The United States Provides Immediate Assistance to Respond to Drought in Kiribati

Source: USAID

The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing $500,000 in humanitarian assistance to respond to the drought across Kiribati due to below normal rainfall exacerbated by the ongoing impacts of climate change. So far this year, some areas have recorded less than 2.3 inches of rainfall total. The resulting drought has affected all 123,000 people residing in Kiribati, including 94,000 people in the severely impacted Gilbert Islands, which is heavily dependent on rainwater harvesting. 

This funding allows USAID partner United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to immediately strengthen the capacity of the government to monitor groundwater, including the salinity levels, and provide critical water conservation and treatment messaging to affected populations. U.S. officials in the region and Washington, D.C. are closely monitoring humanitarian impacts of this drought in coordination with partners throughout the region. The United States stands with communities in Kiribati as they continue to face the impacts of this drought.

USAID has long supported early recovery, risk reduction, and resilience initiatives throughout the Pacific, including in Kiribati, to support disaster preparedness and response capacities. In Kiribati, this includes efforts to mobilize youth and volunteers in disaster preparedness through the Kiribati Red Cross Society (KRCS) and capacity building for the KRCS through the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. USAID will continue to work with partners year-round to equip communities to withstand disasters.

Administrator Samantha Power Launches up to $30 Million TradeBoost Program in Zambia in Support of the Prosper Africa and Feed the Future Initiatives

Source: USAID

Today, Administrator Samantha Power launched a groundbreaking new $30 million, subject to appropriations, trade and investment program, called TradeBoost Zambia, that will advance the U.S. government’s Prosper Africa and Feed the Future initiatives. TradeBoost is among the first projects to be launched as part of USAID’s new continent-wide Africa Trade and Investment program, the Agency’s flagship effort in support of Prosper Africa. TradeBoost will amplify market intelligence, increase investment in Zambian businesses, and direct targeted trade facilitation support to Zambian businesses to reach regional and international markets. TradeBoost prioritizes locally-led development with all sub-contracts and grants going to local partners. The program will focus on businesses led by women and young people who invest in climate smart production.    

As part of this new trade and investment program, Administrator Power announced two private sector partnerships that will enhance Zambia’s ability to grow food for people across Africa.

First, the Administrator announced deals with two Zambian companies – Zdenakie and NewGrowCo – to export 17,500 metric tons of maize and soybeans from Zambia valued at $8.5 million. These companies expect to move at least 1,300 metric tons of grain to East Africa in a matter of days. To accelerate these exports, USAID is structuring a revolving credit facility that will give Zambia grain traders the finance they need to rapidly buy, aggregate, and export grain. The facility is projected to support the export of an additional 30,000 metric tons of needed grain across Africa going forward.  

Second, through a $200,000 grant, USAID unlocked a $4.5 million investment in Zambia’s macadamia sector. Macadamia nuts are a high-value export, bringing in additional investment and further strengthening Zambia’s role as an agricultural exporter. South African investment firm Foxfin Financial Services will purchase a 165 hectare farm from Golden Dawn Zambia, develop an irrigation system, install solar energy, and plant 45,000 macadamia nut trees. This deal will support sustainable, climate smart agriculture and create nearly 100 jobs, the majority of which will be held by women. 

Through the Prosper Africa initiative, USAID is leveraging private sector partnerships to ensure all people have the opportunity to create a better life for their children, their families, and their communities. USAID is committed to strengthening trade and investment ties between African nations and the United States – creating jobs, advancing solutions to pressing global challenges, and spurring private investment at a scale that could never be matched by foreign aid alone. 

With more than $1 billion per year in funding, Feed the Future is leveraging existing technical expertise, programs, and partners in more than 35 countries to mitigate the impacts of this latest global shock. In these countries, the U.S. government takes a coordinated approach to its investments and in turn, paves the way for further resources and investment from other actors, such as the private sector, donors, and local governments. 

For more information about Prosper Africa, visit prosperafrica.gov

For more information about Feed the Future, visit feedthefuture.gov.

USAID Announces $14.2 Million to Boost Inclusive Economic Development in Zambia

Source: USAID

The United States government has announced the launch of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Business Enabling Project, a five-year, $14 million initiative, subject to appropriations, designed to spur economic development in Zambia.

Specifically focused on the development of rural communities, the project will generate incentives for private-sector investments in agriculture, eco-tourism, energy, sustainable natural resource management, and trade across Zambia, and expand women’s economic participation. By targeting legislation, procedures, and regulations that hinder women’s access to finance and their ability to own and expand businesses, the project seeks to unleash the power of Zambia’s greatest untapped resource—women entrepreneurs.

Built on a collaborative approach, the USAID Business Enabling Project will strengthen communication across the Zambian government, private sector, and civil society. Aligned with the Zambian government’s newly launched Public-Private Dialogue Forum, the project will also promote greater engagement from the public on key challenges to businesses. 

By driving innovation and digital solutions to Zambia’s most challenging business roadblocks, improving government regulations, and creating more business-friendly processes and requirements, Zambia will be open for U.S. investment and well positioned for increased two-way trade with the United States.

The new project will lay the groundwork for fully opening Zambia up for business, and create opportunities for women and others who have often been excluded from economic opportunities in Zambia, thereby benefiting all Zambians.

