Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Secretary Clinton reveals international development goals: focus on investment

January 8, 2010

Secretary Clinton focused on investment in international development as the U.S. administration’s 2010 mantra.

The approach is country-led investment with a focus on results. This isn’t a new idea, of course. Millenium Challenge Corporation has taken this successful approach for the past five years. 

Discussions between defense, diplomacy and development departments as well as development organizations led to decisions about approach to development. Or at least, the beginning stages of changes. Clinton’s speech on definitive changes, incidentally, evoked an encouraging  roar of applause from both the development agencies and heads of state departments present at for her speech at the Peterson Institute for International Economics  on January 6th.

“But through investment, we seek to break the cycle of dependence that aid can create by helping countries build their own institutions and their own capacity to deliver essential services. Aid chases need; investment chases opportunity,” said Secretary Clinton.

With a focus on results, international development programs will look to achieve five goals:

1. Partnership

Countries must demonstrate a commitment to development by practicing good governance, rooting out corruption, making financial contributions to development. Strong economic policies are also a prerequiste. Secretary Clinton cited two examples: levying taxes on those who can afford them and managing  natural resources sustainably and devoting some of the profits to people’s development.

Partnerships with other organizations also play an important role in international development. Some foundations are also combining philanthropy and capitalism through entrepreunerial programming such as Acumen Foundation. Private companies also play a valuable role in sustainable development, according to Secretary Clinton.

“A company like…Unilever/Hindustan, which has created soap and hygiene products that the very poor – long-overlooked by private business –can afford,” said Secretary Clinton.

2. Integrate development more closely with defense and diplomacy efforts

Intregated efforts between the three Ds of forien policy, (defense, diplomacy and development) is essential for success abroad, according to Secretary Clinton. The U.S. government can ” leverage the expertise of our diplomats and our military on behalf of (international) development (workers),” said Secretary Clinton.

3. Coordinate development across Washington,D.C.

A growing problem is the number of agencies broaden their scope internationally, adding  important expertise and capacity, and working the same developing issues from different angles. This creates overlap and contradiction between development efforts. 

As attracting investment and expanding trade are critical to development, the U.S. administration encourages coordination between development programs  (USAID, MCC, and other agencies) with the trade and investment initiatives (USTR, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation).

Regional efforts are also being supported and recognized as examples of regional coordination like the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

Also, there is also an effort underway to bring contractor workers  back to work for government agencies. 

 “It is not financially sustainable, said Secretary Clinton. “We cannot continue to send so many dollars out the door with no monitoring, no evaluation, no accountability.”

By bringing contract workers back into government organizations, the return on the investment in human capital will be greater, according to Secretary Clinton.

4. Sectoral work

In the past, the U.S. worked in all areas possible for international development. The U.S. administration is taking a new approach. Investment and technical expertise of U.S. development agencieswill be focused on a few key sectors: health, agriculture, security, education, energy, and local governance.

“Rather than helping fewer people one project at a time, we can help countries activate broad, sustainable change,” said Secretary Clinton.

5. Technology

Through technology rural neighborhoods in developing nations can move decades ahead with just access to the internet and mobile phones.

Secretary Clinton cited farmers learning the latest local market prices and know in advance when a drought or a flood is on its way through mobile phones. Mobile banking gained access to savings accounts or money sent from overseas  through cell phones as well, according to Secretary Clinton. Activists used blogs and social networking sites to hold governments accountable for how they use resources and treat their citizens: an opportunity to raise transparency on corruption and repression in developing countries, said Secretary Clinton.

Secretary Clinton also mentioned that the sees expanding development programming coming State department, USAID, multi-lateral institutions such as World Bank and even stimulus money. She pointed out that the administration would “very much like to see (American technology) used” and supporting development programs is one way to creatively development American economy and help developing countries at once. The details of how this would work is still being considered. Clinton says  that as the Geneva Accord will be the subject of meetings throughout the year. She is hopeful that ideas such as American technologies use in developing countries might be a consideration.

6.  Investment on women and girls

Women and girls are critical to advancing a country’s social, economic, and political stance globally. Future development programs  with a focus on improve women’s health, income, and access to education and food.

Programming is in progress which focuses on women farmers, or women health educators to improve outreach to women and girls. Also, there is more discussion with partner countries to play a more central role in development work. Senator Clinton mentioned new scholarships  for female agricultural scientists in Kenya.

These goals mentioned above might be altered or adjusted according to the results of the inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review  (due to be completed in earl spring) and  The Presidential Study Directive on U.S. Global Development Policy.

For access to Clinton’s entire speech visit: http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/01/134838.htm

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Taking responsibilty for U.S. Education

November 18, 2008

We have the resources, the funders and the connections as a wealthy nation, yet 70% of eighth graders in America can’t read at an 8th grade level and most won’t catch up, according to the National Assessment for Educational Progress 2007. What is happening to our education system?

As a recent returning Peace Corps Volunteer, I saw the results of the symptomatic problems in Philippines education system first hand. But what is more shocking to me is to find the same inefficiency and mismanagement in my own country.

But I don’t believe there is one part of government, institutional organization or group to blame. We are all responsible.

Since Lyndon Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, there has been federal funding allotted to our public schools. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act was to reauthorize the commitment to public education by creating a system of accountability. Unfortunately, the NCLB failed to produce the resources to enable schools to meet higher standards. Our country obviously needed a longer time table before putting new testing standards into effect.

Currently, there is a bill, S.2001 All Students Can Achieve Act, which may offer schools the funding for further development. No progress was made to move the bill forward after August  2007. Hopes are that Obama will request congress to reintroduce the NCLB Act in legislative session in 2009.  

But my main concern is that in the flurry of excitement following the 44th president’s first months, when he has the most leeway with his congress, that this act is in fact, reintroduced. WE can’t let our troubled economy distract us from holding our president-elect and his congress accountable for all the promises they’ve made to us.

But the role of change in our education system during the next four years isn’t the responsibility of just legislators. That’s where our role as voters and constituents comes in. As voters we need to demand accountability from our legislators. We need to write our senators, representatives and actively lobby for change. We need to entreat special interest groups and educational organizations such as International Institute of Education, Strong American Schools, National Education Association to push government to present a reformation of the NCLB. We need to talk to our PTA, teachers, principals and members on the Board of Education to ensure the changes that happen in the next four years include positive changes in our education system.

 This is the year for change, America. What are you going to do about it?