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This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Taking on Global Challenges through Science, Diplomacy, and Development

The cutting edge of science and technology is rapidly moving to address questions of global importance: How do we conserve ecosystems and protect against the spread of emerging infectious disease? How do we increase agricultural yields while decreasing the environmental footprint of agriculture? How do we better predict natural disasters, ranging from global climatic disruption, to floods, to earthquakes?

The National Science Foundation (NSF) invests tens of millions of dollars each year in projects that take U.S. scientists and engineers to developing countries to conduct research with their international colleagues on these very issues. NSF resources, however, are almost entirely provided to the U.S. side of such collaborations, limiting the ability of projects to reach their full potential and fully engage developing country partners.

On July 7, 2011, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah joined the NSF Director Subra Suresh to announce a new partnership between their two agencies aimed to address this gap. (Read more on this press release and on the corresponding NSF press release).

The Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program will provide USAID resources to support developing country scientists and build partnerships with NSF-funded American scientists. The PEER program is now open for proposals from developing country scientists to fully realize the potential of research-driven development. For more information, see the PEER program solicitation and announcement on the National Academies website.

With assistance from the National Academies, the PEER program will accept and competitively select research proposals that leverage NSF-funded projects to accelerate solutions to our global development challenges. Examples of proposal topics may include the following areas:

  • Food security topics such as agricultural development, fisheries, and plant genomics
  • Global health issues such as ecology of infectious disease, biomedical engineering, and natural/human system interactions
  • Climate change impacts such as water sustainability, hydrology, ocean acidification, climate process and modeling, and environmental engineering
  • Other development topics including disaster mitigation, biodiversity, water, and renewable energy

PEER funding may be used to train students and faculty, equip laboratories and field stations, and fund research, leveling the playing field between developing country scientists and American scientists and building scientific networks to address global challenges. By increasing global capacity for science and technology, USAID can address serious problems that fail to respect political boundaries, that require a concerted approach, and that can affect American security at home and developing nation stability abroad. Through strengthening scientific networks and building collaborations, we will advance global understand of problems that are complex in scope, but also enhance the capacity of developing countries to address their own problems and increase self-sufficiency and security.

Our hope at USAID is that PEER energizes the global university community to be more idealistic, more interdisciplinary, and more globalized, than ever before, and captures that energy to address the big problems of our time: the next moon-shot, addressing arsenic problems in water in South Asia, or biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems in the Philippines. USAID and NSF seek to inspire the next generation of U.S. scientists and engineers to focus on problems that have impacts on the livelihoods of those in the developing world. PEER provides that opportunity.

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Notes from the World Water Week Conference

Note from World Water Week Conference on the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services- Christian Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator

Today at the World Water Week conference in Stockholm, I had the privilege of opening and moderating an exceptionally important session focused on “Do Rights-based Policies Enhance Women’s Leadership and Contribute to Sustainable WASH Outcomes: Taking Stock and Moving Forward.”

We tackled the added-value of rights-based policies in order to enhance women’s leadership and contribute to sustainable WASH outcomes in a seminar jointly organized by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), Freshwater Action Network (FAN), U.S. Department of State, WASH Advocacy Initiative, and WaterLex. The discussion centered on 4 key topics:

  • Best practices around equity and inclusion;
  • Women’s leadership in sustainable WASH programming and policy development;
  • Rights-based standards and M&E in WASH management; and
  • Citizen service engagement

Achieving sustainable access to affordable and appropriate water and sanitation services for all, including the poorest and most marginalized, remains a major challenge for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector.

In my opening comments, I stressed the critical role women play in securing access to WASH services. I stressed that it is time to support and enhance the capacity of women to develop and lead the implementation of water and sanitation solutions; women have the right to participate equally in decision- making within their communities to help address these needs.

Session presenters included:

  • Hilda Coelho, Freshwater Action Network (FAN) Representative and President of CRSD in India;
  • Hélène Boussard, Research Coordinator on Water Governance for WaterLex;
  • Mary Ann Brocklesby and Sheena Crawford; and
  • Kate Harawa, Country Director for Water For People, Malawi

Concluding the seminar, Sanjay Wijesekera, Team Leader for WASH at DFID, called on all participants to move evidence into practice. He said, “Rights-based approaches have been successfully deployed to drive change and accelerate progress on the WASH Millennium Development Goal targets. However, to use such approaches effectively, we need to ensure that the legal and policy frameworks are harmonized with human rights commitments, and that we document systematically these experiences.”

