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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.

Family Planning Improves and Saves Lives

September 26 is World Contraception Day

For more than 25 years, my professional and personal mission has focused on helping women and couples across the world have the ability to decide whether, when and how many children to have. I strongly believe in the importance of increasing access to voluntary family planning, because the evidence is so clear. Enabling women and men to plan their families, results in multiple health, economic and social benefits for families, communities and nations. On September 26, 2013, World Contraception Day draws attention to the fact that more than 222 million women in the developing world say they want to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception.

A community health worker in Malawi counsels a woman on her family planning options at a gathering place in her community. USAID works in more than 45 countries around the globe to increase access to family planning information and services for all who want them. Photo credit: Liz Bayer

A community health worker in Malawi counsels a woman on her family planning options at a gathering place in her community. USAID works in more than 45 countries around the globe to increase access to family planning information and services for all who want them. Photo credit: Liz Bayer

Everyday an estimated 800 women lose their lives in pregnancy and childbirth. Voluntary family planning could reduce these deaths by 30 percent and save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five each year by enabling women to delay first pregnancy, space later pregnancies at safe intervals, and stop bearing children when they have reached their desired family size.

USAID works across the globe to enable individuals to access and use affordable, high-quality family planning information, commodities, and services as a means to improve their health and quality of life. For many women, currently available contraceptive methods don’t meet their needs. USAID is one of the few organizations that prioritizes the development of new contraceptives that will be affordable in low resource settings. USAID-supported products on the verge of introduction include:

  • The SILCS Diaphragm, a “one size fits most” reusable diaphragm that does not need clinical fitting
  • The NES+EE Contraceptive Vaginal Ring,  the first long-term hormonal method completely under the woman’s control that lasts for one year
  • The Woman’s Condom,  designed to be easy to insert, use and remove, making it unique compared to other female condoms

As the world’s largest bilateral donor of family planning, USAID is committed to expanding choice and access to a variety of contraceptive options. The ability to make important decisions about childbearing is one of the most basic human rights. Improving access to voluntary family planning information, products, and services is a necessary ingredient to helping women care for their families, participate in their communities, and build their countries.

Learn more about USAID’s work in family planning

Resource:

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.

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.

From the Field in Pakistan: The Cattle Whisperer

With six children to feed and not enough money to make ends meet, each day was a trial for Bushra Yasmeen. On some days she didn’t have enough money to take her children to the doctor, on others there wasn’t enough money to support their education. Being a seamstress in a remote village in the Punjab was not taking her anywhere.

To seek advice and help, Bushra frequently turned to community elders who gathered in the evenings to talk about the day and what was happening in the small village they all shared.

Livestock extension worker Bushra Yasmeen poses in her clinic in Pir Mahal in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Bushra received training and basic supplies from USAID’s Dairy Project  Photo credit: USAID Dairy Project

Livestock extension worker Bushra Yasmeen poses in her clinic in Pir Mahal in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Bushra received training and basic supplies from USAID’s Dairy Project
Photo credit: USAID Dairy Project

It was at one such meeting that she heard that some people from the city — from USAID’s Dairy Project —  were coming to the village the next day to talk about training women to take better care of cattle. In rural areas of Pakistan, this work is done mostly by women. Through this project, USAID is improving animal health-care services in 1,500 villages in the Punjab by providing support and guidance to women like Bushra.

Always on the lookout for an opportunity to better support her family and help her husband, Bushra was eager to see what the training was all about. Based on her enthusiasm and energy, and the knowledge she displayed during the selection process, the USAID Dairy Project team selected her for training as a livestock extension worker.

During the month-long training program, Bushra learned about animal disease prevention and basic livestock management, including the need for timely vaccinations against mastitis (inflammation of the udders, one of the most common diseases among dairy cattle) and hoof-and-mouth disease.

With the training and a medical support kit provided by USAID, Bushra started providing basic treatment to the cattle in her village, earning more than she had as a seamstress.

“I have earned 10,000 rupees in two months by attending to 180 cattle cases in my village,” says a beaming Bushra.  She no longer has to think twice about money when her children need school supplies or medical care. In addition, Bushra has set up a clinic providing preventive and basic medical care to the animals owned by the dairy farmers in her village. The steady income means that she can reinvest in her clinic as well.

Learn more about USAID’s work in Pakistan. Like USAID Pakistan on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@UsAidPakistan) for ongoing updates in the region!

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.

Making All Voices Count is Open for Business

Two short years ago, I was googling my way to google, skeptical about what some were calling the open revolution. That day in September 2011, when the Open Government Partnership was launched changed my mind.

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

A woman on a phone in India. Photo Credit: USAID

Today, another September day in New York with the world gathering again at the United Nations General Assembly, I’m proud to see the White House touting the contribution that my team and I at USAID — together with DFID, SIDA, and Omidyar Network– have made to that revolution. Today Making All Voices Count: A Grand Challenge for Development is open for business and calling for proposals. And today the Open Society Foundations have joined our effort.

Some say that when you join government you spend down your intellectual capital. Not so in the 21st century! In the last few years, I’ve been witness to and learned from this open revolution. Citizens all around the world are getting more information and demanding more from their governments and technology is helping to close the gaps between citizens and governments.

But many of us in government need help listening and responding to how we can do better. This is where Making All Voices Count comes in: we expect to see proposals for innovative ideas to close that feedback loop, proposals to scale up important efforts that already exist, and proposals that will help the world understand how transparency and accountability are critical in helping new democracies deliver to their citizens.

So today, the President has called on all of us to double down on the open revolution and think in creative ways about how to support innovations for civil society. I’m excited to work with my team to respond to that call. We’ve got some great ideas and we will be working with partners around the world to make them real. I predict whether two years from now or in twenty, it will be increasingly hard to remain a closed society while the rest of the world opens up.