Administrator Samantha Power Good Nature Agro Visit Lusaka, Zambia

Source: USAID

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning everyone, and thank you, Sunday, for that introduction. It’s been the highlight of my trip to Zambia so far to hear about all that Good Nature Agro has accomplished in the fight against food insecurity and poverty, and thank you for the tour of the warehouse. I can honestly say, I’ve learned more about legumes than I ever thought I would!

It was also wonderful to speak with Samson Nyendwa from Corteva Agriscience. Samson and his team work closely with USAID and our coalition of private sector partners to provide smallholder farmers with healthy seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, while also working with global NGOs and partners like John Deere to increase access to updated farming equipment. Thank you for being here Samson.

It was a pleasure to meet the rest of the Good Nature team, and I was fortunate enough to hear a little bit about how they got started. 

Back in 2014, Sunday Silungwe, Carl Jensen, and Kellen Hayes started Good Nature Agro to solve a problem: 90 percent of the food in Zambia is produced by smallholder farmers. But they lacked access to good, high quality seeds that could reliably produce what they expected.

So Sunday, Carl, and Kellen founded a business to produce seeds. They started by recruiting commercial farmers to grow key legumes like soybeans, groundnuts, beans, and cowpeas—crops that reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer and actually replenish the soil, and whose seeds can then be sold to smallholder farmers. 

Of course in Zambia, a healthy seed is half the battle. If their harvest was successful, farmers rarely had means of storing and selling their crop, and lacked access to capital or lending to pursue upgrades. So Good Nature Agro sought to address those problems too. They gave each of their partner farmers a customized package of agricultural inputs tailored to meet their individual farming needs—and they gave them access to the financing to help them produce as many seeds as possible. 

But it doesn’t stop with a packet. Throughout their time with Good Nature, in both the growing season and off-season, farmers receive advice and assistance from a network of agents. And they get access to competitive markets where they can sell the seeds that they’ve harvested, resulting in profits that are higher than what they could achieve elsewhere. 

In 2017, we at USAID took notice of Good Nature’s success. Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s principal food security program, we gave Good Nature a grant of less than $500,000. 

And with that relatively modest investment, Good Nature used it to launch a new program, Good Nature Source, to provide the same services they give to commercial seed growers—customized inputs, financing, agricultural extension services, and a guaranteed market to sell their output—to smallholder farmers. 

In just a few short years, and with a little jumpstart from USAID, Good Nature has helped to feed literally millions of Zambians and established an entire network of farmers who made enough money to escape poverty and enter the middle class. 

Good Nature is such a strong testament as to why private sector engagement is crucial. As much as I wish we could, the United States cannot tackle the problem of global food security alone. The commitment and resources it will take to tackle food insecurity here in Zambia is going to take far more than government assistance alone. 

Before the war in Ukraine, more than 1.2 million Zambians were food insecure, and that number is surely higher now with skyrocketing food, fertilizer and fuel prices. 

The United States understands the acute needs and unpredictable repercussions stemming from the war in Ukraine, so with our allies in Congress, we are pledging an additional $9 million to immediately address the high cost of fuel, fertilizer and food in Zambia. 

But Zambia’s potential is such that we must not only work to overcome this crisis, but bet on the country’s future as an agricultural power. Zambia can not only grow enough food to feed its people—it already grows 84 percent of calories consumed in the country—it can become a leading exporter of food across its eight regional neighbors.

As we know, Good Nature Agro is embracing this opportunity, marshaling our support and that of other partners and investors to generate new and creative solutions that will help meet the needs of the people of Zambia and beyond.

And USAID is eagerly looking for the next Good Nature throughout Zambia, so that in this time of crisis, we can stretch our development dollars to tackle food insecurity.

A few weeks ago, in partnership with the U.S Development Finance Corporation, we launched a $20 million loan guarantee with ABSA Bank that will spur them to extend badly needed credit for small and medium-sized enterprises that are advancing food security and climate solutions in the agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and clean cooking sectors, with a specific focus to lend to underrepresented borrowers. 

This partnership will lead to further investments into agribusinesses throughout Zambia that will bolster food production domestically while providing high-value exports to surrounding neighbors.

And I’m pleased to announce that today, USAID will launch a new, $30 million trade and investment program that we are calling TradeBoost Zambia. This program is designed to bring expertise to Zambian agricultural enterprises to help them boost their productivity and fuel regional exports. Though we’re launching this program today, this work is already beginning. We crafted export deals with two Zambian trading companies––Zdenakie and NewGrowCo––to provide Kenya and Rwanda with 17,500 metric tons of Zambian-grown maize and soybeans valued at $8.5 million. By next week, at least 1,300 metric tons will be exported to East Africa, with the ambition to move an additional 30,000 metric tons of grain. 

TradeBoost is also making deals to expand other agricultural sectors that have the potential to produce high-value exports.  

In partnership with the South African investment company Foxfin, we will make an investment in Zambia’s growing macadamia nut sector. Because of a $200,000 investment from USAID, Foxfin has committed $4.5 million to purchase a 165 hectare farm and build an irrigation system, install solar panels, and plant 45,000 macadamia nut trees, creating nearly 100 jobs, more than three-quarters of them designated specifically for women. 

Here in Zambia, women make up over half of the rural labor market, but entrenched social norms have locked them out of not just employment, but accessing the tools they need to start their own business. 

With the support of our allies in Congress, we plan to launch a five-year, $14 million Business Enabling Project, focused on making it easier for women to start businesses. Through this effort, we will work with key ministries within the Zambian government to break-down structural barriers that inhibit womens’ ability to access capital, legal services, marketing assistance and digital tools they need to start competitive businesses.

