, chart, pursue. Because this same instinct, this same sense is I think in our national DNA as Americans. We also believe that when countries are willing to take on the tough choices and tough (inaudible) that go with that journey to self-reliance, we should do our very best to walk with them at their side along the way. And that means try prioritizing programs (inaudible) capacities.

We try to apply those lessons that we have learned along the way, not because we have all the answers, but as I often say, probably because we've made all the mistakes. And our friends can get the benefit of our experience. They don't have to make the same mistakes that we have made so many times. But we believe this is necessary for them to rise up and to reach their full potential. And so, to make this approach, this vision come alive, and to make us, I hope, better partners to all of you, we're looking to reshape ourselves, and to posture our work, and we're doing so around this sense of the journey of self-reliance. And that brings us to what is known, technically speaking, of the Redesign process, although we refer to it, for us now, as Transformation, because you've gone from sort of the early days of just thinking about it to now taking concrete steps.

So, Redesign was launched, technically speaking, by a Presidential Directive, but as I've told my team since day one, I would have asked us to do this anyway. To be very clear, Redesign has never been about setting or responding to anybody's budgets; it's never been about staff size; and it's never been about responding to a particular crisis or cause. It's really been about pulling together the best ideas that we can find -- some of them are new; many of them are not new -- and bringing them to our programs and to our policies.

It's about harnessing the unparalleled talent and experience of our staff and our partners into a structure and operational plan that is worthy of our mission as an Agency. And so, we brought all these ideas together, and we organized them into five pillars of work on topics as narrow as the individual metrics that help us measure that progress on the journey to self-reliance and as broad as empowering our people to lead.

The pillar teams were all career-led, and they did a great job of challenging assumptions and testing new thinking and reaching out to all of you. They undertook countless hours of consultation, first internally, and, again, with you, with InterAction, as a group, and some of you individually. And some of the ideas have led to plans for recrafting some of our structures, but more importantly, they've recrafted how we operate, and hopefully, again, they make us better partners to all of you.

We're trying to move beyond thinking of our offerings, not merely in terms of provisional grants and contracts, and we really do want to embrace opportunities for co-creation, co-design, co-financing, and that's why I mentioned that BAA with respect to Northern Iraq. The BAA process -- the Broad Agency Announcement process -- that's been on our book for years, but we (inaudible) used it.

And so, it's a process that allows us to more openly partner with you and craft programs using those consultations. It's a little swifter, moves more quickly, and hopefully can be better tailored to the need. I know Randy Tift, who leads our work in this area, held a workshop on this very subject with all of you, and so hopefully it's something that you'll be able to participate in and look at more and more as we go forward.

We're also working hard to gather the data and information that can help us better understand where our partner countries are on that journey. We're pulling together some powerful new metrics. None of it we created; these new metrics have been around for a while. But we're pulling them together, and we're creating for each country where we work or want to work a roadmap.

And the roadmap measures where they are on this journey to self-reliance -- not terribly creative, but it seems to work for us -- and we measure each sector, a country's capacity, and their commitment. We use indicators like under-five child mortality to give a basic diagnosis of the strengths of the healthcare system. But we also measure commitment, and that was something very important to me.

We have to measure commitment, because unless we know the country has its own skin in the game, unless they too are committed to reforms, all the money in the world isn't going to make much difference. It won't be sustainable. Finally, before I yield back my time, to use the saying of my Congressional days, I'd like to spend a few moments on a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I know near and dear to so many in this room.

I want to touch upon the importance of democracy, human rights, and civil society in our plans. As many of you know, I'm a democracy guy from way back. The people in foreign policy and development, including (inaudible) and USAID, when they talk about the numbers (inaudible), because it's not governance. Authoritarians have governance. In fact, authoritarians have lots of governance. They have nothing else.

We want to strengthen citizen- responsive governance, citizen-centric governance. We want to support and strengthen leaders that listen to the needs and the voices of their people, and we want to encourage partners to respect and to promote vibrant civil society, civil society groups that can organize the opinions, the needs and wants of citizens and take them, organize them, and bring them to their government.

So, therefore, in our Transformation process and our organizational chart, you will see that we've raised the role of democratic governance and civil society. It's elevated in our structure, it's elevated in our organizational chart, and it's elevated in our program design. In fact, we've made it a key part of the roadmaps that we plan to use. We will stand with civil society not just in rhetoric but in reality. As someone who sat where you are sitting, I've got to tell you, I could not be more excited.

So, in conclusion, let me take a step back for a moment and survey the landscape that I see out there as Administrator. These are, needless to say, challenging times for all of us. A friend of mine often says, "The world is on fire, so what are we going to do about it?" In my nine months on the job, I have traveled to places like South Sudan, where I've seen hunger and almost unlimited need. I visited Rohingya camps, both in Burma and in Bangladesh, and I have heard first-hand tales of horror and unimaginable suffering.

