Last week the AIDemocracy team braved the freezing rain to increase awareness around World AIDS Day. First Priti and I joined up with AIDS activists in front of the Wilson Building Offices of the mayor and city council of DC. The rally focused on AIDS in the district and was sponsored by DC Fights Back. We gathered to protest on behalf of the one thousand HIV+ individuals on the affordable housing wait list. Dozens joined in chants demanding that new Mayor Vincent Gray and City Council Chairman Kwame Brown commit to meeting the housing needs of HIV+ individuals in DC.

Activists were carrying a large red house representing the basic right to housing and Priti and I handed out red ribbons to the crowd. As we marched from Freedom Plaza to the Wilson building, we flooded the street, stopping traffic and getting a few honks and waves in solidarity. We left the red house on the steps of the Wilson Building as a little present for the Mayor, and began to march to the capital.

As we headed to the second part of the rally we kept ourselves amped despite the cold by chanting and singing. The second part of the rally took place at the White House gates and had a global focus. We headed over and met up with Patrick, Lisa, and Ashleigh. Health GAP and ACT Up Philadelphia organized a funeral for the 1.8 million who have died globally in the past year without access to AIDS treatment. Activists from Philadelphia had traveled by bus to join local activists in asking President Obama to keep his promise to increase foreign aid for AIDS.

“President Obama, you can be the president to start the end of the AIDS crisis if you just do what you promised when you ran for office,” implored Jose DeMarco of ACT Philadelphia. Despite promises and commitments to increase overseas support for AIDS, US funding has flat-lined and funding for AIDS treatment has decreased.

Media gathered to capture the rally interview the energetic crowd. Local theater groups performed a sketch about the shortage of AIDS treatment in Africa. We all grew solemn as two reverends led a service to commemorate those lost to AIDS without access to treatment. Activists and community members who have lost loved ones placed flowers on a casket to honor those who have died from AIDS without treatment.

Meanwhile, chapters were commemorating World AIDS. Here’s a snap shot of what was going on across the country.

  • The Fresno State chapter organized a film screening with guest speaker and women’s studies professor, Melissa Knight. Following the film they discussed HIV/AIDS in local communities and abroad. They also tabled on campus and collected petition signatures to ask for more foreign aid for AIDS funding.

  • The Global Health Network at George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services passed out fliers and ribbons to class mates to increase awareness.

  • Over 50 students and community members in south Bronx hosted their second annual World AIDS Day carnival. They screened the film SASA! and high school students played games that increased AIDS and STI awareness.

  • The Swarthmore College chapter tabled outside of the campus dining hall to increase awareness. Students handed out ribbons and information sheets and let people know that it was World AIDS Day.  They stopped everyone who walked in and out of the dining hall and got them to participate!

Overall, it was a great day in terms of increases awareness and acknowledging that there is still so much more to do to combat AIDS. Thanks to everyone here in DC and across the US for making it a success!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 18, 2010
Press Office: 202-712-4320
Public Information: 202-712-4810
www.usaid.gov


WASHINGTON, DC The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has embarked on an ambitious reform effort, USAID FORWARD, to change the way the Agency does business-with new partnerships, an emphasis on innovation and a relentless focus on results. It gives USAID the opportunity to transform its agency and unleash its full potential to achieve high-impact development.

Announced by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID FORWARD is critical to achieving President Obama’s vision of the United States as the global leader in international development. This initiative is an early outcome of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) led by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and will help modernize and strengthen USAID so that it can meet the most pressing development challenges and work more efficiently towards its ultimate goal-creating the conditions where its work is no longer needed.

USAID FORWARD is a comprehensive package of reforms in seven key areas:

1. Implementation and Procurement Reform: USAID will change its business processes-contracting with and providing grants to more and varied local partners, and creating true partnerships to create the conditions where aid is no longer necessary in the countries where the Agency works. To achieve this, USAID is streamlining its processes, increasing the use of small businesses, building metrics into its implementation agreements to achieve capacity building objectives and using host country systems where it makes sense.

