U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Opening Remarks at a Town Hall Meeting with U.S. Embassy Dhaka


For Immediate Release

Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

U.S. Embassy Dhaka
Dhaka, Bangladesh
May 16, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you, Ambassador. Good afternoon, and thanks to everyone. Thanks not just for your warm welcome here in Dhaka, but for all of your hard work; in particular, your hard work in making this trip run so smoothly. As a former ambassador and congressman, I have hosted visits, I have led visits, I have been on visits. I know that a well-executed trip is sort of like a well-orchestrated symphony. It looks easy to the audience, but there are oh-so-many moving parts. As a former ambassador, I also know what a wheels-up party is.

Before I open it up to some questions, and literally any subject is fair game, I thought I'd share a few words on our work here in Bangladesh, and then on the subject of USAID's historic transformation plan. Both, I know, are topics that are on your mind. First, the U.S.-Bangladesh relationship. As you all know, America and Bangladesh have been working together closely for some time on many fronts, from health to counterterrorism, to food security. Together we've dramatically reduced the maternal and child mortality and tripled the production of rice and achieved 6 percent annual GDP growth over the last decade.

Our relationship is much more than a partnership, much more than lights. It is a friendship. That friendship is based upon the values that we share. And as the Ambassador just alluded, in my view, that friendship has never been more important. We are working together to address the Rohingya crisis. America truly admires the capacity that Bangladesh has shown in extending a welcome to this poor beleaguered people. As your Administrator, I admire the role that you have played in helping Dhaka to meet their most immediate needs. We all recognize that the long-term answer must soon be found, but right now, the very survival of these oppressed families depends upon the help and assistance that you are helping to deliver. So, on behalf of the United States of America, I salute all of you.

Now, as you know, Ambassador Bernicat recently delivered a personal letter from President Trump to the Prime Minister, reaffirming our support and assistance, both in providing for the refugees and in urging the government in Naypyidaw to create the conditions that are necessary for the safe and voluntary return home of the Rohingya people. While in some ways Bangladesh's compassion towards the Rohingya has brought Washington and Dhaka closer, I think closer than ever before, we also have to admit that there are developments in Bangladesh that concern us. Because America and Bangladesh are indeed friends and that friendship does depend upon shared values, we as friends should be able to speak honestly, as friends do.

The ongoing arrest of opposition leaders, reports that we have all seen of extrajudicial harassment and detention of journalists -- often on trumped up charges -- concern every true friend of Bangladesh, the U.S. included. Experience tells us that responsive, democratic governance is an irreplaceable ingredient in the long-term sustainability of successful economic development. Again, a reason that every true friend of Bangladesh should care.

Now, let me turn my attention to the topic that I know many of you are thinking about and that's our ongoing Redesign and the exciting transformation phase that we are entering. And let me begin this way: so, while redesign, technically speaking, was launched by a Presidential Directive, I want all of you to realize that I would have asked the Agency to undertake a process just like this anyway.

USAID is the world's leading development and humanitarian assistance agency. We're the best in the world. What the redesign process is all about is asking yourself what we need to do to remain the world's leader in the months and important years that lie ahead. How should we shape ourselves? How should we position our work? What must we do to recruit the best talent, retain it, strengthen it, and empower it to lead? What should the USAID of tomorrow look like?

As we proceeded, we tried to keep in mind the same two guiding principles that, quite honestly, I talked about the day that I arrived at USAID. I've tried to emphasize them each and every day. First, number one: the purpose of foreign assistance should be ending its need to exist. We believe in human dignity. We believe in the innate desire of every individual, in every nation to be able to choose their own destiny, and to get there under their own power. And if a country is willing to take on the difficult journey to self-reliance, as Americans, we feel a special responsibility to assist them along the way.

And we can do that by prioritizing programs that incentivize reform, strengthen in-country capacity, attract private enterprise-driven initiatives, and help our partners mobilize their own local resources. The journey to self-reliance also means that we should help countries look forward to the day when we can transition to a new kind of relationship. Now, not turning off the lights, not walking away from all that's been accomplished, but nevertheless a relationship that moves beyond merely traditional assistance.

