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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.

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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.

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.

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