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50 Weeks to 50 Years at USAID – Week 1: Presidential Development Visionaries

“No objective supporter of foreign aid can be satisfied with the existing program-actually a multiplicity of programs. Bureaucratically fragmented, awkward and slow, its administration is diffused over a haphazard and irrational structure covering at least four departments and several other agencies. The program is based on a series of legislative measures and administrative procedures conceived at different times and for different purposes, many of them now obsolete, inconsistent and unduly rigid and thus unsuited for our present needs and purposes. Its weaknesses have begun to undermine confidence in our effort both here and abroad.”

On March 22, 1961, President John F. Kennedy wrote these words in a letter to Congress; a letter calling for significant changes to how the United States approached global development. That letter led to the creation of our nation’s first global development strategy. Eight months later, USAID was born.

Fast forward nearly five decades to another crossroad. Another U.S. president is examining how we might better assist the world’s poorest countries and those most in need.

President Obama addresses the U.N. General Assembly. Photo credit: US Mission to the United Nations

In September of this year, President Barack Obama unveiled his Global Development Policy, which for the first time elevates international development as a core pillar of U.S. foreign policy. In front of the United Nations, he called for a renewed, modern and rebuilt USAID to carry out that vision.

This week marks a 50-week count-down to USAID’s 50th anniversary.

President Kennedy’s and President Obama’s respective visions are not bookends in the story of U.S. global development. Instead, they serve as two points of reflection for this country’s premier development agency – its conception and its renaissance. Where we started, and, more importantly, where we would like to go to meet tomorrow’s challenges.

Each week, for the next 50 weeks, we will fill the area between the points with an artifact, document, or story in the build up to our 50th anniversary on November 3, 2011.

But this does not mean we are looking backward. The 50th anniversary is a time to celebrate and reflect, but also an opportunity to look forward. The final bookend to Kennedy’s letter to Congress will be set in place when we have put ourselves out of business, creating the conditions where our work is no longer needed.

USAID in the News

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article on Dean Atwood, who was a top USAID administrator during President Clinton’s administration, and his new position as chairman of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee.

The Washington Post’s Career Coach wrote about how many different backgrounds and skills can be utilized through employment at USAID.

 

USAID’s Frontlines – October 2010


Read the latest edition of USAID’s premier publication, FrontLines for these stories:

President Barack Obama calls international developmenta moral imperative and a key element in U.S. national security policy during a landmark United Nations speech

Tech innovators and grown-up science fair fans test drive innovative devices on the fast track to production and deployment in poor countries struggling with development challenges

After 60 years in Indonesia, USAID looks back at its successes and ahead to what is shaping up as a precedent-setting relationship between country and mission

Talk of microfinance and opening small businesses replaces talk of entrenched fighting in Iraq’s once notorious Falluja

A product that measures the size of a mothball is having an outsized impact on Bangladeshi rice farms – and the incomes of the rice farmers

Read these stories and more in the new issue of FrontLines. If you would like to automatically receive FrontLines every month, you can subscribe here.

Video Highlights Civilian-Military Coordination of Task Force Mountain Warrior

This originally appeared on Dipnote.

State Department officers, USAID development experts, and representatives from several other U.S. government agencies serve alongside the U.S. military throughout Afghanistan as part of our efforts to integrate civilian and military operations, including with Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), with combat battalions, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and District Support Teams.


BCT Task Force Mountain Warrior’s area of operations covered the four eastern Afghanistan provinces of Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar and Laghman, and the BCT was deployed from June 2009 to June 2010. Task Force Bastogne replaced the Task Force Mountain Warrior team, but many civilians under Chief of Mission authority remain in the area, providing valuable continuity.

In March 2010, Time.com embedded with Task Force Mountain Warrior and produced a video that reflects the work of the Brigade Senior Civilian Representative and other State Department Officers in Kunar province over the past year. The video shows the integrated nature of the Task Force’s work and the important role that civilians are playing on the front lines, working hand-in-hand with their military colleagues.

You can watch their video here.

Calling All Shutterbugs

FrontLines will be holding a photo contest and wants to see your best images that showcase USAID development activities in action.

Isabel Carpio Chami, a member of the Panama’s Emberá-Wounnan community, who is the lead tourism coordinator of a USAID-sponsored eco-tourism project in the Panama Canal Watershed. Photo credit: Fernando Alvarez, USAID

We want to see your most captivating shots. Think climate change, maternal health, water and sanitation, education, democracy, science and technology, disaster aid – no sector is off limits. Your photo should help illustrate why and how USAID is working in the world to extend a helping hand to people striving to make their lives better.