And earlier this week, President Biden announced that the U.S will expand our Feed the Future initiative—the U.S. government’s landmark food security initiative—to eight new target countries, including Zambia. As a Feed the Future focus country, our teams will work with Zambia to identify targets and goals for its agricultural sector and provide increased levels of data collection and market analysis that we can use to drive more and more effective private and public investment. 

In the coming months the global fight against food insecurity will be daunting, no doubt. All told, the world will invest billions to attend to the emergency humanitarian needs that are spiraling around the world in dozens of countries. 

But what Good Nature’s success demonstrates is that ingenuity exists throughout our world to end global hunger and drive agricultural productivity. With just a little effort—a small grant or loan at the right time, the right connections, a dose of expertise, a better enabling environment, or access to new markets—that ingenuity can quickly be harnessed to feed millions of people, and help smallholder farmers escape lives of grinding poverty. 

Thank you, and with that, I look forward to your questions. 

Administrator Samantha Power Meets with Zambia’s Cabinet Ministers

Source: USAID

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Let me just say how thrilled I am to be here on behalf of President Biden in Zambia. Let me express my thanks to Cheryl, of course, who’s our chargé here at the mission, but also longtime USAID mission director. The partnership between the United States and Zambia is strong. It’s always been strong, but it is getting stronger. And I hope to use my visit, this meeting, the outreach that I’m doing also to Zambian farmers and business people and civil society members, as well as later today my meeting with your President, to hear what more we can do to support the aspirations of the Zambian people. 

And I think you mentioned a couple longstanding initiatives that the United States has supported here in Zambia. The fact that Zambia’s life expectancy is up 20 years, you know, over a 20 year period I think is one testament to the strength of the collaboration in the health sector. We’ve seen that also on COVID with vaccine donations, but also with support for the community organizers who are out there making these vaccination campaigns happen.

I was just out at an agricultural project. It’s no secret that there is significant food insecurity in Zambia and across the continent, and around the world. We are working now really intensively to try to extend additional support to small farmers, small scale farmers here, to expand loan guarantees to small and medium sized enterprises, to support the effort to secure fertilizer at a time when fertilizer is scarce. The main thing I just want to stress is that the United States really wants to show up for those in the world who want to strengthen, not weaken, the rule of law. To strengthen, not weaken, democratic accountability. And, you know, President Biden really did notice the election of President Hichilema here. He really noticed the commitments that the New Dawn party has made to political and economic reform. President Biden has noticed the initial steps that have been taken, and I have been sent here to talk about what we can do to accelerate the path to reform. Because the job growth and economic opportunities that USAID has long supported Zambia being — trying to increase, that effort goes hand in hand with the political reform, the anticorruption, the better business environment reforms that the President and your administrators have committed to.

So, I hope in this meeting and subsequent meetings we can talk about how USAID can help you accelerate that reform path that you are on, so as to increase the economic returns and the number of jobs, and the amount of food security and prosperity that the people of Zambia can enjoy. Thank you.

The United States Provides Nearly $55 Million in Additional Funding to Respond to the Devastating Earthquake in Afghanistan

Source: USAID

In response to the magnitude 5.9 earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan on June 22, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, is providing nearly $55 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to meet urgent needs of people affected. To date, approximately 770 deaths and nearly 1,500 injuries have been reported. The impacts of this disaster compound the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. 

Within hours of the earthquake, USAID partners began responding, immediately providing humanitarian assistance including medical care. This additional assistance includes support for USAID partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to continue to reach earthquake-affected people with urgently needed shelter materials, water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, and other relief items. These vital supplies include emergency shelter kits, cooking pots, jerry cans for water collection and storage, blankets, solar lamps, clothing, and other household items. In addition, this support will provide hygiene kits, menstrual hygiene supplies, and water treatment kits. Given that the area impacted by the earthquake was already experiencing an acute watery diarrhea outbreak, this relief will help mitigate a larger waterborne disease outbreak in the aftermath of this disaster, when there is greater risk given the lack of access to safe water. 

The United States is the single largest humanitarian donor in Afghanistan, providing more than $774 million in humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and for Afghans in the region since mid-August, including more than $573 million from USAID. USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team, based in the region to lead the humanitarian response in Afghanistan, continues to coordinate the U.S. response to the earthquake, and is supporting U.S. partners to ensure aid is reaching the most vulnerable. We will continue to stand with the Afghan people to respond to humanitarian needs. 

For the latest updates on USAID’s humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, visit here.

The United States Announces New Commitments to Respond to the Global Food Security Crisis

Source: USAID

This week, during the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Germany, President Joe Biden pledged $2.76 billion in additional U.S. government resources to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations from the escalating global food security crisis exacerbated by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine and the severe drought in the Horn of Africa region. This pledge represents more than half of the over $4.5 billion in additional resources that G7 leaders committed to addressing global food security at the Summit. This funding will support efforts in over 47 countries and regional organizations, saving lives through emergency interventions and mitigating further increases in poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in vulnerable countries affected by high prices of food, fertilizer, and fuel. Funds pledged today will bring the United States’ total investment in the global food security crisis to $5.56 billion since the start of Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.

