Following is the full transcript of the May 21st, 2020 Hudson online livestream event titled Bonnie Glick on America's Foreign Assistance Leadership
Blaise Misztal: Good afternoon and welcome to the virtual Hudson Institute. I'm Blaise Misztal, a fellow with the institute and I'm delighted and honored to be joined today by Bonnie Glick, the Deputy Administrator of the US Agency for International Development. Good afternoon to you Deputy Administrator and thank you for being with us.
Bonnie Glick: Blaise, good afternoon to you and thank you to the audience for joining us today.
Blaise Misztal: So our conversation today will focus on the aid that the United States is providing to developing countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also more broadly, on the role of US foreign assistance in the strategic context of increasing competition for global influence between the United States and its allies on the one hand, and authoritarian powers on the other.
It's a competition the Coronavirus crisis has clarified and intensified. These are issues that we are closely following and delving deeply into here at Hudson Institute.
In particular, we have just released today, a study that examines the impact of COVID-19 in different regions around the world and how the Chinese Communist Party has sought to exploit the crisis in those places.
You can find that and more insightful research on our homepage at hudson.org. Our agenda today is to hear brief opening remarks from Deputy Administrator Glick, followed by a Q&A with me for about 20 or 25 minutes.
So allow me to formally introduce the Deputy Administrator. She has a distinguished career that is remarkable for spanning all the sectors of the American economy.
She's worked in both federal and state government for the nonprofit sector and in the private sector as well. Before coming to USAID, she served as the deputy secretary of the Maryland State Department of Aging.
Prior to that, she was the senior vice president at the nonprofit Meridian International Center and worked for IBM in a variety of positions. However, Deputy Administrator Glick began her career at the State Department as a Foreign Service officer, including serving at the US missions at the United Nations, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua, as well as in the State Department and the White House.
Blaise Misztal: So with that, very varied and deep expertise across multiple domains, I'm really interested to hear what you have to say today. So Deputy Administrator, let me turn it over to you.
Bonnie Glick: Blaise, thank you so much for having me here today. I'm glad to be able to speak to you and to this group and it's so important that these conversations are taking place. So thank you to Hudson as well.
I want to begin my remarks with some observations about development globally, and the context of our work at USAID. And then I'll focus more squarely on what we're doing on the African continent.
So let me begin by making a point that too often is overlooked. Foreign assistance is not just a numbers game. It's not just who has written checks and for how much and to whom.
Foreign assistance is a reflection of a nation's core principles and values. America's use of smart power has always been a reflection of our values from our moment of independence.
In fact, you could argue that the most powerful and important tool we've given the world is the Declaration of Independence. There, for all to read are the principles that America has always stood for, the dignity of the human person, inalienable rights of individual citizens, the expectation of transparency and governance and the demand for accountability from our elected leaders.
There's ample evidence of our commitment to these principles over the years including the Marshall Plan for Peace Corps, USAID itself and the Millennium Challenge Corporation and when it comes to health specifically, The United States President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief which we call PEPFAR and the US President's Malaria Initiative are just among the few of our commitments.
All of these assistance programs reflect America's values and America's commitment to free markets and free people. Our foreign assistance has always been designed to promote national sovereignty, prosperity, democratic governance, accountability to the citizens and individual rights.
We here at USAID recognize that successful development results in stable and sustainable societies in the long-term. It's what we refer to as a journey to self-reliance.
America has been the world's largest provider of health assistance for decades, contributing more than 140 billion dollars in global health assistance in the 21st century alone.
In response to COVID-19, we have engaged in what we call an all of America effort. It includes all parts of American society from government to NGOs and charities, to the private sector.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the US government has contributed more than one billion dollars specifically aimed at fighting the pandemic abroad in over 120 different countries.
And that number doesn't reflect the generosity of private businesses, nonprofit groups, charities, faith-based organizations and individuals as well as the ingenuity of our scientists, researchers and innovators.
Together, these businesses and organizations have provided four billion dollars in donations and assistance to combat COVID-19 accounting for nearly 80% of global philanthropic efforts.
In Africa, our US government assistance includes more than 383 million dollars to 43 different countries in addition to regional programming across West Africa and the Sahel.
