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– As Delivered –

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, this evening delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives supporting the Global Development Lab Act (H.R. 3924), which unanimously passed the House:

“Mr. Speaker, thank you, and I rise in support of this measure. I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Mr. Speaker, I again want to thank our chairman, Ed Royce, for bringing this bill forward. I want to also thank Mr. Castro of Texas for his leadership and hard work on this measure, Mr. McCaul as well.

“Mr. Speaker, around the world, 1.2 billion people live in extreme poverty.  That means they live on less than $1.25 a day.  It’s hard to imagine.  No one should have to live on so little.

“At the same time, we know that areas of extreme poverty can be hotbeds for other problems.  Poverty leads to broader instability.  It creates vulnerabilities that can be exploited by violent extremists, jihadists, or others spreading dangerous ideologies.  It holds communities and countries back.

“So we view alleviating poverty as the right thing to do, and also a strategic concern.

“That’s why USAID established the Development Lab to help develop and deploy poverty-reduction technologies more widely, and at a lower cost. And I want to acknowledge former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who did tremendous work at USAID helping build the Lab into a world-class center of innovation, working toward new solutions to extreme poverty. The Lab works with NGOs, corporations, and universities to bring in the best ideas and stay on the cutting edge of development. 

“It’s also expanding USAID’s impact through a public-private, dollar-for-dollar matching program that allows us to scale these innovations up without expanding USAID’s budget.

“We’re seeing real results: in 2014, the Lab invested in 362 new solutions that touched nearly 14 million people around the world.  For example, the Lab funded an initiative aimed at producing more food where fresh water is hard to come by.  The Securing Water for Food Grant Challenge led to a system that makes seawater or brackish water usable for drinking or agriculture.  It consumes so little energy that the cost to use it is low, even in areas off the power grid.  This is what we mean we when talk about innovation.

“Last May, the Development Lab hosted an international competition to develop technology to fight wildlife trafficking and crimes. I know that Chairman Royce has been very interested in this issue.  This led to the development of an app, called the Wildlife Scan, that allows law enforcement to easily identify endangered species being smuggled out of countries. After just a couple of months, the app has already been downloaded more than a thousand times.

“And just last month, the Global Lab finished up a Zika challenge initiative, which led to 21 new solutions targeted at combatting the spread of the Zika virus and are on track to be tested and deployed. They could be available within months. 

“The bill would build on the Lab’s success by creating new authorities for the Lab to expand and manage its partnerships.  It will give the Lab greater flexibility for hiring experts on a project-by-project basis, and it will allow the Lab to award small, targeted grants that have proven so effective in supporting healthcare providers. 

“I commend Mr. Castro for his hard work on this very good bill.  It makes a good initiative better, and I’m pleased to support it.  And I reserve the balance of my time.”