PRIME MINISTER JAMES MARAPE: I want to announce to our country our chief guest for the moment, Ms. Samantha Power, the Administrator of USAID, right around planet Earth. The global head of USAID has found time to visit us in Papua New Guinea. We just concluded a wonderful meeting and offered the announcement of the reopening of the USAID office here in Port Moresby for Papua New Guinea, and of course USAID’s presence in this part of the Pacific.
We’re privileged to hear from her on what the USAID and the administration, led by President Biden’s, focus on Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. Her presence today completes what is President Biden’s 3D strategy – diplomacy, defense, and development – in the focus to revamp the United States of America’s presence in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific.
A few months back when myself and Secretary of State His Excellency Antony Blinken were here, we signed the U.S. Defense Cooperation that was just not a one way street in how we relate to the United States of America. My government’s focus has been on our special relationship with USA, not just political relationship or defense cooperation, but related to the U.S. in all sense. And today’s presence of Ms. Power is to indicate to us the completeness of U.S. presence in our country is not just in security, or not just in government-to-government relationship, or security and defense cooperation, but in every aspect of our relationship with the USA.
Today’s arrival and today’s meeting really indicates to, that the fullness of our relationship with USA in terms of people-to-people, government-to-government, business-to-business. And today is a conversation on more importantly on people-to-people engagements and I just want to welcome you [Nino Nadiradze] to PNG, as she represents the office of USAID in PNG from now going forward.
They have been very much present here, different levels of engagements. For instance, and she reminded us earlier today on one program, USAID's commitment to our electrification agenda. She did remind us today of their contribution thus far. But USAID back in PNG will amplify continued program in our country, point to them the need for them to pick up our medium term development plan and to ensure that their support to us comes in total harmony to our medium term development plan, as well as our focus on 2050 as we ensure that we become a developed, middle-income earning nation by the time we arrive in 2050. And she warmed my heart by saying that we are not reinventing the wheel, we are not here to do our own course, and see you go back, but see you left with us. Another beautiful lady standing here who will look after the office here and we get to work. As far as what they will do to compliment Papua New Guinea’s aspiration to be a developed country and to being a developed nation.
I did point to them on other areas we have, for instance, we have our forestry that needs to be conserved and managed properly for the good of not just Papua New Guinea but all of us in planet Earth, for what I call us the village of earth. She is taking back to Washington the fact that we have one-third of world’s forests here in which we house one-sixth of the world’s biodiversity. Those are global assets we have and the conversation on USAID bringing aid developing into a country. I did inform them that you’re not just assisting Papua New Guinea but a sustained, well-developed country goes a long way in helping preserve some of the world’s essence. We have in sixty-seven percent of world's biodiversity, and our forests are one area that I put back to her for her notation as well as for her to take it back to USA to inform not just the White House and her administration, but more importantly the Congress who sometimes offer resistance to support to emerging nations and developing nations. And we did sound it out to them that look, we live in one earth and that USA being the holder of a huge carbon footprint also must support developing nations like PNG, but more importantly PNG having the forest resources support is being routed in the right places and those informations went to her as we had our meeting upstairs.
I also want to indicate that we were informed of our meeting that is to be held in Washington. President Biden will once again host us in first week in [inaudible]. And Papua New Guinea being the biggest nation in the Pacific, an invitation, once again, has been placed on the table for us to be part of that meeting again, and the second meeting again and that we will have with President – clearest indication of USA-Pacific Island leadership programs. And support will be, once again, Biden be put on the table. Thank you for coming so far from home. But you are amongst friends. USAID has been part of us for many, many years. We welcome you once again and we look forward to your conversation to my country as you indicate your presence and your continued support going forward.
ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you, all for joining us here today. Thank you Mr. Prime Minister, for such a rich and substantive and candid discussion as the one we just had.
I am thrilled to have the privilege of being the first USAID Administrator to visit Papua New Guinea, and to be able to see firsthand all that this country has to offer. USAID was founded many decades ago by President Kennedy, so we’ve been around for a long time and I think the fact that I am visiting with a very senior team from Washington really is a reflection of our desire to build on the progress that we have made together over the decades since Papua New Guinea became independent, in particular. And especially builds on the progress of the deepened partnership between our two countries reflective in President Biden’s meetings with Pacific leaders, those that occurred last year, and those that will occur this fall. Reflective, as well, by the visit by Secretary Blinken and Secretary Austin. And I am very pleased to represent the third “D” along with diplomacy and defense. Although after meeting with the Prime Minister, I feel that it should be “DDSD” because he never talks about development without talking about sustainable development. And of course that is our main emphasis as USAID, as well.
