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Russians are Committed to Improving Energy Efficiency and Protecting their Environment

by Jonathan Hale

Energy and environmental issues have been a key focus of my visit to Russia this week.  I had the great opportunity to meet with officials at the Ministry of Energy, which is responsible for improving energy efficiency in Russia, as well as with civic leaders from environmental groups and the Institute for Sustainable Development of the Public Chamber, an entity that serves as an intermediary between Russian citizens and the government.  Across the board, my Russian counterparts expressed a strong interest in collaborating with the U.S. to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

Far Eastern leopard

Two American wildlife experts examine the health of a female Far Eastern leopard in Primorskiy Krai, Russia. With a population of only 30-40 confined to a thin stretch of forest along the Russian-Chinese border, this leopard is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered cats. USAID is supporting a joint US-Russian effort to better understand their ecology and protect their habitat. (Photo by Andrew Harrington, Wildlife Conservation Society)

President Medvedev has identified inefficient use of energy – and its impact on the country’s economy and environment – as an issue of critical importance and has called for reducing the energy intensity of the Russian economy by half by 2020.  Today, Russian energy losses due to inefficiency are equal to the annual energy consumption in France! But it’s estimated that Russia could save 45% of consumed energy through innovation and modern technology, which will also help Russia better address climate change. In my meetings here this week, we discussed the challenges of improving energy efficiency in Russia and the substantial impact USAID programs have had in other countries.

At the Public Chamber, I was especially pleased to meet some of the Russian scientists and activists who are a driving force behind environmental protection here. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia and Greenpeace Russia are led by impressive Russian experts – such as Dr. Ivan Blokov, who also serves as the interim Head of Greenpeace International’s Research Unit.  I heard their concerns about pollution and its impact on human health. They also offered their insight on how USAID can continue to partner with Russia to improve the stewardship of its forests – the largest in the world. Together, we can ensure that Russian forests continue to serve as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and as home to unique ecosystems that include amazing animals like the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard, and the Baikal seal.  We also spoke about the Arctic.

Why should this matter to Americans? Russia’s forests and ecosystems make up 22% of the world’s territory so protection in Russia is essential to maintaining a balanced biosphere worldwide. The passion that I have seen this week has energized me even more to find new and exciting ways for USAID to partner and cooperate with Russia on energy efficiency and the environment.

A Postcard from Dhaka

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s visit to Bangladesh.

USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, visited Bangladesh May 25-26th to participate in the opening of the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum, hosted by the Government of Bangladesh and launched by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. During his visit, he met with bilateral and multilateral development partners from the UN, FAO and DFID, as well as with the Prime Minister to discuss development issues and mutual cooperation.  After addressing a press conference where he highlighted President Obama’s new Feed the Future initiative, Dr. Shah met with USAID staff working in the region.

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

This post was submitted by David Kahrmann, USAID’s Development Outreach Communications officer in Belgrade, Serbia.

Film production putting Serbia on the map “For all the right reasons”

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

USAID Helps Serbia Go Hollywood

Serbia is back. After years of being off the beaten path, the rest of the world is waking up to the fact that Serbia is a pretty hip and trendy place, with Lonely Planet travel guides even recently dubbing its capital Belgrade one of the world’s “Ultimate Party Cities.”  But, few people are probably aware that as recently as the 1980s, Serbia was also one of the world’s leading filming locations.

USAID’s Competiveness Project is now working with production companies in film, TV, post-production and special effects to regain that status by promoting the advantages of Serbia as a film destination. USAID brought local stakeholders together to establish the Serbia Film Commission and helped it become a member of the International Association of Film Commissioners (AFCI). The Commission actively utilizes key industry trade shows, including the Cannes Producers Network and the American Film Location Market, to drum up interest in filming in Serbia.

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USAID Attorney Honored for Contribution to “Human Capital”

Federal News Radio has just recognized the contributions to public service of one of USAID’s own: Sabrina M. Segal, an Attorney Advisor, is among a number of people being honored with an inaugural Causey Award.

USAID Attorney - Sabrina Segal

Ms. Segal is being recognized for her outstanding contributions to the Human Capital Management field.  The new award is named after Mike Causey, who spent a long career dedicated to reporting on federal workforce management and federal workforce management and federal pay benefits issues.

