U.S. Representative from New York (D); Ranking Member, House Committee on Appropriations
U.S. Representative from California (R); Chairman, House Foreign Affairs Committee
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for Management, Reform, and Special Political Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Panelists discuss bipartisan efforts to promote development within the Trump administration and Congress.
COLEMAN: Well, good morning, everyone. I’m Isobel Coleman, and I’m delighted to be here to moderate this panel, which is so timely: “U.S. Development Priorities: Views From the Administration and Congress.”
And we have a fantastic panel today of three incredible experts on development issues. You can see the third chair is missing. Chairman Royce, who is the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is coming from the U.N., where he was watching the president’s speech at the General Assembly.
I think, Mark, you were there, too.
GREEN: I was.
COLEMAN: I don’t know how Mark made it on time, but we’re—but Chairman Royce.
GREEN: I’m dripping as a result. (Laughter.) So we—
COLEMAN: He hoofed it. Chairman Royce is on his way.
But among our three panelists, we have more than 60 years of congressional experience—I think 64, to be precise. Chairman Royce has served 13 terms in Congress, which is really amazing, representing California. And as I noted earlier, he is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which oversees foreign affairs for the government. So he is really the person to talk to about a lot of these issues, and has a deep expertise and interest in Africa. And so when he arrives, hopefully we’ll get into some of that.
Congresswoman Nita Lowey needs no introduction, here at the Council, or among New Yorkers. She’s in her 17th term representing New York and is also the ranking member on the Appropriations Committee, which means she writes the checks and has a big role in determining budgets. Of course, it’s wonderful to have her here.
And Administrator Mark Green himself served four terms in Congress, representing Wisconsin, and during his time in Congress was deeply involved in a lot of development issues, was one of the architects behind PEPFAR, the Bush administration’s groundbreaking response to the HIV epidemic, and also the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which was trying to bring a new way of doing development to bear. And after serving in Congress, was ambassador to Tanzania, where he oversaw some of the most complicated and far-reaching U.S. development program, so really has a firsthand view of how these things work, and at times don’t work, on the ground, and comes to his role as administrator at USAID most recently from IRI.
So it’s wonderful to have both of you here. And as I said, Chairman Royce will join us as soon as he can, and we’ll just enter the conversation.
So I thought maybe we could start just with a big picture question. For years and years, in a bipartisan passion—fashion people have talked about the three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development, recognizing that all three are pillars of American foreign policy. We have an administration that has not been so supportive of development, and in fact, the president’s budget that has been proposed suggests some very large cuts to development, justified on the ground of bolstering defense. So I thought maybe each of you could give us your perspective, having worked on development issues for a long time, about how you would like Americans to think about the three Ds and what we should—how we should be prioritizing development and—Chairman Royce. (Applause.)
ROYCE: Hi, Nita.
COLEMAN: Hello. And I’ve already done a brief introduction of you in your absence, so I figured we could slide right in.
ROYCE: Nicely done, thank you.
COLEMAN: So the first question is—and just throwing it to each of you is, thinking about development in the context of the three Ds: diplomacy, defense, and development, and how you would like your constituents, American citizens to think about development. And maybe we’ll start with you, Administrator Green.
GREEN: Sure. Well, first off, it’s an honor to be with all of you, obviously important opinion leaders when it comes to foreign policy in particular, and I’m honored to share the stage with the two representatives to my left who are, as you said, Isobel, rightly, tremendous leaders in foreign policy and development over the years.
In terms of how I think we should think about the three Ds and what I would tell my former constituents back in northeastern Wisconsin, it’s in our interest, all three Ds. Development is important because it’s good for our national security. You know, we look at some of the trouble spots in the world, and while poverty doesn’t cause terrorism, destitution and abject poverty can create the kinds of conditions that drive people to despair. And we know, sadly, that despair is a condition that all too easily is exploited by dangerous influences. I would say it’s good for our economy: 95 percent of the world’s consumers are outside the borders of the United States, so we need to be working to open up markets to enhance the ability of consumers to buy our goods, but also to be partners in commerce.
And then, third, I would argue that it’s good for our soul. This is a projection of values that keep us who we are as Americans, what we believe in. And so I think when we project these values around the world, I think—I think it’s good for us. It helps to remind us what makes us special as a nation and what makes us as a people special.
