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December 6, 08

NEWS / Economic Empowerment in Strategic Regions: 2008 Year-End Summary

Economic Empowerment in Strategic Regions (EESR) is a job-creation initiative for conflict regions that was launched in January 2008 by the State Departmentís Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs. Its basic mission is to source, develop and market private sector business proposals in regions where the lack of economic opportunity helps fuel conflict and extremism. The EESR strategy begins with leveraging existing field networks (mostly U.S. civilian and military staff, including Provincial Reconstruction Teams) to identify local entrepreneurs who wish to create or expand a business and create jobs. Once initial proposals are received, entrepreneurs are linked with teams of volunteer MBA students in the U.S. The MBA teams help them refine their business ideas, identify and address issues and obstacles, and prepare financial projections, all via phone and email from thousands of miles away. Completed business proposals that meet basic criteria will be posted on the EESR website and actively marketed to potential investors and donors.

EESR is not foreign assistance and does not provide any direct funding or resources. Several U.S. government agencies support private sector capacity-building in the developing world, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture. EESR complements these important efforts by helping entrepreneurs in conflict areas develop their own ideas into formal business proposals which are then marketed to both the private and public sectors, in the U.S. and abroad. While matches and funding are not guaranteed, EESR empowers local capitalists with a new web-based business development platform that connects them with hundreds of potential partners in the global marketplace.

First Year Achievements
Through extensive constituent outreach, EESR has become well seasoned within the U.S. foreign policy community. The U.S. military, in particular, has expressed support for EESR as a soft-side tool to address underlying conditions that promote sympathy and sanctuary for terrorist and extremist elements. Notable highlights include:

* Delivered over 50 presentations on EESR at military, NGO, private sector, inter-agency and academic meetings and conferences.
* Generated 40 initial proposals from Iraq (3), Afghanistan (14), Pakistan (21) and the Philippines (2), of which 30 have been assigned to MBA teams for review and development.
* Completed first two EESR business proposals: a commercial flour mill in Afghanistan and a medical laboratory in Iraq.
* Formal State Department process approved for posting and marketing EESR proposals, expanding MBA volunteer program and partnering with additional NGOs to further advance EESR objectives.
* Memoranda of Agreement to formalize MBA student volunteer program in process with five U.S. universities.
* Positive media coverage of EESR.

Transition Status
EESR is a pilot initiative that does not have any permanently assigned staff. The first Director is serving under a political appointment that expires on January 20, 2009, and the State Department has not yet made any decisions on continuing EESR after that date.

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