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Creating opportunity for boys
and young men of color.

“There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”

– President Obama, July 19, 2013

Read President Obama's remarks on "My Brother's Keeper" initiative.

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Understanding The Problem

The data proves it: Boys and young men of color — regardless of where they come from — are disproportionately at risk from their youngest years through college and the early stages of their professional lives.

By the time they hit fourth grade, 86 percent of African American boys and 82 percent of Hispanic and Native American boys are reading below proficiency levels — compared to 58 percent of white fourth graders reading below proficiency levels. Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2013 Reading Assessments

African American and Hispanic young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers — and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.

How President Obama is Taking Action

He's announced a new initiative with leading foundations and businesses that will take a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color — and they're getting to work immediately.

He signed a Presidential Memorandum establishing the My Brother's Keeper Task Force to help determine which public and private efforts are working, how the Federal government can support those efforts, and how we can get more folks involved in those efforts across the board.

That doesn't only benefit our kids facing tough circumstances — it benefits all Americans.

Read the Presidential Memorandum here.

Businesses and foundations are stepping up to answer the President's call to action. Find out more about what they’re doing:

Learn more about the My Brother's Keeper Initiative

U.S. Department of State

posted Jun 10, 2016, 10:19 PM by MOJO MICHELE   [ updated Jun 10, 2016, 10:22 PM ]

DipNote: Latest Stories is the official blog of the 

U.S. Department of State.Muhammad Ali’s Lasting Legacy in Sports Diplomacy BargerThu, 09 Jun 2016 16:05:56 PDTnode-28616-0

When three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away last week, he left behind much more than his legendary performances in the ring. The man known as “The Greatest” is also well known for his work outside the ring, and he has left his mark on many important international initiatives, like sports diplomacy.

Through sports diplomacy, the State Department taps into the ability of sports to increase dialogue and cultural understanding between people around the world. Ali’s spirit has been captured in several recent State Department Sports Diplomacy boxing programs, which engage professional and youth athletes from abroad with experiences in the United States.

Earlier in 2016, a delegation of 12 Kazakhstani boxers and trainers, five men and seven women representing diverse regions of their home country, visited community boxing programs and the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The boxers participated in the Ali Center’s “Creating Our Future” curriculum, which teaches six core values — respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, spirituality and giving — characteristics Ali sought to champion in his own life. The Ali Center inspires leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, all assets that are critical to people-to-people relations. Because of this aspect, the Department provides exchange participants with opportunities to visit the center even when their program is not focused on boxing.

SportsUnited: Kazakhstan Boxing Diplomacy from exchangesvideo on Vimeo.

Our Empowering Women through Sports initiative has also been lifted by Ali’s legacy. Laila Ali, undefeated world-champion boxer and Muhammad Ali’s daughter, served as president of Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF), a longstanding mentor site to the espnW Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP). The GSMP gives emerging leaders in the sports sector from other countries the opportunity to build lasting relationships and partnerships through a month-long mentorship in the United States.

An alumna of GSMP from Kenya, Cynthia Coredo, leads an organization devoted to empowering young women through boxing, called Boxgirls. Boxgirls Kenya allows young women from disadvantaged areas to use boxing as a catalyst for positive social change in themselves and their communities.

Also under the Empowering Women through Sports initiative, the State Department hosted women from Tajikistan for a martial arts program focused on addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV). The young women participated in a Thai boxing program at the Beta Academy to learn both technical and mental tactics used in boxing. One alumna, Mavzuna Chorieva, went on to compete in women’s Olympic boxing as the first female boxer to represent Tajikistan.

The U.S. Department of State is mourning the loss of the global sports icon. And in his memory, we will continue to unite citizens around the world, as Ali did, through the power of sports.

About the Author: Rebeccah Barger serves in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' (ECA) SportsUnited Office.

For more information:

  • Visit the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs page on Sports Diplomacy.
  • Follow the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs @ECAatState on Twitter.
]]>When three-time heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali passed away last week, he left behind much more than his legendary performances in the ring. of Nuclear Weapons in the Information Age E. FriedtThu, 09 Jun 2016 15:20:21 PDTnode-28586-0

In the mid 1980’s President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev transformed how we verify treaties governing weapons of mass destruction. The Treaties being negotiated then  --  the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty  --  incorporated new verification features designed to expand cooperation and build trust among parties. In addition to “eyes in the sky,” the use of satellites to verify limits on strategic delivery vehicles, this new generation of Treaties allowed on-site inspections of facilities and of treaty-limited items.

In 1987, Premier Gorbachev famously quipped to President Reagan “You repeat (the term trust but verify) at every meeting,” to which President Reagan shot back, “I like it.” Today, the United States still likes it.

The 2010 New START Treaty is the latest to employ a combination of data exchanges, on-site inspections, and national technical means to verify the Treaty is being faithfully implemented.

Buttressed by this robust verification architecture, New START Treaty implementation is proceeding well and both the United States and Russia are expected to meet the Treaty’s central limits when they take effect in February 2018.

The United States made an offer in 2013 to seek to negotiate another round of strategic nuclear reductions of up to one-third from New START levels, however, Russia has yet to agree. Even as we work to resolve the political challenges that obstruct further progress, we have accelerated work in other areas that could serve as incubators for verification solutions for use in a future arms control treaty or agreement.

To that end, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller, established an International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification in 2014. The Partnership is founded on the principle that progress need not be held hostage to the ebbs and flows of the political environment. The diverse makeup of the Partnership --  which includes countries from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North and South America and collaboration from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI)  -- underscores our belief that good ideas do not come from any one place.

Let me give you an example of why we are continuing to focus on building capacity to verify arms control agreements.

The verification measures in the New START Treaty  -- as intrusive as they are  --  may not be sufficient for effective verification in the future. Future agreements may need to transition from counting warheads affixed to strategic delivery vehicles to counting individual warheads themselves. Warheads are not only a new item of account; they may be located in types of facilities never visited before by inspectors. As we lower levels of nuclear weapons, the bar for effective verification will climb even higher. And as a future verification regime shifts from a bilateral to a multilateral arrangement, we will confront additional technical challenges such as preventing the transfer of proliferation sensitive information.

For all the progress we have made on verification, we know that we have yet to exploit new types of data to conquer the hard security issues of our day. For example, open source data that we all rely on  --  Google Earth  --  currently cannot be used to verify a state’s declarations on its strategic forces.

It is clear that the traditional means of tracking nuclear weapons need to keep pace with the evolving threat. With this challenge as the backdrop, Deputy Secretary of State Blinken and Under Secretary of State Gottemoeller led a first of its kind workshop in Silicon Valley this past April, “The Hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction: Leveraging New Technology.” The Workshop paired academics, NGOs, and foundations who are steeped in nuclear weapons issues with technologists. In the coming months, we will look to marshal the diverse skill sets of these professionals to address our evolving WMD challenges.

While the ideas and experiments are just now germinating, it is clear that that there is indeed a role for citizens and technologists to play. As Under Secretary Gottemoeller remarked at the Stanford Workshop, “in this era of infinite information, our inherent ability to verify and detect things has actually grown. We just have to figure out how to harness the information for our purposes.”

About the Author: Anita Friedt serves as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on, and was excerpted from Ms. Friedt’s presentation at the 2016 U.K. Project on Nuclear Issues Annual Conference hosted at the Royal United Services Institute in London, United Kingdom on June 2, 2016

For more information:

]]>In the mid 1980’s President Reagan and Soviet Premier Gorbachev transformed how we verify treaties governing weapons of mass destruction. America to the World – Join the Consular Fellows Program DonahueThu, 09 Jun 2016 14:37:48 PDTnode-28596-0

Looking for an opportunity to serve your country while living overseas? Are you curious about what life and work are like as part of a diplomatic mission? Interested in working for the State Department — consistently rated as one of the top workplaces in the federal government? Or, are you looking for a professional opportunity where you can use your foreign language skills and gain valuable professional experience in an international environment?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and you speak Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, or French, the State Department’s Consular Fellows Program might be right for you. The Consular Fellows Program offers candidates a unique opportunity to serve the United States working overseas at U.S. embassies and consulates.

Consular Fellows support the State Department’s mission by protecting U.S. citizens and U.S. national security, facilitating legitimate travel to the United States, and supporting U.S. economic growth. Consular Fellows serve their country by facilitating critical bilateral trade, commerce, tourism, and cultural exchanges, while at the same time strengthening U.S. border security. The opportunity to serve as America’s “face” to literally thousands of foreign nationals will yield incredible rewards.

The experience that you gain as a Consular Fellow while serving overseas can be invaluable should you decide to pursue a long-term career in the State Department or another foreign affairs agency.

Consular Fellows serve side by side with members of the Foreign Service in an embassy or consulate community. As a Consular Fellow, you are eligible for an expansive package of benefits, including government-provided housing and educational allowances for eligible family members while overseas. Consular Fellows will receive a recruitment bonus of 10 percent of their basic salary, and may be eligible for the Student Loan Repayment Program.

Interested candidates should visit for more information.

About the Author: David Donahue serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

For more information:

  • Learn more about career opportunities or internships at the U.S. Department of State visit
  • Follow @TravelGov and visit TravelGov Facebook page for specific updates from the Bureau of Consular Affairs.
  • Read other DipNote blogs related to consular affairs and careers at the State Department.
]]>Looking for an opportunity to serve your country while living overseas? Are you curious about what life and work are like as part of a diplomatic mission? Interested in working for the State Department — consistently rated as one of the top workplaces in the federal government?'s Nothing Foreign About Foreign Policy: On the Road As We #EngageAmerica StengelThu, 09 Jun 2016 12:03:54 PDTnode-28541-0

There’s nothing foreign about foreign policy. That’s what Secretary Kerry said at the University of Virginia in 2013 in his first speech as Secretary of State. It’s no secret that many of us at the State Department -- from the Secretary on down -- spend a lot of time traveling around the globe to improve our diplomatic relations. What you might not know is that many of us at State are devoting even more time right here in the United States, traveling domestically as part of the Secretary’s Engage America initiative.

Why spend time in Omaha instead of Oslo? From trade agreements to countering violent extremism, every action the State Department takes is aimed at protecting and promoting the interests of the American people. In 2015 over 250,000 students came to study in America and in the process contributed $30.5 billion dollars to the U.S. economy. Our trade agreements help produce millions of jobs annually. The COP21 climate change accord, adopted by 195 nations, will protect the environment for our children and grandchildren. The Iranian nuclear agreement, achieved through diplomacy, ensures the United States and our allies will no longer face the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapon.

We need the best minds in our country to be part of the solution to our nation’s most difficult international challenges. People may disagree with some part of U.S. foreign policy. It’s our job to explain why we do what we do -- and that mission doesn’t begin at the water’s edge, it begins at home.

In March I traveled to Boston to talk foreign policy with students at Harvard. Many of the students I met showed an amazing level of engagement with foreign policy -- from Cuba, to Iran to ISIL’s social media prowess, young Americans are helping to reshape the way the State Department thinks about diplomacy in the digital age. Last month I joined the #EngageAmerica program again and went out to the west coast on World Press Freedom Day.

[Watch as Washington State University Dean Pintak hosts a special conversation with Under Secretary Richard Stengel to mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3rd, 2016.]

In Seattle I had the opportunity to meet with some incredibly talented foreign policy thinkers from Washington State University and the World Affairs Council of Seattle. Over two days in May we debated and exchanged ideas on the new Global Engagement Center built to combat ISIL’s presence online, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and US efforts to improve journalist safety worldwide.

Before heading back to Washington I sat down with the Mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray. The mayor praised the impact of the Pearson Fellowship program, which enables Foreign Service officers to advise local governments in their hometowns. I chatted with one Pearson Fellow, Paul Neville, who has been working for Mayor Murray for nearly a year. His energy and commitment to improving his own community inspired me. In the coming months we hope to expand this program to help ensure that American cities are brought into the US foreign policy conversation.

Thanks for warm welcome @MayorEdMurray & your efforts on innovative partnership w @StateDept officers in local govt

— Rick Stengel (@stengel) May 4, 2016

We also managed to have a little fun. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll find a great video of the flying fishmongers at Pike’s Place Market. My team insisted I see the market before we left town -- and they were right!

At the famous Pike Place Market to see the famous fishmongers. Until next time #Seattle! — Rick Stengel (@stengel) May 4, 2016

This trip is one of dozens undertaken by State Department officials in recent months. From Ambassador Cathy Russell, who crisscrossed the country speaking to student groups on women’s rights to Under Secretary Gottemoeller, who traveled to Utah and Alaska to highlight our arms control efforts, we are working every day to share our foreign policy vision with the American people. And there’s much more to come.

In June I’m headed to Stanford for the 2016 Global Entrepreneurship Summit. This event brings together the best young entrepreneurs from around the world. What better place to host these talented delegates than the international hub of innovation and creativity -- Silicon Valley?

The 7th Global Entrepreneurship Summit will be held at Stanford University June 22-24, 2016. [State Department photo]

The State Department will always represent American foreign policy overseas. But as we continue to Engage America and answer the Secretary’s call, our goal is to have a stronger voice at home. We hope to see you out on the road.

About the Author: Richard Stengel serves as the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

]]>There’s nothing foreign about foreign policy. That’s what Secretary Kerry said at the University of Virginia in 2013 in his first speech as Secretary of State. Diplomats Participate in Consulate Security Working Group RowdenWed, 08 Jun 2016 13:13:12 PDTnode-28561-0

Last month, 20 foreign diplomats from consular offices in Atlanta and Miami attended the Consulate Security Working Group (CSWG) “Experience Florida” event in Vero Beach, Florida. The event was an opportunity for foreign diplomats to learn about U.S. law enforcement and judicial processes, as well as local trade and commerce. The program also provided an opportunity for consulate representatives to experience life in a small Florida town outside the greater Miami area.

The CSWG, hosted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of Foreign Missions, brought the attendees together with local, state, and federal law enforcement officials from Miami to discuss issues of mutual interest and establish sustainable relationships to further strengthen bonds domestically and abroad.

“We’ve hosted three smaller CSWG gatherings in Miami over the course of the last year, and we realized many of the attendees rarely had a chance to visit some of the smaller towns” said Jim Eisenhut the Diplomatic Security Service Miami Field Office Assistant Special Agent in Charge. “The ‘Experience Florida’ event gave us the opportunity to give our guests an insight into American life outside of the big cities.”

