Administrator Samantha Power at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Peer Review

Speeches Shim

Thursday, September 29, 2022
Subject 
Remarks

Virtual

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you, Ambassador Moorehead, for your opening remarks and your role as DAC chair, as well as Ambassador Markell, for your introduction. 

My biggest thanks of all belong to the entire Peer Review team, led by France and Norway, for the significant undertaking they’ve shouldered in studying the U.S. development cooperation programs and policies. I often think to myself that I wish I had had three months to dig into and study and assess those policies before coming into this role, but I'm very glad somebody took on that task. Over 60 years ago, the United States joined other OECD members to found the Development Assistance Committee, knowing that we would need to bind our efforts together, and learn from one another, benefit from one another's expertise, if we were ever going to help the world recover from the Second World War.  

Today’s meeting is a continuation of that initial commitment to multilateralism, a reflection of our deep commitment and appreciation of the DAC, and a chance for the United States to sit back and benefit both from your expertise and your thorough analysis. I look forward to spending the bulk of our time together today hearing from you on your main findings and recommendations, and engaging in productive conversation about what you have uncovered. But I just want to start at the top with a simple message, which should be very obvious to members of the DAC: Without global cooperation, we are lost. 

Just as in that post-war period, it’s no secret that the scale of the challenges we are seeing today – the most urgent food crisis in recent memory, to really, and I was there to have this feeling, but honestly it feels apocalyptic, flooding in Pakistan as a result of climate change, leaving one-third of that country underwater. To a pandemic that still smolders around the world, I can testify to that first hand, the ongoing force of that pandemic, to the very fabric of democracy and our global norms under attack in Ukraine, militarily in so many parts of the world. None of these are issues any one nation can address alone. Until quite recently, marshaling the kind of global support needed to tackle them was in, it felt like, ever shorter supply. 

Rising economic inequality and growing populism led governments – including here in the United States – to turn inwards and openly question the value of alliances. Some more opportunistic governments sought to exploit international institutions to elevate their own interests over global public goods. And just when you saw real fault lines in the global order, Vladimir Putin, under a blanket of unconvincing deception, launched a full-scale invasion of his peaceful neighbor, denying explicitly the very right of Ukraine to exist. His bet was that international resolve would break.

But he was wrong. Countries throughout the OECD came together to demonstrate the power of cooperation – rushing to support each other, strengthening and expanding our alliances, welcoming displaced peoples at their borders, and making dramatic – in some cases, what would have long before been unthinkable – changes to policies to support the people of Ukraine and strengthen European security. 

But our inspiring show of global cooperation cannot end in Ukraine. We have to marshall that same unity on nearly every issue we face. And as you said, Madame Chair, solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people cannot come at the expense of solidarity with others in need.

Perhaps nowhere is that unity more necessary than in countering our current global food crisis. In the Horn of Africa, 20.5 million people now live in desperate need of emergency aid just to survive, and we are edging closer to a declared Famine in Somalia every single day. The UN’s latest projections show that absent more humanitarian assistance, we will likely see a Famine between October and December of this year. 

The United States, the single largest contributor to Famine relief, to Famine avoidance, has provided more than $11 billion in humanitarian and development assistance for food security this year alone. But the need far outstrips what any one nation alone can provide. Just as donor nations came together in 2016 amidst a previous drought in Somalia to prevent a previous Famine, we need them to come together once more. But unfortunately, as this was born out of the UN General Assembly – we had hoped to galvanize, mobilize more resources – they have not yet done so at scale. We are resigned to Famine only if we are resigned to ongoing inaction.

Similarly, on matters of global health, we are facing a staggering new reality, it can take your breath away if you let it, which is the first decline in life expectancy in over a century. That should cause everyone to pause and reflect and bring new resolve to this effort. Much of that decline can be attributed to increased deaths from COVID-19, of course. But even if we ended the pandemic tomorrow, we would not return humanity to its upward trajectory. That’s because COVID-19 has devastated health systems, and erased so many of the gains we had made in fighting HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Yet, last week at the UN General Assembly, despite a commitment by the U.S. of $6 billion, and a willingness to match one dollar every two dollars raised by other countries, the world failed to reach the $18 billion goal we set for the replenishment of the Global Fund, falling several billion dollars short so far. But we haven’t given up and will not give up, the stakes are too high.

On climate change we have seen inspiring collective action to curb emissions from nations throughout the world as a result of the Paris Accords. And we know how much warming had occurred before the ink on the Paris Accords had even dried and how much had been set in train. In the U.S., fortunately, we just passed the most important climate commitment we have made in our country’s history. But as we race to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius, and the U.S. works to reduce our emissions by one gigaton before the end of the decade, the world’s developed nations must help poor countries adapt to a climate that is already eroding ways of life and destroying communities in its wake. 

President Biden’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience will help half–a-billion people build resistance to climate impacts, and we have pledged to quadruple climate finance to over $11 billion by 2024. But here in the United States, as you well know, we will need Congressional support to be able to do so. That is one of the reasons, to the Chair’s comments, that we have been able to find new money to meet the new crisis, a version of the Ukraine crisis, that has befallen the people of Ukraine this year. That is the reason we’ve been able to meet humanitarian needs at a scale and it’s really quite historic, to be able to leverage what we are doing to mobilize other countries to do the same, is that we’ve had Congressional bipartisan support to do so. It’s absolutely necessary and we need that when it comes to climate generally, and climate adaptation specifically.    

But we all have to do more to mobilize new public and private investments in things like early warning systems, crop insurance, and climate-resilient infrastructure. It’s here that initiatives like the OECD-supported Blue Dot Network, which certifies high-quality infrastructure projects that meet high environmental, labor, and quality standards, can unlock new financing and make these investments more attractive. 

Of course, and this is a really, really important point, we are not just here to talk about resources, which are indispensable, we are here to talk about an entirely new way of conducting development – an inclusive vision of development where local voices are prioritized and elevated; where marginalized populations are engaged, rather than overlooked; and where our assistance leads to sustainable gains that can help fuel a country’s rise, rather than encumbering them with debt or creating relationships of dependence. Here at USAID, we have committed to an aggressive set of targets to increase our work with local partners, both in terms of the direct assistance going to organizations based in countries we partner with, and in terms of integrating local voices into program design, implementation, and evaluation – goals that we really, really hope to see embraced throughout the development community. I had a really important meeting last week at the General Assembly with other countries and organizations about how to accelerate in that direction.

The standard of what constitutes “effective development” has changed constantly in the past six decades. And in that time, the DAC has been our forum to arrive at an even better shared meaning – to coordinate policies, to share learnings, to create norms, and hold ourselves accountable to those norms, and to uphold commitments to democratic values like transparency and accountability. So, I’m super grateful for the peer review we will engage in today – one that will help the United States benefit from the kind of feedback that can only come, honestly, with fresh eyes – and one that will help us all benefit from even stronger cooperation. 

Thank you, and with that, I look forward to hearing a review of the DAC’s main findings and recommendations.

Last updated: November 26, 2022

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