Secretary Michael R. Pompeo Remarks to the Press At a Press Availability, April 22, 2020

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. Happy Ramadan to those of you in time zones where it’s Thursday already.

I want to lead off with three commemorations.

First, we remember those slain in terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. That was one year ago yesterday.

Second, this week the administration honors the annual Holocaust Days of Remembrance. This is the 75th anniversary year of the liberation of many Nazi concentration camps where so many innocent people were murdered, including 6 million Jews. We bear witness to their stories so that such repugnant acts of evil will never happen again.

Third, it’s Earth Day, and especially in light of Secretary-General Guterres’ message released this morning to turn our recovery into a real opportunity to do the right thing, I want to remind everyone that the right way to achieve a greener, cleaner, brighter future for the world is to unleash private innovation and free market competition. It’s what we’ve done here in the United States but continue to be our model, and we are a world leader in reducing all types of emission.

One simple data point: From 2005 to 2018, the most recent year we have data, U.S. emissions decreased by more than 10 percent even as our economy grew by 25 percent. China, conversely, has been the largest annual emitter since 2006 and it expects that its emissions will continue to grow until around 2030, thus offsetting the progress of countries all around the world in reducing global emissions. I would urge Secretary Guterres to make sure we have the data right, the facts right about who is actually delivering on the things that we all value. And on Earth Day, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I think that’s especially important.

Turning to the World Health Organization, I want to spend a few minutes telling the American people a little bit more about the problems that we’re trying to work our way through.

The WHO has two primary functions. First, it’s a regulator and an advisory role, and a health emergency and humanitarian aid operation on top of that.

After the first SARS outbreak in 2003, the United States led the reform of the WHO, the WHO rules that govern how countries report on public health threats. So a major reform effort at 2003.

Those rules – they’re called the International Health Regulations – went into effect in 2007.

We set very clear expectations. We – the world – set very clear expectations for how every country must disclose data to protect global health.

For example, Article 6 of the IHR says that “each State Party shall notify the World Health Organization…within 24 hours…of all events which may constitute a public health emergency of international concern within its territory…”

Annex 2 of those same rules provides that countries must notify the World Health Organization of any unusual or unexpected public health events such as SARS, a close genetic cousin of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Those rules also said how countries should evaluate when to notify the WHO of diseases of unknown causes or sources.

We strongly believe that the Chinese Communist Party did not report the outbreak of the new coronavirus in a timely fashion to the World Health Organization.

Article 6 of the IHRs, which was a part of this reform, further mandates that a State Party – that would include China – “shall continue to communicate to WHO timely, accurate and sufficiently detailed public health information…” That is, there’s an ongoing obligation.

Even after the CCP did notify the WHO of the coronavirus outbreak, China didn’t share all of the information it had.

Instead, it covered up how dangerous the disease is. It didn’t report sustained human-to-human transmission for a month until it was in every province inside of China. It censored those who tried to warn the world, it ordered a halt to testing of new samples, and it destroyed existing samples.

The CCP still has not shared the virus sample from inside of China with the outside world, making it impossible to track the disease’s evolution.

Not making a legal determination here today on China’s adherence to the IHRs, but the World Health Organization’s regulatory arm clearly failed during this pandemic.

I’d also note that when countries adopted these new rules in 2007, we also gave the director-general of the WHO encouragement and the ability to go public when a member-country wasn’t following those rules, and that didn’t happen in this case either.

It’s why we continue to insist this is an ongoing requirement for transparency and openness according to the WHO rules, and the WHO has responsibility to continue to enforce them today. This transparency and getting it right is critical to saving lives today and in the future.

I’ll talk for just a minute about humanitarian aid. The United States is the most generous nation on the planet, has been for the past three years, will continue to be this year.

Thanks to the American taxpayers, we’ve dedicated more than $140 billion in global funding for global health purposes in the past two decades.

Today I can confirm the United States is making an additional commitment of about 270 million to assist the most at-risk countries in fighting the virus, bringing our total to more than $775 million to date.

We do this in lots of ways. We do this through multilateral organizations. We help our partners by sharing expertise. Today the CDC has officers stationed in 59 countries and has helped train thousands of epidemiologists worldwide over the years whose knowledge is providing incredibly valuable.