Our immediate response in Africa aims to meet the critical needs of communities, governments and of course, the health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
Specifically, we're improving coordination within health systems, making sure communities understand the risks of contracting the virus and strengthening capacity to detect and monitor any health issues that might arise as a result of COVID-19.
In Nigeria, to name just one example, USAID is providing nearly 26 million dollars of additional COVID funding to help the country respond to the pandemic.
We're bolstering risk communications, providing clean water and helping implement practical solutions to stem the spread of the virus and we recently delivered 50 ventilators to South Africa to assist with its national response to COVID-19.
These ventilators reflect state of the art US technology and will give South Africa flexibility in treating patients who are affected by the virus.
Those are just two examples of our response to the immediate needs of COVID-19 in Africa, and we're working diligently to scale up and provide more assistance across the continent.
Now, other powerful nations have their own values and their own principles. So we should not be surprised to be confronted by approaches that are different from our own which brings me to the example of the Chinese Communist Party.
The CCP's Foreign Assistance Program reflects the party's principles and values and it starts with the fact that its assistance program has nothing to do with development, and it has everything to do with intimidation, influences, resources and power.
We're seeing this most clearly on the African continent. The PRC's assistance programs don't aim to free nations from subsistence, debt and foreign influence, but rather to make them more dependent on the Chinese Communist Party, CCP capital, CCP Corporations, CCP labor, and CCP strength.
This is a battle of ideas and the Chinese Communist Party's big idea is that its system of state authoritarianism and state capitalism is better positioned to lead the way in fighting this pandemic on a global stage.
We believe our approach to assistance stands in stark contrast to the model put forward by Beijing. Beijing promotes a journey to China dependence while the United States of America offers a journey to self-reliance and we have the record to prove that we have the better case.
America has always been the leader in global health and humanitarian assistance. We're continuing that tradition, that leading role in the global response to COVID-19 and we will lead the world in recovering from the pandemic and the second and third order effects.
So Blaise, I thank you very much for the opportunity to join you today and I look forward to our conversation.
Blaise Misztal: Thank you Deputy Administrator Glick, that was a really fascinating account of how US development assistance is influenced not just by the amount of money we give, but how we give it and the values that infuse our programs and how that contrasts with how some other states, particularly the Chinese Communist Party approach development assistance, but maybe, let me zoom in for my first question on Africa, and this pandemic that is unfolding right now.
COVID-19 is if you look at it, if you look at the numbers for Africa, doesn't seem like that big of a problem, I just looked. Today, there's 125,000 cases in Africa which compared to the global numbers is a small proportion especially for a continent of 1.3 billion.
So can you shed some light on how the coronavirus is affecting the developing nations of Africa? Is there a crisis and what help do they need in dealing with it?
Bonnie Glick: So you make a very, very good point that the numbers don't seem to be that large. One of the things that we have seen worldwide is that due to weak health systems, many, many countries don't have accurate testing capabilities to come up with more accurate numbers.
The 125,000 number today in Africa stands in really stark contrast to the number that the PRC has been putting up on a daily basis of 80 something thousand cases in a country where the outbreak originated.
So my sense and full disclosure, I'm not a doctor with an MD and I'm not an epidemiologist, but what I understand from the experts with whom we've been consulting is that there is possibility that as the southern hemisphere trends toward its winter months which of course are the opposite of ours here in the United States, we're trending towards summer, they're trending toward colder weather and winter, the cases may substantially increase.
Additionally, as testing capabilities improve, we also may be seeing increases in those numbers. So the fact that we're working with health systems that are weak that may not have appropriate governance systems in place in some countries, I think that that probably is what leads to a determination that the caseload for now in Africa is lower than it is in some parts of the world.
What we're trying to do at USAID and across the US government, as well as working with other donors is coordinating our efforts to prepare for when the numbers begin to rise in developing countries and in Africa in particular where we know that when the numbers start to go up, we'll see the second and third order impacts of the coronavirus, among those are things like increased food insecurity, problems with bringing appropriate nutrition to children, livelihoods, jobs disappearing, democracy becoming endangered in some countries under the guise of responding to the coronavirus, as well as what necessarily comes when there's unrest in a country for whatever reason, you tend to see an increase in migration which could lead to an uptick in the number of refugees as well as internally displaced people across Africa.
