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A young girl gets typhoid/diptheria vaccination at a medical clinic at Petionville golf club on July 13, 2010, in Port-au-Prince. USAID/OFDA funds 12 mobile and static International Medical Corps clinics that target rural and displaced populations in and around Port-au-Prince, Petit Goave and Leogane. Photo by Kendra Helmer/USAID

USAID in the News (5-31-2011–6/3/2011)

May 31: France 24 posted a video interview with USAID Administrator Shah, from his recent trip to Paris, France, where he attended the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Ministerial Council Meeting. During the interview, Administrator Shah discussed the importance of foreign aid.

June 1: The Milton Herald published a story highlighting the work of a USAID senior Foreign Service official who recently got back from Iraq, serving with the Agency’s Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team.

June 3: MSNBC reported that USAID has launched a program to make it easier for corporations to send professionals abroad to help local governments, small businesses and civic groups in developing nations. The new Center of Excellence for International Corporate Volunteerism was developed in partnership with IBM and CDC Development Solutions, a non-profit organization.

As Featured in FrontLines: Many Paths to Better Health

Kelly Ramundo is Managing Editor for FrontLines Magazine.

April 2010 Frontlines

The U.S. Government, through USAID and other agencies, is working with the developing world to improve health care and health outcomes on myriad fronts. When it comes to improving global health, there is no magic elixir. Instead, progress comes by way of the compounded hard work of dedicated professionals across sectors and regions. Although paths may diverge along with way, the goal is shared: saving and improving lives worldwide.

Mass vaccination campaigns using the new vaccine reached nearly 20 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. Photo Credit: Gabe Bienczycki

From keeping life-saving health care facilities on the electrical grid in Haiti, to contributing to the decade-long quest for an epidemic meningitis vaccine in Africa, to partnering with the government of Swaziland to ensure that a crippling HIV_AIDS epidemic does not become a legacy of future generations, to building up the capacity of Iraq’s civil Service, USAID’s efforts are having an impact in line with our nation’s values and true to our mission of contributing to a more stable and secure world.

Visit the current edition of FrontLines for these and more stories on the various paths USAID is helping to forge to improve global health and shape a better future in Iraq.

USAID in the News: Weekly Briefing (5/22/2011–5/27/2011)

May 22: In an interview with the Bangor Daily News, Administrator Shah discussed his upcoming remarks at Colby College’s Commencement. “Today any career or skill can be put to the service of those in need,” Shah said. During the interview, the Administrator also underscored the importance of foreign aid. “The resources we spend on all of our engagement and diplomacy and development are far, far lower than what we spend on our military involvement.”

May 24: A Voice of America editorial reported on the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by USAID and NASA. The partnership will look to harness cutting-edge technology to address global development challenges such as food security, climate change, and the environment.

May 25: AFP reported that at a Chicago Council on Global Affairs symposium, Bill Gates and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah urged nations to invest in poor farmers to help end global hunger and improve food security.

USAID and Conflict: Hard Lessons from the Field

On May 17th, the Center for American Progress and the American Enterprise Institute jointly hosted a discussion on USAID’s role in countries emerging from conflict, the Agency’s efforts to prevent new conflicts and crises, and the challenges of both. Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg opened the discussion with remarks on USAID’s role over the past 40 years in conflict prone environments. DA Steinberg discussed how “the traditional dividing line … between hard national security issues and issues of human security, which are generally considered to be soft, are hopelessly and permanently blurred. Today there are no hard issues, there are no soft issues. Crisis and conflict no longer remain in their separate boxes any more than they respect national borders. You simply cannot achieve or even adequately address the fundamental goals of promoting governance, sustainable development, and international stability and cooperation in the presence of conflict and violence.”

USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg, American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar Mauro de Lorenzo, and John Norris of the Center for American Progress discuss development and national security. Photo credit: G. Barahona, USAID

To illustrate this, DA Steinberg focused specifically on USAID’s role in six main areas in conflict and post-conflict environments: restoring security, building a political framework, kick starting the economy, ensuring justice and accountability, promoting civil society, and getting the regional context right. Presently, 25% of USAID staff is based in 24 countries that are most vulnerable to armed conflict and 70 to 80% of the Agency’s budget is dedicated to humanitarian response, transition, and development in these settings. “Today, USAID people in the field have to be a combination of diplomat, humanitarian relief coordinator, security expert, military liaison officer, public affairs officer, risk manager, and even psychologist. We’re asking our staff to implement security sector reform, to mobilize and to reintegrate armed combatants, to support transitional justice mechanisms, to administer elections, to empower and protect women and disabled persons, to conduct humanitarian demining, to return refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes, to build roads and other infrastructure in the presence of armed combatants and so on.”

