Administrator Samantha Power at the EU Foreign Affairs Council (Development) Ministerial Meeting

Speeches Shim

Sunday, November 21, 2021


I would like to acknowledge High Representative Josep Borrell for inviting me to speak today. And Commissioner Urpilainen for her remarks, her introduction, and for her strong ethic of partnership across a range of issues and challenges we face.

I know Secretary Blinken addressed this gathering virtually back in February, that President Biden participated in the U.S.-EU Summit back in June, and that, most recently, President Biden and European Commission President von der Leyen met in Washington earlier this month. In all of these engagements, the US has stressed our strong commitment to strengthening our relationship after years of neglect. 

Whether we’re staring down the urgent crises of our time, COVID-19 and Climate Change, or trying to reverse a 15-year decline in democratic freedom, we will never succeed unless we work together, guided by shared values and common interests.

Today, I’d like to talk about these issues, as well as some other areas of concern that many of you have raised—Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and fragile states in general.

I don’t plan to dwell on any one issue—these are topics each of us deal with every day—so rather I’d just like to offer some brief thoughts as well as some very specific suggestions on how we can align our efforts and increase our impact.

On COVID-19, as donors, we must urgently step up delivery on our dose pledges. The United States has delivered approximately a quarter-billion donated doses to date. Europe has pledged large volumes but it is beyond urgent to accelerate delivery. 

We must all push to close the gap between pledged and delivered doses so we can help countries reach the goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world by next September.

On Wednesday, the U.S. shared that we are making major investments in expanding vaccine manufacturing capacity, with the goal of producing one billion doses a year by the second half of 2022.

But developing vaccines and getting them to port is only half the battle

And this is the main point I want to stress: As supply is finally improving, country capacity and vaccine hesitancy are revealing themselves to be critical bottlenecks—everything from limited healthcare workers to weak cold chains needed to transport them to remote areas to insufficient demand, disinformation and overall hesitancy.

As donors, we must make sure that we are giving countries reasonable advance notice and responsible expiry dates. So please member states as you donate, try to ensure the maximum shelf life.

And we must urgently redouble our efforts to expand country capacity so they can take full advantage of contributed doses.

The US announced a down payment on country delivery capacity at President Biden’s COVID-19 Summit in September.

President Biden pledged $370 million for vaccine readiness to get these shots in arms, and we plan to do more in the coming months.

I would urge EU member states to likewise substantially increase their investments in – and attention to –global vaccine readiness and capacity.

On climate, I’d like to offer you a nearby example of the struggle we’re facing around climate adaptation.

I just arrived from Moldova, where for years, the U.S. has invested in transforming the country’s wine sector. Moldova has been making wine for 5,000 years—it sits on the same latitude as Burgundy and Bordeaux—but it was until recently, largely a supplier of bulk wine to Russia.

After Russian-sanctions on Moldova kneecapped the industry’s growth, USAID helped the sector boost its quality, while helping the industry access new markets in the EU for export.

Today, the wine industry accounts for five percent of all of Moldova’s exports, and is a source of revenue for over 200,000 farmers. Yet all this is at risk because of climate change.

Three percent of the country’s GDP is already being lost as a result of drought, heavy rains, and flooding.

In 2020, they faced a winter without snow and a spring and summer with very little rain.

If nothing is done to adapt to these changes, its biggest agricultural zones could see crop yields decline by 10-to-30 percent by 2050.

Now, we are working with Moldovan vinters to adapt their growing techniques and provide them with meteorological data and predictions.

But as we all know, the relatively minimal available funding for climate adaptation is wildly out of step with the need in countries threatened by climate change.

When it comes to things like salt-water-, pest-, and drought-resistant agriculture, early-warning systems that can help prevent climate-related deaths, infrastructure that can withstand climate shocks, and insurance schemes that can redress people suffering from climate impacts—we have yet to make compelling business cases for private sector investment.

Of the estimated $30 billion spent on climate adaptation in 2018, only about $500 million—less than two percent—came from the private sector which invests more heavily in mitigation 

So it is up to us, the public sector, to move first, absorb some risk, and support countries in attracting more private capital, while continuing to address adaptation needs that may never be attractive to outside investors.

One of the key outcomes of COP26 was the commitment by developed countries to double their collective investments in adaptation which is sorely needed.

At UNGA President Biden announced our intention to quadruple climate finance to over $11 billion, and within that to increase our adaptation finance by six-fold, as part of a plan now known as PREPARE—the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience.

We also announced our first-ever contribution of $50 million to the Adaptation Fund, following the EU pledge of $116 million.

I would urge those climate finance contributors who have not yet increased their adaptation finance commitments to come forward with pledges.

And on the mitigation side, I would urge the EU to continue our successful collaboration on Power Africa and renew our MOU.

Finally, we’ve been hearing from many countries that they have had challenges accessing the Green Climate Fund.

