Friday, March 10, 2023

Hanoi, Vietnam

ADMINISTRATOR SAMANTHA POWER: Thank you so much, Cameron, thank you Ambassador for being here, and good afternoon, everyone. I’ve had an immensely productive trip to Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh City to the Mekong Delta to now drinking egg coffees here in Hanoi, and so I’m eager to share with you some of what I have seen and learned, and to take your questions after offering some initial thoughts. 

All of you know that this year, Vietnam and the United States will be celebrating 10 years of a Comprehensive Partnership between our two nations. And we believe Vietnam and the United States are destined to have an even stronger Strategic Partnership. My visit was intended to illustrate what a deeper relationship between our two countries could look like, which I know other high-level visitors from the U.S. will continue to demonstrate throughout the year.

Of course, the relationship enjoyed today by our two countries was not easy to build. 

You all know that for many years, our countries struggled to heal from the pain of old wounds. Our two governments did not speak, in fact, in the years following the war, but thanks to the leadership of Vietnamese and American leaders, we began confronting our difficult past. Vietnam helped the United States locate hundreds of our missing soldiers. The United States began doing the same for Vietnamese soldiers, while also helping to remove unexploded ordnances. And, of course, thanks to the leadership of Senator Patrick Leahy and others, we began to remediate the soil tainted by dioxin from Agent Orange.

That is how I began my trip to Vietnam, by visiting Bien Hoa Air Base, where we are working with the Ministry of National Defense to clean nearly 500,000 cubic meters of land contaminated by the remnants of Agent Orange. That is enough soil to fill more than 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

During my visit, I formally handed a large and significant portion of fully decontaminated land back to the Vietnamese people, and I announced that USAID is working with Congress to provide $73 million for the next phase of the project to design, build, and operate a treatment facility that will clean contaminated soil and sediment at Bien Hoa. 

USAID will be additionally doubling our assistance to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities, from $15 million to $30 million. I visited Bach Mai hospital here in Hanoi this morning where I saw firsthand the impact this care can have – in yet another demonstration of reconciliation between our countries, a hospital that the U.S. once bombed over Christmas in 1972, has become a regional leader in serving people with disabilities. 

Our relationship was built on a foundation to address the pains of a brutal war that left behind so much pain and suffering. And now, it’s blossomed into a deep partnership on a number of shared priorities – fighting climate change, modernizing education, strengthening health systems, and driving economic growth.  

Young people are the key to delivering on those challenges. So, the United States is helping modernize higher education institutions as those institutions train the next generation of Vietnamese leaders. I visited Fulbright University Vietnam and Can Tho University, two universities partnering with USAID. I spoke with students about the future they envision for Vietnam. At Fulbright University Vietnam, several young women spoke to me about the leadership roles they want to take in steering their country toward a brighter future. And at Can Tho, students discussed their concerns about climate change and spoke openly about how climate change was harming the livelihoods of people in their communities, including their own family members. And the personal stakes and personal consequences of environmental damage and climate change were felt by so many of the students there in the Mekong Delta, already.

The farmers I spoke with in the same region – Mekong Delta – shared a similar sentiment. In Can Tho, I spoke with farmers about saltwater intrusion that is undermining the harvest of their rice plantings. I spoke to fish farmers who are now having to adopt new practices, embrace new livelihoods like ecotourism, and diversify into other crops to protect their freshwater fish livelihood against the warming climate.

I know how seriously the government of Vietnam takes climate change, including its commitment to reach net zero by 2050. The United States intends to be a strong partner with Vietnam in that effort. For over a decade now, we’ve helped spur investment in renewable energy like solar – which now provides nearly 25 percent of the country’s power.

As the climate crisis threatens more Vietnamese people, especially those along the Mekong Delta, we also need to invest in helping communities adapt to the changing climate that they already experience. So, we are in the process of launching a new multimillion-dollar project to invest in the resilience of communities in the Mekong, while also reducing methane emissions from rice farming and protecting natural ecosystems.