Ms. Segal designed and developed Ethipedia, an ethics-focused wiki for USAID employees and an online collaboration space.  Built with open-source software, Ethipedia gives our team members 24-hour access to up-to-date ethics information.  It also allows them to post questions or have conversations with ethics advisors  no matter where in the world they work.  USAID is proud of its ethics training program, and this tool has been a low-cost value-added component to an already award-winning program.

For more information on the Causey Award, an MP3 of a radio interview with Sabrina Segal click here.

Investing in food security with the Bangladeshi government, private sector, NGOs

Rajiv Shah - Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum - May 2010

Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, speaks at the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum in Dhaka on May 26, 2010

I’m in Bangladesh today to participate in the Food Security Investment Forum. What a crowd! The Prime Minister, Her Excellency Sheikh Hasina, who has shown a strong commitment to food security, spoke this morning, as well as luminaries such as Dr. David Nabarro, Dr. Shenggen Fan, and Dr. John Mellor.

We’ve all come together in Bangladesh because this country represents a situation that we need to address now. The rising population, decreasing availability of land for agricultural production, and the growing adverse consequences due to climate change means we need to think dramatically differently about what it takes to feed the future generations in this country.

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USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Jonathan Hale Visit to Russia – May 2010

This marks my first trip to Russia since I took on the role of Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Europe and Eurasia Bureau. I’m very pleased to be back here, at a time when there is a lot of optimism about the “reset” in U.S.-Russia relations.

Today I met with Russian experts and NGOs that are partnering with USAID to reduce maternal and infant mortality, improve reproductive health, and reduce the number of children living in orphanages and on the streets. These are priorities for both Russia and the U.S., and an important area of collaboration under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last July.

I was impressed by the leading role that Russian organizations such as

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President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) website wins Gold Screen Award

A group of children relax under a net in the Oyam district of Northern Uganda. Source: Gilbert Awekofua/Photoshare

The PMI website, managed by USAID, earned The Gold Screen Award in the 2010 Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Awards Competition, held by the National Association of Government Communicators. The awards competition recognizes superior government communications products and their producers in 51 categories. Gold Screen Award categories are reserved for audiovisual and multimedia products, including broadcast-related products and websites.

More than 500 entries were received and judged by a prestigious panel of expert judges. The website, accessible at www.pmi.gov and www.fightingmalaria.gov, hosts 12,000 unique visitors per month who view over 30,000 pages.

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This Week at USAID – May 24, 2010

Currently in Beijing, Administrator Shah is taking part in development-specific talks led by Secretary Clinton at the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

Later this week, Administrator Shah will be in Dhaka to participate in the Food Security Investment Forum hosted by the Government of Bangladesh.  This forum is a country-specific element of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Development as a discipline in China

I’m in Beijing to take part in the Strategic and Economic Dialogue along with other Obama Administration leaders.

First stop: China Agricultural University where the Agriculture Cadres Training College is preparing the next generation of development professionals.

This is the only university In China to have a discipline in development; it offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field. The visit here was very exciting — there were great questions about Africa and partnerships — and the students were extremely engaging.

USAID in the News – May 21, 2010

USAID in the News …

Administrator Rajiv Shah said in Nairobi, Kenya that the agency is working to make Africa a bigger priority. USAID currently funds and runs programs to improve health, food security, democracy and entrepreneurship in Africa.

In Southern Sudan, Dr. Shah announced that USAID and its local partners are launching the $55 million, five-year Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets (FARM) Program aimed at helping to improve the ability of small farmers to grow staple crops.

The Lancet published an assessment of proposed reforms to USAID that Dr. Shah had announced, including the reinstatement of a bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning.

The Los Angeles Times wrote an editorial in favor of the Obama Administration’s plans to expand pilot programs to get food aid to the world’s needy faster.

The Obama Administration, as reported by the Reuters News Agency, is signaling a shift in U.S. foreign policy in the wake of the 2008 food crisis. The Administration wants to spend at least $3.5 billion over the next three years to potentially help 60 poor nations feed themselves. USAID is the lead implementing agency for Feed the Future.

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