USAID 50th anniversary – Celebrating Our Shared Values By Christopher Sandrolini – Charge D’Affaires, U.S Embassy to Barbados & Eastern Caribbean
November 3rd was the 50th anniversary of U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s creation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Whether it is vaccinating children against preventable diseases, improving crop yields, or responding to disasters, USAID has been a quiet force for progress not only in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean , but in over 100 other countries, fostering a more peaceful and secure world.
An early cooperative activity of USAID that stands out and demonstrates vision, collaboration among partners, a will to succeed, and ultimately a successful sustainable model was our support to the telecommunications sector in the Eastern Caribbean. In 2001, USAID, through its Barbados office, had the responsibility for implementing the U.S. Government’s development assistance program in the Eastern Caribbean. The telecommunications and informatics sector was chosen as a prime area to stimulate economic growth and development. This would be achieved through the fostering of independent regulation of the telecommunications sector in keeping with World Trade Organization (WTO) principles and through the expansion of access to connectivity necessary for the deployment of information services and technology.
Five of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) states participated in the venture: The Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines were all desirous of creating a more competitive environment for the telecommunications sector. Leaders in these states were conscious that the benefits of universal telecommunications services should be realized by the people of the region and therefore they decided to liberalize the telecommunications environment.
The communications facilities and services sector was opened to competition to lower service costs and secure state-of-the-art networks that could provide high-capacity services necessary to support electronic commerce. The Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL) was therefore created as an integral part of the liberalized environment. One of the objectives of ECTEL was the provision of affordable, modern, efficient, competitive, and universally available telecommunications services to the people of the region and that objective would be achieved through a harmonized and coordinated approach. USAID’s assistance in the sector resulted in the deregulation of the telecommunications industry which resulted in people having greater choices for their telecommunications needs.
Globally, USAID continues to support efforts to mitigate the threat of HIV/AIDS under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The reopening of this Mission in 2001 provided the United States with an opportunity to contribute to a regional effort to mobilize resources and harmonize inputs, in support of a regional endeavor to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic under the Caribbean Community/Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (CARICOM/PANCAP). With the Caribbean region having the second highest HIV prevalence in the world, it was an opportune time for the U.S. Government to lend its support to an issue which threatened all of the investments and gains made in development for the past several decades. USAID continues to provide fundamental technical support and resources to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, in the areas of HIV prevention, strategic information gathering and health system strengthening as a part of a strategic partnership framework with the governments of this region.
Now, we stand at an important turning point. In continued partnership with the Caribbean people, USAID is transforming from a traditional aid agency into a modern development enterprise that is unleashing a new spirit of innovation and results-based development. Our success depends on listening and connecting with local leaders and communities, leveraging trust and partnership to support the vital work that still needs to be done. Together, this will allow us to walk a straighter path and assist the region to grow its economy.
Our interaction with the OECS is still vibrant. The OECS recently signed an agreement with the U. S. Government which represents the elevation of relations between the United States and the Eastern Caribbean region. This agreement makes the United States the eighth country to establish diplomatic relations with the OECS. USAID has also begun a new cooperation with the OECS to strengthen the juvenile justice systems in all six independent countries of the OECS through appropriate reform measures applied both nationally as well as sub-regionally.
Apart from these activities we are also actively working on the challenges associated with climate change among small island states of the Eastern Caribbean. A $2.5 million agreement was recently signed with the OECS to work with all six countries on adaptation measures for coastal and marine zone management and freshwater resources management. The project will seek to build the enabling environment for reducing vulnerability to climate change by improving the regulatory framework in support of national adaptation strategies. The program will also provide direct support for initiatives focusing on adaptation measures in areas of coastal zone management and freshwater resource management. It will be supported by appropriate public awareness and education program to raise the level of awareness on climate change and steps being taken to address or reduce impacts across the region.
This climate change program builds upon a previous successful USAID initiative with the OECS addressing the need to identify and preserve the region’s precious biodiversity resources.
On behalf of all the men and women of USAID in the Eastern Caribbean, I would like to thank the Eastern Caribbean people for their continued partnership and friendship. USAID will continue to reflect our shared values, character and fundamental belief in doing the right thing.