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Archives for USAID

Photo of the Week: Spotlight on Panama

This week USAID announced that it will close its Mission to Panama in September, a reflection of Panama’s own great advances in development. Our assistance program to Panama began in 1940 with technical assistance for the establishment of a rubber plantation. Since then, we have provided $1.2 billion in economic assistance to Panama.

Our development initiatives in Panama have facilitated public-private partnerships and strategic development alliances leveraging local and external resources. As a result the sustainability of our joint activities will continue long after our Mission closes.

View the complete the photo series of our work in Panama.

Democracy and Development in Sub-Saharan Africa

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of the Republic of Liberia, and Carol Lancaster, Dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Affairs spoke today at USAID’s Frontiers in Development Forum. Below is an excerpt from their contribution to the Frontiers in Development essays.

Twenty-five years ago, Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) was a region of despair. Outside of Botswana and Mauritius, democracy was but a distant dream. Unelected and unaccountable governments held power across the subcontinent. Dictators treated their countries as personal fiefdoms, ruling by force and intimidation, taking what they wanted, doling out riches to a favored few, and sprinkling a handful of crumbs to the rest. The terrible scar of apartheid made a mockery of justice and plunged the entire southern region into conflict and crisis. And the politics of the Cold War made a bad situation worse, as East and West propped up unsavory rulers for their own purposes with little regard for the effect on Africans themselves.

The leadership crisis translated into an economic crisis that left the region effectively bankrupt. Authoritarian leaders used the state to try to control the economic commanding heights, in part to finance their patronage systems. In the end, their control only destroyed economic assets and personal livelihoods. For 20 years starting in the mid-1970s, nearly all of the countries of SSA saw zero or negative economic growth in per capita incomes. Promising businesses were ruined, and new investment virtually stopped, except for the grab for natural resources. Unemployment soared, and working men and women could no longer provide for their families. Schools and health facilities deteriorated badly. The only things that seemed to thrive were poverty, graft, and conflict.

But that was then. Today, all of that has begun to change—not across all of SSA, but across much of the region. Dictators are being replaced by democracy. Authoritarianism is giving way to accountability. Economic stagnation is turning to resurgence, with SSA today one of the fastest-growing regions in the world. Poverty rates are falling. Investors who never would have considered Africa a decade ago are lining up to look at new opportunities. Political conflict has subsided, and governments are strengthening the protection of civil liberties and political freedoms.

About half of the countries in the region have embraced democracy, fragile and imperfect, to be sure, but a far cry from the dictatorships of old. And most important, despair is being replaced by hope—hope that people can live in peace with their neighbors, that parents can provide for their families, that children can go to school and receive decent health care, and that people can speak their minds without fear.

What happened in SSA? How did authoritarianism begin to give way to democracy? How has the economic resurgence affected the move toward democracy, and how has democracy affected the economic turnaround? How is democracy likely to evolve in the future in SSA?

Read the full article on page 32 of USAID’s Frontiers in Development publication.

Video of the Week: Tony Blair addresses Frontiers in Development

Live from the conference:  Tony Blair addresses the crowd at Frontiers in Development with a message on global development in 2012. For real time conference highlights, watch our livestream of the event and follow #DevelopmentIs on Twitter.

Welcome to the USAID Frontiers in Development Forum!

Frontiers in Development is an effort to engage with the most innovative and experienced development practitioners around the world; seizing pivotal opportunities to leave behind legacies of success. Over the past year, Frontiers in Development launched an essay competition to collect ideas from some of the brightest minds and best practitioners in development. This compilation is now a publication that is available for public distribution through our website. The essay competition set the stage for the forum, where 40 panelists will speak about the past, present, and future of development.

The USAID Frontiers in Development forum is centered around a three-day conference to be held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC from June 11-13. This forum will draw together development practitioners and recipients, leaders from government and the private sector, academics and concerned actors from throughout the broader community. Frontiers in Development is much more than a great lineup of outstanding speakers (including Bill Gates, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, James Stavridis, and Rakesh Rajani). It is more than a chance for networking, or a few days to interact with talented colleagues and counterparts. It is more than the essays from a range of authors and thinkers included in our companion publication. Rather, Frontiers in Development is an opportunity to focus our joint attention on what comes next – promising solutions, innovative technologies, cutting-edge ideas, and novel applications to development.

