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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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Working with Diaspora Communities to Deliver Meaningful Results

On Tuesday, I spoke at the Global Diaspora Forum, a gathering at the State Department that brought together representatives from diaspora communities around the world, from Haiti to Tanzania.  I had the opportunity to talk about ways USAID is rebuilding our engagement with diaspora—in areas like philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism—under the framework of the Diaspora Network Alliance.  And I shared my appreciation for the unique relationships, knowledge and skills that diaspora communities bring to development.

In the aftermath of the last year’s earthquake in Haiti, diaspora volunteers worked with Tufts University to help translate text messages from people trapped in rubble—information we fed to our search and rescue teams on the ground in Haiti that helped save lives.  In South Sudan, we worked with skilled, educated Sudanese diaspora volunteers to develop local capacity in health and education.  As the referendum for independence approached, we supported polling stations abroad so that members of the southern Sudanese diaspora could participate.

I was reminded at the Global Diaspora Forum of my own family’s experience.  My parents immigrated to the United States, and I still recall the pride my father took in sending money in blue aerograms back home to our family in India.  In 2010, global remittances were valued at over $340 billion, but I know firsthand how much more they’re really worth.  So often a result of long hours and sacrifice, they mean the chance for a child to afford her school uniform, or the chance for a young person to take out a loan and open up a business.  And when they allow a family to buy food or medicine in a difficult time, they mean the difference between life and death.  That’s why we’re committed at USAID to making sure each dollar saved and each dollar transferred reaches its recipients at the lowest transaction cost possible.

You can learn more about our work with diasporas and remittances.

I was inspired by how many potential new partners I saw at the Forum and the possibilities going forward to learn from each other, share innovative ideas, and deliver meaningful results for developing countries.

Exclusive Insights from Leaders in Health, National Security

What do President Obama’s pick to become the next NATO commander in Afghanistan and the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) have in common? Besides boasting rather impressive resumes, they were both interviewed in the most recent issue of USAID FrontLines.

Lt. Gen. John Allen

Lt. Gen. John Allen

In the April-May edition, U.S. Lt. Gen. John Allen, deputy commander of U.S. Central Command, and Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, answer questions about some of the most pressing topics in international development.

Allen, who served in Iraq during the period known as “the surge”, talks about how military and civilian forces can work together to multiply the success of a mission, and why development  is an extraordinarily effective tool in preventing conflict and fostering good will in the world.

He argues:

Those of us who’ve been honored to serve alongside development professionals understand that USAID delivers strategic effects which can strengthen U.S. relationships around the world and improve the qualities of governance, economic opportunity, and life for millions of our friends overseas. Interestingly, I would venture to guess that if you were to interview families from across the CENTCOM region, far more children have personally seen the USAID logo than have ever personally seen an American soldier. USAID has a significant impact and reach across our AOR [area of responsibility] and few understand that as well as the military.

In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much—over the long term—to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.

In the Q&A with Chan, the doctor covers many health topics, including the need for primary care in developing nations – and the challenges organizations like USAID and the World Health Organization face in helping countries stand up their programs.

In my view, the best way [to improve global health] is to go back to the basics: the values, principles, and approaches of primary health care. Abundant evidence, over decades of experience, supports this view. Countries at similar levels of socioeconomic development achieve better health outcomes for the money when services are organized according to the principles of primary health care. A revitalization of primary health care is the smart move to make.

Dr. Margaret Chan Photo credit: WHO

Dr. Margaret Chan, Photo credit: WHO

To be frank, a smart move, in this case, is not an easy move. We are almost starting over from scratch. Over the past three decades, health systems in large parts of the developing world have crumbled from neglect. Countries and their development partners have failed to invest adequately in basic health infrastructures, capacities, and services, including staff education and training, regulatory capacity, procurement systems, and statistical services.

Read the complete interviews with Allen and Chan, as well as more stories about USAID’s work in Iraq and in global health in the April/May issue of FrontLines. If you would like to receive a reminder about the latest FrontLines, subscribe here.

Women and War Symposium

Last Friday, Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg joined Dr. Katherine Hicks, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces at the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) for its “Women and War” symposium on peace and security in the second decade of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.  Jointly hosted by USIP and the Peace Research Institute-Oslo (PRIO), the event also marked the release of the book Women & War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century.

The edited volume is a trans-Atlantic collaborative effort to highlight innovative approaches toward ensuring greater participation of women at the negotiating table, and the ways in which women will make a difference in the security arena over the next decade.  In 2000, the United States supported the adoption of UNSCR 1325 as a call to action for governments around the world to increase women’s participation in matters of international security and strengthen their protection in times of conflict.  As part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s commitment to develop a National Action Plan that outlines U.S. support for women as key enablers of peace and stability in countries affected by conflict, Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg  talked about his contribution to the book and highlighted a few aspects of the progress USAID is making in developing that plan.

As an Agency, USAID is combining initiatives and programs with actions that institutionalize a gender perspective into the way we do business.  We’re incorporating programmatic as well as administrative goals that are Specific, Measurable, Additive, fully Resourced, Time-bound, Evidence-Based and Responsive (SMARTER).  In addition to comprehensively addressing the key objective areas outlined by UNSCR 1325– including participation, prevention, protection, and relief and recovery,  we’re implementing Agency policies, training, and personnel policies that allow us to respond more effectively to the needs of women and girls in conflict-affected countries. “It’s about monitoring and evaluation, accountability and measurement.  It’s not just measuring the inputs and outputs, but the outcomes” stated Steinberg.

