U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Remarks at a Humanitarian Grand Challenge Event


For Immediate Release

Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov


Grand Hyatt
New York, New York
September 25, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: I'd like to welcome our special guest innovators ... I'd also like to thank Concordia for hosting us and Grand Challenges Canada for their work on the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, great partners, both.

In the field of development, these are exciting times. We have new technologies, medicines, and new approaches that are making an immeasurable difference in lifting lives and building communities. As we all know, these are also challenging times. Especially on the humanitarian front. Approaching 70 million people displaced. Nearly unprecedented levels of need, and in many cases, no end in sight. These challenges were what brought Secretary Mordaunt and I together this past February to announce the first call for Humanitarian Grand Challenge proposals. We're together again today to share the innovations that our finalists have put forward.

These innovations offer new promise for the most vulnerable and hardest to reach people impacted by humanitarian crisis. They offer us new hope that we can be more effective and more efficient as we fulfill our mission. Last year, the U.S. spent $8 billion on humanitarian assistance. Eighty percent of that was in conflict zones. As for all of the money that we have spent or that we have invested and that we spend, less than one percent of that is actually invested in innovation.

And yet, innovation has been brought to bear in some places, and where it has, it resulted (inaudible). From digitizing assistance to avoiding fraud and waste, to micro-grids that offer reliable power in remote refugee camps, to mobile phone-based records and identification. Modest innovations that have brought remarkable improvements.

There's another reason that the Grand Challenge is important. It creates an easy opening for the private sector to join our cause. Over the years, development and humanitarian agencies have been criticized for not involving private enterprise to do work. We're happy to have them in the building. We're even happy to have business do our contracts, but we rarely invite private enterprise into the drawing room, into the design phase of what we do.

The Grand Challenge mechanism invites private enterprise into its earliest stages. Solutions funded by the Grand Challenge that we're talking about today are being evaluated and selected by both humanitarian and private sector experts. So, let's get to it.

Finalists we're announcing today have proposed projects that incorporate the private sector and local communities affected by conflict. The first call for innovations drew 615 applicants across 86 countries. About half of them came from lower- and middle-income countries. Nearly one third of the applicant projects were led by women. USAID, in partnership with DFID, has collected 23 projects that will be implemented in 15 countries across four continents, 48 percent of these final projects are led by women. Their innovations are diverse and address water and sanitation; energy; communications; and health sector needs. Finalists will receive up to $250,000 over the next 24 months to test and pilot their innovations, as well as a host of additional support. Some examples include: a compact, portable, sewage-evaporating toilet that would provide safe and private sanitation to homes in Lebanon and Jordan without power or plumbing. I hope you will take a list our work at the full list of 23 innovators available on your table in the back of the room.

More good news: USAID committed $7.5 million dollars to the project to encourage (inaudible) to the Grand Challenge. And to demonstrate its continual commitment, it's pleased to announce today an additional $5 million in support, hoping that we can foster more innovation (inaudible) to contribute. USAID is pleased to be joined by the UK in this effort, and we look forward to hearing from Director-General Buijs in a moment about the Government of the Netherlands involvement.

Final thought: people sometimes ask me what it is that keeps me up - has me up in the middle night. To me, it is kids being born and being raised in conflict zones. Someday, God willing, the gate's going to open, the fence will come down will come down and those young people will be out in the world. And how it is that we ensure that they are not vulnerable to the worst exploitative forces that you can think of, that to me is the great challenge. Innovations that we're talking about today, hopefully, can get us a little bit better answer to this type of problem.

Last updated: September 25, 2018

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