USAID’s first day at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly was packed with a range of events covering topics from U.S. Pakistan relations, to the launch of a new campaign to engage the public around the largest humanitarian emergency on earth.
From the halls of respected think tanks, to the floor of a buzzing digital media lounge packed with the New Media vanguard, USAID Administrator Shah spoke, participated, and interacted with a remarkable variety of individuals and groups eager to engage with America’s premiere development enterprise. Our cameras captured some fun and informative tidbits from the day’s major events.
Administrator Shah returned to the Second Annual Social Good Summit, co-hosted by Mashable, the 92Y, and the UN Foundation. Held each year during UN week, the Summit is “where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions.” After an impressive lineup of speakers including business leader and philanthropist Ted Turner, and Idealist.org CEO Ami Dar, Administrator Shah took the stage to launch FWD, USAID’s new public awareness campaign calling attention to the famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa.
As thousands of people watched online, the Administrator walked the viewers and the audience through the heart-wrenching details of the crisis, informed by stories of his recent travels to the region; but he also presented new ways for the public to get involved. He encouraged the viewers to visit FWD where they can get the latest information, forward the facts about the crisis, donate, and find ways to do more.
After his presentation, he caught up with UN Foundation cameras:
The day also included a visit to the Asia Society, the leading global and pan-Asian organization working to strengthen relationships and promote understanding among the people, leaders, and institutions of the United States and Asia. Administrator Shah participated in a panel discussion along with U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter entitled: “A Way Forward for US-Pakistan Relations” which you can watch on the Asia Society website.
“Just as we demand more accountability from our Pakistani partners, we are also demanding more of ourselves, and we have tried hard to reform the way we work” said Shah. “More than two years ago [...] USAID didn’t have the capacity to go out and to put eyes on projects, to review programs, and to assess how we were performing.” He continued, ”Today we do. And despite the fact it can be dangerous to be out and about in certain parts of the country, our people take those risks and our partners take those risks because we know that rigorous evaluation of all major programs is required.”
Shortly after the well-received discussion, Asia Society Executive Vice President Jamie Metzer shared his thoughts on USAID.
Administrator Shah also participated in fantastic panel discussion “Women and Agriculture: Improving Global Food Security” that was hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and moderated by New York Times Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof.
At the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy in July 2009, President Obama pledged to invest $3.5 billion over three years in agricultural development and improved global food security, which leveraged another $18.5 billion in pledges from the international donor community in the wake of the 2007-2008 food price crisis. In the United States, President Obama’s pledge became Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, which prioritizes investments in women as critical drivers of agriculture-led economic growth in developing countries.
Women make up the majority of smallholder farmers in many developing countries, yet often lack the resources needed to maximize their productivity. Secretary Clinton and the panel highlighted the need to develop the potential of women farmers and the evidence of the returns on these investments.
Secretary Clinton, Administrator Shah, and the rest of the panel recognized women’s paid and unpaid roles in food security.
As USAID Senior Gender Advisor Caren Gown put it:
Women farmers are up to 30 percent less productive than male farmers, not because they work less, but because they have less access to fertilizer, tools, training, and especially land. And they have much less time to farm because they do most of the household work. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization calculates that closing the resource gap could increase the yields of female farmers by 20 to 30 percent, which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent and reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 150 million.
A full replay of the event can be found on the Women & Agriculture LiveStream account.
USAID will continue to bring together diverse and engaged minds throughout the week. Stay tuned to the impact blog for updates from our upcoming events.