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Archives for UNGA

Women and Agriculture: Behind the Scenes

After an event on Monday with Secretary Clinton to promote food security, influential leaders discuss the important role women play in strengthening global agriculture.

Featured in this short video:

Kathy Spahn, President of Helen Keller International; Dr. Jose Granziano da Silva, Director General Elect of UN FAO; and Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever.

Googling Google on my way to the Open Government Partnership

On the sidelines of this week’s UN General Assembly, I experienced the “Power of Open.” Across town, at Google’s New York headquarters, I joined other U.S. and foreign government officials, high-tech entrepreneurs and executives, NGO activists as well as public and private donors to support the launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The participants at the meeting were a mix of the converted, long-time leaders in this movement of openness and data, as well as some, like me, who were more skeptical.  And no help: several of us also experienced the power of the wrong address. Perhaps we should have Googled how to get to Google; the address on the conference agenda was incorrect and had us wandering the (not unpleasant) halls of the Chelsea Market.  (At one point, I was directed to an elevator but a guard wouldn’t let me on because I didn’t have the right badge. Not very open.  After pursuing the low-tech approach—ask half a dozen strangers “where is Google?” which sounded like a trick question—I finally found it.)

Once fortified by excellent bagels and lox (the upside of the private-public partnership: food), but still skeptical, I settled in to listen and learn.

Let’s be clear. I am not in favor of opacity; I have been fighting for open societies and increased access to information for over two decades.  And my colleagues literally laugh at my inability to make it through an hour-long meeting without using the word “data.”

But until yesterday, the concept of “Open Government” has struck me as overly broad and unmoored. It seemed to mean everything to some and nothing to many.

I was particularly worried that “Open Government” might be an easy out for authoritarian regimes.  Instead of talking about democracy or human rights, not very nice regimes might gravitate instead toward puffed up pronouncements about how their government had automated the paper procurement process (not that that is bad.)  Would the OGP really have an effect on people’s lives?  And more directly, how did this effort mesh with what we are doing at USAID advancing democracy, human rights, and governance?

I came away a convert.

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Mapping the Famine with Open Data and Open Source Tools

Check out USAID’s new FWD campaign and you will find something that you haven’t seen a lot of on USAID.gov in the past—a suite of interactive maps designed to tell the story of the crisis and the response.

The six maps available now show food insecurity, drought, affected populations, refugee and IDP movements and USAID’s response- all with interactive layers that let you see the details of the crisis. And we are developing more to be released over coming weeks.

The FWD campaign—which stands for Famine, War and Drought—was launched Monday to increase awareness about the devastating drought that has taken hold of the Horn of Africa and is pushing over 13.3 million people into crisis.

This campaign is different than anything USAID has done in the past. With its launch comes a shift in the way that USAID communicates with the American public, and the way we share information.

Through this campaign we are using data as a communications tool—using interactive maps and infographics to visualize the story behind the data. Explaining the crisis in easy to understand ways brings further meaning to the powerful information the humanitarian community collects every day.

But this isn’t just about making maps. It’s also about making data social and making data open.

Which is why we are working to unlock the underlying data sets we used to build the maps and release them in accessible formats, some of which you can find featured on data.gov. It’s also why we built these maps using open source tools and made them as easy to share or embed.

Our challenge now is to enable as many people as possible to leverage this information as we come together to solve these global challenges.

As Administrator Shah said at the Social Good Summit, “By making this story and making the all the data we have accessible, live, and real time that we will unlock a great deal of ingenuity and enterprise in trying to address these problems…. to solve this problem we need more of you engaged. We need you to make this visible.”

Stay tuned as we release more maps and data sets on data.gov in coming weeks. Feel free to embed these on your blog or website. And if you have feedback on stories you would like to see told or data you would like to see shared, email us at FWD@usaid.gov

Learn more at usaid.gov/FWD and usaid.gov/data.

