Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg visit a World Food Programme Distribution Center in Amman, Jordan, where refugees living in host communities receive vouchers on January 27, 2013. They can use these vouchers to shop for their families in local supermarkets. Photos from State Department.
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These videos originally appeared on U.S. Department of State’s Dipnote.
On January 24, 2013, U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard, and USAID Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance Nancy Lindborg visited Syrian refugees in Turkey. While at the camp, the delegation had the opportunity to speak with those affected by the violence, to listen to their concerns, and to witness first-hand the ongoing humanitarian assistance efforts.
On January 29, 2013, President Obama announced additional humanitarian aid for the Syrian people.
On Saturday, I joined USAID staff and their families to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by volunteering on the National Day of Service. With ten thousand other volunteers, we worked together to make 100,000 care packages for men and women serving our country overseas, wounded warriors here at home, and first responders who risk their lives to save and protect American families.
Because we work for an agency whose mission advances human progress and dignity around the world, it was meaningful to join so many people–particularly so many from our USAID family–in giving back to our community here at home. I especially wanted to share this experience with my four-year-old daughter Amna, so that she grows up with an appreciation for the importance of giving back and an understanding of the impact community service can have on the lives of others. But Amna was not the only child there on Saturday.
It was particularly inspiring to see so many young people give up their Saturday to answer President Obama’s call to participate in the National Day of Service. As I have seen on university campuses across the country, this spirit of generosity and sense of responsibility evident in young people today reflects a desire to help advance the shared values that underpin our own agency’s mission.
Our event was organized through a great partnership between the Corporation for Community and National Service, Points of Light Foundation, and Target, among others. By bringing together AmeriCorps volunteers, university students, school groups, and service men and women, it demonstrated what we can accomplish when we come together to reach a common goal.
Please join me and check out opportunities to get involved in your community by visiting serve.gov.
On August 4, 2011, President Obama launched the Presidential Studies Directive on Mass Atrocities, or PSD-10, a ground-breaking call for all major U.S. government agencies to engage on the issue of preventing mass atrocities and genocide worldwide. Through this initiative the White House called for action “early, proactively and decisively to prevent threats from evolving into large scale civilian atrocities.”
USAID’s plan to implement of PSD-10 includes launching the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention – a contest to identify new ideas for applying innovations and technology to atrocity prevention efforts; leading listening sessions – an effort to capture the individual voices and perspectives of those who have firsthand experience with atrocity prevention and response in the field; and developing a toolkit describing programming approaches, available resources and operational guidance for strengthening prevention efforts, as well as expanding training options for personnel deploying to high-risk mission countries.
The ideas behind PSD-10 are echoed in what the academic community has researched about mass violence. We know that these activities occur while other forms of violence are ongoing. For example, the genocide in Rwanda took place under the guise of a civil war between the Rwandan Patriotic Front and the Rwandan government, and the current insurgency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a cover for countless human rights violations on a massive scale. We also know that mass atrocities are much more likely in countries that have experienced violence in the past. This phenomenon has come up so often, academics have given it a name: the “conflict trap.”
The questions now are: What tools do we have available to accomplish the goals of PSD-10? What can we do to prevent mass violence in the future?
One option, which has been shown to be effective, is the use of transitional justice. Transitional justice is defined as any institution put in place following armed conflict to address the grievances and wrongdoings of the past. In practice, this has meant a wide variety of different processes: tribunals, truth commissions, reparations programs and lustration processes as well as less formal approaches such as memorialization efforts. The specific process used in each case has to be appropriate to the cultural and political realities, but the overall goal behind the transitional justice approach is to address grievances that have developed through the conflict among both the general population and former combatants. Governments that implement these processes, as well as the international organizations which support them, use transitional justice as a means of reducing the causes of conflict decreasing the likelihood that violence will occur again.
The use of transitional justice is already prevalent. The Post-Conflict Justice Dataset, which records transitional justice put in place following armed conflict, found 272 processes related to 173 different conflicts between 1946 and 2006. Fifty-three percent of post-conflict countries implemented at least one transitional justice process and 22 percent implemented two or more processes. Transitional justice is increasingly commonplace as a means of reducing the motives for future violence.
New research on transitional justice has turned our attention to the possibility of using transitional justice while conflict is ongoing in an attempt to resolve disputes and grievances sooner, thus bringing the conflict to an end more quickly. Other efforts have focused on the relationship between transitional justice and conflict to isolate the direct effects of transitional justice in order to design more useful strategies to prevent conflict reoccurrence.