A panel of USAID employees will review all the entries and declare a winner. And the winning photograph will appear prominently in an upcoming issue of FrontLines.

Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • All photos must be submitted digitally, with .jpg files preferred. They must also be shot in high resolution, at least 300 dpi (dots per inch) or approximately 1 megabyte.
  • Include the date and location for the photograph as well as a brief description of what is happening in the image.
  • Any FrontLines reader can submit an image, including employees of NGOs and contractors.
  • One entry per person.
  • Have fun and be creative.

Send all entries to frontlines@usaid.gov with the subject: Photo Contest. Any questions about the contest should be sent to the same e-mail address. The deadline for entries is November 10. Good luck!

Have Your Say!

FrontLines loves to hear from our readers! To submit a letter to the editor e-mail frontlines@usaid.gov with the subject: Letter to the Editor.

Letters may be sent by regular mail to this address:

FrontLines
USAID
1300 Pennsylvania Ave,
Washington, DC 20523-7100
Room: 6.10.11

Please include your full name, address, and email. Letters should be 200 words or fewer, and all are subject

A Development Outreach and Communication Specialist from the Field Visits Washington

What an exciting experience it was! I was nervous when taking my first ever flight to the USA, even more nervous when I was ushered into the Legislative and Public Affairs (LPA) Office of USAID for a three-day assignment. However, it took me just a few minutes to feel fully empowered and on board the LPA and the Africa Bureau train – office space assigned, quick access to my USAID account, tour of the LPA to get to know the offices and the staff. Attending the USAID Senior Communications Group Meeting and being recognized by Administrator Shah and Moira Whelan, the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, during an Award Ceremony are not things that happen every day and the same day in a Development Outreach and Communication Specialist’s (DOC) life, an Foreign Service National DOC’s life. A strong message of recognition and empowerment for the entire DOC community from the USAID senior leadership!

Moussa Doumbia, a DOC from Mali visits the Washington headquarters of USAID. Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/USAID

On my arrival, things went so fast and so smooth that I wondered: ‘’Why did it take so long to make the move to see my dream come true?’’ A widespread saying in my Malian helmet then crossed my mind: ‘’better late than never’.

The most memorable days in my DOC career are these three days I spent at USAID HQs from October 6 through 8, 2010, navigating between the LPA and the Africa Bureau. Nothing else could have brought as much insight to a DOC function as meeting face to face with the Agency communicators we deal with from the field office and attaching the names to their jovial faces.

What will make a huge difference in my way of doing business from a DOC perspective are the Senior Communications Group Meeting I attended, meetings with Moira and the DOC Team, Luigi Crespo on protocol and event planning, the social media folks (video, facebook, twitter and flicker), the Press Officers, the Frontlines and Telling Our Story staff, the Photo Gallery, the Africa Bureau Communicators and the Mali Desk Officer. This is an experience I could never have gained without coming down here.  I encourage fellow DOCs to consider a tour in LPA for a similar exposure

Substations Enable Full-time Police Presence in Haiti

On a recent hot and sunny day in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, a group of military personnel from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), staff with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Treasury went to Tabarre Isa camp armed with buckets of blue and white paint and paintbrushes. Their mission is  to work with camp residents to paint a newly constructed police substation. The structure enables U.N. Police (UNPOL) and Haitian National Police (HNP) to have a full-time presence in the camps, and it provides crime victims, especially women and children, a safe refuge where they can report crime.

The U.S. government built police substations in six key camps in the Port-au-Prince area for people displaced by the Jan. 12 earthquake, including Ancien Aeroport Militaire, Golf del Mar 48, Acra, Tabarre Issa, Carredeaux and Corail Cesselesse, to help reduce crime in the camps, particularly gender-based violence. Originally, UNPOL was going to construct the police substations over the course of six months for $50,000. But because SOUTHCOM had extra time and resources, they completed the project in six weeks at a cost of $5,000.

In August, Louisiana National Guard Task Force Commander Col. Michael Borrel and his Task Force Kout Men had two engineer rotations working in Gonaives as part of SOUTHCOM’s New Horizons humanitarian assistance exercise. When Lt. Col. Paul Gass, an Army civil affairs officer attached to the U.S. Embassy, heard they had finished their six weeks of projected work in only four and had two extra weeks of time, he reached out to Col. Borrel with ideas for a “light-duty” project they could perform.

After examining needs in the camps, Gass and Borrel had an epiphany: Use these troops to build the substations. This would ensure a better police presence in the camps sooner.