LOWEY: I thought because you did such a good job in laying the groundwork I’d give some examples from the many years I’ve worked on this issue. I can’t even believe I’ve been in the Congress 28 years. But I can remember specific examples that really not only makes your heart feel good, but how we have been so successful specifically in empowering women. I remember a trip to Tanzania, and I visited a cheese factory which was co-sponsored by Land O’Lakes, and there were about 20 women working there, in this small village. To talk with each of them, most of them had a very poor, if any, education. And to see how they stood taller as they knew how much money they were making, how they could take money home to their families, and they discussed their relationship, if there was a spouse, how they stood taller, and their husbands respected them even more. This was a very successful economic development program that we were very proud to finance in partnership with the private sector, and how important that was to their individual lives.
Also in Tanzania, I remember visiting another project with Jim Kolbe. We worked very closely together, as I do with my dear friend Ed Royce. And Jim Kolbe and I were talking to this Maasai tribe. I don’t even know if they understood what we were talking about. But I was talking about one of their women who ran away from the tribe three times to go to school in Dar es Salaam, finally she got her education because her parents didn’t pick her up and drag her back. With that education, she came back to the tribe and spread her knowledge, her concerns and her vision of a possible future for the women there. And I remember saying to the men, look, I’ve been married a long time. The women can have a career, they can have an education, and many of them will still cook dinner—although you could learn to cook dinner yourself. (Laughter.) But these are true stories. And as I think of development and as I fight for our budgets every year, I think of these stories because you never forget them, and it’s the value of development to the individual and to the whole community and to the country at large.
COLEMAN: Chairman Royce.
ROYCE: Well, Ambassador, the foreign aid budget is less than 1 percent of what we spend, but in terms of what we’re focused on there, when you think about our national security interests and also you think about the economic growth, we’re 5 percent of the world’s population, but this is not going to be a more secure country here if we’re not engaged overseas in such things as stopping transmission of infectious diseases before they become a pandemic, being engaged diplomatically and with development to make certain that those parts of the world that frankly are incubators for terror or instability are confronted. If we do not tackle these problems like the absence of rule of law, if we don’t do the building blocks to give people hope for the future—which we can do with the knowledge that we have here, the volunteers in the Peace Corps, et cetera—that play this role in creating all over the world this understanding that there’s a way forward, a way that eventually leads, you know, maybe initially to development but eventually to trade with the United States. I think of AGOA and the results that have really been a doubling—tripling, tripling now of trade between the United States and the subcontinent of Africa. And you think about the primary beneficiaries, and Nita and I have been across that continent. They’re primarily women who have those jobs, the majority of those jobs.
But I thank her for the READ Act, another bill that we deployed to push on the opportunity for girls to learn to read all over this planet. You think about what we do with our aid dollars to make certain that every woman on this planet, at least in their legislatures, they feel the push, the duress from the United States to give those girls a right to own property, to have them registered at birth in order to make them equal citizens, and what that’s going to mean to bring order out of the chaos in parts of this globe.
And so we were in Tanzania recently. We saw not too long ago the work of Electrify Africa, as we saw a young entrepreneur from California who was putting in place an opportunity there, creating jobs in sustainable development and helping to connect people in that continent.
I can think of so many examples where Nita or Mark Green and I on our travels across the developing world have seen the concrete results of this. And that’s why our diplomacy matters, and that’s why our USAID matters.
COLEMAN: Well, thank you.
So we’ve had three robust champions of development here. Maybe we can then talk about the budget, because the administration has presented a budget that cuts foreign assistance by roughly a third. So foreign assistance is somewhere over 50 billion (dollars)—57 billion (dollars), according to Congresswoman Lowey, last—this year. So roughly a third of that is proposed for cuts. And the—of course, the House state and foreign ops appropriation bill looks quite different. So how is this going to be reconciled? What’s the process? And I would love to say where are we going to come out on it; perhaps you don’t want to say that. But just thinking through how do we prioritize, given this environment.
LOWEY: I’d be happy to. First of all—(laughter)—you have to know I’m an optimist, and I’ve always worked across the aisle. And the 2017 budget was so phenomenal I kept saying to myself: How did we do this? Maybe I shouldn’t give away the secrets, but—(laughter)—we had such a good negotiation that we ended up with a great 2017 bill. I almost hesitate to say it was a pleasure working with Rodney Frelinghuysen. (Laughs.) And we really worked very closely together, and we ended up getting rid of all the poison pills—I won’t announce them here, but it was 169 of them—before we started the bill. And we ended up with a really good bipartisan bill, which gives me a feeling of optimism.