GLOBAL HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE

With this funding, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will provide an additional $2 billion for direct food assistance, as well as related health, nutrition, protection, and water, sanitation and hygiene services in countries with high levels of acute food insecurity, reliance on Russian and Ukrainian imports, and vulnerability to price shocks. This funding includes support for countries hosting refugee populations and countries in the Horn of Africa facing a perfect storm of historic drought, COVID-19, and global shocks of food and fertilizer prices that threaten up to 20 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE

President Biden also announced that the United States is expanding Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global food security initiative, led by USAID, to eight new countries, including those vulnerable to the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The expansion brings the list of prioritized countries from 12 to 20. The new target countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. These countries will be our closest partners in harnessing the power of agriculture to drive economic growth and transform food systems, even as Feed the Future programming continues to improve people’s lives around the world. 

President Biden also announced $760 million in additional funding to combat the effects of high food, fuel, and fertilizer prices–now being driven by Putin’s war–in those countries that need it most. USAID will use these resources to bolster Feed the Future and implement the U.S. government’s strategy to mitigate the crisis. Of these resources, $640 million will support bilateral targeted agriculture and food security programs to strengthen agricultural capacity and resilience in more than 40 of the most vulnerable countries–Ukraine, as well as across 24 countries and regions in Africa, 10 countries in Asia, 6 countries and regional presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 6 countries in the Middle East. These investments will tackle urgent global fertilizer shortages, purchase resilient seeds, mitigate price shortages for fertilizer, scale-up social safety nets for families suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and avert food and humanitarian crises in the most vulnerable countries. The balance–$120 million–will help finance multilateral efforts to leverage donor investments that help vulnerable countries build their resilience to shocks, strengthen social safety nets, supply chain issues, and climate impacts for near medium food security.

Administrator Samantha Power Meets With Media Freedom Advocates in Zambia

Source: USAID

The below is attributable to Acting Spokesperson Shejal Pulivarti:‎

Today, Administrator Samantha Power began a multi-day trip to Zambia where she will meet with government, civil society, and private sector representatives to discuss the U.S.-Zambia relationship, highlight the U.S. government’s support for Zambia’s democratic advances, and speak to Zambians about the ongoing food security crisis made worse by Russia’s war against Ukraine.

After arriving in Lusaka, the Administrator spent the afternoon meeting with local journalists and civil society media advocates to discuss efforts to further advance press freedom, access to information, and freedom of expression in Zambia. The small group of journalists and advocates shared what they view as key media reform priorities and discussed the Zambian government’s actions related to media freedom. 

Administrator Power reaffirmed that protecting and promoting a vibrant independent media is crucial to any thriving democracy, and underscored that the U.S. government endorses Zambia’s efforts to further institutionalize media freedom and access to information reforms to strengthen Zambia’s democracy.

Administrator Samantha Power at USAID 2022 Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance Conference

Source: USAID

MR: DIAMOND: Thank you very much. It’s my great honor to be with you and I’m a longtime admirer of Samantha Power and I’ve become, more recent admirer of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as a result of her extremely brave leadership of the Belarusian Democratic forces.  I don’t want to say a lot at the outset because I don’t want to steal time away from these two amazing speakers.  Before they set the stage and take our questions, I will simply say that this conference is coming really at an existential moment for Democracy in the world. We are now a decade and a half into a very deep democratic recession, and of course very near and bordering the country where Ms. Tsikhanouskaya comes from, is the most central and existential battleground of that struggle for freedom and democracy and really national sovereignty–Ukraine. So the work of USAID and united democratic forces has never been more vital in all of these regards. 

Briefly, by way of slightly further introduction, I should say, of course you know there was a presidential election in Belarus in August 2020 and independent observers individually judged that Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya defeated the authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenka in an amazing campaign where she united the democratic opposition and turned to ridicule President Lukashenka’s claim that a housewife, which is how he described her, couldn’t be a president.  Unfortunately, it was her commitment to democracy that led him to prevent her from becoming president for the time being.  Samantha Power, of course, you know, was sworn into office as the 19th administrator of USAID in May of last year in leading the world’s premier International Development Agency, with a global staff of over 10,000 people, including, I’m sure many on this call.  She’s focusing on helping the United States respond to four interconnected challenges, the COVID-19 pandemic and the development gains that is imperiled, climate change, conflict and humanitarian crisis, and democratic backsliding of the kind we’re going to be talking about today, with a goal of course of reigniting democratic progress.  She’s working to ensure that USAID enhances its long-standing leadership as well in food security, education, women’s empowerment, and global health.  

And she is the first USAID Administrator in its long history to be a member of the National Security Council.  And of course, she is a former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and a former member of the National Security Council.  So, with that, I think we should welcome Administrator Power, and I am tempted to say President-Elect Tsikhanouskaya and let them have a discussion.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER:  Hi there.  How are you doing?

SVYATLANA TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Good morning or good evening, everyone.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: I guess maybe where we should start is just to know, where are you?  How are you?  Of course, the world was paying attention to your struggle before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but seeing the critical role that Belarus has played in providing a staging ground for some really horrific attacks on Ukraine, I think, has drawn additional attention to the plight of your people.  So, you’ve been warning what the leadership in Belarus was like for some time.  We’ve, of course, had programs in Belarus for a very long time but have seen our USAID Mission shut down and seen so many of our partners in grave danger or even arrested.  But, why don’t maybe I just turn the floor over to you to understand better, you know, the current situation, which I know so many of our DRG, Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance officers and implementing partners will be interested in.