But tackling an issue as challenging as climate change cannot be the work of government alone. And yesterday, I met with leaders of community-based organizations who are at the forefront of environmental advocacy here. While these leaders are attempting to drive the discussions around conservation and wildlife protection, they desire a stronger partnership with the government to operate openly and effectively, and protect this country and communities that they love so dearly. Community-based organizations and local organizations make countries stronger – they offer new ideas and they open a dialogue with the public that can create space for positive change on shared priorities. In my meeting earlier today with Foreign Minister Sơn, I raised the issue of granting more cooperation to environmental organizations, and will reiterate it when I meet with the Prime Minister this afternoon. 

In my meetings, I am also encouraging the government to double down on the strategy it’s already used to become one of the fastest growing economies in the world – embracing important reforms and paring back regulations that hinder private-sector investment. Sticking to that strategy will allow this country’s prosperity to continue, while also allowing the economy to transition to a much greener footprint. And the United States, again, stands ready to continue to support Vietnam as it embraces reform, facilitates greater trade and investment, and develops a cleaner and more resilient economy. 

This is what a stronger, strategic relationship between the United States and Vietnam holds in store for us all. A deepened commitment to addressing war legacies. Heightened investment to tackle climate change, particularly in the Mekong Delta. And continued support for Vietnam’s next generation of leaders. 

After a week touring your country; paying my respects at Bien Hoa; visiting farms and floating markets on the Mekong; sampling some of the best Bánh Xèo the country has to offer; playing football with Vietnam’s next generation; and hearing from so many people about their eagerness to play a personal role in protecting the environment and tackling climate change, I have seen a vision of the enhanced partnership our countries are destined to enjoy with one another. And we at USAID are eager to do all we can to strengthen the United States’ friendship with the Vietnamese people, a friendship that we cherish.

With that, I look forward to taking your questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Administrator Power. I'd also like to recognize our Ambassador Marc Knapper and Aler Grubbs, the U.S. Mission Director for USAID. So, any questions for the Administrator? Let's start with AFP.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE: I’m interested in your waste recycling engagement with Vietnamese collectors. And I just wondered – want to get your thoughts about whether you think that could be part of the solution of tackling the problem of plastic waste in Vietnam? And if so, what makes it so effective?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much for that question. So, plastic pollution is something that plagues all of our countries, and that we all have an awful lot of work to do on. Vietnam produces two to three million metric tons of plastic waste each year, I gather. And I was really impressed with this incredible female entrepreneur and the app that she has created, which – to use American parlance or parlance from maybe outside of Vietnam – is kind of like an Uber for waste collection. 

In so far as the citizens can press on the app, the kind of waste that they have, that they would like to see recycled. And the employees of this company that the woman has created – the female entrepreneur has created – about 40 of whom are freelance, receive on their phone in a sense of ping that says “hi, I have this amount of plastic pollution, will you come and collect it?” And these freelance waste collectors and the permanent staff of the company go – you know, depending on how much plastic waste there is, or how much other waste there is, they either go on a truck, or they go with a trolley, and they weigh the waste on the spot, calculate how much the citizen is entitled to receive, because they are paid for their plastic and other waste, that waste collector pays the citizen. So, the citizen doesn't have to deliver the waste anywhere, and the citizen has an incentive to use the app in order to get paid, because otherwise the waste is just going to go into the garbage and potentially into a landfill or into the ocean, ultimately polluting the country and polluting the environment. And then the waste collector takes the material to a collection center that then makes its way to a recycling plant. So, it is an incredibly important innovation. 

Having said that, it will be incredibly powerful when more Vietnamese know about this app. The more Vietnamese who know, who can draw on the app, and in a very, very convenient way to get rid of their recyclables, then the more they will use it, the more waste collectors who can be hired, this is a great source of livelihood for the waste collectors, and the more material that will ultimately be recycled. So, this is a classic, or a very emblematic use of technology and innovation, to solve a practical problem that can be win-win-win for all of the actors in the value chain. 

