U.S. Ambassador Virginia Palmer at the Closing Ceremony of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies Seminar

Remarks by Ambassador Virginia Palmer ACSS Closing Ceremony Bingu International Conference Center

Lilongwe, Malawi

Friday, June 23, 2017, 4:30-5:30pm

  • Malawi Defense Force Commander, General Griffin Supuni Phiri;
  • ACSS Dean of Academic Affairs and Course Director, Dr. Raymond Gilpin;
  • ACSS Professor of Practice and Deputy Course Director, Dr. Luka Kuol;
  • Our African partner general officers;
  • Our African partner delegates;
  • Our Economic Community delegates;
  • Members of the press;
  • Distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to be here today to celebrate the conclusion of this Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Seminar on “Managing Security Resources in Africa.”  Over these past few days this group has debated some of the most important topics weighing on African security leaders today.

Before I begin my formal remarks, I’d like to thank the planning teams from the ACSS, the Malawi Defense Force (MDF), and the U.S. Embassy for their excellent preparation and execution of this event.  Thank you for all your hard work – and a special “zikomo kwambiri” to our wonderful Malawian hosts for making all the participants feel so especially welcome here in the “warm heart of Africa.”  Once again, Malawi – and the MDF in particular – has distinguished itself as a leader in the region.

I’d like to speak a bit about the importance of the ACSS and what it brings to the people and institutions in Africa.    Through organizing courses and seminars in Washington and across Africa, such as this one, ACSS provides a forum in which civilian, uniformed, and civil society actors can work together to organize effective responses to challenges in their home countries, bringing African solutions to African problems.  Since its creation in 1999, ACSS alumni include 9 heads of state, more than 200 cabinet ministers and ambassadors, and several military commanders.  My good friend, MDF Commander General Griffin “Spoon” Phiri, counts himself among that select group!

To help you all better understand the importance of gatherings and trainings like this one, I’d like to provide a real-life example involving Malawi.  During the 2016 Southern Accord Exercise, held here in Malawi involving more than 250 participants from 10 African nations, the Netherlands, UK, and the United States, I witnessed first-hand how the military and civilian authorities can work together to develop and implement solutions to security problems; in that case disaster planning and response.

That training proved incredibly timely as just a few months after the Southern Accord Exercise, Malawi experienced devastating flooding. Using lessons learned at the Southern Accord, the MDF was able to limit the damage and loss of life by pre-positioning soldiers and helicopters in areas prone to flooding.  In one dramatic rescue caught on video, a MDF helicopter rescued two men from a swollen river.  With the assistance of organizations such as the Red Cross, Malawian agencies organized evacuation centers across the country for displaced persons.  In several regions across Malawi, government and non-governmental agencies joined together to aid people in need, demonstrating that the “All of Government Approach” can have a positive impact on the lives of those affected by a natural disaster.

This week’s ACSS workshop brought together academics, military leaders, and government officials to analyze and develop strategies to best generate, allocate, and manage security sector resources.  Your discussions covered challenges beyond the security sector, including pressing issues such as transparent budgeting, legislative oversight, and corruption.  These topics are incredibly important as we’ve seen nations fail when people become disillusioned with poor resource management and conversely, we’ve seen nations prosper when governments are able to provide for the needs of their citizens.

Your plenary sessions this week explored the inter-relatedness of economic, social, political and security developments. For example, you learned that a global decrease in the demand for commodities, a reduction in oil prices, and inflation all have major impacts on African economies.  The resulting decrease in cash flow then limits resources available for security, particularly as civilian needs such as schools and hospitals compete for funding.  Without effective budgeting, militaries then have to play “catch up,” allocating resources to replenish stocks instead of planning a long-range and transparent budget or succumbing to the temptation to establish commercial ventures, distracting them from their core defense mission.  And without properly coordinating with civilian officials, who have to balance many competing priorities, military leaders cannot ensure their forces are sufficiently well-equipped and well-trained to carry out their duties.  Even when civilian and military efforts collaborate to identify priorities and ensure adequate funding, corruption taxes resources, lowers operational effectiveness, increases scarcity of equipment, hurts morale, and damages public trust.

To best overcome these challenges, you discussed how a carefully crafted National Security Strategy can align budgets with defense needs and security goals – proactively addressing concerns before they become problems.

Over the past six decades, the United States and Malawi have partnered to develop solutions to some of the issues you reviewed this week, including the creation of sustainable military training and education programs.  Our partnership with the MDF continues to grow and serves as an example of how two nations can work together for mutual benefit in the security sector.

I know the U.S.-Malawi partnership is replicated in numerous other countries across Africa and complements partnerships between African countries.  As we work together to address traditional and non-traditional security threats, these networks will help ensure that we adopt the right responses and have the necessary resources to carry out our security missions.  These partnerships have been a hallmark of the United States’ engagement in Africa for decades and will remain so into the future.

I want you to know that as Africa stands against terror and conflict, and for Peace, Prosperity, and Security the United States stands with you.  Through continued partnership we will make Africa – and the world – more peaceful, prosperous, and secure.  Thank you for your attention and for your leadership.  Zikomo.