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MR ICE:  Thank you so much, Cynthia.  And I’ll let everybody know that while we called this a State Department briefing, it’s actually an interagency briefing today with our colleagues from USAID and the Department of Defense, whom we’re very glad to do this with today.

So good morning once again, everyone, and thank you for joining us.  Today we will be discussing what we can describe as the latest progress in implementing the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.  As a quick reminder here at the top, this morning’s briefing is on the record but its contents are embargoed until the end of the call.

Okay.  It is my pleasure to let everyone on the line know that we are joined today by Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations Anne Witkowsky; we’re also joined by Assistant to the USAID Administrator for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization Robert Jenkins; and Principal Director of Counternarcotics and Stabilization Policy at the Department of Defense Joseph McMenamin; and also from here at State, Managing Director for Policy Roman Napoli from the Office of Foreign Assistance.

We’re going to start off with some opening remarks from several of our briefers today, and then we’ll open it up to just a few of your questions.  Okay.  And with that, I’d like to go ahead and turn it over to Assistant Secretary Witkowsky.  Ma’am.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WITKOWSKY:  Thank you, J.T., and hello to those who have joined.  I’m Anne Witkowsky, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

The President, with support of the U.S. Congress, has initiated a new stage in our implementation of the Global Fragility Act of 2019 and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.  We are moving forward in a spirit of partnership to implement the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability – Haiti, Libya, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea, and the coastal West Africa region, which is Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.

Under the strategy, we’ll begin developing comprehensive 10-year plans for each location.  These plans will emphasize locally driven solutions, long-term visions for our combined efforts, and evidence-based learning.  We recognize that close cooperation between the United States and likeminded regional, national, and local actors, including civil society, will be key to the success of the strategy.  We will tailor our shared approaches to the unique circumstances of local and regional contexts.

A decade-long outlook supports greater consistency across U.S. administrations and commitment to working with partners over the long term.  We will create feedback loops through monitoring and evaluations that will inform learning as we implement the plans with our partners.  In this way, the strategy presents the U.S. Government with a unique opportunity to balance a long-term view with near-term adaptation.

With a focus on locally driven efforts and solutions tailored to local contexts, planning under the strategy will seek to address emerging threats and address the underlying causes of violence and instability.  Our objective is to build resilience to prevent conflicts and crises from breaking out or deteriorating further.

This strategy requires a whole-of-government effort to integrated diplomacy, development, security-sector engagement.  We reflect this whole-of-government approach in our representation here on the call with USAID’s Rob Jenkins; Joe McMenamin, my colleague from the Defense Department; as well as Roman Napoli from the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance.

In sum, with the announcement of these priority countries, we are taking the next step to chart a new way forward in how the United States partners with other nations to address the challenges of conflict and instability.  The announcement today is also the next critical step in translating the ambitious goals of the bipartisan Global Fragility Act into reality.  Implementing the strategy will prove challenging, but it also affords us an opportunity to bring new ideas, resources, and collective action to some very pressing and important problems.  Our prosperity and security depend on peaceful, self-reliant, and stable economic and security partners.

With that, I will turn it over to Rob.

MR JENKINS:  Well, thank you, Anne, and good morning, everyone.  An important part of the strategy and its implementation will be partnerships.  As the President has said, our diplomats, officers, and experts will work in close cooperation with multilateral organizations and a wide variety of local partners in each nation where these efforts will be pursued, including civil society organizations, community leaders, businesses, and government officials.  Those who are closest and most vulnerable to these challenges know best where the opportunities for peace and stability lie.  They represent the strongest source of promise and immunity from destabilizing forces, and we must support their strength and their resilience.

We know not only is going it alone not smart, it doesn’t work.  My administrator, Samantha Power of USAID, has challenged all of us to maximize the extent to which we can work directly with local partners, working in true, respectful, and effective partnership with the governments, communities and people we are trying to help.  We have learned many lessons in the last two decades, and some of them are very hard lessons.  One of them is we’re not only wasting time if we think we can impose our plan on a situation and expect to achieve success by force of will, number of boots on the ground, or amounts of dollars spent.  We’re wasting time, energy, money, and goodwill to do it alone.

Our lodestar must be inclusive development, working with governments and the people we’re there to help and working with on true partnerships, respectful partnerships as equals.  And inclusive development is co-creation, joint implementation, and acknowledging that we’re in support, helping our friends and partners where they are and where they live.

Thank you.  And with that, I’ll hand it over to Joe at the Department of Defense.

MR MCMENAMIN:  Thank you, Rob.  My name, just a refresher, Joe McMenamin, and I serve as the principal director for counternarcotics and stabilization policy under the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.  I’d like to thank you all for the opportunity to talk about Department of Defense efforts and (inaudible) in support of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability.

Our counternarcotics and stabilization policy office is the lead for the department’s implementation of the Global Fragility Act and is responsible for a vast set of policy issues including counternarcotics, stabilization, UN peacekeeping, and civil affairs.  Several of these areas touch Global Fragility Act issues.  The department is proud to support and has been working closely with the Department of State, USAID, and other agencies well before the Global Fragility Act was passed in December 2019.

We have been joined at the hip for many years, to include laying the groundwork for eventually what became the Stabilization Assistance Review, written together in a collaborative fashion.  Specific to the Global Fragility Act, we worked closely on the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, the prologue, and the country selection.  Such efforts will continue as the Global Fragility Act implementation begins.

