June 20, 2024

Top USAID official Isobel Coleman travels to Niger and Côte D’ivoire to meet with President Mohamed Bazoum and highlight Biden support for West Africa

The Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Isobel Coleman is traveling to Niger and Côte d’Ivoire from September 28 to October 4, where she will meet with humanitarian partners, women leaders, civil society, and senior government officials to discuss security, climate change, and demographic challenges. During her visit, Deputy Administrator Coleman will highlight U.S. Government support for the region.

Deputy Administrator Coleman plans to meet with President Mohamed Bazoum to discuss development priorities and continued collaboration between the United States and Niger. She also plans to meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassoumi Massoudou to underscore USAID investments to address the consequences of Russia’s war against Ukraine for global food insecurity, her office said.

It added that she will also engage with local women leaders and attend the launch of GirlEngage Niger, a program to increase access to girls’ education and promote local community engagement and meet with humanitarian partners to discuss the challenges and opportunities of the humanitarian response in Niger, and hear from youth and civil society leaders. Deputy Administrator Coleman will also visit USAID activities centered around food security, resilience, and health.

“In Côte d’Ivoire, Deputy Administrator Coleman will meet with senior government leaders to reinforce U.S. support for the country’s commitment to regional security and economic development. She will meet with civil society and community leaders from the north of the country to discuss their efforts to promote social cohesion and prevent conflict,” added her office.

She will also visit the DREAMS Village Savings and Loan Association to get a firsthand look at how USAID helps vulnerable populations improve their livelihoods. She will also meet with Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) alumni, women leaders in the private sector, and interfaith leaders.

Meanwhile, the United States Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) Board of Directors held its quarterly meeting on Tuesday and unanimously voted to approve the $504 million Benin-Niger Regional Transport Compact — MCC’s first-ever regional grant program.

“Yesterday’s board approval of the Benin-Niger regional compact is a historic moment for MCC; it redefines how the agency can leverage its programs in partner countries to foster lasting economic growth,” said MCC Chief Executive Officer Alice Albright. “By building the soft and hard infrastructure required to lower trade barriers from Cotonou to Niamey, these partner countries are setting the foundation for rural communities to multinational business corridors to grow faster, create more jobs, and attract additional private-sector investments.”

The proposed Benin-Niger regional compact is designed to reduce transportation costs along the corridor between the Port of Cotonou in Benin and Niger’s capital city of Niamey. MCC will invest $202 million in Benin and $302 million in Niger. These investments will be further supported by $15 million contributions from both Benin and Niger and are expected to benefit an estimated 1.6 million people; and, that number is expected to grow as policy and institutional reforms at the border crossing are implemented.

The Benin-Niger Regional Transport Compact builds on the success of MCC’s current and prior investments programs in Benin and Niger, totaling $1.1 billion. MCC’s programs in Benin include the country’s power sector and the Port of Cotonou while the agency’s investment programs in Niger include the country’s agriculture and road sectors.

Along with the regional compact, the Board approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 Selection Criteria and Methodology Report, including revisions to two of the agency’s scorecard indicators. Starting in FY 2023, MCC will replace the Business Start-Up indicator with a new Employment Opportunity indicator, which will measure forced labor, workplace discrimination, disability rights, and the ability of civil society organizations to start-up. MCC will also revise its scorecard’s Natural Resource Protection indicator by expanding the source data to measure a wider range of natural resource management practices.

The Board voted to terminate MCC’s assistance to Burkina Faso and the country’s eligibility for a regional compact. MCC’s Board previously voted to suspend assistance and Burkina Faso’s eligibility in March 2022. Today’s decision was made in response to the January 2022 coup d’etat, which is inconsistent with MCC’s statutorily mandated eligibility criteria, and the July 2022 announcement by the transition authorities of a prolonged period before elections. In making this difficult decision, MCC’s Board noted its strong interest in partnering with the Burkinabe people once a democratically-elected government takes office.

The Board also discussed MCC’s partnership with Tunisia, as it has at each of its meetings since the events of July 25, 2021. The Board acknowledged that while MCC remains unable to advance the proposed compact at this time, it looks forward to MCC continuing its engagement with Tunisia as conditions evolve.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent, U.S. government development agency working to reduce global poverty through economic growth. Created in 2004, MCC provides time-limited grants that pair investments in infrastructure with policy and institutional reforms to countries that meet rigorous standards for good governance, fighting corruption and respecting democratic rights.

Monica P. Medina Named Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources

Secretary Antony Blinken has designated Monica P. Medina as the United States’ Special Envoy for Biodiversity and Water Resources, signaling the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to resolving the world’s intertwined biodiversity and water crises. Monica Medina is the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and will take on the Special Envoy designation in addition to her current duties.

The months ahead are important for advancing efforts to confront these crises, and enhanced U.S. leadership is essential for raising global ambition and securing a healthier planet for generations to come. The 2022 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), the December meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity Conference of Parties (COP15), and the Intergovernmental Conference negotiating a new agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of high seas biodiversity (BBNJ) present a unique confluence of global efforts to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity and promote water security. Special Envoy Medina will coordinate an all-of-government effort to address these crises comprehensively – leveraging talent and expertise in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs with resources from across federal government departments and agencies. Moreover, her designation as special envoy will strengthen the Department’s role in implementation of the White House Water Security Action Plan and the Global Water Strategy, as well as provide high-level leadership ahead of the 2023 UN Conference on Water.

Decades of evidence shows that water security is essential to global efforts to increase equity and economic growth, build inclusive and resilient societies, bolster health and food security, decrease the risk of conflict or instability, and tackle the climate crisis. Meanwhile, environmental stressors, like the climate crisis, nature crime – including illegal logging, mining, land conversion, and wildlife trafficking – have deep and detrimental impacts on the biodiversity of our planet and the availability of clean and safe water for human use. The two crises are inextricably linked, and the State Department and Special Envoy Medina are committed to addressing the crises holistically.

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