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Thank you.  You know, hello, once again, everyone.  First of all, I want to use this opportunity and to thank Samantha Power and USAID for the many years of assistance to deliver civil society.  You were always on the side of the Belarusian people, and many organizations and people received your assistance, like an independent vocal journalist, entrepreneurs, civic activists, human rights defenders, and so on.  So, unfortunately, more than 750 NGOs were destroyed by the regime, regime’s cracked down, and we need your support again to rebuild them.  So, thank you for inviting me today.  It’s a huge opportunity to update information about Belarus.  

So repressions in our country is – repressions are continuing, you know, Lukashenka’s regime is ruining everything, media, NGOs, people’s lives, you know, but despite of this, people, they’re continuing to fight.  And the fact that Lukashenka gave our land for use by the Russian army politicized people again, and people are starting to include more and more in different organizations and initiatives, and we need to support all of them, you know, to be healthy, to be strong, and not exhausted.  So, I’m grateful for this long-time collaboration with you, with our partners, and I hope that together, we will, I don’t know, we will exhaust the regime earlier than the regime exhausts us.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: What is the situation like now for Belarusian activists in exile?  What kinds of circumstances are they facing, given also the flood of Ukrainian refugees but also, of course, Russian dissidents and people who are critical of President Putin?  How has that affected the welfare of your people who have had to leave your country? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA:  Actually, you know, our main task is to support people on the ground.  But of course, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people had to flee Belarus because of repressions, we have to try to support people in exile as well.  So, I think that we have rather huge problems with organization of people. For example, you know, people who fled Belarus, because of repressions, they are more or less in normal position, because it happened in 2020.  And those people who fled Ukraine, I mean, Belarusians who fled Ukraine, first of all, because of repressions, and now they fled Ukraine because of the war, they face a lot of troubles with organization.  And we need to support all those people and, you know, give them the opportunity to work, to take care of their families, and all our program human rights defenders and centers also had to flee Belarus, and they are working now in exile.  Of course, they have a network of people on the ground.  And there is – it’s very important to deliver assistance to people who are in the country.  So, we have to, for example, use new technologies like cryptocurrency to transfer to deliver this assistance to the people on the ground. 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: And one of the things that we at USAID have done is really tried to put a much more heightened emphasis on the fight against corruption, believing that corruption is the achilles heel of so many repressive actors and, of course, is a terrible thing in its own right.  What do you see in the Belarusian context of the link between repression, stolen elections on the one hand, and stealing the people’s assets and natural wealth, and even petty corruption?  What are the links that you see in your context? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: You know that corruption thrives in darkness.  So, I think our – what we can do now is to invest into investigative journalists to shine like a light on it, you know, and the best way to counter global corruption is by investigating global links.  In order for dictatorship, dictatorships help each other, so should we.  So, for example, we could launch a global investigative journalism hub in Vilnius, Lithuania or Warsaw, Poland, where a lot of Belarusians are represented.  And there are hundreds of talented Belarusian journalists who would be, like, excited to take part in this.  And we know that a lot of Lukashenka’s regime money ends up in offshores, you know, Latin American countries, the gulf. And we should invite journalists from there to collaborate.  At the same time, our friends with, like, already established ties to these countries could help put more pressure on them, demanding more transparency and accountability.  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: And do you think – I mean, how corrupt is the government that stole the election?  How – like, what do you think the issues are?  We’ll say at USAID, we are trying to respond not only to corruption in a much more intense way, but to the recognition that most contemporary corruption is transnational corruption, meaning it crosses borders.  And yet, most of USAID’s programs are, you know, occur within particular countries and so we are trying to adjust our programming to support kind of networked journalism and networked non-governmental organizations, civil society work.  But how severe is this challenge?  The challenge of corruption and the challenge of transnational corruption in your context. 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Look, for 27 years of regime’s governing, the corruption schemes are so strong that – and so, like, deep, that we can cover now, those schemes that are on the top, but there are so, like, underwater schemes that we have to investigate, first of all.  So our – for 27 years, you know, different regimes installed into countries corruption schemes.  And, you know, this is one of the core problems of regimes countries.  They are – people are so tied between each other with these corruption issues that it’s difficult for separate people to defect, you know, or to say that I’m not in this system, because they are linked so much to each other.  So a lot of corruption problems.  And again, this is about investigation first of all.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, I mean it does seem as though, you know, if you look at the sanctions that have been put in place on President Putin and President Lukashenka, you see a lot of connections between the two of them.  You see a lot of the ill-gotten gains.  I’m really interested in the kleptocracy task force that has been set up at the Department of Justice, which of course has made it its mission to track down stolen assets.  And I think is not only a critical tool in our toolbox here in response to this war, but also as a model potentially for how we supplement sanctioning particular individuals with developing and expanding the forensic tools that we have to know where they have squirreled away, again, the resources that should’ve belonged to the people.  

In your struggle, you know, a lot has been made of the relationship between Russia and the People’s Republic of China.  You know, a relationship I think, as they put it, without limits.  That phrase preceded the invasion of Ukraine, but what have you seen of the role of the PRC in influencing the situation, for democracy generally around the world, or for Belarus? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: So what is PRC?

ADMINISTRATOR POWER:Oh, sorry.  People’s Republic of China. 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Oh. 

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Do you see China’s influence at all?  Like in, you know, as well as Russia’s, I guess, in the Belarus context?  You know, you have enough with Russia as a neighbor, so I understand if that is the primary focus, of course.  But I didn’t know if there, what Lukashenka had done also with the People’s Republic of China.  