You should know it helps those countries, it saves lives in those countries, but this is a global pandemic and that work protects us right here at home in America as well.

Weeks before the first reported COVID case arrived in Guatemala, USAID helped the Ministry of Health there equip a key hospital to start caring for its first patients.

And the United States is training more than 70,000 pharmacists across Indonesia today so they can provide good advice and referrals.

American generosity isn’t limited to our assistance that comes directly from the United States Government. Our businesses, our NGOs, charities, all faith groups – this is an all-of-America approach to saving lives all across the world and protecting us right here at home as well.

We estimate that the American people, in cume, have given nearly $3 billion in donations and assistance just to fight this particular virus.

America’s global health commitments remain as steady as ever.

Move on to a couple final points. I want to highlight two ways in which the Chinese Communist Party is exploiting the world’s focus on COVID-19 crisis by continuing its provocative behavior.

First, we commented on what’s taking place in Hong Kong, where amidst increased efforts by Beijing to erode autonomy, law enforcement authorities have arrested pro-democracy activists, including 81-year-old Martin Lee. We’ve always said that China has an obligation to live up to its promises, its obligation – as I was speaking about the virus earlier – to live up to the rules that it put in place and it signed off on. We’d ask them to continue to do that here.

You’ve also seen that the Chinese Communist Party is exerting military pressure on Taiwan and coercing its neighbors in the South China Sea, even going so far as to have – so far as to sink a Vietnamese fishing vessel.

The United States strongly opposes China’s bullying; we hope other nations will hold them to account, too. Tonight I’ll be on a phone call cochaired by myself and my Laotian counterpart with every ASEAN member.

I want to note, too, that we are now well along in developing the implementing policies required by the law in the NDAA of 2019 prohibiting use of Huawei and other untrusted vendors in U.S. facilities.

Data that come into U.S. facilities will have to follow a Clean Path and reside and transit only through trusted systems. And we’ll provide full details on that before too long.

On Venezuela, as I’ve commented frequently from this podium, we’re continuing to apply pressure on the Maduro regime, all the while seeking to provide humanitarian assistance for the Venezuelan people.

As announced by the Department of Treasury yesterday, the general license which allowed certain companies to maintain operations – Venezuela, PDVSA – expires today.

The Treasury Department has announced a new, narrowly limited license for seven months which will allow companies that are operating there to begin their wind-down process.

And with that, I’m happy to take questions.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay, great. Nick.

QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan. Thanks, Mr. Secretary, for doing this. Let me try Iran and China, if you don’t mind. The IRGC today said that it launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time. Could that technology be used for ICBMs? And we’ve seen from Iran expanded nuclear capacity, Iraqi militia rocket attacks, harassing of a Navy ship in recent days. After the Soleimani strike, there was talk of reestablishing deterrence. Do you fear the deterrence has slipped?

And on China, there are millions of PPE items stuck in China despite the fact they’ve been bought by U.S. companies. Do you believe the PPE is stuck because of red tape, China trying to make sure the quality is high, or because China is actually hoarding them and keeping them from the U.S.? Thanks.

SECRETARY POMPEO: As for your second question, I’ll leave to the Vice President’s task force to talk about those goods and their transit. The good news is we have seen China provide those resources. Sometimes they’re from U.S. companies that are there in China, but we’ve had success. The Vice President and his team have talked about the air bridge that has delivered products to the American people from China, and we appreciate that. We are counting on China to continue to live up to its contractual obligations and international obligations to provide that assistance to us and to sell us those goods – often these are commercial transactions – in a way consistent with all of the international trade rules.

As for Iran, you noted the launch last night. The Iranians have consistently said that these missile programs were disconnected from their military, that these were purely commercial enterprises. I think today’s launch proves what we’ve been saying all along here in the United States: The IRGC, a designated terrorist organization, launched a missile today. And I’ll leave to the Department of Defense to talk about the details about that. But when you talk about the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, I think every nation has an obligation to go to the United Nations and evaluate whether this missile launch was consistent with that Security Council resolution. I don’t think it remotely is, and I need – I think Iran needs to be held accountable for what they’ve done. They’ve now had a military organization that the United States has designated terrorists attempt to launch a satellite.

