U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Interview with VOA's Greta Van Susteren

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

QUESTION: Mr. Administrator, nice to see you.


QUESTION: And of course, I've had a lot of titles for you over the years, because you were, at one time, Congressman in my district back in Wisconsin.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: All good people come from the northeast of Wisconsin.

QUESTION: Indeed. And you've been an ambassador?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: An ambassador to Tanzania.

QUESTION: So, you've had quite an interesting career, so far. Now, Administrator of USAID. What is that?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, I get to lead America's premier development agency. We have about 12,000 staff around the world, 85, 86 countries, do some regional programs. So, I get to oversee programs ranging from economic development to global health to humanitarian assistance. So, it's great. It's America's best in action.

QUESTION: Just recently, the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, made a trip to Africa, and you were there along with her. Why did she go to Africa?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: She chose it. She wanted to go to Africa. I think it's because of her great interest in children, and she understands that Africa, demographically, is the young continent. There are so many young people who are reaching crossroads moments in their countries, and so, I think she wanted to see what it is that we're doing to help, you know, forward that and push that along. So, she was great to work with, she loved her time there, and they loved her.

QUESTION: She went to a number of countries; I think she went to four or five countries. Why were those chosen, as opposed to some other countries?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I think it's because those countries each illustrated a part of American assistance in Africa. So, in Ghana, she had a chance to see our global health work in action; how we're helping to train healthcare workers and nurses to lead their own system. Malawi's a country that has real challenges, demographically, in terms of literacy rates. And we have education programs, and she wanted to see that. So, I think she chose the countries because she wanted to see the kinds of things that we're doing for herself, personally.

QUESTION: How was she received?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, well, she's a wonderful, gracious person. They loved having her. She drew crowds everywhere she went. So, yeah, it was a great experience. It was wonderful for raising America's profile in Africa, and, for my selfish perspective, our programs in Africa.

QUESTION: Well, the United States -- there have been reports that the Trump Administration -- her husband -- has wanted to cut the funding to USAID. And we use the word "slash," meaning quite substantial when you hear numbers like a third. She doesn't seem to support that.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: She believes in our programs and I think that everywhere we went, she talked about the importance of them. You know, there's a lot of talk out there. What I always tell people is, "The USAID's in the operations side." So, we're the ones who help America's values, and principles, and assistance go into action. So, what I tell people is, "Don't pay attention to wording as much as what you see." And we're working in some of the toughest places in the continent. We're helping to lift lives, build communities, and I think build a brighter future for so many young Africans.

QUESTION: Well, USAID's in a number of countries across the African continent, but China's also in Africa doing a number of developmental projects. Is there a way to describe the different strategies, or are they the same?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, they're fundamentally different. So, what we always say is, "We're working to help countries on their journey to self-reliance." What we want is for countries to lead their own bright future. We want them to go from being traditional assistance recipients, to partners, to fellow donors. China's a very different model. They build dependency. So, the choice is self-reliance versus, almost, servitude. What they do are loans, and as we're learning more and more, often unsustainable financing that's mortgaging a country's future. We don't -- what we ask for is that countries take on their own challenges, foster their self-reliance, build their next generation of leaders, and then join us, in terms of leadership around the world.

QUESTION: What's the expectation -- if China is more of a loan-type strategy to the African continent, what happens when these loans come due and the country can't pay it; what's the expectation?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, in some cases, they mortgage strategic assets. So, you see ports being, essentially, taken over by China. Sole, exclusive use of those ports. Dangerously extractives, often times, strategic minerals. What should be the birth right of young Africans is tied up by financing from China. And so, what happens is those young Africans never see the benefits. They never see the broad-based economic growth, based upon their resources. Instead, the benefits go elsewhere.

QUESTION: Well, so, it seems like there are strings attached for the Chinese program. But are there no strings attached when Americans, through the USAID, give money? Or is there no expectation in return, other than some sort of, you know, "We want you to prosper?" Do we ask for nothing in return?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, we ask for reforms. We ask them to respect certain rights and values. What we want for them is to become, eventually, trading partners. But equal partners, in that. And the way that you do that is incentivize market-based reforms, build their capacity, increase their incomes. So, we want them to move, in terms of fully independent sovereign nations, leading their own future and becoming partners of ours.

QUESTION: Is there an African nation that the United States and China are really, sort of, aggressively trying to get involved in the same country, so there's almost, sort of, an internal competition for the hearts and minds of the citizens?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, you know, I don't think we look at it like that. We're working in just about every country in Africa, and we're doing so because of what we see; the potential that we see. Or, in some cases, the need that's there. So, you know, we're talking a lot about the development assistance side, I think, but there's the humanitarian side. We are far and away the largest humanitarian donor in the world, and two, three, and four, together, don't match up with the U.S. So, we're feeding hungry South Sudanese. We're working in places like DRC, where there are terrible humanitarian problems. So, that's a whole other side. We wish that China would join us in humanitarian assistance. It would be great if China were to come to the table and help lift lives, and help build the next generation of leaders. And unfortunately, they're just not.

