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From the Field

In Uganda, we supported a youth festival to demonstrate the spirit of entrepreneurship.  USAID organized a national youth festival with 18 youth organizations and 26 youth clubs from local universities. More than 7,000 youth attended the event and three Members of Parliament who represent youth. The event was used to showcase entrepreneurial activities that youth are engaged in and link them with potential donors. Several young entrepreneurs shared their challenges and achievements, and encouraged their peers to learn skills that can enable them to create jobs. Training was held in social media, a skill that was highlighted by the entrepreneurs. Debates were also held on key factors affecting youth employment and the best ways to address the high unemployment rate among the youth in Uganda; the debate was facilitated by the youth MPs. There were even talent shows held in dance, drama and creative writing as tools for youth advocacy. USAID will continue to support youth advocacy on unemployment and follow up on promises by elected officials to create opportunities to reduce youth unemployment.

In Nicaragua, we are supporting access to public information. USAID’s Municipal Governance Program signed a grant with the municipality of Nueva Guinea to provide IT equipment and technical assistance that will improve the work of their public information office.  The grant includes a public awareness campaign component to educate citizens on the importance of requesting public information.  Democracy and Governance Office Chief, Jessica Zaman, remarked on the importance of access to public information as a basic human right.  Nueva Guinea Mayor, Obando Marín, thanked USAID for its support and emphasized that access to public information is not just intended to share information with everyone, but it should be considered a means to make concerted decisions that benefit the entire community.  More than 150 community leaders attended the event.  The Municipal Governance Program supports 20 Nicaraguan municipalities in the areas of governance, management, public services, transparency and citizenship.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (8/1/2011 – 8/5/2011)

August 2 In an interview with PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah stated that the U.S. is easing restrictions to speed the aid to Somalia. “We are working hard to make sure that authorities in Somalia allow access for humanitarian organizations and NGOs and the United States has been supporting those organizations and will continue to support those organizations going forward,” Shah said.

August 4 Appearing on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed the latest developments in Somalia and what can be done to help the region. “The United States…has been aggressive about providing as much support as we possibly can,” Shah said. “We have been about 50 percent of the total global response.” The Administrator also discussed the Famine Early Warning System.

A Passion for Helping People… and Animals

In his 31-year career with USAID, Dr. Kevin Rushing has helped both people and animals throughout the world.  A trained veterinarian, Dr. Rushing has provided pro bono veterinary services to animals in need in the many countries in which he has served, including Nepal, Iraq, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Cambodia, Bosnia, Russia, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

Serving as USAID/Nepal Mission Director from 2009 until mid-June 2011, Dr. Rushing was featured in a July 2011 article entitled “Rushing to the Rescue,” by Yukta Bajracharya, in the Nepali magazine ECS Nepal.   The article describes how Dr. Rushing’s passion for development is matched only by his devotion to helping animals in need – not the dogs and cats most of us are accustomed to, but tigers, cheetahs, lions, leopards, serval cats, elephants, chimpanzees, birds, and reptiles among others.

An excerpt from the article describes Dr. Rushing’s assistance to a tiger cub in Nepal:

[O] one of the very first trips that Dr. Rushing made was to bring a tiger cub, Narayani, to the Central Zoo at Jawalakhel. Narayani had been rescued by villagers in Chitwan but she had been kept in a very small enclosure, restricting the tigress’ motion and proper care. Dr. Rushing jokes, “Narayani can still recognize me. When I visited the zoo recently, I went to meet Narayani. She let out a threatening growl – a warning to not come near her. She remembers that I had given her anesthesia.”

Dr. Rushing believes that his passion for animals enhances and improves his work as a development professional.  For example, while serving in Iraq, he helped provide veterinary exams to cows that were given to Iraqi widows, which enabled the women to earn an income and provide for their children.  In Nepal, Dr. Rushing helped to focus attention on the plight of the tiger – his favorite animal – and the Mission now provides funding to combat illegal poaching and to count the number of tigers in the country without endangering them.

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Bringing Science and Technology Expertise to USAID

Recognizing the Importance of Science & Technology in Development, USAID attended The Space Coast Job Fair and Hands-On Training Event in Cape Canaveral, Florida on July 26th. This event was part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) continuing effort to promote Federal hiring in areas most adversely affected by current economic conditions. OPM is supporting the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in its efforts to assist aerospace workers impacted by the ending of the Space Shuttle program.

“We’re looking for people who are fundamentally entrepreneurial, and who can bring a ‘Yes we can approach’ to USAID.” Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

The conversation always begins with “why aren’t you working for the United States Agency for International Development?” The replies were always different.  Most people never heard of us; some did not know why; and there was an occasional “you never asked.”

