On-The-Record Roundtable Interview With USAID Administrator Mark Green

Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Jose Graziano de Silva, World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, and International Fund for Agricultural Development President Gilbert Houngbo

For Immediate Release

Friday, September 1, 2017
Office of Press Relations

Ramada Hotel
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

MR. MCCLESKEY:  Well good morning.  I know we've got to run quickly to the airport but just to do introductions, we have, with the traveling press, let's see, Wroughton from Reuters, Carol Morello of Washington Post.  And then our principles this morning we have Jose Graziano de Silva, who's the director general of the food and agriculture organization.  David Beasley who you know, the executive director of World Food Program, and Gilbert Houngbo, who's the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.  And of course, USAID's Mark Green.  So, we have about 10 minutes, 15 minutes or so for questions.  And this will be -- this will be on the record.  Thank you.  Lesley would you -- .

QUESTION:  Well, you know, I realize you've been talking about budgets a lot.  We were curious if you were concerned and making preparations for budget cuts in the United States.  And what the impact will be on getting food to hungry people in crises?

MR. BEASLEY:  Literally when I was considering this position, I would not agree to move down to take the next step without having assurances from the U.S. -- the key figures in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House.  And so, and I'm -- as Mark probably did the same thing.  But I literally met with key Republicans and Democrats on appropriations committees on both bodies.  And had assurances that the United States would remain committed to humanitarian assistance and development regardless of the politics anywhere in Washington, D.C.  And I can honestly say, I have been extremely proud of the cooperative spirit of the Republicans and Democrats of the United States in the last few months.  In spite of the division that is real in Washington today.  I was pleasantly surprised in the famine relief act of $990 million, how the Democrats and Republicans came together.  I think they were looking for something positive that they could unite, then of course feeding hungry children, unites anybody.  And so, having said that, when the President's budget hit the Senate and the House, zeroed out many of the humanitarian programs.  The House and the Senate Republicans and Democrats worked together and I have great confidence that, I know (inaudible) and the World Food Program, Food for Peace and other programs will be fully funded.  I can't speak to all programs, but I can speak to these programs.

I met with my Senator, Lindsey Graham yesterday.  Every -- I go to Washington every month because United States funding is between 30 and 40 percent of the world food programs.  $6 -- or more -- billion dollar of spending.  And particularly the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II.  So here we were facing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, the need has gone 80 to 100 in nine million people.  And the U.S. -- there was speculation that the U.S. may be cutting back, there was pressured developing in the UK as well as in Germany, that they may be cutting back.  So, one of the things that all of us have been doing, is traveling together, cooperating together, sending a very clear unified message that the world is in trouble, and we -- it's not a time to back down now.  And one of the arguments particularly with the World Food Program, or 80 percent of our expenditures today are in man-made conflict areas that humanitarian assistance only around today is the first line of offense and defense against terrorism [unintelligible].  And that message is real, and it resonates because of the reality with Democrats and Republicans in other country party folk, right?  [Inaudible] in the Department of the UK.  And so, our top five donors, for example, the United States, the EU, Germany, the UK, and Canada.  And of course, Japan are our top five, or six, donors.  And so, we have all been traveling with these donors, really seeing the message, because now more than ever if you want to spend more money on military operations, and the consequences of devastating migration, then cut back humanitarian aid.

QUESTION:  So the question is -- so sorry because we don't have much time.  How does the proposed budget cuts, not only in the United States but everywhere else, affect your planning?  How does it generally affect your planning?  How does it generally affect your planning for the next season, which actually looks like probably the worst one.  Because you've got increased situation going on in South Sudan, you've got Syria, you know, the whole situation looks like it’s probably getting worse.

MR. BEASLEY:  Well it always impacts planning and I don't want to dominate it.

QUESTION: Well how does one plan?

MR. BEASLEY:  In the EU about this issue, it's always an issue.  And when situations change monthly in certain places.  But the more we can accurately predict the funding, the easier it is to make us pre-plan, and pre-positioned, and be more effective and efficient with dollars.  But the needs have just been going up, up, up, up, up, up in the last -- just last couple of years.  I mean, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, they -- it's not just the four countries facing famine.  But you've got amazing conditions in Iraq and Syria, then you're looking at the DRC, look at what's happening there.  And look at CAR what’s happening there.  Look at Ethiopia.  But 8 and a half billion people facing hunger?  And so, we're trying to maximize limited resources but this is a critical issue for us, what you're talking about.  And I've been pleasantly pleased with the commitment of EU, and Germany, and the U.S.  I don't think you will see them back down.  The UK, they will give assurances to us that they will be there.  They're committed, they understand the important role the soft-power plays, and the fragile world that we have today.