One of the exciting parts of my visit as well, was that an official from the Environmental Ministry was part of the visit. And he described, with great enthusiasm, how important this app was going to be – not only in Ho Chi Minh City. Or apps like it, because it may not be this company, it could be any company. But when the regulations come in place, and get popularized around recycling, so when the legal framework meets the technological capability, that's when you could start to imagine this being scaled, and this being a great source of livelihood for the waste collectors, and the means of getting that two to three million metric tons of waste way down. 

It's not the entirety of the solution, of course. You know, reusing plastic as part of the solution, replacing plastic, you know, and using more permanent, non-plastic solutions is going to be a critical part of the equation. But it's very clear the role that government, community-based organizations and business have in tackling all of the challenges that countries face. And it was nice to see in this single example, those sectors coming together. Again, community-based activism, and employees or freelance employees, the private sector and the government, looking to get word out that citizens can get paid in order to recycle and to get word out that there can be a convenience to this that takes away the hassle and makes it only, again, beneficial for everybody involved. And we're happy to connect you with the protagonist in this story if you'd like, because it's really the kind of app I wish we had in parts of the United States. 

NONG NGHIEP VIETNAM NEWSPAPER: Currently, Vietnam’s agriculture is facing many challenges, including climate change, especially in the Mekong Delta. What commitments will the USAID make to join Vietnam in adapting to this issue? What does that mean to the Vietnam-U.S. bilateral relation? 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much. So, USAID has announced a very substantial investment in the Mekong Delta, in resilience in a range of areas, but very, very focused on resilience in agriculture. And this investment of $50 million will allow us – should allow us – to do everything from supporting farmers to getting access to technological tools that can help them more easily predict these weather patterns. 

You know, it's no secret that in Vietnam, for hundreds of years farmers have known, you know, roughly when the rains are coming, and they've been able to plan accordingly. The farmers I met with are, you know, very discombobulated, very destabilized by weather patterns that are no longer nearly as predictable. And yet, the earlier you know, the more that you can plan ahead, that can help you manage or mitigate at least some of the harmful effects of these changing weather patterns. And so we, at USAID, have access to NASA satellite imagery and data. And with technology and entrepreneurship, and support from the government, you can imagine how those tools can be brought to bear.  

We've also seen in other parts of the world the ways in which USAID has been able to provide farmers with, for example, drought resistant seeds that can withstand higher temperatures than farmers are accustomed to. But you know, most farmers, again, are used to using the seeds that they have always used. And so, engaging with communities and finding out what they want, and what transitions they believe are in their best interests, you know, that is fundamentally what we're in the midst of doing now – is to understand how they prioritize their, you might call it, their resilience agenda. But there's also in the Mekong Delta region, you know, a whole set of other issues that we want to support the people in grappling with – like rising sea water, but also, the sinking floor of the Mekong Delta. 

I – in traveling on river boats to a floating market – was able to see the many many sand barges that were out on the Mekong Delta. And one of the briefings I got from the scientist indicated that, actually, the Mekong Delta – or at least parts of it – are sinking at a rate even faster than sea level is rising. And so, we all focus on climate change and the effect of climate change, and increased flooding that comes, you know, from the rising sea levels, and that's incredibly important. But, you know, actually having the erosion at the bottom of the Mekong, as well, is going to cause significant challenges for fish farmers, as well. 

And I did meet with some fish farmers, because aquaculture as well will be a part of this resilience program. And their biggest concern, because they're – the ones I met with were freshwater fish farmers, they're very concerned about the salt in the water, and really worried about, you know, certain species of freshwater fish actually being extinct at some point. And already, they're seeing the supply and the stockpiles go down. So, as I mentioned in my remarks, one of the farmers we met with, you know, now is doing ecotourism, because he wants to hedge against relying too much on freshwater fish. Now, that's very sad, you know what we really want to do is protect the freshwater fish and protect the environment. But I think diversification of livelihoods is going to be part of the solution for those farmers who are interested in making the transition.