On July 26th, 2011, we traveled to Cape Canaveral for a NASA Job Fair where we spoke to well over a hundred very talented people from a wide variety of disciplines–engineers, contract specialists, and IT specialists to name a few– who had devoted decades of their lives to the space program.  Our give-aways were USAID pens; jokingly, we told our visitors that they were designed by NASA.  We told them that they could write underwater, upside down, and in space, for comic relief, but with all sincerity we asked that their next job acceptance letter be signed with this pen.

One NASA employee, Jill, was ending her military career in the Air Force as a lawyer.  Dennis told her of the benefits and opportunities for veterans at USAID, including the Veterans Recruitment Appointments (VRAs) and other special hiring authorities that are available for women and men of service.  For more information on these authorities, visit  http://www.fedshirevets.gov/job/shav/index.aspx and http://www.usaid.gov/work-usaid/careers/veterans-opportunities.

There was Anna, who was once an assistant school principal, but left her love of education for her love of space, to work as a Human Resource Administrator at NASA. We told her of the work the agency performs in global development and that we have a need for education specialists all over the world, as well as in Washington, and that she should look at our agency to rekindle her interests in teaching.

The person that we were impressed with the most was a portly fellow named Victor.  He had a great suit, but was sweltering through his shirt because he stopped to change the tire of stranded motorist.  He told us of his volunteer endeavors with the community and his work with all of the Space Shuttle launches as an IT Program Manager.  His character and sincere devotion to helping others stood out; we told him that he would be a tremendous asset for USAID (or any agency) that he wanted to serve with.

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USAID Legacy Sworn in as Mission Director

Friday afternoon, Diana Putman vowed to protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies as she accepted her new assignment as the Mission Director for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Previously, Diana served as the Humanitarian and Health Activities Branch Chief at the U.S. Africa Command, where she has served since August 2008. Before that, Diana served in Tunisia (3 years), Tanzania (5 years), and at the regional mission in Kenya (6 years) as Director of the Office of Food Security which designed and managed regional programs in 23 countries with a focus on agriculture, trade and food security.

She conducted much of her doctoral research in Mali, Rwanda and Somalia and in Japan, Diana conducted post-doctoral research on women and gender differences with Fulbright and National Science Foundation Support in the 1990’s.   In June 2010, she was awarded the American Foreign Service Association’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent for her efforts to provide counseling and rehabilitation for victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

With 3 degrees in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College, and studies at the Université de Grenoble in France, Diana has received multiple Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards from USAID, the Secretary of State’s Group Award for Heroism after the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania, and the Praxis Award from the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists.

The long list of accomplishments, achievements and accolades goes on for a bit, but you get the picture.

What you missed from Friday’s ceremony: Diana’s family  looking on with pride. Most notably, Warren Putman, Diana’s father, who was recognized during the ceremony for his own service with USAID as a livestock and agricultural specialist—starting in March of 1962! —only five months after USAID was created.

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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (7/23/2011 – 7/29/2011)

July 23 Voice of America reports that recent findings in a HIV/AIDS study found that taking HIV medication orally once a day was highly effective in preventing HIV in heterosexual men and women in Botswana, Kenya, and Uganda. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah noted that the next step in the global effort to combat the disease “is to determine how the teams’ research can be put to use in a real world setting.”

July 28 At the Saving Lives at Birth Development Exchange Forum, innovators gathered from across the world with proposals for new technologies, new service-delivery models, and new ways to stimulate demand for health care services at the time of birth. AllAfrica.com reports that at the event, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah praised the group for their hard work and innovative thinking.

July 29 In an interview with Foreign Policy, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed his recent trip to the Horn of Africa to visit refugees affected by the drought. Administrator Shah explained that the U.S. has been the largest responder, providing nearly $460 million of support and reaching nearly 4.5 million people.

July 29 ABC News reported that about $14 million was awarded to innovations aimed at saving the lives of mothers and children around the world at a landmark event hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah. “Saving Lives at Birth,” the first in a series of Grand Challenges for Development led by USAID, brought together doctors, health workers, engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to showcase innovations with the potential to prevent maternal and newborn deaths.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (7/18/2011 – 7/22/2011)

July 19 At a special State Department briefing on the Horn of Africa, CNN reported that USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg stated that the Agency’s Famine Early Relief Warning System predicted the crisis and in August 2010, started pre-positioning supplies in South Africa and other areas near the crisis region. On a longer-term basis, the State Department and USAID are working with the international community to implement a long-term “Feed the Future” program aimed at increasing agricultural productivity.

