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Archive for March, 2011

MFAN-WTW-AJWS Celebrate International Women’s Day

Thursday, March 10th, 2011
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Don Steinberg-IWD eventYesterday in honor of International Women’s Day, MFAN co-sponsored an event with Women Thrive Worldwide (WTW) and the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) to discuss gender policy as a means to achieving more effective development. Deputy Administrator for USAID Don Steinberg provided a keynote address in which he spoke about the agency’s efforts to integrate gender policy across all programs. Acknowledging the changing landscape—with the creation of UN Women and recent commitments from President Obama and Secretary Clinton— and the growing awareness of the consequences for excluding women and girls from society, Steinberg said this was a time for action. Some of the action steps USAID has taken include: requiring a gender impact statement on all projects, mandatory training, a code of conduct for trafficking, and the creation of two senior positions for gender empowerment. After listing these steps, Steinberg said the agency is committed to making sure these gains “deepen and are irreversible” adding, “These are non-negotiable requirements for lasting peace and stability—not pet rocks in a rucksack.” He also talked extensively about his experience in Angola, serving as Ambassador there, and how he worked tirelessly to include women in a more balanced peace process.

Steinberg’s keynote was followed by a panel discussion moderated by former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers, current Managing Director at the Glover Park Group. Along with Steinberg, the panel featured MFAN Principal and WTW President Ritu Sharma and AJWS President Ruth Messinger. In her opening remarks, Messinger forcefully articulated the role of civil society in elevating women and girls. She also reminded the audience that  in being determined advocates for women’s issues we must remember the need to work from the ground up—that we must take advantage of local civil society groups already pushing for women’s rights and build on their efforts.


Feed the Future: A Promising New Model of Development

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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A Guest Blog Post by Mannik Sakayan,

Senior Policy Analyst, Bread for the World

Every day, troubling data suggests that the ranks of hungry and poor people around the world are again expanding. For organizations who work to shed light on global hunger and poverty, the data is not news. Yet we hold in our policy cache smart, sustainable solutions to addressing the root causes of persistent global hunger and poverty.

Over the years, Bread for the World has joined forces with other global hunger advocates in calling for sustainable solutions to a path out of hunger and poverty for millions of men, women, and children in developing countries. We have done so by calling for focused agricultural development investments that take into consideration local needs and wants. And we have called for efforts to scale up and replicate the programs that work in order to get the most for our investments.

Fortunately, Feed the Future, the administration’s comprehensive food security and agricultural development initiative that launched in 2009, holds the promise to re-establish U.S. leadership in global agricultural development. It also holds the promise to address the root causes of global hunger through sustainable economic growth. It aims to achieve this through inclusive agricultural sector growth and improved nutritional status of women and children.

We have seen successes. New and innovative approaches to agriculture have helped save hundreds of millions of lives in Asia and Latin America. Yet the promise of alleviating hunger and poverty for people throughout the developing world should have served as an impetus to do more and to commit targeted resources to the programs that worked well. Instead, over the last few decades, changing global circumstances and priorities resulted in a gradual decrease in funding for agricultural development. With declining investments came diminished capacity in U.S. technical expertise. Rebuilding our technical capacity and recommitting the necessary resources will certainly be a heavy lift, but not an impossible one.

Feed the Future takes an innovative approach to bilateral assistance and offers a new model of development that takes stock of global needs as well as our own strengths in order to maximize the impact of the investments. Through country-led investment strategies, the United States will work in partnership with developing country governments to strengthen their agricultural capacity, with particular focus on smallholder farmers. Feed the Future calls for a consultative process with national stakeholders that best understand local needs and wants.

Feed the Future also includes a multilateral component, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), housed at the World Bank, to leverage donor contributions from other governments, foundations, and the private sector. Similar to Feed the Future, GAFSP allocates resources based on country-led proposals.

Both Feed the Future and GAFSP offer a new model of development that holds substantial promise. It is a sound development strategy based on targeted investments and measurable results. It has the all-important elements of reform—rigorous standards for monitoring and evaluation, accountability and transparency, country-led programming, and consultation—that are greatly needed to bring U.S. development policy into the 21st century.

Now is not the time to squander the momentum for lasting change. Hunger has never been a partisan issue. Now is not the time to make it one. Our leadership and commitment to save lives and prevent political instability around the world are at stake.

The way forward is to build broad, bipartisan support for enacting legislation that would codify the goals of Feed the Future so that it lives beyond this administration and truly becomes the cornerstone of U.S. global development policy.