You talked about the naval ships. You saw the President’s statement this morning. The President’s been very clear to the Department of Defense and frankly to the State Department team too to do everything we need to do to make sure that we protect and defend our officers, our military officers, our diplomats around the world, to continue to ensure that they are secure and safe. What he said this morning and what I know he’s told all of us in leadership inside the government is take whatever action is necessary to make sure that you can defend and keep our people safe. I’m confident that the Department of Defense will do that in response to what the President said this morning as well.

And then finally, you talked more broadly about deterrence. Two thoughts. First: The Iranian regime has gone around the world spreading disinformation in response to this virus. One of the things they’ve said is that, boy, we need resources in order to take care of the virus at home. And all the while they are launching satellites, driving ships around the Arabian Gulf, coming and harassing U.S. naval vessels. They continue to underwrite Shia militias, they’re working to support Hizballah. Yesterday my Iranian counterpart – or the day before – was in Syria talking to the butcher in Damascus.

I hope that the Iranian regime will respond to the Iranian people’s demands to prioritize resources, resources that the Iranian regime clearly has, to the health and security and safety of the Iranian people, rather than continuing their global terror campaign. You can see they’re still hard at it. You can see they still have resources. You should note, we, the – at the very first news that the COVID virus had hit Iran, offered humanitarian assistance to the people of Iran. That offer was rejected. That offer still stands. We’ve assisted other countries in delivering humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people. I only wish that the Iranian regime cared about its people as much as the rest of the world has demonstrated that it does.

MS ORTAGUS: Barbara.

QUESTION: Thank you. Mr. Secretary, we’re hearing that there is panic buying in North Korea at the moment. I was wondering if you have any reading about what’s going on there. And given the reports that Kim Jong-un is in very poor health, has the U.S. tried to reach out to Pyongyang for any information, and what was the response?

And then a broader question on China, if I may. How would you say that the Chinese behavior – this disinformation that you are talking about – what effect do you think that has on a long-term relationship with the U.S.? Do you think it will damage it significantly?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Barbara, thanks. I don’t have anything to add on North Korea. As the President said last evening I think it was, we’re watching closely what’s taking place there. But I don’t have anything to add.

As for China, nations that desire to be part of the global landscape have obligations for truthful information – they have obligations to share and be transparent and open. That’s our expectation for every country. What I think – I think you were referring to was you called it disinformation. Seeking to transfer responsibility or to deny access to the world so that the world can figure out what’s going on – you have to remember, these labs are still open inside of China, these labs that contain complex pathogens that were being studied. It’s not just the Wuhan Institute of Virology. There are multiple labs inside of China that are handling these things. It’s important that those materials are being handled in a safe and secure way such that there isn’t accidental release.

We have an elaborate regime inside the United States to do that. Many countries do it as well. We have lots of regimes where – I’ll give you an example in the nuclear context, where the world inspects sites so that we can ensure that there’s proper handling. The United States spends a lot of money training others to help them handle nuclear materials in an appropriate way. We have to make sure that the Chinese Government is handling those materials in an appropriate way not only in the Wuhan Institute of Virology but elsewhere. So this is an ongoing obligation that the Chinese Government has as well as an ongoing obligation of the World Health Organization that has responsibility for compliance with the rules.

I hope I didn’t bore you with them, but they’re important to understand that there are a set of global regulations that the Chinese Communist Party signed up for. These aren’t American rules we apply, these are rules that the Chinese Government signed up for, and the World Health Organization has a continuing obligation – not just one from back in December but a continuing obligation to make sure that those rules are being complied with today in a way that protects us not only from the ongoing pandemic but a future one as well.


QUESTION: Thank you so much. Mr. Secretary —


QUESTION: — first, have you delivered the President’s warning to Iran directly? And second, do you – are you concerned that the oil price will have an effect on the security and stability of the Gulf states and your partners in the region?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I never comment on communications, internal communications between myself and private – between myself and my counterparts. So I don’t have any comment on your first question.