I strongly recommend reviewing the presentations made at the session.

Teaching Children to Resist Traffickers

Submitted by Guest Blogger Aida Salcinovic, independent journalist

“Are you a stranger?” an eight-year-old Kosovar girl asks her teacher. She is playing an educational game with a group of children at an asylum center in Bosnia–Herzegovina. The game, designed by USAID’s Sustainable Interventions to Combat Trafficking in Persons (SUSTAIN) and the Women’s Initiative Foundation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, educates children on the dangers of trafficking and challenges them to think about whom they should, and should not, trust. It also provides them with a forum for discussing their questions and talking about their experiences.

Children take turns rolling the dice, and when it’s their turn, they are asked a question by a teacher who has been specifically trained to work with refugee children at risk of trafficking. Questions are designed to help children recognize safe and unsafe situations and to encourage them to make sound choices. Children learn, for example, that they should never go with a stranger—even if that person offers them help or invites them to join in a fun activity. Over the course of the game, the children’s answers become more confident:  “I won’t go with a stranger—not even to play video games or watch a movie.”

A twelve-year-old describes how an older boy approached her near her school and offered her chocolate. She concludes proudly, “But I ran away!” The children quickly learn that no chocolate or video game is worth the risk.

This simple game has allowed educators to reach out to youth at risk of trafficking in an innovative and effective way.  While the overall number of trafficking victims has been declining in Bosnia–Herzegovina, growing numbers of children have been trafficked for organized begging. Roma children are particularly vulnerable, as low employment rates in the community can lead to children to beg (and to fall victim to organized crime). Trafficking in the region has also become more sophisticated and therefore more difficult to detect. Victims of sexual exploitation, for example, are harbored in private apartments (rather than in bars or other public places). As a result, educating those most at risk in how to identify potentially dangerous situations and avoid them is more essential than ever.

The SUSTAIN project, which is implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS), raises awareness and educates new generations about the dangers of human trafficking. CRS’s approach is cross-sectoral and includes experts from NGOs as well as teachers, education experts, and orphanage personnel. All of these actors play a crucial role in helping at-risk youth recognize potential trafficking situations and avoid becoming victims, helping to prevent and stem trafficking.

The US Government remains committed to helping Bosnia–Herzegovina combat trafficking through projects such as SUSTAIN.

Release of the 2011 VolAg Report

By Elvira Felix, USAID Office of Development Partners

Partnerships are a central component of USAID’s business model for international development, and enable USAID to increase its reach and effectiveness to meet its strategic development objectives.

Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) are key partners in the implementation of USAID programs.  In the past year, U.S. PVOs received $18.7 billion in support from U.S. citizens and private sources, over six times the $3.1 billion from USAID. Through partnerships with PVOs, USAID has also leveraged significant non-financial resources to achieve high-impact development. From HIV/AIDS education, to micro-lending, to introducing improved agricultural practices that mitigate climate change, PVOs play a critical role in USAID’s community-level development work.

One of the first steps of building partnerships with Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) is through PVO Registration.  Registration has allowed PVOs like the Global Team for Local Initiatives (GTLI) to participate in USAID’s Development Grants Program and use USAID funding to bring their programs to scale.  GTLI works in a very remote area of Ethiopia and, utilizing USAID resources, has brought culturally appropriate development projects, including modern wells and sanitation practices, to communities that had been deemed beyond reach, too remote, and were extremely reluctant to adopt modern wells and sanitation practices. This new partnership was fostered by the PVO Registration process and has led to combined success for both GTLI and USAID.

There are a number of PVOs, like GTLI, that work closely with USAID to further USAID development objectives abroad. Each year the Private and Voluntary Cooperation Division (PVC), in the Office of Development Partners (ODP), which manages the PVO Registration process, releases the Report of Voluntary Agencies Engaged in Overseas Relief and Development (VolAg Report, PDF).  The VolAg Report provides a snapshot of the work of the U.S. and international Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs) that are registered with USAID. The Report is the culmination of a year’s effort to collect, validate, and disseminate a clear, factual report about the Private Voluntary Organizations (PVOs, Cooperative Development Organizations (CDOs), and International PVOs (IPVOs) registered with USAID.