July 19 The Guardian reported that USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are partnering together to invest in improving sanitation services in poor countries over the next few years. The goal is to encourage the development of relevant tools and technologies that will improve basic sanitation around the world. An estimated 2.6 billion people do not have access to safe sanitation.

July 20 Voice of America featured a multimedia story on USAID’s response to the drought and food crisis in Somalia. During his trip to neighboring Kenya earlier this week, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah visited refugee camps and announced the United States’ pledge of an additional $28 million to assist affected people in Somalia.

Preview: UN High Level Meeting on Youth

At 1.5 billion, today’s global youth generation is the largest in history and USAID understands the important role youth play as partners and leaders in development.

On July 26-27, Government Officials, civil society organizations and Youth Delegates will come together in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly for a High Level Meeting on Youth.  As the flagship event of the International Year of the Youth which culminates on August 11, the overall theme is “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.

Under the overall lead of Ronan Farrow, State Department’s new Special Advisor on Global Youth Issues, USAID will play a prominent role at the meeting.  Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor at USAID, will deliver a statement on behalf of the U.S. Government during the Development Roundtable.

At USAID we are inspired by the energy of youth in the developing world, and actively searching for ways to engage them in the development dialogue and process.   Alongside the formal events, USAID (Nicole Goldin and Erin Mazursky, Youth Advisor) will host a listening session on youth in development at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

While this is a culminating event, this important gathering of leaders, stakeholders, and a wide array of impressive young leaders from around the world will help to further the recognition of youth as important players in international development. This has been an important year of elevating the profile of youth, and USAID is happy to play a role in continuing the momentum.

You can tell us more about your interests in youth in development at www.usaid.gov/youthimpact; or visit us on Twitter and share your comments using the hashtag#USAIDyouth.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (7/11/2011 – 7/15/2011)

July 12 CNN, McClatchy Newspapers, and The Washington Post reported that at a speech to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cited the importance of foreign aid and how the State Department and USAID are using “commercial diplomacy” to help U.S. companies compete and win in the future. Clinton noted that more than 1,000 economic officers and over 400 locally-employed staff around the world are promoting American business interests and looking for new opportunities for U.S. businesses abroad.

July 13 In an interview with The Huffington Post, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed the current drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Shah stated that the food shortages are putting millions of lives at risk and threatening to further destabilize a troubled region of the world. “It’s so important to be promoting security and stability in these parts of the world, as opposed to be dealing with these devastating and difficult consequences of failure,” Shah stated.

July 14 Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog reports that in a recent interview with Deputy Secretary of State for Management Tom Nides, the State Department and USAID have a national security mandate. “We are helping countries through Feed the Future, Global Health Initiatives, climate change, and economic support funding. We’re doing that because we’re building up these countries to be more self-reliant and have stronger economies. By doing that, that helps our national security,”

Not Just from the American People, For the American People

USAID 50th anniversary banner

I was 15 when I watched on CNN as Somali clansmen dragged U.S. servicemembers through the mangled streets of Mogadishu.  Throughout my adult life, I’ve watched, studied, and participated in subsequent U.S. interventions in failed and fragile states. Yesterday, I spoke at the USGLC Annual Conference-Investing in the Future: A Smart Power Approach to Global Leadership, explaining just that.

In 2003, I deployed with a battalion task force of nearly one-thousand soldiers to eastern Afghanistan.  I had the fortune of leading a platoon of infantrymen and witnessed first-hand the enormity of the development deficit faced by Afghans in the wake of more than two decades of violence.   It was also this point in my life I began to ask myself whether there was a way to pre-emptively address development challenges around the world so that there would be fewer instances in the future where we had to risk the use of military force.  Ultimately that question led me to USAID.

The two clasped hands in USAID’s logo exemplify the motto “From the American People,” but I’ve learned that our assistance also derives benefits for the American people.  Development assistance helps keep our country safe, helps to develop the markets of tomorrow, and demonstrates America’s moral leadership around the world.

For example, in 2010, six years after the devastating civil war, southern Sudan was preparing to vote for its independence.  No one could guarantee the referendum would proceed peacefully, if it proceeded at all.  In August 2010, five months before the referendum was slated to begin, many were still convinced it would not take place, but our development assistance made a crucial difference.  USAID helped establish facilities for the referendum’s operations; secured voter registration cards; and helped to train Sudanese poll workers to register voters.  USAID also provided lanterns so poll workers could count ballots into the night.  The results of the referendum have since been officially counted and this week’s historic celebration of independence is a success-story USAID can take pride in helping to make happen.

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