Thursday, October 27, 2022

U.S. Institute of Peace

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you. It's great to be here with you in person, I think I parachuted in virtually the last time. But, it's really great to meet each of you face to face, some old friends, some new ones, I hope. I want to also just take note of the space that we are in. Because as many of you know, this U.S. Institute for Peace was designed by Israel's greatest architect Moshe Safdie, who designed, of course, Habitat Montreal, but also Yad Vashem, the most powerful architectural experience many of us have ever had. And you could just feel – actually the Jerusalem stone – sort of emanating here. So, both the mission for peace and the structure here should connect us to the work that we're trying to do out there in the field – in the real world. 

Megan, you have our very best from USAID here, you're driving this initiative. What you may not know about Megan because she's so attentive to MEPPA and to driving this initiative, is that she has lots of other jobs too. But, she somehow manages to be our Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Middle East and North Africa, and be basically desk officer for MEPPA. And so Megan, I'm really in awe of the contribution you've made and the dynamism that you have brought to this cause. And Congressman Lowey, as I'm sure Mark Green dealt with this as well, there was a sense that things were not moving as quickly as they should be: the legislation was there, that the framework was there. And, it does take time, there are big startup costs to doing anything in government, and certainly at USAID. But, I think the progress that Megan has described, that in the granular detail, it correlates linearly with Megan's taking over the file and really getting us to a position where real progress happens – in the real world – from which we will learn and from which we must find a way to iterate. 

Each of you could be doing so many things with your time. I mean, this is such an all star board and all star cast. I'll say a few words about a few of you. But, thank you, just thank you for what you're investing. I'm really hopeful that not only will you contribute to the path ahead, but also that you will take things from these discussions, from the programming, hopefully from trips that we are able to do to the region that will also inform the work that you do, in so many other domains and wearing so many other hats. So just my gratitude, I really can't overstate. And, of course, I have to start in speaking about gratitude, with George Salem, our Chair, who is investing so much in this, in the day to day, so much that you may not see on the surface when we come together as a board. But, I know Megan and George are on speed dial and a lot of what we have achieved is because of that very hands on approach. And again, that's not without sacrifice, in his own life, no more than it is sacrifice free for any of you. So George so, so grateful that you took this on and for your leadership – everyday really on trying to help promote this cause.

I also want to thank Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogan, the U.S. Institute for Peace Director of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Program, because she's personally co-hosting this meeting. Congresswoman Lowey, we're getting there. You've had a vision, we're trying to make that real. I'm hopeful that every board meeting, it's a snapshot in time and that you will really feel your legacy instantiated in these communities that have benefited from this program. But, just thank you, for your leadership on the Hill and for staying honest in that period where you are kind of like, “Okay, how many months since the law passed? Where – when are we gonna start to see these funds that we've made available actually start to flow.” So, thank you for the vision. And thanks to all of you who also helped Congresswoman Lowey get that across the finish line. With thanks to my predecessor, Mark Green, who was a major agent in that effort as well. 

To acknowledge the new faces here, Megan has mentioned Amy Tohill-Stull. Amy is our relatively newly minted Mission Director for USAID’s work in the West Bank and Gaza. She's been in the job just three months. But, she has already played a vital role in maintaining the flow of humanitarian assistance during the conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza over the summer. I think what you will see in Amy is someone who's not just passing through, this is a really personal commitment. 

There are Mission Directors in 80 countries around the world, programs in 100 countries at USAID. But it was really amazing talking to Amy, it can be a very difficult posting. And some people that can do it, like our previous Mission Director did an amazing job over the course of the year, including by watching these programs on the ground. But, it was a one year posting. Amy's in it for the longer haul, which you can speak to. She has brought her family with her. And I think that really reflects on the community she's building with these communities. 

Dina Powell – Dina Powell McCormick I should say – we didn't have you at our last meeting, but we're just thrilled that you could bring all of your experience as Deputy National Security Adviser. Of course, bringing that policy perspective, but the work that you've done to promote inclusive growth at Goldman Sachs, at the Foundation, supporting women entrepreneurs, small businesses. This is just the kind of insight and expertise that we need to draw upon as we think about programming and precisely those domains. 

