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Archives for Cross-Cutting Programs

Greater Private Sector Diversity Sought on USDA’s Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees

As featured in the USDA Blog

The face of America – and of American agriculture – is changing. The number of farms in the United States has grown 4 percent and the operators of those farms have become more diverse in the past five years, according to results of USDA’s most recent Census of Agriculture.  The 2007 Census counted nearly 30 percent more women as principal farm operators. The count of Hispanic operators grew by 10 percent, and the counts of American Indian, Asian and Black farm operators increased as well.  In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of minority-owned businesses grew more than 45 percent between 2002 and 2007.

To reflect the diversity of our agricultural sector and business community, USDA is stepping up its efforts to continually supplement its seven Agricultural Trade Advisory Committees (ATACs) with new members, especially those who represent minorities, women, or persons with disabilities. We believe that people with different backgrounds and views will make the work of these committees, and thus of USDA, more effective.

Applicants should represent a U.S. entity with an interest in agricultural trade and have expertise and knowledge of agricultural trade as it relates to policy and commodity-specific issues. For example, Robert Anderson of Sustainable Strategies LLC has served at different points in time on both the Fruits and Vegetables ATAC and the Processed Foods ATAC. Of his experience, Anderson said, “I had the opportunity to meet directly with the highest levels of international trade leadership in the United States and globally. Most importantly, the U.S. government actually seeks our input, listens, and responds to the needs and expectations of the U.S. agricultural industry.”

At a time when our economy is trying to rebound from a serious recession, having a voice on one of these committees can make a significant impact on the government decisions that affect our economic future. That’s because agricultural trade plays an extremely important role in the health of our nation’s economy. U.S. agricultural exports have consistently contributed to the positive U.S. trade balance, creating jobs and boosting economic growth. In fiscal 2011, U.S. agricultural exports were forecast to reach a record $137 billion, which supported more than one million jobs in America this year.

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MDG Countdown 2011: Celebrating Success and Innovations

On Wednesday, September 21, USAID and UK development agency DFID co-hosted, “MDG Countdown 2011: Celebrating Successes and Innovations.” The event highlighted several game-changing programs and policies of countries that have made significant progress towards achieving the MDGs.

Along with Secretary Mitchell and Administrator Shah, featured speakers included: Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mary Robinson, The Elders Michelle Bachelet, UN Women Femi Oke, New York Public Radio (moderator). Checkout this highlights video to get more information.

In The Arena: Sports as a Catalyst for International Development

Governments and private organizations have long been using sport as a tool in global development and humanitarian aid because of its ability to transform lives in unique and powerful ways. In fact, there are few areas in development where sport cannot be used as a platform to strengthen communities and improve lives. At the field level, numerous programs have been harnessing the power of sport to advance shared objectives around global health, nutrition, education, peacekeeping and gender equality. The success of these efforts is bringing unprecendented focus, coordination and strategic thinking to the issue.

During the 66th United Nations General Assembly, USAID convened this diverse and notable group of stakeholders to further an on-going conversation on sport as a catalyst to advance our common development goals around the world. Over 200 guests including government officials NGO leaders and notable sports athletes for In the Arena: Sport as a Catalyst for Development. Speakers included Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg, Chief Innovation Officer Maura O’Neill and Senior Advisor, Sport for Development Mori Taheripour. Other officials speaking included Congressman Russ Carnahan, Ambassador Rick Barton and UN Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General on Sport for Development and Peace Wilfried Lemke.

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This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

This Week at USAID – September 6, 2011

After a hiatus, we will be continuing the “This Week at USAID” series on the first day of the work week.

Thursday, September 8th is International Literacy Day. The Center for Universal Education at Brookings, the Education for All-Fast Track Initiative, and USAID will mark the day by hosting a series of panel discussions on how a range of education stakeholders are addressing the challenge of improving literacy, particularly at lower primary levels, to help fulfill the promise of quality education for all.

Stephen Haykin will be sworn-in as USAID Mission Director to Georgia.

Raja Jandhyala, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa, will testify before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on the long-term needs in East Africa.

Alex Their, USAID’s Assistant to the Administrator and Director of the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, will testify before U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on development programs in Afghanistan.

Taking on Global Challenges through Science, Diplomacy, and Development

The cutting edge of science and technology is rapidly moving to address questions of global importance: How do we conserve ecosystems and protect against the spread of emerging infectious disease? How do we increase agricultural yields while decreasing the environmental footprint of agriculture? How do we better predict natural disasters, ranging from global climatic disruption, to floods, to earthquakes?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) invests tens of millions of dollars each year in projects that take U.S. scientists and engineers to developing countries to conduct research with their international colleagues on these very issues. NSF resources, however, are almost entirely provided to the U.S. side of such collaborations, limiting the ability of projects to reach their full potential and fully engage developing country partners.

