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Preview: UN High Level Meeting on Youth

At 1.5 billion, today’s global youth generation is the largest in history and USAID understands the important role youth play as partners and leaders in development.

On July 26-27, Government Officials, civil society organizations and Youth Delegates will come together in New York City at the United Nations General Assembly for a High Level Meeting on Youth.  As the flagship event of the International Year of the Youth which culminates on August 11, the overall theme is “Youth: Dialogue and Mutual Understanding”.

Under the overall lead of Ronan Farrow, State Department’s new Special Advisor on Global Youth Issues, USAID will play a prominent role at the meeting.  Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor at USAID, will deliver a statement on behalf of the U.S. Government during the Development Roundtable.

At USAID we are inspired by the energy of youth in the developing world, and actively searching for ways to engage them in the development dialogue and process.   Alongside the formal events, USAID (Nicole Goldin and Erin Mazursky, Youth Advisor) will host a listening session on youth in development at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.

While this is a culminating event, this important gathering of leaders, stakeholders, and a wide array of impressive young leaders from around the world will help to further the recognition of youth as important players in international development. This has been an important year of elevating the profile of youth, and USAID is happy to play a role in continuing the momentum.

You can tell us more about your interests in youth in development at; or visit us on Twitter and share your comments using the hashtag#USAIDyouth.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (7/11/2011 – 7/15/2011)

July 12 CNN, McClatchy Newspapers, and The Washington Post reported that at a speech to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cited the importance of foreign aid and how the State Department and USAID are using “commercial diplomacy” to help U.S. companies compete and win in the future. Clinton noted that more than 1,000 economic officers and over 400 locally-employed staff around the world are promoting American business interests and looking for new opportunities for U.S. businesses abroad.

July 13 In an interview with The Huffington Post, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah discussed the current drought and food crisis in the Horn of Africa. Shah stated that the food shortages are putting millions of lives at risk and threatening to further destabilize a troubled region of the world. “It’s so important to be promoting security and stability in these parts of the world, as opposed to be dealing with these devastating and difficult consequences of failure,” Shah stated.

July 14 Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog reports that in a recent interview with Deputy Secretary of State for Management Tom Nides, the State Department and USAID have a national security mandate. “We are helping countries through Feed the Future, Global Health Initiatives, climate change, and economic support funding. We’re doing that because we’re building up these countries to be more self-reliant and have stronger economies. By doing that, that helps our national security,”

Not Just from the American People, For the American People

USAID 50th anniversary banner

I was 15 when I watched on CNN as Somali clansmen dragged U.S. servicemembers through the mangled streets of Mogadishu.  Throughout my adult life, I’ve watched, studied, and participated in subsequent U.S. interventions in failed and fragile states. Yesterday, I spoke at the USGLC Annual Conference-Investing in the Future: A Smart Power Approach to Global Leadership, explaining just that.

In 2003, I deployed with a battalion task force of nearly one-thousand soldiers to eastern Afghanistan.  I had the fortune of leading a platoon of infantrymen and witnessed first-hand the enormity of the development deficit faced by Afghans in the wake of more than two decades of violence.   It was also this point in my life I began to ask myself whether there was a way to pre-emptively address development challenges around the world so that there would be fewer instances in the future where we had to risk the use of military force.  Ultimately that question led me to USAID.

The two clasped hands in USAID’s logo exemplify the motto “From the American People,” but I’ve learned that our assistance also derives benefits for the American people.  Development assistance helps keep our country safe, helps to develop the markets of tomorrow, and demonstrates America’s moral leadership around the world.

For example, in 2010, six years after the devastating civil war, southern Sudan was preparing to vote for its independence.  No one could guarantee the referendum would proceed peacefully, if it proceeded at all.  In August 2010, five months before the referendum was slated to begin, many were still convinced it would not take place, but our development assistance made a crucial difference.  USAID helped establish facilities for the referendum’s operations; secured voter registration cards; and helped to train Sudanese poll workers to register voters.  USAID also provided lanterns so poll workers could count ballots into the night.  The results of the referendum have since been officially counted and this week’s historic celebration of independence is a success-story USAID can take pride in helping to make happen.

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From the Field

In Sri Lanka, we are holding our annual multi-religion and multi-ethnic festival.  After nearly 30 years of conflict, the festival is meant to give members of these previously conflicting groups a chance to meet and know each other in order to foster reconciliation and respect for diversity.