Blaise Misztal: So I think this starts to get at my next question which is at a time when the United States is still deep in the throes of this pandemic and obviously, grappling with trying to control the disease here, why is it important for the United States to be helping Africa and other developing countries?
Now, obviously, the United States has always been a generous nation and we do well to help others whenever we can, but beyond that, why is it important now to be investing in this?
Bonnie Glick: It's really important for us to be investing, you use two terms, first, you said, I think, "Why is the United States giving assistance?" But then you ended with talking about the United States investment and assistance. And I think there's a real difference there.
For 60 plus years, the United States has invested in developing countries, invested in helping those countries travel along their journeys to self-reliance, and in particular, invested in health systems in those countries.
In Africa in particular, beginning at the start of the 21st century, we started a program under President George W. Bush called the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Some of your viewers may remember a time when AIDS was ravaging the African continent while also impacting us tremendously here in the United States.
President Bush knew at the time and it's proving to be the case today, that if there is disease anywhere, there is disease everywhere and so we could not effectively respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States without also addressing the countries around the world where AIDS was raging and people were dying.
He set up a very visionary program to help save what has now been dozens of millions of lives around the world, particular concentration in Africa through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
And through the PEPFAR program, we have established in over 50 countries around the world, very well established health systems for tracking disease, for treating disease, as well as for providing treatments down to what President Bush had in mind which was down to the village level, the last mile.
We've created through the PEPFAR program and programs that have followed on since from the United States one of the most sophisticated delivery supply chains in the world.
It's something at AID that we're particularly proud of. So we're investing now funding that's to be directed toward the COVID response, but that is able to leverage off of the existing platforms that we've built out over the years whether they were related to AIDS, to malaria, or to tuberculosis around the world.
And this has proven the benefit of those investments that we made, as I said earlier, 140 billion dollars in the last 20 years in global health programs alone.
Those investments will pay off if we are able to contain the COVID-19 virus and treat patients through the systems that we've built up around the world and so I take the point Blaise that this was an investment and it does go very much to the issue of the pandemic in one country means that it will be in pandemic in the United States, the world is interconnected now more than ever and we won't be safe at home if people aren't safe abroad.
So the PEPFAR example I think is so fascinating because it is I think, a very clear distillation of how the United States does approach development assistance and how as you said in your opening remarks, it's not just about spending some sum of money, but really trying to help countries achieve that self-reliance that he talked about.
Blaise Misztal: And with PEPFAR, we didn't just deliver antiretroviral medications and sort of call it a day, we help build the capacity inside these countries as you were talking about to deliver the health care that people needed.
I think it's an approach that is really resonating now when we say we've looked at the Ebola crisis six years ago, we look now at COVID-19 where we're saying, "Can these countries deal with these crises on their own?"
And I think those that have the infrastructure that PEPFAR helped create will hopefully be better off. And in that vein of trying to create solutions that are sustainable and build on themselves, you mentioned that there are multiple overlapping problems that are happening in Africa as a result of ensuring simultaneously with the COVID-19 pandemic, including food insecurity, including governance issues.
Another one that we're seeing I think, as the global economy slows down is economic crises in these countries that might lead to debt crises as countries are unable to repay their debts.
So how is USAID thinking about the sort of multi-structured overlapping problem that is facing developing countries? How do you integrate dealing with the pandemic, with dealing with food shortages, with dealing with instability or migration flows as you talked about all while presumably there's a very real risk of infection for USAID employees and contractors to be out in the field doing the work that they would normally do. So how do you deal with that very complex problem?
Bonnie Glick: We in USAID refer to this as a complex emergency because it isn't just one thing as you said and the way we're viewing this is almost like COVID-19 is the tip of the spear and the follow-on impacts are going to be the ripples of things like food insecurity, of closure of democratic spaces, an economic meltdown with job losses, much like we're seeing in the United States, but imagine that in countries that are far less stable, and don't have safety nets for their citizens like we have in the United States.
And so we're looking at all of these components and how they form together all within the context as well of the very real danger of these countries collapsing under insoluble debt.
And so we're trying to address the health issue, we're addressing the food insecurity issue by trying to get ahead of the problem in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, by having institutions in place that we can work with that will be able to help address acute food insecurity problems before they become long-standing food insecurity problems.