On your second one, the President has been incredibly focused on trying to create a more stable energy market in light of the enormous decrease in demand, right. You’ve seen crude oil demand fall somewhere between 20 and 35 percent over the past several weeks, and you’ve seen the price impacts that have resulted from that, right. You had the front futures contract trading for negative $37 for a few hours a couple days back now. What the President did a couple of weekends ago and the work that he’s engaged in today are twofold: one, to do everything we can to ensure that we preserve America’s capacity to deliver on its energy resources here; and second, to work to try and create stability in the energy markets so that you get price signals that are consistent with real demand, and that also means getting the global economy cranked back up again. A key element that will have the most significant impact on those price issues, on those supply chain issues in the energy industry is getting the world back going and getting demand back to the levels we had back in October, November, and December of 2019.

Here in the United States we had one of the most robust economies that the United States has ever had. When we get back to those levels and the world gets back to those levels, those governments that depend for a significant amount of their revenue – for their national GDP on oil will be in a better place than they are today. There’s real risk. With low prices and low volumes of demand, those countries are really going to face financial challenges, and we’ve been in conversation with many of them about how we can bridge that gap collectively.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Rich, how are you?

QUESTION: Good, how are you?


QUESTION: Given its failure to notify the WHO in a timely manner, do you think that the Chinese Government owes countries or individuals compensation? And also, just as you’d spoken about the multiple labs within China, what’s your assessment of China’s handling of these dangerous materials? Do you think that they do a sufficient enough job of it?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So I’m going to leave the accountability piece of this for another day in terms of what we do to assign accountability and how we hold other nations accountable, other than to say is that the rules set – the WHO rules set itself contemplates nations complying with their obligations, and it gives the director general of the WHO enormous authority with respect to nations that do not comply, and we expect every country who signs up for the International Health Regulations and the leadership of the WHO to then enforce them. And so we’re counting on that. We’re now counting on that not only retrospectively, but that that continue today.

What’s the second question, Rich?

QUESTION: You mentioned multiple labs within China.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I’m not going to comment on that. What I will say is it’s always easier to know the answer to your question about whether these labs are in compliance not only with the regulations but if they’re handling this material in a way that is adequate, safe, and secure, if the world can have access to those places, if they will share that information openly and transparently and in spite – the President said this – we tried to get in to take a look at what was going on early on in this, to come in alongside the World Health Organization early on; it would have been back in January if I remember correctly. We still do not have a sample of the virus nor has the world had access to the facilities or other locations where this virus may have originated inside of Wuhan.


QUESTION: Thank you, Morgan. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Sir, a new Israeli Government was formed, a unity government between Mr. Netanyahu and General Gantz, and they vowed to begin annexing parts of the West Bank on the 1st of July. I wonder if you would have a comment on that.

Also on the aid you released recently, you released $5 million to the Palestinian Authority[1], to fight COVID-19. Are they – they need a lot more. So will there be any more aid in the pipeline? Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Two good questions. On the first one – on the second one, we are happy to provide that $5 million of assistance and we hope that it’ll get to the right place. Our concern with having provided assistance, the reason we stopped providing assistance previously was that this – these resources weren’t getting to the place they needed to, to the Palestinian people. We hope that this money, this $5 million will get where it needs to go to provide real assistance to the Palestinian people who, to your point and I agree with, are going to need a lot of help as they move through this. We’ll evaluate whether this $5 million both worked, delivered, and second, if there’s more resources that are both either appropriate or can be delivered in a way that actually gets to the Palestinian people.

Your first question was about the election.

QUESTION: The government.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We’re happy with the – a new government’s formed. A fourth election, we think, wouldn’t have been in Israel’s best interest, but we’ll leave that to them. We think it’s not in the world’s best interest. We’re glad that there is a now fully formed government in Israel.

As for the annexation in the West Bank, the Israelis will ultimately make those decisions. Those are – that’s an Israeli decision, and we will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in a private setting.

MS ORTAGUS: I need to get the Secretary to his next meeting, but we still have two special guests to continue this briefing so —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Great. Thank you all. Thanks for being with me. Everybody have a good morning.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. So we’re going to have John Barsa first, and then Jim Richardson, and then we’ll go right to Q&A again. So, John.

