News Clips 5.9.2011
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Today’s Headline: In the below article, Mary Beth Sheridan reports on the Obama administration’s decision over the weekend to allow for $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt—a step MFAN recommends in its Middle East white paper as a means to engaging with the private sector and spurring development in the country.
- New ISAF commander hearts USAID (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, May 9) In a long interview with USAID’s Frontline magazine, Allen talked about the development challenges in Afghanistan and recounted his experiences working with development professionals in the Mediterranean in the 1970s, running the task force that led the U.S. government response to the Asian tsunami of 2004-2005, and coordinating development projects in Iraq during the surge from 2006 to 2008. He promised to push for increased cooperation between soldiers and aid workers and fight for USAID’s continued support from the military and Congress.
- Healing the world: part 1 (Global Post-John Donnelly, May 9) Obama’s low-key announcement and its poorly defined vision for what it seeks to accomplish stand in stark contrast to Bush’s much-trumpeted announcement in a State of the Union address in 2003. Back then, Bush kicked off a forcefully directed and massively funded initiative to fight AIDS around the world, known by its acronym PEPFAR. Obama’s plan sought to be equally ambitious, but more ‘holistic’ in its approach. It was designed to prepare the ground for a new way of improving the health of the poorest people in the world by coordinating efforts to improve the overall health of communities rather than focusing on a more precise target of certain diseases. But the reality so far falls dramatically short of the vision. The administration can point only to a few small programs started under GHI in countries around the world, and those are too new or too small to yield any tangible results. While many health experts argue that it takes time to overhaul assistance to a network of programs, and that ensuring quality is more important than rushing into something, the considerable delays in turning words into action have put the initiative in some fiscal peril. And as a result, supporters fear the GHI’s lofty goals may now be threatened.
- UN urges aid for boats of refugees after 600 feared drowned (Yahoo News-Laura Rozen, May 9) “We call upon all ships that are in the Mediterranean, and it’s a well-populated space, to keep a look out and recognize if they see one of these boats that needs helping, not to wait until the moment of crisis, and go in the first place” to assist distressed refugees, Wilkes said. Wilkes said the agency had not confirmed a separate report published in the UK Guardian Sunday claiming that 61 African migrants had died of hunger and thirst when their boat fleeing Libya had gone off course and suffered damage. NATO had not come to the passengers’ aid, according to the Guardian. The State Department said Monday that it will follow up with UNHCR about the report of Friday’s disaster off the Tripoli coast.
- Don’t Build Schools in Afghanistan (Slate-Annie Lowrey, May 5) But the most important lesson of the scandal, and one that hasn’t gotten any attention, is something entirely different. It is a lesson that applies not just to Mortenson’s organization but also to charities that are much-better run: Stop building schools. Or rather, it is a mistake to devote much money or attention to constructing physical school buildings. Throwing up structures is simple. Educating children is a much more complex, expensive, and necessary goal.
- Administration planning $1 billion debt relief for Egypt (The Washington Post, May 7) The Egyptian finance and planning ministers visited Washington last month to seek forgiveness of the country’s $3.6 billion debt. Egypt pays about $350 million a year to service the debt, which it incurred buying American farm products. In recent weeks, Egyptian officials have been frustrated by the lengthy U.S. interagency process to consider economic aid, and a cool reaction from a Congress ensnared in a budget-cutting battle. On Saturday, Ambassador Sameh Shoukry said through an aide that Egypt appreciated the U.S. efforts but would not react to news of the debt relief until his government was formally notified. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) said at a recent hearing that the United States can’t afford to provide aid as it did in the past. “The stakes [in the Middle East] are very high … but so is our level of deficit spending,” he said.