USAID emphasizes strengthening local institutions

Tuesday - 4/24/2012, 11:11am EDT

Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, USAID

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It's long been the tradition of the U.S. Agency for International Development to hire U.S. contractors and nongovernmental organizations. But USAID is now shifting its investments to local institutions in foreign countries.

"We're confident that will bring longer-lasting gains," said Mark Feierstein, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for USAID, in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

The agency's goal is "ultimately to work ourselves out of business" so local institutions can continue to serve the communities, he said.

"The real contribution USAID is making is not necessarily in terms of resources or financing," Feierstein said. "What we're trying to do is help countries put together models that they can then replicate and scale up. We recognize that our resources are relatively modest if you take into account the magnitude of the challenges these countries are facing."

March Feierstein, assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean for USAID (Photo from USAID.gov)

The biggest impediment to economic development is violence and insecurity, according to a study the U.S. government conducted with the government of El Salvador, Feierstein said.

"It's a recognition on our part that if we can't solve the crime problem, we're not going to be able to make advances on development and other issues," he said.

In Mexico, for example, USAID has chosen three communities to develop models to combat crime. The agency has worked with the communities to invest in at-risk youth and set up community policing networks. If successful, these models could be scaled up nationwide by the Mexican government, Feierstein said.

USAID is also working with former aid recipients who have been success stories and can lend their expertise to other countries. For example, Brazil was a long-time recipient of USAID help and is now the sixth-largest economy in the world. Brazil is also a USAID partner for agricultural development in Haiti and Mozambique, Feierstein said.

"Hopefully, we'll see places like Mozambique and Haiti and elsewhere achieve the kinds of successes Brazil has in recent years," he said.

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