MR BARSA: Good morning. Thank you for having us here today. For those of you who I have not yet met, my name is John Barsa. I am the new acting administrator at USAID, and I’m deeply honored to have been chosen for this position. I would like to thank President Trump for the support and confidence he’s placed in me with this charge. I look forward to working with him, Vice President Pence, Secretary Pompeo, and other leaders throughout the interagency as we lead one of the finest workforces in the U.S. Government today.

We are here to discuss how the United States continues to demonstrate global leadership and help countries around the world fight the COVID-19 pandemic. With the $2.7 billion in emergency supplemental funding Congress has provided, USAID is working with the State Department and the CDC to provide assistance that strengthens health systems, meets emergency humanitarian needs, and mitigates the economic impact of the virus’s spread.

With the Secretary’s announcement today, we have contributed a total of more than $775 million across more than 100 countries facing the threat of this global pandemic. Here’s a little bit more detail for you on the specific pots of money that this announcement encompasses. It includes nearly $103 million from the Economic Support Fund account, which nongovernmental organizations will use to implement a variety of interventions to support communities and countries. We’ll also be committing $100 million in humanitarian assistance from USAID’s International Disaster Assistance Account to help meet urgent, lifesaving needs in crisis-affected areas, and $667[2] million in migration and refugee assistance to support displaced populations, which remain the most vulnerable populations to this pandemic.

In every corner of the globe, the United States is lending a helping hand to countries that need it the most. Many of these countries are places where we regularly provide assistance. Our expanded presence in other countries demonstrate the extraordinary nature of this crisis.

For example, on April 11th the United States, through USAID, committed critically needed assistance to Italy to mitigate the overwhelming disruption the pandemic has had on the delivery of health care in communities and to help stabilize the country’s economic situation. This assistance will help improve Italian citizens’ access to essential health care during the current pandemic and support Italy’s recovery.

In this latest round of funding, State and USAID will provide COVID-19 assistance to some countries for the first time since the outbreak began. These countries include Algeria, Belize, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Bulgaria, the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, El Salvador, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Jordan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Montenegro, Morocco, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Lesotho, Liberia, Panama, Namibia, Niger, Romania, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Uganda, the West Bank, and Yemen.

MS ORTAGUS: Well done.

MR BARSA: It was a quick list. Now, did you all memorize it? (Laughter.) As you know, we work through international organizations and NGOs in many of these countries to reach people in need, and as you can see from the list of countries I mentioned, the kind of places where we are responding is, of course, varied. To make sure our assistance is as impactful as possible, the support we provide is tailored to each country’s capacity and needs. Our toolkit of support includes investments that improve case management, disease surveillance, and public health screening. It strengthens infection prevention and control of medical facilities, bolsters laboratory capacity, scale of communications campaigns to raise awareness, expand access to water and sanitation, and more.

America remains the leader in global health and humanitarian assistance. Through unmatched generosity, the American people have saved countless lives, protected those people who are most vulnerable to disease, built health infrastructure, and promoted the stability of communities and nations. America has always led the world through times of strife, turmoil, and uncertainty, and this pandemic is no different.

Lastly, I want to highlight President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary Pompeo for their extraordinary leadership on the world state throughout this crisis. This all-star team and the rest of the Trump administration is working around the clock to stem the spread of virus at home and abroad, and they deserve our recognition. So thank you very much.


MR RICHARDSON: Thank you, Morgan. I’m Jim Richardson, and I’m the director of foreign assistance here at the Department of State. First of all, I want to acknowledge the leadership, as John just did, of the President and the Vice President and of the Secretary, and really our talented teams both at State and USAID around the world, as we work together to defeat COVID-19. To put it simply, pandemics like COVID-19 do not respect national borders, and so that our response, our USG response, can’t either.

Through decades of U.S. global leadership in health and humanitarian assistance, we know that the smart and strategic investments are critical to our primary mission of maintaining the health and safety of the American people. We can and must actually fight the pandemic both here and overseas. It’s not a zero-sum game; it actually builds on each other.

