Enthusiastic praise from aid groups, activists for Trump’s USAID pick

Mark Green, nominee to be the next USAID administrator. (Credit: IRI)

At a time of continuous political fighting, the President Donald Trump made an announcement that is winning praise from NGOs, activists and politicians. The administration nominated Mark Green, a former ambassador to Tanzania and current president of the International Republican Institute, to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Trump will officially nominate Green in the next few days. Aid and advocacy groups immediately supported the choice commending the administration for choosing someone with a long track record working in development an a vocal supporter of foreign aid.

“ONE enthusiastically welcomes President Trump’s nomination of Mark Green for USAID administrator,” the ONE Campaign’s executive director for North America Tom Hart said in a statement. “Ambassador Green has a long history of thoughtful leadership on America’s development assistance strategy and would make a strong USAID administrator.”

Oxfam joined the chorus of praise for the pick and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons called Green “a seasoned, experienced professional” in response to the announcement. The wide support for Green makes it likely he will sail through the Senate confirmation process and take over as USAID’s administrator.

The announcement comes at a time when the world is facing a potentially historic hunger crisis affecting 20 million people and the Trump administration is seeking deep cuts to the foreign aid budget. Released budget plans and leaked documents portray a White House seeking to significantly alter USAID. Some experts warn that the agency could be folded into the State Department.

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Politicians and aid groups pushed back on the proposals, arguing that budgetary cuts can cause harm. For example, eliminating development funding to Central America in favor of security programs ignores the problem causing people to migrate to the U.S. – poverty. The same groups that praised Green called on him to boost U.S. support for humanitarian crises and to advocate in the administration for the preservation of foreign aid spending.

“We stand ready to work with Ambassador Green to continue to make USAID a premiere development agency that saves lives, enhances our national interests, and builds partners that ultimately make a safer world for all,” Oxfam America President Ray Offenheiser told Humanosphere. “Now is not the time to cut back on our support for foreign aid, but to make it even better.”

Green has a long history working in international development. He and his wife volunteered in Kenya after graduating in college. President George W. Bush selected then-Congressman Green to serve as U.S. ambassador to Tanzania. After that stint, he went on to serve on the board of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, work at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and at the democracy-promoting International Republican Institute (IRI).

Green was rumored to be a top choice for the administration. His experience justifies the decision to nominate him and will serve him well in the position, Overseas Development Institute Executive Director Alex Thier said.

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“Mark brings a special combination of skills and experiences to the role,” Thier told Humanosphere. “First, as a former elected representative, he can translate the important ideas and values behind foreign assistance. Second, having served in Tanzania, Mark has seen up close the power of U.S. assistance to change lives – and has also seen the challenges to achieving an end to extreme poverty. He also knows what it means to work closely with local actors to get things done.

“Third, as the head of IRI, he has been out in critical frontline states talking about the importance of democracy, human rights and good governance – and about the dangers of authoritarianism and the crackdown on civil society actors. These are not always easy positions to hold, but they are always the right ones.”

Green served on the international relations committees during his four terms in Congress. Two well-regarded programs, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), were created with Green’s support during his time in office. Aid supporters hope that the combination of experience in development and Washington will help Green successfully advocate for continuing USAID’s work.

“Green must be a strong voice in the administration and globally for democracy, human rights and rule of law,” said Thier. “Signals from the Trump administration so far have not identified these as priorities, but Green must continue to carry this torch even when times are tough.”

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Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]humanosphere.org.