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Transcript: ONE Campaign CEO Gayle Smith on "Face the Nation," December 30, 2018

ONE Campaign CEO: "World is not paying attention" to AIDS fight
Gayle Smith: AIDS fight is winnable, but "world is not paying attention" 05:53

The following is a transcript of the interview with Gayle Smith, CEO of The ONE Campaign, that aired Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Joining us now is Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the ONE Campaign, an organization that lobbies governments and businesses around the world to help end poverty and disease. The ONE Campaign has a famous founder, of course, Bono, who is the lead singer of U2. But before she worked with a rock star, Gayle was the head of USAID, and served as a top adviser to both Presidents Obama and Clinton. Welcome to "Face the Nation."

GAYLE SMITH: Thank you so much for having me.

BRENNAN: I think this is a great opportunity to talk about some of the underreported stories and need out there. When you are trying to fight disease and poverty, where do you find the most need right now?

SMITH: The most need is actually occurring again in Africa. We have seen tremendous progress, but when you look at countries the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria we're seeing increases in extreme poverty but we're also seeing it all over the world. Africa is our main focus.

BRENNAN: Africa is your main focus, and when you mentioned disease, we are seeing a new Ebola outbreak in the Congo. I know you were very involved when you served in the Obama administration with trying to contain it. What's happening now?

SMITH: Unfortunately there isn't near enough attention to this one. Right now it's still an outbreak, but it's killed over 300 people. It's in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which is not a terribly stable country. It's not well governed. So there's some real risk that it'll spread. And I'm quite concerned that it hasn't risen to a higher level of attention on the world's agenda because as we know these viruses don't pay attention to borders and they move very quickly, could kill a whole lot more people.

BRENNAN: You've also been saying there needs to be more attention to the AIDS crisis--

SMITH: Right, right --

BRENNAN: You know many people think we've kind of moved right past the crisis point, and you're saying no don't look away.

SMITH: Well, actually- you're- what's really interesting is that I think a lot of people feel like we've succeeded. We've won that fight. And in part, we've made huge progress. The world joined together and pushed back against this epidemic with great success. But now what we're finding is almost a complacency. It's like, well we fixed that. We've done that. We don't need to worry about it. There are still a thousand girls and young women being infected every day.

BRENNAN: A thousand?

SMITH: A thousand. And as long as we're moving faster than the virus, we can win the fight against AIDS. But if it starts moving faster than we are, we're in real trouble. And the world is not paying attention. There have been proposed cuts to the PEPFAR budget, the AIDS budget here in the United States, and we can't afford to get behind or the virus will win. And as I say thousands. Seven thousand girls a week.

BRENNAN: One of the things that your organization does is try to lobby as we've said, but both sides of the aisle. And you've had some success. I think this is interesting here because we hear from the Trump administration consistently that they want to cut back on foreign aid. And many people, that's appealing to them that idea spend dollars here at home. Don't send them abroad. But Congress has stopped some of those cuts. How did you get that to happen?

SMITH: Well if you look back over the last 15 years a really interesting thing has happened. Democrats and Republicans have joined together to support massive HIV/AIDS spending, maintaining a robust foreign aid budget, supporting the U.S. Agency for International Development, food security, power, and just recently a bill called the BUILD ACT that provides more investment capital. That passed in seven months, at a time that I think we all know is pretty partisan. And as it turns out the beauty of this issue is whether your issue is national security or economic interests or the expression of our values, there's a way in. And we've just got a history now of Democrats and Republicans joining together over the last two years for example to push back against and restore cuts in the aid budget. It's been a great thing.

BRENNAN: One of the things we just heard from the Trump administration was the first kind of shaping of an Africa policy. You don't hear them talk about the continent very often. And Ambassador Bolton mentioned it in the context of a- sort of fight for influence between China and Russia. You heard and saw the first lady traveled to the continent as well. What does that mean for some of the causes that you want people to pay attention to?

SMITH: Well I think it remains to be seen. I think that when someone of prominence of high visibility pays attention, Africa in these issues, it's a good thing. It's something we can work with. I think the challenge will be whether or not there are real resources behind stated commitments. Our aid budget isn't nearly as big as people think it is. Some people think it's 10 percent of the budget. It's a tiny percent--

BRENNAN: Less than 1 percent.

SMITH: Exactly. But those resources matter. So it's not enough to say we care about this, we're for development, we want to see Africa prosper. We need to invest. And at present we're not looking at the increase in resources we'd like to see but we're certainly in a push for that.

BRENNAN: And how are you going to do that in the new Congress?

SMITH: I think part of it is engaging new members, uh- along with a lot of longtime friends. The ONE Campaign's been around for 15 years. So, it's got a lot of friends on the hill. But we work very closely with new members. Uh-there are a lot of champions of this account from among retired military officers for example with whom we work who make the case as Secretary Mattis did that if you're not going to provide funding for the civilian budget, I'm going to need more bullets. That's a very powerful argument. There are people of faith from across the spectrum that support this budget. So our task will be to work with an array of people who agree on just one thing, that this budget is important it, matters to America, matters to other people. And if we can all agree on that we'll work together to go get it.

BRENNAN: Well some rays of sunshine as we--

SMITH: --strangely yes but welcome.

BRENNAN: --head into the New Year. And it's good to highlight them. Gayle thank you.

SMITH: Thank you so much.

BRENNAN: We'll be right back.

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