Through the American people’s generosity, the State Department of the United States continues to demonstrate global leadership in the face of this pandemic. In fact – this fact is underscored by what the Secretary just announced of an additional $270 million for humanitarian and economic security assistance, bringing our total to 775 million spread over 100 countries worldwide, nearly all of them John just mentioned. So we’ll implement this funding around – through a strategic, all-of-America approach to ensure that this world is safe from infectious diseases, both today and also in the future.

When it comes to our investments thus far, let me address a couple hot-button topics that I’m sure you will ask me about. First of all, let’s talk about Italy. We’ve provided $50 million in economic support to Italy, one of our closest allies and friends who has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID. These funds will help support the recovery of the Italian economy, they – and support international organizations and NGOs, including many faith-based organizations, many of which are already on the ground saving lives.

Second, the United States is also providing $5 million to the Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank and Gaza to battle the pandemic. The United States welcomes the ongoing cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to address the COVID-19 crisis and Israel’s facilitation of goods and equipment to the West Bank and Gaza in support of this effort.

Third, I want to talk about the Northern Triangle – El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras. We’re providing $7 million to help address this outbreak. This comes on top of what the President and the Secretary have announced of $258 million in targeted foreign assistance for these three – for these three countries. These funds will benefit both the United States and our important allies. By targeting economic assistance to regions with high outflow migration, we can help keep people at their – at home while supporting and deterring illegal immigration to the United States.

As you’re aware, well aware, the United States – or last week the President announced that we are pausing for the next 60 to 90 days funding for the World Health Organization while we examine the failures to the response. First and foremost, this pause will not impact our commitment to fight COVID around the world. We are focused on outcomes, and as such we are working with other partners around the world, including community and faith-based organizations, to get the job done.

To put it in perspective, as the Secretary, I believe, mentioned, the WHO only receives about 4 percent of U.S. global assistance – global health assistance every year. There are plenty of amazing and highly qualified organizations implementing these programs around the world, and to be honest, no organization – or country for that matter – is owed a single nickel from the American people. We provide assistance out of generosity and U.S. national interest. At the very least, the American people should demand that every organization we fund – every NGO, every contractor, and every multilateral – is transparent, accountable, and results-oriented, and that’s what this President’s review will do.

To the – at the end of the day this should be about saving lives, not about saving a bureaucracy. For more than half a century, the United States has been the largest contributor to global health security. We have built the foundations upon which the global health system is based, contributing over $140 billion in this century alone. In the face of COVID-19, our global leadership will continue and is once again underscored by what the Secretary has announced. And with that, we’ll be available for questions.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay. Let’s – you haven’t asked one yet, right? Okay, go ahead. And CBS, if you have one, I think you, too, haven’t gone yet, right? Okay.

QUESTION: Okay, so I don’t know who this goes to, but I’ll throw the question out and you guys can decide. So with regard to the pause on the World Health Organization funding, what will determine if they get that funding or not, and who is actually leading the review of that funding right now?

MR RICHARDSON: Go ahead, John.

MR BARSA: In terms of what the President said – so it’s a 60- to 90-day pause. I think there are multiple elements within government who will be looking at the review. I’m not going to – we have nothing to announce today in terms of the internal review processes, how it’s going to work out. Know that others who interact with World Health Organization are contributing to the review process.

QUESTION: Okay, but what is the review looking for? What does the World Health Organization have to do in order to secure its funding?

MR BARSA: As the President stated, and the Secretary stated this morning, there’s numerous questions in terms of the management of the World Health Organization, how they have been operating and holding member states accountable in their actions. So the review is going to be all-encompassing, getting to all manners of management and operation questions.

QUESTION: And one thing that the Secretary said was that the World Health Organization has not highlighted the fact that the CCP didn’t reveal what it knew about the coronavirus pandemic when it knew it. If the WHO does that, is that something that you guys are looking for?

MR BARSA: I’m not going to comment on any interim findings or discussions. I just – I’ll have to say we’ll have to wait till the final review is done.

MS ORTAGUS: You want to add anything?

MR RICHARDSON: Nope, sounds good.


QUESTION: I had a question about the cooperation with vaccine development.



MR RICHARDSON: It’s probably —

MR BARSA: Vaccine development. Go on.

MS ORTAGUS: Go ahead, ask your question.