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: You know, there are no deep connections with the – China.  I suppose maybe Lukashenka had some trade with China, but, you know, which and these the government is rather cautious about dealing with the countries who are in economic danger.  So I know that since 2020, a lot of economic ties have been broken with this country.  But we, you know, we do not have connection with them as a democratic movement.  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: No.  Yes.  No, I understand that.  How do you think USAID and the broader democracy community, you know, can best kind of – like, we see the authoritarians learning from one another, you know, kind of replicating each other’s playbook.  How do you think we can do better transnationally as Democrats developing our own playbook or modernizing the old tools?  You know, like I know that you’ve gotten a great reception across Europe in most cases, and that the democratic world has tried to welcome you.  But what other kinds of things would you like to see democracies doing to support movements like yours? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: So maybe, you know, I’’ll talk about some more about United States, you know.  The most important aspect is that the United States genuine commitment to a democratic Belarus for more than 30 years.  And I have to say that since 2020, we benefited from the unprecedented support of the American people.  And this is the recognition that we are here, that we exist, and we are different from any neighbor.  And the voice of Belarusians has been, you know, heard so clearly and so often in the White House and in Congress.  And of course, I’m so grateful to you, Ms. Power, for your attention and for your support during my visit to Washington.  And this naturally generates attention and not only in the US, but like, you know, globally, ordinary people start to think, you know, oh, Belarus, I have never heard of this country.  What’s going on there and what can we do to help?  And most importantly, the media and the global community started treating us for like who we really are, a separate nation with our own culture, language, and aspiration for freedom.  And it’s like Belarus is not a satellite to Russia anymore.  And this is exactly what we want to see more of, a narrative of Belarus as a country that needs to have its own national interest and unique policy.  You know, because I believe that Belarus holds the key for peace and democracy in the region.  As I often say, the destination of Ukraine, Europe and Belarus are interconnected and there can be no free Ukraine without free Belarus and vice versa.  And Europe cannot be safe unless both of our nations are free.  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Do you do you think that the war in Ukraine – I mean, this is where I started, I guess, just to come back to it –  that the war in Ukraine has increased understanding of what you are going through or do you feel all of the attention to Ukraine, you know, is of course, incredibly warranted given what the people of Ukraine are going through.  But has it made it harder, or does it make the immediate connection in people’s mind between Lukashenka’s brutality at home and that of him and Putin also across their borders? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Maybe the war in Ukraine caused new challenges for us.  First of all, we had to explain to politicians and to ordinary people that Lukashenka – the regime that dragged our country into this war and became collaborative – accomplice to Putin is a different thing from people who are now opposing this war, because immediately the Belarusian people became enemies.  And I think that on our fight, almost two years fight gave us opportunity to prove like to keep our faith to keep the faith of Belarus, of Belarusian people.  But of course, we see that the focus was shifted from Belarus to Ukraine.  It’s absolutely understandable.  We absolutely support it because we understand that the fate of Belarus, as I said above, it depends a lot on the fate of Ukraine.  So, we Belarusians are supporting the Ukrainians as much as possible as well.  

You know, when this war had started, about 80 acts of sabotage by the Belarusian partisans took place in order to slow down Russian troops from moving to Ukraine.  Belarusian people sent information about Russian troops to Ukrainian army for them to be prepared for bombings and Belarusian men are fighting on the side of Ukrainian army.  So we are – on our side, we want to support this brave courage, Ukrainian people, as much as possible.  And of course, it’s very important to explain crucial role of Belarus in our region, because while regime is in the power and while regime, like, is the friend to Russia’s regime, you know, there will be constant threat and not only for Europe, but also for Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and other neighboring countries.  So Belarus is a part of the problem, of the crisis, and this crisis has to be solved like in complex.  You can’t solve Ukrainian issue without changes in Belarus.  So people in Belarus are fighting as brave we can in these circumstances under huge repressions in Belarus.  But we for sure, we need support and assistance of democratic countries, the U.S.A., Canada and all European ones.  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Okay.  Let me ask the question that I know you get a lot, but I think – and I suppose, the Ukrainian people these days are especially getting a lot, which is, you know, against a backdrop of democratic backsliding, against a backdrop of Russia and Belarus using the most brutal, the most coercive tools, against a backdrop of so many political prisoners in your country, including so many of your friends and loved ones, of course, starting with your husband, where do you get your fuel every day?  Where do you get your hope?  What’s the – you know, when you just the whole thing is overwhelming you – and the images from Ukraine or the distance from your loved ones, you know, what is it that keeps you going? 

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: You know, I take my energy from like different resources.  First of all, is like anger that transforms into energy.  The anger that my children are growing up without their daddy.  That’s thousands of families are split and thousands of children are growing up without their mothers or their fathers.  The people who are suffering in the awful conditions in prisons.  It’s also my source of energy, because I understand that, you know, I have to do as much as I can for them first of all.  

I take energy from people in Belarus who are under huge wave of repressions.  But everyday when I’m communicating to them, they say, we are not giving up.  We don’t have, we don’t have chance to give up because we know that our country, our independence, is at stake.  I take energy from Belarusians all over the world, from Belarusian diaspora.   I see that people they could easily live in the wonderful countries, European countries or in the U.S.A., but they use their time, you know, money to support those Belarusians who are fighting on the ground.  

