Thursday, August 3rd 2023 – 16:48
In an exclusive interview with Les Dépêches de Brazzaville, Ambassador Eugene Young offered an update on relations between the United States and the Republic of Congo. He described actions undertaken by the United States government in support of Congolese government initiatives in various fields, including environmental preservation, biodiversity, and response to natural disasters.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville: Mr. Ambassador, you are more than a year into your mandate. What is your appreciation of relations between the Republic of Congo and your country?
Eugene S. Young: Partnership, growth, and continued engagement is how I would characterize the relationship between our two countries. Over the last sixteen months we have had extensive high-level engagement between U.S and Congo government officials on issues of mutual interest, including environmental protection and the fight against climate change, regional security, and youth empowerment.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : How is the Embassy supporting the environment in Congo?
Eugene S. Young: The United States is the largest donor to environmental protection and conservation in the Congo Basin having provided $ 760 million over the past 30 years through multiple U.S. government agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development.In the Republic of Congo, we invested 140 million for protected areas and sustainable forest management. We launched three new programs in this sector over the last year valued at around $23 million for five years. The United States has been engaged with the establishment and development of Nouabale-Ndoki national park for more than25 years. Our programs increase capacity and opportunities for local workers, contribute to the local economy, protect endangered animals, and help conserve Congo’s precious natural resources. All these programs have a people-centered approach to conservation, meaning that our programs also seek to improve the livelihoods of people in general and rural communities and Indigenous people. In The Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park for example, about 90% of households work for the park and they receive revenue from the implementing partner funded by the U.S. Government, the Wildlife Conservation Society.
Our embassy team has been able to visit Nouabalé-Ndoki national park, where the U.S. government has invested over 105 million dollars to date. I recently had the chance to visit Odzala-Kokoua national park where we also support conservation activities conducted by African Parks. I know that the Congolese government is eager to increase responsible tourism to its unique forests, something the U.S. government stands ready to assist with.
The President of the Republic of the Congo considers protection of the environment a key priority for the future of the country and the planet, and we continue to support the government in the preservation of this essential ecosystem that plays a key role for the world in the global fight against climate change. We therefore work with local civil society organizations and communities to develop and scale their green business activities. We support these organizations through a small grants program to improve their green business activities in five priority value chains: cocoa, cassava, forest fruits, fishery and ecotourism.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : When you took up your post as US Ambassador, you must have set yourself a number of objectives for your term of office. Can you tell us about your government’s priorities for the Congo?
Eugene S. Young : Our goals are align with our U.S.-Congolese shared objectives. Here in Congo, aside from working together on climate change and regional security, we are focused several other areas, including humanitarian assistance, capacity building and youth development. We stand ready to support the Congolese government and people when there are natural disasters and we strive to increase national capacity through educational opportunities, training, and knowledge sharing across all of our priority sectors. That includes support for English language learning to improve the quantity and quality of speakers of this critical world language.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : Your country is very active in the humanitarian assistance field, particularly with regard to populations affected by flooding in the northern part of the Congo. What is your assessment of these interventions?
Eugene S. Young : The U.S. government has donated over $15 million to support humanitarian efforts in the Republic of Congo over the last three years. The United States provided approximately $5.7 million of funding in 2022 to the UN World Food Program (WFP), in response to serious flooding, enabling them to carry out critical food assistance programs in the Republic of Congo. In 2022, using U.S. government support, WFP supported more than 12,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) in Likouala and asylum seekers from DRC in Plateaux. They reached more than 10,600 people affected by flooding in the Cuvette, Likouala, Plateaux, and Sangha regions through cash-based assistance that enables them to meet basic food needs. Our partner organizations Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Congo aided more than 15,700 flood-affected people between October and December 2022. Additionally, emergency funding amounting to $480 000 for this year will support over 6,000 people heavily affected by the flooding in Les Plateaux. The United States remains the biggest donor of bilateral and multilateral aid to the Republic of the Congo.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : Apart from the humanitarian aspect, are there any other sectors in which the US government intends to support the Congo as it moves towards economic diversification, sustainable development and the fight against poverty?
