Littlefield’s testimony to Congress emphasizes OPIC’s commitment to vulnerable countries
More than one-third of OPIC’s active portfolio is invested in places that are in or are vulnerable to violent conflict – a commitment based on the Agency’s understanding that economic stability can help support political stability. OPIC President and CEO Elizabeth Littlefield spoke of this commitment to some of the world’s most fragile places on May 19, when she testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Littlefield’s written testimony summarizes this strong connection between global development and national security that informs so much of OPIC’s work:
Today many, if not most, OPIC projects have a national security dimension. More than one-third of our portfolio is in post-conflict nations – nations that border on conflicts and must deal with their spillover
effects, or nations that are vulnerable to conflict because of persistent risk factors such as ethnic tensions, extremism or illicit activities. These priority countries for OPIC include nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Egypt and Tunisia….
The link between private sector investment, economic growth and national security is well-established. There is overwhelming evidence pointing to a causal link between poverty and violence. Low per-capita
income is “one of the most robust explanations for the outbreak and duration” of conflict. Poor nations, on average, experience a violent regime change every seven years; the average for the richest 10 percent of nations is every 60 years. Today, roughly 400 million of the extremely poor still live in fragile states, several of which possess weapons of mass destruction.
In her oral testimony, Littlefield described some of her own travels with OPIC to countries including Tunisia, Jordan, Afghanistan and South Sudan to help draw investments into these fragile states. Littlefield visited the South Sudan capital of Juba shortly after that country won independence to meet with government officials and investors interested in supporting infrastructure and other development projects.
Littlefield’s May 19 testimony fell on the same day as OPIC’s Impact Awards honoring clients that have shown excellence in development in emerging markets from Ghana to Lebanon, India, and Central America in projects that have improved access to education, health care, financial services and more.