Now, the Senate just passed the bill at 51.3 (billion dollars). Our bill is 47.8 (billion dollars), not as good as we’d like to see. And I don’t think we’re going to get up to the 57.5 (billion dollars). But I do believe—and by the way, that 57.5 (billion dollars) in the negotiation provided $990 million—they didn’t want me to say a billion, so we ended up with $990 billion—million for famine in Africa, which was a really important accomplishment. And frankly, we could have spent two to three times that today because it is so bad and you see the refugees in so many parts of the world. So famine is a tremendous challenge.
So what will happen now—I’ll be nice about it—there was a let’s play period of time before we left Congress, right? There were bills on the floor that the Republicans knew—right, Mark?—weren’t going anywhere, but they now have all their bills with their messages that they are taking back to their district. So now we’re going to focus on what we call four-corner negotiation with the leaders of the House and the Senate, and I expect that rather than end up with the 47.8 (billion dollars), we’ll get up to the 51.3 (billion dollars), which is the Senate number.
The administration plays a part. I expect Mr. Mulvaney will play a part. But I do look forward to a constructive, positive negotiation—Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate—so at least we can protect most of the accounts. If you can figure out, Mark, how we can get that number up to 51.3 (billion dollars) that we did last year—57.5 (billion dollars); 51.3 (billion dollars) is where the Senate just passed their number.
So we’re going to go back between now and the continuing resolution deadline. Hopefully we’ll get this done before the holidays, before New Year’s. Otherwise, the government would shut down. And I don’t think anybody wants the government to shut down. So that’s where we are.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
ROYCE: Thank you, Ambassador.
One of the other aspects of our work is looking at where we can find areas where we can deliver more in the way of services, and yet do it faster and less expensive. And one of the ways we’ve done that is the reform for the Global Food Security Act, because I’ll just share with you one of our observations. Nita and I, Mark Green back when he was on my committee, we have been in these parts of the world, whether they’re on the border of Syria or over in the Philippines after a typhoon, and we’ve been able to push through reforms which lead to a situation of rather than people wait for four months for the grain to be delivered under the old Food for Peace Program in emergencies like this, delivered at much more than twice the cost, there is now this opportunity with a—with a voucher program or with buying the food locally. This also does not depress their agricultural markets. So we’ve brought down the price on the Global Food Security Act in terms of the operations, and yet we now allow—(snaps fingers)—the remedy to be in real time.
So right after a storm, we can fly out to this site. We already see USAID now on the ground because of these new methodologies. Those are changes we made in the committee. Those are changes we forced into the farm bill, et cetera. And so we’re also looking, when we talk about lowering the cost, at ways to do this while at the same time meeting the need.
LOWEY: I just want to congratulate Ed Royce on that because for many, many years Chairman Royce and I and others tried to reform that, but there—you know as in anything you have lobbyists on both sides of it, and the lobbyists in the agricultural industries here liked the fact that they were growing the food and sending it over, even though it was more expensive. And as we traveled—
ROYCE: And the shipbuilding industry. Shipbuilding.
LOWEY: And the shipbuilding industry. And as we traveled, we’d say to each other: The climate is perfect. Why can’t we be growing those crops over there instead of transporting the crops? So Chairman Royce really took a lead and did a great job with that.
ROYCE: And it’s one of the reforms that bring down the costs so that we can come in under the budget.
COLEMAN: Be more cost-effective.
Can I ask Administrator Green, I mean, you’ve touched upon famine. The Famine Early Warning System is now warning about famine in four countries: Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen. We have a massive humanitarian crisis in Yemen. We’re going to see the rebuilding of Syria. We’ve got just demands all over the globe. When you think about your task as administrator of USAID, what’s your vision? What should USAID be doing? What role should it be playing in the world?
GREEN: Well, first, something I want to point out because it doesn’t get pointed out often enough. You’ve just heard raging agreement—(laughter)—on so many important issues. In this area that we’re talking about, one of the things I really enjoy, is a safe zone politically. You have Republicans and Democrats, successive administrations who have all made major contributions to lifting the human conditions.
You know, I am of course proud of PEPFAR and proud of the president’s Blair initiative. I’m proud of Millennium Challenge Corporation and all that’s done. I’m extraordinarily proud of President Obama’s Feed the Future act, which creates tools for us that we never had before. We weren’t even seriously in the game when it comes to food security before Feed the Future.
