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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (6/6/2011–6/10/2011)

June 14 Numerous media outlets covered the GAVI summit that was held in London. The coverage concentrated on the fact that the international vaccine organization exceeded its fundraising goal.  The Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report and The UK’s Daily Mail highlighted USAID and included quotes from USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.

June 15 The UK’s Guardian published an interview with USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.  The story covered a variety of topics including the importance of U.S. foreign assistance and Feed the Future.  It also highlighted USAID’s work in Afghanistan and the need for U.S. to change the way we do business.

Blogging for Political and Social Change

Laura Rodriguez manages the USAID Impact Blog and Luke Forgerson is the Managing Editor of DipNote, the U.S. Department of State official blog.

As Secretary Clinton returns from Africa, here in Washington D.C. the State Department has been hosting some of the world’s best known and most influential bloggers, including several headliners from Africa. The bloggers are part of a larger international group of online journalists and activists from Egypt, Tunisia, Uganda, Bahrain, Burma, China and at least a dozen other countries. They have already met with Secretary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation, Alec Ross, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Daniel Baer. Also on tap are discussions with government and independent U.S. bloggers and several groups working on promoting freedom of expression on the Internet.

We had the pleasure of meeting with this group to discuss with them our work on DipNote and USAID’s Impact Blog and were deeply inspired by their thoughtful questions and brave stories. The bloggers wanted to know: “How can we maintain access to the web in our countries and how can we protect ourselves from official crackdowns on on-line activism?” Most had personal stories of detention and harassment. Many said they expected to be arrested once they returned to their countries. All insisted they would not — could not — back down.

As one young blogger from the Middle East said, “Our blogs are our voice, and our voices are finally being heard.”

So what are we doing to protect those voices? Secretary Clinton has clearly and consistently promoted Internet freedom. During her remarks on this subject in January, she said, “On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress, but the United States does. We stand for a single Internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas.”

And as Alec Ross said to the bloggers in Washington, “There are more than 190 countries in the world today and we have the exact same internet policy in every single one of them: Keep it free and open.” He went on to discuss efforts to provide new technologies to bloggers around the world that would help them remain anonymous while on-line. He also outlined a Department-wide push to use social media to reach out to the general public in countries where we may have traditionally only been able to interact with a tiny slice of the total population.

“The key,” he said, “is to remember that social media isn’t about changing minds. It’s about connecting with other people and hearing their opinions. I have told all our ambassadors — you have one mouth but two ears. Use them!”

Daniel Baer connected the State Department’s work on Internet freedom promotion with the work of the bloggers and discussed emerging challenges to online free expression in their countries. When asked by one blogger about what she can do, Baer replied “Keep being you.” He went on to describe the State Department’s diplomatic efforts to expand online free expression in a number of countries.

Indeed, this week’s Foreign Press Center-sponsored blogger tour — combined with a global exchange program of Internet Freedom Fellows– occurs in large part as a result of our listening to bloggers in the field, many of whom reported a surge in on-line crackdowns and voiced a desire to network with their international peers. This past May hundreds of journalists and freedom of expression advocates from across the world traveled here for the 2011 UNESCO World Press Freedom Day events. We’re pleased to see that many of the participants around the globe continue to carry on the conversations that began during those meetings.

And late last week, a follow-up group of human rights activists and bloggers traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to attend a Human Rights Council session on, “Maintaining an Open Internet for Human Voices of Freedom.” That group, including our bloggers from Africa, is now in Washington D.C., where they will participate in the Foreign Press Center’s “Foreign Reporting Tour: Blogging for Social and Political Change.”

There is little doubt they all share an absolute and unyielding commitment to Internet freedom and can inspire likeminded activists from around the world.

Three Questions with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is the author of the NY Times best-selling book, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana Photo Credit: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

What do you think is the greatest challenge in combating violence against women in the developing world?

In my view the greatest challenge in fighting violence against women is the fact that women are not valued in either economic or social terms.  Their rights ‘matter’ less than men’s and they are permitted little claim to their own future.  They are educated less often, permitted to work less often, and treated as property far more often than men.  Education is the key to answering this ill, but often times this education leaves men out.  It is indeed critical to teach women about their rights, but it is also necessary that both men and women learn about why violence against women is wrong.  And in the longer-term, helping women to earn an income earns respect within the family, because in tough parts of the world that money goes a very long way to improving families’ lives.  This may disrupt the family dynamic in the near term, but it can lead to a changed power dynamic in the longer-run.

If you had millions of dollars at your disposal to address violence against women, how would you invest it for the most impact?  In your opinion, what groups are doing innovative, cutting edge work that’s making a substantive difference on-the-ground?

If I had the power to direct millions of dollars, I would put it all towards education efforts that 1) educate men and women on the ills of violence against women; 2) that educate women and men in basic literacy; and 3) that help women and men to improve their family’s financial situation.  Entrepreneurship programs that train women and men in basic business skills and that include market linkages can lead to increases in income.  This in turn leaves money for both boys AND girls to go to school, and that education piece is what provides a virtuous circle that, eventually, can lead families out of poverty.

The groups doing great work that is making a difference include ICRW, Bpeace, Man Up, Mercy Corps, Peace Dividend Trust, Solar Sister and MEDA.

How do we engage men and boys in this conversation about combating violence against women?

Boys grow into men, so what boys learn in their home and at schools from an early age is critically important.  Men who see the power of education early on, like many men I have met in Afghanistan, raise boys who respect their sisters.  And these boys go on to become husbands who respect their wives.  They also can serve as role models for their community.  Programs like Man Up aim at reaching boys and empowering them to be change-makers in their communities.

