February 22, 2024

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide Following Tour of UN Logistics Center Warehouse

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Ethiopian Minister of Finance Ahmed Shide Following Tour of UN Logistics Center Warehouse

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good afternoon, everyone.  We’ve had an enduring partnership when it comes to humanitarian assistance with Ethiopia, going back decades.  And it’s enduring because we’ve had periods of famine, conflict, displacement, and yet throughout we have found ways, working with extraordinary partners like World Vision, like Catholic Relief Services, to make sure we were working with our partners to provide assistance.

Just in the last couple of years, even with the conflict in Tigray in Ethiopia, we have provided about $3 billion worth of humanitarian assistance.  And it’s been very important to us that we do everything we can to make sure the people who are caught up in any of these human tragedies get the assistance that they need.  And indeed, today I can share that we’re going to be providing an addition $331 million in assistance through this joint emergency operations program to try to reach more people in Ethiopia who are in need of food security, and we think we’ll reach another 13 million or so people being affected by drought in particular.

Besides being enduring, what’s so important is that it’s intended for everyone in Ethiopia – not any particular group, region.  We’re active through our partners with the government in nine of the 11 regions in Ethiopia, trying to make sure that whoever’s in need is getting assistance.

And finally, as you’ve seen a little bit of today, of course it starts with food, the most basic necessity, but it’s broader than that.  It includes everything from hygiene kits to sanitation to medicine to water.  And we’re going to continue to do that day-in, day-out.

But a few other things that are so important.  One is, as I said, we can’t do this without a strong partnership with the government; we can’t do it without strong partnerships with, as I said, remarkable implementing partners like Catholic Relief Services, like World Vision.  And I’m especially proud of the work that USAID – the U.S. Agency for International Development – is doing in country after country, including here in Ethiopia.  As I like to say, USAID is where the rubber meets the road, where we’re making a tangible difference in people’s lives.

As a result of the cessation of hostilities agreement in Tigray, we now have humanitarian assistance flowing in very important ways.  And that’s reaching people who were not being reached before, and making a big difference.

Finally, one footnote.  You noticed that some of the food products here are from the Ukrainian people.  And I would simply note that that just underscores the importance of making sure that the arrangements that have been put into place – necessitated, unfortunately, by the Russian aggression against Ukraine – the Black Sea corridor, making sure that grain could get out of Ukraine and able to reach faraway places in the world, that that continues.  It’s vital that that continues, it’s vital that as it comes up for renewal that it be renewed.  And we can see the impact if that doesn’t happen, because it literally means that what you’re seeing right here won’t get here, won’t get to many other places.  It’ll also have an impact on prices for people around the world.

But the most important thing is day-in, day-out, we’re committed to this partnership with Ethiopia, doing our part in making sure that people have what they need.  I’m also very proud that the United States is the largest contributor by far to the World Food Program.  Grateful for the work that WFP does every day.  We provide about 50 percent of the World Food Program’s budget.

The very last thing is this:  As vital, as necessary, as urgent as this assistance is, we’re equally committed to working closely with our partners in Ethiopia to help them develop and strengthen their own productive capacity.  That ultimately is the most important thing that we can do.  Because I’m convinced, we’re convinced, that in Ethiopia and many other partner countries in Africa, it’s that long-term productive capacity that can be resilient to things like droughts, like climate change, like disease, that can take advantage of the extraordinary natural resources and expertise that already resides in these countries, that that is fundamentally the most important answer, so that we don’t have to deal on an emergency basis with a lack of food or the impact of some kind of crisis.

So as we’re working in this partnership to provide emergency support, we’re equally focused on making sure that we’re working together to provide the kinds of investments that will allow Ethiopia to fully realize the potential of its own productive capacity.

Mr. Minister.

FINANCE MINISTER SHIDE:  Thank you.  Your Excellency Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Your Excellency Ambassador Tracey Jacobson, Mr. Sean Jones, USAID mission director for Ethiopia, dignitaries from Ethiopian Government (inaudible), on behalf of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, it is an honor for me to warmly welcome Secretary Blinken and his team to Ethiopia.  We are delighted to have the opportunity to further consult on our bilateral missions and particularly the economic cooperation between our two countries.

Today there has been extensive discussion between the prime minister and with you, and a consensus has been reached to further enhance our strategic partnerships.

As you are well aware, the diplomatic relationship between Ethiopia and the U.S. dates back to over a century, and over the past several decades we have made considerable progress in elevating that partnership, which has become more strategic and vital for the goals and development of Ethiopia, and more broadly for the Horn of Africa, and particularly Ethiopia and United States partnerships is very strategic and important for our two-way mutually beneficial relationship, and also for the regional stability.

The United States is Ethiopia’s largest humanitarian and development donor.  I fully agree what you have said.  Ethiopia has been receiving U.S. support in wide-ranging areas such as agriculture, trade, investment, climate and food security and health to state a few, Your Excellency.