Join us by making all voices count! The first call for proposals is open now. Applications close November 8, 2013.

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 in the News

The Nyasa Times of Malawi reported on a partnership between USAID and Bayer HealthCare aimed at making the affordable and effective Microgynon Fe Oral Contraceptive available in the country. Malawi is the latest country to benefit from this program, called the Contraceptive Security Initiative, which was first launched in 2010 and has already been implemented in Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ghana. The initiative is aimed at bringing affordable and effective family planning into the market.

Click to read more about U.S. assistance to Pakistan on energy.

Click to read more about U.S. assistance to Pakistan to provide electricity to an estimated two and a half million households by 2014.

Pakistan Observer reported that USAID-supported projects will add 1200 megawatts of electricity to Pakistan’s national electric grid by 2014. The energy supply increase will be achieved through supporting reformed energy policies, improving technology, and repairing thermal power plants and dams. The energy increase, which is essential to driving trade and economic growth, is expected to supply 14 million people in 2.5 million households with electricity.

Spy Ghana profiled James A. Bever, the new director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Mission in Ghana. The piece notes that Bever will oversee USAID’s Ghana-specific programs in areas of agriculture, governance, economic growth, education, and health.

The Dhaka Tribune detailed the forthcoming visit from a USAID team to Bangladesh for the purpose of assessing the country’s agro-business sector. The USAID team is scheduled to meet with stakeholders of the sector and the secretaries of agriculture and commerce, as well as with companies, legal associations, and academics that work with agro-business to gain a well-rounded perspective of the issues involved. Agro-business sector improvement could help attract potential investment and encourage economic growth and prosperity in the country.

Ms. Magazine profiled USAID programs that aim to empower girls and women in Afghanistan. The programs that were detailed focus on strengthening the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in the work they do to support women, and increasing literacy of Afghan women and girls.

Leadership covered USAID’s support for a third season of the children’s show, “Sesame Square”—Nigeria’s adaptation of “Sesame Street.” The popular show, which just launched a new season in the Hausa language, is geared toward educating and strengthening the reading skills of Nigerian children. Chairman of the Bwari Area Council Peter Yohanna Ushafa noted that the program will help produce good citizen leaders in the country.

A Promise RenewedThe Huffington Post featured a story highlighting the efforts of USAID and other international organizations and governments in reducing child mortality around the globe through the A Promise Renewed program. The article quotes USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, “We can imagine a world without children dying for no need…We’re going to deliver that.”

Empowering LGBTI people in Colombia to Advocate for Their Own Rights

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia to observe the incredible work USAID is doing to support Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex (LGBTI) populations advocate for their own rights under the law. As an advocate and supporter of the LGBTI community here in the United States, I know firsthand the importance of LGBTI physical safety, the issues of workplace discrimination, and access to education and health care.

As part of USAID’s historic LGBT Global Development Partnership launched earlier this year, we are expanding our support to local civil society organizations in Colombia through our partnership with the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Activities include partnering with the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute to conduct trainings on how to run for office and participate in democratic processes. This partnership forms part of USAID’s wider commitment to inclusive development, and to engaging LGBTI communities as important actors in international development who have the potential and power to advance human rights, promote broad-based civic participation, and drive inclusive economic growth.

Victory Institute, with support from USAID, conducts training on on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights in Cartagena

Victory Institute, with support from USAID, conducts training on on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights in Cartagena. Photo credit: Victory Institute

Since 2006, USAID/Colombia has been a flagship bilateral mission for its work in supporting LGBTI community efforts fighting discrimination and stigmatization. In addition, USAID/Colombia has provided training for police and other public servants on respecting and protecting LGBTI rights. These continued efforts and strong ties to grassroots LGBTI organizations made Colombia a good fit for piloting the LGBTI Global Development Partnership trainings.

As reported in the Washington Blade, from August 29th-September 1st, the Victory Institute – with support from USAID – led a four-day training in Cartagena for 30 Colombian LGBTI activists interested in running for political office or managing campaigns. These inspiring individuals, who hailed from as far away as the Amazon rainforest, rural regions along the Atlantic Coast and Bogota, came together to learn the art and craft of running successful political campaigns in an effort to become more effective advocates for LGBTI rights in their own communities.

One such activist I had the pleasure of meeting was Jhosselyn Pájaro, a transsexual woman who ran for municipal council in the city of Arjona outside of Cartagena. She ran for office to let her community know that LGBTI people like her lived in the community and wanted to make a difference. Although she did not win a seat on the council, she was successful in raising awareness about LGBTI people and the rights and concerns they have living in Colombia. She attended the USAID-supported training to learn new skills as she hopes to again run for political office, and next time, win.

It is inspiring stories like these, from LGBTI individuals who face discrimination on an almost daily basis that makes the work of USAID all the more important. Through the LGBTI Global Development Partnership, USAID is working with our partners to strengthen LGBTI civil society organizations, enhance LGBTI participation in democratic processes, and undertake research on the economic impact of LGBTI discrimination.

At USAID, we are bringing together local activists and community leaders. In Colombia, organizations such as Colombia Diversa, Caribe Afirmativo, and Santamaria Fundación illustrate the dedication and service to their constituents that USAID values.We are helping these community leaders to advocate for a more inclusive society that embraces what LGBTI people have to offer in the development of their own societies, economies, and local institutions. Together, in partnership, we are working to ensure LGBTI people have equal rights as enshrined in international human rights and domestic law, and access to education, employment, health care and housing – what we consider as important elements of inclusive sustainable development.

Learn more about how USAID is advancing and protecting the human rights of the LGBTI community.

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