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Taking Our New Model of LGBT Inclusive Development to UNGA

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

This week during United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meetings, USAID made important connections with leaders from other development organizations and private-sector institutions that work to advance global development. Among the topics explored was how we can collaborate to promote inclusive development, ensure equal access to foreign aid, and protect the human rights of one of the world’s most vulnerable populations – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Around the world, LGBT individuals are often among those who least enjoy the benefits from human rights protections, opportunities, and freedoms; they often face discrimination, harassment and violence and are regularly excluded from receiving public services.  Eighty-three countries still criminalize LGBT behavior and seven countries impose the death penalty for same-sex relations.  In some countries the lived experience for LGBT people is getting worse.

Protecting the human rights of LGBT people around the world represents a difficult challenge yet USAID is leading. And USAID can lead more effectively in partnership with others. As a global community we must leverage our resources and technical expertise to effectively and efficiently further LGBT global equality. As Administrator Shah pointed out in the Agency’s 2013 annual letter, collaboration and partnerships are powerful ways to harness the public and private sectors as engines of growth, innovation, and development expertise.

USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership promotes foreign assistance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in emerging markets and developing countries. Photo by: Pat Adams/USAID

USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership promotes foreign assistance to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in emerging markets and developing countries. Photo by: Pat Adams/USAID

I had the privilege this week at UNGA to participate in a meeting centered on USAID’s goal to promote LGBT equality through collaboration with others. USAID, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, and the Ford Foundation convened public and private donors to strengthen relationships between and among government donors, private foundations, and the businesses supporting LGBT development issues globally. We identified areas for shared learning and increased future collaboration.

At this meeting I was particularly proud to share how USAID has already made great strides with partners to secure better lives for LGBT people, their families, and their communities around the world. USAID’s LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year brings together a broad coalition of public and private sector partners who are leveraging their joint resources and expertise to advance LGBT equality in the developing world. It aims to strengthen the capacity of local LGBT civil society organizations, train LGBT leaders in how to participate more effectively in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic cost of discrimination against LGBT individuals. With 12 resource partners co-investing $12 million, it is the largest LGBT global equality initiative.

Last month I had the privilege to witness this partnership in action when I visited a training in Colombia conducted by the Victory Institute for 30 local LGBT people interested in running for political office or managing campaigns.  It was the second such training in just three months–brought back by local demand, as the first training was over-subscribed by 500 percent.

While the challenges remain great, USAID should be proud that it put LGBT inclusive development through public-private partnership on the UNGA agenda this year. I am excited that USAID is taking a leading role in convening partners to solve this very important development problem. Individually, and even more so collectively, strategic investments in global LGBT equality can make a very positive impact on the lives of people around the world.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

USAID at UNGA 2013: Day Three

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities. 

UNGA Day Three: September 25, 2013

Recap of Wednesday’s Events:

  • The Global Business Coalition for Education, chaired by Gordon Brown, hosted a breakfast meeting to facilitated conversations between the business community and the education sector with the overall goal of more coordinated collaboration to improve education. Malala Yousafzai was in attendance as a special guest and together she and Administrator Shah encouraged the business community to invest in improving educational outcomes, with a particular emphasis on increasing equitable access to quality education, especially for girls.

    Administrator Shah with Malala Yousafzai; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, founder of the Dangote Group (far left); Christie Vilsack, USAID Senior Advisor for International Education; and Malala's father (far right). Photo credit: USAID

    Administrator Shah with Malala Yousafzai; Alhaji Aliko Dangote, founder of the Dangote Group (far left); Christie Vilsack, USAID Senior Advisor for International Education; and Malala’s father (far right) at the Global Business Coalition for Education event. Photo credit: USAID