2. Talent Management: USAID will explore ways to leverage the enormous talent that lies within the broader USAID family of foreign and civil service officers, and Foreign Service Nationals. To solve the world’s biggest development challenges, it will improve and streamline processes so it can quickly align its resources to support the Agency’s strategic initiatives, with better hiring and training tools as well as incentives. USAID must attract and retain the best people who reflect global diversity and who share the ability to be innovative problem-solvers.

3. Rebuilding Policy Capacity: To make smart, informed decisions, USAID has created a new Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) that will serve as the intellectual nerve center for the Agency. PPL will promulgate cutting-edge creative and evidence-based development policies-leveraging USAID’s relationships with other donors, utilizing its strength in science and technology, and reintroducing a culture of research, knowledge-sharing and evaluation.

4. Strengthening Monitoring and Evaluation: Learning by measuring progress is critical for high impact, sustainable development and therefore must be an integral part of USAID’s thought process from the onset of its activities. That requires USAID to do a much better job of systematically monitoring its performance and evaluating its impact. USAID will be introducing an improved monitoring and evaluation process as part of these reform efforts, and it will link those efforts to its program design, budgeting and strategy work.

5. Rebuilding Budget Management: USAID is rebuilding our budget capacity to allow for increased responsibilities and capacity to manage constrained budget resources and ensure the Agency will be able to align resources against country strategies, make difficult trade-offs, and re-deploy resources toward programs that are demonstrating meaningful results. In consultation with the Department of State, USAID has created an Office of Budget and Resource Management in the Office of the Administrator that will provide increased responsibilities over execution of its budget. With these increased responsibilities, USAID will have to propose difficult funding tradeoffs in order to continue robust funding of key operational and program priorities.

6. Science and Technology: USAID has a proud history of transforming development through science & technology (S&T), from the successful use of oral rehydration therapies to the green revolution. As part of these reform efforts, USAID will upgrade its internal S&T capabilities, supporting the expansion of technical expertise and improving access to analytical tools like Geospatial Information Systems. It will also develop a set of Grand Challenges for Development, a framework to focus the Agency and development community on key scientific and technical barriers that limit breakthrough development progress. Finally, USAID will build S&T capacity in developing countries through cooperative research grants, improved access to scientific knowledge, and higher education and training opportunities.

7. Innovation: USAID is putting into place a structure for fostering innovative development solutions that have a broad impact on people, wherever they may arise. As part of these reform efforts, USAID is creating opportunities to connect its staff to leading innovators in the private sector and academia, and it has created the Development Innovation Ventures Fund-where creative solutions can be funded, piloted and brought to scale.

For more information about USAID’s programs, please visit: usaid.gov.

So after a long and rewarding time in Ohio, I bid adieu to the Columbus countryside and headed on my way up to Boston yesterday! After a brief stay with a friend of mine in the area, and some amazingly delicious made-to-order pizza for dinner, I then went to bed as I had an early morning.

I awoke at 4:00am to catch a bus to head up to Lewiston, Maine where I had a day of canvassing  and promoting for our screening that night at Bates College ahead of me. Once I got to Lewiston, I met up with our student contact Umar on the campus, who made the day seem like a breeze for me! He got a table for me right at the entrance that I was able to canvass and promote from and I got some great exposure and talked to a great amount of students who were mostly willing to sign our postcards to Senators Collins and Snowe demanding they support a world without nuclear weapons!

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By Michael Miner, GPS Issue Analyst

With the signing of the strategic arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia, both nation-states have agreed to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenal to a mutually agreed upon figure. It would limit the cap of warheads to 1,550 and also put stipulations on the number and types of delivery vehicles. The goal remains the same as the initial START treaty between the US and the Soviet Union: reduce the number of nuclear warheads in existence in the interest of global nuclear security. This represents the most complex and significant arms control agreement in the history of the world and an area where both Russia and the United States have a mutual interest.