During the event, visitors met with the representatives from U.S. Attorney’s office, local law enforcement, Chamber of Commerce, lawmakers, educators, and local business owners. Over the three days, the attendees toured various sites, including historic “Dodgertown,” a sports facility where the Dodgers baseball team once held spring training; a private school that host a large number of international students; local county offices; and a private aircraft manufacturing facility.

A select group of representatives were also invited to participate in a panel discussion entitled “Fostering International Understanding,” where they shared their perspectives about life in the diplomatic service.

“Much of our diplomacy relies on the relationships we build and maintain here in the U.S.,” said Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, Director, Office of Foreign Missions. “We hope this event will help shape not only the experience of those foreign diplomats working here, but also those U.S. Foreign Service personnel serving abroad."

A highlight of the visit included a visit to the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office where the attendees met with the local sheriff and toured the state-of-the-art Forensic Services Unit. Attendees learned about community policing capabilities and local efforts to prevent crime, treat mental illness, and reduce recidivism rates.

“With all of our federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. operates differently from many countries — many of which have solely a national police force,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Domestic Operations John Eustace. “The Diplomatic Security Service works closely with the Office of Foreign Missions to ensure the [international partners] consular staff are well informed of issues relating to local law enforcement, and it was our goal with this working group to give them some additional local knowledge to help them with their roles.”

Through these types of whole-of-government and multi-sectoral programs, the United States and these diplomatic partners are better able to serve the needs those in need of their citizens.

About the Author: Dayna Rowden serves as Public Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.

For more information:

]]>Last month, 20 foreign diplomats from consular offices in Atlanta and Miami attended the Consulate Security Working Group (CSWG) “Experience Florida” event in Vero Beach, Florida. The event was an opportunity for foreign diplomats to learn about U.S. for Fish: Team Akubic Wins Fishackathon 2016 DebassWed, 08 Jun 2016 05:22:23 PDTnode-28521-0

The 3rd annual Fishackathon took place over Earth Day Weekend (April 22-24) in 40 cities worldwide spanning six continents. With 37 finalists, eight expert judges, and a close competition, the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships is pleased to congratulate the winner of Fishackathon 2016: Team Akubic from Taipei, Taiwan, for their solution, Great Lakes Savior. Team Akubic will receive a $10,000 cash prize provided by our partners at Virgin Group.

This year’s global judging team comprised of a panel of eight technology and fisheries experts who evaluated each team’s presentation based on innovation, user interface, and the solution’s potential impact in addressing challenges facing the future of our fisheries. The nine global challenges for 2016 revolved around themes such as fish identification, lost fishing gear, aquatic invasive species, and compliance with local fishing laws, while crowd-sourcing the talents of brilliant minds around the globe to provide solutions to these challenges.

Akubic Presentation at Final Round. [Photo provided by the American Institute in Taiwan]

The global winners from Taiwan identified a solution to a challenge submitted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada on how to contain the invasive Asian carp species in the Great Lakes region, an area home to the world’s largest freshwater system and a multi-billion dollar fishing industry. Identifying the need to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian carp, Fisheries and Oceans Canada called for a program or application to better surveil the species’ spawning patterns in the area.

Akubic developed a low-cost water sensor to help monitor the potential locations of Asian carp invasions and better identify when the species will enter streams to spawn each summer. The team’s application is a real-time tool complete with hardware, software, and cloud algorithm technology to identify these high-risk zones. Becky Cudmore, Asian Carp Program Manager at Fisheries and Oceans Canada, highlighted the potential success of the solution, commenting, “It is essential for agencies with limited resources to maximize success in early detection of Asian carp. Team Akubic offered an innovative, low-cost solution to a real world problem.”

Akubic’s water sensor device. [Photo provided by the American Institute in Taiwan]

Jason Travers, Director of the Natural Resources Conservation Policy Branch at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry of Canada further added, “I wish to extend my congratulations to the Akubic team in winning the global Fishackathon competition. Invasive species, like Asian carp, are a great concern to Ontario. Asian carp would pose a significant threat to our recreational and commercial fisheries if they were to become established in Ontario. Having tools, such as the one developed by Akubic, to help predict where Asian carp might be found at different life stages would be invaluable technology to help inform management and control measures.”

Taiwan joined Fishackathon for the first time with two sites in Kaohsiung and Taipei. Hosted at Star Rocket, Taipei’s event was organized by partners at the Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency, the American Institute in Taiwan, and the American Innovation Center. The Council of Agriculture’s Fisheries Agency announced, “We are thrilled and feel honored for our team! By marrying Taiwan’s advanced IT capabilities and professional talents with its large deep sea fisheries industry, we believe that Taiwan will be able to contribute to the sustainability of global fisheries.”

The 2016 Fishackathon boasted over 1,000 coders participating around the world and Team Akubic is no exception. What’s in a name? The winning team’s members are four professionals from Akubic Corporation, an environmental engineering company based in Taiwan.

Fishackathon is just one example of how the U.S. Department of State has used technology, digital engagement, and partnerships to crowd-source solutions to address our priorities in diplomacy and development. Next up is the U.S. Department of State’s annual Our Ocean conference September 15-16.

About the Author: Thomas Debass is the Acting Deputy Special Representative for Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

]]>The 3rd annual Fishackathon took place over Earth Day Weekend (April 22-24) in 40 cities worldwide spanning six continents. Ocean and the Beginning of a Movement NovelliWed, 08 Jun 2016 01:20:39 PDTnode-28506-0

Every elementary school student is taught that our world has five oceans. When Secretary of State John Kerry first arrived at the State Department he challenged what we all knew. He asked us to look past the cartographer’s lines to see a singular ocean, covering three-quarters of our planet, essential to life, but under threat from human activity as never before. He launched a conference in 2014 to bring together a community of advocates from all over the globe to commit to taking action on the threats to the one ocean, “Our Ocean.”

I have traveled around the world speaking to those who have become part of the “Our Ocean” movement. A more diverse group you cannot imagine: religious leaders and environmental organizations, celebrities and scientists, young people and those old enough to remember a time when the ocean was not as it is today. As we prepare to host the third iteration of the Our Ocean gathering this September in Washington, D.C., I am inspired and energized knowing that this international movement has generated commitments to protect nearly six million square kilometers of ocean and pledges of over $4 billion for ocean initiatives and partnerships. This year’s conference will inspire even bigger and better commitments.

Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli delivers the opening address at the 2014 "Our Ocean" Conference at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on June 16, 2014. [State Department photo]

One place we are making real progress is in coming up with solutions to ensure the sustainability of the world’s fish stocks. Half the world relies on the ocean for a significant source of their daily protein. Wise management of our “blue economy” is essential for international food security. Yet illegal, unreported, and unregulated, or IUU, fishing is undermining conservation and management measures. What can we do to combat this multi-billion dollar activity that is robbing honest fisheries and destroying ecosystems?

One exciting answer is the recent entry into force of the Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA). This agreement will put safeguards into place to prevent vessels that have been illegally fishing from unloading their products in ports of countries that are party to it, removing the incentive to fish illegally. On June 5, 2016 the PSMA comes into force with 30 parties including the United States signed on. At the first Our Ocean Conference in 2014 when we advocated for this agreement as a solution, only ten parties had joined. Yes, we need more countries to become part of the network, but the entry into force of the PSMA is a milestone that shows the international community is willing to act.

We also see momentum in better international efforts to detect and stop those who are engaged in IUU fishing. At the 2015 Our Ocean Conference hosted by Chile in Valparaiso, Secretary Kerry announced “Sea Scout” and called on others to join. Sea Scout is a global initiative that brings together governments, intergovernmental organizations, and the private sector in a unified effort to detect and increase enforcement against those engaged in illegal fishing and associated organized criminal networks. Pilot projects will concentrate on “hot spots” where the threat of IUU fishing is known to be most prevalent. IUU fishing is often associated with other transnational criminal activities like forced human labor and trafficking in arms, drugs and other black market goods.

Another strategy that is showing progress is pushing for the creation and better management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). MPAs are essential to a vibrant blue economy, allowing fish stocks to grow and recover, protecting biodiversity, and bolstering tourism. At the Our Ocean conferences, participants from Panama to Gabon to Palau and many places in between announced new protected spaces. The world’s goal is to protect ten percent of coastal and marine areas by 2020. In the United States over 30 percent of our waters are in MPAs, but globally only a little more than three percent of waters are protected. We are looking for more commitments to protect marine areas at this year’s Our Ocean Conference.

In addition to IUU fishing and MPAs, we are looking for solutions on marine pollution and on the impact of climate change on the ocean.

Every single person can do something: organize a beach cleanup, give up single-use plastic like water bottles and grocery bags, or raise awareness through social media using hashtag #OurOcean. The Our Ocean movement is a call to action. Tell us about your commitment! We need new voices to act and to inspire others to protect our ocean. We have one ocean, one future.

About the Author: Catherine Novelli serves as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appears on HuffPost Impact Blog and also appears on

For more information:

]]>Every elementary school student is taught that our world has five oceans. When Secretary of State John Kerry first arrived at the State Department he challenged what we all knew. to GES: Engaging Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa HaiderTue, 07 Jun 2016 18:32:13 PDTnode-28496-0

Seven years ago this week, President Obama delivered a landmark speech in Cairo in which he underscored the transformative power of entrepreneurship. In his remarks, he described the need to “...deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and…around the world.”

Catalyzed by the President’s Cairo speech, nearly 10,000 entrepreneurs, investors, foundations, and other key stakeholders have since convened over the past six years in Washington, Istanbul, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Marrakesh, and Nairobi as part of a series of entrepreneurship summits.

Later this month, President Obama will lead the U.S. delegation to join approximately 1,200 more entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors from 170 countries in Silicon Valley for the seventh and final Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) of the Obama administration.

As the Department of State’s Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs, I have had the privilege of travelling across the globe as part of a series of “Road to GES” events. The purpose of the events has been to promote GES 2016 and entrepreneurship more broadly for three reasons. Promoting entrepreneurship creates jobs and incomes. By creating such prosperity, enhanced stability follows, diminishing extremism and associated security threats. So does a level playing field and inclusiveness where entrepreneurs can be self-reliant and contribute to their economies and societies.

From Beijing to Berlin, Telangana to Tunis, I have seen firsthand how GES has sparked the creativity and captured the imagination of entrepreneurs world-wide, and how they are transforming their societies.

Take the entrepreneur I met in India who was working to develop durable solar powered roofs that don’t just provide shelter but also can charge light bulbs. In a country where a population the size of the entire United States has no electricity, such bottom-up ingenuity to complement the government’s top-down policies is essential.

Another in Tunisia described his passion for entrepreneurship as the idea of achieving “success without unfair advantage.” Creating a strong and self-starting entrepreneurial ecosystem was, in his view, vital to cementing Tunisia’s historic democratic transition away from the prior authoritarian regime and its economic model based on cronyism.

While visiting the Cogite incubator in Tunis, I was also inspired to learn of a group of Norwegian entrepreneurs who were developing an app to assist Syrian refugees learn Norwegian in order for them to integrate and find jobs in Norway. Norwegians in Tunisia are helping Syrians. That to me is the kind of world we want to live in. Young people -- without heed to borders -- applying their creativity to find solutions to a crisis of humanity.

At Cogite, an incubator in Tunis, talking with young entrepreneurs about their tech innovations.

But for my last stop on the Road to GES, I decided to come full circle to where it all began: Cairo. On June 1, I had the privilege to serve as the keynote speaker at a “Road to GES: Cairo” event at the American University in Cairo (AUC) that brought together 300 entrepreneurs. The day-long event featured networking opportunities and panels on investing in startups with venture capital firms, transformative technologies and resulting opportunities, and the socioeconomic impact entrepreneurs can have beyond their borders.

In my remarks, I underscored the elements needed to create a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem: access to capital, protection of intellectual property, support from academic institutions, investment in infrastructure and technology, and a shift in a cultural mindset that accepts risk-taking and, failure. These are elements on which I have sought to build partnerships with foreign officials throughout my Road to GES stops.

However, while the United States has a great deal to share, the fact is that we do not have a monopoly on entrepreneurship.

Egypt has a rich history of entrepreneurism with enduring role models such as Talaat Harb -- Egypt’s pioneer entrepreneur who went on to found the Bank of Egypt in 1907.

Azza Faiad from Alexandria at the age of 20 years old tackled two of the world’s biggest issues at once -- pollution and energy -- when she discovered a more efficient way of converting garbage into valued biofuel.

And then there is RiseUp Summit whose offices I visited at Cairo’s vibrant GrEEK campus. RiseUp organizes the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s preeminent summit on entrepreneurship with a total of 4,500 entrepreneurs in attendance last year. Event by event, they are forging an invaluable intra-regional ecosystem for entrepreneurs.

All that I have witnessed in Egypt and across my Road to GES stops is but a drop in the bucket. There is a world out there teeming with young innovators eager to create value and solutions in response to social needs, and who desire a platform to connect.

GES is the preeminent platform for them to do so. Those that cannot attend GES can still plug into interact online with other entrepreneurs and investors.

About the Author: Ziad Haider serves as the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appears in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit publication on

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]]>Seven years ago this week, President Obama delivered a landmark speech in Cairo in which he underscored the transformative power of entrepreneurship. A Time for Unity BloggersMon, 06 Jun 2016 14:19:42 PDTnode-28461-0

This week many Muslims around the world marked the start of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer.

To recognize the occasion, Secretary Kerry released a statement wishing Muslims in the United States and around the world a happy and blessed Ramadan and underscoring the importance of the month. Secretary Kerry said, “Ramadan is a cherished month in Islam. It is a sacred period of prayer and fasting, offering hospitality, and remembering those who are less fortunate. Through our embassies and consulates around the world, we recognize these important values through Ramadan events, which demonstrate our commitment to promoting social cohesion, diversity, and welcome within our communities.”

President Barack Obama also took the time to extend his best wishes to Muslims around the globe, and highlighted the important contributions of Muslim communities to our nation. The President said, “Here in the United States, we are blessed with Muslim communities as diverse as our nation itself. There are those whose heritage can be traced back to the very beginning of our nation, as well as those who have only just arrived. Doctors, lawyers, artists, teachers, scientists, community organizers, public servants, and military members, each night will all break their fasts together in cities across America.”

