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U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

U.S.-Russia Cooperation on International Disaster Response

The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.

On Friday, May 28th, FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning and I signed a work plan with the Russian government to expand bilateral cooperation through 2012 on responding to international disasters and humanitarian crises.  The signing in Moscow concluded the annual meeting of the U.S.-Russia Joint Committee for Emergency Management and Disaster Response.  This committee was formed in 1996 and now serves as one of the working groups under the Bilateral Presidential Commission established by Presidents Obama and Medvedev last year.  The U.S. delegation from FEMA, USAID, and the Department of Transportation discussed ways to enhance preparedness and response capabilities for disasters at home and abroad.  The Russian delegation, led by First Deputy Minister of the Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) Ruslan Tsalikov, was especially interested in sharing humanitarian aid best practices, and proposed partnering with USAID to address food security issues in the region.

The committee meeting was the culmination of an exciting week for cooperation in this area.  During the earlier part of the week, a FEMA-USAID delegation held a joint table top exercise with EMERCOM that simulated an earthquake scenario.  American and Russian experts jointly examined response considerations related to declaring a disaster, deploying teams to another country, coordinating search and rescue with humanitarian response, and demobilizing.  Specialists from Fairfax County’s Task Force 1 Search and Rescue team, who responded to the earthquake in Haiti, had the opportunity to sit across the table from Russian responders who also served in Haiti, and to share lessons learned from that experience.  The exercise is part of U.S. efforts to support the Russian Government’s goal of meeting the standards for the United Nations’ highest classification of search and rescue teams.

Russia’s commitment to cooperating with the U.S. in addressing humanitarian crises is another sign of its reemergence as strong global partner and international donor.  U.S. and Russian teams are already working together to improve rescue efforts in response to natural disasters and terrorism, and this is just one of many areas in which we are collaborating on global development.  USAID/Russia also partners with the Ministry of Health to send Russian medical experts to countries in Africa and with Russia’s new agency for humanitarian cooperation, Rossotrudnichestvo, to strengthen its capacity to provide aid.

After spending the week in Russia, I am even more convinced that the U.S. and Russia have much to gain by working together to address the big challenges of the 21st century. I believe USAID should continue to be at the center of much of that cooperation and partnership.

Now I am off to Bosnia for the next phase of my trip.

Lancet Series Puts Spotlight on Global Tuberculosis Efforts

On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.

The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.

On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.

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.

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 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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