  • Administrator Shah gave opening remarks at the Learning for All: Education Finance and Delivery event. This event was a follow-on to the high-level “Learning for All” Round One Ministerial Meetings that took place in April. Gordon Brown and the Global Partnership for Education invited the Heads of State, Education Ministers and Finance Ministers from a new set of six countries – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Somalia and Chad – to hold meetings on accelerating progress toward Education First. Of these, two of the focus countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) were USAID “Room to Learn” countries. The meeting was attended by Ban Ki Moon, Jim Kim, Gordon Brown, Irina Bukova (Director-General of UNESCO), the President of South Africa, the President of Mozambique, and many others.
  • As a part of the Learning for All meetings, Administrator Shah participated in the “Learning for all Pakistan” meeting.  The Administrator expressed the USG’s continued interest in working with the Government of Pakistan and provincial governments to improve access to education and education quality. He also encouraged Pakistani government official to continue to show increased leadership and commitment to education. Malala Yousafzai also spoke and expressed the importance of education, particularly for girls, In Pakistan and worldwide. She encouraged the leaders in Pakistan to further increase spending on education and make secondary school compulsory.
  • Yesterday afternoon Administrator Shah gave closing remarks at the Responsible Investments in Myanmar forum hosted by the Asia Society and McKinsey Global Institute. The forum discussed the challenges and opportunities of Burma‘s transformation and ways to foster sustained growth and development through responsible investment. The discussion centered on two reports — Asia Society’s Sustaining Myanmar’s Transition: Ten Critical Challenges and the McKinsey Global Institute’s Myanmar’s Moment: Unique Opportunities, Major Challenges.

New Blogs:

Event’s Happening Today at UNGA (Thursday, September 26th):

  • No public events scheduled today

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

Donors’ Dialogue on How to Effectively Combat Human Trafficking

Want to combat human trafficking effectively? Of course you do: who doesn’t want to see modern slavery end! Well, then we need to communicate, collaborate and innovate.

Those themes emerged Tuesday in New York at a meeting USAID and Humanity United convened, in conjunction with the United Nations General Assembly. A year after President Obama’s landmark speech on combating human trafficking, we brought together—for the first time—public and private donors from Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States to discuss the need for more data, dialogue and innovation. We had an in-depth discussion about the gaps in our approaches and discussed where we might collaborate going forward.

Click to read USAID's Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide.

Click to read USAID’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Field Guide.

USAID has been actively combating trafficking for over a decade spending about $16 million a year making us one of the largest donors in the field. One of the issues that donors were most interested in exploring was how best to integrate and link Countering Trafficking In Persons (also referred to as C-TIP) with work on, for example, food security, health and education as well as in fragile and conflict settings. Breaking down silos was viewed as critical to enhancing our work.

USAID is of course joined by many parts of the U.S. Government in this work. Today, the White House released “Progress Report: The Obama Administration’s Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking at Home and Abroad“ that highlights some of our work but also what others in the U.S. Government are doing to combat human trafficking.

During the meeting on Tuesday, we followed the Chatham House Rule so we won’t be attributing the good ideas to the smart people who suggested them. But let’s just say that working together with partners from around the world, human traffickers beware; there is a global movement to combat trafficking in persons and it’s growing, building and adapting. Through these types of collaboration, as well as important investments in innovation and increased evidence of what works best to close the space around traffickers and bring dignity to survivors, we are making significant in-roads in building a community of like-minded donors that can adapt over time to end trafficking in persons.

Learn more about what USAID is doing to counter human trafficking.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

USAID at UNGA 2013: Day Two

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities. 

UNGA Day Two: September 24, 2013

Highlight:

President Obama delivered an address to the United National General Assembly. A number of outlets are reporting on the President’s announcement of an additional $339 million in humanitarian assistance to Syria.

Announcements:

  • As a part of the Better than Cash Alliance anniversary event, USAID announced that it is on a path to incorporating language into all grants and contracts to accelerate the use of electronic and mobile payments into its programs across the world.

Recap of Tuesday’s Events:

  • Yesterday afternoon Administrator Shah and DFID’s Justine Greening hosted the “MDG Countdown 2013 – Women & Girls” event. The event highlighted the progress made against the MDGs and focused on the work needing to be done over the next 828 days. The event included Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, Geena Davis, actress and UN Special Envoy for Women and Girls in the field of Technology and was moderated by NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof.

Happening Today:

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

#TheKeyIsWe +SocialGood

This originally appeared on Social Good Summit

Astronaut Ronald J. Garan

Astronaut Ronald J. Garan. Photo credit: NASA

I launched into space on my last mission with a belief that we have all the resources and all the technology necessary to solve many if not all of the problems facing our world, yet nearly a billion people don’t have access to clean water, countless go to bed hungry every night and many die from completely curable and preventable illnesses.