President Obama encouraged unity, recognizing the need to embrace of our common humanity as well as a steadfast dedication to peace and justice for all during this month of reflection. He also urged us all to keep the millions of people displaced by conflict and struggle across the world in our thoughts, noting, “Far too many Muslims may not be able to observe Ramadan from the comfort of their own homes this year or afford to celebrate Eid with their children. We must continue working together to alleviate the suffering of these individuals. This sacred time reminds us of our common obligations to uphold the dignity of every human being. We will continue to welcome immigrants and refugees into our nation, including those who are Muslim.”

President Obama reflected on how he has opened the doors of the White House to Muslim Americans during this special occasion throughout his Presidency. In keeping with tradition, President Obama noted that this year, for his Administration’s last celebration of Ramadan, he will host an Eid celebration marking the end of Ramadan and honoring the contributions of Muslims in America and across the world.

As 1.6 billion Muslims come together to focus on, compassion for those less fortunate and unity across our communities, the State Department as well as our U.S. embassies and consulates will also host Ramadan events around the world in recognition of these important values. We wish everyone a joyful Ramadan Kareem.

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]]>This week many Muslims around the world marked the start of Ramadan, a holy month of fasting, introspection, and prayer. the Environment to Drive Economic Growth: An Inside Look at MCC’s Natural Resource Protection Indicator Hayes-BirchlerMon, 06 Jun 2016 09:08:25 PDTnode-28436-0

June 5 is World Environment Day, and in MCC’s partner countries, environmental preservation is critical to economic growth and poverty reduction. When countries safeguard their environment, they ensure that essential natural goods and services like clean air and water, fertile soil, and renewable energy are protected for future generations. But when natural resources that are essential to development are compromised or destroyed, it becomes even more difficult to generate and sustain economic growth.

MCC’s Compact with the Government of Moldova funded the rehabilitation of Soviet-era pumping stations to improve the quantity and quality of irrigation water.

People in poverty, subsistence farmers, and those in rural areas are the most vulnerable to environmental degradation because they rely on natural ecosystems for their food security and livelihoods. Without fertile land, farmers in Moldova can’t grow crops to support their families; and without clean water, communities in Zambia suffer from diseases like cholera and typhoid.

MCC believes that countries should be encouraged and rewarded for protecting their environment, so in 2007, MCC introduced the concept of environmental protection to its annual scorecards after more than a year of research and consultation with environmental experts. The Natural Resource Management indicatorincluded data on several components of environmental health, including protection of biomes such as forests and grasslands, access to clean water, access to sanitation and child mortality rates. In 2012, MCC took things a step further and decided that environmental protection warranted its own indicator, and it evolved into the Natural Resource Protection indicator we see on MCC’s scorecard today.

Developed by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network at Columbia University (CIESIN), with underlying data from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Natural Resource Protection indicator assesses whether a country is protecting at least 17 percent of all of its biomes (deserts, forests, grasslands, tundra, etc.), which is the target set in the Convention on Biological Diversity, a multilateral treaty that reaffirms states’ responsibility to conserve “their biological diversity and for using their biological resources in a sustainable manner.” By using this indicator as part of MCC’s scorecard, the agency sends a clear message that the environment matters -- particularly for economic growth -- and encourages countries to protect their natural habitats and resources.

Jordan is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world -- here, water reserve tanks sit atop a home in Zarqa. [MCC Photo by Jake Lyell]

And we’re seeing results. As part of Niger’s effort to improve its MCC scorecard performance to become eligible for an MCC compact, the Government of Niger expanded the Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve in March 2012. The reserve is now a protected area the size of Indiana -- one of the largest single protected areas in Africa -- and safeguards a number of endangered animals. Niger’s conservation efforts eventually led to the country passing the Natural Resource Protection indicator in 2013, and contributed to Niger ultimately passing MCC’s scorecard and becoming eligible to develop a compact.

Back in 1988, World Environment Day’s celebrations centered on the theme “When People Put the Environment First, Development Will Last.” MCC agrees that protecting the environment is essential to sustainable economic growth. From water resource management and conservation efforts in Jordan, to funding technical support and training on sustainable land management and agricultural practices in Malawi, MCC’s work is helping to preserve Earth’s resources and change people’s lives for the better.

About the Author: Andria Hayes-Birchler serves in the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on the MCC's Blog.

]]>In MCC’s partner countries, environmental preservation is critical to economic growth and poverty reduction. Silicon Valley to Join The Fight Against WMD Threats GottemoellerMon, 06 Jun 2016 09:04:12 PDTnode-28421-0

Necessity -- as the saying goes -- is the mother of invention.

I’ve been working to reduce the threats posed by weapons of mass destruction for my entire career and as I look out at the challenges that remain ahead of us, it is clear that the traditional means of tracking nuclear weapons are not keeping pace with the evolving threat. New tools have become an absolute necessity.

My lifetime of work on these issues has also made it clear that Washington, DC does not have a lock on invention.

That is why, five years ago at Stanford University, I issued an “intellectual call to arms” on applying emerging technologies to our work on reducing WMD threats. I was certain that we would not be able to make more significant nuclear reductions if we continued to primarily rely on verifying those reductions with technology largely developed in the 1970s. As units of nuclear material continue to get smaller and harder to track, our tools for verification and monitoring need to improve and expand.

In the five years since, I have talked about this issue with students and scientists, global leaders and community activists from around the world. Those conversations helped inform the Department of State workshop on “The Hunt for Weapons of Mass Destruction: Leveraging New Technology.”

Partnering with Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Center for International Security and Cooperation, and Preventive Defense Project, as well as Technology for Global Security, the State Department assembled a diverse group of experts from academia, national labs, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups, foundations, U.S. military, and other U.S. government agencies – as well as entrepreneurs, engineers, and other leaders from the tech industry who had never worked on nuclear issues, but whose expertise could provide new perspectives on the challenge. Participants ranged from storied leaders in the field such as former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, to young and energetic students with their fingers on the pulse of the information revolution.

This workshop was part of a broader effort by the State Department, called the Innovation Forum, to harness the creativity of problem-solvers worldwide to generate new solutions to global challenges. As Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken explained in his opening remarks, “Technology has long been a tool of foreign policy…but today, it is something much, much more. From cyberspace to outer space, it is fundamentally altering the DNA of our foreign policy -- disrupting, accelerating, or creating new horizons for diplomacy.”

These quarterly Innovation Forum workshops enable innovators to inform foreign policy at the highest levels, while helping government leaders outline foreign policy priorities, in order to spark and accelerate new ideas. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons is among the U.S. government’s most urgent priorities. “The question, the challenge, the goal we are discussing here is nothing short of a safer, more secure world for every single citizen of the world,” Blinken said.

Work like this is already underway in other sectors, and the WMD policy community has a lot to learn from others already tackling the problems of monitoring and verification. The environmental community, for example, has long been tracking and tracing polluters, wildlife traffickers, and illicit loggers. The U.S. government’s Sea Scout Program is now working to track illegal fishing worldwide, aided by state-of-the-art tools developed by technologists at Google, Catapult, Sky Truth, Vulcan, and others. On the commercial side, if Amazon Prime can track billions of small objects, surely we can figure out how to better track WMDs.

The goal of the workshop was to identify a number of ways in which new technology stemming from the information revolution could help. Participants focused on the challenges of how to use data to verify elimination or control of nuclear weapons; and how to use “big data” to monitor nuclear material and be able to detect when countries or individuals are using legal tools for illegal purposes.

Participants also explored the challenges of gathering credible data. If data is collected from the public, for example, citizens must be able to trust that the recipient of information, be it a U.S. or international organization, can be a faithful arbiter. This would be the case with public measurements of radiation levels or seismic data collected through accelerometers on smartphones, for example. That trust would need to go both ways -- governments who encourage the public collection of WMD-related data would want to know that the data is reliable and real.

In any effort to engage the public on finding nuclear weapons or material, the group agreed that it would be necessary to protect citizens from potential reprisals by their governments for reporting or “spying” on activities.

Despite political, technical and legal challenges, there is broad agreement that data stemming from the information revolution can help track nuclear activities. We don’t have to choose one route. Small satellites and overhead imagery could be used to give greater fidelity to data that's already published by non-governmental actors, such as the Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Security Index.

The attendees then used the group discussion to zero in on three primary categories of data that would be helpful in the tracking of nuclear weapons: visual data, social media, and sensor data. Workshop participants divided up into three groups to further explore the challenges and opportunities within each data category, and then develop pilot projects to test key hypotheses about the potential utility and feasibility of public collection of that data. Going forward, we will work with the participants on the further formation of these ideas and projects.

I was so pleased to see the kind of creative thinking that can occur when nonproliferation experts work together with experts from the tech community. From here, we hope that the conversations and connections made at the workshop will inspire more work in this field. With a team of wonks and geeks working together, the inventions we need cannot be far away!

About the Author: Rose Gottemoeller serves as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Editor's Note: This blog originally appeared on the State Department's Innovation Forum Publication on

]]>Necessity -- as the saying goes -- is the mother of invention. Weekend In Kabul: Engaging on Women's Empowerment FosterFri, 03 Jun 2016 15:05:31 PDTnode-28391-0

Most of my weekends are spent doing errands, exercising, watching movies, visiting with friends and catching up on sleep. But two weeks ago, I flew to Kabul to represent the Department of State at the Third Symposium on Afghan Women’s Empowerment, sponsored by the government of Afghanistan, and hosted at the Afghan Presidential Palace. It was a homecoming for me, as I served at U.S. Embassy Kabul in 2012-13, working on women and civil society issues. My trip was also part reunion with friends, both Afghan and American, and a way for me to personally take stock of progress made and challenges still unmet.

The challenges for Afghan women are well known -- insecurity, lack of access to education and low literacy rates, few employment opportunities and cultural norms inhibiting women’s equal role in society. Fewer people are aware of the progress made to date. Today, millions of Afghan girls are in school, the maternal mortality rate has dropped dramatically, and health care is being delivered to many more women and children. There are women Cabinet ministers (four), women parliamentarians (27 percent of the Parliament), women judges (about 10 percent of the judiciary), and women business, NGO and academic leaders.

The statistics tell an important story, but there’s nothing like being on the ground. During my short time in Kabul, I was struck by three things.

First, Afghan women are committed to building their own future. This was an Afghan conference, led by First Lady Rula Ghani. The 300 conference participants were from all over country, not just from urban areas -- an important fact in a country where progress has been largely uneven. These women had clear views on what issues were facing them, their families and communities, and they clearly wanted to make sure their voices were heard. Whether the discussion was about women and Islam, women’s political participation, the role of women in media, economic empowerment, access to health care and education, or promoting peace and security, these women were right there, with ideas, good questions for panelists, and a willingness to take on hard topics. Women said they wanted to be in places where decisions are made, whether that is in upcoming international meetings and negotiations, or in Afghan institutions. These women bring expertise and concrete proposals that can make a difference for the future of their country.

Second, Afghan women see men as necessary partners in their work. This was evident across the board -- from President Ghani’s strong support, to the involvement of men as speakers, to the discussions of how to engage all sectors of society in these efforts. Women were clear that empowering women isn’t just good for women and girls, but good for entire communities that can then work together on solutions to critical issues for the country. President Ghani reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to women, noting: “It is my personal commitment and the commitment of the national unity government to activate the presence of Afghan women in all spheres.”

Third, investments made by the international community in Afghanistan have made a difference. I am not necessarily talking about funds, although those are important. I am talking about the investment in people and relationships, in developing ways to have meaningful conversations and interactions that show our support and respect for the work Afghans are doing. The international community has been resolute in its support of Afghan women and girls, and we need to keep those relationships going to continue to make progress. Long term commitment from the international community is paramount to continued progress for women and girls.

Afghan women are key to Afghanistan meeting its challenges. In the international community, we need to support them by listening to them and ensuring that they can be full participants in their county’s future.

About the Author: Stephenie Foster is a Senior Advisor and Counselor in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues at the State Department.

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on the 'The World Post' blog, a partnership between the Huffington Post and the Bergguen Institute.

]]> Foggy Bottom to the High Seas: Ocean Diplomacy from an Intern’s Perspective B. GrajewskiFri, 03 Jun 2016 12:04:58 PDTnode-28416-0

In the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), a day in the office could mean a day onboard a traditional Polynesian double-hulled canoe with an Under Secretary of State, Foreign Service Officers, international diplomats, and the Polynesian Voyaging Society. While the inner-workings of U.S. diplomacy seldom occur on a canoe that uses celestial navigation, the confluence of cultures and backgrounds onboard the Hōkūleʻa represented the diverse effort to ensure a sustainable future for our interconnected ocean.

Bound by the common goal to conserve the ocean, Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine A. Novelli and diplomats from New Zealand, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Chile, and the United States joined the crewmembers of the Hōkūleʻa during their visit to Washington, D.C. on May 24. Since departing from Hawaii in 2014, the Hōkūleʻa has traveled nearly 24,000 nautical miles of the ocean’s surface including 12 UNESCO Marine World Heritage sites and 65 ports in 14 countries. Symbolic of the State Department’s commitment to the ocean, Under Secretary Novelli presented the crewmembers with a “message in a bottle” from Secretary Kerry urging that we protect our ocean. As the Hōkūleʻa continues its voyage northward to New York City, the crewmembers will deliver the Secretary’s message to the United Nations for World Oceans Day on June 8.

Under Secretary Novelli presented the crew of the Hōkūleʻa with a message from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about the September 15-16, 2016, Our Ocean conference. The crew will deliver the message, along with others gathered during their voyage, to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York City on World Oceans Day, June 8, 2016. [State Department photo]

For a student of international affairs whose foreign policy idols include luminaries such as George Kennan and George C. Marshall, my internship at the State Department has not only inspired me; it has also provided me with an unparalleled tangible application of my studies. Equally so, working alongside intelligent and dedicated Foreign Service Officers as well as Civil Servants who serve as the foundation of U.S. diplomacy has introduced me to a new set of role models. The State Department encourages its interns to actively learn the diplomatic process through participation in high-level strategic planning and engagement in policy implementation. While my passion for the Arctic, maritime law, and Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) served as an impetus for me to apply for an internship in OES, I have gained a deeper understanding of issues that were previously unknown to me such as the negative effects of overfishing and ocean acidification.

I have since become more aware of the reality that the ocean faces profound challenges as a result of climate change, overfishing, and marine pollution. As ice melts in the Arctic, rising sea levels affect the livelihoods of coastal communities across the globe, as well as marine environments such as those in Hawaii. Though the ocean occupies almost three-quarters of the Earth’s surface, the inextricable tie between all its waters -– regardless of geographic distance -– and the impact of human activity everywhere underscore the challenge. Furthermore, ocean issues transcend national borders. The scale of these challenges necessitates a solution through international cooperation and engagement with governments, civil society, and other key players.

Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Cathy Novelli poses for a photo with leaders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society during their visit to Washington, D.C., on May 24, 2016. [State Department photo]

Secretary Kerry’s acute understanding of the importance of the ocean led to the first Our Ocean conference in 2014, which served as a mobilizing forum for governments, individuals, NGOs, and businesses to make tangible commitments for a sustainable future. Secretary Kerry will host the third Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C. September 15-16. On the Hōkūleʻa, Under Secretary Novelli echoed the message of the Our Ocean conferences: “The ocean provides the air we breathe and the food that we eat; regulates our weather; and touches everybody, even people who are not physically located next to the ocean.” As we prepare to celebrate World Environment Day on June 5, from Foggy Bottom to the high seas, the health of the ocean impacts us all and we all have a role -– from raising awareness through traditional Polynesian navigation methods to buying sustainably caught fish while avoiding single use bottles and bags to ratifying diplomatic agreements -- in supporting our ocean.

About the Author: Nicole B. Grajewski currently serves in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs’ (OES) Office of Policy and Public Outreach.

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]]>In the State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), a day in the office could mean a day onboard a traditional Polynesian double-hulled canoe with an Under Secretary of State, Foreign Service Officers, international diplomats, and the Polynesia the Team Working to Eliminate One of the World’s Leading Causes of Blindness M. SpadaciniWed, 01 Jun 2016 21:00:00 PDTnode-28381-0

A partnership of countries and experts that spans the globe is creating a path forward to put an end to a devastating disease.

Anwar* is a 3-and-a-half-year-old Sudanese boy who last year was diagnosed as having the early stages of trachoma, a bacterial eye infection that, when left untreated, can lead to blindness. He is one of 2.6 million people who were screened by one of 550 trained field teams working in 29 countries over a three-year period to carry out the largest infectious disease survey ever undertaken.
“This colossal effort could not have happened without the steadfast commitment and collaboration of over 60 partners working together around the world,” explains Angela Weaver, senior technical adviser for USAID’s Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) Program and the Agency’s lead for trachoma elimination. “Mapping has been at the foundation of USAID’s NTD Program since it began 10 years ago. We must understand where treatment is needed before scaling up NTD programs. This is why we joined DFID, the U.K. Department for International Development, in supporting this unprecedented global survey.”
Preschool-aged children like Anwar, who often live in extreme poverty, are most at risk of contracting Chlamydia trachomatis, a bacterium that spreads through eye and nose discharge, hand contact and flies. With repeated episodes of infections over many years, it causes the eyelashes to turn inward, scraping the cornea, causing great pain and eventually leading to blindness. Anwar’s condition was detected in time and the worst was averted.
Trachoma is responsible for the visual impairment of about 2.2 million people, of whom 1.2 million are irreversibly blind. It has a direct impact on global productivity and is estimated to cost the world between $2.9 billion and $5.3 billion a year.

The Global Trachoma Mapping Project (GTMP), launched in 2012, saw surveyors collect and transmit data from 2.6 million people in 29 countries. The survey sample was drawn from a population of 224 million perceived to be at risk. The Ministries of Health in the 29 countries spearheaded the effort by providing resources, such as transportation to remote areas, and partnering to standardize methodologies and data management. Academic institutions, non-profit organizations, foundations, donors and the private sector all contributed to this massive undertaking.

“Funded by the U.K. Government, in partnership with the U.S. and the WHO [World Health Organization], this creates a lasting platform, which will underpin the drive to eliminate blinding trachoma and will contribute to efforts to eliminate other NTDs,” says Dr. Caroline Harper, CEO of Sightsavers, the international NGO that led the mapping effort.

But initially not everyone was on board. “I think it took boldness to propose it, and courage to fund it,” says Dr. Anthony Solomon, chief scientist of the GTMP who is currently leading trachoma elimination efforts at WHO.

“We suggested that, in three years, we would do more to establish the global epidemiology of trachoma than what had been done in the previous 30 years,” he explained. “We promised to do it well, with global standardization and the utmost attention to partnerships principles and the rights of national governments to lead.”

Detect, Treat, Eliminate

In 1996, the WHO and select partners formed the Alliance for the Global Elimination of Blinding Trachoma by 2020 (GET 2020). This led to a strategy known as SAFE: Surgery for the blinding phase of the disease, Antibiotics to treat infections, Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements such as access to clean water and sanitation. Pfizer Inc. propelled this effort when it launched a global donation program for Zithromax (azithromycin), the antibiotic used to treat trachoma.

Similar to the other NTDs covered by USAID’s NTD Program, communities endemic for trachoma are targeted for treatment. This typically involves three to five years of mass drug administration delivered once per year at the community level. Data from the global mapping exercise identified 100 million people that require treatment to prevent blindness from trachoma.

“GTMP provides us with critical information for production planning,” says Darren Back of Pfizer. “Manufacturing for the antibiotic is planned up to two years in advance of donation, and in order to meet the scaled up volume needed by 2020, we need to know the number of people that are still at risk for trachoma. Data provided by GTMP helps us manufacture and ensure that the right amount of antibiotic will be available for endemic communities around the world.”

USAID’s financial, technical and leadership support to the GTMP was delivered through the ENVISION project led by RTI International. It provides technical assistance in 19 countries focusing on the control and elimination of the NTDs targeted by USAID, including trachoma.

The collaboration with the GTMP enabled partners to harmonize technical approaches to follow WHO guidelines and provide additional funding where needed. “We now know what it takes to eliminate this blinding disease and we have the evidence that our partnership works and will get us there,” says Lisa Rotondo, director of the ENVISION project at RTI.

On the ground, that translates to more people getting care for what is a proven treatable disease.

“Tanzania has benefited greatly from the GTMP surveys, especially through the mainstreaming of electronic data collection,” says Dr. Edward Kirumbi, NTD program officer at the Tanzania Ministry of Health. “The GTMP methods and training have provided capacity for Tanzania to rapidly undertake trachoma surveys in the future. As a result, Tanzania is now on track to achieving the GET 2020 objectives.”

USAID and DFID are now focused on partnering to leverage the outcome of this joint exercise. “Collaborating to deliver a global map of trachoma is a great achievement, but we won’t stop here,” says Iain Jones from DFID. “The trachoma mapping tells us that 100 more million people are at risk of blindness from trachoma. What we need is more investment from donors and national governments to implement the SAFE strategy for the people who need it. The mapping has been a catalyst for this."

Dr. Bilghisa Elkhair in Her Own Words

Dr. Bilghisa Elkhair is the national control program coordinator for the Ministry of Health in Sudan, and led the global trachoma mapping teams that examined 72,000 people in Sudan. Here’s how she’s fighting trachoma.

I am 43 years old and I am from Khartoum. I work for the Sudan Federal Ministry of Health and I am a trained ophthalmologist. The purpose of the mapping was to see if we have trachoma, and if we do, what is the magnitude of it, in order to determine what we need to do next. If we have trachoma cases, we want to eliminate it by 2020.

As the national coordinator, first I had to train graders in how to detect trachoma indicators by examining people and teaching them how to invert the eye to determine whether or not they have trachoma.

Secondly, I had to join the teams as a technical controller for quality assurance and verify that everything is being done to a specific standard. The teams consisted of one grader who is responsible for detecting the size of the trachoma; one recorder who is responsible for registering the result obtained per household. A facilitator joined us from the community and introduced us to each household. We also had two volunteers from the village itself.

In each village, we selected 30 neighboring households. If we found active trachoma, we administered tetracycline ointment. If we find indicators that the trachoma is more serious, we refer patients for surgery to the nearest eye care facility. During our screening, if we found any other sight-related problems, we referred patients to the hospital for further treatment. After we completed a household information and created a file for each member of the household, we sent the information directly for data analysis.

The greatest challenge we faced in the Khartoum mapping is having to travel far distances. Some outskirts of Khartoum are four hours away from the center of the city. People in general have been very helpful to us as they are used to people coming to carry out vaccinations.

We have mapped nearly all of Sudan. This is a big country and our job is important. My wish is to see Sudan free of trachoma because it is preventable and treatable.

About the Author: Beatrice M. Spadacini is a senior communications adviser in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.

This story was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of FrontLines, USAID’s bimonthly online magazine and on its Frontlines Publication on

]]>A partnership of countries and experts that spans the globe is creating a path forward to put an end to a devastating disease. Hanoi to Hiroshima: Reflections on an Historic Trip RhodesWed, 01 Jun 2016 14:11:26 PDTnode-28346-0

Last week, President Obama took a trip to Vietnam and Japan that began and ended in cities where America’s legacy has been shaped by war.

Of course, these two wars were extraordinarily different, but the one common thread in the trip was the overwhelmingly warm welcome that we received in both places.


People wave from along the street as President Barack Obama passed by in a motorcade after arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 24, 2016. [Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]

In Vietnam, millions of people lined the motorcade route to welcome President Obama in scenes that none of us who were travelling will ever forget.

Over the course of three days, President Obama elevated our partnership with Vietnam, and engaged with the Vietnamese people in a way that would have been unthinkable in the aftermath of the Vietnam War — meeting several Vietnamese leaders, lifting a prohibition on arms sales, witnessing a number of significant commercial deals, welcoming an agreement to launch the Peace Corps and establish a Fulbright University, discussing innovation and TPP with young entrepreneurs, and speaking to participants in our Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative at a town hall meeting.

President Obama was also able to meet with members of Vietnamese civil society, although he voiced his concern that not everyone who was invited to the meeting was permitted to attend. That said, just the fact of holding that meeting in Hanoi was unprecedented, and allowed us to lift up the importance of civil society, while also being frank about the need for continued progress.

We believe deeply that engagement allows us to have those conversations, whereas isolation only locks us out of the room.

Indeed, the value of engagement with the Vietnamese people was evident the next day when the President — with some help from a Vietnamese rapper — was able to demonstrate the importance of free expression at an event that was viewed by 2 million people on Facebook.


President Obama’s inscription in the guestbook at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. May 27, 2016. [Official White House Photo by Pete Souza]

Hiroshima was a very different kind of stop. He did not go to apologize, and Americans remain rightly proud of our defense of freedom in World War II.

But as the first American President to visit the city that was destroyed by the atomic bomb, President Obama was able to speak about the urgency of pursuing a world without nuclear weapons, and the necessity of finding alternative pathways to peace given the enormous costs of war.

Over the course of our trip, the President continually reworked his speech, consistently making it a broader reflection on what we must learn from history, and combining a profoundly realist message about mankind’s impulse towards conflict with an idealistic call for nations  -- and peoples  --  to see beyond their differences to “the radical and necessary notion that we are part of a single human family.”

An excerpt from President Obama’s handwritten speech. [White House Photo]

It is easy to respond to those words with cynicism. After all, there are many examples around the world of how we are falling short of that ideal. But then there is also the example of what we saw and experienced on the President’s trip  --  visiting two nations that are profoundly different from our own in their culture and history, with whom we fought two of the most brutal conflicts of the 20th century.

Today, Vietnam is an emerging partner, and Japan is our stalwart ally and friend.

And in the young people in the audience in Ho Chi Minh City, or in the hibakusha  --  atomic bomb survivors  --  that the President met in Hiroshima, it was not at all hard to identify our common humanity.

About the Author: Ben Rhodes serves as the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared on

]]>Last week, President Obama took a trip to Vietnam and Japan that began and ended in cities where America’s legacy has been shaped by war.’m A Survivor of Female Genital Cutting and I’m Speaking Out – As Others Must Too SaifeeWed, 01 Jun 2016 10:12:06 PDTnode-28321-0

I was sitting in an anthropology seminar at the University of Texas cramming for a final, only half-listening to a fellow classmate describe her research project. Female genital mutilation is the partial or total cutting of the external female genitalia for non-medical reasons,” she mechanically described. “The procedure typically take places when the girl is seven years old. The process is usually carried out by an older female relative. And once the ritual takes place, it is almost never discussed.” As she spoke, goosebumps began to form and I sat paralysed in my seat. Memories I had suppressed since childhood came flooding to the foreground.

I was seven years old. My parents had sent my brother and me to visit family in India for two months. On a humid mid-summer afternoon, my dad’s sister decided to throw a party for my brother, celebrating his completion of the Qur’an. At the party, she pulled me aside, wielding a jumbo-sized Toblerone. She said that if I stayed on my best behaviour, I wouldn’t have to share it with anyone, including my brother. I was overjoyed.

My aunt was a doctor. So when she led me downstairs to her clinic and instructed me to lie flat on my back on her operating table, I didn’t think to question her authority. With no anaesthetic and very little warning, she performed the ritualised cut. After it was over, we headed back to the party in silence. I remember sitting in a corner by myself, unable to open the chocolate bar bribe and feeling sick to my stomach. I blocked out the memory, until the day when I discovered that what happened to me had an acronym that could be found in the glossary of a medical anthropology textbook.

When I confronted my parents, they were stunned. My aunt had carried out the ritual without their consent. My father felt a unique betrayal. This was the same little sister he encouraged to pursue medicine in the first place. He had no idea that female genital mutilation or cutting (FGM/C) was even practised within the Dawoodi Bohra community, a Shia subsect from India’s coastal state of Gujarat.

As I learned more about the practice, I discovered that more often than not, men are oblivious and may not even know it is happening -- or has happened -- to their daughters, sisters, and mothers. I learned that FGM/C dates back thousands of years, predating Islam and Christianity. It is a cultural practice that is neither rooted in religion nor bound by geography nor restricted to a socioeconomic class. Like other forms of gender-based violence, FGM/C is a manifestation of power and means of controlling the sexuality of women and girls.

In recent years, many countries have passed laws to criminalise the practice of FGM/C. Yet, it is an extraordinarily difficult crime to prosecute. Laws alone are not enough. For there to be a sustainable end to this practice, there has to be a radical culture change from the ground up, that promotes zero tolerance to any and all forms of excision.

As I have engaged with friends and family members who support the ritual, some will argue that it is not technically mutilation. They even go as far as asserting that “mutilation is what is done in Africa”, as though our community practises a more civilised, humane version. According to the World Health Organisation, all versions of FGM/C cause harm, both physical and psychological, which renders the “good FGC v bad FGM” debate meaningless.

