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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing: 7/4/2011 – 7/8/2011

July 5: New York Times columnist Nick Kristof discussed American aid to Africa and said the Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative, led by USAID, deserves credit for saving 4 million lives yearly.

July 7: CNN reports that USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg will be part of the official U.S. delegation traveling to Juba on Saturday to attend the ceremonies marking the independence of South Sudan.

July 8: The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the National Science Foundation (NSF) and USAID are partnering together to support new and existing scientific partnerships between universities and other research institutes around the world. The program will connect American researchers with their colleagues overseas to study natural disasters, water scarcity, and other problems facing developing nations.

July 8: At a special State Department briefing on South Sudan’s upcoming independence, Voice of America reports that USAID Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg stated that the U.S. will host a conference in Washington in September to promote South Sudan as an investment destination. Steinberg also noted that USAID plans to support an open, corruption-free economy in the country

July 8: The Deccan Herald reported that USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah received the prestigious Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award yesterday. The award is given by the Government of India to recognize the achievements of the Indian Diaspora.

USAID’S Work in Foreign Police Assistance: Lessons from the Field

Each year, the United States Government invests billions of dollars to train and equip police in countries that present a vital security interest such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Colombia, and Mexico.  In FY 2009, USAID spent $45 million to fund 40 civilian police assistance programs in 27 countries. Activities ranged from inclusion of civilian police in core development programs, such as those designed to reduce gender-based violence, to programs that focus explicitly on civilian police performance. Many people ask: “Why should USAID provide civilian police assistance?” The answer is simple. Civilian police are the largest representative of government in many countries and serve as lynchpins for a broad range of governance functions.

“For the average citizen, civilian police is the most visible symbol of government and an indicator of quality of governance. The relationship between civilian police and the community almost always mirrors the overall relationship between the citizenry and its government. Civilian police action, conduct and reputation tend to reflect on the ability of the entire criminal justice and, indeed, of the entire government, to carry out its functions effectively.”  (A Field Guide For USAID Democracy and Governance Officers: Assistance to Civilian Law Enforcement in Developing Countries, p15)

Many sectors, including agriculture, health and economic growth benefit from improved law enforcement.  For example, improved security can enable freer transit of goods to markets, increase investment in areas that may have been commercially underserved, or enable business expansion.  Effective policing is also critically important for reducing gender-based violence (GBV) and trafficking in persons (TIP).

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Harnessing the Power of Music to Combat Human Trafficking

Simon Goff, CEO of the MTV EXIT Foundation

“Human trafficking: No, No, No” rang out the chant from 20,000 people, repeating ASEAN Secretary-General Dr. Surin Pitsuwan’s call to action live from stage. They had travelled from across Thailand to be there and braved torrential rain, however, their spirits were not dampened. They were there to see their favorite artists perform and join a fight. A fight that is crucial for their futures.

In Chiang Mai at the 700th Anniversary stadium, MTV EXIT’s 26th concert in Asia was in full swing. The crowd had been treated to performances by Thailand’s top bands including ETC, Slot Machine, Thaitanium, and Australian popstar Kate Miller-Heidke. However, one of the highlights was a local all-girl band called Chaba that had won an MTV EXIT “battle of the bands” competition to perform in front of thousands. If the crowd daunted them they certainly didn’t show it. Between performances crucial information about human trafficking was delivered to the crowd by the artists as well as from the concert MCs, video presentations, and speeches from guests,  including Secretary-General Pitsuwan and the US Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney.

As the rain finally began to recede, the excitement amongst the audience reached fever pitch in anticipation of the headline act. Korean superstars Super Junior M were performing for the first time in Chiang Mai. As they took to the stage, they were met by deafening screams from their faithful fans. After performing one of their hits they addressed the crowd through an interpreter giving the all-important messages about the issue. After the concert, the work was not yet done.  The following day, band members had the opportunity to see the issue first hand, visiting a local shelter for survivors of trafficking. It was an incredibly positive experience with two young Thai survivors giving the band a lesson in Thai cooking.

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Join the Conversation with Administrator Raj Shah: “How to Make Change: Youth and International Development”

Young Americans across the country are the first generation of Americans to truly grow up in an ever-connected, global community.  I am humbled by the innovation and passion young people bring to their work that is changing lives every day.  So many youth are engaged in exceptional work in their communities as well as in our more global community.  At USAID, we want to make sure this work is acknowledged and that this experience is heard.

This is why I am excited to invite all of you to a conversation with Administrator Rajiv Shah on “How to Make Change: Youth and International Development.”  He will join Kalpen Modi from the White House for a live web chat with young Americans about international development.

This event will be a fantastic opportunity  to participate in a conversation with the Administrator about how young people are changing the game when it comes to poverty in the United States and around the world.

We want to know what you think about the role of USAID and the Obama Administration should be playing to tackle challenges related to global poverty and international development.

You can send in your questions for Administrator Shah and Kalpen Modi.

Be sure to tune in on Thursday, July 7th at 1:30 pm EST on and

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (6/27/2011 – 7/1/2011)

June 27 In a recent report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, Voice of America reported that the U.S. is in the position to lead global efforts on food security. Through the Feed the Future Initiative, led by USAID, a new emphasis is being placed on agricultural development and sustainability, as opposed to food aid alone.

June 27 Voice of America reports that at the recent donor pledging conference for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, or GAVI, USAID will be donating $450 million over the next three years to help save 4 million lives by 2015. “Our commitment to GAVI will prevent the deaths of millions of children, and will increase global stability and strengthen our national security,” said USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah.

June 29 Harvest Public Media reported that at the International Food Aid and Development Conference, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah addressed the group of experts, stating that targeted humanitarian aid is far less costly than dealing with the social instability and riots a lack of food can create. Shah also acknowledged that the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future Initiative will attack hunger with a broad brush—putting money not only into emergency feeding programs, but also into research.

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.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (6-20-2011–6-24-2011)

June 21 Voice of America reports that at a ceremony held at the State Department, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah praised the leadership of former Ghana President John Agyekum Kufuor and former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva for their work to address hunger and poverty in their countries over the past decade. The two former presidents received the 2011 World Food Prize.

June 22 In an interview with NPR’s “Tell Me More” USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discusses food shortages, security and prices with host Michel Martin.

June 22 In an op-ed by Congressman Gerry Connolly published in The Hill, Congressman Connolly highlighted the importance of supporting foreign aid and development in today’s globalized economy.

June 23 In an interview with NPR’s “Morning edition” USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah talked about what the troop drawdown in Afghanistan will mean for U.S. assistance in the country.

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.

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