POMED Notes: “SFRC Nomination Hearing”
The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held an open nomination hearing to confirm the appointments of Mara E. Rudman, to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development for the Middle East, and Robert Patterson, to be Ambassador to Turkmenistan. Senator Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-PA) presided over the nomination hearing.
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Senator Casey began the hearing by highlighting the fact that the United States has not had an ambassador for nearly 5 years in Turkmenistan and that “the human rights situation remains of serious concern.” Sen. Casey stated that just last week Turkmen authorities imprisoned a Radio Free Europe reporter in a psychiatric facility for criticizing a local government official. He asserted that the United States must work to advance our interests and our values in Turkmenistan. In regards to the Middle East, Sen. Casey stated that the region is experiencing a “change of dramatic proportion”, but even this was “indeed an understatement.” He went on to state that USAID will be essential in providing support for democratic transitions and economic reform in the region. In this new environment USAID will need to be more “agile and responsive” to the citizens in places like Egypt and Tunisia, Sen. Casey added. In closing, Sen. Casey stated that USAID’s tools and support will be necessary to promote a democratic Libya, Egypt, and nations across the region as well as to prevent the progress of revolutions from being compromised by poor economic performance.
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) stated during the hearing that no one is more qualified to take this position other than Maura Rudman, because her experience in legislative, executive, and private sector positions have specially equipped her for this appointment.
Mr. Patterson began his testimony by stating that Turkmenistan faces many challenges in supporting democratic institutions and fighting corruption. He argued that the continued instability in Afghanistan places a crucial role in Turkmenistan policy, which they have sought to work on by providing electricity, infrastructure, and hospitals. Mr. Patterson stated that recent events have demonstrated respect for human rights and the rule of law are necessary for the “longevity of the government.” Upon approval, Mr. Patterson stated that he would seek to work on the issue of human rights with the Government of Turkmenistan.
Ms. Rudman stated: “It is difficult to conceive of a more challenging time to be considered for this portfolio. In country after country the people of the region have, in a word, inspired.” She asserted that she would work to ensure that the best and most innovative initiatives are implemented and developed efficiently in the region. She argued that she seeks to use development, diplomacy and defense as essential foundations for USAID policy in the Middle East.
When Sen. Casey asked how Ms. Rudman would address policy in the region, she stated that USAID has been going through a significant region wide and country by country review and has shown a significant degree of responsibility and flexibility. She also stated that there is a need to approach this process country by country and as well as within a regional security and strategic approach. Sen. Casey asked if Ms. Rudman thought that USAID and U.S. Government policy would shift following the ascendency of Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Government. Ms. Rudman responded by saying that the government is still being formed and that USAID is in the process of reviewing its policy on assistance closely. She also stated that the USAID portfolio has had a significant impact on low income areas as well as in civil society in Lebanon.
When asked about USAID’s policy in the Palestinian Authority, Ms. Rudman stated that USAID’s work in state building in Palestine has led to tangible successes. She stated that the U.S. has key interest in education, health, water security, road development and infrastructure work within the Palestinian Authority. She also stated that the development side of USAID’s work in the Palestinian Authority can ultimately not succeed without peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
Sen. Casey asked what effects substantial high level changes in Yemen’s government along with the recent uprisings will have on implementation of USAID work in Yemen. Ms. Rudman stated that USAID has been analyzing their work in Yemen and have continued to analyze their work, but that even if President Saleh were to leave there is still work at other levels of government that would benefit from USAID’s efforts.