So we have one of those rare areas in which we all agree. We’re all seeing contributions being made, and I think it’s something that you should all be very, very proud of.
When I look at where I think USAID needs to be in terms of these challenges, what I’ve laid out is a—is a pretty simple proposition, and it’s hardly new, and that is simply that the purpose of foreign assistance is to end the need for its existence. So while we take on immediate challenges—and I just came out of Sudan and South Sudan and the western part—or eastern part, I should say, of Ethiopia—we need to take on those immediate concerns that are threatening the lives of so many people, but also look for ways to provide resilience, and to help craft those tools that help the leaders in those communities and in those nations protect themselves against the shocks of future disaster.
One thing I’ll hasten to point out in the countries that you laid out—and those are the four countries that we point to as being in famine or near-famine—in every case it’s man-made. These are not natural disasters, these are man-made disasters that are threatening the human condition. So, on top of these tools that we’re talking about, we also have to get at governance. We also have to deal with the capacity of these nations to take care of their own needs in citizen-responsive political systems. Because if you don’t have citizen-responsive political systems, political systems where people respond or leaders respond to the needs of their citizens and are always thinking of them as they design policies, we’re going to be at this forever. And, obviously, none of us wants to see that, and the countries involved certainly don’t want to see that.
So I think USAID has to look for ways to build the capacity of countries to take on their own needs, help them get those tools, incentivize the reforms that they need to undertake in order to provide for their own people, so that we’re always standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those in crisis situations, but also helping them to govern themselves and to lead themselves, because that’s—you know, that’s human dignity. Everyone wants to take care of themselves, their family, their people, and build toward the future. And I think that’s something that we should really be focusing on.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
OK, the last question I’ll ask before turning it over to all of our members here. I appreciate that you’ve pointed out the roaring bipartisanship on these issues. And global health has been another area of roaring bipartisanship, except when it comes to women’s health. Maybe each of you could just talk a little bit about that. We’ve had the president not only reinstate the Mexico City, you know, so-called gag rule, but actually go far beyond what any previous Republican president has done. I know the Senate has walked that back. And I’m curious on how each of you think about that, given the importance of women’s health and, Congresswoman Lowey, all of the work that you’ve done on empowering women around the world. You know, just in terms of not the third rail of abortion, but family planning services and giving women the opportunity to have control over how they—how and when they determine how they have children.
LOWEY: Well, I really appreciate that question because, as you know, this has been an important, essential issue for women in a whole range of development programs. And to see the gag rule extended to all health programs—all health programs—this is new and it’s unacceptable. So that if you are a woman in Tanzania or wherever else, and you go to an eye clinic, and you come with your—I’m going to exaggerate a little—your four or five children, and you’re having some surgery or work on your eye, if the doctor, the nurse, physician assistants at that eye clinic gives you any information about family planning, the funds are cut off. So I was shocked, and I’m hoping that we can do something about it as the process moves forward.
But, obviously, I believe in a woman’s right—I shouldn’t say obviously—I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I’ve been a strong advocate for family planning. But to think that it would be extended, not just appropriate for family planning clinics that would be cut off or other clinics that would be cut off if they do any family planning, but to all health programs, that was the biggest change that I have seen. And I’m hoping, together, we can reverse that.
ROYCE: Yeah, I think, you know, you’ve seen some pushback on the Senate side on this issue. You also see on the House side some of these family planning programs being authorized and going forward. And this is something we’re going to keep our eye on as we continue through the process. As you know, ultimately, these bills are filed and passed through the legislative process, both on the authorization side and on the appropriations side.
GREEN: I guess the only thing I can add is Secretary Tillerson has directed a study to be performed looking at the impacts and making sure that this policy doesn’t—or measuring what the impacts are and reporting publicly on what the impacts are to make sure that it doesn’t deny key health care services. That study I think will be done around October, and so we’ll have a chance to have specific information and look at the impacts.
COLEMAN: OK. Thank you.
So we’ll turn to questions from our members. If you would, please wait for the microphone, stand up, identify yourself, and ask a specific question, which would be great. Start with Craig.
Q: Thanks. Craig Charney from Charney Research, a survey research firm.