The other thing I would highlight, just finally, is in the education domain. USAID has a rich partnership, I mentioned, with Fulbright University [Vietnam] where we are a big investor, but also at CTU right there in the Mekong region. And, you know, thinking through what the curriculum is for young people, creating spaces for not only university students, but graduate students to apply their brilliance and their technical skills, to thinking about everything from, you know, the sinking floor of the Mekong Delta, to what to do about the upstream damage that is caused by dams, and other things that are beyond the control of any particular farmer. 

And so, you know, there are a set of geopolitical and international aspects of this issue as well, that our colleagues in the State Department are working energetically on. And we – the Ambassador and I and the Secretary of State and the President – all of us recognize that there is no single solution to managing the crisis that the Mekong Delta is facing. We will have to work with our Vietnamese partners to tackle all of these dimensions at once, the upstream challenges and the diplomacy around that, and again, the aspects of the challenge that are strictly related to climate change and a warming planet. But also, those that are related to the management of the Delta, and some of the choices that have been made throughout the years, that many now wish they could go back in time – but we live in the present. And now we have to think about going forward, what will it mean to bring about to preserve the livelihoods and the nature that the Vietnamese people so celebrate in the Mekong and to preserve, of course, also the source of so much protein, so much rice, so much nutrition for this country, but also for the Vietnamese export market.

TUOI TRE NEWSPAPER: USAID is assisting Vietnam in many areas, including war legacy remediation to energy transition. What will be the focus of USAID's support for Vietnam? And USAID's website introduces one of USAID's goals to help Vietnam reduce its dependence on aid. In your opinion, when will this goal be achieved?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much. So, I think you asked two questions. Let me take the second question first, which is about prioritization. And just to sort of acknowledge that, so many of the sectors that USAID is working in, with our Vietnamese partners, are interrelated. And so there is no question that, for example, the warming climate is affecting disease patterns, and public health challenges around the world. And this is something we want to work with the Ministry of Health, and our partners in the health sector here, to make sure that Vietnam is prepared for what a warming climate is going to bring. And then I heard about this, even from farmers in the Mekong Delta describing different surges in dengue and other diseases already, that they believe is attributable in part to the warming climate. 

I already mentioned our work in education and how it connects back to nature preservation. I think economic growth – and our work in economic growth and in trying to work with the government to create a more business-friendly environment – that's a means of ensuring if there's more investment and easier trade relations, that's going to mean jobs for those young people who come out of those universities in which we work. 

So you can see, to your second question about prioritization, that we don't believe it's an option to walk away from any of these sectors. Unless, and until, our Vietnamese partners tell us – we're good. You know, we think that we can bring expertise from the outside, if that is what is sought. But again, we are very much taking our cue from the communities in which we work, and from our minute-to-minute dialogue with a variety of government ministries that are attending to these challenges. So, I wouldn't put any one of these sectors, sort of above the other, but say that integration across the sector's is going to be key to the success of any programming, or any support we offer in any particular sector. 

On your first question, which is, I will say, an ambition we have in every country, which is to move away from an assistance relationship to strictly a trade relationship. And I will say that, I think something like I have to remember now, the statistics, but I think of the United States’ top ten trading relationships, something like seven [eight] of those are former assistance recipients. In other words, this is a journey that we know Vietnam is going to complete for itself. There is no holding back with the Vietnamese people. I mean, the trajectory that Vietnam's economy is on is breathtaking, in terms of the number of people who have been lifted out of poverty, the economic growth that is already underway, the number of jobs being created. Of course, COVID-19, you know, slowed down economic opportunity for every country in the world. But I absolutely know that this transition from aid to – fully – to trade is going to happen. 