Eugene S. Young : Much of the multilateral assistance – across the education, public finance, health, agriculture sectors — provided to Congo to support its economic development is financed by the U.S. government. As the government and business community in Congo seek to improve the business climate, the United States government and its private sector are also interested in supporting and encouraging any progress that can be made. The United States is the world’s largest investor in the World Bank, IMF, regional development banks, and the UN agencies. At the same time, private Americans are the most generous providers of assistance in the world. President Biden and Vice President Harris have reaffirmed America’s leadership in supporting the peaceful and open development of Africa and the world.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : Lately, we’ve been feeling the American offensive in Africa. Can we speak of an awakening to the challenges posed by global governance and the multilateralism advocated by the BRICS countries?
Eugene S. Young : The relationship between the U.S. and Africa has never been stronger than it is today. President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Secretary of State Blinken have prioritized the relationship with Africa in significant ways that go beyond the long standing and traditional support for economic development. President Biden seeks a new level of partnership with Africa in announcing United States support for African Union membership in the G20 and a permanent seat for Africa on the United Nations Security Council. The recent U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit provided an opportunity for our leaders to redefine shared interests and find common challenges to tackle. As Secretary Blinken said: “There is so much more for African nations and the United States to do together across so many fields, including some we may not even have discovered yet. As partners, that horizon is ours to make.”
Our challenges are many, but we will indeed tackle them together. As an example, many African nations are experiencing food security challenges due to the climate crisis and other factors. We can see here in Congo that the negative effects of global warming are already affecting the continent in an unprecedented fashion. Not only are there critical food shortages but changing weather patterns have led to the increase in devastating flooding over the past few years.
This year, the United States has provided $6.6 billion in humanitarian and food assistance to African countries. Feed the Future, which works to develop agriculture, will invest $11 billion over five years in 20 countries,including 16 countries in Africa. Maybe some of your readers are familiar with the U.S. funded School Canteen feeding program implemented by WFP and supported by other partners like Japan. The program has received $93 million since the inception of the program and feeds 650,000 needy children in 354 schools daily across the country.
The world is still recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which severely disrupted the connective tissue of international economic relations. . My country and international partners have so far provided nearly 174 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 44 countries in Africa, close to 1,300,000 of which came from the United States to right here in Congo. U.S. partnerships with African nations are building health systems and training health workers to better withstand future crises and support sustainable development.
Security cooperation is also a highlight, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic, an ocean our two countries share. The recent OBANGAME express military exercises which took place in Pointe Noire and last September’s visit of the U.S. naval ship, the Herschel “Woody” Williams, highlighted the strong person-to-person partnership between our militaries. Working together with the Congolese Armed Forces and its leadership, we are seeking new training and exercise opportunities in Africa and increased engagement at the highest level between our senior military leaders.
Les Dépêches de Brazzaville : What are the main axes of cooperation in which your country wishes to boost and further develop its partnership with the Congo?
Eugene S. Young : We are strong partners on regional security. I mentioned already our security cooperation, but our governments also engage on international issues. We count the Congo as a valued partner adding its voice to issues discussed at the United Nations, decisions which will lay the foundation for our future. President Denis Sassou N’Guesso is a trusted and important voice on regional issues and in Libya, and his efforts through the African Union to help reconciliation efforts there with the United States Special Envoy for Libya, Ambassador Norland, have been crucial. Secretary Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State Sherman, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Thomas Greenfield, Special Envoy for Climate Kerry have all sought the counsel of President Sassou N’Guesso as well as Foreign Minister Gakosso on issues of common interest to both countries.
We are also strong partners on the environment. President Sassou and President Biden share a deep concern for the climate crisis and have pledged to take decisive steps towards limiting global warming and deforestation. Safeguarding the Congolese tropical forest, one of the world’s most important oxygen sources, is of the utmost importance to the future of our planet. I look forward to U.S. participation in the Sommet de Trois Bassins which will take place here in later this year.
The histories of our two countries are deeply intertwined through the horror of slavery and the modern linkages between the United States and Africa. There are likely millions of Americans today who are the descendants of those forced to leave for the United States from the Bay of Loango. And because of that tragedy and the enormous contribution of African Americans to the United States, all Americans are connected with African and Congolese culture to this day. I continue to seek ways that we can amplify and share our common history and within the United States and Congo so that we never forget what the victims of slavery endured and always remember the contributions they and their ancestors made.