I was part of a group that Administrator Fore asked to help develop ways to build support for U.S. foreign assistance at home and abroad. We produced a great report, the Bush administration ended, and it promptly became one of USAID’s best-kept secrets. In the period since then, though, particularly in the last year, the consensus across the parties in support of U.S. global engagement and foreign assistance seems to have broken down to a large extent. I know that USAID is hamstrung by statute from doing a lot to promote that sort of thing. I’m wondering, therefore, what can be done, both what Administrator Green would suggest and others, by others to build and reestablish a consensus, or at least build support for global engagement and aid?
GREEN: Well, there are several things. First off, I think the plan of attack is pretty simple: We do good things, and we should tell people that we’re doing good things as often and as vividly as we can; and particularly, as my two former colleagues have done, do it in vivid, local terms, and talk about the opportunities that are arising thanks to the generous investments made by American taxpayers. So I think that’s important.
The other piece to it is I think we sometimes forget that people don’t always know what foreign assistance is. And so, when you travel around, people say, ah, I’m opposed to foreign assistance. And you say, well, how do you feel about providing lifesaving medicines to families in impoverished areas? Well, I support that. And then you go and you actually define what it is and who we’re working through, the partners through whom we’re working—for example, the community of faith, from Catholic Relief Services, Lutheran World Relief. Well, I support them. And then as you actually lay out what it is that we’re doing and how it is serving our own interests, I think it actually takes care of itself. But I think sometimes we forget—we jump ahead, and we fail to slow down and talk about what precisely it is that we are doing.
Secondly, I think particularly these days we need to be, I think, truth-tellers with the American people about the kinds of challenges that we’re facing. We are in a number of areas of the world where our young men and women in uniform are in harm’s way. But again, take a look at the conflicts that are created by the movements of people fleeing destitution and the failed governance and the authoritarian regimes. If we fail to take these on, if we fail to make these investments, we’ll be making other investments, and making those investments for years to come. So I think we need to remind people that the investments that we make are not only humanitarian in the sense that we choose to project our values, but it’s also in our self-interest. We are trying to prevent the emergence of new conflicts, that we are trying to deal with those conditions, the fallout that we’re seeing in so many places.
You know, one of the great things that I see over and over again is the level of support that we receive—we being USAID and all the different partners that are involved in foreign assistance—from the military. They’re some of our strongest supporters. And famously, now-Secretary Mattis, back when he was in uniform, said look, you don’t fund the 150 account, the account that funds State Department diplomacy and development, I got to buy more bullets. So I think it’s reminding people we do some of these things because, again, we hope to elevate the human condition and project our values, but we’re also serving our own interests, our security interests, and, hopefully, avoiding some of these very costly investments that we seem to be constantly making year after year.
ROYCE: Well, I think a case in point would be, as we’re looking at the next disaster, the next humanitarian crisis, which will obviously spill over with many other consequences, it’s unfolding before us right now with respect to what’s happening to the Rohingya. And if I could give this as an example of why we have to lead in this as well, we have to lay out, and we’re trying to do this with the hearings we’re doing in our committee and also the statements we’re making, but we have to take a position here where we rally the international community to put pressure especially on the generals in Burma who have maintained control of one aspect of that state. They command the military. And in this particular case, they train the militias, and they prepare those radical militias up there in Rakhine State so that they will continue a process of marginalization and of attacks on the Rohingya minority population.
And as we sit here today, there are 400,000 Rohingya who have fled over the border into Bangladesh. And yes, we are doing much and the United Nations is doing much to get food to those people and relief to those people. But the ones that are still left behind in Rakhine State, which is the majority of the Rohingya, right now their villages are being burnt. Half of the villages in northern Rakhine State have been burned to the ground.
They are living in the forests, they are living in the mountains, they are hiding out from the army and from the trained militia that the army has trained. This is the circumstances on the ground, and it doesn’t take you long to figure out the geopolitical consequences with respect to radicalization and everything else that’s going to come from this.
So, yes, we have a responsibility here to explain to our own constituents and to the international community the necessity of us taking steps, the necessity now of getting somebody in on the ground in Burma, in northern Burma. There needs to be a presence there.
And to the extent that we find our voice and find these leverages to use in Burma, in Myanmar, we can open up the space to get the United Nations relief in there in to the survivors, in to the people who are trying to hold on who have gone through these horrible, despicable attacks.
COLEMAN: Thank you.