We are here by opening a USAID Country Representative Office here in Papua New Guinea. This fulfills President Biden’s promise from last year, and again, is a reflection of this deepened commitment to Papua New Guinea and to the broader region.
USAID does a lot of things around the world. We help communities respond to disasters, of which there are evermore. We help communities fight disease, strengthen democracy, reduce poverty, and spur economic growth. In turning what had been a regional satellite office here in Papua New Guinea into a full-fledged Country Office, we will have more resources, including funding and staff, to invest here in Papua New Guinea, as well as in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
I am excited to formally introduce Nino Nadiradze as the new Country Representative for this office, as the Prime minister indicated. Nino brings very significant global experience to the role, including most recently as Country Representative for the USAID office in Turkmenistan, where she focused on many of the priorities PNG has identified for its own development, like supporting low-carbon growth, empowering women and young people, and expanding access to health care services.
As Nino and her team build our office here in Papua New Guinea, we are committed to listening. To listening to the people, to listening to the government as we design our work together to meet your needs and your priorities. Through our conversations with Papua New Guineans, we have already identified three very important goals: first, to drive sustainable economic growth; second, to build a strong and sustainable healthcare system; and third, to build resilience to disasters, particularly as climate change increases in frequency and severity, the numbers of those disasters.
In order to sustainably grow the economy, we know that the economic inclusion of women is key, and that requires concerted efforts to reduce gender-based violence and other forms of marginalization. We also know that expanding access to clean electricity is a key priority in PNG. So in 2018, together with our partners Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and of course, Papua New Guinea, we established the Papua New Guinea Electrification Partnership, which aims to help PNG achieve its goal of bringing electricity to 70% of the population by 2030. For USAID’s part, we have so far helped more than 800,000 people access more reliable electricity – both by connecting more people to the grid, and by investing in quality standalone solar products and mini-grids. But there is much more to do.
That is why today, I am announcing that USAID will provide an additional $1.2 million to establish a solar mini-grid system in Central Province, PNG. Mini-grid systems send energy from solar grids attached to a central community space, like a school or a health center, out to households and businesses throughout the community. These mini-grids are cost-effective solutions in areas where diverse terrain makes it expensive to expand the grid. This investment will bring reliable, 100% clean energy to nearly 5,000 people. And again, it is just the beginning.
We know that health is another priority area for PNG where our partnership is already driving meaningful success. We have a long-standing 22-year collaboration that has helped combat HIV-AIDS, over 96,000 Papua New Guineans in the capital district alone have been tested, and over 7,000 people are receiving antiretrovirals – which are critical for both stopping the virus from causing life-threatening illness, and for stopping it from spreading across the community. USAID will build on the success of these interventions – and working with the Global Fund, we will begin scaling them to other provinces that have been hard hit by HIV. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic showed clear vulnerabilities in the health system’s ability to treat respiratory disease – like the fact that no health facility in PNG currently has liquid oxygen. During COVID, we supplied oxygen to the two biggest hospitals in PNG – and now, we are increasing that assistance. Today, we are committing an additional $1 million to help health facilities invest in oxygen and other supplies that they need to treat these respiratory illnesses.
Finally, recognizing that Papua New Guinea is one of the countries at highest risk of natural disasters in the world, USAID will provide $5.2 million in additional humanitarian assistance and disaster resilience to PNG. Some of this funding, $1.2 million of it, will provide critical nutrition assistance to children suffering from severe hunger. Another portion will go to the Mount Bagana eruption response – to get water tanks, critical healthcare, and emergency shelter to the 6,000 people displaced by the eruption.
But ultimately, as the Prime Minister and I discussed, our priority is to help PNG build up its own disaster response capabilities. So $3.5 million of this new funding is going to go to disaster preparedness to help communities most susceptible to disaster, to become more resilient. This will mean creating disaster-management plans, pursuing climate-smart agriculture, and providing stronger protections for women and girls during emergencies.
As Papua New Guinea continues to drive green growth, improve healthcare, and make its communities more resilient, the United States is wholly committed to standing with you. I am thrilled, Mr. Prime Minister, and people of Papua New Guinea, to be part of opening this new chapter with this great country and I thank you so much.