Mauro de Lorenzo, AEI visiting scholar and Vice President, Freedom and Free Enterprise at the Templeton Institute also commented on the hard and soft power distinction and encouraged a “more relevant distinction …between things you can measure and things you can’t, things you can use to demonstrate a connection to something to which we care about, whether it’s improved security or it’s economic growth, or it’s democracy.”

De Lorenzo discussed the critical need for economic reform from the onset of USAID activities in countries emerging from conflict instead of waiting until security and political reforms are well underway. He highlighted three USAID investments that support early economic reform and enable smarter aid decisions in development. First, USAID’s funding to initiate the World Bank’s “Doing Business” index that reviews and ranks measures of business regulations for local firms in 183 economies and selected cities at the subnational level. Second, the work of Hernando de Soto and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy supported by USAID, that works with governments to study property rights bottlenecks, solutions, and public documentation. Finally, de Lorenzo talked about USAID support for innovations in financial services, such as mobile banking in Kenya and encouraged more economic reform activities specifically in post-conflict environments.

John Norris of the Center for American Progress built on DA Steinberg and Mr. de Lorenzo’s arguments on economic recovery. He discussed the need to understand how economic growth supports the momentum to make recovery possible “by giving people a sense that there is economic viability in a place and actually creating some jobs for [people] without a lot of training … many of them who probably still have weapons and who are very comfortable using force.”

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (5/16/2011–5/20/2011)

May 16 AFP reported that the Central Bank of Iraq, with support from USAID, will be working to bring mobile banking to Iraqis. USAID is working to unify Iraq’s banking system, where only one fifth of Iraqis have bank accounts, while 70 percent have mobile phones.

May 17 MSNBC reported that USAID recently appointed four new members to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD). The seven member board is a presidentially-appointed advisory committee whose primary role is to advise and assist the USAID Administrator on food security-related issues and the role of higher education in international agricultural development.

May 19 Voice of America wrote that at a special State Department press briefing to discuss the future of Sudan, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah stated how the two states can become economically viable. “They need to reinvest in agriculture, which continues to be the area of employment for 80 percent of the population.”

Development, Diaspora and the Universal Language of Sports

For diaspora communities across the globe, sport continues to be an integral connection to their native countries.  Sport is tightly woven into the lives and cultures of people globally and has an inherent and unique ability to connect people and provides the ability to transform some of the world’s least developed countries. While sport has historically played an important role in virtually every society globally, sport is still seen as an emerging, yet powerful tool to advance development globally.

Mori Taheripour is senior advisor for Sports for Development at USAID with Minnesota Vikings player Madieu Williams.

At this week’s Global Diaspora Forum, I had the privilege to lead a panel of notable players in the field of sport for development to discuss how sport plays an integral role in diaspora communities as a platform to better the lives of youth, families and communities.

The panelists included:

Madieu Williams, Safety with the Minnesota Vikings, who immigrated to the United States from Sierra Leone at the age of 9.  While he had never heard of American football until he came to the US, the sense of community and belonging to a team that it provided him proved a winning path that led him to his career in the NFL.  But never forgetting where he came from, Madieu created his own foundation as an vehicle to give back to Sierra Leone, providing teacher training, uniforms and school supplies for the kids,  He has also partnered with Healing Hands, a US-based NGO, to travel to Sierra Leone and perform surgeries free of charge for many of the children, men and women too poor to have those services.  His efforts earned him the prestigious Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in 2011, recognizing his contributions both on and off the field.

Read the rest of this entry »

Working with Diaspora Communities to Deliver Meaningful Results

On Tuesday, I spoke at the Global Diaspora Forum, a gathering at the State Department that brought together representatives from diaspora communities around the world, from Haiti to Tanzania.  I had the opportunity to talk about ways USAID is rebuilding our engagement with diaspora—in areas like philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism—under the framework of the Diaspora Network Alliance.  And I shared my appreciation for the unique relationships, knowledge and skills that diaspora communities bring to development.

In the aftermath of the last year’s earthquake in Haiti, diaspora volunteers worked with Tufts University to help translate text messages from people trapped in rubble—information we fed to our search and rescue teams on the ground in Haiti that helped save lives.  In South Sudan, we worked with skilled, educated Sudanese diaspora volunteers to develop local capacity in health and education.  As the referendum for independence approached, we supported polling stations abroad so that members of the southern Sudanese diaspora could participate.

I was reminded at the Global Diaspora Forum of my own family’s experience.  My parents immigrated to the United States, and I still recall the pride my father took in sending money in blue aerograms back home to our family in India.  In 2010, global remittances were valued at over $340 billion, but I know firsthand how much more they’re really worth.  So often a result of long hours and sacrifice, they mean the chance for a child to afford her school uniform, or the chance for a young person to take out a loan and open up a business.  And when they allow a family to buy food or medicine in a difficult time, they mean the difference between life and death.  That’s why we’re committed at USAID to making sure each dollar saved and each dollar transferred reaches its recipients at the lowest transaction cost possible.