LOWEY: I’m not going to add to that so we can get to the next question, but I just want to say Ed and I and others met several times with Aung San Suu Kyi when she was here. And it is so shocking to all of us to see the absolute destruction and the murders and the deterioration of life for the Rohingyas.
So you expressed it so well, I think we should get to the next question.
COLEMAN: Yes, go here.
Q: I’ve drove all over. I’ve worked in a lot of global health projects before. And, you know, we’ve made a lot of gains in development recently, but a lot of them have been concentrated in cities. So if you look at the rural places, look at something like tuberculosis, we missed 3 million cases we don’t diagnose every year, many of them are in rural areas.
And Administrator Green, you’ve especially had a lot of background in faith communities. I’m wondering what role faith leaders, religious communities play in reaching those hard-to-reach areas and what other strategies we can do to sort of distribute the gains we’ve made out of cities and into the more hard-to-reach areas.
GREEN: A great question. First off, as to the community of faith and of many faiths that are actively engaged, I think you answered your own question. They’re able to reach places that other people can’t. And they oftentimes are the respected figures in those communities that can help us in some of the messaging that we need to be projecting.
So one of the projects we’re undertaking at USAID right now is, trying to develop some benchmarks, some mileposts, if you will, as we take a look at what a country’s capacity is to take on its own challenges. And in the global health area, there’s a wide range of things that we would point to. But I think also, the penetration of global health services into some of the rural areas I think is going to be a big part of that.
And the other condition I would point to, and I don’t think we’re thinking about it enough, are sort of the fallout and the challenges from the movement of people. You know, this morning I was looking at it. We have 66 million people in refugee camps or displaced around the world right now. We have 40 million internally displaced, 23 million refugees and 3 million seeking asylum.
And, you know, the great challenge that I see and the great worry I have, we’re now seeing children born in these camps, growing up in these camps, not really having the services or the tools to be able to take care of themselves and, God willing, return home someday. Or even if they don’t and are resettled, that they’re able to be productive members of society.
And what I worry about, from global health to education in crisis areas, are we making adequate investments in those areas? Because if not, some of the challenges that we see, just imagine where it’s going to be 20 years from now, 10 years from now, 20 years from now. So I think those are areas, too.
How do we provide services in those areas? How do we make sure that children are getting the immunizations that they need, the nutritional services that they need? That, to me, is really what we need to be asking ourselves right now, given the level of humanitarian need and given the number of people that are displaced one way or another.
LOWEY: I don’t have much to add, but I just want to say, in terms of the religious institutions, Catholic Charities has been extraordinary in so many of the places where we’ve traveled, and you see the important work they’re doing.
You also addressed I think it was rural areas. But when I was talking about the Land O’Lakes factory, that was not in a city. And I remember visiting a couple of schools in the same area. These young girls were walking two hours to get to the school. If they were lucky, they may have had a bowl of porridge before they got there. And when I met with them, and I’ve seen this in so many places, I want to be a doctor, I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a businessperson. And you wonder where they got all this inspiration and all their knowledge.
And to see these young people—and more people who oppose foreign aid really have to see it with their own eyes. It inspires me and it invigorates me to go back and fight more. But there are religious institutions that are aggressively working and in the rural areas as well.
COLEMAN: We’ll go here in the back. Yeah.
Q: Bennett Freeman, former State Department.
A very important point made a few minutes ago about the immediate concerns voiced by former military officers making the security case for foreign assistance. And I was struck by the absence, more or less, of similar voices coming from the business community about the USAID budget in particular. Maybe I’m missing something.
But I’ve also been struck positively by the numbers of American corporate leaders and corporate leaders from elsewhere in the world supporting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. I was at a luncheon at the U.N. for exactly that purpose yesterday. And I’m wondering what we need to do better to make the case to the U.S. business community so that they in turn can stand up and be counted when U.S. foreign assistance is on the line with our prosperity as well as our security at stake.
GREEN: Great question. So I’d look at it two different ways. There is the social responsibility side of the corporate and business community, and we’re seeing, I think, greater and greater involvement. But quite frankly, I think we need to do a better job of reaching out.
But I’d like to go one step further, because I think there is something more important here. We all recognize, despite the great efforts of Nita and others, we will never have enough resources at USAID and in our various assistance agencies to take on all the challenges we want to take on. We know that. So we need to do a better job, I think, of trying to catalyze private investment.
