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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.

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.

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