Remarks by Assistant Administrator Nancy Lindborg at the First General Assembly of the IGAD Regional Platform on Drought Resilience and Sustainability

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good afternoon. Thank you to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and to His Excellency Mahboub Maalim for hosting us today in Addis Ababa and to the IGAD team for organizing this General Assembly. I would like to recognize my colleagues at USAID who have been intimately involved in both USAID and the Global Alliance’s work to build resilience: Greg Gottlieb, Tom Beck, Ethiopia Mission Director Dennis Weller, and Kenya Deputy Mission Director Jim Hope.

It is a sincere pleasure to be back with you again this week under more hopeful circumstances to take stock of just how far we’ve come.  Last April, in response to the human suffering that we witnessed in the Horn of Africa in 2011, African leadership and the international community came together to chart a new way forward.  Together, we established the Global Alliance for Action for Drought Resilience & Growth and committed to support country-led plans to build resilience and stop the cycles of crisis and food insecurity that continue to plague this part of the world.  We appreciate your commitment, partnership and collaboration on the efforts to build resilience to drought in the Horn of Africa over the last year. 

We all know that the commitments made last year are not easy, and fundamentally, they require a game-changing shift in how we manage risk and address chronic vulnerability in the region. Yet, although our tasks are daunting at times, through IGAD’s leadership and the work of the Global Alliance, we have made tremendous strides toward a regional approach for building resilience.   The U.S. government is proud to see real results for the people of the region, including the development of Country Program Papers (CPPs) that put plans and structures in place to combat vulnerability and build resilience.    USAID is firmly committed to supporting regional and country leadership and collaboration among international development partners in support of the resilience agenda.  And, we’re also committed to doing business differently – to maximize the effectiveness of this support for the people of the Horn of Africa.  Last December, USAID launched its first-ever policy and program guidance on resilience, formalizing key operational changes to better enable our teams to support country-led plans and partner with local leaders to reach these vital goals. This new guidance, “Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis,” commits USAID to putting more of its development focus on the most vulnerable, building the adaptive capacity of these populations, and improving the ability of communities, countries, and systems to manage risk.

In addition to launching our policy and program guidance, last April in Nairobi USAID also committed to doing business differently in three key ways:  i) early action in support of early warning; ii) connecting our humanitarian assistance and development programs more effectively through Joint Planning Cells and shared evidence bases; and, iii) improving coordination with international development partners in support of country-led plans. 

First, USAID is committed to early action in support of early warning.  Earlier this week, I joined my colleagues in Rome to reflect on how our collective follow-through to commitments made last year – including early action in response to early warning – prevented a tragic situation in the Sahel from becoming much worse.  Early warning systems, including the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), provided sophisticated data and projections on rainfall, harvests, market prices, climatic conditions and nutritional status, giving us a clear picture of the challenges ahead that informed effective action.  This information access coupled with input from USAID teams and partners across the region enabled us to mobilize a rapid response to the emerging crisis in the Sahel and plan for the weeks and months ahead.

Second, we are bringing our relief and development teams together through Joint Planning Cells to identify and support shared solutions and maximize the impact of current programs. Joint Planning Cells in the Horn of Africa are layering, integrating, and sequencing our relief and development investments. Together at the same table, we are building resilience even as we save lives. And, by clearly linking these efforts to the shared goals of our partners, we can help even the most vulnerable establish a firm footing on the pathway toward inclusive growth. 

The WATER program in Ethiopia is just one example of how our Joint Planning Cell is sequencing investments from emergency to development programming.  The WATER program develops a reliable water supply in areas where USAID had previously programmed emergency assistance.  This activity contributes directly to alleviating annual humanitarian expenses on water trucking by assisting the Government of Ethiopia to map and explore underground resources in the eastern lowlands and associated highlands of the Ogaden basin area in the Somali Region of Ethiopia and to build local capacity to ensure groundwater resources are developed and managed sustainably. 

Third, USAID is firmly committed to closer coordination with international development partners in support of regional and country-led plans.  We are fully committed to strong collaboration and partnership and particularly appreciate our strong coordination with many development partners including UK Department for International Development, the European Commission, World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.  We are also pleased to see the establishment of the Kenyan Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) Donor Working Group following the visit of the Global Alliance to the region in November 2012. 

In FY11 and FY12, USAID committed $285 million of support to Kenya, Ethiopia, and IGAD to build resilience, and we are moving forward with this funding commitment in full alignment with Ethiopian and Kenyan Country Papers.  We are pleased to have supported the Technical Consortium which has played such a critical role in the development of the Country Program Papers and Regional Program Paper.  Through these funding commitments, we aim to reduce the need for humanitarian assistance by one million by 2017.

With the finalization of the country and regional program papers, we are now faced with the task of taking concrete steps toward true alignment – we must commit ourselves to joint analysis and joint planning and explore joint programming.  Effective country coordination mechanisms which bring together both humanitarian and development actors will also be critical pieces of true alignment. 

We cannot wait to take these steps.  The World Bank recently found that prolonged drought cost the Government of Kenya $12 billion, primarily due to loss of livestock.  It also found, that in the last 30 years, one out of every three dollars spent on development was lost as a result of disasters and crisis.  In 2011, the US Government responded to the drought crisis in the Horn of Africa with $1 billion in humanitarian assistance. These are losses that we cannot afford to sustain.  And that the people of this region surely should not have to endure again and again. We need to build resilience so that communities can withstand these shocks.

In closing, let us today commit to hold ourselves accountable for taking the difficult steps toward real alignment.  All too often commitment wavers after the CNN cameras leave; after the urgency of the crisis passes.  We must sustain the momentum and the international response. We must leave today with a mutual commitment to spend our next General Assembly meeting in March 2014 discussing RESULTS: how has life changed for the millions of families who keep falling into crisis.  We must work quickly to ensure that the next inevitable droughts do not force families to leave their homes or children to face increasingly frequent crises, since, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, “We know that with the reality of climate change, these shocks are coming more intensely and more frequently.”

Finally, I want to assure you that the U.S. commitment to strongly supporting IGAD, helping to strengthen local capacity, partnering with the Members of the Global Alliance for Action, and supporting local country plans is unwavering. Thank you for your continued leadership, partnership and commitment to charting a better way forward for the people of the Horn of Africa.