U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks to Press Following the Burma Civil Society Forum

For Immediate Release

Saturday, May 19, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

 
Lotte Hotel
Rangoon, Burma
May 19, 2018

MR. McCLESKEY: Well, good morning, everybody. Hi, I'm the spokesperson for USAID, Clayton McCleskey, and we're glad to have the Administrator here. So, if you step up into the middle so they can get good audio -- but he'll make a brief statement, and then we're happy to take some questions, and I'll call on folks. But, sir, would you like to open up?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure. Great. First and foremost, thanks to all of you for being here. It shows that you agree with us on the importance of civil society and the importance of democracy. You have probably heard me say I believe in this country's bright future, in the unlimited potential, and that potential can best be reached, can only be reached, with a strong, vibrant civil society, strong media, and listening to the voices of the people. And so, again, I'm very grateful for your being here. It shows that you agree with that importance, that priority.

MR. McCLESKEY: First question from [inaudible] Journal.

QUESTION: Hi. I want to know what position you want to give Myanmar government and the army about the conflict [inaudible] of the western part of the country.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, first and foremost, I am here on behalf of the Secretary of State, Secretary Pompeo, and so I am listening and learning and will come back with recommendations to him. But what I can say, as I have said earlier, we believe that all voices must be listened to, that democracy requires that voices from the powerful to the powerless must all be part of the democratic process, including the voices of ethnic and religious minorities.

MR. McCLESKEY: Okay, and the next from MITV.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. So, as [inaudible] hopes to advance [inaudible] policy dialogue. So, how can that goal be succeeded through this workshop?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, in the workshop the importance of this is the fact that people are sharing ideas and experiences. You know, when you have civil society groups come together in a gathering they share best practices; they share challenges; they find answers. And so, what comes out is much more powerful than what goes in. So, civil society coming together to talk about what the future can look like, can share experiences and challenges -- that to me is one of the best steps in advancing democracy.

MR. McCLESKEY: Southern Shan State. Sorry.

QUESTION: I'm from Southern Shan State Media Network. In conflict area, in ethnic area, state of [inaudible] information. This combination in -- among media and safety for journalism. So, please comment how the U.S. government will promote media professionalism and safety journalism in that area. And two -- and what has the media a role in democratic governance?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, I'll answer that two ways. First, I'll give you an answer, then I will turn to our ambassador, who is the voice for America here in this country. First off, you know, I am -- I used to be in politics, and so I understand the role with the media. And sometimes there is a give and take, and I have been on the receiving end, but it is all part of a strong, vibrant democracy; access to information for people; the rights of journalists to be able to report what they hear, what they see, what they learn.

That is a key part of democracy. So, USAID and the work that we do around the world -- we support the rights of journalists. We support the rights of civil society. And wherever we can we try to strengthen those roles because we believe those voices are key to helping to take on society's great challenges. Ambassador, I don't know if you'd like to add --

AMBASSADOR MARCIEL: Well, I'd just add that we are -- as the Administrator said, we're very committed to supporting independent and free media here. It is critical to democratic development of this country, of any country. We're continuing our programs to support independent and strong media, including media capacity building. And of course, we always stand for media freedom and in our conversations with the government emphasized regularly the importance of supporting a free and independent media.

MR. McCLESKEY: And the next question will come from [inaudible].

QUESTION: Oh, yes. What [inaudible]?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, broadly speaking -- I assume you mean for here in Myanmar. Broadly speaking, we always say that our role is to help a country in its journey to self-reliance, so what we hope to do is to help Myanmar progress and strengthen its capacity in key areas like global health, in food security in particular, in democratic governance. We have also been honest that the current crisis is an impediment, is a barrier to doing all the things that we would like to do.

But we are friends of this country, and we seek to help this country develop its self-reliance. In particular, we believe in the young people of this country. I have had some meetings today in which I met with some young civil society leaders. They happen to be women civil society leaders. And I came away thinking to myself, "These are among the most impressive people that I have ever met." If those voices are respected and heard, if they get the ability to help craft policy, we will all be in good shape.

MR. McCLESKEY: And final question from National Public Radio.

QUESTION: Hi, Administrator Green. I've been learning on this trip about the importance of the Rakhine crisis in the work of the U.S. government and USAID. Could you describe in your own words, you know, the weight of this issue? How important is it to the work of the Government and to Myanmar's democratic transition as you see it? What weight does it carry in your overall work? And perhaps if Ambassador Marciel might want to follow that as well.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. Important questions, obviously. So, on this visit, as you know, I began in Bangladesh, I'm here, and I'm going on to Thailand and to South Korea. So, we are focusing on a wide range of issues and sectors, but over and over again we keep hearing about the importance of the crisis in Rakhine State and in the North. And so, I think it is a matter that must be addressed. The conflict must be resolved.

So, this is a country that has come an incredible distance in its democratic journey. It's a young democracy, and that's something that we all need to remind ourselves. One election is not a democracy; it is an important step in democracy. And now, what we are seeing is the great challenge to this democracy is precisely what it's going through. The rights and the voices of minorities; they must be respected, they must be heard.

This crisis must be addressed, and there must be justice for not just this minority but all voices in this country. And so, it is something that keeps coming up because it is clearly an obstacle in this country's democratic journey, and as friends of this country, we seek to support them in resolving this crisis. But it is something that, as you know, keeps coming up.

AMBASSADOR MARCIEL: I surely echo what the Administrator said. I would simply add that this crisis is not only important in its human dimension, which is very large and very tragic, as you know, but it's also causing great damage to this country, its democratic transition, and its economy. So, it's in the interests of Myanmar, not just the international community, in our view, that this crisis be resolved.

MR. McCLESKEY: Wonderful. Thank you, everybody. That's all we have time for.

Last updated: May 21, 2018

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