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August 19, 08

NEWS / Public-Private Partnerships Maximize Development Assistance


Public-Private Partnerships Maximize Development Assistance

U.S. aid official outlines cooperative programs under way in the Americas

By Eric Green
Staff Writer

Atlanta -- Public-private partnerships have become an “essential tool” in the U.S. government’s “development toolbox” to help the Americas and the world meet the challenges of the 21st century, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) tells America.gov.

José Cardenas, USAID’s acting assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, said the alliances match his agency’s strengths with those of the private sector to improve educational opportunities, the environment and health care in developing countries.

Interviewed before the opening of the second annual Americas Competitiveness Forum, held in Atlanta from August 17-19, Cardenas said public-private partnerships should not be viewed as “corporate philanthropy” or “charity work” to help poor nations. Rather, he said these alliances involve cooperating on issues for which both sectors have proven track records in a way that can benefit not only that business but the society in which the business operates while also promoting security and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere.

U.S. government overseas development assistance amounts to $20 billion a year, while the flow of private capital from the United States to the developing world is estimated to be as high as $130 billion a year, according the USAID official.

Those numbers, said Cardenas, make it apparent that USAID can partner effectively with the private sector “to take advantage of the exponentially rising private capital flows” to help the developing world.

EXAMPLES OF SUCCESSFUL COLLABORATION

Cardenas said that since President Bush took office in 2001, USAID has formed 680 public-private partnerships globally, with about $9 billion in partner resources. The agency’s Global Development Alliance, launched in 2001 as USAID’s new business model, relies on public-private partnerships to multiply the effects of U.S. foreign development assistance.

For example, USAID launched the Investing in Education for Competitiveness Program in the Dominican Republic to help private companies adopt public schools to support training teachers, building libraries and donating school supplies. The partnership includes the American Chamber of Commerce of the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Republic Ministry of Education.

Cardenas, a panelist in a conference discussion on alliances in business and education, said USAID has collaborative agreements with two companies represented on that panel -- the Intel Corporation and The Home Depot.

USAID works with Home Depot on promoting sustainable forestry management in South America, while the agency partners with Intel in countries like Guatemala to supply low-cost laptops to schoolchildren, said Cardenas.

He also cited Wal-Mart Stores Inc., another company represented at the Atlanta event, for a partnership with USAID in Central America that offers programs to small- and medium-sized producers in cultivation techniques, farm management, post-harvest practices and sanitary and health requirements. In Guatemala, Wal-Mart and USAID are working with the global relief and development organization Mercy Corps, and the Guatemalan nonprofit group Fundacion AGIL to improve the lives of small-scale farmers.

In announcing that alliance March 5, USAID and its partners called the plan a “bold solution to Guatemala’s persistent rural poverty” that aims to help farmers shift from traditional corn and beans production to “demand-driven production” to supply major retailers in Central America.

The alliance with Wal-Mart is part of USAID’s effort to increase trade and investments in Central America and to help that region take advantage of the opportunities provided by the U.S. free-trade agreement with Central America and the Dominican Republic (CAFTA-DR).

Cardenas said USAID would not “spend so much time and effort” developing public-private partnerships “if they didn’t maximize what we do as an agency -- which is creating stable jobs” for the region’s citizens and promoting sustainable development.

For more information on the Atlanta conference, see “Free Trade Boosts Americas’ Competitiveness in Global Market.”

Source: http://www.america.gov/st/foraid-english/2008/August/20080818171615xeneerg0.7114527.html?CP.rss=true

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