And so, when I come back from trips like that and talk with people, people sometimes ask me where I find hope in the midst of all of this. It's you -- I see hope and optimism in all of you. The world needs your skills, your tools, your spirit, your optimism, your hard work. I cannot stress it enough. We at USAID need your help.

We need your effective, innovative work in the field. We need your voice here in Washington, talking to Congress, talking to others about the need that you see and the work that you do. We need you, if you like what you see and read and hear, to support what we're trying to do in Transformation, which I believe will make us stronger, faster, and more effective, and I vow that it will make us better partners for all of you.

There is so much that we need to do, but there's also so much that we can do. But that will only happen if we partner closely, we keep talking, we share ideas, we work together to craft results. The world is on fire; we're the fire brigade. We're the ones who can truly make a difference. Thank you for everything that you've done, thank you for what you do, and, yes, thank you for what you're going to do. Thanks very much.

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Ambassador Green, for being here. We really appreciate it as a community of implementers. I know that you have mentioned a lot of the -- many times -- the question of self-reliance, and I couldn't agree more. Building that capacity, people themselves to drive to their limits, is absolutely critical, and we have all been partners in this room for a very long time.

My question is, looking at the reform and looking at the development and moving forward, people themselves -- and governments; (inaudible) governments, too -- build that capacity and build their nations. How do you see USAID in the next three to five years, local partners in their role, their critical role, and also the role of all of the implementers in this room? And (inaudible) Planet Aid. We work -- we have a number of local organizations that work on the ground with USAID (inaudible).

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Great, thank you. Thanks for the question. So, in the Transformation phase of our work that we're doing right now, we are constantly talking about the USAID of tomorrow. So, USAID undertakes significant reforms and recalibrations every 20, 25 years. We're overdue; now it's our time. And the world has changed around us, obviously; technology has changed. So, what we're trying to do is think about how we want to shape ourselves.

The USAID of Tomorrow -- and I hope tomorrow is weeks and months, not years; it's immediate -- will be field-driven. The best developments come out of the field. With due respect to all of us who work in Washington, we don't do development here in Washington. We do development out in the field. We provide resources and tools and thinking, but it's field-driven. And so, of course, all of you are in the field, and so that relationship is critically important to making sure that we're constantly in touch and sharing ideas and shaping programs.

The USAID of tomorrow will have procurement mechanisms that will allow us -- and this is some of the feedback that we've gotten from all of you in this process -- to be flexible enough in design that we can change as circumstances change. A big part of what we're looking to do, among our first major structural reforms, is to elevate humanitarian assistance through the Response and Resilience Bureau, so we're pulling together many of our humanitarian tools, adding the resilience element to it, and doing so in a way that we hope makes it more nimble.

I am struck by the number of displaced people in the world today. Nearly 70 million; no end in sight. But I'm also struck by how these crises are man-made, and they happen quickly. I was in a retreat a couple of weekends ago, known as Tidewater -- fiftieth anniversary of all of the donor communities coming together, and they were talking about how we try to predict these things.

And I pointed out that if you were to say to me a year ago that it'd be Bangladesh that would suddenly have these immediate needs because of 700,000 people suddenly arriving, we wouldn't -- you don't think in those terms. So, we're trying to think of ways to do forecasting; we're trying to think of ways to have certain tools out there.

So, all of these things are really what we and the USAID of tomorrow -- but every single one of them depends upon strong partnership, close communication, for eyes and ears in the field -- and again, in most cases, that's all you. You are the ones that will see things. So, my team is instructed to reach out to you, to listen, and you have to follow through and give us your ideas and criticisms and have really constructive and clear communication.

QUESTION: Yes, hello, Administrator Green. It's good to see you. Thanks for being here. Lucas (inaudible) Hungary. We know the your, as well as the wire agencies' overall general appreciation for the role the faith community plays in addressing a world on fire.

Could you speak perhaps more specifically how, under your leadership, your perhaps, reframing staging those faith-based assets, be they faith-based NGOs that are here in the room, as well as the unique capacities of local faith communities across the developing world?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thanks, Lucas. So, we try to do that in ways large and small, from formal statements that I have put out across the Agency about reaching out and listening to the faith community, to membership on the outside advisory council that we have, to partnering with people like (inaudible) and making sure that we're constantly hearing the voices of the faith community, but also reminding people -- you know, we have very short memories in town and in the development community.

Recently, we marked the fifteenth anniversary of PEPFAR, and we all look and say, "My God, that was fantastic. You know, we changed everything." Well, one of the reasons that PEPFAR was so successful, it had the ability to mobilize because President Bush was smart enough to reach out to the faith community, which had outposts, if you will, in every corner of the world and was able to reach those places that government could not and without a difficult time -- doing it in a short period of time.