When USAID was created 50-plus years ago, 80 percent of the money flowing from America to the developing world was official development assistance, traditional assistance, it’s now about 9 percent because we have private commerce, large-scale philanthropy, remittances.
One of the things I think we need to do a better job of is, tapping into the entrepreneurial spirit in some of those commercial flows to produce development outcomes, taking a look and seeing what the gaps are in the supply chain. Why aren’t certain meds getting to various communities? Turning the private sector and saying, what is it that holds you back? Why aren’t you serving that niche? And maybe what we need to do is provide some seed money or an initial subsidy to get that market niche taken care of.
So I think that’s one of the great areas to tackle. Again, it’s got huge bipartisan support. I just think we need to do a better job of talking with the private sector, the business community, and seeing what it is that we can do to listen more and also to provide what it is that they need to overcome those obstacles that they identify.
LOWEY: You know, through the years—I can’t remember the name of the group, but Richard Holbrooke organized it—remember that, a few years ago—and had quite a huge attendance. In fact, Branson was sitting at the head table and talking about what he did. And Bill Gates is not only one of the most brilliant people I’ve interacted with. He—as you know, he and Melinda have been extraordinarily generous. And then there was this movement among the private sector, Bill Gates and Bloomberg to donate what percentage of their money to good works.
So, as you travel and as you talk to people, you certainly see representatives of the private sector who have used their good fortune to help others. But as you said, there’s always room for more. And when you look at the numbers of people in distress, when you look at refugees, you see you certainly need a lot of help. The king of Jordan has been extraordinary. I think he’s up to 3 million or more refugees that they’re taking care of in schools and trying to accumulate them. But you have to do a lot more.
ROYCE: I see a few business leaders in the room here that were involved with the Corporate Council on Africa, in the business community, and the focus there on not just bringing about a program but bringing about a program that would do something about corruption, that would do something about laying a foundation that would create basically future economic growth that would benefit people across those African states that made the choice to adopt the programming exchange for setting up a system with independent court systems, independent judges, rule of law. That was part of the program. And frankly, having the business community come with those ideas, with the explanation of how we try to combat corruption with law in the United States, and how that should be applicable, how independent courts should be applicable, how important the rule of law is for the future of economic investment, this is part of the equation we have to welcome. As—we need this private sector involvement, too. You’re right.
LOWEY: I just want to say one quick thing about that. I and Ed and many of us were so optimistic when Ashraf Ghani won the election in Afghanistan. Corruption was everywhere under Karzai, and unfortunately, it really hasn’t improved since then, to the extent that Ed’s suggestion or any suggestion you have to get the private sector involved before all the advances and all the investments we made would be for naught.
COLEMAN: We’ll go to the back here. This woman, yes.
Q: Hello. Debbie McCoy.
And my question is about metrics and measurement. So I observe that in some of the programs introduced more recently, PEPFAR or Feed the Future, it’s actually quite easy to trace some of the desired outcomes of our foreign assistance investments. But in the traditional foreign assistance budget, it’s less readily available to a taxpayer, for example, to understand what are the measurable outcomes of the spend. So I might be able to observe how many people have been reached by a certain program, but I don’t know if the thesis that we had in that program itself is valid and is it playing itself out. Do you have comments on this?
GREEN: Yeah. So first off, we measure more than we ever have before. We evaluate more than we ever have before. But I’m not sure we’re always measuring the right thing. So we measure inputs easily. That is an easy thing for us to do.
Again, I’m particularly interested in measuring how our programs, how these tools and these investments help others to develop their own capacity, and I think that’s right now the most dynamic area that we’re looking at, at measurement. You know, it’s obviously hand-up development. And I think it’s very much in the American spirit, the way that we look at the role of—I won’t say charity, but helping others—is that we all have this sense that, look, as long as you’re willing to take on challenges, as long as you’re willing to try to get better, that we’re there with you, but we need to see that. And that right now is the nexus, the area that I think we need to take on and measure so that we’re able to show that value to taxpayers.
There are various portals that we have right now for measuring—foreignassistance.gov—but we don’t do as much of it as we need to do, and I don’t think we do it, quite frankly, in a way that people find terribly relevant. You can look at individual projects and programs, but I think we need to make it much more concrete for people, to show them precisely where the dollars are going and how it’s elevating governance and the human condition. So we have more work to do.
COLEMAN: Jeffrey (sp).
Q: Thank you, Isobel.