And, you know, at the same time, we love working here. We feel a responsibility, in terms of, you know again, continuing to work on war legacy issues. But we also feel very connected, through educational exchanges, through tourism, through the tragic history that we have together, we feel really, really connected with the Vietnamese people. And, you know, when it comes to climate-related programming, we also feel a great sense of responsibility, because we are a major emitter of carbon, and have contributed very much to the challenge now, that so many communities, not just in Vietnam, but around the world are facing. 

So all of this to say, that we are in the listening mode, we're in the listening mode about how to prioritize among a lot of challenges. And we will remain in the listening mode as to when and whether the assistance relationship recedes, USAID, you know, closes down its mission. We have done that in many, many parts of the world. And we're very proud when those days come. We have an amazing Vietnamese staff at USAID, many of whom could be ministers in government, they could be running their own businesses, they could be leading community-based organizations. And USAID, also increasingly is providing more of its assistance directly to Vietnam's local organizations. Because we know that one day, you know, it will not be an assistance relationship. But the more that we can build capacity in those organizations, the more that those organizations will be able to operate and lead, and in some cases, fund other organizations themselves. So, there's no set date. We will take our cues from the situation on the ground, and from the collaborative partnerships that we have built over many decades. 

CHANNEL NEWS ASIA: In your Bien Hoa speech this week, as reported on the videos released by your Agency, you mentioned the Wartime Accounting Initiative. Could you please update us on any progress on the Wartime Accounting Initiative as well as the cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam? And the second question is the U.S. President Biden mentioned last year that the U.S. will step up cooperation with Vietnam and other countries to tackle illegal fishing - IUU. I wonder if that's covered by your agency USAID or not. I wanted to know any update of your work on that. 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you. On the specifics of the progress on the DNA and identification, I'm going to ask the Ambassador to respond, just to give you the level of detail, perhaps you're seeking. With regard to illegal fishing, I think that this is an area that we are involved in, in a number of countries to varying degrees. And, you know, part of what we do is we work with local authorities, with governments, and as always, with community-based organizations as well, to spread awareness of the harms that are caused by unregulated fishing. Needless to say, there's an international dimension to this. 

And I can say, from my conversations that I've had already here with Vietnamese officials, you know, we are in very close touch about how to strengthen the international norms, and the enforcement of those norms, through dialogue, through reporting. Because clearly illegal fishing, unregulated fishing, is causing great harm to livelihoods. The overfishing and illegal fishing is already having effects. So, it's not just salinization and climate change. So the other thing that USAID does, of course, is work directly with the farmers to, you know, try to ensure that they have the support that they need, in light of the fact that, again, their ability to make ends meet is reduced when such illegal fishing occurs. The enforcement piece of this is key. So, that is something that is done less, usually through USAID, and more through the State Department Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement. But that supporting relationship to strengthen national enforcement mechanisms is something, is something maybe the Ambassador wishes to speak to as well, thank you.

AMBASSADOR KNAPPER: Sure. Thank you. Thank you very much. And thanks for that question. And I thought the Administrator’s remarks in Bien Hoa, for me, one of the most moving parts of it was the description of the lady who was quite elderly and was waiting to find out the whereabouts for two sons and that she had two teeth left, and wanted to be able to keep those teeth to be able to use the technology that's now available, to try and use – to identify her DNA, and perhaps DNA for her sons. And ultimately, you know, she was successful. And collectively, you know, we're successful when that happens. 

This is something – the Wartime Accounting Initiative, of course, was announced by Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, when he was here in 2021. And our efforts with the Vietnamese government continue, and it's really, it’s two aspects. One, is bringing the most advanced DNA technology that we can to Vietnam to allow the government here and other institutions, medical institutions, forensic institutions, to use this technology to hopefully be able to match DNA of remains that are discovered with hopefully, living relatives. But as you can guess, this effort is incredibly time consuming. Cataloging DNA from potential relatives, it takes a lot of time, a lot of effort, but it's something that we, the United States government, and I know USAID, are fully committed to. And you know, it is painstaking. I was reading somewhere that you, if you have a direct link, say to a parent or a child, it's relatively straightforward to match DNA. But if you're talking about grandparents, siblings, cousins, it gets farther and farther away, and then the confidence in the match goes down. So, it is a lot of work. It takes time, effort, money, but this is an effort that we are committed to. 