On July 7, 2011, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined the NSF Director Subra Suresh to announce a new partnership between their two agencies aimed to address this gap. (Read more on this press release and on the corresponding NSF press release).

The Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program will provide USAID resources to support developing country scientists and build partnerships with NSF-funded American scientists. The PEER program is now open for proposals from developing country scientists to fully realize the potential of research-driven development. For more information, see the PEER program solicitation and announcement on the National Academies website.

With assistance from the National Academies, the PEER program will accept and competitively select research proposals that leverage NSF-funded projects to accelerate solutions to our global development challenges. Examples of proposal topics may include the following areas:

  • Food security topics such as agricultural development, fisheries, and plant genomics
  • Global health issues such as ecology of infectious disease, biomedical engineering, and natural/human system interactions
  • Climate change impacts such as water sustainability, hydrology, ocean acidification, climate process and modeling, and environmental engineering
  • Other development topics including disaster mitigation, biodiversity, water, and renewable energy

PEER funding may be used to train students and faculty, equip laboratories and field stations, and fund research, leveling the playing field between developing country scientists and American scientists and building scientific networks to address global challenges. By increasing global capacity for science and technology, USAID can address serious problems that fail to respect political boundaries, that require a concerted approach, and that can affect American security at home and developing nation stability abroad. Through strengthening scientific networks and building collaborations, we will advance global understand of problems that are complex in scope, but also enhance the capacity of developing countries to address their own problems and increase self-sufficiency and security.

Our hope at USAID is that PEER energizes the global university community to be more idealistic, more interdisciplinary, and more globalized, than ever before, and captures that energy to address the big problems of our time: the next moon-shot, addressing arsenic problems in water in South Asia, or biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems in the Philippines. USAID and NSF seek to inspire the next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers to focus on problems that have impacts on the livelihoods of those in the developing world. PEER provides that opportunity.

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Notes from the World Water Week Conference

Note from World Water Week Conference on the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services- Christian Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator

Today at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, I had the privilege of opening and moderating an exceptionally important session focused on “Do Rights-based Policies Enhance Women’s Leadership and Contribute to Sustainable WASH Outcomes: Taking Stock and Moving Forward.”

We tackled the added-value of rights-based policies in order to enhance women’s leadership and contribute to sustainable WASH outcomes in a seminar jointly organized by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Freshwater Action Network (FAN), U.S. Department of State, WASH Advocacy Initiative, and WaterLex. The discussion centered on 4 key topics:

  • Best practices around equity and inclusion;
  • Women’s leadership in sustainable WASH programming and policy development;
  • Rights-based standards and M&E in WASH management; and
  • Citizen service engagement

Achieving sustainable access to affordable and appropriate water and sanitation services for all, including the poorest and most marginalized, remains a major challenge for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.

In my opening comments, I stressed the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services. I stressed that it is time to support and enhance the capacity of women to develop and lead the implementation of water and sanitation solutions; women have the right to participate equally in decision- making within their communities to help address these needs.

Session presenters included:

  • Hilda Coelho, Freshwater Action Network (FAN) Representative and President of CRSD in India;
  • Hélène Boussard, Research Coordinator on Water Governance for WaterLex;
  • Mary Ann Brocklesby and Sheena Crawford; and
  • Kate Harawa, Country Director for Water For People, Malawi

Concluding the seminar, Sanjay Wijesekera, Team Leader for WASH at DFID, called on all participants to move evidence into practice. He said, “Rights-based approaches have been successfully deployed to drive change and accelerate progress on the WASH Millennium Development Goal targets. However, to use such approaches effectively, we need to ensure that the legal and policy frameworks are harmonized with human rights commitments, and that we document systematically these experiences.”

I strongly recommend reviewing the presentations made at the session.

Teaching Children to Resist Traffickers

Submitted by Guest Blogger Aida Salcinovic, independent journalist

“Are you a stranger?” an eight-year-old Kosovar girl asks her teacher. She is playing an educational game with a group of children at an asylum center in Bosnia–Herzegovina. The game, designed by USAID’s Sustainable Interventions to Combat Trafficking in Persons (SUSTAIN) and the Women’s Initiative Foundation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, educates children on the dangers of trafficking and challenges them to think about whom they should, and should not, trust. It also provides them with a forum for discussing their questions and talking about their experiences.

Children take turns rolling the dice, and when it’s their turn, they are asked a question by a teacher who has been specifically trained to work with refugee children at risk of trafficking. Questions are designed to help children recognize safe and unsafe situations and to encourage them to make sound choices. Children learn, for example, that they should never go with a stranger—even if that person offers them help or invites them to join in a fun activity. Over the course of the game, the children’s answers become more confident:  “I won’t go with a stranger—not even to play video games or watch a movie.”

