Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening to those of you who are joining us from wherever you are, whether it’s in person or from around the world [virtually]. I really wish I could be there in person at this time, but the current travel situation wouldn’t allow that. It’s really a pleasure to be here representing the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at this conference. I think that the relationship between CSO – my bureau – and ISOA goes back a long way; we’ve done a lot of work together, and we are really looking forward to continued partnership going into the future. Thank you for the opportunity.
This is an important and timely conference; we think the conference’s theme of “the five Cs of Stability Operations: Contracting, Compliance, Challenges, Collaboration, and Commitment” deserves a sixth C, and that sixth C is “compelling.” We find this a really compelling theme. And I would like to focus on several of these Cs in the context of the current U.S. government’s approach to stabilization – and that also means where the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations is contributing to the effort of the U.S. government.
Just a few months ago, as you may know, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations celebrated its tenth anniversary as a bureau, so we’re a relative newcomer at the State Department, but we have made incredible progress over the last decade in terms of evolving the U.S. government’s approach and understanding of conflict and stabilization practice and policy. Today, we recognize that anticipating, preventing, and responding to conflict and instability is more challenging than ever. Therefore, we are continuing to draw on experience from a variety of partners – including you here at ISOA – to challenge our internal assumptions and to build new tools for enhanced U.S. conflict prevention and stabilization.
For example, just last month, the Bureau proudly launched the Negotiations Support Unit. This unit provides technical support on complex political negotiations, peace processes, ceasefire monitoring, and peace accord implementation at national and local levels. It is a standing group – a standing team – to which our Seventh Floor principals here at State can [turn] to get assistance when they are facing these situations.
Now as some of you know, CSO is also leading the charge on the use of evidence-based analysis to improve the U.S.’ conflict prevention and stabilization strategy, policy, and programs. We have a team of experts applying innovative methods – including statistics, geospatial analysis, machine learning, game theory, and network analysis. Now, the use of data analytics in foreign policy – and I speak as a long-term Foreign Service Officer – this is kind of a revolutionary approach and change in culture for the State Department. The sharing of the data and analysis publicly, frankly, was considered somewhat fanciful when we first started proposing this. We believe in CSO that collaboration and data sharing are vital to swifter analysis, prevention, and response. In an era of disinformation, we need common data platforms across the international community that are reliable, regularly updated, and accessible. To that end, we have been partnering with Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Nations to support data analysis, including through the launch a few months ago of the Complex Risk Analytics Fund (or what they term the CRAF’d). It’s an initiative that was announced last fall – I believe in October – and it’s a multi-donor initiative to jointly establish and finance key data sets so that we can improve our common operating picture.
U.S. policy toward conflict prevention and stabilization also involves – largely thanks to the contributions, experience, and commitment of stakeholders outside of the U.S. government – a new sort of evolution. And I believe one of the key elements in that evolution right now is our implementation of the Global Fragility Act of 2019. At the end of 2020, we published the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability pursuant to that landmark [Global] Fragility Act. Under this innovative Strategy, we will seek to partner with at least five select countries using an integrated, evidence-based, and collaborative approach to prevent conflict, promote resilience and stability, and foster economic development. We will do this while strengthening national governments and democratic institutions. The Strategy prioritizes both the local and the long-term as we move forward, together.
At the core of the Strategy is partnerships. The Strategy calls for an inclusive process – actually multiple inclusive processes – from continuous dialogue and consultations at the local level to inclusive design, and to ensuring equity in programs.
We hope by the end of this month to announce the countries that are joining us in these new resilience partnerships. We’ve been in a year-long effort to determine where we want to try this out in the first five countries, and I can assure you that this is going to be spread around the world in many different contexts to test the many different aspects of this Strategy. Our efforts will be tailored to specific situations in each partner country or sub-region, and our joint efforts will be guided by overarching principles. We will look beyond the urgent crises and near-term needs to focus on mutually agreed upon strategic goals and interests – and not just with the national governments, but also with local communities – and that will take commitment. The commitment we are making is a ten-year commitment. This is not just a one- or two-year program; this is for ten years we are going to partner with these countries on these goals and objectives. Working over the ten years, we plan to learn from past experiences and make strategic adjustments based on joint analyses, research, and monitoring and evaluation with a larger circle of stakeholders than we had before.
