USAID Mark Green Remarks at the Advisory Committee On Voluntary Foreign Aid Public Meeting

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Office of Press Relations
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May 21, 2019
Center for Strategic and International Studies
Washington, DC

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good afternoon. Thanks for hosting us here today, and thanks to all the members of ACFVA who are here. Daniel, it is kind of you to say that you are sleeping better at night, but I'm finding I am not. (laughter)

So -- welcome, everyone, to the first ACFVA meeting of 2019. ACFVA has long been a source of innovative ideas and constructive feedback for USAID. It has helped to strengthen our Agency operations, and hopefully helped to ensure that we stay true to our noble mission. It serves as an invaluable forum for the public to provide counsel and ideas for USAID's activities. Last year, ACFVA provided ideas, suggestions, and yes, critiques, of what was at the time. our brand new journey to self-reliance program. That feedback helped to shape the direction of USAID's Transformation. And, your fingerprints are all over the changes that we continue to implement. I am excited to see what this year's working groups will provide.

ACFVA's Chair, of course, is Daniel Runde. Chairman (inaudible).

Senior Vice President and Director of the Project of Prosperity and Development here at CSIS, Dana, we are honored to have you at ACFVA. And, thanks so much for all that you do.

We're also honored to have (inaudible).

He'll lead us with a discussion. My friend, Ken Wollack, former president of the National Democratic Institute. Kimber Shearer, Vice President for Strategy and Development at the International Republican Institute. Doug Rutzen, President and CEO at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law -- and USAID's own (inaudible) too. It is great to have all of you here.

We are fortunate to have the leading thinkers here because this is an important time -- a crossroads moment, I think that we all agree with. These are rapidly changing times in so many ways. These are times in which we agree citizen responsive governance, citizen-centered political systems are under tremendous pressure.

If we look around us, we see that China is cracking down on freedom and democracy in often ghastly, inhuman ways, as millions of Uighurs and Christians have been discovering. Even worse, we are seeing the Chinese doing everything it can to export its own brand of absolute state control across the world. It's working to prop up dictators, like Nicolas Maduro, by providing technologies it began developing in the wake of Tiananmen Square -- technologies that are the antithesis of human dignity and human liberty.

In other places, it captures regimes for its own purposes by shackling them with unsustainable debt. Those purposes include trying to suffocate Taiwan, a true democracy, next door, and opposing any international efforts to investigate China's human rights abuses. The Kremlin circles countries that are pursuing Western values and freedoms, like a predator in the wild, looking for openings that it can exploit with its rain of cyberattack, weaponization of media, and economic bullying.

Both brands of aggression are playing out in places like Venezuela. Once among the most prosperous nations of the Americas, authoritarian pawn, Nicolas Maduro, has led that country to, quite literally, implode. Something like four million Venezuelans have already fled -- the largest crossborder exodus in the history of the hemisphere. Most Venezuelan children are showing signs of malnutrition, and diseases long thought to be gone are rapidly reemerging.

Some regimes don't need Beijing or Moscow to be brutal and oh-so-dangerous. In the DRC, the toll of years of kleptocracy and brutality have created extraordinary impediments to bringing the Ebola outbreak under control. Medically, we know what to do. We know what to do to contain and conquer Ebola. But, convincing victims and potential victims of that require them to believe that their leaders have their best interests at heart. The legacy of former President Kabila is that the Congolese now only don't trust the government in Kinshasa, they despise it. And, the fact that hundreds of thousands of them in pandemic-affected areas were denied the opportunity to vote in the most recent elections -- well, that's only reinforced their sense of despair. And, that is playing out in horrific ways. Since the beginning of the year, there have been over 90 attacks on outsiders and authorities, mostly aimed at healthcare facilities. More than 1,200 Congolese have now died from this outbreak.

Three-and-a-half decades ago, Ronald Reagan called for a campaign to assist democracy, which led to the work that has brought us all here today. Since then, many things have changed, while the most important things have not. In Reagan's day, authoritarians openly opposed elections and did everything that they possibly could to prevent them. These days, they embrace elections. They welcome elections, and then mobilize every tool, every technology, and every strategy to steal them and bend them to their will. By the time that voters go to the polls, the outcome is preordained. And, the authoritarian may even have gained a veneer of legitimacy.

What hasn't changed is the extraordinary courage of democracy activists -- the willingness of democracy, of civil society voices to put their freedom -- if not their very lives -- on the line. It really is inspiring to all of us. And so, the question that we need to answer is, how we can most effectively stand with them? How can we support their courageous efforts?

When I met Juan Guaido of Venezuela face-to-face, the first thing he did was to thank me for our humanitarian assistance and support of his countrymen and countrywomen. The second thing, was to thank us for the democracy assistance that we have been providing to democracy activists and the National Assembly. It has made all the difference, he told me. I am proud of that, and you should be.

In recent months, we have seen democracy break loose in places like Ethiopia and Ecuador. When I met with Prime Minister Abiy back in March, he told me how important it was that civil society be vibrant and free in his country, and he asked for our help in making it so. A statement like that would have been unthinkable in Addis not so long ago.

Just last week, I signed a new MOU with Ecuador's foreign minister, to pave the way for USAID to openly return to that truly beautiful country, five years after we were forced to leave. That same day, I met with civil society representatives, who were bursting with pride, and optimism, and gratitude, for the support that they have received over the years from groups back here.

As I said earlier, I believe we are at a crossroads moment in the campaign for democracy of which Ronald Reagan spoke. Authoritarians have new tools and tactics they are deploying to bend elections and snuff out the voices of the people. For years, the democracy community, represented here, has been a quiet lifeline that has kept the flame of democracy alive, despite the shadows that have too often crossed our paths. The shadows are darker in some parts of the world these days. And so, we have to figure out our own tools and tactics for shining a hopeful light. The next Guaido, the next Abiy, those priests in Nicaragua, so many brave souls; they're counting on us. They're counting on us to stand with them. They're counting on us to work with them and they're counting on us to remain a lifeline, a beacon of hope.

I look forward to the ideas brought forward today in this working group. I look forward to your input to help guide us. We are at a crossroads moment. Crossroads moments imply choices. And, I think we have key choices to make. Thank you.

Last updated: June 25, 2020

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