Through the USAID Frontiers in Development forum, you are invited to engage on a range of topics and issues – from managing the pressures of demography and climate change on our planet, to adapting democracy and economic growth programming to conflict situations, from seeking means to improve the sustainability of development efforts to communicating the importance of this critical work to a public audience.

As a longstanding leader in the development community, USAID is proud to be hosting this event. The excellent support and cooperation of our partners at Georgetown University, the Gates Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation reflect the changing landscape of the development sphere, including the welcome emergence of an increasing number of active contributors. In fact, this changing development landscape is just one of the themes to be discussed in the days to come and months to follow.

We hope that you will engage in the Frontiers in Development forum – in person or online, by submitting questions for the panels or by reading the thoughtful essays included in the Frontiers in Development publication. Most of all, we hope you will join the conversation on what comes next, and how best to tackle the challenges we face at the Frontiers in Development.

U.S. Small Businesses: Thriving In USAID’s Changing Environment

On June 5, my staff and I were delighted to host USAID’s 5th Annual Small Business Conference at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. Over 200 small business representatives had the unique opportunity to hear insightful presentations from our Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), SBA Associate Administrator John Shoraka, and USAID senior officials. It was an incredible time to celebrate the success of USAID in expanding our engagement of U.S.-based small businesses and to have in-depth dialogue on how small businesses may continue to thrive in our changing environment.

The energy at the conference was electric. What I witnessed was a reaffirmation of our commitment and renewed focus on the importance of small businesses for the continued growth of our economy and for their important contribution to our core development objectives. There was also a collective focus on USAID’s Implementation and Procurement Reform (IPR) initiative and the fact that IPR is not only about working with host country systems and developing local capacity, but also about expanding our partner base to include the increased use of U.S.-based small businesses.

Achieving strong cooperation between USAID and the small business community has been a long and sometimes arduous path. Historically, we have not done well in leveraging the talents and expertise of small business partners to achieve our goals. However, in recent years, we have increased our awards to small businesses by 50% and for the first time in many years, exceeded our overall small business goals in FY 2011. We’re also improving our accomplishments at the Mission level. For example, in FY 2011, the El Salvador Mission awarded 26% of its acquisition dollar obligations to U.S.-based small businesses while increasing local capacity development; and the Haiti Mission awarded 20% of its acquisition dollar obligations to U.S.-based 8(a) certified small businesses.

We recognize that there is so much more to be done to further enhance our relationship with the small business community. Through continued dialogue, I believe that we can improve the quality of development programs, bring new thought and innovation to the Agency, and improve the efficiency of how we carry out our mission.

For more information about how your small business can work with USAID, visit our Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization and Minority Resource Center.

Make Every Mother and Baby Count

In early May, we witnessed a spectacular commitment to “making every mother and baby count” here in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through their Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program, and in partnership with the Bangladesh Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), convened an important series of meetings focused on saving the lives of mother and their babies.  We wanted to tally for you the numbers that express just how much every mother and baby count:

  • Participation included more than 275 international maternal and newborn health professionals;
  • With over 29 countries represented;
  • Including over 100 individuals from Bangladesh.
  • But why?  Because just 1 maternal or child death is more than just a tragic occurrence. It affects the entire family, it affects social cohesion, and it dampens the economic growth of the countries. Data shows that after a mother dies there is an increased risk of death for surviving children.
  • Here in Bangladesh, about 20 women die every day from childbirth, about half of these due to 2 main causes, postpartum hemorrhage that is to say excessive bleeding and eclampsia (high blood pressure leading to convulsions). These are the very 2 factors that kill 50% of mothers in developing countries around the world.

    Read the rest of this entry »

Winning the Fight Against HIV in Children

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Originally published at Blog.AIDS.gov.

Over thirty years ago, when the fight against HIV first began, the outlook for tackling the pandemic was bleak. Across the world, AIDS was seen as a death sentence. Within just a few years, it had devastated communities from the United States to South Africa.

But the world continued to fight, and the past three decades have seen tremendous progress in HIV research, prevention and treatment, thanks in large part to the leadership of the United States. Today, we can build on that strong legacy to answer President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s call for an AIDS-free generation.

The 19th International AIDS Society (IAS) conference will be an opportunity to renew our commitment to this incredible goal. It also marks an historic moment, as the United States hosts the conference for the first time in over 20 years now that people living with HIV and AIDS are able to visit the U.S. to attend in-person.