We invite you to view the recently released 2011 VolAg Report (PDF, 7.7MB) and to learn more about PVO Registration.

Partnerships to End Child Sex Tourism

Guest post by Marina Colby, the Legislative Advisor to ECPAT-USA

Child sex tourism is an egregious crime that can occur right under our noses by perpetrators who may believe that by having sex with children, they are helping them and contributing to the local economy. As one child sex tourist stated: “On this trip, I’ve had sex with a 14 year-old girl in Mexico and a 15 year-old in Colombia. I’m helping them financially. If they don’t have sex with me, they may not have enough food. If someone has a problem with me doing this, let UNICEF feed them.”

While it is difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem given the lack of research and the illicit nature of the issue, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), approximately 2 million children around the world are victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Many of these children suffer at the hands of child sex tourists, individuals who travel to engage in sexual activity with children.

Billboard on the road between Cancun and the Riviera Maya section of Mexico in 2007. Photo Credit: ECPAT

Despite growing awareness of the commercial sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking, child sex tourism continues to be a lucrative industry.  Even prior to the recent global economic crisis, the sex industry, including child sex tourism, has been a significant contributor to gross domestic product (GDP) in a number of countries.  We are now seeing emerging destinations for child sex tourists in the Americas, Africa and Eastern Europe. It’s important to note that this type of exploitation can occur anywhere in the world and no country or tourism destination is immune.  Moreover, child sex tourists may be foreigners or domestic nationals who are traveling within their own country.

Countries with thriving sex tourism are also likely to suffer from widespread poverty, weak rule of law, and vast income gaps. Such poverty often correlates with illiteracy, limited employment opportunities, and bleak financial circumstances for families. Children in these families can become easy targets for human traffickers and sex tourists.

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USAID and Intel Meeting Affirms Partnership; Expands Collaboration

By: Cecilia Brady, Alliance Advisor

Earlier this month, USAID and Intel Corporation held their annual management review meeting to analyze the achievements of the longstanding collaboration between the two organizations, and to discuss expanding their cooperation.

Tour guide in Vietnam now uses broadband internet access to communicate with clients and head office. Photo credit: Intel® Corporation

Intel, a global technology company based in California, is perhaps best known for its microprocessors that are ubiquitous in personal computers; the company also manufactures integrated circuits, flash memory and other technology-based products and devices.  Intel’s stated vision over the next decade is “to create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth” – a good fit with USAID’s goal of mobilizing the ideas, expertise and resources of the private sector to achieve development objectives.

USAID began its relationship with Intel in2004, and in 2006 signed a global agreement to partner on three issues: improving education with information and communications technologies (ICT), enabling last-mile Internet connectivity, and supporting ICT usage by small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  This strategic partnership has allowed USAID to utilize Intel’s technology to deepen the impact of our development projects, and to access the deep expertise and innovative thinking within one of the world’s leading technology companies.

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Working to End Modern Day Slavery

Sarah Mendelson, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will release the eleventh annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report and the world’s attention will turn to the global fight against human trafficking and the persistence of this problem in at least 181 countries around the world.

The International Labor Organization estimates that 12.3 million people globally are victims of trafficking—trapped in forced labor, debt bondage, or sexual exploitation.  An accurate number of victims is hard to determine, however, because they are often a hidden population, kept under guard in mines, fishing boats at sea, back alley sweatshops, and brothels.  Trafficking is a crime, a human rights abuse, and a development problem.

In our development programs, USAID is tackling the conditions that enable the trafficking of humans, such as barriers to education and job opportunities, ethnic and gender discrimination, weak rule of law, and the drivers of conflict and corruption.  Since 2001, USAID has worked in 70 countries to prevent trafficking, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators.

