U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green's Opening Remarks at a Town Hall Meeting with U.S. Embassy Rangoon

Friday, May 18, 2018

 
ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. Thank you, Teresa, and good afternoon, everyone. It's great to be with you. I'm delighted to be here. I appreciate your warm welcome. More importantly, I appreciate all your hard work in making this whole trip go so smoothly. As was mentioned, I'm a former ambassador and congressman. Therefore, I have hosted visits, I have lead visits, I have been on visits. I know how well they appear and how much work goes in, and I also know what a wheels-up party feels like, so I hope you're anticipating yours. But as was mentioned, before we open it up to questions and in any subject at all, everything's fair game, I thought I'd give you a few thoughts on our work here in Myanmar, and then a little bit on the USAID Redesign Transformation project. I know that all of that is obviously on your minds.

First, the U.S. and Myanmar. My opinion: the relationship between our two countries is a very special one. America is the leader of the free world. We consider ourselves the foremost champion of the community of democracies. Myanmar is one of the world's youngest democracies. When their students and civil society activists took to the streets not so long ago now demanding freedom and democracy, quite frankly, this country inspired us all. It reminded us why democracy matters, why civil society matters. We stood with the activists in those historic days, and we've proudly supported this democracy ever since.

Because America and Myanmar have this special kinship -- this very special bond and friendship -- I believe that we owe it to each other to be open and honest. Just as we share progress and successes, I think as friends we should also be willing to share concerns, as well. Our close friendship compels us to express honest concerns regarding the crisis with the Rohingya, as well as other ethnic and religious minority groups that have suffered persecution. To be clear, America speaks out on matters of democracy and human rights not because we have all the answers, but because through our history perhaps we have made all the mistakes.

And so, what I often say to countries like Myanmar is, "As a friend, we are hoping that you don't have to make the same mistakes that we made over the years. Perhaps we can save you some time and some false choices." Our experience as Americans has shown us that no government can truly be a democracy, no government can be called a representative democracy, if it isn't listening to all of its people, even those who are small in number or practicing a faith not held by most others. Because these are matters of importance to us, even if we help Myanmar in areas like global health and food security, we have contributed more than $250 million to help relieve the suffering of the Rohingya, as well as other IDPs and refugees.

We are actively working with our allies here in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and elsewhere to try to bring peace, justice, and stability to their terrible situation. As many of you know, I met with Rohingya refugees when I was in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Their stories were hugely affecting. And I look forward to sharing them with you in our time here. I'm also eager to visit the communities they fled so I can see for myself what's driving this conflict and how we -- USAID, but also the broader U.S. Government -- how we can support a just resolution to this conflict.

In addition to addressing issues of liberty and democracy, I know that you do important and impactful work. You should be very, very proud. One of the great things about being your Administrator is I get to brag on your work. I get to boast about what it is that you do. I was just up in Naypyidaw, and I did that. And I had a chance to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and I did a lot of boasting. Actually, it didn't take all that much because she was boasting herself about the work that we were doing.

I got to boast about the team here that helped launch the first-ever nationally representative demographic and health survey. As we like to say back in the States, this would be a game-changer, an irreplaceable tool for shaping and informing health policy.

I'm also eagerly watching your efforts to reduce the prevalence of TB, to below 10 cases per 100,000, ambitiously by 2035. The work that you've already done to help the government identify 3,200 cases of multi-drug resistant TB, and shorten the waiting period for treatment initiation, truly is inspiring and will change the course of history here. As some of you know, we're working hard to address TB in India, which also struggles with many of these challenges. But, this is tremendous work. It's important work. And, again, all of you should be very, very proud of what you're doing for the people of this country.

So, now let me turn my attention to a topic that I know many of you are thinking about; our ongoing Redesign, and the exciting Transformation phase that we're entering. Let me begin the discussion this way. So, Redesign, technically speaking, was launched by a Presidential Directive. But, I want you to know in all honesty, I would have asked us to undertake a process like this anyway.

This is the world's leading development and humanitarian assistance agency. We're the best in the world. What the Redesign process is about, at least from my perspective, is asking ourselves what it is that we need to do to remain the world's leader in the months and years ahead. How should we shape ourselves? How should we position our work? What must we do to recruit the best talent, retain it, strengthen it, empower it to lead? What should the USAID of tomorrow look like?

As we've proceeded in this process, we've tried hard to keep in mind the two guiding principles that I've enunciated quite frankly, long before I was even confirmed. First, number one, I know you've heard it from me before: I believe the purpose of foreign assistance should be ending its need to exist. As Americans, as an Agency, we believe in human dignity. We believe in the innate desire of every individual, every nation, to be able to choose their own destiny, and, to get there under their own power. And, if a country is willing to take on the difficult journey to self-reliance, as I call it, as Americans, because this is in our hearts, in our DNA, we feel a special responsibility to help them along the way.

And I think we do that by prioritizing programs that incentivize your (inaudible), strengthen in-country capacity, attract private enterprise-driven initiatives, and also help our partners mobilize their own resources. And, the journey to self-reliance means that we should help countries look forward to the day where we can transition to a new kind of relationship.