With the agreement and cooperation of UNPOL and the HNP, they took on the project. The Louisiana Army National Guard, Task Force Kout Men and South Dakota National Guard engineers took over the design and construction of the 8-by-12-foot buildings. Once the idea was pitched, UNPOL became the voice for the HNP with input from Kevin Kennedy, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

“This project is a shining example of how a simple design, some coordination, extra resources and commitment can result in an extremely successful project,” Lt. Col. Gass said.

In addition to the police substations in the camps, USAID worked to increase lighting in camps, especially around latrines and shower facilities. USAID has also helped form women’s support groups and provided funding for psychosocial services such as GBV referral information, legal counseling and protection coordination.

A photo slide show of the substations is on Flickr.

Telling the USAID Story

Every day, USAID talks to the families around the world receiving our aid and who are recipients of our programs. We do this in many ways–meetings, events, SMS texting, and websites in native languages, and in parts of the world most Americans have never seen.

We also work to make sure that Americans understand the value of their investment and how it contributes to the overall foreign policy goals of our country though our blog, our website, telling our story, Frontlines, press releases and many other ways. We talk about Feed the Future, Global Health and many other top development priorities so Americans can see how they’re contributing to the betterment of societies around the world.

Both of these functions are critical to the transparency efforts at USAID. We want people to know what we do and how we do it. Those who invest their tax dollars around the world need to know how it’s being spent and who it’s impacting. Those receiving assistance from the American people have a right to know who is providing it.

This week, those of us tasked with this mission are taking time to look at how we can do a better job. This is something that USAID has never done before. We’re also celebrating the people who do this work and their unique stories. You see our hard work but we want you also to know a little more about how we work.

For the first time, USAID will host our Development Outreach and Communications Specialists (DOCs) for a special training in Washington. The DOCs are tasked with implementing the requirement of the US Foreign Assistance Act to communicate to recipient audiences that the aid they’re receiving is “American aid”. Docs have gathered before for regional training sessions and for skills trainings on various topics, but they’ve never gathered all in one place, and they’ve never come to Washington.

This is important for a few reasons. First, because of who the DOCs are. All are experienced professionals: former journalists, photographers, event planners. More than half are citizens of the countries in which USAID works. USAID Missions are unique this way–we understand that to really assist the people of a country, we must work with them to implement our programs, so more than half of USAID employees are actually citizens of the countries in which we work. They’re professionals in their field and work side-by-side US citizens to get our work done in the most effective way possible.

Just imagine: some are individuals who have for years, told their fellow citizens in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America how generous Americans are–and yet they’ve never been here. Others are Americans who picked up everything to move abroad simply to tell our story and make sure the stories of the people we help are known around the world. Keep checking back to the blog because we’d like you to meet some of them and they will be blogging about their experiences.

Second, this conference is important because the close coordination between communicators in our missions and in the United States are how we know our efforts are having individual impact. If you read Frontlines or check out “Telling our Story” you’ll learn more about the individuals we meet along the way. Meeting these people, getting to know them and then telling their story is an important way for us to communicate to Americans how USAID is investing around the world.

We’ve got big things planned: visits with White House and State Department senior staff, and meetings with journalists and our implementing partners. We’re training on social media and other topics, and we’ll have a little BBQ to boot. We’ll be working overtime to make sure you stay informed while getting ideas for how we can constantly improve. Stay tuned for updates!

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Don’t Miss USAID’s Pakistan Open Houses in New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston!

Come participate in one of USAID Pakistan‘s Open Houses in New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston this October.  The events are part of USAID’s ongoing engagement with the Pakistani-American diaspora community around the United States.

You can meet us:

  • Saturday, October 16, 2010, from 10 – 12 PM:
    New York City/Brooklyn and Queens (Crowne Plaza NY LaGuardia Hotel)
  • Saturday, October 16, 2010, from 4 – 6 PM:
    New York City/Westchester County (Hyatt Summerfield Suites)
  • Saturday, October 23, 2010, from 2 – 4 PM:
    Los Angeles (Holiday Inn at Los Angeles International Airport)
  • Saturday, October 30, 2010, from 10 – 12 PM:
    Houston (Crowne Plaza Suites Houston Sugarland)

At each event, staff from the Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs will cover USAID’s work in Pakistan, provide information for non-governmental organizations and business on how they can work with USAID in Pakistan, and discuss job and internship opportunities with USAID.  The Open Houses will also address USAID’s role in the Pakistan flood relief effort, and how Pakistani-Americans can continue contributing to it.

For more information or to RSVP, contact Alison Salisbury at ASalisbury@usaid.gov
(Please put the city in the subject line, for example “RSVP – Houston”)

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