You can learn more about our work with diasporas and remittances.

I was inspired by how many potential new partners I saw at the Forum and the possibilities going forward to learn from each other, share innovative ideas, and deliver meaningful results for developing countries.

Exclusive Insights from Leaders in Health, National Security

What do President Obama’s pick to become the next NATO commander in Afghanistan and the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) have in common? Besides boasting rather impressive resumes, they were both interviewed in the most recent issue of USAID FrontLines.

Lt. Gen. John Allen

Lt. Gen. John Allen

In the April-May edition, U.S. Lt. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, and Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, answer questions about some of the most pressing topics in international development.

Allen, who served in Iraq during the period known as “the surge”, talks about how military and civilian forces can work together to multiply the success of a mission, and why development  is an extraordinarily effective tool in preventing conflict and fostering good will in the world.

He argues:

Those of us who’ve been honored to serve alongside development professionals understand that USAID delivers strategic effects which can strengthen U.S. relationships around the world and improve the qualities of governance, economic opportunity, and life for millions of our friends overseas. Interestingly, I would venture to guess that if you were to interview families from across the CENTCOM region, far more children have personally seen the USAID logo than have ever personally seen an American soldier. USAID has a significant impact and reach across our AOR [area of responsibility] and few understand that as well as the military.

In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much—over the long term—to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.

In the Q&A with Chan, the doctor covers many health topics, including the need for primary care in developing nations – and the challenges organizations like USAID and the World Health Organization face in helping countries stand up their programs.

In my view, the best way [to improve global health] is to go back to the basics: the values, principles, and approaches of primary health care. Abundant evidence, over decades of experience, supports this view. Countries at similar levels of socioeconomic development achieve better health outcomes for the money when services are organized according to the principles of primary health care. A revitalization of primary health care is the smart move to make.

Dr. Margaret Chan Photo credit: WHO

Dr. Margaret Chan, Photo credit: WHO

To be frank, a smart move, in this case, is not an easy move. We are almost starting over from scratch. Over the past three decades, health systems in large parts of the developing world have crumbled from neglect. Countries and their development partners have failed to invest adequately in basic health infrastructures, capacities, and services, including staff education and training, regulatory capacity, procurement systems, and statistical services.

Read the complete interviews with Allen and Chan, as well as more stories about USAID’s work in Iraq and in global health in the April/May issue of FrontLines. If you would like to receive a reminder about the latest FrontLines, subscribe here.

Women and War Symposium

Last Friday, Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg joined Dr. Katherine Hicks, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) for its “Women and War” symposium on peace and security in the second decade of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.  Jointly hosted by USIP and the Peace Research Institute-Oslo (PRIO), the event also marked the release of the book Women & War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century.

The edited volume is a trans-Atlantic collaborative effort to highlight innovative approaches toward ensuring greater participation of women at the negotiating table, and the ways in which women will make a difference in the security arena over the next decade.  In 2000, the United States supported the adoption of UNSCR 1325 as a call to action for governments around the world to increase women’s participation in matters of international security and strengthen their protection in times of conflict.  As part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s commitment to develop a National Action Plan that outlines U.S. support for women as key enablers of peace and stability in countries affected by conflict, Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg  talked about his contribution to the book and highlighted a few aspects of the progress USAID is making in developing that plan.

As an Agency, USAID is combining initiatives and programs with actions that institutionalize a gender perspective into the way we do business.  We’re incorporating programmatic as well as administrative goals that are Specific, Measurable, Additive, fully Resourced, Time-bound, Evidence-Based and Responsive (SMARTER).  In addition to comprehensively addressing the key objective areas outlined by UNSCR 1325– including participation, prevention, protection, and relief and recovery,  we’re implementing Agency policies, training, and personnel policies that allow us to respond more effectively to the needs of women and girls in conflict-affected countries. “It’s about monitoring and evaluation, accountability and measurement.  It’s not just measuring the inputs and outputs, but the outcomes” stated Steinberg.

DA Steinberg further discussed how gender equality and women’s empowerment is critical to achieve our development and humanitarian assistance objectives.  In conflict and crisis situations, it is a challenging but vital imperative to work toward protection and power for women and girls—protection from sexual violence and gender-based violence, that harms individuals, families, and entire communities, and empowerment, that promotes women’s participation at the negotiating table and in rebuilding conflict-affected communities.  “It’s not just a question about bringing more women to the table, but how we make that process work more effectively.”  He stressed a critical shift in how we evaluate our own staff to value inclusive leadership – “drawing in others agencies and government but also reaching out to all the communities out there – most prominently the 50% of the population who is normally excluded from the development dialogue.”

Read an excerpt of Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg’s chapter of Women & War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century.

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