We know that we have a long way to go to win the fight against HIV–especially for children.

Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)–the largest international commitment to a single disease by any individual country–the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. government agencies provide lifesaving HIV and AIDS services to millions of children, women, and families worldwide. 

Read the rest of this entry »

OECD Adopts New U.S. Initiated Development Strategy

Big news. Last week, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) –  the so-called “rich man’s club” of developed countries – adopted a new Development Strategy (pdf) for partnering with developing countries. The multilateral organization, founded as part of the post-World War II Marshall Plan, took this significant step in fulfillment of a commitment made a year ago under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chairmanship of the OECD 50th anniversary Ministerial. Last year, OECD members adopted a new vision statement committing the organization to look outward and engage with the developing world.

After a good deal of heavy lifting, the new strategy advances the Obama Administration’s policy on global development and will increase the efficiency of U.S. aid funding.

We’re particularly excited because the Strategy will leverage for developing countries the OECD’s knowledge, resources and storehouse of economic policy best practices in areas such as tax, investment, economic growth, anti-corruption, and good governance.  Non-members such as Ghana and Malawi will be partners in the effort working with the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee and Development Centre.

In this era of shrinking foreign aid budgets, the U.S. supports the new Development Strategy as a means of working smarter through better, more strategic collaboration, both across the OECD and with outside partners.  Development assistance, no longer the major flow of resources to the developing world, is increasingly catalyzing other forms of finance and technology.  In this way, the Strategy is building on the achievements of Busan High Level Forum and the New Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, emphasizing a more diverse range of partners and a more targeted focus on transparency, results and accountability.

Of course, there is still much to be done. Pilot projects will test the organization’s ability to work across expert areas in a useful partnership, set ambitious targets and metrics, and track progress through rigorous evaluation. It is certainly a big step in re-orienting the OECD’s business practices to improve the challenges and opportunities of today’s economic development.

Food Security Open Data Challenge

Last week, President Obama announced the G-8’s commitment to the “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition”, the next phase of the G-8’s shared commitment to achieving global food security and nutrition goals. One of the elements of this New Alliance is a focus on science, technology, and innovation including the importance of open and available food security data. The group also committed to convene an international conference on food security and Open Data for G-8 members and stakeholders to determine how to increase openness and access to data. Seizing on the commitment of the G-8, USAID convened six leading innovators to showcase mapping, videos, and other tools that use data for more effective development.

Thin Air Nitrogen Solutions, fertilizer fixes nitrogen from the air, sidestepping the need for energy-intensive production and transportation infrastructure to get fertilizers to farmers’ fields. Photo Credit: Thin Air Nitrogen Solutions, LLC

Following the President’s speech, USAID launched a Food Security Open Data Challenge that invites technologists, agriculture stakeholders, entrepreneurs, academics, and others to determine the most creative and wide-reaching use of open data for food security solutions and better, cheaper, and faster results. This work builds on USAID’s far- reaching commitment to open data including the Open Government Partnership, Open Government Initiative, International Aid Transparency Initiative, the newly launched GeoCenter to increase GIS capacity in USAID, and others. Continuing this commitment to transparency, USAID invites all who are interested to join us, and lend your creativity, your curiosity, and your partnership to raising millions out of poverty. The results of this challenge will contribute to the development of an international conference on food security and Open Data for G-8 members and stakeholders, and will complement Feed the Future’s work to fight hunger and promote broad-based economic growth, particularly through development in the agricultural sector.

USAID’s Food Security Open Data Challenge includes three core events. In June, USAID will host an Ideation Jam where technologists and agricultural stakeholders will identify key questions of the challenge by focusing on the overlap of food security priorities and the potential of available data. In August, USAID will host a Codeathon to convene technologists, agriculture stakeholders, government representatives, entrepreneurs, and startup experts to finalize challenge submissions and design interventions that are available for investment. Finally in September, Administrator Shah will host a Food Security Datapalooza and announce challenge winners and showcase some of the best ideas for open-data based solutions to food security.

We look forward to working with a wide range of partners in this effort and welcome you to join us. Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley leader in information analysis, is an early partner and will open its mapping and analytical platform to participants so that all food security stakeholders, technologists or not, can participate in new ways to analyze existing information for actionable results.

Read more about the Codeathon or contact us to participate.

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