I also have met many men in countries enduring and recovering from conflict who serve as partners for their wives when it comes to business. Even if they initially did not approve of or understand their wives’ work, they come around when they see the money begin to come in. As Kamila told me in the opening to The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, money is power for women – wherever you are in the world.

Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL) Celebrates One-Year

December 24, 2009: as DC was beginning its holiday retreat, a group of career USAID staff walked over to USDA to congratulate our newly confirmed Administrator. There was a great feeling of anticipation as we briefed him on our ideas for bringing policy, strategic planning, budget responsibilities and many core competencies back into the Agency.  The next few weeks involved a seamless mix of teleconferences and gift wrapping, reform discussions and holiday meals.

Village meeting in Ethiopia to evaluate community based practices. Photo Credit: Virginia Lamprecht, Office of Learning, Evaluation & Research, PPL

For those of you who have been with the Agency long enough to remember PPC (Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination)  and its disbanding, the re-establishment of a policy and planning function within the Agency was a bright day. While it took six months to establish PPL in June 2010, the extensive consultations both internally and externally, were essential to creating this bureau. What excites me about our new PPL bureau is that it has been designed to reflect the new development environment in which we’re working.  In practice, this means PPL seeks to infuse science and technology, engagement with traditional donors and new actors in the development landscape, and more rigorous evaluation and learning into our work across the Agency, including our policy and strategic planning processes.

On the eve of PPL’s one year anniversary, I’d like to reflect on where we have traveled in the course of a year, and what will be most critical in this next phase. When the bureau was established, one of the first orders of business was bringing back the Agency’s policy capacity, which resulted in the creation of our Policy Task Teams (PTT). First out of the gate was our Evaluation Policy. Built on the Agency’s long and innovative history of evaluation, it has been called ‘a model for other federal agencies’ by the American Evaluation Association. On its heels, in March the Agency launched its Education Strategy, and soon, we will be releasing the Agency’s Strategic Framework, Policy on the Development Response to Violent Extremism and Insurgency, Climate and Development Strategy, and Water Strategy.

Read the rest of this entry »

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (6/6/2011–6/10/2011)

June 9 AFP reported that at this year’s African Growth Opportunities Act (AGOA) forum in Zambia, the U.S. is seeking to expand trade with Africa. Dr. Julie Howard, Deputy Coordinator for Development for the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, which is led by USAID, will lead the USAID delegation. During the forum, Dr. Howard will emphasize the United States’ commitment to building African capacity for trade, which is critical to meeting development priorities ranging from food security to economic growth.

June 9 The Washington Post published a story on US assistance to Afghanistan, quoting USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman.

June 9 The St. Cloud Times highlighted the work of a local resident and current USAID Afghanistan Country Representative, Randall Olson. Olson manages about 20 Americans in a USAID project that builds irrigation systems and schools. It also seeks to build confidence among Afghans in their leaders and in their own abilities to improve their community.

June 10 The Guardian posted an interactive story online, asking readers to submit questions to USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, who will be in London next week to attend the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI Alliance) donor pledging conference.

Partnering to Respond to Disasters & Emergencies

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has a long history of responding to global disasters and emergency situations. Taking even just a cursory look at the news and you will see stories about how the Agency is responding to the complex emergencies and humanitarian crises in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Not to mention that USAID is engaged in recovery and reconstruction efforts from the earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan.

At the Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF) before a packed audience of over 120 people, I had the privilege of talking about how USAID utilizes partnerships with the private sector to support our disaster and emergency response activities around the globe. Joining me in this discussion were my colleagues, Carolyn Brehm from Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Ted Okada from Microsoft, who work with the GDA regularly to manage and expand our global partnerships.

In all areas of disaster and emergency response, USAID leverages the financial resources, technical expertise, training capacity, transportation networks, and technology many private sector companies can provide in a crisis. By combining USAID’s own experience in humanitarian and disaster assistance, public-private partnerships can bring a wealth of experience and technical assistance to bear to alleviate human suffering and save millions of lives.

The focus of my remarks were grounded in our Emergencies Sector Guide – part of a series of guides on how USAID does business with the private sector – which focuses on how USAID has formed alliances in all five phases of responding to disasters and crises: preparedness and mitigation; acute response; recovery; reconstruction; and transition. This guide points to the important contributions our private sector partners, such as P&G and Microsoft, can provide in times of crises.

As emphasized by my private sector colleagues, companies are working in partnership not only with USAID, but also other donor organizations, local NGOs in disaster affected countries and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance.  Carolyn indicated that with over 4.2 billion customers and rising, P&G has focused its philanthropic activities around its core business objectives through its Live, Learn and Thrive initiative, which focuses on the health, education and skill needs of children during the first 13 years of life. The primary area USAID has partnered with P&G is around their Children’s Safe Drinking Water program that reaches people through PUR packets, a water purifying technology developed by P&G and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One small PUR packet quickly turns 10 liters of dirty, potentially deadly water into clean, drinkable water. The packets can be used anywhere in the world, including areas affected by natural disaster.

USAID also has a long standing relationship with Microsoft, having worked together in over 70 partnerships around the globe to help expand ICT education and opportunities for local entrepreneurs to generate income and develop their local economies.  At AIDF, Microsoft presented a moving short video describing activities underway in Haiti to help introduce technology and training to schools as the country rebuilds. Through its partnership with NetHope, (supported by USAID) Microsoft is providing equipment, training and technical assistance to over 40 schools to help them leap into the 21st Century.

USAID and its private sector partners are working together to help meet the needs of millions around the globe, recognizing that in this day and age, we cannot solve the challenges facing the global community alone.

Picture of the Week

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.

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