One of the greatest challenges in raising awareness on FGM/C is that many survivors are shamed into silence. If they voice dissent, their communities might socially ostracise them.

Within the last few years I have noticed a shift. More and more FGM/C survivors are courageously speaking out. Male relatives who may have never even been aware of the practice are also taking a stand. From a recent campaign launched by over a dozen Dawoodi Bohra survivors in India, to Safe Hands for Girls “a youth-powered movement in Gambia”, communities are movement-building and speaking out against FGM/C in greater numbers.

I encourage you to break the culture of silence around FGM/C by sharing this video containing testimonials of fellow survivors and advocates, and joining the global conversation to #endFGM.

About the Author: Maryum Saifee serves as a Policy Advisor in the Secretary's Office of Religion and Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This story originaly appeared on the

For more information:

]]>To break the culture of silence on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting, more survivors need to share their stories and call for social change. Energy Leaders Gather in California to Drive Clean Energy Development and Deployment MonizWed, 01 Jun 2016 02:04:21 PDTnode-28341-0

This week, I’m in San Francisco to host the first gathering of global energy ministers since last December’s climate negotiations in Paris. These leaders represent countries that make up 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The focus of these meetings will be to expand international collaboration in clean energy research, development, demonstration and deployment to combat climate change, drive economic growth, and help ensure energy security.

In San Francisco, energy leaders will participate in the 7th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7), an alliance of countries that are global leaders in clean energy. It’s also the inaugural Mission Innovation Ministerial, a separate but largely overlapping group of countries that has committed to double support for clean energy research and development.

In addition, the week will feature a variety of other clean energy-focused events including theClean Energy Education & Empowerment’s (C3E) Women in Clean Energy Symposium and the CEM Startups and Solutions Technology Showcase in San Francisco's Union Square.

The Clean Energy Ministerial is an alliance of 23 major countries and the European Commission that are working together to accelerate clean energy deployment. Their collaborations are already producing innovative local and national clean energy policies, ambitious emissions reductions, efficiency programs and technology collaboration.

For example, South Korea, South Africa, Chile and India have either adopted or proposed 16 efficiency standards and policies to make appliances such as water heaters, televisions and ceiling fans more energy-efficient through CEM’s Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliance Deploymentinitiative.

As a result, India became the first country in the world to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for LEDs, aided by technical expertise in the United States. India then used those standards to initiate a bulk purchase program for hundreds of millions of LEDs at a remarkably low cost.

Another example of the CEM’s collaborative structure is the Clean Energy Solutions Center, which helps policymakers implement and design policies and programs. The Solutions Center has already provided no-cost clean energy policy support to over 90 countries and it is developing a new capability to help identify financing strategies. The Center is expanding to include a Finance Portal.

While CEM is pushing deployment of today’s clean-energy technologies, energy ministers and business leaders are also meeting for the inaugural Mission Innovation Ministerial, focused on developing the cutting edge clean energy solutions of tomorrow.

During the first day of the Paris climate negotiations last year, President Obama joined 19 other world leaders to announce Mission Innovation, an effort to double investments in clean-energy-technology research and development by 2021. Supporting breakthroughs in clean energy will lower the costs of clean energy technologies and in turn help to combat climate change, enable life-changing energy services to the poor and enhance global energy security.

During the Mission Innovation Ministerial, ministers from these countries will announce specific action plans from their respective governments to achieve those goals.

We have to make sure that we have the world’s best and brightest working on these tough issues. That means making full use of women’s talents, yet the energy industry remains one of the global sectors with relatively little representation of women.

That’s why we started the Clean Energy Education & Empowerment Women in Clean EnergySymposium in 2011, with the goal of increasing the visibility of and encouraging more participation by women in clean energy. Since its inception, CEM countries have named 46 C3E Ambassadors and honored dozens of women around the world for their leadership in energy accelerators, education and deployment. On May 31, C3E celebrated its fifth anniversary with a symposium at Stanford University.

It makes sense that the world’s energy leaders are gathering in California’s Bay Area. The state is a leader in progressive clean energy policies and deployment -- while California’s Bay Area is a global hub of the clean-tech industry and venture capital. Plus, it is home to world-class universities, three of our DOE national labs, and some of the most innovative technology companies in the world. That makes California the perfect stage for global leaders to renew and advance their commitment to clean energy.

About the Author: Ernest Moniz serves as the U.S. Secretary of Energy.

Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on

]]>This week, I’m in San Francisco to host the first gathering of global energy ministers since last December’s climate negotiations in Paris. These leaders represent countries that make up 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Peacekeeping through the U.S. Global Peace Operations Initiative D. RothsteinTue, 31 May 2016 12:11:30 PDTnode-28326-0

In honor of International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the courageous and dedicated men and women around the world who don the blue helmet and risk everything so that others might live in peace. We honor the vital role these men and women play in curbing violent conflicts and preventing suffering around the world, and reiterate our commitment to supporting, training, and equipping the forces who make these missions possible.

Today, more than 123,000 UN personnel from 123 countries serve in peacekeeping roles in 16 missions around the world -- in Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Europe. Through the diverse, robust, and demanding mandates of each of these missions peacekeepers are working to contain violent groups, protect civilians, bolster stability, and promote health and well-being. It is evident that peacekeeping missions are a critical tool for promoting peace and reconciliation in some of the world’s most troubled countries.

The United States supports the purpose and spirit of UN peacekeeping missions and recognizes that the building blocks of an effective peacekeeping force are well-trained, disciplined, and properly-equipped security forces. Programs like the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) have played a pivotal role in meeting the expanding need for well-trained, adequately-equipped peacekeepers capable of responding to evolving mission requirements. Since inception, GPOI has facilitated the deployment of more than 230,000 personnel from 41 countries to 29 global peace operations. In 2015 alone the initiative funded 268 training events and courses.

GPOI works to strengthen international capacity and capabilities to implement United Nations and regional peace operations. The program builds the capacity of our partners and enhances their capabilities to meet the growing global demand for specially-trained personnel required for peace operations. GPOI supports not only military peacekeeping activities, but also contributes to the development of formed police units (FPUs), complementing the efforts of our colleagues in the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

The Presidential Policy Memorandum on U.S. Support to UN Peace Operations issued in September 2015 has broadened and strengthened our efforts. We are working closely with our colleagues around the State Department, the U.S. Mission to the UN, and the Department of Defense to implement the policy. Together, we are taking steps to address a broad range of peacekeeping performance and accountability issues, with particular attention to sexual exploitation and abuse by coordinating and complementing how we use our programming and influence as the largest trainer and equipper of peacekeeping troops, our direct personnel contributions to UN peacekeeping missions, and our diplomatic influence at UN headquarters.

Under GPOI, and as part of the National Action Plan for Women, Peace, and Security, we are also working to expand the number of women serving in international peacekeeping missions, as well as increase awareness among all peacekeepers of the importance of addressing gender-based violence that is all-too-common in many post-conflict countries. We are further strengthening efforts to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers, which in addition to harming local populations, undermines the very purpose and credibility of a peace operation.

As the leading source of financial, technical, and material support for UN peacekeeping, the United States demonstrates its ongoing commitment to these missions through both our words and our deeds. In furtherance of this commitment, GPOI, coordinated by the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, serves as our flagship program for building global peace operations capacity in a world ever more burdened by violence and instability, the United States will continue to provide our financial and policy support recognizing the indispensable role that UN peacekeepers play in advancing the cause of peace and security.

About the Author: Major General Michael D. Rothstein, United States Air Force, serves as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Plans, Programs, and Operations with the Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

]]>In honor of International Day of United Nations (UN) Peacekeepers, I wanted to take a moment to recognize the courageous and dedicated men and women around the world who don the blue helmet and risk everything so that others Hills and Valleys of Tuberculosis in the Philippines P. GollaTue, 31 May 2016 07:43:13 PDTnode-28301-0

Jocelyn Canania is a health worker from a barangay (village) within New Bataan, a rural town in the Philippines’ southern region known as Mindanao. Forests cover half of New Bataan’s mountainous landmass, and, with a population of 50,000 people, the town is a large service hub for surrounding, less populous villages.

A doctor, nurse, medical technologist and handful of health workers comprise New Bataan’s Rural Health Unit, where people from near and far come to give birth, immunize their children, get treated for illnesses and attend to health needs that their villages are not equipped to meet.

Canania spends most of her time at a neighboring village health station, treating basic health concerns. She reports weekly to the rural health unit, taking along slides that contain the sputum of patients believed to have tuberculosis (TB).

Nationwide, nearly 410,000 Filipinos, most of them in the economically productive age range of 15 to 64, contract TB every year, resulting in economic losses valued at $180.7 million. Patients must comply with at least six months of daily medications to be cured. This makes the disease even more difficult to overcome for those who live in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

Across the country, rural communities cannot access basic care for critical health needs, including TB. Building upon its previous work to combat TB in the Philippines, USAID launched a five-year, $28-million project in 2012 that improves detection of the disease, thus preventing its spread. Implemented by the Philippine Business for Social Progress, the Innovations and Multisectoral Partnerships to Achieve Control of Tuberculosis project, orIMPACT, establishes tuberculosis remote smearing stations, allowing people to get tested near their homes for easier access to diagnosis and treatment, if needed.

Delivering Diagnoses

Health stations in remote villages offer scant services. But their structure and facilities — like ventilated rooms and running water — are enough for USAID to transform them into tuberculosis remote smearing stations.

Committed local governments provide supplies, such as glass slides and disinfectants. Meanwhile, USAID and its partners train health workers to collect sputum of people exhibiting TB symptoms. It is a critical step in diagnosing TB.

“Smearing” refers to the tedious process of preparing sputum for testing. Health workers like Canania spend hours carefully spreading samples on slides until the desired size and thickness is achieved. The risky procedure exposes them to the disease, so they are also trained in infection control.

Each week, slides are delivered to the nearest rural health unit for a medical technologist to stain and examine under a microscope. This is the primary method for diagnosing TB in low- and middle-income countries, where 98 percent of TB deaths occur.

“The tuberculosis remote smearing station is a simple innovation for detecting TB,” says Belfrando Cangao, chief of party of USAID’s IMPACT project. “It brings laboratory services directly to villages.”

Ultimately, the project diagnoses people who would otherwise go untested. Patients must wait one week for results, but the delay is better than not getting tested at all. The practice of using remote stations helps to cure more people and prevents the disease’s spread.

“I feel privileged to do this,” says Canania. “We are helping our community.”

The practice also alleviates burdens in rural health units. “It helps me with my workload,” says Gemma Mangco, medical technologist of the New Bataan Rural Health Unit. “I can now focus on reading slides and other tasks.” This facilitates quicker results and allows for immediate treatment. The Philippine Government provides free medication for TB patients.

Since 2013, USAID has installed 249 remote smearing stations throughout the country.

Dispelling Misperceptions and Urban Legends

Nestled along rivers and mountain ranges, the villages surrounding New Bataan are home to indigenous people, miners and farmers. Here, families earn around $90 a month.

As village health stations lack equipment and power, people must travel to a rural health unit to get checked for TB. But a one-way trip on a motorcycle taxi costs between $2 and $20, an unthinkable expense for most families. Some venture out to the twisty, rocky roads on foot, walking up to six hours. Most cannot afford time away from work or household duties. Instead, they resort to homemade herbal medicines, often getting sicker and spreading the disease to others.

And there are also the misperceptions and stigma that prevent people from getting TB care.

Estrellita Apale, 51, had to stop working as a manicurist near New Bataan when chronic backaches and weight loss debilitated her. Health workers urged her to get tested for TB. Apale resisted, saying it was impossible for her to have TB because she did not smoke or drink.

“I explained that TB is transmitted by air. Drinking and smoking do not cause it,” says Mangco.

Apale, in fact, did have TB. She underwent months of treatment and was declared cured in December 2015.

Melchora Gornes, another health worker from New Bataan, faced similar roadblocks when visiting the homes of people with prolonged coughing. “Some refused to give sputum samples,” Gornes said. “They said phlegm is dirty and should not be given to others.”

Mangco, Gornes and the other USAID partners dispel these misperceptions, assuring people that diagnosis and treatment help them and their community.

Arnel Torres, 24, is on his fourth month of TB medication and once held similar misperceptions. “People should not be ashamed,” he says. “It’s not their fault if they contract TB. What’s important is to get cured.”

Despite these challenges, the remote smearing stations have yielded good results. From January 2012 to June 2013, they detected 10 to 30 percent of new TB cases in the provinces of Pampanga, Laguna, Leyte and Compostela Valley. New Bataan is in Compostela Valley, where the project detected 15 percent of new TB cases.

USAID also helped the Philippine Department of Health draft an administrative order that expanded the remote smearing station concept to include urban communities. Informal laboratory workers in cities now smear slides, just as they do in remote villages.

So far, two regional health offices, one in Mindanao and another in Luzon, have replicated this concept without U.S. Government support.

The Last Hurdle

With these successes, USAID now addresses quality control. National standards state that provincial-level medical technologists should check the quality of smeared slides from TB microscopy laboratories, such as those in rural health units, quarterly. While this standard helps to ensure accurate diagnostics, some laboratories go years without quality checks due to transportation costs and limited staffing.

To address this, USAID gathered medical technologists from rural health units in Basilan, another region of Mindanao, to check one another’s work. They discussed their challenges and lessons learned. While this is not a perfect solution, it fosters learning and communication.

In Lanao Del Sur, also in Mindanao, the IMPACT project, together with the provincial and municipal health offices, monitors health workers as they disseminate information on TB prevention and control, and collect and smear sputum samples from suspected TB patients. This allows for quick diagnostics and instant feedback on the workers’ performance.

The project also is focusing on sustainability, ensuring that families can access lifesaving services long after U.S. support has ended. “This work shows that, with a committed government, an educated population and a dedicated cadre of health workers, rural and urban households can take their health into their own hands,” said USAID/Philippines Mission Director Susan Brems.

About the Author: Dereck P. Golla is a project development specialist and Liana Meyer is a development and outreach communications specialist with USAID’s mission in the Philippines.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of FrontLines, USAID’s bimonthly online magazine and Frontlines on

]]>Remote smearing stations in the Philippines allow people to get tested for TB near their homes, bringing laboratory services directly to remote villages to ease diagnosis and treatment. Memorial Day, We Remember Our Fallen Heroes BloggersMon, 30 May 2016 01:14:36 PDTnode-28291-0

In his weekly address, U.S. President Barack Obama solemnly reflected on the meaning of Memorial Day and recognized the sacrifices made by the American warriors who never made it back home. Though the President stressed that citizens should thank active-duty troops and veterans every day of the year, he emphasized that Memorial Day is reserved for remembering the unselfish men and women who gave their lives in defense of the nation.