The issue of debt though is one that seems to us in the US government is something that we can address more ... On a more fulsome way and pretty rapidly.
We saw the President of the World Bank David Malpass issue a call for debt forgiveness of countries based on the impact that COVID-19 is having on their economies and the call for the reevaluation of debt was taken up last month at the G20 Meeting.
The G20 happens to be a multilateral organization that China is part of and with everybody in the G20, let's say G19, getting behind the idea of debt forgiveness, China had to get on board.
Well, who is the largest lender to emerging market countries? That would be China bilaterally. China has shouldered countries with unsustainable debt due to large scale, in many cases, large scale infrastructure projects that China has offered to build for them that at the end of the day, they were not able to pay for, they defaulted or were late on loan payments to the Chinese.
Here Blaise is the real contrast in terms of how the United States does things like large scale infrastructure projects in emerging market countries, and how China does.
Also under President Bush 43, we set up an institution known as the Millennium Challenge Corporation which was designed to work with developing countries to help them reach certain benchmarks for democracy.
Things like accountability to citizens, things like transparency of government accounting and opening up of government books so that citizens could be aware of where their tax revenues were going.
Just a whole lot more democracy infused into countries around the world and we made loan guarantees and grants to those countries to help them build up a world class infrastructure across their country to benefit their citizens, but they had to reach certain democratization benchmarks even to be qualified as Millennium Challenge Corporation countries to be considered.
The Chinese have no such criteria of transparency of governance, of accountability. And instead what we have seen since China began its One Belt, One Road initiative across the world.
We call it the One Belt, One Road, One Way ticket to insoluble debt to China. When China began the One Belt, One Road initiative, it first went to countries that had valuable natural resources or valuable strategic facilities that were perceived by Beijing as being valuable to them.
A case in point is the tiny East African country of Djibouti. The Chinese approached Djibouti and said, "We'll be able to build you a world class port." And if you just sign here on the dotted line, we'll make sure that we build this port and it will help launch Djibouti into the 21st century.
While the Chinese built the port, the Djiboutian government took out a loan to the Chinese in order to pay for it to finance it, and they defaulted on their loan.
What was that implication and the ramification? It was that China took over as the agency for running this world class port in Djibouti.
Why does this matter to the United States? It's because Djibouti is strategically located in East Africa, in an area that is of significance to US military interests.
It wasn't that Djibouti was inclined toward China, that they had strong cultural ties or anything like that. China saw this little East African country as an opportunity to expand its ability to interact with and interfere with US military activities in East Africa, in the Horn of Africa.
So this is the pattern that we see with Chinese approach, the PRC approaches to countries that it views as strategic along its One Belt, One Road initiative and saddling countries with debt has been in the past something that China was very comfortable doing.
It forced countries to bend to their will and it led those countries toward non-democratic institutions, non-democratic governments and this is something that we in the United States have been calling out against.
And in the Trump administration, we are particularly vocal in our outcries about China's techniques, including in the G20. So China had to agree that they would get behind this concept of debt forgiveness, and then they quickly tried to manipulate the international order to say, "Well, it's really only about commercial debt." Or, "Well, it's really only about debt that's owed to multilateral organizations, not about bilateral debt that the Chinese government holds over developing countries."
And so the United States and other donors are pushing back to say, "No, we're going to look at all debt and examine how debt forgiveness would work in the grand scale, not in a very narrow level that the Chinese are trying to move it into."
And so I think ultimately Blaise, while we're very concerned about the second and third order impacts of COVID-19 and we're planning for those, we're actually using money that was generously appropriated by Congress to the administration to plan for ... Well in advance the second and third order impacts to help countries adapt to what their current needs are, as well as to plan for future needs.
But when it comes to debt, that's where the United States is very comfortable calling out the People's Republic of China and saying, "We have to look at all aspects of debt when we're talking about debt forgiveness given the context of COVID-19."
Blaise Misztal: It really does seem like the debt issue is both an important one in trying to position developing countries to be able to exit from this crisis in relatively good standing as well as secure the health and safety of their own people.