QUESTION: Considering that several countries are working on a vaccination, and given that the funding has been halted to WHO, does that mean this will affect at all cooperation between WHO countries on sharing information about a vaccine, depending on who comes up with one first? Or will the U.S. step in to help facilitate cooperation on a vaccination?

MR BARSA: Okay. Couple things to think about. First, let’s talk a little bit about scale. As the Secretary and Jim mentioned, over the last two decades the United States has contributed over $140 billion dollars in health work. In 2018, the last year that I actually have actual figures, it needs to be noted that only 4 percent of U.S. funds went to the World Health Organization. Ninety-six percent of our funds went to other organizations. So during this pause, what USAID and other entities are doing – we’re looking for alternate partners to carry out the important work. So be it vaccines, polio, or any number of health issues, by no means are we pausing our efforts to eradicate polio or come up with vaccines. We’re going with existing programs outside of the World Health Organization, and we’re looking for different partners.


QUESTION: Just some clarification on that. So first of all, you are – I was wondering if there might be a carveout for certain WHO programs like polio, but you’re saying no, there isn’t, you’re going to find somebody else to do the polio – or to do those programs that you’re committed to?

And then I just have a few other questions as well, if – do you want to answer that one first?

MR BARSA: Okay, so I’ll start with that one. So even before the onset of this pandemic, USAID was working, piloting a new partnership initiative to look for other regional community-based partners outside of the normal menu of people we work with. I look forward to next week expanding the new partnership initiative in a more formal manner, but what we’re doing right now is we’re looking for different partners right now in terms of – working polio or any number of health issues, are there other entities, local community-based entities, faith-based organizations, are there other groups that can continue on this work. So part of the assessment that is taking place during this 60-to-90-day pause is to evaluate the availability of new partners to carry out this work.

So know that the questions you ask in terms of are there other partners for whatever program of interest, that’s part of the assessment. So we’re evaluating that now. I have people in our missions and our Global Health Bureau. We’re looking for new partners right now. It’s good government.

QUESTION: And just to —

MS ORTAGUS: I want to get to everybody, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Just a quick – one quick follow-up.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay, one more (inaudible).

QUESTION: There’s a fair bit of U.S. expertise at the WHO, so you’ve had health experts there – you still have health experts there. Is that cooperation going to be cut off as well? Are you sort of cutting off the WHO not just in terms of funds, but also in coordination and cooperation?

MR BARSA: So part of your question is getting at to the end point of an assessment. We cannot tell you what decision is going to be made at the end of the assessment. During this assessment that the President announced, 60 to 90 days, we’re going to look at all aspects of operations in World Health Organizations. So some of the questions you pose are the questions we ourselves are going to be asking in terms of capabilities during this pause period.

MS ORTAGUS: (Inaudible.)

MR RICHARDSON: Yeah, let me just – so the way I would say it is that the pause is about new decisions to provide assistance through the WHO. There is a lot of existing contracts that we’ve already essentially sent the check to pay for individuals, and we’re not asking for refunds at this point. In terms of exemptions or those types of things, the President said we’re pausing all assistance for 60 to 90 days. If the President has a subsequent announcement, we’ll leave that to him to make that about target assistance.

MS ORTAGUS: Nick, go ahead.

QUESTION: So on the partners, just to be clear, as you examine the partners, are you taking the money that would have been going to the WHO over the next two to three months and plan to transfer them, transfer that funds to partners? Or are you withholding the money so that you possibly could still give it to the WHO depending on reforms? And if I could zoom in on IHRs, let me ask – let me have you answer that first and then we —

MR BARSA: Okay. So as the Secretary stated, in the aggregate, we have committed over $775 million just on the pandemic alone. So when we’re looking for new partners, we’re looking for partners who can execute the funds in these countries for their specific needs. So it can’t be a cookie cutter approach. So a solution for a challenge in one country is not the same as a solution in another country. So we’re looking at ways to address the challenges individually with the funds that are being announced.

QUESTION: Right, but does that mean that the money that would have gone to the WHO will instead go to partners? Or is the money for the WHO being held back and possibly could still go to the WHO in the future?