As self-reliance is achieved, we should forge a relationship that embraces opportunities for enterprise-driven development. A lasting relationship that both celebrates how much we've accomplished together and symbolizes the new possibilities that lie ahead. A relationship that captures how far a country has moved, thanks in part to our support from recipient to partner to, yes, fellow donor.

Now, there's a second guiding principle that we look to each and every day. In the area of humanitarian assistance, we will always stand with others when disasters strikes or crisis emerges because that's who we are as Americans. We'll work relentlessly to ensure that assistance is delivered in the most effective ways we can find. And in the spirit of true compassion, we'll look for ways to help partner countries strengthen their resilience, their own resilience against future crisis and shocks.

And of course, nobody understands those principles better than our talented team. Not just those of us who show up each day at headquarters, but our team all around the world: foreign service officers, foreign service national, civil services, PSCs, and more. And that's why we at USAID, when we started to look at what the USAID of tomorrow might look like, we chose not to rely on outside consultants, but instead we reached out to all of you.

Each work stream in the Redesign process has been led by career employees. Overall, more than 300 members of the USAID team have participated. They worked hard to pull together the best ideas we could find, some of them new, many of them not, harnessing the talent and experience that we have right here in the Agency. Trying to turn it all into a structured and an operational plan that is truly worthy of the mission that brings you here each and every day. Every step of the way, the process has been consultative, collaborative, and incremental. And my commitment to all of you, is it will continue that way as we move forward, consulting and listening to you as we go.

We're now entering what we call the transformation phase of the process, in which we gradually turn some of those ideas into actions. In this phase of our work, please know that our focus will not merely be on structure, even though that seems to be what's grabbing everyone's attention. I'm not going to spend a lot of time here on structure for two reasons: number one, we have a comprehensive floor chart that lays it out pretty clearly. You can see it online at MyUSAID, along with a wealth of information, presentations, Q and As, videos. You name it, it's there. Jim Richardson's materials capture, I think, that process (inaudible) better than I ever could.

But the more important reason that I don't want to focus on structure is it's only a small part of what it is that we're trying to do. Maybe 20 percent at most. Think of it as the hardware of USAID. How will we do things? How will we manage information flows? How will we harness talent? How will we improve our procedures and policies to empower and support all of you? That's the software of USAID. And that's the 80 percent that I believe will make all the difference. And that's really what will deliver the USAID of tomorrow.

It will involve assembling the data. The metrics that we'll use to understand what partner countries are on that journey to self-reliance. Our leaders in this workstream are identifying each country's capacities and commitments. Capacities so we know exactly where our priorities should be, and commitment because we know that if our partner countries don't have -- as we call it -- skin in the game, all the money in the world isn't going to make that much difference. We need countries to be true partners with us, investing in themselves, financially, but also in human resources and also in the policy changes that need to be made. That's the only way that they can reach self-reliance.

Creating the USAID of tomorrow also means learning to be better partners to a wide range of NGOs, private business, and community leaders. Leaders in this work stream are working to help us move beyond solely grants and contracts, to include harnessing the energy, collaboration, co-creation, co-design, co-finance. Bringing in our partners early on, not at the end of the process, but at the beginning, to help us think through what the most innovative and creative approaches could mean. Now, there's obviously so much more that's underway in our transformation process, but maybe that gives you just a little bit of an idea of what's being undertaken.

I want to thank all of those who have already participated in this process through our T3 feedback sessions, writing in through our portal, or through e-mailing transformation@usaid.gov. And I hope the rest of you will consider getting more involved yourselves because it's the only way that we're going to build the USAID of tomorrow. That's what we're working on.

I think we've come a long way, but quite frankly we can't possibly get there without all of you. Your ideas, your creativity, you're the ones who live this each and every day. You're the ones who are on the front lines. It's the only way that we're all going to accomplish the mission.

I've heard so many good things about what you're doing. I've seen some of it now myself. But I really look forward to partnering with you in the months and years ahead. So, that's my pitch. Again, thanks to all of you for your welcome. Thanks for all that you do, have been doing, and, more importantly, thank you for all that you're going to be doing in the important months that are ahead. And with that, thanks very much. And I'd be happy to turn it all over to you for your questions. Thank you.

Last updated: May 16, 2018

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