The Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative: Leveraging Remittances for Development

By Simone Schenkel

President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greet attendees of the U.S.-India CEO Forum  in New Delhi, India. Photo Courtesy of the White House Photo via Pete Souza.

In a recent trip to India, President Obama announced the creation of the Indian Diaspora Investment Initiative, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Calvert Foundation partnership that allows Indian-Americans to use would-be remittances to support key sectors such as financial inclusion, health, education, and agriculture.

While remittances have long been viewed as critical to supporting low-income countries, most funds are transmitted directly to households rather than to community resources. Through this public-private partnership, investors large and small will be able purchase Community Investment Notes later this year through the Calvert Foundation to fund a variety of social enterprise projects. Continue reading

A New Start for Sri Lanka: Implementing Reform

By Milos Purkovic

The new Sri Lanka President Mithripala Sirisena has a tough job ahead. Having defeated the Mahinda Rajapaksa in a dramatic snap election in January, the former cabinet member now has the task of leading one of South Asia’s most corrupt countries; Sri Lanka has long struggled with governance and investment climate and continues to sit at the lower half of the World Bank’s Doing Business index. However, Sirisena’s 100-day reform program provides an opportunity to address these issues by emphasizing good governance and rule of law, investing in basic public institutions, judicial reform, and catalyzing press freedom.

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Sirisena

Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Mrs. Nisha Biswal, with newly elected President Mithripala Sirisena

As a first step, on January 21 the new parliament introduced legislation to repeal a 2010 constitutional amendment which discontinued the Constitutional Council, empowered the president to dismiss or appoint members of the judiciary, and allowed for a third presidential term.  The 2010 amendment was widely viewed as the previous administration’s attempt to consolidate power, and The United Nations Human Rights Committee had made numerous requests to repeal the amendment since its passage. The new legislation will likely reinstate the Constitutional Council meant to safeguard the Constitution, set a two-time term limit, and introduce checks and balances to the executive. Continue reading

Sustaining U.S. Commitment to Food Security and Agricultural Development

By Anna Applefield

In 2010, President Obama committed $3.5 billion over three years to global food security programming. This commitment became USAID’s flagship initiative on food security, called Feed the Future (FtF), which over the last four years has been committed to reducing food insecurity in its 19 focus countries.

In the eleventh hour of the 113th Congress, a bi-partisan bill to continue funding for FtF, introduced by Representatives Smith (R-NJ) and McCollum (D-MN) passed the House of Representatives and went to the Senate for consideration. The bill was not passed by the Senate, so it will be left to a new Congress to decide the future of food security programming.

FtF has been a major priority for USAID, but without authorized funding the budget is vulnerable every year, which weakens the program’s overall ability to function. Because Obama has spearheaded the effort and refocused USAID’s priorities heavily on this program, many people have politicized the initiative, which further jeopardizes its ability to gain sustained funding.

Regardless of the political dynamics, FtF has revitalized the U.S. commitment to agriculture abroad in a way hasn’t been seen in decades.  Although there are certainly ways that FtF can and should be improved, there are several key reasons we should be thinking about how we can cement long-term success by continuing to improve and expand programming, rather than cutting back on food security funding at this critical time.

Poomparai Village is a farming community in Tamil Nadu, India.

A farming community in Tamil Nadu, India.  Photo obtained via Parthan’s flickr photostream under a creative commons license

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The Weekly Round Up

This week in development…

Women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, preparing food for distribution to undernourished children and their mothers. Photo taken from DFATD|MAECD's flickr photostream used under a creative commons license.

Women in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, preparing food for distribution to undernourished children and their mothers. Photo taken from DFATD|MAECD’s flickr photostream used under a creative commons license.

  • The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation announced on Wednesday that it would donate $50 million to fight Ebola. The money will go to organizations already involved in the emergency response, including certain U.N. agencies, other international organizations, and various West African governments.
  • The pentagon announced it would construct a 25 bed field hospital in Liberia. The U.S. Agency for International Development requested the hospital, and will require a $22 million commitment. There are currently no plans for American personnel to staff the hospital after it is established; Army Colonel Steve Warren said that upon completion of the hospital the Department of Defense will “turn it over to the government of Liberia and then the DoD personnel will depart.”

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Weekly Round-up

This week in development…

  • USAID has announced that they will tap into an emergency trust fund – one that has not been touched since the global food price spike and crisis in 2008 – to respond to the extreme food insecurity in South Sudan. “The scale of the suffering and humanitarian need there is shocking, and the threat of famine is real,” said National Security Advisor Susan Rice in a statement profiling the $180 million that will be drawn from the fund.  The account being drawn upon is specifically allocated to Food for Peace programming, and intended to meet emergency or unanticipated food aid needs.
  • August 18 is the 500 day milestone until the target date to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. The questions of “were the MDGs successful?” and “where do we go from here?” have begun to dictate the discussions and work of the development community, as attention shifts towards the post-2015 development agenda. Brandon Stanton, the photographer behind the acclaimed street photography blog Humans of New York, has partnered with the UN to take a 50-day “World Tour” to raise awareness of the MDGs and informally track their progress.
Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, courtesy of Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/94726975821/the-zaatari-refugee-camp-is-twelve-kilometers

Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, courtesy of Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/post/94726975821/the-zaatari-refugee-camp-is-twelve-kilometers

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