We have supported reforms to simplify the application process for climate finance funds to make access to funding faster and to help funds flow to developing countries and local institutions. We have to use our leverage as board members of the Green Climate Fund to get them to eliminate sludge. While I was at the UN, I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it was to not only hear from, for example, small island states disappearing underwater, but also unable to navigate the onerous paper requirements associated with securing support.  

We are proud to partner with the states and communities most at-risk of climate change and we must make sure they can access climate finance.

On Afghanistan, we remain deeply concerned about the worsening liquidity and humanitarian crisis as the winter months draw nearer.

We’re also very focused on finding a path forward on providing assistance for education, specifically to maintain the gains Afghanistan has seen in educating its women and girls.

The challenge all donors face when considering support for education is how to address the issue of the payment of the salaries of teachers employed by the Ministry of Education. 

In the immediate term we can focus on a more limited intervention via community education organizations.

But over the longer term we will need collectively to address whether and how to provide system-wide support that preserves the gains for all children, especially girls.    

I think it is critical that, to the extent that our laws and regulations allow it, we align our assistance through shared mechanisms.

Coordinating will help us avoid duplication and gaps in our assistance. But it will also prevent the Taliban from playing us against each other.

We have far more leverage with the Taliban if we present a united front, rather than splintering our assistance through varied multilateral and bilateral mechanisms.

We can use that power to push for conditions, such as keeping women and girls in school and giving them the freedom to study what they choose.

With regard to fragile states, With more conflict than at any point since the end of the Cold War, we are seeing both a massive human cost but also an economic one; violence is costing the world nearly 12 percent of its GDP each year—nearly $15 trillion.

We’re seeing these human and economic costs spiral out of control in Ethiopia today, where Prime Minister Abiy is presiding over a humanitarian catastrophe as rebel forces threaten the capital and the government has begun rounding up and detaining Tigrayans from their homes, workplaces, and even off the streets.

Many of us have met several times to speak with one voice on the need for a ceasefire, to push for humanitarian access into Northern Ethiopia, and to encourage the international financial institutions to suspend debt restructuring and new loans for the Government until there is a political resolution of the conflict, which the IMF has done.

To prevent conflicts before they start and stabilize those that have broken out, the U.S. recently launched a new Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote stability that aims to elevate joint approaches to promoting stability and peace.

This strategy, building on the Global Fragility Act, mandates that the U.S. consult and engage with host country governments, and regional and international stakeholders to develop 10-year plans that address fragility and instability.

But we will also consult with local actors that don’t just live in a country's capital—civil society, faith-based organizations, marginalized populations—groups that we know are key actors in community peacebuilding and conflict prevention, especially in places where the government is the source of violence.

In the coming weeks, President Biden will approve priority countries and regions where we’ll apply this new approach.

If we are able to share this focus, and concentrate our resources and efforts on the same countries and regions, then we can make much more of an impact.

Finally, ahead of our upcoming Summit for Democracy, I want to bring up the importance of bolstering democracy within our countries and jointly supporting the democratic journey of others—especially those bright spots where parties running on pro-democracy and anticorruption platforms are winning large majorities.

In Moldova, President Sandu and her party were handed landslide victories this year and broad mandates for their platform of fighting corruption, breaking oligarchic control of the economy, and strengthening the country’s rule of law. A country like Moldova needs to show a democracy dividend.

We just launched in Moldova a $30 million effort to help modernize the country’s economy: to help demonstrate to the world that the values we hold so dear—democracy, the rule of law, transparency—can deliver significant gains for their people.

The only way we are going to counter the democratic backsliding and rising authoritarianism that we are witnessing throughout the world—including in both the U.S. and Europe—is to show up to demonstrate that democracy and rule of law pay especially in our own backyards.

I am heartened that the EU has created the Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values fund to channel resources directly to civil society groups in member states.

However, I also understand that these funds have been limited to service providers, rather than press freedom, advocacy, or anti corruption and democratic watchdogs.

With a one-billion-euro-plus fund, I wonder if it might be possible to carve out a portion of the CERV to independent journalists and watchdog organizations to support the pro-democracy and anti-corruption work throughout Eastern Europe—efforts we plan to support as well. 

 I know I’ve covered a lot of ground here, but one of the principles that runs through all of our approach is that the U.S. is going to prioritize listening to and engaging with partner countries and their populations.

We want our assistance to be responsive to what people actually want—whether that’s financing to help protect them from droughts and floods, support for strengthening the production and distribution of vaccines, or a shared approach to peacebuilding and strategy.

And we want to direct that assistance to the local NGOs, private firms, and institutions who can make the most difference on the ground—peacemakers, community health clinics, anticorruption watchdogs, microinsurance startups, and agricultural collectives.

In that same spirit of being responsive and listening to what partners want, I have done enough talking today so I want to now listen to your thoughts and reactions and any questions you may have of me.

Thank you.

Last updated: December 02, 2021

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