U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Interview with EWTN's Lauren Ashburn

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EWTN Studio, Rome, Italy

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Mark Green, head of U.S. Agency for International Development, gives us an update on money going toward religious minorities in Iraq. Green is in Rome meeting with Vatican officials.

QUESTION: Joining us now from Rome is United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, Administrator Mark Green.  Welcome to the program.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Good evening, it's great to be with you.

QUESTION: Very nice to be with you.  You met with Cardinal Sako today; you've also met with other members of the Vatican.  Yesterday, Cardinal Sako issued a pretty unusual rebuke of the U.S.  Is he exaggerating?  Were you able to make him aware of what the U.S. has done?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, we -- I thought we had a great meeting, and obviously, he's very busy, as you know, right here in Vatican City.  So, part of what we did is to let him know about the great work that we've been doing in months -- and particularly, in recent days.  So, just this week, we announced $178 million in additional assistance that's going directly into these communities, expanded partnerships with the Knights of Columbus, Malteser International, Caritas Iraq.  So, we had lots of good news to bring to his attention.  I think he was very pleased.

QUESTION: It was declared a genocide by former Secretary John Kerry in March of 2016.  There have been complaints that money has not arrived quickly enough.  What has been the problem?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, I -- first off, let me say this: when I came on board at USAID, which is now just a little over a year ago, we took on this work almost immediately.  As you know, I made a trip out to the Nineveh Plains myself, to see firsthand where our money had been going, to judge some of the projects, to listen very carefully to community leaders, church leaders, to make sure that we were better synced up.  So, we've been mobilizing money in the year plus that I've been on the job.  It's $300 million now that has gone into Northern Iraq, but more importantly, what we've done is to make sure that we're being responsive, that we're taking on those projects that communities need, that leaders are looking for, that we have the right kind of partners to make sure that we're getting the results that we all need to see.  And so, we have been, in fact, doing that.

So, I'm a development guy from way back.  So, I have a tough-minded approach to things.  I want to make sure that every dollar is extended as far as it can possibly go, that we're reaching communities in need, that we're making an important difference, that we're doing sound development work, that we're working on things like electrical systems and running water -- those things that allow communities to survive, families to prosper, and let them know that we care, and that we'll be there for the long run, that we'll help these communities grow, that their future, in fact, is in Northern Iraq.  So, that's what we've been doing ever since I've been on the job.

QUESTION: When I was in Northern Iraq about a year and a half ago, on the Nineveh Plains, the destruction, the rubble, the lack of services -- it really was overwhelming.  How are your faith-based initiatives working, like the one with the Knights of Columbus?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, they're working well in the sense that we're making concrete progress in taking these challenges on.  But you're right, I mean, the devastation that was suffered by these communities by ISIS -- just pure evil, what they did.  The desecration of graves, the violation of sanctuaries.  Obviously, the abduction and murder of so many people -- Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities -- truly awful to behold.  And so, piecing this back together, trying to provide the conditions that allow families to be secure, that allow families to view this area as their future, is tough work.  We get there by working hand in glove with faith-based organizations, leaders, because they're trusted voices.  They're trusted partners.  They know what the needs are.  We're working closely with them to make sure that we get money out the door, into their hands, but then also, doing a tough-minded approach to each of these projects.  Projects need to produce.  They have to lift lives; they have to build communities.  So, it's a lot of work.  I feel good about the progress that we're making, but make no mistake, there's a long way to go.  The suffering that they have encountered is obviously historic and devastating.  And so, I think the progress is going to be important, but it's going to take a while to get to where we all want to be.

QUESTION: What would success look like to you, say, in a year?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, what success looks like is every family that looks at the community -- at their community in Northern Iraq as a place where they can live, work, and raise a family.  The most important thing we can do is help them to understand all that we have been doing, all that we want to do, and that the future is there for them in Northern Iraq.  There is a place for them.  We want to help rebuild that mosaic in Northern Iraq that's been so essential to the character of the nation, where communities live side by side, where communities of faith are respected, where people can worship freely, where people can raise their families, where they have the kinds of jobs that they can raise a family on.  That's what success looks like.

QUESTION: And tell me, from your point of view, is the Vatican working with you and helping you to do this?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Well, sure.  We're working closely with a wide range of organizations like Caritas Iraq, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Malta.  What we're trying to do is make sure that we're working with groups that are on the ground, not in Washington solely, not in Rome, but those that are working with communities, and faith communities right on the ground in Northern Iraq, so that we can mobilize those resources, get them out most quickly, but also, have the demonstrable results.  So, this visit that I've had here in Rome has been very productive because we've learned a lot.  We've exchanged lots of ideas.  We've talked about what we see as working; we've talked about what needs are.  So, this has been an important trip, but recognize that development isn't done in Rome, it isn't done in Washington, D.C., it's done in the field, in those communities that have been suffering, and those communities where we want those families to see their future.

QUESTION: Another strong supporter of this initiative is Vice President Mike Pence.  I interviewed him, and he made it very clear that the Administration is behind this effort.  Is President Trump engaged in this?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, very much.  The White House is very engaged.  They truly care about the future of Northern Iraq for these communities.  We're in touch with them all the time.  We're in touch with the Vice President's Office all the time, so yeah, this is very personal to the Vice President, to the President, and across the Administration.  We care about this a great deal and we're engaged.

QUESTION: Mark Green, Administrator, USAID. Thank you so much for joining us.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Oh, it's great to be with you.

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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