Women’s empowerment — not a partisan issue

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011
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Heather Coleman, senior policy advisor on climate change at Oxfam America, recently posted a blog commemorating International Women’s Day and sharing stories about women who inspire her in the developing world. Coleman can relate to the struggles these incredible women face as they try to produce food for their families and communities, as she is a new mother herself.

“As a new mother I’m deeply touched when I hear stories like that of Sahena Begum in Bangladesh who has two children and whose family has been ravaged by increasingly severe and persistent floods. Sahena invests in disaster preparedness measures like flood early warning systems and raising homesteads with a local organization. I wonder how she has time to invest in such efforts with a family to take care of and food to put on the table. Even with a comfortable home, adequate resources, and no direct threat of natural disasters (or at least none that I know of), I barely have enough time to breathe, never mind invest in community development projects.”

“And while Sahena protects her family and community from yet another flood in Bangladesh, a US Congressional budget battle threatens to slash international development funding accounts that build human security in some of the poorest countries in the world. It looks like the House and Senate will agree to a compromise this week that prevents a government shutdown in the immediate term, but it’s still unclear how long this will last and whether international food security and climate finance will be cut in the end.”

To read more about what Oxfam America is doing to help women around the world, click here. For the latest updates on the budget battle, click here.

Celebrating International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
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Tuesday, March 8 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, but MFAN Partner Women Thrive Worldwide is drawing attention to the importance of women’s empowerment a few days early. Tomorrow morning they will have their 3rd annual International Women’s Day breakfast as the community takes stock of the progress made in agricultural development and food security and explores important questions for charting a path forward for gender equality. Just five days later Women Thrive Worldwide will be partnering with MFAN and American Jewish World Service to host a discussion on “Forging the Path to Effective Development: Getting Gender Policy Right”. For details about the event, see below. Be sure to visit ModernizeAid later this week and next for more highlights on International Women’s Day and what our partners are doing to mark the occasion.

Forging the Path to Effective Development: Getting Gender Policy Right

With Keynote Remarks By:

Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg

U.S. Agency for International Development

Who Will Join a Panel With:

Ruth Messinger and Ritu Sharma

Presidents of American Jewish World Service and Women Thrive Worldwide

Moderated by

Dee Dee Myers

Political Analyst and Commentator

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Reserve Officers Association Building, Minuteman Ballroom A

One Constitution Avenue, N.E., Washington, DC

To RSVP for this event, please e-mail

The first government-wide global development policy issued by the President last fall and the State Department’s recently released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) both commit the United States to consider the unique needs of women and girls, as well as men and boys, in designing U.S. diplomacy and poverty-fighting efforts around the world.  When gender is taken into account, foreign assistance can truly reach the people it is intended to benefit—so that both women and men can contribute to the growth and development of their countries. However, without a commitment to gender integration, women are usually the ones left behind; even though research shows that investments in women yield economic, health, and education benefits in lifting families and communities out of poverty.

Join us on International Women’s Day for this timely discussion with Deputy Administrator Steinberg on the importance of taking gender into account when designing development and foreign assistance programs. Hear about a new analysis and recommendations for the QDDR from Women Thrive Worldwide, as well as a new AJWS paper, entitled Empowering Girls as Agents of Change: A Human Rights-Based Approach to U.S. Development Policy.

Secretary Clinton Defends FY’12 Budget Request to HFAC

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011
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Clinton FY'12 HFAC

Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to defend President Obama’s FY’12 budget request for the State Department and USAID. After opening statements from Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) and Clinton, the committee immediately jumped to a marathon question and answer session—bringing the hearing to a near 4-hour mark. Most of the questions from Republicans and Democrats focused on the revolutions in the Middle East, particularly Libya. Secretary Clinton used this context as a jumping off point to make an eloquent defense of U.S. assistance and development programs and generally how the situation makes it even more important that we use every tool in our national security strategy to affect change.

In her opening statement HFAC Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen criticized the Administration for not doing more to foster the democracy movements in the Middle East, saying “We have failed to effectively use our resources to help build strong, accountable institutions that protect basic human rights.” Ros-Lehtinen discussed the UN Human Rights Council and called for conditioning U.S. funding: “Just as administration officials talk about smart power and smart sanctions, when it comes to the U.N., we need smart withholding.”  She also challenged the Administration to consider its “mis-placed priorities” arguing, “The Administration should not propose massive increases in global health and climate change while cutting key programs like counter-terrorism programs.” After running through some constituent letters that ask “what is the return on our investment?” Ros-Lehtinen closed with a forceful message:  “Our funding baseline has to change. The real question is not, is this activity useful? But rather, is this activity so important that it justifies borrowing money to pay for it and further endangering our nation’s economy?”