QUESTION:  Where does South Sudan fit into what's going on -- what you say, there are crises all over the place.  In South Sudan, you know, the rainy season in this region is almost over, there's expected to be an up-tick in fighting and migration.  How does South Sudan compare to other crises?

MR. BEASLEY:  It's a disgrace what's happening.  It's absolutely a shame.  Newest nation on the face of the planet I think all major donor countries, I know all of us have expressed our dismay and disappointment in the different factions in South Sudan.  Because this is strictly a man-made conflict.  It's the corruption, the greed, mismanagement.  And, the donors are weary, the donors, I don't want to speak for any donor, but I have heard from several of the big donors, their frustration, and it's a serious issue.  And it's as Graziano just came out of Uganda, I was there, what?  Four weeks ago?  Graziano was there just two days ago (inaudible) 70 in the way that some of us have done there versus the refuge operations.

And it's a really unique thing that's -- but we were a 2,000 people.  Now we're at 5,000 people, the conditions of conflict are compounding, are not getting better, and we're seeing, I mean, behavior that is beyond reproach, bordering as Senator Young, I think questioned me before the U.S. Senate about a month ago, asked me did I think it was genocidal?  And I said, "There are strong indications that implicate a serious question of this issue."  But Graziano just left, so he might be able to give you some up-to-date information, the South Sudi refugees --

MR. GRAZIANOThe worst scene I have seen in South Sudan is the civil war but it is also active conflict?  And what we saw there, it's unbelievable.  It's difficult to describe.  And it is affecting men and woman.  So, when you look for the refugees in Uganda, being there in the front, you know?  85 percent, 90 percent are children under 5 and lower.  That's the refugees.  Because the men were killed on the way.  And they are there to stay forever, if possible.  They are not thinking coming back.  And Uganda now, is a what do you call it?  Mission to the President, the best example of (inaudible) for refugees because they are welcoming the refugees.  Sharing the land, sharing their homes, et cetera.

So Uganda became an open can of refugees all around the (inaudible) region.  Because [inaudible] was there in May was 1 million.  I was there yesterday was 1.4 million, so 400,000 people arrive since end of May until now August.  So, every day they submitted to 5,000 people moving because the frontier does not exist.  It is a line that you imagine: here is Uganda and here South Sudan, but also things getting worse on the other side of the Arabian Sea, the Congo.  So, this the impact that we’re seeing.  It’s not possible to manage that scale of people moving suddenly one site to another.

QUESTION:  So how long can the international community continue to basically be in a -- throw money at this situation that’s getting worse and this doesn’t seem to be an end to the war in sight?

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  Well that’s part of what we’ve been meeting here to discuss.  There will never be enough money to do everything that we would like to do, but the challenges -- the scale of the challenges we’re facing: natural disaster, as we see here, man-made disasters, as we see in too many places, is creating unprecedented need and challenge.  Our obligation, as in all of us, is to work seamlessly, very-closely, share information all the time.  We also have an obligation, I think, to try to deal with immediate needs and also to look at some unpredictable future needs.  So, the youth that we see in refugee camps, who will grow up in a refugee camp experience, how do we help to provide some kind of education and job training so that god-willing someday there’s a normalcy there.  But all of these challenges are really profound ones.  [Inaudible] made, I thought, a very important point today about the need to build national resilience capacity because these shocks to the system that we’re seeing, the armyworm is the latest one coming down the pike and [inaudible] influenza and now army.  So, these are, you know, we know shocks are coming, we may not know precisely what they are.  So, the intersection of humanitarian and development is this resilience building so that the numbers become more manageable, because everyone is taking part, countries are stepping up and taking as much responsibility as they can and putting their resources in.  Unless we do all of those things, we won’t succeed.  It can’t just be any one; it’s got to be all of them.  Otherwise, we’ll surely fail.