The other part of the initiative, of course, is utilizing archives, and allowing the Vietnamese government, Vietnamese researchers, archives access to records in the United States, whether they're located in the U.S. archives, or in private educational institutions. So this is another aspect, ensuring that archival research is able to be used in this very important effort to identify and account for Vietnam's own missing from the war. 

VIETNAM TIMES: Thank you for your remark. I understand that the goal is specifically to strengthen the partnership between the two countries by focusing on shared priorities. What are the areas that have seen successful cooperation in your opinion? And what areas although they have been prioritized, but the USAID and Vietnam are still facing challenges to work together effectively?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you. So, I think that there really are many, many areas of success and of impact. I mentioned touring the orthopedic ward today at Hanoi's – Vietnam's – largest hospital, and, you know – just seeing the USAID sticker there, you know, and banner – filled me as a newcomer to USAID myself, with just tremendous pride that we’ve been able to contribute.  

And then now – so many of the patients who are receiving orthopedic care, you know, an investment that started growing out of the war legacy, with the intention toward legacy issues, now benefits so many more, more people. You know, it's a very small percentage of the patients now, who get care for orthopedic issues are, in fact, you know, war legacy patients. And so, I think that's true, across our work with people with disabilities, that it's benefiting people across the country. And again, started out of a sense of responsibility stemming from the war, and now has grown into something that can benefit many more Vietnamese. And I'm very pleased on this trip to have announced a doubling, again, of our support for people with disabilities here, and developing that programming is going to be very important. 

So, you know, war legacy issues – there's still so much to be done. I mean, I and the Ambassador, we turned over this land that had been decontaminated at Bien Hoa. That was important. But that's a ten-year enterprise, you know, and it's a huge area. And we know that the so-called hotspots, you know, are ones that really matter a great deal. And so, I think we've made progress. The Ambassador just spoke eloquently about the missing persons issue – for as long as somebody is missing a loved one and hasn't been able to recover remains it is a heartbreaking situation no matter what, but that absence of closure, that so many families still feel, you know, our work is not done. 

So, for every individual who's touched by the investments that the United States and USAID have made, that is important. And, you know, our goal is to touch and to impact with our Vietnamese partners, as many people as we can. So, we know we have a lot more work to do. Another area I would single out is our work together through PEPFAR on HIV/AIDS. And there I think what I'm most struck by is not only, again, the number of individuals impacted, who've received either preventive information that have prevented them from contracting the disease in the first place, or people who were infected and who got access to life-saving treatment, who are living full and healthy lives because of this invaluable program, so that's really important. 

But what's also important is the local organizations, the community-based organizations, the Ministry of Health, and government-backed health clinics around the country who have taken ownership of this program. And in a way, it's a sort of version of my previous answer on the transition from aid to trade, you know, fundamentally, our goal is for this programming to live and be led by, and to be funded by, the communities in which we work. And that I think transition, and that ownership, over HIV/AIDS prevention, care, treatment – that transition is very far along here in Vietnam.  

The COVID-19 partnership was a model partnership, from my standpoint, being in a position to donate 40 million vaccines. President Biden committed that the United States would be an arsenal of vaccines for the world. And not just any vaccines, you know, really, really powerful mRNA vaccines that we were able to purchase from Pfizer, and then give to our partners around the world – we were all able to gather here without masks. Those of us who struggled with our kids, you know, trying to learn at home and realize the benefits of being back in the classroom, are so grateful to the people who invented the vaccines to put us in a position where our kids can be back, getting educated by teachers and getting the social impacts of the school experience. And the fact that this partnership deepened so much, and that through our work on other public health issues, we were able to so swiftly pivot and turn to COVID-19 and support, again, the Vietnamese led efforts on the ground, I think that's another flagship success that people will talk about, I suspect many years from now, as an important chapter in our partnership.  