I think one striking statistic that sticks in my mind since you mentioned Djibouti is that Djibouti has a 10 times higher per capita incidence of COVID-19 than any other country in the African continent and it just so happens that in addition to the port you mentioned, they have a Chinese military base on their territory as well.
So I think there's a close connection there in how we think about both Chinese debt, these countries and US interests. And so it seems like as you laid out, this is a really important moment to bring accountability and transparency to international lending, but on that point and on the broader question of the contrast that you sketched between the US emphasis on a journey to self-reliance and the journey to Chinese dependence that is being pushed by the CCP, how do you get countries to choose one or the other?
Or how do you approach countries so that they want to be self-reliant? Because I think one of the challenges in the developing world is that at least in some countries, you have regimes and elites that aren't accountable, that aren't transparent, that aren't ruling with the best interests of their citizens in mind and so a Chinese deal that might go sour in a couple of years, but lines their pockets in the meantime, might sound a lot better than US investments are going to have strict controls on corruption that are going to come with certain standards in place.
And so obviously, countries are better off being on the journey to self-reliance, but not every country is going to see it that way. So how do you compete in that space? How do we think about trying to get countries onto the US attorney and not the Chinese one?
Bonnie Glick: Blaise, the competition is as I noted earlier is over values and you're right, there will be countries around the world that are ruled by dictators and authoritarian leaders who determine that it's not in their own personal interest to move away from a Chinese model of so called development.
And yes, that I'm sure will happen, does happen. We struggle with it and in countries like that, our goal is to work with civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, local NGOs to be able to transmit the message of democratic values and what getting on a journey to self-reliance could look like for them, but there are countries who won't adopt to that model.
The thing about being at the United States Agency for International Development that's really remarkable to me to see is just how generous the American people are and the American ... I say that deliberately because USAID is not a fundraising organization.
Our budget is determined by US taxpayer dollars. And so the American taxpayer is generous in its approach to the developing world and knowing how important it is to help countries along their journeys to self-reliance, that's how America was founded.
And so thinking about it in that context, understanding that there will be countries where we can't have the influence or the impact that we would like to have, countries that are ruled by authoritarian regimes.
We're going to do our darndest to work with civil society to help transmit the story, we're going to do our darndest to get through government censors in order to be able to transmit messages through our great broadcasting networks like Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Marti, Radio Free Asia.
Using all of the tools that are available to us in the US Government, but also using the goodwill of the American people to get through to countries and citizens the importance of democratic values and the importance of having accountable leaders.
So in countries like Venezuela for example, I know we're talking about Africa, but in Venezuela, the US doesn't have an embassy open there anymore. We don't have relationships with the illegitimate Maduro regime and so it's hard to get stuff done.
At the same time, Americans care very much. We see the news broadcasts, we see the photos of the Venezuelan people and how they're suffering.
So the US has made available and shipped to Venezuela assistance as it relates to the COVID-19 crisis in health care. We've assisted shipping, water, sanitation, hygiene equipment to populations so that they can help their own people through NGOs, through the United Nations entities, specifically UNICEF in that case, to help them get assistance as needed to Venezuelan people.
When the US does that, it's noticed, it's noticed by the dictator in Caracas, it's also noticed by the citizenry of Venezuela and it's remembered.
And so these are the kinds of things, they're small-ish gestures, but they're impactful in local communities and a lot of those impactful activities I hope can make a difference in some very troubled parts of the world.
Blaise Misztal: I think this approach that values working with the people of a country equally with working with the government is incredibly important and introduces the political dimension of development in a way that was brought to mind in the current crisis for me by the way that China's were mis-stepped in Africa.
Originally, it sent a lot of protective equipment and medical supplies to the continent that the leaders of African countries were very thankful for, but then immediately started hearing stories from Mainland China about the mistreatment of Africans living in China and you saw civil society and citizens in Africa react against that and pushed back and saying, "We don't want China to treat us this way and really created a bit of an outcry."
And so I think it's really important that thinking about engaging with citizens is as big a part of US approach to foreign assistance as engaging with governments.
Bonnie Glick: You're quite right. You are quite right. The Chinese publicity campaign at the start of the COVID outbreak which reminding everyone, originated in Wuhan, China, the Chinese PR campaign has been focused on winning people over as if this is a game of sorts.