MR. BEASLEY:  Let me add, in Ethiopia – we’ll come back to South Sudan, but the World Food Program, you have an 8.5 million hunger need here.  The World Food Program is addressing that 5.5 million, give or take.  And we were talking earlier, one of the things that we want to see is a more effective utilization, particularly of non-conflict area – the non-conflict area of the world, here in Ethiopia, and you have poverty, you have drought, but we have an opportunity to work together.  And so, how can we take – U.S. food for assets.  We’ve got 5.5 million people that we’ll be feeding.  How do we take advantage of that capacity to help address the armyworm problem, irrigation issues, and have a workforce that we can capitalize on to really address opportunities for long term sustainability and national resilience.

So, we’re talking about some ideas, how to work together, all of us being more effective with the dollars.  Because as Mark was saying earlier, when you talk to – whether it’s a refugee or internally displaced, or someone receiving [inaudible] out in the – and some other reason, they don’t want to receive aid.  They want to be self-sufficient, and it’s aggravating that their life is where they have to receive aid.  So, they’re looking for us to help give direction, working with the government, provide resilience and sustainability so they’re not having to be dependent on outsiders.  And that’s a good thing.

QUESTION:  Sure.  But in conflict zones, like Sudan, where you’ve had more than 80 –

MR. BEASLEY:  South Sudan.

QUESTION:  South Sudan, excuse me – where you’ve had more than 80 aid workers killed?

MR. BEASLEY:  Oh, it’s terrible.  We have condemned the actions.  We have spoken to the leaders here – there.  [unintelligible] – not politely.  I mean, it’s – I’ve been probably – I’ve probably have crossed the line on several occasions in speaking to some of the leaders regarding this issue.  We’re feeding 4 million people in South Sudan, working with FAO in South Sudan.  We’ve been able to take famine conditions in several places like Unity State -- in no longer famine condition, but though we’ve resolved, kept – or reduced famine conditions, the needs have gone from 4 million to 6 million because of the devastation, the conflict, the lack of access, the rainy season, and the list just goes on.  We’ve now had two years of non-agricultural production because of the conflicts, in particularly the equatorial area.  So --

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  [Inaudible], I think the answer to what you’re saying is manmade disasters require manmade changes.  And so, it is going to the source of the problems and being very clear eyed, as Governor Beasley can do, in a very direct, South Carolinian way [laughs].

QUESTION: You and Nikki Haley [laughs].

MR. GRAZIANO:  If I may come back to the usual concerns about the funding U.S. and give the example for FAU, we have about 22 percent assessed contribution and about 25 percent voluntary contribution.  Our voluntary contribution came from partners like USAID, and what we do does not only benefit, let’s say, countries in Africa, it benefits the world.  We are doing -- for example, we have a common agenda on health, one health agenda, to tackle this armyworm, pest and disease controls, et cetera, standards for food to be exported, and so on.  We have also a common work on statistics, global information, public goods that are available for the world.  If this is cut, there is a cut down this year, this will not only affect the recipient countries, it will affect the world, the global community, even the U.S. themselves because U.S. benefits from this work, preventing disease, which – remember the Ebola.

Statistics that’s publicly good, more and more are needed to planning our work ahead.  So, we for the moment, as this has been a long partnership and planning ahead, we don’t see that this will be cut.  So, we are not working with the possibility of cuts on this, because it’s a partnership.

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN:  It is a close partnership, but again, we will never have enough to do everything that we want to do.  We all recognize that.  We have an absolute obligation to make sure that our partnership is seamless, that we are as effective as we can be, as efficient as we can be.  I’m confident we’ll have the resources – I’m talking the U.S. now – to continue our leadership role.  We take a backseat to nobody in humanitarian assistance.  That will continue, but we also have to be clear-eyed about the nature of the challenges that we face today and tomorrow and tackle them jointly, as we are.  Again, we have natural disasters.  We have man made disasters.  They’re not the same, and this is a challenging problem for all of us to take on.  At this breakfast this morning, we began the conversation.  It will be the first of many.  It will be the first of many conversations.

QUESTION:  Real quick.  I realize you’ve been talking about high level, but we’re on our way to South Sudan.  Has there been any discussion about pulling aid workers out of South Sudan because it’s too dangerous?

MR. BEASLEY:  We have had numerous discussions.  You have to have these discussions.  We have to prepared for any situation.  We’re not [inaudible] but obviously we have to have these discussions.  These conditions are deplorable, and let’s just pray and hope that that does not happen.