We’re still unclear on the long-term effect of transitional justice, whether attempted during the conflict or after violence has ended. However, transitional justice can be a powerful tool for achieving the ends sought in PSD-10. No one claims transitional justice is the only or best approach, but it is one tool that should not be neglected when considering how best to respond to mass violence.
Administrator Rajiv Shah and daughter, Amna Shah, build care packages on the National Day of Serviceon January 19 in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. USAID Staff joined people across the nation participated in service projects this past weekend, meeting the challenge to make service a part of our everyday lives.
Visit serve.gov to find ways to volunteer all year long.
Last Friday, it was a real honor for me to take part in the closing ceremony of the African Leadership on Child Survival – A Promise Renewed (ALCS/APR), together with H. E. Kesetebirhan Admasu, Minister of Health in Ethiopia, my esteemed colleague Dennis Weller, USAID mission director to Ethiopia, and my African colleagues in health and development.
In June 2012, during the first Call to Action – Promise Renewed meeting in Washington D.C., Dr. Tedros had committed that Ethiopia would host an African Leadership for Child Survival Conference that was linked to the AU summit. That promise is now fulfilled and I wish to thank Dr. Tedros and Dr. Kesete and all of the colleagues at the Ministry of Health for making this all African meeting a reality and a success.
The pledge signed by the African countries present and the consensus reached by the conference are both significant and historic. The event has marked a new era for the African continent in which it is no longer acceptable for any child to die an untimely and preventable death.
As we have seen at this meeting, in many ways the progress made in the health sector in Ethiopia, as well as many other African countries, has become a powerful global symbol of what can be achieved in resource-constrained environments and has given many international partners renewed faith in the development enterprise.
To accelerate progress we need to do some things differently. Dramatic reductions in preventable child deaths can be achieved through concerted action in five critical areas, outlined in the global roadmap: geographical focus, high burden populations, high impact solutions, gender equality, and mutual accountability and financing.
The theme of equity, in all its dimensions, has come out very strongly through the conference conclusions on geography, gender equality and high burden populations. We know that as much as we have made global progress on child survival in recent decades so too have we seen an increasing concentration of child deaths in Africa which now accounts for around half of all the world’s child mortality.
During the three days, we have also seen that the highest rates of death are now overwhelming in fragile states and conflict-affected countries and regions. This demands that our attention also be placed on governance issues and on human security. There is a major role here, not only for the United Nations but also for regional institutions, and is why the role of the AU will be even more paramount as we move forward on this initiative. Indeed we are very hopeful that with the Ethiopia government taking over the chair of the AU in 2013, maternal and child survival will be seen as not only a health and development issue but as a peace and security issue. It seems auspicious that the African Leadership on Child Survival has taken place right before the AU heads of state meeting next week. I sincerely hope that the recommendations of this conference are shared with the AU leadership and head of states for their endorsement.
We have seen the strong leadership of African governments in this process. This is not an initiative led by UNICEF or USAID or any other partner, and it is very refreshing to see that this initiative and the commitments being made are home-grown. All countries have existing strategies and plans for improving maternal, newborn and child health. Integration of the ALSC/APR initiative with local processes, rather than setting up vertical mechanisms, will be important. Government should also coordinate efforts of various partners and the different initiatives and synthesize them into a coherent whole at the country level.
One of the most exciting aspects of the meeting and the overall process for me is to have seen the peer to peer dynamic in action. I know the lesson learning and sharing of good practices from country to country will continue over the coming months and that many countries are planning study visits to other African countries. We should nurture this dynamic at all costs. I believe the seeds of success and of sustainability for us in African have been planted by all at this meeting. By working hand in hand, we can and we will end all preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths, and thus complete the work begun under the child survival revolution.
For over two decades, Somalis have been known as stateless. They have been associated with piracy, terrorism, and continued lack of law and order. Yesterday, the U.S. government formally recognized the Government of Somalia for the first time in 20 years. To me, this recognition brings back the dignity of a people who have endured so much. As a Somali-Kenyan, this recognition is meaningful to me. In the Horn of Africa, we are all Somalis regardless of our citizenship.
Over the years, my greatest areas of concern in Somalia have been increasing access to basic services and economic opportunities for the most vulnerable, and strengthening Somali women’s contributions to politics and leadership. With a recognized Somali Government, I believe these hopes will become realities in the near future.