So, it's making it very clear that it is not possible for us to reach the communities we all want to reach if we aren't listening to the faith community. The final piece to that is we all know in many parts of the world it is faith leaders who are the most trusted voices, and so, as we need to deliver messages and bring people in, oftentimes it's the faith community that has the ability to communicate. So, what we're trying to do, and ways large and small, to make it clearest, is it's inseparable.

QUESTION: Thank you. (inaudible) from BRAC (inaudible) and now working in 11 countries in South Asia and South Africa, and in Sub-Saharan Africa. And one of the interesting -- and thank you for spending time in Bangladesh; I've been there as well, and it's a very (inaudible) situation.

Interestingly, our founder started out working on -- some 40-some years ago -- adult literacy, and over time we've moved more and more towards the earlier years, realizing that, actually, with adults it's almost too late. So we went into secondary education, primary education, and now we have a huge focus on early development, early child development, and early learning. And I'm just curious what USAID's view is on that and what you might be thinking in that area.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. So, increasingly, education is an increasing part of our portfolio. So, the funding that we have dedicated towards basic education in particular is growing. It's important. I'm oftentimes asked about, you know, what are the greatest challenges (inaudible) worry me.

I'm more worried than anything else about children being born in camps, growing up in camps, and not having access to basic health services, basic education, and civic education. Because, God willing, the fence comes down, the gate opens up, and either they're in that community or they're returning home. In either case, we need them to be prepared to be productive members of society.

The most disturbing thing that I saw when I traveled to Burma was to go to the small Rohingya village and to listen to a father look me in the eye and say, "My kids aren't allowed to go to school. They live off food that you give us, and they can't travel to other villages. This is no way for someone to live and (inaudible)." And that was about as impressive a conversation as I got.

And so, we, as you can imagine, have brought (inaudible) others, but the role of education is more important than ever. So many people are on the move; challenges are greater than ever, but also our responsibility to enable and equip people to survive and to live and to raise their own families.

QUESTION: Hi. Good morning, Ambassador Green. I'm (inaudible) America, and I actually (inaudible) to ask you about your experience when you were on the MCC Board -- and currently now the MCC Board -- in this capacity as we think about what our footprint looks like overseas in these countries.

At MCC, as you know very well, there's a very strong, small-country footprint in terms of investing in our host country counterparts. As we think about the journey to self-reliance, how is that shaping USAID's thinking so that, as we think about local humanitarian intervention and all the issues you mentioned, whether it's in Bangladesh or Yemen or Nigeria, we think about really investing in local humanitarian leadership? Right now, in 2016, something like only 2 percent of funds globally were invested at the local level. Right?

And how is our model actually going to change on the ground so that we are actually investing in the very partners that we saying we're investing in instead of this very outdated foreign aid model that, in some ways, we're still trying to catch up on this part (inaudible)?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: As you might imagine, as one of original co-authors of MCC, I've watched it carefully (inaudible) now but looking at lessons learned from any importance of what time-limited programs -- what they can mean and what they can bring and focusing on what it is that you leave behind.

One of the earliest pieces that I brought to my team is I talked to them about this idea that, you know, traditional assistance isn't meant to be forever. If it is, we're doing something wrong; we're not very effective in what we do. It's constantly looking at what those local capacities are and being prepared to have a conversation about the new relationship. I'm not planning on turning the lights out anywhere.

I am planning, as a country gets closer and closer to what we would all say, when the indicators show, are self-reliance -- what would a new relationship, strategic relationship, look like? In India, we have a vibrant set of programs, but those programs are catalyzing private investments for India. That's what they want. Traditional food aid is a little outdated for a country like India. So, it's constantly talking with our partners and thinking about what their capacities are.

And what I tried to point out to my team at USAID -- I've attempted a number of Compact (inaudible) in my capacity as a board member at MCC. Every single one of them was a celebration, and yet, in every single one of them, the money was ending. By law, the Compact, the money stops five years from the day the Compact goes into effect. Nobody was sad; everybody celebrated, because the focus was on what was accomplished and what was left behind.

What we need to do at USAID -- again, working with all of you -- is make sure that we look at each program and get ready to celebrate what it is that we build and we leave behind. We're going to -- in a lot of our reforms and our procurement reforms, increasingly, you'll see from us ideas for building that capacity, incentivizing capacity, because, to me, that's the greatest celebration of all. We want more countries like India to join us as donors in places like Afghanistan.

I signed a huge Power Africa deal in South Korea recently in which they are now investing hundreds of millions of dollars in key infrastructure alongside with the U.S., and they are doing -- they'll tell you all the time, "We remember. We remember what it was like when principally the U.S., U.S. donors, came and helped us. Now we're repaying." We want every country to go from recipient to partner to fellow donor.

MODERATOR: Unfortunately, I see more questions and (inaudible) more time, but we thank you. You are a busy person, and we really appreciate the time and energy you've given to us and (inaudible) you are here. And with that, please join me in giving a round of applause for Ambassador Green.

Last updated: November 13, 2021

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