President Obama wants U.S. citizens to join him in an act of remembrance during the Memorial Day weekend, whether it’s hiring a veteran, reaching out to a grieving family member, or simply pausing for a moment of silent thanks. The President proclaimed Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, as a day of prayer for permanent peace, and designated the hour beginning in each locality at 11:00 a.m. of that day as a time during which people may unite in prayer. The President also asked all Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.

As President Obama said, "The debt we owe our fallen heroes is one we can never truly repay. But our responsibility to remember is something we can live up to every day of the year."

For more information:

]]>In his weekly address, U.S. in Strengthening UN Peacekeeping HoltSun, 29 May 2016 07:55:01 PDTnode-28286-0

This Sunday, May 29, is International Day of the UN Peacekeeper -- a time to pause and give recognition to the service and sacrifice of men and women serving in peacekeeping missions worldwide, from today’s missions in Mali and South Sudan, to those of the past, from Korea to the Balkans, often in remote and dangerous parts of the world. More than one million women and men have served with pride, distinction, and courage since the UN deployed its first peacekeeping mission in 1948. Today, more than at any time in history, peacekeepers face complex and dangerous situations, paired with increasing demands for their service and a renewed strategic vision of their importance.

Peacekeeping -- a civilian led effort for peace with a military component to strengthen that guarantee -- is in high demand. We have seen the challenge in the field, as UN peacekeepers work to implement their demanding mandates, often including tasks such as supporting a peace agreement, containing violent groups, preventing new outbreaks of violence, protecting civilians from atrocities, and bolstering stability in countries emerging from brutal civil wars. All of this is meant to create and sustain peace. And peacekeeping missions can accomplish these complex tasks if their core partnership between the United Nations and its member states remains firm -- a partnership that features a leading role for the United States.

In September, President Obama significantly boosted that partnership by co-hosting the Leaders’ Summit on Peacekeeping -- an event which galvanized more than 50 countries to pledge new contributions to UN peacekeeping missions. Offers ranged from adding troops, police, and enablers (from aviation experts to engineers), to equipment and supplies such as hospital units.

But it was more than pledges. The President issued a new Policy Memorandum on U.S. Support to Peace Operations -- the first such policy guidance in over 20 years, which details three lines of action:

  • enhancing our bilateral partnerships and strengthening our capacity-building programs with regional organizations and troop and police contributing countries;
  • increasing our contributions of personnel to UN peacekeeping and deepening our diplomatic engagement to find political solutions to prevent conflict; and
  • redoubling our commitment to important, ongoing reform efforts.

I have seen this up close, from remote UN sites in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to the busy streets of Haiti. But I recently went to New York to meet with other diplomats and experts to discuss these new actions and much more at the Challenges Forum, which is celebrating its 20th year promoting dialogue on the complex, evolving needs of UN peace operations. For all, it became clear that the blueprint for the next generation of effective peace operations must include renewed determination to press for leadership, accountability, and serious reforms at UN headquarters -- changes ranging from strengthening conflict analysis to reorienting the risk-averse institutional culture that can undermine effective field operations.

The issue of accountability includes vigorously addressing the persistent and widespread instances of misconduct, especially sexual exploitation and abuse that has tarnished the important work of UN peace operations. This means that the UN and its member states must investigate and adjudicate allegations swiftly, fairly, and competently. Patterns of abuse, underperformance, or failure of member states to investigate allegations by their uniformed personnel must have ramifications, including potential repatriation of implicated units and/or barring those member states from contributing to other peacekeeping missions.

Even with these challenges, there should be no mistaking the crucial impact of UN peacekeeping missions around the world. Missions have saved lives from Cote d’Ivoire to South Sudan, and tried to prevent violence from Syria and Lebanon to East Timor and Liberia. We saw success, as recently illuminated by a UN Security Council decision to drawdown and eventually close the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) -- a mission that helped reestablish peace in that country and create the conditions necessary for enduring security and political stability.

This is but one example of how UN peacekeepers play a vital role in promoting peace, reconciliation, and hope for a brighter future for millions affected by conflict. We appreciate their service and commit to a vision for peacekeeping defined by robust mandates, broadening international support, and improved accountability.

About the Author: Victoria Holt serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Organizations.

For more information:

]]>This Sunday, May 29, is International Day of the UN Peacekeeper -- a time to pause and give recognition to the service and sacrifice of men and women serving in peacekeeping missions worldwide, from today’s missions in Mali and South Sudan, to those of the past, from Korea to the Balkans, often i Amid a Humanitarian Crisis, Education Cannot Wait Rodriguez-PerezFri, 27 May 2016 10:17:49 PDTnode-28271-0

Education is a core component of a humanitarian response. However, too often education remains severely underfunded given competing priorities. But without it, children -- and girls in particular -- are at increased risk of abuse, exploitation, disempowerment or worse.

While working in international education for more than 30 years, I’ve seen how natural disasters, famines, and wars can sideline education.

And yet we know from research -- and our own life experiences -- that going to school and learning is critical; it provides children with a sense of normalcy and helps prepare them for the future. An extra year of secondary school for girls can increase their future earnings by 10 to 20 percent. Research even shows that investing in women and girls can boost an entire country’s GDP.

However, over the past decade, we have seen greater consideration of the long-term need of children affected by crisis and conflict. Education in these contexts is prioritized by the U.S. government -- we know it’s critical to the global effort to end extreme poverty and build peaceful democratic societies.

Providing access to quality education for children and youth in crisis and conflict is one of USAID’s priorities for education. Between 2011 and 2015, we provided millions of out-of-school children and youth in 20 countries with access to education.

That’s good progress, but it’s not enough. As a result of the conflict in Syria, the world is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. Syria is among 35 crisis-affected countries where 476 million children are in desperate need of educational support.

A shift in USAID education response

For decades, humanitarian and development assistance were often partitioned, and this sometimes led to not focusing on returning many displaced children and youth to school until after a crisis or conflict had ended. Education has always been a key focus in the international refugee response; but this at times has not been true in the case of natural disasters or even in the case of internally displaced children.

As crises have become longer -- families are displaced for 20 years on average -- children may spend their entire childhood exiled from their homes. Without education, a new generation grows up without the basic skills needed to contribute to their community and society.

The U.S. government is now committed to ensuring that whenever a crisis or conflict hits, education is not disrupted. Prioritizing the continuity of education reaps long term rewards, and contributes to a smooth transition from humanitarian assistance to sustainable development.

In the past year, the United States has responded to the education needs of children living in a range of crises, including violent conflict in South Sudan, gang violence in El Salvador and Guatemala, the Syrian refugee crisis, earthquakes in Nepal, and the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

Nepal: On April 25, 2015, Nepal was shaken by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake that claimed lives, destroyed homes, and reduced thousands of schools and classrooms to rubble. USAID and partners sprang into action by building more than 1,000 temporary learning centers to ensure children could continue their education while the rest of the communities were rebuilt around them.

Liberia: In August 2014, at the height of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, all schools were closed, leaving 1.5 million children at home and unable to learn. Crises like Ebola don’t only affect the health of communities, but also their ability to continue working and learning. In response, USAID worked with the Liberian Government to integrate basic Ebola prevention and treatment information into the curriculum, supply classrooms with prevention supplies, and prepare for future suspected cases. These measures allowed schools to reopen six months later.

Syrian refugee crisis: Since the start of the conflict in Syria, the Department of State has worked with international and nongovernmental organizations to open and refurbish schools, provide educational materials, pay school fees, and offer accelerated learning programs for refugees and host communities in neighboring countries where 2.4 million Syrian refugee children now reside. These same partners provide protective family care and reunification, protect distressed children from violence and abuse, provide counseling and psychological support, and meet other critical needs of children both inside Syria and in neighboring countries.

Nigeria: Since 2009, a violent insurgency has gripped much of northeastern Nigeria and displaced more than 1 million children and youth, greatly diminishing their education and job prospects. Since 2014, USAID has worked with local partners and officials to ensure their education can continue by establishing about 600 non-formal learning centers in communities where displaced children and youth have relocated – temporary shelters, markets, churches, mosques and under the shade of trees. The international community is far from reaching all of those children in need, however. We must do more.

Bridging the humanitarian and development divide

No one donor can do this alone -- we must work together with countries affected by these crises and a range of education experts. That is why the U.S. government is enthusiastically supporting Education Cannot Wait: A Fund for Education in Emergencies.

The fund is championed by the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Education Gordon Brown, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education’s Board of Directors Julia Gillard, UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake, the U.S. Government and other donors.

Education Cannot Wait, managed by UNICEF, will help transform the global education sector and bridge the humanitarian and development divide by collaborating with non-traditional actors for a more agile and rapid response to education in emergencies. Ultimately, the fund will increase safe and quality education so that all children have the opportunity to learn, amid emergency and protracted situations.

With 75 million girls and boys most directly affected by crises globally, we know that solving this problem requires collective action. This is why we call on the private sector, host country governments, civil society, and traditional and non-traditional donors to all come together.

Education Cannot Wait must engage new actors -- non-traditional donors, the private sector, foundations and philanthropists -- to contribute to financing the platform. They can make education as much a priority as food security, shelter and health. New actors can unlock new funds, and their participation can help the international community create transformative and long-lasting change in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable young people.

It’s a challenge that must be addressed through strong political will and financial support.

As a veteran development worker and education specialist, I’ve seen firsthand what happens when children and youth are given an education–how going to school and continuously learning allows them to heal and grow.

These children and youth, when provided with an education are given a new hope for a better future and a chance to succeed -- they become self-sufficient, are better able to earn a decent living, and contribute to their societies in a productive way. We all benefit.

About the author: Evelyn Rodriguez-Perez is the Director of USAID’s Office of Education in Washington, D.C.

For more information:

]]>Education is a core component of a humanitarian response. However, too often education remains severely underfunded given competing priorities. But without it, children -- and girls in particular -- are at increased risk of abuse, exploitation, disempowerment or worse. Young Leaders: Elevating Youth as Partners for Peace G. ThomasFri, 27 May 2016 08:41:58 PDTnode-28241-0

On April 20, 2016, the U.S. Department of State recognized an extraordinary group of young leaders for their efforts to promote positive social change in their communities. In a ceremony hosted in the Department’s historic Benjamin Franklin Reception room, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Richard Stengel and Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan honored ten emerging young leaders for their inspiring work in creating safe and positive environments for at-risk youth, helping spearhead inter-ethnic and inter-faith dialogue and reconciliation, and promoting democratic transition in their home countries.

While in Washington, D.C., I had the opportunity to catch up with some of the honorees, as well as with State Department officials who were instrumental in organizing this inaugural event. As a public affairs professional in the State Department’s Office of Digital Engagement, I was eager to help share the exceptional stories of these young people, and help explain why it is so important that we recognize the efforts of this amazing group of young leaders and countless others like them around the globe.

To support that goal, my colleagues and I sought to capture their compelling personal stories and inspiring messages on leadership, which we’ve compiled for sharing with the public.

After visiting the Department, the awardees continued on an intensive three-week exchange program in the United States designed to recognize and support their efforts to enact positive societal transformation. In addition to spending time in Washington, D.C., the group traveled to other cities to participate in professional meetings and engage with their American counterparts, which included visits to Roanoke, Virginia; Austin, Texas; and Chicago, Illinois. You can view photos and videos from their exchange program by visiting the Emerging Young Leaders Award and Program Flickr album.

Now that they have returned to their home communities, the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs will continue to support the group through virtual mentoring, professional opportunities, and alumni engagement. Recognizing the vast potential of today’s change makers, the State Department looks forward to continuing to invest in emerging young leaders around the world by connecting youth with networks, organizations, and resources that can bolster their efforts to enact positive change, and ultimately, a brighter future.

About the Author: Sarah Thomas serves as a Public Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Public Affairs’ Office of Digital Engagement at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

]]>On April 20, 2016, the U.S. Department of State recognized an extraordinary group of young leaders for their efforts to promote positive social change in their communities. for Equality through Inclusion in Sports S. SchwartzThu, 26 May 2016 08:45:24 PDTnode-28246-0

On the margins of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, a group of 15 international emerging leaders in disability sport including two Paralympians are visiting the United States as a part of the U.S. Department of State’s Sport for Community Global Sports Mentoring Program (S4C).

While in the United States they are taking part in this five-week immersive mentorship program with emerging leaders from around the world who, like them, strive to create positive change in their home communities through sports. Ten U.S. disability sport organizations were selected to host the emerging leaders and provide tailored mentorship programs aimed at growing participation in sports for people with disabilities.

In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judy Heumann had the opportunity to sit down with two emerging leaders, Paralympians: Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta of the Philippines and Olesya Vladikina of Russia. Recognizing that their stories could be a powerful tool for empowering others, the Special Advisor interviewed them about their experiences and some of the challenges disabled athletes face while competing in sports.

Adeline Dumapong-Ancheta was born with polio in a family of six children in the mountainous part of Northern Philippines, and at age six, was sent to an institution for children with disabilities in Manila where she excelled in sports and music. Her competition in a wheelchair race in Japan during her third year of high school made her realize that she could excel through hard work and perseverance. After her university studies in the late 90s, Adeline started competing in powerlifting and eventually qualified for the Paralympic Games in Sydney in 2000 where she won a bronze medal. She has stayed with that sport ever since, and most recently in December 2015, Adeline won a gold medal at the ASEAN Paralympic Games in Singapore. She also hopes to qualify for this year’s Paralympic Games in Rio. Winning medals gave Adeline some influence in convincing other persons with disabilities, especially women, to also pursue sports or at least, to engage in an active lifestyle. Adeline believes her participation in powerlifting is worth the effort, and she uses it to cut across all sectors of Philippine society by reaching out and inspiring others.

Having grown up in a family of athletes, Olesya Vladikina was involved in an accident in her early 20s in which she lost her left arm. But that didn’t stop her determination from competing in sports. At the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, she won a gold medal in the 100m breaststroke, setting a new world record in the process. Olesya added three more medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, and she is now preparing to compete in her third and final Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer. “I can say that sports really saved my life,” Olesya says. “When I lost my arm, my mental state was so terrible; I didn’t know how I could continue living. Sports helped me realize that I am a full person and that I can dream and achieve.” As one of Russia’s most accomplished female swimmers, Olesya plans for a long and successful future outside of the pool, where she can influence a new generation of Russians to follow in her footsteps and to fulfill their dreams.