There remains a significant hurdle for the United States if they are to actively pursue this course of action. President Obama did sign the treaty and indicate the United States willingness to adopt these security measures. Yet for any international treaty of this stature the United States Senate must first ratify the language if the nation is to formally adopt this stance into security policy and defense planning.

The Foreign Relations committee is tasked with this responsibility. Chairman Senator John Kerry made a significant concession in a contentious year by withholding a Senate wide vote until after the election, but now there are concerns the treaty may not have enough votes for ratification despite its view by the President as a security imperative. It has the support of significant Republicans including the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Senator Richard Lugar and wide backing outside the Senate. Former secretaries of state James Baker, Henry Kissinger, and Madeleine Albright have voiced support. Former defense secretaries William Cohen and William Perry are on board as well as former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and former Senator Sam Nunn.

The opposition? Senator Jon Kyl and other Republicans have suggested concerns about the ability for the United States to modernize a nuclear arsenal for twenty-first century conflicts. While there may be some legitimacy in these points depending on the context of the argument, it would not appear this treaty would in any way shape or form hamper US ability to reduce or replace aging warheads within outlined parameters. A combination of district interests and political gamesmanship are driving these efforts as failing to ratify this treaty would be a huge embarrassment to the President and potentially score cheap political points in the run up to 2012.

Unfortunately what those in opposition fail to realize is that it would be a huge embarrassment to the nation. Hampering future international negotiations for both Democratic and Republican administrations would be a gross disservice. Playing politics with national security is not in the best interest of the nation nor our security partners worldwide. It sets a poor example in a world yearning for an America returned to its place as the shining city upon the hill.

There is a rare chance to demonstrate to the world the United States is committed to reducing the number of nuclear warheads and increasing global security for all. An opportunity like this comes along once a decade, and leadership must secure ratification on such an important issue. Statesmanship is at a crossroads, and if we cannot take the avenue of pragmatic consensus there will be will be precarious fallout in a dramatically changing security environment.

The Development, US MDG and Foreign Aid community has been waiting on Sec. Clinton’s much touted Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) for months now, and got a taste of it yesterday when a draft was made available. Easily explore it online here courtesy the Washington Post document reader.

The QDDR serves as a “scheduled review of development aid — and how to integrate it with U.S. diplomatic efforts”, in an effort to keep development projects relevant and “fresh” (WaPo, 2010)

Policy and administration folk who are keen to see increased accountability and a greater awareness of need-based/locally-owned development will be anxious to see how the final decisions regarding USAID’s operation and goals play out. We’ll keep you posted on this.

The QDDR will hopefully serve as a key map in navigating Congressional discussions on US development commitments and new spending priorities. Here at AIDemocracy, we will be monitoring this story closely, with help from our friends at MFAN and USGLC— Look for action moments from our side soon!

The G20 meetings are publicly recognized for being the arena of two repeating themes: citizen protest against unfair trade policies that affect communities across the world, and world leaders flexing their muscles to see who walks away as top dog.

The G20 meeting in Seoul, South Korea was burdened with a third theme– that of finding solutions to the ongoing global economic crisis and the fast approaching threat of protectionism. Why is protectionism an issue? In the context of the US economy, it could mean lower foreign investment, which would lower the value of the dollar. In the context of social justice, this could have far-reaching adverse effects on local and international unemployment and worker rights as well as on US government spending on social services.

The US came under pressure for the Quantitative Easing (QE2) decision taken by the Federal Reserve Board. What’s all the noise about, and did the rest of the G20’s argument against the US decision make any sense? Nice analysis of the situation (and some groovy Economics 101!) here.

But really, the only thing we’re asking each other right now is, why should we care about what is discussed or decided on at the G20?

Simple answer? International Aid Reform. The G20 meetings are a significant platform for world leaders to discuss global approaches to the issue of misdirected foreign aid and unmet aid targets.

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O-H… I-O! Patrick and I rolled into Ohio State on Saturday morning, just in time for the Ohio State – Penn State game. Our objective: talk to students about the need for nuclear disarmament. Our tactics: well, talk to students. And invite them to a screening of the powerful new documentary ‘Countdown to Zero’. And maybe give them a snappy button or sticker to keep the cause in mind.