Now, let's be clear. A new kind of relationship doesn't mean turning off the lights. It doesn't mean walking away from all that's been accomplished. But, we should be looking for a relationship that moves beyond merely traditional assistance. And, as self-reliance is reached, we should forge a relationship that embraces opportunities for enterprise-driven initiatives. A lasting relationship that both celebrates how much we've accomplished together, but also symbolizes the possibilities that lie ahead, a relationship that captures how far a country has moved, thanks in part to our support from recipient, to true partner, to, yes, fellow donor.

There's a second guiding principle that I believe we should enshrine in the Redesign. In the area of humanitarian assistance, we will always stand with others when disaster strikes, or crisis emerges, because that's who we are as Americans. We'll work relentlessly to ensure that the assistance is delivered in the most effective ways that we can find. And, in the spirit of true compassion, we'll also look for ways to help partner countries build their resilience against future crisis, and future shock.

Obviously, nobody understands these principals more than our talented USAID team. This is really what you've been doing for years. Not just those of us who show up to work in the Ronald Reagan Building back in DC, but our team all around the world. Our Foreign Service Officers, our Foreign Service Nationals, Civil Service, PSCs, and more. I mean, that's the lifeblood of the Agency. It's also the engine for ideas.

That's why when we undertook Redesign, something that we did -- I think that's very important -- we chose not to rely on outside consultants. Instead, we turned to all of you. Every one of our work streams is led by career employees. In fact, we have more than 300 members of our team who formally participated in the Redesign process. And what they've been doing is working hard to pull together the best ideas we could find. Some of them are new. Most of them are not new. What we tried to do is harness the talent, the experience that we have in this Agency all around the world, and to try to turn it into a structure and an operational plan that I think is worthy of the extraordinary mission that we need to undertake.

Every step of the way the process has been consultative, collaborative, it's been incremental. And my commitment to all of you is it will continue to be that way as we move forward -- consulting and listening to you with every step in the process. We're now entering the Transformation phase in the process. What does that mean? It means that we're starting to take some of the broader ideas, and turn them into things, to real things, to real plans, and structures, and ideas, and initiatives. In this phase of our work, please know that our focus won't just be on structure, even though that's what seems to grab everybody's attention.

I'm not going to spend a lot of time today on structure for two reasons. Number one, we have a comprehensive org chart that lays it out more clearly than I ever could. You can see it online at MyUSAID, and it's got a wealth of information, presentations, videos, Q&A's, you name it. Jim Richardson has done a fantastic job in this process, and he lays it out in ways much better than I could.

But, secondly, and I think this is more important, structure is a fraction of what we're aiming to do. Structure is merely the hardware of USAID. It's the framework. I'm much more interested in how we do things. How we manage information flows. How we harness our talent. How we improve our procedures and policies to empower and support all of you. That's the software. And that's the 80 percent that is going to determine just how good we are, how successful we are. To me, that's what we'll deliver the USAID of tomorrow.

It's going to involve assembling the data, the metrics that we use to see where countries are in that journey to self-reliance. And it's very exciting because we're on the verge of being able to unveil these metrics publicly. In each of these work -- or in this work stream, each of our leaders is working to identify each country's capacities for each program sector, so that we know where a country is in their journey to self-reliance, the ideas that will help us to guide our investments. But, we're also looking to gauge each country's level of commitment. Because I think that our experience shows us if a country doesn't have skin in the game, all the money in the world will not make much difference. Instead, we need to be true partners.

Creating the USAID of tomorrow also means learning how to be better partners to a wider range of NGO's, private businesses, and community leaders. And so, the leaders that we have in this work stream are helping us to move beyond solely traditional grants, and contracts, and instead, trying to move towards true collaboration, co-financing, co-creation, co-design.

When we take a look at our competition in the world, development models, the China model, and the Western model, the U.S. model, one of the things that we hear all the time is, "The U.S. is too slow-moving." Governments look and say, "Gee, I can get on the phone with China and have money tomorrow." Well, we're not going to quite get to the level where we can get on the phone and get the money tomorrow, but we do need to be more responsive. And we do need to work with our partners to help craft, and shape initiatives that fit the situation, that also build the capacity of NGO's here; both the government and NGO civil society itself. Again, the key to all of this is building self-reliance. It's helping countries to lead themselves. Now, there's a lot more underway with Transformation than just what I've gone through, but maybe that gives you a taste of what it is that we're trying to undertake.

I want to thank everyone who has participated so far. Again, we've had more than 300 people across the Agency formally participate. I invite you to provide feedback. You can do so either through those T3 feedback sessions that so many of you have already participated in, writing in through our portal, or emailing transformation@usaid.gov. And I really and truly hope that more of you will get involved in this process.

Another part of Transformation is trying to move more of decision-making, program design, development design, away from Washington and out into the field. Our job in Washington is to help you be successful. Your job is to help identify opportunities, challenges, and needs, and then we work together to craft solutions.

Once again, I've heard so many good things about the work that you're doing, and heard it when I was in Naypyidaw. And that's something that all of you should be proud of, and for which I, as Administrator, am very, very grateful. Thanks again for your hospitality. I appreciate all that you've been doing. I appreciate all that you are doing. And I appreciate all that you will be doing in the months and years ahead. And, with that, I'd be delighted to take your questions. Anything is fair game. Thank you, everyone.

U.S. Embassy Rangoon Rangoon, Burma May 18, 2018

Last updated: May 21, 2018

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