As advocates for inclusion of disabled people in sports, Adeline and Olesya will hone their leadership skills from their experience in the U.S., and use their gained knowledge to deepen the work they have started in their home countries. They will also have learned how important legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), has provided greater access to sports for all people. Their stories reinforce the importance of the United States’ work to remove barriers to create a world in which disabled people enjoy dignity and full inclusion. The strength and resolve these two athletes display -– and countless others –- are proof of what is possible; that fulfilling one’s dream is attainable through hard work and perseverance.

A special thanks to Ms. Ann Cody of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Sports United Program for her work in organizing a leadership program for both disabled persons and disability sports advocates.

Check out this conversation in the second installment in the U.S. Department of State’s #HumanRightsHeroes audio series that shines a spotlight on individuals who are engaging in meaningful human rights work around the world.

About the Author: Lawrence S. Schwartz serves as a Public Diplomacy Officer for the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

]]>On the margins of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio De Janiero, Brazil, a group of 15 international emerging leaders in disability sport including two Paralympians are visiting the United States as a part of the U.S. Humanitarian Summit: Coming Together to Protect Women and Girls C. RichardThu, 26 May 2016 08:18:22 PDTnode-28236-0

At the Ethiopian refugee camp called Mai Ani, Helen, the counselor at a U.S.-funded Women’s Wellness Center, slipped into a wedding wearing a veil as a disguise. Tipped off by the bride’s mother, she brought along the official in charge of the camp. Together they stopped the ceremony, pointing out that early and forced marriage is against the law in Ethiopia. The fourteen-year old bride, compelled by her father to be there, sobbed with relief.

This is just one example of how U.S.-funded programs that protect refugee women and girls are making a difference. But these types of programs need to be far more widely available than they are today. That is why several sessions of the World Humanitarian Summit, held in Istanbul on May 23 and 24, were devoted to protection issues and fighting scourges like early and forced marriage, as well as other types of gender-based violence (GBV).

Exile often splits and stresses families. It takes away privacy and livelihoods and can leave women and girls vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. When conflicts erupt and people flee, the rules of society often erode, and violence can become a sordid and terrifying fact of life. GBV is used by combatants to subjugate and chase people from their homes. And it stalks women and girls where they take refuge.

At the Summit, U.S. delegation members were active participants in events and initiatives that resolved to do more to protect women and girls:

  • At a Summit roundtable called Women and Girls: Catalyzing Action to Achieve Gender Equality, we announced an additional $12.5 million dollars this fiscal year to support the Safe from the Start initiative. This announcement brings the total U.S. contributions to this flagship program -- which was launched by Secretary Kerry to prevent GBV and aid survivors -- to more than $52 million since 2013. Safe from the Start deploys expert staff and trains first responders and others to identify risk factors and take countermeasures right away. It also supports counseling, health care, and education.
  • The United States pledged to support five core commitments proposed at the Summit to better protect women and girls in crises. These include empowering women and girls as leaders and agents of change, ensuring that aid operations respond to their specific needs, improving access to sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights, coordinating GBV prevention and response across the globe, and ensuring that governments and other organizations fully comply with gender equality norms and international standards.
  • The United States also pledged to help implement new Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines for Integrating Gender-Based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Action. The new guidelines direct governments and aid groups to address GBV as a lifesaving priority during crises and not wait for proof that it is occurring. Organizations that seek US funding will need to demonstrate that they are ready to do this.
  • The United States has committed to recruit more governments to join a high-profile initiative known as the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence. The Call to Action is spurring donor governments, UN agencies, and other aid organizations to take concrete steps to more effectively fight GBV, to coordinate their efforts, and to hold one another accountable for following through on these commitments.

Two upcoming high-level meetings in New York in September will offer more opportunities to examine these issues: the Leaders’ Summit on refugees, hosted by President Obama, and a summit hosted by the United Nations on refugees and migrants.

With record numbers of people uprooted and on the move, their needs are staggering. Upholding the rights of refugee women and girls and protecting them from indignity and harm are some of the most urgent tasks of all.

About the Author: Anne C. Richard serves as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

]]>At the Ethiopian refugee camp called Mai Ani, Helen, the counselor at a U.S.-funded Women’s Wellness Center, slipped into a wedding wearing a veil as a disguise. Tipped off by the bride’s mother, she brought along the official in charge of the camp. Department of State and USAID Release Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism OrtizThu, 26 May 2016 06:49:42 PDTnode-28151-0

This week, the State Department and USAID released the first-ever Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE).

Violent extremists continue to recruit, radicalize, and mobilize people -- especially young people -- to engage in terrorist acts. Their actions not only increase threats against the United States and our partners, but also undermine our efforts to prevent and resolve conflicts, promote human rights and the rule of law, and expand prosperity.

Children in Chad react to a participatory theater performance as part of a USAID program to counter violent extremism. [USAID Photo]

Carrying forth the work of last year’s White House CVE Summit, this new strategy provides a roadmap for mobilizing America’s diplomatic and development tools to counter violent extremism through five objectives:

  • Expand international political will, partnerships, and expertise to better understand the drivers of violent extremism and mobilize effective interventions.
  • Encourage and assist partner governments to adopt more effective policies and approaches to prevent and counter the spread of violent extremism, including changing unhelpful practices where necessary.
  • Employ foreign assistance tools and approaches, including development assistance, to reduce specific political or social and economic factors that contribute to community support for violent extremism in identifiable areas or put particular segments of a population at high risk of violent extremist radicalization and recruitment to violence.
  • Empower and amplify locally credible voices that can change the perception of violent extremist groups among key demographic segments.
  • Strengthen the capabilities of government and non-governmental actors to isolate, intervene with, and promote the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals caught in the cycle of radicalization to violence.

Mayors and local government leaders from around the world participate in the launch of the Strong Cities Network in New York in September 2015. [State Department photo]

CVE refers to proactive actions to address the conditions that enable violent extremist recruitment and radicalization. These conditions vary enormously, which explains how Da’esh has drawn recruits from nearly every region and background, from conflict-ridden provinces in western Iraq to working class neighborhoods in Brussels to cities and towns across the United States. We know that poverty alone does not cause a person to commit violent acts. But as we’ve seen across the Middle East and North Africa, when people are systematically denied economic opportunities and feel humiliated by injustice and corruption, these sentiments can fuel grievances that terrorists exploit for recruitment.

As we look ahead, it is not enough to degrade and disrupt terrorist groups through security measures. To be effective in the long run, we must also address how these groups draw local support and attract new recruits.

Youth leaders from around the world present a “Youth Action Agenda to Prevent Violence and Promote Peace” at the Global Youth Summit Against Violent Extremism in September 2015. [State Department photo]

The United States is carrying forth CVE work with global partners from organizations with credibility, reach, and resonance in the communities most targeted by violent extremists for recruitment and radicalization. For example, Hedayah, the CVE Center of Excellence based in Abu Dhabi, provides a platform, training, and tools for governments and civil society. Separately, the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) funds grassroots organizations in places like Bangladesh, Mali, and Nigeria to challenge violent extremism at the local level. The newly created Strong Cities Network and the RESOLVE (Researching Solutions to Violent Extremism) Network were created to ensure local, sub-national leaders, and researchers continue to advance the CVE agenda by creating common agendas, sharing best practices, and connecting regularly beyond traditional annual conferences and emails.

As part of a U.S.-supported early warning and early response program, community leaders from northeastern Nigeria meet to address threats from Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria. [State Department photo]

Thanks to these organizations, the mayor of Vilvoorde, Belgium, can share details about his successful initiative to reduce the number of foreign terrorist fighters in his city. These organizations can also help researchers who have studied disengaging youth from violent right-wing extremist groups in Europe to share their research with peers in East Africa who are looking to do the same with groups like al-Shabaab.

In addition, the Bureau of Counterterrorism has formally transitioned to the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. Secretary Kerry has empowered the newly renamed Bureau to lead the State Department’s CVE engagement and assistance. The CVE office will also expand its existing CVE work and complement the Bureau’s long-term efforts on improving aviation security, countering the financing of terrorism, working to staunch the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, designating terrorist groups and individuals, and building our foreign partners’ civilian counterterrorism capacity.

USAID is equally increasing its focus on CVE by establishing a Secretariat to coordinate its programming and ensure collaboration with other government departments and development institutions.

It is our hope that this new joint strategy will not only strengthen the United States’ ongoing efforts to defeat terrorist groups around the world, but also bolster our efforts to address the underlying conditions that often fuel terrorism in the first place.

About the Author: Michael Ortiz serves as the Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This blog also appears in the State Department's Foggy Bottom Publication on

For more information:

]]>This week, the State Department and USAID released the first-ever Joint Strategy on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE). Health Systems Can Prevent and Contain Pandemics KoekWed, 25 May 2016 15:19:43 PDTnode-28191-0

Resilience is one of those buzzwords that every so often captures the hearts and minds of development practitioners. The importance of this particular term, though, becomes all too clear as the world faces an increasing number of humanitarian crises, including outbreaks that can turn into pandemics.

Did you know, for instance, that every year, up to 500,000 people die from the flu? And in years when pandemic flu occurs, millions of people can lose their lives. The 1918 pandemic flu is a good case in point, as it infected up to 40 percent of the populations of some countries and killed up to 100 million people.

As a result of global warming, more pathogens with pandemic potential continue to emerge, many of which originate in animals (zoonotic). They include Ebola, H5N1 avian flu, H7N9 avian flu, HIV/AIDS, and two kinds of coronavirus: severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

In this scenario, resilience is about detecting potential pandemic threats, and then mitigating and containing them. This concept came to the forefront during the 2014 Ebola outbreak when already stretched and under-resourced health systems in West Africa were confronted with a surge of patients, a contagious virus, overall lack of preparedness and minimal resources.

And to be fair, Ebola caught us by surprise also in North America where health personnel initially felt inadequately trained and hospitals struggled to put in place a rapid plan of action.

The point is that resilience in the health sector is not static but rather an ongoing and evolving state of affairs. Much of the work that USAID does in the global health space is focused on strengthening health systems, so they perform well and are resilient.

Well-performing health systems provide sustained, equitable access to essential services for all without financial hardship. They are better able to bounce back when adversity strikes; are prepared to detect and respond to emerging disease threats; are able to adapt to adverse conditions; address a wide range of health challenges; and offer innovative solutions by leveraging diverse skills and views.

USAID invests in health system strengthening by partnering with countries to better manage financial resources, to ensure the right health workers and medicines are available where and when needed, and to inform and strengthen governance for effective service delivery.

And, yes, we all know that pathogens do not wait patiently in line to get their passport stamped. Contagious diseases will continue to threaten humanity because of the globalized nature of the world we live in and the impact of climate change.

Our work on emerging pandemic threats is meant to prevent, or at the very least, to contain a humanitarian crisis and minimize the impact of disease outbreaks on human health and the economic and social stability of countries. We do this by building the capacity of countries to prevent the emergence of new zoonotic diseases, to detect them early and to control them in a timely and effective manner.

Health innovations can strengthen health systems and save lives during a disease outbreak by quickly leveraging collective expertise and delivering practical and cost-effective solutions. Last year, USAID in partnership with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense launched Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development.

The initiative was to help frontline workers provide better care and stop the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Global innovators generated close to 1,500 ideas. Half of the funded innovations are either in use or available for purchase today.

This past April, the Agency launched the Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge. Through this effort, the Agency will invest up to $30 million in groundbreaking innovations and interventions that enhance our ability to prevent, detect and respond to the Zika virus and other future infectious disease outbreaks -- in both the short and long-term.

This latest Grand Challenge specifically calls for solutions that improve and enhance vector control (methods that eliminate the transmission of pathogens from animals to humans), personal and household protection, surveillance, diagnostics and community engagement.

We are also enhancing preparedness and response by creating university networks across the U.S., Africa and Southeast Asia to train graduates in a variety of sectors and disciplines.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, we must ensure that health professionals are able to address the complex, multi-sectoral disease detection, response, prevention, and control challenges in their countries and regions.

In this context, resilience is about helping other countries be more well-rounded and prepared to create a safer, healthier world for all.

About the Author: Irene Koek serves as the Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.

For more information:

]]>Resilience is one of those buzzwords that every so often captures the hearts and minds of development practitioners. with Africa to Fight Illicit Finance KubiskeWed, 25 May 2016 15:18:22 PDTnode-28186-0

During this month’s Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom, Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that corruption “destroys nation states” and “tears at the entire fabric of a society.” Corruption is a global problem that threatens the rule of law, undermines economic stability, contributes to extremism, and fosters insecurity.

As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Finance and Development, fighting corruption is an important part of my work and that of my colleagues in the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs. We fight corruption by encouraging other countries to adopt and enforce tough laws against foreign bribery through the OECD Working Group on Bribery; advocating for stronger anti-corruption standards and principles in multilateral fora including the G-7, G-20, and APEC; and leveraging countries’ international commitments to advocate for necessary reforms. We also fight for open budgets and natural resource contracting, more transparent business registration, and encourage responsible business conduct.

As former Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and retired Admiral Michael Mullen noted in a recent article, corruption “has grown increasingly sophisticated over the last several decades, with devastating effects on the wellbeing and dignity of countless innocent citizens.” Moreover, they added, “corruption cripples prospects for development.”

Understanding the danger of this ongoing challenge, the State Department is playing an active role in fighting corruption and supporting prospects for development through its work against illicit finance. Illicit finance involves the siphoning of domestic resources away from countries via corruption, fraud, organized crime, smuggling, and other illegal activities. This poses an acute threat to developing countries, which struggle to fund health, infrastructure, and poverty eradication efforts.

While developing countries must take action to combat illicit finance, developed countries such as the United States can and must play a key role too. They can help developing countries strengthen their laws and systems to prevent the theft of government resources. They can also take steps to help ensure they do not become a destination for those stolen resources.

So what is the United States doing to help developing countries combat illicit finance? And what is the United States doing to prevent illicit funds from coming to the United States?