We will also ensure a holistic, multifaceted approach which will also help address other current and emerging challenges over the ten-year period, and [those] that are coming up now. For this administration especially, we are looking at things like the global climate crisis and the global pandemic. Throughout the process, we will engage in active consultation with local partners as the primary actors. This will ensure local ownership, support capacity building, and create greater mutual accountability and transparency – thereby establishing what we believe will be a foundation for the long-term success of this initiative.
We will engage not only with national-level ministries and other governmental institutions in our partner countries, but also with sub-national and local authorities and civil-society organizations – and also with businesses and other communities. This engagement will take place with particular emphasis on traditionally marginalized and under-represented populations, including youth and women, in order to identify local priorities, establish regular dialogue, and create an enabling environment to galvanize progress.
So, as you can see, the themes of this conference are closely tied to this Strategy. We are engaging the toughest challenges we currently face with true collaboration and long-term commitment. Let me emphasize this: this is where we need you. Our multi-agency team continues to engage civil society, academia, industry, diplomatic corps, international and local institutions, and Congress to obtain different perspectives and viewpoints. Our broad approach seeks to identify both new partners and new ways to partner in diverse sets of locations.
In the past, U.S. government collaboration was largely tied to a donor-implementer framework. We intend to change that dynamic. It is true that foreign assistance will help underpin larger diplomatic initiatives in partnership with priority countries under the Strategy. The U.S. Congress has authorized up to $200 million a year for these efforts and has appropriated for this year $100 million for the Prevention and Stabilization Fund. This will supplement existing bilateral U.S. assistance to the partner countries. This funding, we believe, will help galvanize efforts with all partners, including the private sector, as we look holistically at mutual areas of concern and find opportunities – formally or informally – to partner.
Partnerships will be grounded in local knowledge and will emphasize mutual ownership and accountability so that these countries are not merely the recipients or beneficiaries of assistance but are active agents of change. Mutual accountability and commitment will enable better decision making and connection between U.S. efforts and [host] country progress. With industry and the private sector, we can learn from and leverage one another – not just in formal public-private partnerships, but in collaborative informal engagement.
We believe that learning from the past and “playing the long game” will be a central aspect of the implementation of the Strategy in these countries. The pillar of success rests on our continued and steadfast commitment. We plan to anchor our interventions in communities, informed by the insight of expert practitioners and the public, and will build feedback loops into our policymaking and planning processes to make strategic adjustments based on analysis, research, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of our efforts. We will set benchmarks to enable all parties to know when our investments are making sense, and when we need to shift direction. We know now that we will only be successful if we have a listening aspect to this communications loop. Thus, we will leverage the strength that every partner brings to the table and foster maximum effectiveness when implementing the Strategy.
I look forward to engaging with ISOA and its members in the years ahead to share what’s gone right – and, just as importantly, what we have learned along the way – for broader application as to how the United States engages and operates overseas. We don’t need to wait until 2032 – ten years from now – to witness and assess the efficiency of our approach. We are blazing a new path forward now that will require review every year or two years, and we’ll be looking forward to talking to you about that.
One element that I want to emphasize again about our approach is that – and this is from the White House – they are stressing the need for public-private partnership on what we’re doing. This cannot just be another assistance program; another way of building another school or well. This is supposed to be something that achieves policy outcomes through public and private partnership, and we will be looking for those opportunities in all of these countries which we are engaging with our Strategy.
Let me just say thank you for listening today. I look forward to keeping you informed about what we’ll be doing under the Strategy and the announcement of the countries once we have that approved by the White House, and look forward to keeping you informed as we make progress and, initially, what we’ll be doing. I think for the first half of this year, we can expect to be engaged in a very intensive planning process to make sure that we can develop an effective ten-year implementation plan for the Strategy in each country and region. So we look forward to hearing from you, hearing your questions and your comments on this. If not today or through this conference, in the months and years ahead, it will be very important for us to have feedback from you all on these efforts.
So with that, thank you, and back to you, Howie.