I think that, you know, we are working in so many of the sectors that I've already discussed, but there's no question that in Vietnam, in the United States, and in every country where USAID works, scaling up our climate-related work is going to be absolutely vital. And that is in two respects – that is, of course, trying to accelerate the transition to green energy. But also, and we discussed this in our meetings with government officials today, making sure that, you know, if jobs are lost because of the transition to green energy, that USAID and others are working to ensure not just a transition, but now we all call, a just transition, so that you don't see economic livelihoods lost without a kind of reskilling or equipping individuals and communities for what comes next. So that transition to green energy is going to be pivotal, but so too is doing it in a manner that is sensitive to people who may have only known one way of life or one way of doing things in the past. And so, that's going to be very integral to how USAID approaches what we call mitigation, you know, bringing down carbon emissions to zero, to net zero.  

But the other domain, which touches every economic sector, virtually every economic sector in Vietnam, but especially agriculture, and aquaculture, is adaptation – is helping, again, communities adapt to not only the changing climate that they are already dealing with, but what we know are going to be worse climate effects or more dramatic climate effects going forward. So those, I think, are two areas that you're going to see us significantly scaling our work. And I would say that both in terms of investment, you know, and the number of programs and the amount of private sector partnership that we see, but it's also going to be geographic expansion. So doing, again, much more work in places like the Mekong Delta that are especially important to Vietnamese agriculture, but also especially affected by environmental harms and by climate change. 

MODERATOR: Last question, please.  

THANH NIEN NEWSPAPER: Would you think that Vietnam serves as an example for other nations in addressing war legacy issues?  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you so much. I think that, first of all, we are even learning within Vietnam. So, we turned over the Danang Airport, as you know, back in 2018. And we are applying the lessons that we learned through that partnership with the Ministry of National Defense to the work that we're doing at Bien Hoa. So, I think, you know, community buy-in, communication, transparency about what it is we're doing, even technological lessons, you know, how to actually build a treatment facility, plant that can process the amount of soil and sediment that we know has to go through, you know, all of that learning from Da Nang is going to be incredibly helpful for Bien Hoa and then we will see, as we go forward, what else remains to be done on remediation.  

I will say that on missing persons and DNA analysis, I started my career in the former Yugoslavia and Bosnia, where the International Commission on Missing Persons worked, and where there were a lot of issues of identification of remains, of course, more recent remains and we are talking about here. But part of what USAID privileges itself, and is privileged to do, is to also draw on lessons from other theaters of war, where the identification of remains has been challenging, either because a lot of time has passed, or because of the particular way in which a conflict unfolded.  

So, you know, I think that we will learn a lot of lessons from the kind of sophisticated DNA analysis that we are bringing here, and the work that we are doing, and those lessons have already informed work we've done in sub-Saharan Africa and in the former Yugoslavia. I suspect it will inform our partnership with the people of Ukraine, because there are a lot of mass graves in Ukraine that have not yet been excavated, or even where the Ukrainians do not yet have access to them, because they are in Russian-controlled areas. And so, again, bringing that forensic expertise that is now – you could call it a global public good – this knowledge that has amassed around the world about how to help families learn what had happened to their loved ones and get their remains back. I think that that will be incredibly valuable in places that are suffering conflict, even right now. But so too, we must harness from Latin America, and from Bosnia, and from Rwanda, and places, everything that we have learned to help people in Vietnam.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, everyone. This concludes our press availability with Administrator Power. Thank you, Ambassador Knapper, Mission Director Grubbs, and of course, USAID Administrator Samantha Power.

USAID Administrator Travels to Vietnam


Administrator Samantha Power travels to Vietnam to strengthen a partnership marked by years of expanded engagement and cooperation, built on a foundation of jointly addressing the legacies of war.

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