Today on the occasion of the launch of this USAID’s new five-year Joint Emergency Operation Program, in the presence of Your Excellency, we’d like to share our deep gratitude to the United States Government and the American people for their continued commitment in supporting our country’s address urgent humanitarian challenges which have affected the most vulnerable.  I acknowledge and sincerely appreciate that in 2022 alone, the U.S. provided more than 1.7 billion to respond to humanitarian needs driven by the crisis in northern Ethiopia and the civil drought in pastural areas in southern and southeast Ethiopia.  Recently we have also received an additional 271 million to scale up the humanitarian assistance to drought and the country’s affected communities.

I fully welcome your initiative today to support it further.  Excellency, I would like to take this opportunity to briefly highlight our recent achievement and key challenges.  As most of you know very well, the last two years have been a challenging period for our country due to internal as well as global factors.  Ethiopia, like the rest of the Horn of Africa, is confronted by multiple challenges.  Our rains have failed for the five consecutive seasons in pastoral areas – the current drought being the most extreme in 40 years.

Moreover, first, we had the problem with desert locusts, then COVID, and now the global food shortage has affected the lives – livelihoods and the economy.  There are presently over 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance while the conflict reconstruction needs are significant.  This is on top of sustaining and deepening our economic reform agenda.  This – all of the challenging environment has been exacerbated by the significant drop in external development assistance.  With your visit, we do fully believe that the development potential will be fully unlocked.

As Ethiopia emerges from the divisive conflict of the last two years, we are getting up efforts for recovery and for communities and the economy from (inaudible) effect of the conflict and other successive shocks.  The signing of the peace agreement on November 2, 2022 paved the way for a critical and inclusive recovery as well as for strengthening social cooperation among all Ethiopians.  Since its signing, we have expedited the delivery of humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict and the fully implemented restoration of basic services, utilities, banking, and other essential government services.  We have progressed well on the resettlement and demobilization of ex-combatants and have established the National Rehabilitation Commission to implement the integration program for the nearly 250,000 ex-combatants.  Here, I want to stress the criticality of timely reintegration of ex-combatants, which in turn we contribute to the peace consolidation.  We are also working on establishing of the interim regional government in Tigray until elections have been held.

We have begun implementing immediate recovery interventions primarily using our own resources and by support of the World Bank.  But we cannot do this alone as the financing need for the post-conflict reconstruction is substantial.  Conservatively estimated close to $20 billion is needed over the coming five years.  We need the support of our partners to meet this significant need to ensure that (inaudible) any development (inaudible) are passed, decades are not reversed, and the well-being of our cooperation is important.

Let me underscore Ethiopia’s determination to address underlying causes and drivers of fragilities through an inclusive national dialogue for which is essential to adequately address the grievances and the aspirations in our society and attain sustainable peace and democracy.  The recently established National Dialogue Commission is working towards that objective.  Mechanisms for transitional justice are also being set up to ensure justice and accountability to end perpetual acts of violence and advert impunity.

With regard to our reform agenda, Ethiopia remains committed to pursuing transformative economy reform to correct prevailing macro-economic imbalances, to remove obstacles to private sector development, and enhance productivity and job creation.  Despite the headwinds of historic proportions, we preserve it with implementation of our key reforms, including financial market revitalization, telecom sector revitalization, subsidy for enhancing agricultural productivity, and debt management.  We know that much more needs to be done, and we are ready to take bold actions on the most transformative reforms.

We are also working to address greening our economy.  We are applying various strategies, including expanding renewable energy generation through diverse sources, as well as green legacy initiatives led by the prime minister, to cite a few examples.  And we are already producing a lot of food in the country which is going to be vital for the future and currently.

Excellency, wide humanitarian assistance is essential to save lives and address the short-term needs.  Broader and long-term development, as you have mentioned, focuses critical for building our resilience and advancing our development aspirations and fostering inclusive and sustainable growth, and overall tackling the root cause of Ethiopia’s vulnerabilities.  Those conditions are key to sustain and consolidate development gains of recent years and to sustain peace and stability in the country.

As I conclude my remarks, let me reiterate my appreciation to the U.S. Government for their commitment to support Ethiopia during this challenging time, and I look forward to discussing and exchanging views on resuming and strengthening our longstanding partnership in trade, investment, full-fledge development assistance, and the cooperation (inaudible) shared goals, understanding, and mutual interest.  U.S. Secretary, we count on U.S. to leverage broader support to Ethiopia from all our bilateral (inaudible) development partners as we forge ahead with recovery, development, and sustaining and deepening our reform agenda.  I thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.

MR PATEL:  Thanks, everyone.

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/secretary-antony-j-blinken-and-ethiopian-minister-of-finance-ahmed-shide-following-tour-of-un-logistics-center-warehouse/