USAID Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at the UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

For Immediate Release

Monday, March 19, 2018
Office of Press Relations

United Nations Headquarters
New York City, New York

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good morning. Thanks to Ambassador Haley for inviting me here and of course to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Ambassador Oosterom for hosting this briefing. Mr. President, America sees the humanitarian crisis in the DRC as an urgent priority for several reasons.

The first is fiscal. Many hundreds of millions of dollars have been generously provided to alleviate suffering and fostering economic development. But they are being robbed of their full value by crisis, conflict, and poor governance. Last year alone, America's foreign assistance for the DRC exceeded $546 million. Our humanitarian contributions totaled more than $209 million. The agency that I'm privileged to lead, the United States Agency for International Development, contributed more than $130 million worth of food assistance and more than $136 million for health programs.

Our taxpayers generously offered this assistance to help ease immediate suffering as well as lay a foundation for the eventual development journey to self-reliance to which every people aspire. Yet disaster -- not natural disaster like an earthquake or drought, but man-made disaster in the form of inhumane, authoritarian governance -- is destroying any chance that these purposes will be met.

The second reason for prioritizing this crisis is that it is not solely the DRC's. It is an international crisis. It is an international crisis. Brutal policies, sweeping corruption, poor governance and simmering conflict have displaced millions -- 4.5 million internally. Hundreds of thousands have fled into neighboring countries, imposing new burdens, and risking regional instability.

Third and most importantly, like all of you, the U.S. cares about this crisis because of the breathtaking human suffering it has inflicted. Forty-three percent of children are chronically malnourished. Over 57 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, and maternal mortality is among the world's highest. The messages we just heard from Mr. Lowcock (inaudible) are heart-rending.

While some will argue that the challenges facing the DRC are too complex, too deeply ingrained for lasting solutions any time soon, but that doesn't excuse us from our responsibility to act. From our responsibility to force steps in a new direction. We may not have all the answers, but we do know what isn't working -- the status quo.

On January 18th, the UN launched its 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan requesting nearly $1.7 billion to assist the country's most vulnerable. It is the largest such appeal to date because the level of suffering is the greatest seen in many, many years, and all of us should be ready to respond. But none of us should believe that merely expanding humanitarian assistance is actually addressing the country's greatest needs or its principal causes of suffering. Boosting assistance without also insisting upon concrete measurable action from the Kabila government is the opposite of compassion. In some ways, it would make us all part of the problem.

We respectfully suggest the following. First, we must demand that credible elections take place this calendar year. Ambassador Haley has made clear that U.S. support for the DRC is not inevitable, unlimited, or unconditional. It will be sharply reevaluated if the elections currently scheduled for December are delayed yet again. Like many others, we have lost patience with the excuses that have been offered. They are increasingly disingenuous.

To be clear, these elections need not be technologically state-of-the-art. Some of the most important votes of our time have relied on purple fingers and simple paper ballots. Countries with challenges as great and circumstances as difficult as DRC's have held credible elections and lifted their future. The DRC must do the same or else we must re-think our support and our approach.

Second, we should demand that the government foster the conditions that make true democracy possible. It must take immediate steps to make clear that citizens will be free to express their will and choose their own future. It could act this very day to protect the fundamental rights of speech and assembly. It could begin restoring basic services and rule of law this week. Instead of protecting its people from harm, the primary responsibility of any government, the Kabila government has actually been implicated in over 60 percent of the nearly 7,000 human rights violations reported in the last year.

Third, an unshakeable demand for the continuation of assistance, must be the safety of the courageous humanitarian workers laboring under the most trying of circumstances. Last year, there were 158 reported security incidents targeting humanitarian workers -- kidnapping, road ambushes, robberies, and so forth. Two UN experts -- one of them American -- were abducted and killed. There's no excuse for this savagery or the failure of the government to prevent it.

Fourth, the U.S. believes other countries must step forward and also do more to help. To be clear, we are proud of the leadership role we play as a humanitarian donor. But given all the needs in so many parts of the world, we expect others to come forward and do their part, too. An international crisis requires an international response.

This demand begins with the government itself. It has done so little to alleviate suffering, even as many of its leaders have apparently been lining their own pockets. According to the Congo Research Group, the Kabila family owns either partially or wholly more than 80 of the country's largest businesses and more than 450 miles of diamond concessions. At the same time, 27 percent of primary aged children miss school because their parents can't afford their fees.

We call for these demands because they will offer the people of DRC their first real hope of a brighter future. We each represent humane, compassionate people, but true compassion requires more than providing money. It requires us to use our collective influence to demand concrete actions that will end cycles of misery. The crisis in the DRC is only hopeless if we do nothing. These are steps we can take, beginning with the demands we can make as donors.

We can insist upon timely elections, demand the freedoms that make those elections credible, require protection for brave humanitarian workers, and ensure that everyone does their part to ease citizen suffering, especially the DRC Government itself. Thank you again for having me here today, Mr. President.

Last updated: May 19, 2020

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