And our two international board members whose perspectives I think will honor the fact that peacebuilding has always been a global effort that, of course, we need to multilateralize, the resourcing of this enormous set of challenges in the real world. Ms. Farah Bdour, one of our two incoming international board members. Farah has worked on peacebuilding efforts among both policymakers and young people for the last decade in Jordan. She brings a deep understanding not just of this conflict, but of how peacebuilding efforts will be received in the Arab world. And, that's a critical audience, critical stakeholders in all of this. Nickolay Mladenov, my friend and collaborator, who I am absolutely thrilled has engaged here on the board. Nickolay, as so many of you know, was the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. I don't know if it's harder working at the UN or working on Middle East peace. But Nikolay did both, and managed to retain tremendous credibility with the parties in extremely difficult circumstances and among a very, very diverse set of stakeholders in the international system, as well as he played a critical role in de-escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. And, I think he can offer really strong recommendations from all of his time on the ground trying to do peacebuilding, peacemaking, mediation – about what we're trying to do, is it likely to resonate, and so thank you for joining us. Obviously, we're meeting as violence and tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continue to present a major challenge and major threats to civilians caught in the crossfire on both sides – in recent conflict, multi-day conflict in Gaza just a few months ago – of civilians, men, women, and children for whom violence is all too familiar an occurrence, homes have been lost, loved ones.

But one thing is clear, certainly from our work on the ground, I think, it's the reason that you all are here as part of this effort, is people want peace – vast majority of people want peace. They are tired of living in fear, whether they're Israeli or Palestinian. They want, as parents, what we want as parents for our kids, which is safety, the ability to go to school in the morning and know your child is going to come back home, the ability to go to school and work hard and know that there'll be economic opportunity for you. Agency, high quality medical care, dignity, and freedom from fear. And, so these are the calls that we try to heed at USAID across the board.

And, for all of the challenges and everything, of course one sees the headlines. There are, I think, glimmers of hope and I think our programs can shed some light on that. Amy is going to provide an update on our work providing basic assistance for Palestinians in the region. And, of course, she came in just after President Biden announced a package of reforms that expanded assistance for Palestinian people. And among them was the historic announcement that our Ambassador on the ground Tom Nides, who played a very critical role in helping facilitate, that the Allenby Bridge would eventually be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And this is not bearing full fruit yet. The announcement came out. And of course, nothing's easy in that part of the world on something that is proven as vexing as this, but a pilot program is soon going to begin to phase in the full time opening of the bridge, and to facilitate smoother foreign travel for Palestinians living in the West Bank. And of course, then, the programmatic work gives us even more reason for hope. So, with this Board’s guidance, as Amy indicated, USAID has awarded IMF $45 million, but I heard Megan excuse me, say $50 million. So clearly, we've done something in the last few days that I need to get briefed on, but to around 10 organizations doing crucial work on the ground to strengthen ties between Israeli and Palestinian communities. 

And again, there's peacebuilding, there's also basic necessities, quality of life, and that kind of enabling environment. And, even if peace, in the longer-term sense feels far off, there's always good that we can do in the here and now to advance that kind of human security in the region. So, among the beneficiaries, or the partners here, are the Edith Wolfson Medical Center, which will provide training courses for both Israeli and Palestinian trauma surgeons, an activity that bolsters the level of trauma care accessible to both communities. It includes the organization Our Generation Speaks, which will bring more than 100 Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurial leaders to Boston over three years, for a three month accelerated program, complete with seed funding to build business skills and create new startups and new jobs on both sides of the line. And, I feel like this is exactly the kind of vision that Congresswoman Lowey tried to instantiate, in this law, and I think it's bearing fruit in these ways. It includes organizations like Reut USA, which will help Israelis and Palestinians collaborate on medical devices that will benefit the elderly, and persons with disabilities and both communities. Innovations like 3D printed prosthetic limbs or specialized wheelchairs for young children. As the Partnership for Peace Fund concludes its first year, again, I want to thank our partners on the Board, though they're not here, the people who nominated most of you, Members of Congress, and again, the advocates and organizations that lobbied for so long to help bring an initiative like this to pass. I'm presenting, as if this is some fixed proposition – we have, you're going to learn as we go from here, we're not kidding when we say we welcome feedback. Not only at these Board meetings, but just as many of these are on speed dial, the Congresswoman Lowey and the chair of our board George Salem, so, to any perspectives that you have on the program, about how to embark upon this

Unlike so much in bureaucracy and the government, this is so nascent, it is still a really, really shapeable effort. And that's why again, we're so excited to have already an infusion of new voices here in this community that we are building together. So, we know that the Partnership for Peace Fund is no panacea. And it's not going to, itself, overcome deep structural challenges or willy nilly, create peace on its own or rebuild trust for that matter, in a broad base way, that the trust deficit is enormous. But, it is the largest single contribution any country has ever made to grassroots peacebuilding efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. And so, I feel incredibly privileged just to be a part of it, and to offer my voice and support, as best I can from the leadership of USAID. So, thank you again to all of you and looking forward to the discussion. 

Samantha Power Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Program Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogan Amy Tohill-Stull Dina Powell McCormick Farah Bdour Nickolay Mladenov U.S. Institute of Peace
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