We live in a world where the possibilities are limited only by our imagination and our will to act. It is within our power to eliminate the suffering and poverty that exists on our planet.

So we have to ask ourselves, “If we have the resources and the technology to solve the challenges we face, why do they still remain?”

During my half a year on the International Space Station, I spent the majority of my spare time with my face plastered to a window pondering that question.

I believe the reason our world still faces so many critical problems in spite of our ample technology and resources lies primarily in our inability to effectively collaborate on a global scale.

At the Social Good Summit this year I made the case for global collaboration. The goal of the discussion was to catalyze a global conversation about the need for sharing data. We want to continue this discussion and we want to hear what you have to say.

Please join us on October 11th at 11:00am ET for a Google Plus Hangout focusing on global collaboration and data sharing.Our hope is that the discussion serves as a call to action – disruptive action.

Please visit: http://unitynode.org/get-involved/ and tells us your thoughts on global collaboration. To join the global conversation, please join the Collaboration Community on Google +.

Resource:

Coordination Counts: Fostering Mobile Money in Malawi

One year ago, USAID joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, United Nations Capital Development Fund and Visa Inc. to launch the Better Than Cash Alliance.

This summer, the Government of Malawi joined those organizations in their work to lift millions out of poverty through electronic payments. Citing opportunities for transparency and reduced costs, the Government will begin by shifting $3 million of its existing payment streams away from cash. That may sound modest, but it’s a truly dramatic shift for Malawi.

Just a few days ago on September 13, Malawi Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo was shot because of his leadership to fight graft in the public sector by replacing cash payments with electronic, and thus transparent, payment methods. It is a sobering but incredibly important reminder of just how much this work matters.

A customer checks the details of a text message received after transferring funds via mobile money. Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

A customer checks the details of a text message received after transferring funds via mobile money. Photo credit: Manpreet Romana/AFP

When I first learned about mobile money, many people were working on it in Malawi but no one was doing it well. The mobile network operators, banks, government, and donors were focused on their own incentives rather than supporting the ecosystem in a coordinated way that would accelerate the creation of products Malawians could use. But to me coordination was critically important because I believe mobile money can have significant impact on the people we target in our programs in agriculture, education, health, and governance.

In Malawi, roads don’t reach many areas and are often in rough shape. Poor access to electricity and low incomes make brick-and-mortar banking too expensive to deliver to rural areas. However in just 10 years, more than half of Malawi has obtained access to a mobile network. In this expansion, we saw an opportunity for reaching financially excluded groups. But Malawi isn’t a country where we could immediately start using mobile money. So what did we do?

We started simple. We started with a demand assessment. This helped us understand the local champions, people’s needs, and how USAID could help bring mobile money to scale.

Our stakeholders were interested in mobile money, but they were fragmented, and no one could do it on their own. So we created a working group of mobile network operators, banks, the government, and donors. The working group allowed us to hear and understand each other. Through the group, we are solving common challenges and compromising where incentives conflict. For example, mobile network operator Airtel used this foundation to launch its mobile money platform in 2012 with its competitor TNM following in 2013.

Though we are a small country, and maybe because we are a small country, we have made great progress since we started. We’ve learned a lot, and I want to share a few of these lessons. I hope they will help any champion in any country or organization to think about supporting mobile money in your country.

  1. Plan for sustainability: We don’t want the working group to depend on donor funding or leadership, so we’ve institutionalized it as a subcommittee under the National Payments Council to encourage local ownership. By doing so, we are convinced it will continue to exist beyond USAID’s involvement.
  2. Maximize coordination: USAID’s ability to convene different partners taps into one of its unique strengths. For example, the World Bank is working on an access to finance project and targeting financial regulations. With the working group, USAID has also helped them understand the regulatory challenges with mobile money, and they’re taking on policy work that they’re best positioned to do.
  3. Prove your case: Mobile money is still a young technology. Many people haven’t used it and don’t see its value, so USAID is helping organizations transition from cash to electronic payments. When they see increases in accountability and find cost and time savings, we gain adopters that help us get to scale.

So, what’s next?  This technology could be expanded to help government fulfill its obligations to pay civil servants in a timely manner by giving it a simple vehicle for payroll transaction; it could help public utilities increase the proportion of customers who pay their bills on time; and it can provide a mechanism for simplifying the management and operation of social cash transfer programs. Most importantly, though, it can provide the means for millions of poor Malawians to participate more fully in the economic life of the country. Sometimes, revolutions start small.