And so assistance, play modes full of masks that then turn out to be defective. That's a surefire way not to win a game, let me tell you that on the publicity front.
But one of the things that we've seen and we've heard a lot and I understand is why can't the United States then step in and ship PPE, Personal Protective Equipment when the stuff that the PRC is shipping is faulty?
Look, we have a crisis here at home and I don't want to see American health care workers, doctors, nurses, frontline workers, as well as those who are delivering packages, stocking grocery store shelves while we're all confined to quarters.
I don't want to see those people unprotected. As an American, it's my priority to see our homeland protected, but there are ways that the United States has been able to offer high quality assistance to countries around the world.
President Trump announced that we will be shipping ventilators to a lot of different countries. I know at the start of the outbreak, people wondered, "What's a respirator and what's a ventilator?"
And they were used interchangeably and it was all new language and, "By the way, what's PPE?" Well, a ventilator is very different from personal protective equipment.
It's not a gown, it's not a mask. A respirator by the way is a type of mask. A ventilator is a sophisticated piece of machinery that's designed to help people who are in the later stages of COVID-19 get oxygen into their lungs.
It's a mechanical device that requires training, that requires sedation, and that requires something called intubation tube is in inserted down the throat to help somebody be able to breathe when their throat is closing.
President Trump, through the presidential declaration, ensured that our supply chain in the United States and our manufacturing suppliers were reprogrammed to focus on the COVID outbreak.
So we have companies that have been building ventilators for use in the United States like Ford and GM, cars are not really thought of as being the equivalent to really high tech ventilators, but Ford and GM were able to rejigger their manufacturing lines to start mass production of ventilators.
And so we have and then we have other traditional producers, manufacturers of ventilators as well. We have high quality American products that are being manufactured and are now as we reach a point in hospitals and clinics in the United States that have reached capacity of what they're able to absorb in the form of ventilators for patient care in the United States, we're able to start shipping some of those internationally.
The first African country that we shipped to was South Africa and we will continue shipments around the world of high quality medical products, not shoddy products and we will stand behind them and we're proud as the United States to be shipping American-made high quality products to help save lives of people who are extremely vulnerable around the world.
Blaise Misztal: It really is as you said an all American effort. So let me perhaps end with a question on a more personal note. You said that USAID is approaching this as a complex crisis, a complex emergency, but you have a complex background yourself.
You've served in diplomacy in the State Department and the tech sector at IBM, the Department of Aging in Maryland. How have the lessons you've learned through your career in these varied roles and different sectors prepared you for the current moment and what lessons are you using as you approach the crisis?
Bonnie Glick: Hey, that's such a good question and the answer is that no one has all the answers. And so by this, all of America approach, we've been able to tap into every sector of the American economy.
The public sector has been across all of us government approach. Every agency has equities because frankly, every agency is represented across the United States and people are being forced to stay at home to be safe.
And so their populations, their workforces impacted, but there are also are agencies that are very much front and center Health and Human Services, the Department of State and USAID for the international response.
We're all impacted in government by this, but then, of course, we have the US economy overall and that is everybody who's listening knows how tremendously impacted our economy has been, but there are brilliant people in business.
There are brilliant people in the sciences and in pharmacology and research, there are brilliant people in government whose heads are all coming together to think through how do we deliver to our own people in the United States and how do we deliver around the world recognizing that we're all, no one will be safe until everyone is safe.
We have people heads down working on a vaccine, we have people working on treatments, we're partnering with countries around the world, we're partnering with countries like Israel that are at the forefront of research on coming up with treatments and potentially a vaccine.
We're working with our European counterparts in the same way, everyone heads down in how do we address this crisis? Because a virus like this, we've seen doesn't know any borders.
And so this, my career may be emblematic of how we in America are approaching this response. It is an all of America response.
We at AID and in the US government are grateful to everybody who's listening today because there is no doubt in my mind that the work that you do is impacting the response of the United States to this crisis around the world.
Blaise Misztal: Thank you for that Deputy Administrator Glick. Let me thank also our audience and remind you that you can find more events like this one, as well as deep original research on our website at hudson.org. Thank you very much for tuning in and we'll see you soon. Thank you.
Bonnie Glick: Thanks Blaise.