Bennett Freeman just made the only reference so far in this hour to the U.N.’s sustainable development goals. As you all know, for years the U.N. in its capacity as talk shop was consumed with trying to hammer out an internationally agreed set of objectives and means for getting there. So I wondered if you all could tell us how in the Washington decision-making game these sustainable development goals, if they even arise, if they in any way factor in.
For example, in Congress, do appropriators and authorizers think about these sustainable development goals when they are allocating what should go where between multilateral or bilateral development aid in different U.N. programs, or is it simply reaction to American domestic constituencies pressing A, B, or C?
And in the AID programs themselves, Mr. Administrator, do those SDGs ever factor as a guide to where money gets put either by your own decision-making or in conversation with your counterparts from other donor governments? Or was this all a colossal U.N. talk shop waste of paper, and maybe time?
COLEMAN: Mark, do you want to take that? (Laughter.)
GREEN: I’ll start. I’ll start.
Yeah, so first off, understand that we were very involved in helping create the SDGs, and so that’s part of the role that we played in all of this. I will say that one of the surprises I’ve had coming into the job—and I’d been, like, six weeks in the job, so I got all the answers right after six, seven weeks—is how much of my budget is pre-programmed. So 2017 was 93 percent. So I have—in fact, former colleagues who come to me and say I’d love you to take on this, and I’d say I’d love to take it on, too, but where is it going to come from? So that’s one challenge.
But another challenge is, I don’t think we do a very good job—and we being the entire community—of tying development—(audio break)—somewhere around there. And that means at some point my mission directors have to say to their partners, now, look, we’re pretty sure these programs are going to continue. Can’t tell you for absolute certain. We’re pretty sure. And it creates a little bit of uncertainty. And so I think you’ve got everyone meaning very well, but the planning cycles and budget cycles not really lining up as well as they need to be. And that—a good part of that is our fault. And so we need to do a better job in our planning, and then reaching to our supporters in the key committees on the Hill and saying out the challenges and seeing if we can line it up better.
ROYCE: I think this question of sustainable development, I think back to our early focus on the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, which I co-authored with another member. If we look at the protection of those forests on seven different landscapes across the African subcontinent, we have been effective in protecting those forests. At the same time, we haven’t been so effective in dealing with poaching, which removes an element of support in terms of tourism that supports so many of these families in these vicinities.
So last year we passed my legislation to do away with the ivory trade. So we’ve made that advance. On Electrify Africa, another bill that we’ve passed, this leads to more sustainable development in Africa. In terms of all of Nita’s work on behalf of women and girls in the developing world—and we’ve assisted on this—this, again, drives us, if you think of the long arc of this, towards sustainable development.
So we are—we are continuing to advance in these initiatives, but, you know, the question of metrics. It is hard to ascertain exactly what the consequences will be. But we know one thing, unless we keep up the pressure, all of this will evaporate. And in that, we’re all committed to continuing to double down.
LOWEY: I just want to add one other point, because I agree with both of my participants here. I am very concerned when I met with the secretary of state—I’ve met with him twice. I understand that he’s an engineer. And I understand that he wanted to take the Department of State and USAID apart and do a careful evaluation. And he hired consultants to do just that. January, February, March—what is it, nine months since that process began. And he hasn’t put it back again. And when you have a 30 percent cut—and part of the problem, some of the people he tells me that he has proposed have not been approved by the Senate. But there are real holes, expertise that is missing at the Department of State and USAID.
And for those of us who have been out in the field, and for those of us who have seen wonderful things and we’ve seen things that could be better, I have such confidence in so many of the people who are spending their lives, whether it’s in the field or the Department of States. They’ve become experts. And just as in other areas, some are better than others. So I think careful evaluations are good, but I appreciate those who have chosen to do this work—whether it’s here or when go abroad and see them in our embassy. I am so impressed with the caliber of people who’ve devoted their life to really helping others and to raise the standard of living.
So we can talk more about that, but I do hope that the process moves a little more quickly, a lot of the holes at State and USAID are filled, because there are many good people that still want to do that work and it’s important to the future to the United States of America.
COLEMAN: Well, I was given a papal dispensation to end a few minutes late because we started a few minutes late, but I think we’re just about out of time. I don’t know if any of our wonderful panelists have any last words that they want to share. Otherwise, I think we’re just about out of time and we’re going to wrap up.
But thank you all so much for coming today, and thank you for everything else. (Applause.)