Girls and Women Transforming Societies

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities. 

Alex Thier is Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning

Alex Thier is Assistant to the Administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning. Follow him at @thieristan

Elevating the political, social, and economic status of women and girls is a central and indispensable element of global progress towards creating a more prosperous, peaceful, and equitable world, and ending extreme poverty within our lifetime.

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established in 2000 focus heavily on advancing women and girls (and intensively tracking that progress). And, as today’s USAID and UK’s Department for International Development event on Girls and Women Transforming Societies demonstrates, we’re making some astonishing progress.

Look for example in sub-Saharan Africa: net primary education enrollment for girls has risen substantially from 47 percent in 1990 to 75 percent in 2011. While a Gender Disparity Index shows only slight increases in secondary education in the same region – from .76 to .83, women are gaining ground in non-agricultural work employment, increasing a workforce presence from 24 percent in 1990 to 33 percent in 2011.

Some countries, like Afghanistan, have made enormous transformations in access to education. In 2002, 900,000 boys were in school and virtually no girls attended due to a Taliban prohibition. As of 2012 over eight million students were enrolled in Afghan schools with girls accounting for over one third.

Similarly, the maternal death rate in sub-Saharan Africa has significantly dropped by 20 years – an estimated 41 per cent. Figures released by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank showed the 1990 rate of 850 deaths per 100,000 live births declined to a regional average of 500 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2010.

There is still enormous progress to be made, and in many areas the world we are still well short of the MDGs. But what this progress shows us is that these goals are achievable, and that as goes the welfare of women and girls, so goes the welfare of their societies.

In that sense, one of the most important advances may be in the area of women’s political representation. Since 2000, the proportion of women in parliaments in the developing world has increased by two-thirds, although it remains at only 20 percent. Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. Women there have won 56.3 per cent of seats in the lower house. Increasing women’s political participation can benefit issues that may be over looked by exclusively male decision makers. For example, research on panchayats (local councils) in India revealed that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with male-led councils.

But, much more needs to be done. Improvements in employment and women’s reproductive health still lag. Women still are more likely to work in the informal economy, earn less than men, and be over-represented in low-wage jobs. For too many women, the process of childbirth is unsafe or results in the death of mother or child.

One thing we do know for certain though – the only way to bring people out of extreme poverty is to include and empower women in broad based economic growth and to close the economic gaps between women and men. Without inclusive practices that promote gender equality and female empowerment, extreme poverty is sure to persist well beyond the next generation.

Today’s event in New York City illustrates how women’s leadership in grassroots advocacy, local solutions and the power of technology can steer the global community on the path to meeting our MDG goals and advancing gender equality and female empowerment in the post-2015 framework.

Learn more about USAID’s work in education.

Learn more about USAID’s role in this year’s United Nations General Assembly. Follow @USAID, @thieristan, and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

 

USAID, Founding Member of the Better than Cash Alliance, Pledges Deep Commitment on One Year Anniversary

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

This time last year, I had the pleasure of helping launch the Better Than Cash Alliance (BTCA) on behalf of USAID. The room was filled with a sense of optimism and possibility, as co-founders gathered from USAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, Visa, and the UN Capital Development Fund. Together, we knew that this group of impressive organizations and companies—with their broad reach, expertise, and enthusiasm—could improve the lives of the 2.5 billion people who currently lack access to formal financial services.

Connected technologies like mobile phones are reinventing financial services—once the exclusive domain of the rich—and offering billions of people the opportunity to take control of their finances. With access to products like savings accounts, insurance, and credit, families have the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and connect to the formal economy.

We know mobile and electronic payments can provide people with the power to protect themselves against economic shocks. A study published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2011 found that families who do not use M-Pesa in Kenya—the largest mobile money system in the world—suffer a 7 percent drop in consumption when hit with a negative income shock, while the consumption of families who use M-Pesa remains unaffected. We are starting to see real evidence that access to mobile money services can make a real difference for vulnerable communities.