QUESTION: When you use the term "we," do you mean USAID, or do you also include, for instance -- I've traveled with some NGO's like Samaritan's Purse to Liberia when they were -- right after the Ebola crisis. When you say "we," and you say how much the Americans donate, are you including that in or is that a separate number?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, "we" in two ways. We the interagency State Department and other parts of the U.S. government, but almost all of our assistance flows through NGO's; flows through private entities, often times faith-based -- faith-based, secular, but often times faith-based because they have a particular reach in parts of countries that are harder for us to get to. Samaritan's Purse is a great partner of ours in a number of places in the world. We like what they do. We like the way that they deliver assistance. So, wherever we can, we like to partner with NGO's.

QUESTION: Do you have the same problem -- or, does the United States have the same problem in Africa that we see some places? For instance, Indonesia just had a terrible tsunami. Many people killed, devastation, homes destroyed; it's a real humanitarian crisis. But the Indonesian government just issues a directive saying that they don't want private NGOs coming in who aren't already registered. So, they've, sort of, made it very difficult for some people who want to go in, some NGO's, and some with established backgrounds, from going in and helping. Do you run into impediments in Africa?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, obviously we respect the laws and policies and priorities of our host country partners, but we're also very clear that our ability to be able to respond to humanitarian crises is dependent, in some cases, on our ability to work with NGOs that have a good reach and a good track record. So, for the most part, it works quite well. You know, we don't go into countries where we're not asked. So, there's normally a disaster declaration, and then there's an official request for assistance, and we ask them what it is that they need. We don't superimpose. You know, we do work in many places. And it's emergency food assistance, or generators, portable energy -- whatever it may be, we have a great network, many pre-placed and mobilized as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: How do you explain the motive behind this? Because I imagine, like, there's some Americans that say, "We have enough problems here, spend the money here." And I imagine there's some people on the African continent thinking, "Well, nothing's free." You know? You must want something. You have an ulterior motive. How do you, sort of, explain -- big picture -- about why America wants to do this?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, again, lots of different reasons. So, on the humanitarian side, what I always say is, "Look, Americans will always stand with people when crisis strikes because that's who we are." I mean, that's who we've always been as Americans. We're compassionate, we're generous, we're quick to respond. In other places, what we want is countries to have a small taste of what it is that we have as a blessed nation; economic opportunity, opportunities for kids, a chance at what we call "The American Dream", that, quite frankly, is the universal dream. And so, those are our principle motivations. Absolutely we do build alliances. We do try to build partnerships. And we do try to build coalitions based upon values. That's why there are countries that we are closer to, and countries that we're not so close to. But that's often times because of, you know, whether or not they follow the same values that we do.

QUESTION: Let me turn to this part of the world, South America -- to Venezuela. There's -- refugees are leaving Venezuela in droves. President Maduro has made a very difficult environment for a number of people. What is USAID doing, if anything, about the refugees coming out of Venezuela?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: So, we're doing a great deal. We've been helping with humanitarian assistance to the countries around Venezuela -- Colombia being the most notable one. That's where the largest number of refugees had been going. But it's a terrible situation. So, Venezuela -- a country which should be a fellow donor, should be helping to lift lives as a driver of despair -- is causing all kinds of trouble. To me, it's one of the least covered stories in the world right now. The historical forces and consequences of Maduro's policies, and what he's doing in forcing people to flee, you know, is affecting lives in serious ways. Right now, the refugees, the Venezuelans who are fleeing Maduro represents the largest single migration in the history of the Western Hemisphere. And it's going to countries with relatively fragile economies, so it's going to have devastating effects if we're not able to change it. And of course, it's man-made, regime-driven; it can change with a political solution, but is causing devastating suffering.

QUESTION: Well, I imagine for the Colombians -- particular, Colombia's gone through very difficult times and seem to be coming out of some of their more difficult times, politically. Now they have this. Does Columbia actually reach out to USAID and say, "Come help us," and is that the way this unfolds?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, we've been in conversations with them for some time, and working together as equal partners. So, we've been providing logistical support, financial assistance, whatever it may be to help them, because this is not a bilateral problem, it's a regional problem. It affects the entire hemisphere. So, as responsible leaders in the hemisphere, Colombia and the U.S. both, it's important that we pull together, coordinate, and make sure that we do things effectively.

QUESTION: And I imagine that some of the Venezuelans who would want to leave Venezuela, they also would like to come to the United States, and that's a whole other issue.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, sure. I mean, what we need to be doing is helping Venezuelans be able to stay home. And we say that because this is a country with vast natural resources, that should be a country of unlimited economic opportunity. The fact that they are fleeing the suffering is heart-rending, and so we're trying to help the countries in the region address that. That's the best way to address challenges like that.

QUESTION: And I think, perhaps, the media, as you noted, could do a lot more and put a spotlight on this, because the bigger the spotlight, the more countries that join in to try to help --


QUESTION: -- and the more pressure to try to resolve this problem.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: That would be very helpful.

QUESTION: We'll have to convince them to do that.


Nice to see you, sir, and thank you very much.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Always a pleasure. Good to see you.

Last updated: November 14, 2019

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