Telephonic News Conference with USAID Asia Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Ann Marie Yastishock and Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II

Friday, February 21, 2020

Opening Remarks of USAID Asia Acting Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Ann Marie Yastishock and USAID Mission Director for Philippines, Pacific Islands, and Mongolia Lawrence Hardy II. For the full transcript, please see the PDF attachment on the right side.

Ms. Yastishock: Thanks very much, and thanks everyone for joining this evening. I wanted to start with basically talking about our USAID footprint and expanded personnel in the Pacific. We currently provide assistance to 11 of the Pacific Island countries: the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. We currently have more than 70 staff that support the Pacific, of which eight are based in Fiji, PNG, and the Federated States of Micronesia, and with the remainder in our office in Manila.

This year, I’m happy to say, that we’re going to be adding staff across the Pacific, including senior development advisors in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, as well as country coordinators in the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, and also Solomon Islands.

So really, what the U.S. Government has done under the Indo-Pacific Vision in the Pacific Islands region, we’re really broadening our work to advance citizen-responsive democratic governance, spur sustainable and transparent infrastructure, and improve natural resource management.

USAID remains committed to the Pacific region. It is clear as we are ramping up our presence there, but also as we continue to look at our assistance programs and adhere to the highest standards of transparency, rule of law, sustainable financing, and respect for the autonomy of the development recipients. We – under our Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative – we’re looking at responsive governance and promoting the integrity of electoral processes that support the independence of the media and the integrity of information, while also protecting human rights and dignity.

Our infrastructure programs play a key role in the development in the Pacific. We’re working to ensure adequate infrastructure – including strategic water, energy, telecommunications, and transportation systems – that are in place [for our] Pacific Island neighbors to accelerate the economic growth and help the host countries achieve better health, education, and other development outcomes.

And finally, we’re working to help strengthen laws on the management of natural resources, and promote the adoption and enforcement of environmental standards that reflect international best practices.

Before I turn it over to Lawrence, what I’d like to do is spend a minute on talking about the U.S. [Government’s] $100 million Pacific Pledge. Under the Indo-Pacific Vision, in 2019, the U.S. Government committed more than $100 million in new U.S. assistance in the Pacific Islands. This assistance is on top of the approximately $350 million annually that U.S. agencies invest in projects, assistance, and operations to build a more prosperous future for the people of the region.

As part of that $100 million Pacific Pledge, USAID will implement more than $63 million in new programs over the next year, more than doubling the development assistance provided in the region over previous years. That breakdown will be $23 million which has been allocated for Papua New Guinea on electrification – on the electrification partnership, which is a five-year effort to strengthen energy regulatory systems, catalyze private sector investment, and conduct effective public outreach. We proposed about $7.5 million in USAID assistance to facilitate private investment to expand internet service, improve the availability and the reliability of internet service across the region. We’re looking at $3 million for the Women’s Global Development Prosperity Initiative, specifically in Papua New Guinea, to strengthen women’s empowerment.

Under our governance pillar, we’re looking at providing $6 million of USAID assistance to advance citizen-responsive, democratic governance. $12 million will promote transparent and accountable governance through efforts to counter corruption and encourage strong civil society, and support transparent procurement practices. And then, of course, on judicial and legal reform. $4 million for improved public financial management and accountability mechanisms through activities such as advisors, as well as capacity-building programs.

And then, finally, under our security pillar for the Indo-Pacific vision, $7.5 million in USAID assistance will be used to address economic and governance drivers for illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing. That’s particularly in the coastal fisheries.

So that kind of gives you a good overview of the region, and I’m going to turn it over to Lawrence.

Mr. Hardy: Thanks very much, Ann Marie, and good day to all. This is Lawrence Hardy from USAID in Manila, based in the Manila, Philippines.

I recently returned from a two-week trip to the Pacific Island region that included Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, and Tuvalu. The trip was timely and useful, particularly because it enabled USAID to highlight the important development partnership with our Pacific Island nations, as well as USAID’s ongoing programs and opportunities to expand assistance.

During my meetings with senior government officials, civil society, as well as our donor partners throughout the trip, I learned a great deal about the Pacific Islands’ highest development priorities and challenges, as well as new USAID opportunities for us to engage creatively to accelerate the region’s economic and social development. Without exception, every country expressed great appreciation for our current assistance and also, as Ann Marie has referenced, warmly welcomed USAID’s plans to significantly expand not only our programs there, but also our physical presence with USAID Foreign Service officers who will be based in the Pacific region this year.

I just want to share a couple of highlights in each of the four countries that I visited.

While in Papua New Guinea, I announced two new USAID projects that will strengthen USAID’s partnership to protect the country’s rich terrestrial, as well as marine, biodiversity as well as a new program that will promote women’s empowerment.

From there, I traveled to the Solomon Islands, where I met with the prime minister’s cabinet, the donor community, as well as other development stakeholders. The United States and the people of the Solomon Islands have a special bond that dates back to World War II, as I was frequently reminded by those with whom I met. And again, USAID’s message that we will significantly expand our programs there was warmly welcomed. There are tremendous new development opportunities in the Solomon Islands where USAID will bring its expertise and assistance. Based upon some of my extensive discussions, we identified several areas for collaboration. Fishing is one of the country’s largest economic drivers, and we will work with coastal fishing communities to ensure sustainable practices, as well as create value-added supply chains to increase household incomes.

From there, I traveled to Fiji. While in Fiji, I met with senior officials of the Pacific Islands Forum, also known as PIF, [which] is an intergovernmental organization whose mandate is to enhance cooperation among 18 Pacific Island country members, of which the United States is, in fact, a “Dialogue Partner.” Our current programs with PIF nations include climate adaptation to help Pacific Island nations become more resilient to changing environmental conditions, whether natural or manmade; they also include USAID assistance to build member nations’ capacity to successfully apply for, and receive significant financial resources from, international organizations such as the Global Environmental Facility.

Then, I was delighted to be able to travel to Tuvalu, the last of this four-country trip, and was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Cella, who’s accredited there as well as to four other Pacific Island nations. The ambassador and USAID’s presence sent a strong message to the government and the people of Tuvalu that the United States Government commitment is strong, and our desire for greater bilateral development partnership is a priority. As with most Pacific Island nations, recurring natural and manmade disasters in Tuvalu seriously affect economic development and growth. USAID will continue to work with the government, as well as Tuvalu island communities that spread across hundreds of miles, to help strengthen their ability to reduce the negative consequences of those disasters and move quickly to restore livelihoods for so many affected families that rely upon fishing as their primary lifestyle.

Issuing Country 

Last updated: February 28, 2020

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