Over the next two days we spoke to over 500 students, and collected over 100 postcards to send to Ohio Senators Voinovich and Brown. Phew. Our tongues are indeed tired. We also made some great new friends who helped promote the screening (hi Tara!), including students in the American Nuclear Society Student Chapter at OSU (shout out to Al! Thanks for all of your help!).

Word to the wise: Talking to people about anything other than Terrelle Pryor on their way to “the Shoe” on a Saturday afternoon maybe isn’t the best approach. This town is addicted to their Buckeyes! Thankfully we didn’t decide to dress Pat in the nuke suit. Might have been dangerous.😉

33 million people live with HIV/AIDS worldwide – 2.1 million die each year and 2.7 million more are infected.

What will you do this World AIDS Day?

World AIDS Day began on December 1, 1988 and has since been recognized around the world each year. It has become a key opportunity to increase awareness, fight against prejudice, commemorate the lives lost to the disease, and celebrate the victories in increased access to services and treatment.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme is ‘Universal Access and Human Rights,’ which offers the opportunity to recognize that despite the strides, the most marginalized and vulnerable populations still do not have access to the care and services they need – that access is their human right. The review of the Millennium Development Goals this past September reminded us of the goal to achieve universal access and World AIDS Day is another moment to remind policymakers, parents, teachers, and friends alike that we have lots to do to achieve universal access and protect human rights.


Do something this World AIDS Day. Whether you have a lot or a little time, we have just the way for you to get involved:

I care about the issue but don’t think I have time to plan an event.

I can whip up something quick, send me a free kit!

Bring it on! I’ll organize a film screening for World AIDS Day, send me a free kit!

I care about the issue but don’t think I have time to plan an event.

1 ) Read the rest of this entry »

By David Klayton, Environment Issue Analyst

You’ve probably heard the phrase “resource wars,” and you probably usually think of wars over oil that dominated the 20th century. But have you ever stopped to take the time to think about what the phrase really means, and how it pertains to the future of the planet?

As much as we may like to think they are, resources on this planet are not infinite. In fact, we will start to run low on many elements and minerals like copper and aluminum within the next century. Expect a skyrocket in the cost of living by the turn of the 22nd century. But there is one resource being depleted that will affect humanity beyond an increase in the cost of living. People can live without copper, without aluminum, without oil even, but people cannot live without water.

Many say that wars of the 20th century were fought over oil. And many say that wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. It’s pretty simple: when people need something they don’t have, they fight for it. People need water, and more and more people are losing access to it. The evidence is not lacking. Consider this report on the problems that recent water shortages in China have caused. Or consider this article on the relationships between increasing urban zones in Africa and the limited water sources available there. Or considerthis report predicting problems with food insecurity due to decreasing water supplies in nations across the entire globe.

I don’t know how to say it any better than this: The world is running out of water. Large-scale conflict has not yet begun over the depletion of water. Yet. What can be done to prevent any such conflict? Awareness isn’t enough. National leaders need to be more proactive in their understanding of this issue, need to communicate with one another on possible solutions to such a global problem. Right now we live in a world divided. We need to live in a world unified in transnational understanding of such inevitable problems like water depletion.

 

By Moustafa Hassab-Allah, Environment Issue Analyst

There is no wonder that solar energy is the biggest available energy for earth’s needs; it has about 1280 times our electrical energy needs in (2005) (http://www.eia.doe.gov/iea/elec.html), more over it is abundant in more than 60 % of the world lands. The challenge for us is how to get it.

Over the past million years, plants used sunlight to obtain energy for their survival, photosynthesis process is considered a low efficiency process that needs water and soil to emerge.  Solar energy is typically used by humans to provide direct heating of fluids for human use; it is also used to generate electricity directly through photovoltaic cells.

Companies like GE, and Siemens are taking solar energy so seriously that they pumped funds of billions of dollars on solar energy projects.  Big companies have realized the importance of solar, now it is time to spread the idea among people.

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