Also, I take energy from different organizations that are supporting our civil society because I see that what’s important for us, for me, is important for them as well.  And I take energy from such conferences as this one because I see a lot of people who want to help somehow, who want to understand what’s going on in Belarus and how different organizations and initiatives can be helpful to us.  I know that I’m not alone and this like charge my battery everyday.  

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: That’s great.  Well, as you know, watching you in action, I think it’s fair to say, I don’t know Larry if I’m speaking for you, but certainly gives the rest of us hope and fuel as well.  I mean, especially given the personal sacrifice for your family, of living your values in the way, in the way that you do.  I think, Larry, you want to, I think we’ll open it up now to other questions, comments.  

MR. DIAMOND: Wonderful.  Um, if you don’t mind Madam Administrator, I wonder if we could start by getting you to just talk about how this conversation reflects the priorities, vision and directions in which you’re trying to take the U.S. Agency for International Development, particularly in the wake of the Summit for Democracy last December and the mandate that USAID has been given to play a leading role.  I don’t know if it’s a clever play on words or just a coincidence that “Powered by the People” is one of the presidential initiatives for democratic renewal.

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Yeah, it’s definitely just a coincidence there Larry, but not the, not the first or last coincidence when I’m either blessed or cursed with my last name.  

And which I would note in Irish, which is where I’m from, I’m an immigrant from Ireland, but in the native Irish is actually [foreign language], which is of the poor.  So the very – the Anglicization of the poor became power and which no one can explain to me.  

So I think what happened out of the Summit for Democracies is President Biden launched an initiative for Democratic renewal, as you mentioned.  And the idea here is, you know, of course, to try to recapture some of the momentum that democracy had a couple of decades ago really is probably the last time you could say it had full throttled momentum and to try to look at the toolkit that had developed over time.  And I want to stress, you know, many of those tools are still incredibly valuable in deploying election monitors in advance of elections, of course, training independent media, training judiciary, trying to build the rule of law, which is, of course, is foundational for checks and balances and for democratic accountability.  

You know, I could go on, but I think people are pretty familiar with the sort of post Reagan, you know, proliferation of democracy promotion tools and, you know, we USAID and the Bureau for Democracy, Rights and Labor over at the State Department, you know, we have funded a lot of those programs over the years to great effect, I think.  I mean, not that the sixteen straight years of freedom in decline is great effect, but in supporting those actors on the ground who are, you know, like Svyatlana, just putting everything on the line to try to advance the cause of individual dignity and collective dignity and in some cases, and also to hold their leaders accountable.  

So those tools are really important.  But we also felt that it was time, you know, some of us, were in the Obama Administration, left for four years, came back to try to say, okay, instead of just, you know, trying to get more resources to support that traditional tool kit, are there additional tools we want to bring to bear? And so the Power by the People initiative, for example, I think is one that is born of a recognition.  And it’s actually Erica Chadwick’s work, which I think you know well, of the Kennedy School professor who I had the chance to work with a little bit when I was out of government.  But, you know, looking at social movements, looking at the diverse coalitions that are taking to the streets all over the world, because alongside this democratic backsliding trend that we know so well is this other trend, which is that, you know, prior to the pandemic, in the two years prior to the pandemic, you saw more public protests or political protests really around the world than in any prior two year period, I think, in recorded history.  

So people are voting their discontent with their feet.  A lot of those protests, I think you’d have the statistics on hand, were fueled by concerns about corruption.  And so what we want to do is resource the connections that I think Svyatlana has taken advantage of across borders.  And I mentioned before that, you know, U.S. government programing tends to go country by country, but to make sure that we resource the desire that so many activists have to learn from one another, to learn about what tactics work, to you know, learn how to fight, you know, noxious laws that are declaring them foreign agents for no reason.  I mean, for good reason from the standpoint of the regime.  But, you know, these growing number of restrictions.  And so the idea is, you know, again, building kind of – thickening network connectivity, knowing that these are very indigenous movements and formally that’s their strength.  And so, you know, U.S.  government involvement is going to be, you know, modest and at the margins.  But if there are ways that we can enhance the connective tissue, and that’s something that, you know, those groups want.  And it’s, again, to recognize that many of the people involved in those protests are, you know, ordinary people who may not be officially members of civil society organizations.  They may be workers, they may be students.  And so it’s also, you know, we at our Embassies around the world really needing to –  and our USAID Missions – needing to reach out to these very different constituencies who may be driving social change or securing changes, as in Chile, you know, to the constitution, not through the kind of traditional, you know, capital D Democracy organizations or capital C, capital S, Civil Society organizations.  But it’s a more diffuse, you know, kind of set of connections.  So we’re trying to build, you know, different muscles within the U.S. government to be able to be responsive to that.  

The other –  we can get into other tools in the toolbox.  But I think we are, Svyatlana and I had a discussion just now about corruption that is so central to the Lukashenka model and is so important.  And I just mentioned in the context of popular protest, so important to what’s bringing people out into the streets.  You know, the oligarchs and the repressive leaders are getting more sophisticated, too, as people do begin to laser focus on corruption, because, you know, this is something that can embarrass, you know, even the most shameless leaders.  It’s not something they want to see exposed.  They want to keep their money.  So they don’t want to see their assets seized.  But they also don’t like that it’s a bad look, even in countries where elections are not free and fair.  So we’ve seen a growing trend, as you well know, Larry, of journalists getting sued by governments, by oligarchs, where those who have the most to lose from journalistic or civil society expose’s decide to take advantage of the fact that they have significant resource advantages.  And, you know, just try to, in a sense, work a journalist or a media organization or work an NGO out of a business.  

