Chairwoman Lowey Statement at Oversight Hearing on USAID Programs and Policies

2019-02-27 10:03

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and its State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on "Oversight of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Programs and Policies":

Administrator Green, thank you for joining us. I am constantly impressed by you and the wealth of experience of our development professionals.

USAID helps the world’s most vulnerable people, assists in the recovery of millions from natural disasters and conflict, and supports democracy and rule of law. These development efforts are the frontline of our national security.

This is a tumultuous time around the world:

  • Globally, democracy is in crisis. The right to free and fair elections, freedom of the press, and the rule of law are under assault.
  • Yemen is on the edge of catastrophe as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 20 million civilians facing starvation.
  • The second largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded rages in a fragile Democratic Republic of Congo, resulting in more than 500 deaths so far—including nearly 100 children.
  • Political turmoil in Venezuela continues; more than 3 million people have already fled and some 25,000 more flee every day in what has been called Latin America’s worst-ever refugee crisis.
  • In Burma, since 2017 some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes in the northern Rakhine province to escape persecution and violence.
  • And in Syria, more than 6 million people are internally displaced, and the vast majority of the 5.6 million refugees in neighboring countries live below the poverty line.

It is clear that our humanitarian and development efforts are needed now more than ever. For USAID to succeed in leading these efforts, the Agency must have sufficient resources and staffing to nimbly and effectively respond.

But several of this Administration’s policies have hamstrung your Agency, reducing response time and preventing the U.S. from partnering with some of the most capable and experienced implementers. Perhaps no better example is the Administration’s expansion of the Global Gag Rule and the Kemp-Kasten determination against UNFPA. These terrible policies undermine our effectiveness and make it much harder to reach people who need us most.
These self-inflicted wounds compromise the quality of our efforts and are a disservice to the American taxpayer. Another example is the Administration’s suspension of assistance during policy reviews and subsequent breaks in programming that have led to negative consequences.

President Trump also appears to have a flawed view of foreign assistance as a “reward” to our friends and its withdrawal a “punishment” to our enemies. Moreover, the Administration’s approach to multilateral engagement, whether it be at the United Nations, the World Bank, or elsewhere, has been reactionary and shortsighted. Our assistance has direct impacts that alleviate suffering, save lives, and enable stability that is essential to our own interests. In our inter-connected world, our national security is strongest when development, diplomacy, and defense are all well-funded and equally prioritized.

This subcommittee stands ready to work with USAID. To do so effectively will require ongoing, open communication, especially on areas where funding needs are outpacing available resources. Failing to maintain our position as the leader in global development and humanitarian assistance will cost lives, risk the spread of infectious diseases, and reduce American influence around the world. I hope we can count on you and your team to help strengthen communication and consultation with us throughout the 116th Congress.

Again, thank you for testifying today, and I look forward to our discussion.

116th Congress