In The Arena: Sports as a Catalyst for International Development

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

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

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MDG countdown: Celebrating Successes and Innovation

Today, Secretary of State Mitchell of UK development agency DFID and I will co-host an event along the sidelines of the UN General Assembly to celebrate successes and innovations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Indeed, the world has much to celebrate. Through partnerships between communities and governments and the integration of new, non-traditional players we are witnessing significant progress:

  • In Brazil, 12.2 million people have been lifted out of poverty. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia program has used cash transfers to empower mothers, resulting in a reduction in malnutrition and an increase in school enrollment and medical care.
  • Zambia has educated 20,000 teachers, providing roughly one million children with access to school. Community schools are also flourishing, creating an opportunity for local groups to initiate and manage schools for their children.
  • In Nepal, the risk of death during childbirth has been halved. Childbirth is no longer the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age.
  • Ethiopia has provided nine million households (63 percent) with healthcare, pioneering rural access through the Health Extension Program. This program has contributed to reducing the incidence of malaria by half and doubling family planning coverage.
  • The GAVI Alliance has helped immunize 288 million children, saving five million lives. This public-private partnership has set an additional target of immunizing another quarter of a billion children in the next five years, saving another 4 million children’s lives.

These are a few of the examples we will hear more about today, powerful stories of lives saved and lives improved—stories that development investments are paying off and delivering results.

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Because No Mother Should Die Giving Life; Every Child Deserves a Healthy Start

Last night, the Saving Lives at Birth partnership announced three award nominations for transition-to-scale grants that have the potential to save the lives of mothers and newborns in rural areas of the developing world at the time of birth. We couldn’t be more excited about the announcement.

The award nominees – a mobile technology initiative in Ghana, an HIV and syphilis testing device in Rwanda and a treatment to prevent newborn infections in Nepal – have provided the most compelling evidence that their innovative and promising solutions are ready to be tested on much larger platforms.

USAID Administrator Raj Shah made the announcement at the high-level Every Woman, Every Child reception hosted by Ray Chambers, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria and MDG Advocate. These $2 million grants will be implemented over four years.  The partners – USAID, the Government of the Norway, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, and The World Bank – all congratulated the nominees for their ongoing efforts to reduce maternal and newborn deaths in rural areas of the world and encouraged them to keep going.

JSI, Columbia University, and Grameen Foundation – the latest Saving Lives nominees – are all eager to advance their work.

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Collective Action to Advance the Health of Women and Newborns

Global maternal mortality has dropped by one third since 1990, but still every day an estimated 1,000 women lose their life in childbirth.  For the past year, USAID, the UK Department for International Development, Australian Agency for International Development and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have worked in partnership to accelerate progress in improving maternal and child health.  Launched at last year’s UN General Assembly Summit on the Millennium Development Goals, the Alliance for Reproductive, Maternal, and Newborn Health has supported the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child effort.

As director of USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, I’ve seen firsthand how this unique partnership has enhanced our efforts to improve the lives of women and children in the countries we work.  Through shared planning and funding, coordinated implementation, joint problem-solving, and joint learning, we’ve seen results that have far exceeded what any one organization could have achieved on its own.  For example, in Ethiopia, more women will have access to contraceptive implants and the government will save an estimated $2 million per year because Alliance partners worked with manufacturers to reduce the price of reproductive health commodities.

And in Pakistan, Alliance members helped increase the number of trained community midwives from 2,795 in 2010 to 7,764 in 2011, promising to reduce maternal and newborn death rates.  These are just examples from two of the ten countries in which the Alliance is focused on in its first year.

What makes the Alliance partnership different is that it brings added value, not added work, through smarter application of resources.  Through our joint efforts, by 2015, the Alliance aims to contribute to:

  • 100 million additional users of modern methods of family planning to reduce unmet need.
  • 67 million more women giving birth with the help of skilled attendants to reduce the maternal mortality ratio.
  • 80 million more infants exclusively breastfed through the first six months of life to reduce newborn mortality.