DA Steinberg further discussed how gender equality and women’s empowerment is critical to achieve our development and humanitarian assistance objectives.  In conflict and crisis situations, it is a challenging but vital imperative to work toward protection and power for women and girls—protection from sexual violence and gender-based violence, that harms individuals, families, and entire communities, and empowerment, that promotes women’s participation at the negotiating table and in rebuilding conflict-affected communities.  “It’s not just a question about bringing more women to the table, but how we make that process work more effectively.”  He stressed a critical shift in how we evaluate our own staff to value inclusive leadership – “drawing in others agencies and government but also reaching out to all the communities out there – most prominently the 50% of the population who is normally excluded from the development dialogue.”

Read an excerpt of Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg’s chapter of Women & War: Power and Protection in the 21st Century.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (5/8/2011–5/13/2011)

May 8 The Huffington Post’s “Huffpost Impact” Blog published a column celebrating the new global health initiative USAID and Johnson & Johnson are partnering on to address maternal and child health. The partnership, called Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), will harness the power of mobile technology to deliver vital health information to new and expectant mothers.

May 8 The Sudan Tribune reported that during Administrator Shah’s recent trip to the region, he cited that President Obama and USAID are set to invest in South Sudan’s agricultural sector, which is the backbone of the region’s economy. Administrator Shah’s remarks were given during the signing ceremony of a communiqué declaring “to support the Government of Southern Sudan in its efforts to transform farms into businesses.”

May 9 The Guardian’s global health blog featured an interview USAID’s Frontlines magazine had with World Health Organization’s Director General Margaret Chan. In the interview, Chan talked about the need to have both disease-fighting strategies and health system strengthening.

May 9 Foreign Policy’s The Cable blog highlighted an interview Lt. Gen. John Allen had with USAID’s Frontlines magazine on U.S. aid to Afghanistan. In the interview, Allen promised to push for increased cooperation between soldiers and aid workers and fight for USAID’s continued support from the military and Congress.

Learn about the Upcoming Global Diaspora Forum

Kris M. Balderston, Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the Global Partnership Initiative within the Office of the Secretary of State, discusses the upcoming Global Diaspora Forum, whose goal is to recognize and celebrate the contribution of Diaspora communities to America’s relationship with their countries of origin or ancestry; foster Diaspora-centric partnership models; and encourage intra-Diaspora collaboration and learning. The event will occur in Washington, D.C., May 17-19, 2011. [Go to for more video and text transcript.]

USAID in the News: 5/2/2011–5/6/2011

May 2- FutureGov reported that USAID is teaming up with NASA to expand international development efforts by applying geospatial technologies to overcome challenges in food security, climate change, and energy and environmental management in many developing countries. The technology will involve satellite data and mapping tools.

May 4-The Hill, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Federal Computer Week announced Secretary Clinton’s unveiling of a new public-private partnership called the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), which aims to provide women with health information using mobile phone technology. The National Journal quotes Administrator Shah as saying that, “This partnership will harness the power of mobile technology to provide mothers with information about pregnancy, childbirth, and the first year of life.”

May 4- FederalNewsRadio reported that USAID is boosting its partnership with NASA by signing a new memo of understanding to share technologies in addressing international development problems.

May 5- The New York Times “Green” blog reported on an interview with Administrator Shah concerning family planning. The Agency is collaborating with several U.S. and international partners to prevent millions of unwanted pregnancies and to help children to survive into adulthood so that parents do not feel pressured to have more children.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (4/25/2011–4/29/2011)

April 25 NextGov reported that NASA and USAID have signed a pact to share more satellite data and mapping tools with international partners for disaster response. The five-year memorandum of understanding covers several initiatives funded through both agencies that focus on global health, hunger, disaster relief and environmental dangers.

April 27 AFP, CNN, and Voice of America reported that a major food aid report released by USAID aims to improve the quality of food it distributes abroad. The report Delivering Improved Nutrition calls for revisions in dietary elements to fight hunger and to focus on providing proper nutrition to children under two and pregnant women.

In The News: 4/11/2011–4/15/2011

April 12: An article in the Washington Business Journal wrote that USAID will increasingly give contracts to companies in the countries where the projects are performed. Administrator Shah said that, “Instead of continuing to sign large contracts with large contractors, we are accelerating our funding to local partners who have the cultural knowledge and in-country expertise to deliver lasting, durable growth.”

April 13: Voice of America reports that USAID has launched “Saving Lives At Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development” in partnership between the Agency, the Norwegian government, the Gates Foundation, Global Challenges Canada, and the World Bank. The Grand Challenge focuses on reducing the number of deaths among mothers and infants in developing countries as part of the drive to improve global health.

USAID in the News: 4/4/2011–4/8/2011

April 4: Bloomberg News reported that USAID will send a team into Libya to provide humanitarian relief in the face of the current conflict. Mark Ward, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, said that one of the team’s first tasks will be to “contact those opposed to Qaddafi, including the National Transitional Council, to coordinate the delivery of relief.”

April 7: Voice of America reported that USAID is taking the lead on American humanitarian efforts in Libya. The pledged $47 million dollars are being used to “first, [deliver] desperately needed humanitarian aid; second, [pressure] and [isolate] the Muammar Gadhafi regime through sanctions and other measures; and third [support] efforts by Libyans to achieve their aspirations through political changes.”

April 8: MIT News reported that at a speech delivered on campus by USAID Administrator Shah, the future of development will be shaped by new ideas and innovation. And that programs developed through MIT’s D-Lab are helping to “transform the world of development.”

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