OTI Yemen
A Yemeni girl, whose fingers are painted with Yemen's colours, flashes the sign of victory during a rally marking the first anniversary of the ouster of autocratic leader Ali Abdullah Saleh on February 21, 2013 in the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, countries across the globe entered a period of dramatic change. Whether in Central Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America, authoritarian regimes succumbed to the forces of democracy, ethnic and religious groups fought for control over states, and longstanding rivals moved from the battlefield to the negotiating table. It quickly became apparent that choices made during these transition periods had enormous influence on a country's future. Yet it was also clear that traditional forms of humanitarian aid and development assistance were not suited to these new challenges. There was no established mechanism for meeting the rapid-response needs of the new era, such as stabilizing democratic transitions, mitigating conflict, or reconstructing war-torn nations.

The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) was therefore created within USAID's humanitarian bureau in 1994 to provide fast, flexible, short-term assistance to take advantage of windows of opportunity to build democracy and peace. It lays the foundations for long-term development by promoting reconciliation, jumpstarting economies and helping stable democracy take hold.

To succeed in this task, OTI instituted a distinctive mode of operations. First, OTI specifically encouraged a culture of risk-taking, political orientation, and swift response among its staff and partners. This culture is reflected in a strategic approach that continually incorporates best practices and lessons learned. Second, OTI is funded by a separate "Transition Initiatives" budget account with special authorities that allow immediate spending where it is most needed. Finally, OTI created an innovative contracting mechanism that preserves the principle of competition while allowing quick start-up in new countries and direct grants to small, indigenous organizations.

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