The Global Fragility Act reflects the administration’s view of emerging threats and opportunities and outlines guiding principles to inform our whole-of-government work in partnership with other countries, institutions, and organizations.  We too have learned a lot from our past stabilization experiences around the world.  One example of the lessons has been the importance of the interagency working closely together in unstable spaces to consolidate gains for long-lasting effects.  When the interagency isn’t coordinated or present, stabilization efforts are not lasting.  We, DOD, are in support of State and USAID, but it’s really a government approach to prevent conflict and promote stability.  I believe this is where the Global Fragility Act will be invaluable in achieving long-term success.

In the department, we’re still concerned about violent extremist organizations, as they often pose as supporters and providers of stability to the citizenry while obviously actually undermining stability of the state as a whole.  Long-term partner engagement will build resilience against violent extremist recruitment and the spread of terrorism.  DOD has a strong and lasting bilateral relationship with a lot of the Global Fragility Act selected countries led by our office, the joint staff regional offices, as well as the combatant commands.  Our combatant commands will play a key role in the implementation of this activity.

USAID’s Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Stabilization often assigns and has assigned liaison officers in our office, Counternarcotics and Stabilization Policy, to the combatant commands to facilitate interagency coordination.  Likewise, DOD assigns military officers at State and USAID.  Diplomacy, development, and defense cooperation are at an all-time high.

Finally, preventing, promoting stability, and trying to get ahead of challenges before they arise is important and difficult work.  The Global Fragility Act success depends on close cooperation and coordination between U.S. Government agencies.  And I think this is a great step forward in that endeavor.  Thank you.

MR ICE:  Thank you so much, Joe.  At this point, Cynthia, would you go ahead and give the instructions again for getting into the question queue?

OPERATOR:  Certainly, and once again, ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to ask a question, please press 1 and then 0.  You will hear a tone acknowledging that you are in queue.  We will take the questions in the order that they queue up.  You may remove yourself from queue by pressing the same 1-0 command.  So once again, 1 and then 0 for any questions or comments, and one moment, please.

MR ICE:  Thank you so much, Cynthia.  Okay.  Let’s go for our first question to Daphne Psaledakis.

QUESTION:  Hi, thank you for doing this.  The text released today mentioned the conflict in Ukraine.  How do you expect that will influence your strategy with the partner countries named today?  And along those lines, will USAID help Taiwan deliver its humanitarian assistance to Ukraine?  Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WITKOWSKY:  Thank you for that question.  First of all, on the selection of countries, I want to underscore that the set of countries and sub-regions illustrates our commitment to partnering with a variety of countries to respond to a variety of challenges that are weakening state capacity and legitimacy.  We want to acknowledge the complexity of these challenges in different contexts and want to work together with our partner countries, their governments, their civil society, and their private sectors to bolster their abilities and resources to resist these threats.

As we watch the conflict deepen and expand, the shocks of the war in Ukraine are being felt beyond Ukraine’s borders.  We are seeing it as millions have fled Ukraine to seek safe refuge and the real threat to food security for millions and millions of people worldwide in places that are already quite vulnerable to hunger.  So the effects are the – of the conflict are complex, and it will touch all aspects of affected countries, but the point here is that the strategy elevates conflict prevention as a priority and will unite our actions – our U.S. actions – in the diplomatic, development, and security sector spheres.  The events we’re seeing today reiterate the importance of an integrated U.S. whole-of-government approach tailored to these most pressing challenges in our partner countries.  Thank you.

MR JENKINS:  Thank you for the question about Ukraine.  As you probably know, USAID and our State Department colleagues are doing an amazing amount of work both inside Ukraine and outside to help IDPs, refugees; continue our support to the Ukrainian Government and communities inside Ukraine.  Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any planning regarding Taiwan and assistance to Ukraine, so I’d have to get back to you through my press office on that.  I – my not being aware does not necessarily mean there isn’t some planning going on.  Thank you.

MR ICE:  Okay, let’s go to the line of Kemi Osukoya.


MR ICE:  Yes, go ahead.  We can hear you.

QUESTION:  Oh, okay, thank you.  I was wondering if you could talk more about your plan – your strategic plan in Africa, in particular in West Africa, in Sudan, and also Somalia.

Hello?  Hello, can you hear me?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY WITKOWSKY:  Yes.  Yes, thank you very much.  Yes, thank you very much for the question.  The – yes, thank you.

The decisions that were taken, the selection of partner countries that we’re going forward with today within Africa, are within coastal West Africa and in Mozambique.  So we’re going to be focusing under the U.S. strategy on those countries, building on our lessons learned, and moving forward with our whole-of-government, 10-year, locally led plans.  It is, however, the case that our effort under this strategy will help us learn lessons not only as they apply to the countries that we have announced today in moving forward under the Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, but also, we hope, in the future will be applicable to places such as the countries that you’ve identified.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MR ICE:  And – great.  Once again, if you’d like to get into our question queue with our briefers, dial 1 then 0.  We’ll stand by just a moment.

OPERATOR:  And once again, that is 1 and then 0 for your questions or comments.

MR ICE:  Okay, folks.  Well, once again, thank you so much for dialing in today.  We appreciate your participation in our briefing this afternoon.  I do want to take this opportunity to once again thank our briefers from here at the Department of State’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, Assistant Secretary Witkowsky; our colleague from USAID, the Bureau for Conflict Prevention and Stabilization, Assistant to the Administrator Rob Jenkins; and from over at DOD, Principal Director of Counternarcotics and Stabilization Policy Joe McMenamin; and again, from here at the State Department’s Office of Foreign Assistance, Managing Director for Policy Roman Napoli.

Again, appreciate everyone calling in.  At this point the briefing is ended and the embargo is lifted.  Have a nice rest of your day and a nice weekend.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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