ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you Mr. Chairman [Robert] Menendez, thank you Ranking Member [James] Risch, and thanks to all of you who have joined here today and those who will join us subsequently.
As you each noted in your opening statements, the outbreak of discriminate violence in Sudan has upended hope for the democratic transition that millions of Sudanese risked their lives for. It has already claimed hundreds of lives and injured thousands more. But the challenges Sudan faces, it’s fair to say, I think are emblematic of a wider story that each of you have alluded to that is unfolding in many parts of the world. After decades of development gains that laid the foundation for an era of relative peace, stability, and prosperity, those gains are now at serious risk.
During our lifetimes, the United States has helped accelerate tremendous progress in reducing extreme poverty, in fighting disease, in addressing hunger, in getting kids – and girls, especially – to school, fueling democracy’s rise.
But now, many of these trends have moved in reverse. The pandemic decimated health systems, leading to a resurgence in diseases from measles to tuberculosis. It also battered many nation’s finances. After a decade of heavy borrowing and more recently rising inflation – exacerbated by Putin’s war – 60 percent of the world’s poorest countries are currently at or near debt distress. 60 percent.
And natural disasters, as you noted, are increasing in frequency and intensity, leading to a sharp rise in humanitarian needs. The upshot of it all is stark: for the first time since the 1950s, human life expectancy, globally, is on the decline – while extreme poverty is on the rise.
At the same time, democracies everywhere are under attack. Our rivals are using transnational corruption, digital repression, disinformation – and in Ukraine, of course, actual artillery and missile fire – to undermine freedom, to elevate autocrats, and to curry favor.
It is a daunting list of challenges. And I know some question whether the United States should be taking on these challenges through our development investments, while others wonder whether the scope of the challenges, at this stage, is simply too great to make a meaningful difference.
But the fact is our national security hinges on this work. Deprivation and indignity abroad, as we well know, can fuel resource competition, political fragility, and extremism that endangers us here at home and Americans all around the world. Disease outbreaks can cross oceans, and recessions in foreign markets can threaten our own economic growth.
And if we don’t lead efforts to take on these challenges, it’s fair to say, the People’s Republic of China and Putin are ready to step in, whether through opaque loans on unfavorable terms, or with mercenaries in tow.
An international order that values democracy and human rights and that respects international borders is not a given. Indeed, authoritarian actors are challenging and aiming to reshape it, as we sit here. We have to invest in the stable and humane world that we need.
USAID is truly privileged to have a leading role in tackling the most significant challenges of our time, in close coordination with our interagency partners advancing diplomacy and defense. And we are grateful to the American people – and to you – for giving us the resources to make a major difference.
That said, we know that to drive progress on the scale that we need – on the scale that this array of challenges that you’ve alluded to demands – we have to bring other donor countries, we have to bring in the private sector at scale, we have to work with multilateral institutions and harness them in pursuit of our objectives, we have to work with foundations, and local organizations in our partner countries.
So USAID has laid out a new reform agenda aimed at delivering progress beyond our development programs, beyond the resources that this Congress allocates to us – where we are using our expertise, our convening power, our advocacy, our hustle to draw in others, to leverage more resources, to spark innovation, and to inspire broader movements for change.
The Biden-Harris Administration's FY 2024 request of $32 billion for USAID’s fully- and partially-managed accounts will allow us to make more of that transformative impact.
Alongside our partners, we’ll invest in countries experiencing democratic openings, helping them show, as the Chairman said, that democracy delivers tangible results for citizens. We’ll work with nations to attract private sector investment and drive broadly shared economic growth. We’ll support countries that are rebuilding their decimated health systems. And we’ll meet growing humanitarian needs not just with emergency assistance, but with long-term investments in resilience.
And, crucially, we’ll invest in our workforce to carry out this ambitious agenda. Since 2019, our operating expense funds have increased at half the rate that our programming has grown – giving us more to do with fewer people and resources. But this budget will help us invest in the people and systems we need to power an Agency that is nimble and that is responsive.
We know that, with the United States leading the way, the world can drive meaningful progress against our toughest challenges – because we have decades of gains in global health, in education, and in prosperity to prove it. It is on us, now, to resume that progress.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.