In February 2011, we launched an agency-wide Counter Trafficking Code of Conduct (pdf 40kb), holding our contractors, grantees, and personnel to the highest ethical standards.  Next month, we will release a field guide to help our Missions implement anti-TIP programs, and in the fall, we will launch a new Agency-wide anti-trafficking strategy.  Below are some recent examples of our worldwide programs:

  • Through USAID’s ongoing partnership with MTV End Exploitation and Trafficking (EXIT) Alliance (pdf 130kb), we have reached over 560 million households through short films, documentaries, and online content designed to raise awarenessof trafficking and inspire young people to take action. This past Saturday, MTV Exit sponsored a concert attended by 20,000 young people in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan attended the concert as did U.S. Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney.
  • Earlier this month in Russia, USAID announced The Stop Human Trafficking App Challenge in partnership with the Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA)and NetHope.  We are seeking to leverage innovation by supporting the best mobile application to combat trafficking there.  Contestants have until August 8, 2011 to submit entries, and the winning technology application will be implemented by a domestic anti-trafficking organization.
  • In January in Tajikistan, we supported the establishment of Central Asia’s first all-male shelter for victims of labor trafficking in partnership with the International Organization for Migration.  Responding to survey data in 2010 that suggested nearly 91 percent of TIP cases in Central Asia involved labor exploitation and that 69 percent of the victims were men, USAID expanded the rehabilitation and reintegration centers to serve this population. These centers will help raise awareness that men and boys as well as girls and women are vulnerable to trafficking.

Check out USAID’s IMPACT blog this week for more stories about USAID TIP programs around in the world in support of the TIP Report release.

Feed the Future: Innovative Mobile Banking Unit to Give Access to More Than 300,000 Farmers

By Renuka Naj, Supervisory Development Outreach and Communications Specialist

As part of Feed the Future, USAID in partnership with Centenary Bank launched a state-of-the-art mobile banking unit.  This unit will bring financial services to more than 300,000 farmers and agri-business enterprises in Amolatar and Amuru districts of northern Uganda.

Under a 50-50 cost-sharing partnership, USAID and Centenary Bank each invested $210,000 for the purchase of the armored truck that will provide a vital service for clients who had little or no access to financial services in their communities.

The mobile unit will be fully staffed by Centenary Bank personnel, including tellers for opening and operating savings accounts, and loan officers.  The mobile bank will travel weekly to 25 locations, including rural trading centers and markets, providing a range of financial services.  About 4,000 people are expected to open accounts in the first year, with the numbers increasing to more than 10,000 in the next three years.

USAID has been working with farmers and producer organizations across Uganda for more than 15 years.  Through Livelihoods and Enterprises for Agricultural Development (LEAD) project, USAID is transforming Uganda’s agricultural sector from subsistence to commercial farming in line with the priorities of the Government of Uganda.

The mobile banking unit will broaden the impact of USAID Uganda’s Development Credit Authority Loan Guarantee Program, a credit facility offered through Centenary Bank, whereby USAID encourages rural lending by sharing some of the risks on agriculture-related credits to Ugandans.

Sustaining Human Life and the Environment

Ultimately, I believe, our planet’s sustainability will be determined by one overarching action: how mankind protects, supports and realizes the potential of human life and human systems and that of other species and ecosystems— and how sustaining life and the environment go hand in hand.

In that regard, I participated last month during World Water Week in a “WASH/Environmental Working Group” panel which addressed the linkage between the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and the protection of human health undertaken by water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programs.

At that meeting, on behalf of USAID, I invited the NGO participants to continue our dialogue and meet with a wider range of USAID experts. On April 13, representatives from the WASH Advocacy Initiative, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Conservation International (CI), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) came to USAID. They met with several USAID executives, including Eric Postel, newly confirmed Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade; Dr. John Borrazzo, Chief, Maternal and Child Health Division, Bureau for Global Health; representatives from USAID ‘s Bureau for Food Security and Bureau for Policy, Program and Planning; and myself.

The meeting examined ways in which the USAID and the NGO community might increase their impact on sustaining both human populations and ecosystems by working together to build on past success and develop new models of integrated freshwater supply and water supply, hygiene, and sanitation approaches, as well as ways to effect WASH-Food Security integration.

We discussed the USAID-funded WASH–NRM “Healthy Families, Healthy Forests” project in Madagascar being undertaken by CRS and CI to conserve biodiversity and provide critical health services to remote rural populations.  Another project, supported by USAID and TNC in Ecuador, established a revolving fund both to protect a major watershed and to provide water from that watershed to the urban poor. Additionally, we also addressed WWFs’ “Green Recovery” approach to assist people recovering from disasters by minimizing harm to the environment.

Looking ahead, we will continue to consider ways in which to forge this crucial linkage between the protection of natural resources and human health.

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