So we are creating this fund called Reporters Mutual, which I also think is just reflective of this desire to meet today’s threats.  And that’s what we hope will be an insurance fund that those journalists that are doing this kind of work, investigative reporting of the kind that might be deemed threatening to those who are well-resourced, but that at a minimum, these journalists can get insured and know that if they are sued, you know, that they’ll be able to afford the kind of legal counsel to allow them to defend themselves.  Now, that’s super challenging in places where there’s no legitimacy, you know, where the judiciary is in the pocket of a regime or an oligarch.  And so, you know, in some places that’s going to be of less use than others.  But there are a number of places where democratic backsliding is occurring, where journalists just can’t keep up with the number of lawsuits against them.  Maria Ressa, of course, in the Philippines, is a poignant example of that, just the number of lawsuits she’s been fielding just since her Nobel Prize.  You would think that that might deter people, but quite the opposite.  She may, you know, need insurance less than somebody who’s less well known.  But this idea of giving some immunization or at least some comfort to those who are putting everything on the line to try to expose the truth, I think is another example.  

MR. DIAMOND: Wonderful.  Let me ask the President Elect.  And since we’ve met Svyatlana  – and you know that my grandfather at Stanford – and you know that my grandfather was born in Belarus, I do feel a strong identity with your cause beyond all the other reasons why I would.  So how are Belarusians today getting access to information?  And to what extent are you and your colleagues in the opposition in exile able to have two way communication with them and, you know, not just in terms of your appeals and strategies but in terms of explaining to them what’s happening and what more can we do to facilitate you in that regard?  

MS. TSIKHANOUSKAYA: Thank you very much for the question.  You know, information is extremely crucial in this historical moment.  And Belarusian people have started for this year and a half how to have access to alternative information.  You know, the regime in 2020 destroyed all alternative media for people not to have opportunity to get true information.  But media managed to flee the conflict and restore the activity in exile.  So now most information people are getting from YouTube channels, from different networks like Telegram, Instagram, TikTok.  You know, we use all the possibilities to deliver this information.  And, for example, I’m communicating with the people in Belarus daily through Zoom conferences.  It’s a difficult tool for the regime to track these conferences so people are more or less safe in this situation.  So, but of course, we are facing a lot of problems that regime also uses all these channels like YouTube, Telegram to spread the information.  That’s why we are working rather closely with Google and Meta and other organizations to block the regime’s propaganda advertising, to block videos, for example, through fake confessions and so on.  So on the one hand, it’s very important that technologies have to be useful for people who are fighting for democracy and blocking the people who, you know, who spread fake information like propaganda and so on.  

MR. DIAMOND: Well, I want to thank you both for this deeply informative and inspiring conversation.  You both have compelling personal stories, and you both give us hope that we have a path way, we have the personnel, and increasingly we have a set of new tools and strategies to pull us out of this decade and a half long democratic recession and help you, Svyatlana, and your country, women and men achieve the democracy that you deserve and have been bravely struggling for.  So thank you both and good luck.  Godspeed.  And we will continue on with the program of the day.

Administrator Samantha Power’s Participation at Pride@USAID: Accelerating LGBTQI+ Inclusive Development Event

Source: USAID

The below is attributable to Acting Spokesperson Shejal Pulivarti:

On June 23, Administrator Power participated in “Pride@USAID: Accelerating LGBTQI+ Inclusive Development,” with Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam and advocates for LGBTQI+ equality from around the world. The event highlighted the Agency’s commitment to advancing the human rights and inclusion of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and people of diverse genders and sexualities (LGBTQI+) around the world.

U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank Ambassador Chantale Wong provided virtual keynote remarks, noting the significance of USAID’s backing of LGBTQI+ inclusive development and its instrumental role in the U.S. government recommendation for a standalone “Gender + Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sex Characteristics” (SOGIESC) safeguard at the Asian Development Bank.

The Administrator and Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator discussed the importance of thoughtfully and intentionally integrating LGBTQI+ considerations across all development programs and humanitarian assistance as part of USAID’s inclusive development efforts, which elevate attention to marginalized and underrepresented communities and individuals. The Administrator announced a new USAID Inclusive Development e-module would be mandatory for all staff. Administrator Power also underscored the critical connection between democratic backsliding and infringements on the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons, which is often the first attack on fundamental freedoms of expression. She recognized the crucial importance of Agency localization efforts and partnerships with local LGBTQI+-led organizations to guide and inform all of USAID’s work.

The event highlighted USAID’s groundbreaking LGBTQI+ inclusive development work in Botswana, El Salvador, Jamaica, Kosovo, India, and other countries. A Foreign Service National serving in USAID/North Macedonia was presented with the 2022 LGBTQI+ Inclusion Award in recognition of her commitment and passion for advocating for LGBTQI+ people and survivors of gender-based violence in North Macedonia. Acting Director of the USAID Center for Education Dr. Christine Pagen also spoke, reaffirming the Agency’s commitment to ensuring that all learners and educators, inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and sex characteristics, are able to thrive. Acting Director Pagen also highlighted the recently developed guidance and e-learning module on integrating LGBTQI+ considerations into education programming.

Read more at: www.usaid.gov/lgbtqi