One of the areas of illicit finance in which I have been actively involved is the Partnership on Illicit Finance (PIF). The PIF was launched during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in August 2014, and it brings together the United States and seven African countries -- Burkina Faso, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritius, Niger, Senegal, and Sierra Leone -- committed to combating illicit finance. The PIF allows the United States and its African partners to learn from each other and share good practices to combat corruption and other illegal financial activities. Through the PIF, we can discuss our common challenges, share lessons learned, and receive feedback as we all undertake the complex but necessary task of fighting corruption.

PIF members develop national action plans through which the United States and African governments can improve transparency and accountability in the public and private sectors. Over the past few months, PIF partners have formulated their national action plans and articulated specific commitments they plan to undertake. Through PIF, partners have consulted with each other and civil society, businesses, and international organizations. The collaborative approach of the PIF has spurred a healthy competition motivated by a unity of vision and purpose.

The United States has committed itself to undertake actions that will make it more difficult for corrupt actors in other countries to store their ill-gotten gains in the United States. This means advocating for legislation that requires collecting beneficial ownership for all legal entities formed in the United States, closing loopholes that allowed foreigners to hide assets behind anonymous entities, working with other governments to investigate corruption and recover stolen assets, and closing gaps in money laundering prosecution laws.

I am proud that over the course of the next few months the United States and its PIF partners will publicly unveil their national action plans. The first step will be at the annual meetings of the African Development Bank in Lusaka, Zambia this week, where partners will publicly discuss the pledges contained in their action plans.

As we announce our action plans and follow up on our commitments, the PIF will thrive as a forum in which nations will engage and learn from each other about how they can fight corruption and prevent the proceeds of corrupt and illegal activity from moving through financial systems. Through these efforts governments will be able to ensure that their country’s resources are used to benefit their citizens and mobilized in a way to allow their economies to grow and their citizens to become more prosperous.

About the author: Lisa Kubiske Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Finance & Development in the Bureau of Econnomic and Business Affairs.

For more information:

  • Read Secretary Kerry's remarks at the Anti-Corruption Summit Plenary.
  • Check out this White House factsheet on U.S. Government Development Priorities on Financing for Development, includes the Partnership on Illicit Finance (PIF).
  • Find other DipNotes blogs on Africa and our efforts at economic diplomacy around the world.
]]> A Record of U.S. Engagement at the UN Human Rights Council HarperWed, 25 May 2016 13:34:36 PDTnode-28156-0

In 2009, President Obama decided that the United States should seek election to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), a body with a decidedly mixed record of success in promoting and protecting human rights. Seven years later, the United States has completed two active terms on the Council -- terms that featured new country-specific initiatives on Burma, Iran, North Korea (DPRK), Syria, Sri Lanka, South Sudan and others, groundbreaking efforts on LGBTI rights as well as women’s rights, and a renewed focus on the universality of human rights, including freedoms of expression, assembly and religion. Still, the Council remains afflicted with a persistent anti-Israel bias and problematic membership issues.

Last week, I traveled to Washington, DC, to talk about the continuing U.S. determination to maximize the Council’s potential. Together with senior leadership from the Bureau of International Organization Affairs and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, I testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, where I discussed our record of engagement with the HRC. I also took the opportunity to meet with think-tanks, civil society organizations, and the media.

My message to all of these interlocutors followed the same theme: U.S. engagement at the HRC has made a critical difference. That difference can be measured in the increased attention to country-specific actions taken by the Council as well as a re-focus on core civil and political rights. In the first year of its existence, ten years ago, all but one country-specific resolution that it passed focused on Israel. After the United States joined, the Council has passed an annual average of 27 resolutions on country situations around the world -- places such as South Sudan, Burma, North Korea, Syria, and Belarus. The number on Israel -- while still too high -- has been relatively constant.

A screen shows Ambassador Harper as he testifies at the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on “Ten Years Later: The Status of the United Nations Human Rights Council” on May 17, 2016. [State Department photo]

It can be measured in the dramatic re-direction of the Council’s focus. In the three and half years before the United States became a member of the HRC, the Council held 11 special emergency sessions, nearly half of which were dedicated to Israel/Palestinian issues. In the six years of U.S. membership (September 2009-December 2015), the Council held 13 emergency sessions, and only two were focused on Israel, with the others focused (appropriately) on some of the world’s most appalling human rights environments, including Quaddafi’s Libya and Asad’s Syria.

Our impact can also be measured in the Council’s effective use of so-called special procedures -- independent human rights experts charged with mandates to report and advise on human rights. Since 2009, the Council has created Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Belarus, and Syria, and Commissions of Inquiry for DPRK, Eritrea, and Syria, as well as a Commission on human rights in South Sudan. These special procedures shine sunlight into darkened spaces, forcing offending regimes out of the shadows and into the harsh glare of sustained international scrutiny.

The value of the Council is not just measured in addressing the negatives, but also in its capacity to promote a positive international agenda. Throughout its two terms on the Council, the United States actively and vocally made the case for American values and priorities. We sponsored resolutions on the protection of Internet Freedom, Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, and Freedom of Expression. We worked with key partners to focus discourse on stopping discrimination in all its forms, including against LGBTI persons. And indeed, worked tirelessly with partners and allies from around the globe to pass groundbreaking resolutions on addressing discrimination and violence against LGBTI persons. We promoted the essential idea that civil society is key to good governance and defended the participatory rights of civil society, whom repressive regimes often attempt to silence, even in the Council chamber.

Ambassador Harper with President of UNA-NCA Ambassador Don Bliss (retired) during a conversation at the American Foreign Service Association in Washington, DC, May 17, 2016. [State Department photo]

To be sure, the HRC has flaws– serious human rights violators continue to convince their friends to vote them into Council seats where they can better defend their brutish, unacceptable behavior. The Council’s agenda item 7, focusing on Israel, remains an unfair bias that challenges the Council’s legitimacy. During our tenure on the Council, the United States chipped away at this corrosive –hyper-focus on the State of Israel, including pushing for Israel to obtain membership in a regional group for the first time in Geneva. To continue this chipping away we must continue our steadfast engagement.

By any measure, U.S. engagement with the UN Human Rights Council has been influential, positive, and enduring. It has led to innumerable examples of improved human rights on the ground. I believe firmly that this record reveals the very real value and potential of the Council as a force for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. But what the last decade has demonstrated is that for the Council to live up to its full potential and address its existing flaws will continue to require full engagement of the United States of America.

About the Author: Ambassador Keith Harper serves as the U.S. Representative to the UN Human Rights Council at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and International Organizations in Geneva.

Editor's Note: This story also appears in the Department of State's Foggy Bottom Publication on

For more information:

]]>In 2009, President Obama decided that the United States should seek election to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), a body with a decidedly mixed record of success in promoting and protecting human rights. Landmine Clearance Proves an Uphill Challenge GottemoellerTue, 24 May 2016 13:54:07 PDTnode-28121-0

For five decades, conflict between the Colombian military and armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has devastated the country. In addition to forcing millions of people to flee their homes, the conflict has made Colombia one of the most landmine-affected countries in the world. I recently visited Colombia and saw firsthand how U.S. Conventional Weapons Destruction programs are supporting Colombia’s efforts to secure a lasting peace, save lives, and help communities rebuild.

Clearing mines in Colombia is about more than just removing hazards from the ground. It also addresses related issues of land restitution, reintegration, and economic development -- all key issues that will help a post-accord peace process take hold. Peace negotiators have been working hard since 2012 to bring an end to the half century of conflict between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. Just last year, the negotiators asked Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) to coordinate a joint Government of Colombia-FARC pilot project to clear landmines in Antioquia as a gesture of good faith in the peace process. NPA formed teams that bring deminers from the Colombian military’s humanitarian demining platoons (BIDES) together with former FARC fighters to liaise with local communities, identify landmine locations, conduct clearance, and deliver cleared land back to communities. The success of this joint pilot project led to the creation of a second pilot project currently underway in Meta Department.

Under Secretary Gottemoeller visited a team of Colombian deminers in the field to learn about their life-saving work firsthand. [State Department photo]

I visited a project site in Medellin where the Department of State is funding work carried out by BIDES to restore access to land and critical footpaths the community badly needs. I witnessed the professionalism of BIDES members in the field as they worked hard to clear the land. The prospect of NGOs working side-by-side with governmental officials to address this monumental task was deeply encouraging.

Under Secretary Gottemoeller braved hilly terrain covered with dense vegetation on her visit to areas contaminated by landmines. Here she is accompanied by BIDES commanders and U.S. military liaisons. [State Department Photo]

Our trip to the project site was not without challenges. We first set out in a helicopter, but inclement weather forced us to turn back. Undeterred, we set out on a much longer overland route. When the vehicles reached the road’s end, our delegation climbed up a steep hill to reach the demining site. While I enjoyed the hike, I was struck by the steep hills, heavy mud and thick undergrowth. Despite the rough terrain, the deminers were hard at work clearing mines by hand. I was truly impressed by their dedication – and gained a new appreciation for the slow, difficult, and dangerous work essential to securing peace in Colombia, and other post-conflict countries around the world.

Under Secretary Gottemoeller embraces a woman whose family member had been the victim of a mine accident. [State Department]

I was also struck by the high level of collaboration among donors -- the European Union, Norway, and the United States -- on this project. Through the new Global Demining Initiative for Colombia, which we lead jointly with Norway, I am looking forward to working with more international partners to support Colombia’s climb up and out of contamination by landmines and unexploded ordnance.

While clearing landmines often proves to be an uphill challenge, the Colombian people can be sure that the United States will be with them every step of the way.

About the Author: Rose Gottemoeller serves as the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

For more information:

]]>For five decades, conflict between the Colombian military and armed groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has devastated the country. 2015, Accelerating Progress Toward an AIDS-Free Generation

Presidential Proclamation -- National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, 2015

posted Apr 6, 2015, 7:01 PM by MOJO MICHELE

Presidential Proclamation -- National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, 2015


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As Americans, we each have the power to shape our country's course and contribute to the extraordinary task of perfecting our Union.  For more than two centuries, progress has been won by ordinary citizens -- women and men who joined arms and marched toward justice.  This month, we are once again reminded that we can change our culture for the better by standing together against the quiet tolerance of sexual assault and refusing to accept the unacceptable.

Nearly one in five women in America has been a victim of rape or attempted rape.  Every year, too many women and too many men are sexually assaulted and abused.  This is an affront to our basic decency and humanity, and it must end.  Sexual assault harms our communities, weakens the foundation of our Nation, and hurts those we love most.  For survivors, the awful pain can take years to heal -- sometimes it never does.  When an individual's possibilities are limited by the scars of violence and abuse, our country is deprived of enormous potential. Sexual assault takes a collective toll on all of us, and it is everyone's responsibility not only to speak out, but also to take action against this injustice.

More than two decades ago, then United States Senator Joe Biden did both.  At a time when many victims were stigmatized or left to suffer in silence, he authored the Violence Against Women Act, which would forever improve the way our country responds to sexual assault and domestic violence.  In the decades since, our Nation has built on that progress.  We have taken strides toward changing the way people think about sexual misconduct, making it clear that every person has the fundamental human right to be free from sexual assault and domestic violence.

Thanks to the work of advocates, community leaders, public servants, and courageous survivors who shared their stories, our Nation has come an incredibly long way.  But from schools to military bases and throughout all communities in America, we must do more to end the crime of sexual assault.  My Administration has made this a priority since day one, beginning with the establishment of the first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.  And we will keep fighting as long as it takes.

We have taken action to strengthen our criminal justice system, uphold the civil rights of victims and survivors of sexual assault, and ensure that all people can live free from sexual violence.  Now in its second year, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault is helping schools live up to their obligations to educate students in safe environments.  We continue to address the impact of sexual assault on persons living with or at risk for HIV/AIDS.  I have also made clear that violence and abuse have no place in the finest military this world has ever known.  And last fall, we launched the "It's On Us" campaign to let people know everyone has a role to play in preventing and effectively responding to sexual violence.

It's on parents and caregivers to teach their children to respect and value others.  It's on teammates, classmates, and colleagues to recognize sexual misconduct and intervene to stop it.  It's on all of us to work for the change we need to shift the attitudes and behaviors that allow sexual assault to go unnoticed, unreported, and unpunished.  During National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, let us commit to being part of the solution and rededicate ourselves to creating a society where violence is not tolerated, survivors are supported, and all people are able to pursue their fullest measure of happiness without fear of abuse or assault.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2015 as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.  I urge all Americans to support survivors of sexual assault and work together to prevent these crimes in their communities. 

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.




posted Apr 4, 2015, 7:26 PM by MOJO MICHELE   [ updated Apr 4, 2015, 7:27 PM ]


HIV-prevention strategies are key to stopping the epidemic in the United States. The following links provide information on Federal programs that support HIV-prevention education.

CDC HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs

As a part of its overall public health mission, CDC provides leadership in helping control the HIV/AIDS epidemic by working with community, state, national, and international partners in surveillance, research, and prevention and evaluation activities.

  • Act Against AIDS Campaign

  • This multifaceted, five-year education and prevention campaign was created to promote HIV prevention and was launched in 2009. The goal of the Campaign is to reduce the incidence of HIV across the United States.

  • 2008 Compendium of Evidence - Based HIV Prevention Interventions

  • Community-level, individual-level, and group-level interventions. The CDC updated the list in May 2009, and it includes 14 new interventions.

  • Advancing HIV Prevention: New Strategies for a Changing Epidemic

  • The Advancing HIV Prevention (AHP) initiative aims to reduce barriers to early diagnosis of HIV infection and increase access to quality medical care, treatment, and prevention services for those living with HIV.

  • HIV Cost Effectiveness

  • The CDC offers tools to help HIV-prevention programs consider cost effectiveness in their planning activities.

  • Comprehensive Risk Counseling and Services (CRCS)

  • Information for community-based organizations and health departments that are, or will be, implementing CRCS (formerly known as Prevention Case Management or PCM)—an intensive, individual-level, client-centered risk-reduction intervention for people at high risk for HIV infection or transmission.

  • HIV Prevention Among Injection Drug Users (IDUs)

  • Access to materials and resources developed to assist HIV prevention providers working with IDUs and their sex partners.

  • Replicating Effective Programs Plus (REP)

  • Prevention interventions that have been tested and proven to work, with ideas on where you can find more resources related to training, technical assistance, and implementation of these interventions.

  • Social Determinants of Health

  • Social determinants of health are those social, economic, and environmental factors which influence health and health disparities. These factors are integral in addressing and understanding health disparities—in particular health disparities associated with HIV/AIDS.

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