MR BARSA: It – again, it’s a pause in new funding. As Director Richardson announced, money that has been given to WHO already is not being taken back, so some of those contracts and existing work is continuing.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on the international —

MS ORTAGUS: Do you have anything to – (inaudible).

MR RICHARDSON: Yeah, let me just – yeah, so at the end of the day, this pandemic can’t wait for the review. So our assistance to countries around the world is going to move forward. We will absolutely use the best – every time that we make a decision to provide assistance to any country around the world, we have to make a choice: Do we use a multilateral organization? Do we use an NGO? Do we use a faith-based organization? Do we use a contractor? And that’s really what the expertise of USAID does, to – looks at the whole what – how are we going to get the best results in this circumstance.

And so for every contract or every dollar flowing today, we’re just taking WHO off the table and we’re going to provide that assistance to these other organizations in order to get the job done. Our system simply can’t wait. That said, we’re going to have a lot of global health resources in response to this pandemic over the coming years. Congress has already provided an additional $2 billion, and so we’ll look forward to continuing to make more announcements about funding over the next several months.

QUESTION: And then quickly on the IHRs, on the International Health Regulations, as I understand them, there is no real enforcement mechanism. I know the Secretary talked specifically about the leadership being able to enforce them, but is one of the reforms that you’re asking for to increase the enforcement mechanism, or do you believe that enforcement mechanism is already there, and therefore this is a true failure not of regulation, but of the leadership?

MR BARSA: Well, again, we’ll have to get back to you with the details on that. Again, so we’re – I’m not going to prejudge the outcome of any assessment.

MS ORTAGUS: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: A quick question.


QUESTION: Is the money dispensed to the West Bank and to the hospitals – does it go directly there? Because I think USAID is not operating in the West Bank anymore.

MR RICHARDSON: No, so we mostly – we use implementing partners around the world. As I said, we use contractors, NGOs, multilateral organizations to actually be our hands and feet in most places around the world. So we’ll be announcing the actual implementing partner here in the next couple days.

MS ORTAGUS: Anybody else? Rich?

QUESTION: Just following up on what the Secretary had to say about the – and a bit what Nick was talking about – the director general of WHO has an enormous power available to him to enforce those who violate regulations. What is available to him?

MR BARSA: Well, as the Secretary stated, there are certain mechanisms which oblige member-states to comply with agreements beforehand. So part of our review is to see what authorities did WHO leadership have. Did they execute the authorities and keep compliance? So the question you’re asking gets exactly to the heart of what our review – is the management of the World Health Organization running it the way it should be run?

MS ORTAGUS: And just to follow up on both of your and Nick questions, I think the best thing for us to do is to get a briefing probably with Ambassador Bremberg or someone from IO, so we’ll get that – I know you were wanting that, Nick, so we’ll go ahead and get that scheduled, and I think we could through a little bit more detail through Andrew or through IO. Okay?

QUESTION: Can I ask John one more question?

MS ORTAGUS: Sure. Then we’ve got to – I just blew off my next meeting, so go ahead.

QUESTION: So – thank you. So you talk about a lot more work that USAID is going to have to do to identify new partners. So how – do you have the capacity to do that? Has USAID had to hire new people? What does your team look like?

MR BARSA: No, again, so before the onset of the pandemic, we already knew good government was to diversify the base of implementing partners that we’re working with. So under the leadership of Mark Green, who was administrator at the time, we started a pilot program called the New Partnership Initiative. So we started out in 14 missions. So we already knew the good government solution was to not depend on just a few implementers and partners, so what we are doing is that we’ve been already working with our workforce. We’ve gotten to pilot – the pilot program has been very successful, so next week I’ll be signing an order expanding that pilot to all of our missions worldwide. This is something that was going to occur regardless of the pandemic.

So with the pandemic coming on here, we’re already starting to work with new partners. That does not necessitate new contracting staff either in DC or the missions, but what we’ve been doing is providing guidance to our contracting staff to look and consider other partners. Are there other NGOs, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations which are localized in the country that have more permanence? So this was going to go on regardless of the implementing – regardless of the onset of the pandemic, so we’re just fortunate that we’ve already been thinking along these lines and are able to execute now without any additional investment in staff or personnel.

MS ORTAGUS: Thanks so much, guys.