Mobile mobile and electronic payments have the potential to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people. Photo credit: Adek Berry / AFP

Mobile mobile and electronic payments have the potential to improve the lives of 2.5 billion people. Photo credit: Adek Berry / AFP

Not only do mobile and electronic payments benefit billions of poor people globally, they have measureable benefits for governments, development organizations, and private sector players, including cost savings, economic growth, and strengthened transparency and security. For example, when the Afghan government started paying police officers with mobile money, the officers thought they had received a 30 percent pay raise. In reality, they were just enjoying their entire paycheck for the first time, since small amounts were getting skimmed from the top when they were being paid in cash.

As we look back on the past year, there is a lot to celebrate. Fifteen new members joined BTCA, including the governments of Malawi and Afghanistan as well as Mastercard. In addition, four of USAID’s missions—Philippines, Zambia, Afghanistan, and Haiti—have revised their procurement practices to encourage or mandate the use of electronic payment methods among USAID partners, which is not a simple feat. Across our operations, we are making bold moves to eliminate cash, because we know it facilitates corruption, inefficiencies, and security risks.

While it is important to celebrate these accomplishments, it is equally important to ask:  are we, at USAID, doing enough?

Today, we are proud to step forward with a new and stronger pledge to the Alliance. I am pleased to announce that we will be incorporating language into ALL grants and contracts to accelerate the use of mobile and electronic payments globally.

I encourage fellow members of BTCA, and others who are working towards financial inclusion, to also ask the question: Are we doing enough? Are we achieving our original commitment and striving to do more? How are we going to measure our results? Are we leading by example?

Learn more about Mobile Money or the Better Than Cash Alliance. Contact USAID’s Mobile Solutions team at msolutions@usaid.gov and follow us on Twitter @mSolutionsUSAID for more information.

USAID at UNGA 2013: Day One

This year’s United Nations General Assembly focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities. 

UNGA Day One: September 23, 2013

Highlight:

Yesterday afternoon, Administrator Shah sat down with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. During the live television interview, Dr. Shah discussed important role of businesses in development, the tragedy in Kenya, and the Agency’s ongoing mission to provide assistance amid a shrinking budget.

Announcements:

Recap of Events:

  • “Investing in Africa and Beyond” – To explore the state of impact investing as a complement to government funding, JPMorgan Chase (JPMC) hosted an evening program for 250 participants  on the first evening of UNGA from 5-7:30PM. The event provided an opportunity for investors to be catalytic in funding market-oriented solutions to meet social needs, and discuss how we can move the market forward via layered financing and new collaborations. The first panel, moderated by Economist reporter Matthew Bishop, featured Tony Blair and Administrator Shah. The panel addressed how to use innovative finance to address social needs in Africa. The second panel, featuring Bill Gates and Jamie Dimon, focused on breaking new ground on their new Global Health Investment Fund.

  • Social Good Summit:

    • Priya Jaisinghani spoke on a panel about mobile technology‘s role in financial inclusion, with Aldi Haryopratomo, the CEO of Ruma, Arjuna Costa of the Omidyar Network, and Casey Gheen of Lenddo. Priya spoke of the role that a lack of financial services may play in political and economic stability.
    • Later, Astronaut Ron Garan who is currently on detail to USAID, led a discussion on the need for global collaboration and coordination of data and information with Rob Baker, Presidential Innovation Fellow for Open Data, and Harbrinder Kang, Director of Business Development for Cisco. Ron spoke of seeing the world from the International Space Station and recognizing that we have the resources needed to solve global problems, but that we need to work together. Rob Baker discussed his experience with collaborative mapping in post-disaster situations, and spoke of the opportunity for Open Data.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

Photo of the Week: Teaching Special Needs Students a Vocation

John Nyanjui and studentsThe USAID-funded Nutrition Kitchen Garden Program launched in October 2011 at Maria Magdalena Catholic Parish School in Thika, Kenya cares for the special needs of mentally handicapped children. The program better equips them with vocational skills, like gardening. Recent graduate John Nyanjui, far left, now works with his former agronomy teacher Josphat Avunga to provide this vocational training to other students. Photo is from Natasha Murigu, USAID.

Learn more about this year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and its focus on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and inclusive development goals for persons with disabilities.

Follow @USAID and @RajShah for ongoing updates during the week and join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtags #UNGA and #UNGA2013.

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