At USAID, our work spearheads the long-term development the country needs, and we will work in close partnership with the Somali Government to achieve this. Somalia will benefit from USAID’s support, capacity building and expertise as a respected development agency. I hope that by taking USAID’s lead, other governments and financial institutions will also be more likely to directly partner with the Somali Government.
The Somali people are hardworking, innovative and very hospitable. They have already started rebuilding the country and diaspora members are returning. Somalia is a beautiful country with the most serene white beaches boasting the longest coastline on the Indian Ocean at more than 3600 km. It has a rich history and diverse groups of people; it is rich in livestock, agriculture, minerals and marine resources. Once you visit, you are hooked for life! I look forward to seeing how development in Somalia will enrich life even more for the Somali people.
Visit our website to learn more about USAID’s work in Somalia.
Nasri Hussein is a Program Management Specialist for USAID/East Africa’s Transition Initiatives for Stabilization
USAID’s Youth in Development Policy: Investing in Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the Youth Health and Rights Coalition. They do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Agency for International Development nor of the U.S. federal government.
It is often said that young people are our future. But young people aren’t just assets for development tomorrow – they are agents of change today. The first-ever USAID Youth in Development Policy (PDF) clearly recognizes this reality and provides important opportunities to involve global youth in shaping our development agenda and advancing their health and rights.
Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history; nearly half of the world’s population—some three billion people—is under the age of 25. Given that this large demographic of young people presents the world with an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate economic development and reduce poverty, the policy is particularly timely and critical. It rightly acknowledges that in order for young people to realize their potential and contribute to the development of countries, they must be able to access information and services that protect their rights and promote their sexual and reproductive health throughout their life span. Advocates, implementers, young people and government partners can help achieve that vision by ensuring that the following important policy provisions are translated into action:
Start early in life
Young people bear a significant burden of poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes, including unmet need for family planning, early marriage and childbearing, maternal death, gender-based violence and HIV. However, when families, communities and nations protect and advance adolescent and youth reproductive rights, young people are empowered to stay healthy and take advantage of education and economic opportunities throughout their lives. We know when these investments happen early in life as well as throughout the life course, they help foster more gender equitable and healthier attitudes and behaviors. So why wait? Let’s embrace the tenets of the policy and invest in young people’s health and rights today.
More money, more tracking
The Youth in Development policy clearly calls for the implementation of evidence-based programs and interventions. The Youth Health and Rights Coalition (PDF) looks forward to supporting this effort with the range of tools and resources developed to effectively implement evidence-based sexual and reproductive health interventions. But we need more than guidance to truly protect and promote the well-being of young people. Advancing youth development will require more funding, better data collection to track investments and outcomes, robust partnerships across sectors, and strong commitment across the agency. It’s a challenge, but one worth taking.
“Nothing about us, without us!”
Many of the young people who are members and partners of the Youth Health and Rights Coalition often call upon this phrase to express the importance of meaningful and ongoing youth engagement, something which is still too often missing in development today. The policy puts the importance of youth participation and engagement front and center of the USAID programming process and emphasizes the need to support more meaningful and equal partnerships with young people while building capacity of local youth-led and youth-serving organizations. USAID’s dedication to civil society consultations to inform the development of the policy was an important first step to put words into action. So let’s keep it up and continue to engage young people as we move forward with the implementation of the policy.
We applaud USAID for recognizing how critical it is to meaningfully engage youth across the diverse countries where the Agency works and look forward to future collaborations. Only together can we succeed in meeting the sexual and reproductive rights and health of all young people and work with them to fulfill their full potential.
The Youth Health and Rights Coalition (PDF) is comprised of advocacy and implementing organizations who, in collaboration with young people and adult allies, are working to advance the sexual and reproductive rights and health of adolescents and youth around the world. The YHRC advocates with key decision makers to prioritize funding and support for comprehensive adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive rights and health policies and practices. Their goal is to ensure young people in the developing world have the sexual and reproductive rights and health information, tools, commodities, and quality services necessary to make healthy and informed choices about their own lives.
Member organizations of the coalition include: Advocates for Youth, American Jewish World Service, Americans for Informed Democracy, CARE, Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE), Family Care International, FHI 360, Georgetown University-Institute for Reproductive Health, Global Youth Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Guttmacher Institute, International Center for Research on Women, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region, International Women’s Health Coalition, Ipas, John Snow, Inc., Marie Stopes International-US, PATH, Pathfinder International, Plan International USA, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Population Action International, Population Reference Bureau, Population Services International, Public Health Institute, Save the Children, and Women Deliver.