You can learn more about the Alliance’s work over the past year and our achievements in a one year progress report (pdf, 2.3mb) submitted this week to the UN Secretary-General’s Every Woman, Every Child effort.  In the coming year, the Alliance intends to expand to include additional partners and countries.

Harnessing the Power of Sport and Play for Development and Peace

As a former Olympic athlete, I have experienced the incredible impact that sport can have firsthand. But, it wasn’t until 1993, during a trip to Eritrea, as an ambassador for Olympic aid, that I began to truly understand the influence that sport can have on a variety of developmental issues, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Since then, I have become utterly convinced that participation in sport and play programs has the potential to significantly contribute to child and youth development, prevent the spread of non-communicable and communicable diseases and strengthen communities.

Former Olympic speedskater Johann Koss. Photo Credit: Johann Koss

The 2011 United Nations Summit’s focus on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is timely as global deaths from NCDs are predicted to continue to rise over the next 10 years, particularly in developing countries. Because physical inactivity is a primary risk factor driving the global increase in NCDs, participation in sport plays a critical role in slowing the spread of chronic diseases. Regular physical activity effectively prevents non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis.

Sport and play is a true catalyst for combating NCDs, as it generates benefits through direct participation. Research shows that children and youth who build physical activity into their daily lives will be more likely to grow into active adults with a lower risk for chronic illnesses. We also know that physical activity, including sport and play, can produce beneficial effects on mental health, including enhancing self esteem, alleviating depression and helping to manage stress and anxiety. When individuals suffering from various mental health issues integrate regular physical activity into their lives, research has shown that their clinical symptoms, particularly for depression, significantly diminish.

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Scaling Up Nutrition: Supporting country-led efforts to promote healthier lives

Through Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative, the U.S. Government supports the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, which helps children in countries like Mozambique maximize their potential by staying healthy. Photo Credit: Kelly Ramundo/USAID.

Back in June, I posted here about the negative impacts of global undernutrition as my colleagues and I prepared for Feed the Future’s agriculture and food security Research Forum in Washington, D.C. This week, as I attend two meetings for the international Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement during U.N. General Assembly week in New York, I’m moved to reflect once again on the issue because, quite frankly, we can’t give it enough attention.

The numbers haven’t changed since my last post, nor should our sense of urgency. The fact remains that two billion people in the world do not consume enough nutrients to live healthy, productive lives; and nearly 200 million children under age 5 suffer from chronic undernutrition. To put that last number into perspective, that’s about 24 times the population of the densely inhabited city where these U.N. meetings are currently taking place. That’s 24 New York Cities full of little children who deserve a better future.

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Eyes on UNGA: Day 1

USAID’s first day at the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly was packed with a range of events covering topics from U.S. Pakistan relations, to the launch of a new campaign to engage the public around the largest humanitarian emergency on earth.

From the halls of respected think tanks, to the floor of a buzzing digital media lounge packed with the New Media vanguard, USAID Administrator Shah spoke, participated, and interacted with a remarkable variety of individuals and groups eager to engage with America’s premiere development enterprise. Our cameras captured some fun and informative tidbits from the day’s major events.

Administrator Shah returned to the Second Annual Social Good Summit, co-hosted by Mashable, the 92Y, and the UN Foundation. Held each year during UN week, the Summit is “where big ideas meet new media to create innovative solutions.” After an impressive lineup of speakers including business leader and philanthropist Ted Turner, and Idealist.org CEO Ami Dar, Administrator Shah took the stage to launch FWD, USAID’s new public awareness campaign calling attention to the famine, war, and drought in the Horn of Africa.

As thousands of people watched online, the Administrator walked the viewers and the audience through the heart-wrenching details of the crisis, informed by stories of his recent travels to the region; but he also presented new ways for the public to get involved. He encouraged the viewers to visit FWD where they can get the latest information, forward the facts about the crisis, donate, and find ways to do more.

After his presentation, he caught up with UN Foundation cameras:

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