A twelve-year-old describes how an older boy approached her near her school and offered her chocolate. She concludes proudly, “But I ran away!” The children quickly learn that no chocolate or video game is worth the risk.

This simple game has allowed educators to reach out to youth at risk of trafficking in an innovative and effective way.  While the overall number of trafficking victims has been declining in Bosnia–Herzegovina, growing numbers of children have been trafficked for organized begging. Roma children are particularly vulnerable, as low employment rates in the community can lead to children to beg (and to fall victim to organized crime). Trafficking in the region has also become more sophisticated and therefore more difficult to detect. Victims of sexual exploitation, for example, are harbored in private apartments (rather than in bars or other public places). As a result, educating those most at risk in how to identify potentially dangerous situations and avoid them is more essential than ever.

The SUSTAIN project, which is implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), raises awareness and educates new generations about the dangers of human trafficking. CRS’s approach is cross-sectoral and includes experts from NGOs as well as teachers, education experts, and orphanage personnel. All of these actors play a crucial role in helping at-risk youth recognize potential trafficking situations and avoid becoming victims, helping to prevent and stem trafficking.

The US Government remains committed to helping Bosnia–Herzegovina combat trafficking through projects such as SUSTAIN.

Release of the 2011 VolAg Report

By Elvira Felix, USAID Office of Development Partners

Partnerships are a central component of USAID’s business model for international development, and enable USAID to increase its reach and effectiveness to meet its strategic development objectives.

Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) are key partners in the implementation of USAID programs.  In the past year, U.S. PVOs received $18.7 billion in support from U.S. citizens and private sources, over six times the $3.1 billion from USAID. Through partnerships with PVOs, USAID has also leveraged significant non-financial resources to achieve high-impact development. From HIV/AIDS education, to micro-lending, to introducing improved agricultural practices that mitigate climate change, PVOs play a critical role in USAID’s community-level development work.

One of the first steps of building partnerships with Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) is through PVO Registration.  Registration has allowed PVOs like the Global Team for Local Initiatives (GTLI) to participate in USAID’s Development Grants Program and use USAID funding to bring their programs to scale.  GTLI works in a very remote area of Ethiopia and, utilizing USAID resources, has brought culturally appropriate development projects, including modern wells and sanitation practices, to communities that had been deemed beyond reach, too remote, and were extremely reluctant to adopt modern wells and sanitation practices. This new partnership was fostered by the PVO Registration process and has led to combined success for both GTLI and USAID.

There are a number of PVOs, like GTLI, that work closely with USAID to further USAID development objectives abroad. Each year the Private and Voluntary Cooperation Division (PVC), in the Office of Development Partners (ODP), which manages the PVO Registration process, releases the Report of Voluntary Agencies Engaged in Overseas Relief and Development (VolAg Report, PDF).  The VolAg Report provides a snapshot of the work of the U.S. and international Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) that are registered with USAID. The Report is the culmination of a year’s effort to collect, validate, and disseminate a clear, factual report about the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs, Cooperative Development Organizations (CDOs), and International PVOs (IPVOs) registered with USAID.

We invite you to view the recently released 2011 VolAg Report (PDF, 7.7MB) and to learn more about PVO Registration.

Partnerships to End Child Sex Tourism

Guest post by Marina Colby, the Legislative Advisor to ECPAT-USA

Child sex tourism is an egregious crime that can occur right under our noses by perpetrators who may believe that by having sex with children, they are helping them and contributing to the local economy. As one child sex tourist stated: “On this trip, I’ve had sex with a 14 year-old girl in Mexico and a 15 year-old in Colombia. I’m helping them financially. If they don’t have sex with me, they may not have enough food. If someone has a problem with me doing this, let UNICEF feed them.”

While it is difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem given the lack of research and the illicit nature of the issue, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately 2 million children around the world are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Many of these children suffer at the hands of child sex tourists, individuals who travel to engage in sexual activity with children.

Billboard on the road between Cancun and the Riviera Maya section of Mexico in 2007. Photo Credit: ECPAT

Despite growing awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking, child sex tourism continues to be a lucrative industry.  Even prior to the recent global economic crisis, the sex industry, including child sex tourism, has been a significant contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) in a number of countries.  We are now seeing emerging destinations for child sex tourists in the Americas, Africa and Eastern Europe. It’s important to note that this type of exploitation can occur anywhere in the world and no country or tourism destination is immune.  Moreover, child sex tourists may be foreigners or domestic nationals who are traveling within their own country.

Countries with thriving sex tourism are also likely to suffer from widespread poverty, weak rule of law, and vast income gaps. Such poverty often correlates with illiteracy, limited employment opportunities, and bleak financial circumstances for families. Children in these families can become easy targets for human traffickers and sex tourists.

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