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Controlling Malaria in Africa-The Unique Role of Faith-Based and Community NGOs

Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Compassion in Action Roundtable
Washington, DC
February 15, 2007

Thank you very much for inviting me to join you this morning. I appreciate the work done by the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives – in putting this event together, and throughout the year.

This conference gives us the opportunity to discuss the good and important work that faith-based and community-based organizations do, all around the globe. In my previous role as the first United States Global AIDS Coordinator, and now in my current roles I have witnessed first-hand the tremendous impact of your work.

Regardless of one’s religion, I think we all feel an urge to respond to the needs of the poor, the sick and the marginalized. Non-governmental organizations, including faith and community based organizations, do just that, bringing tremendous value to the implementation of the United States Government's development and humanitarian assistance programs around the globe. And when it comes to sustaining that development, transitioning to local ownership – local indigenous community and faith-based organizations – is essential to the viability of our programs over the long term.

Indeed in fighting diseases like HIV/AIDS and Malaria in the developing world, that local ownership is absolutely essential.

When you think of the people who live in the most remote regions and in the most hopeless slums—who has always been there to help them? Who already has people on the ground, who are trusted by local populations? And who will always continue to be there with compassion and understanding?

The fact is that the congregations of the local churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues are among those who are present where no one else would go. Faith-based organizations are at the heart of the local community fabric. They have built trust and provided hope to generations of individuals in places where hope is scarce.

Let me give you an example. Not long ago, I met with the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. About 40 million people are members of the Church—more than half of the people in that country. The U.S. government is partnering with them – providing the technical skills they need – because they represent a highly motivated way to reach people, including young people. They have a level of credibility in the country that foreigners simply will never have.

At the same time, a few weeks ago when I was in Beirut, I saw first-hand the best practices put in place by U.S. based groups like Catholic Relief Services. Their local presence made it possible for the United States to provide a rapid response with vital assistance in the early days of the conflict this summer, and to build local capacity. We relied on their implementation of "cash for work" programs to help Lebanese communities get quickly back on their feet.

Foreign assistance has never had a higher profile than it does right now, beginning with the intense and personal involvement and commitment of President and Mrs. Bush. President Bush has made unprecedented commitments to Africa – beginning with the commitment to global health, through initiatives like the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the President’s Malaria Initiative.

In fact, if Congress approves the budget request submitted by the President last week, President Bush will have essentially quadrupled annual assistance to Africa since the beginning of his Administration – from $1.4 billion annually in 2001 to nearly $5.5 billion in 2008.

Around the world, total official development assistance provided by the United States for 2005 – the most recent year for which official data has been calculated – came to $28.5 billion, a near tripling of global foreign assistance since President Bush took office.

But these vastly increased resources have come with accompanying responsibilities: to focus on performance, results, accountability. Ultimately, we must define success as the ability of a nation to graduate from traditional development assistance and become a full partner in international peace and prosperity.

For the first time in our nation's history, all U.S. foreign assistance is now being applied to the achievement of a single overarching goal – part of the President’s goal of transformational diplomacy. Our goal is “to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system."

To accomplish this, we need your help. Our focus has to be on the bottom line—saving lives, creating opportunities, advancing hope. If we were to work in developing countries but could not work with faith-based organizations there, we would simply not be able to do our jobs. We would not have the ability to reach many of the people who need us most.

Common sense must be part of everything we do, so America will continue to work with faith-based service providers—whose expertise, experience, and passion help us build a sustainable response throughout the world. And no one has been a stronger advocate for people who desire a better future than the First Lady of the United States.

Mrs. Bush has worked tirelessly to reduce suffering and protect health by raising awareness in the fights against malaria and HIV/AIDS. She has championed the rights of women, the welfare of children, literacy and education for all citizens of the world. Repeatedly, we have all been moved by her strength of spirit, her compassion and the depth of her generosity.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming the First Lady of the United States, Mrs. Laura Bush.

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