USAID reflects on its work in Zimbabwe

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has succeeded in its work in Zimbabwe despite changing perceptions about U.S. - Zimbabwe relations, a senior official from the agency said on Tuesday.

“A key is that our development assistance is apolitical. I don’t care where you live, what party you belong to, whether you are black, blue or green; if you need humanitarian assistance and we have a program which is relevant to you and will help you and your household, your community and your district, that’s where we are at,” said Tina Dooley-Jones (in picture), Economic Growth Office Director at USAID’s Harare office.

Dooley- Jones was addressing a public discussion as part of the U.S. Embassy’s Public Affairs Section’s Food for Thought Tuesday public lecture series. The discussion looked at the work of USAID globally and in Zimbabwe, and comes at a time when the organization is celebrating its 50th anniversary globally.

USAID established an office in Zimbabwe soon after the country’s independence in 1980 and has continued to provide health, humanitarian and other development assistance uninterrupted to today. USAID programs support U.S. foreign policy goals in support of the U.S.-Zimbabwe bilateral relationship. Since 2000, the United States has taken a leading role in condemning increasing violations of human rights and the rule of law, and has joined much of the world community in calling on Zimbabwe to embrace peaceful democratic processes.

In the last decade, the United States imposed targeted measures on the Government of Zimbabwe, including financial and visa sanctions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services, and a suspension of non-humanitarian government-to-government assistance.

“We never left during the tough times, we were always trying to support whatever crises Zimbabweans encountered, feeding almost the entire country, and our budget figures were similar to those that we had in the 90s,” said Dooley-Jones. The U.S. provided more than $900 million in humanitarian assistance from 2002-2008, most of which was in the form of food aid.

Dooley-Jones spent four years with USAID/Southern Africa overseeing the South African bilateral economic growth portfolio, and the regional agriculture, trade and investment portfolio, in addition to several activities in non-presence countries.

During the discussion, Dooley-Jones chronicled the history of U.S. assistance, highlighting an assistance reform process that started in the early 2000s as a result of a new approach to development aid. She said the organization is realigning its activities to meet new challenges as well as enhance coordination of its activities with other agencies within the U.S. government.

“50 years ago there were only a handful of donors in the entire world, and USAID was by far the largest. Today, aid flows through 263 multilateral agencies, 197 bilateral agencies and 42 donor countries. Assistance from emerging donors such as China, India, Brazil and the Gulf states has grown rapidly. This makes intra-U.S. government and other donor coordination absolutely essential if we are all going to reach our objectives, which are development, poverty reduction, and improved quality of life for citizens,” said the USAID official citing her organization’s 2011-15 Policy Framework document.

Responding to questions, she said Zimbabwe needs reliable statistics to craft evidence-based policy decisions to create a good poverty reduction strategy.

“There is need for confidence, particularly by donor agencies. that a poverty reduction strategy will be developed in this country, because only then will you lift people out of poverty and overcome crises and shortages, including food insecurity,” said Dooley- Jones. She noted that Zimbabwe “has gone a decade with no statistics, no good qualitative data for development partners and the ministries to use, except for perhaps in the health sector.”

The U.S., she said, spends less than one percent of its national budget on foreign aid, which is appropriated by Congress. She paid tribute to the role of American private individuals, foundations and companies who, despite declining funding levels for the U.S. government, continued the ethic of giving to charity and the needy.

“In fact,” said Dooley- Jones, “private Americans alone donated $3.7 million to the 2004 Tsunami relief efforts,” said Dooley- Jones. – ZimPAS© November 3 2011.

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