In Afghanistan, we will hold the Afghan Women Judges Association (AWJA) Conference.  The AWJA is an alliance of women judges that provides legal training to women judges, runs legal aid services for women, and promotes legal rights awareness to women and girls. This the first time that the Supreme Court in Afghanistan has recognized the Afghan Women Judges Association Conference’s validity and extended its blessing to its formation.

In Kyrgyzstan, we will give the final presentation on the results of research analysis conducted on economic recovery and the future of southern Kyrgyzstan.  We will present findings of a survey conducted with numerous entrepreneurs in volatile areas of southern Kyrgyzstan.  The event will also include a facilitated discussion of the existing barriers for business expansion in the south as well as the potential opportunities for economic development in the future.

Administrator Shah Receives Award for Indian Diaspora

Diaspora can make a difference.  That’s the reasoning behind India’s Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award—the most prestigious civilian award given by the President of India to successful Indian diaspora who have enhanced India’s prestige around the world.

Administrator Shah (wearing the award) with his wife, Shivam Mallick Shah, and Ambassador Meera Shankar with her husband Ajay Shankar. Photo Credit: USAID

USAID’s Administrator, Rajiv Shah, was recently honored as an Indian-American who is making a difference when he was presented with the above-mentioned award at a reception at the residence of Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar.  Dr. Shah is one of 15 people, of Indian descent, from around the world to receive the award.

In his acceptance speech, Dr. Shah stated, “This award has particular significance to me, because it symbolizes two of the most important values in development work:  partnership and service.”

Although he was born and raised in suburban Detroit, Dr. Shah’s parents hailed from India, and his Indian heritage has influenced his path in life.  He still recalls the shock of seeing the deep human suffering in slums of Mumbai while on a family trip to India as a small boy.  Years later, as a medical student, he went back to India and volunteered in a poor community in South India, where impoverished students in a one-room schoolhouse looked for inspiration to three  portraits on their classroom wall—Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and USAID’s founder John F. Kennedy.

At the original award ceremony in New Delhi in February, which the Administrator was unable to attend, the President of India, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil called on the Indian diaspora to participate in building a better life for India’s disadvantaged.

And in his speech last night, Dr. Shah echoed the importance of drawing on the talents and skills of the diaspora community to help meet development challenges:  “As someone who walks between both of these worlds—the halls of government and the Indian diaspora community—I appreciate the critical role diaspora communities have to play in expanding economic opportunity, increasing access to services, advocating for peace, and consolidating democratic gains.”

Dr. Shah also highlighted examples of USAID’s successful partnership with India, such as halving HIV prevalence in Tamil Nadu and reducing electricity losses in Bangalore.  And he underscored India’s important role as a model for development and as a donor itself, noting the potential—with the help of diaspora and other partners—for expanding these achievements throughout India and around the world.

Dr. Shah also stressed that USAID is changing its relationship with India from that of donor-recipient to a new strategic partnership, working hand in hand with the Indian government and private sector on initiatives that will harness technologies and innovations of both countries to address global challenges.

For more information on USAID’s work in India, please visit the USAID/India mission website.


Talking with America’s Youth

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with American youth from the White House about the importance of getting involved in international development. Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, invited me to answer questions from a room full of young innovators and the Twitter and Facebook online communities.

I found this experience especially meaningful because I believe that young people today have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of global development and its ties to our nation’s prosperity, security and values than at any time in our history. Through the power of social media and political advocacy, as well their ground efforts, they have gained a profound appreciation of the difficulties developing countries face and the interests our nation has in alleviating them.

A few weeks ago in Southern Sudan, I met a group of kids who are learning English and math in a USAID-supported primary education program.  The students ranged in ages from four to fourteen years old. Many of the older students have lived through a period of violence and suffering and have not yet had the opportunity for even a basic education. When you see American taxpayer money being effectively used to provide education in a way that improves the lives of these children and contributes to the peaceful founding of a new nation—the 196th country in the world—you get a genuine sense for the significance of this work.

More than ever before, young people recognize the importance of sustainable, long-term development and are getting directly involved in issues like education, hunger, climate change, and global health. They understand that a world in which hunger is beaten, diseases are eradicated, the planet is protected, markets are free and people are equal is a world that makes us safer, enhances our prosperity and reflects our values as Americans.

Today, the opportunities exist for young people to steer their talents towards serving those in greatest need, no matter what professions or degrees they choose. Whether you’re a teacher, investment banker, or engineer, you have valuable skills that can help drive meaningful change around the world. Visit our website to learn more, stay connected and tell us about the global development issues that concern you.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with additional answers to your specific development questions.

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

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