Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development ActThe Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act, also known as the READ Act, is a bill that requires the U.S. government to promote basic education in developing countries. The bill strengthens the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to ensure that U.S. resources are used effectively for this cause. It states that the U.S. will work with certain partner countries, donors, institutions and organizations to support worldwide education.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was reintroduced to the Senate last week, by U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL). The bill moved swiftly through the House of Representatives earlier this year.

Programs created under the READ Act will have four basic goals:

  1. Respond to the needs of developing countries to improve basic education skills.
  2. Strengthen educational systems, expand access to safe places to learn and support the involvement of parents in educating their children.
  3. Promote education to support economic growth.
  4. Monitor the quality of education programs in partner countries.

The President also has three specific duties under the READ Act:

  1. Improve the effectiveness of assistance through executive efforts.
  2. Ensure that assistance aligns with U.S. foreign policy and economic interests.
  3. Submit a strategy for promoting education in partner countries to Congress.

The bill also establishes the new position of Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance within the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). This position is responsible for coordinating U.S. government resources to promote basic education at an international level.

The act requires USAID to develop a strategy to promote basic education in developing countries. The agency’s current strategy is based on the idea that education is important for human development, economic growth, and democracy. The U.S. has foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries throughout the world, which are primarily designed to further U.S. foreign policy interests by “expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global goodwill.”

Chairman Ed Royce of the House Foreign Affairs Committee gave remarks noting this strategy on the House floor in support of the bill prior to the vote. He stated that education drives economic development, security and stability. He acknowledged that there is a humanitarian crisis due to the high number of children not in school, and called for the READ Act to be passed to mitigate this.

As stated by Royce, millions of children around the globe are out of school. Many of these children are in war-torn countries and are at a much higher risk of being targeted for abuse or terrorist recruitment. Approximately four million children in Syria are not in school, and many others are straining the education systems of neighboring countries as refugees. The READ Act focuses attention on countries like Syria that are most in need of U.S. support and resources.

The Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on Jan. 23, 2017, by Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY-17) and passed the very next day. Passing the READ Act through the Senate is crucial for providing developing countries the tools they need to increase access to basic education.

Lindsay Harris

Photo: Flickr

USAID’s New Global Water StrategyOn May 21, 2013, USAID issued a new global water strategy, the government’s first comprehensive integration of water security into all US development funding and programs.

“For many years in development work, water, sanitation and hygiene have been a bit forgotten. Instead, significant focus has been placed on education, maternal health and nutrition, overlooking the fact that water and sanitation are foundational building blocks for all of those other elements,” said Alanna Imbach, media officer with WaterAid America.

Aid organizations have long been insisting that access to clean water is a basic and essential consideration underlying all development issues. In developing countries, some 5,000 children are estimated to die every day from water-borne diseases, overwhelmingly due to diarrhea from bad drinking water, poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene.

The plan for the next five years is to provide at least 10 million people with “sustainable access” to an improved water supply, and six million people with access to improved sanitation during that period. New USAID guidance will emphasize local ownership and sustainability of US-funded aid projects while offering greater flexibility on how that funding can be used. This new openness will allow for more innovation from partnering humanitarian groups, a positive change from the past.

“We know that every dollar we invest in clean water and basic sanitation yields eight dollars in benefits,” said Dick Durbin, a US senator pushing this legislation. “People are healthier, kids stay in school, food is safer, AIDS drugs and other critical health treatments are able to work.”

Read USAID’s Water Strategy Announcement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah, joined members of Congress – Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Congressman Earl Blumenauer and Congressman Ted Poe – to release the U.S. Government’s first Water and Development Strategy. This strategy recognizes the vital role water plays in ensuring the health and economic well-being of people around the world.  In addition, it sets out to represent a fundamental shift at our Agency toward a new model of development – defined by public and private partnerships, the use of new technology, and emphasizes long-term results.

Globally, over 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under severe water stress conditions.

“We will achieve greater impact by partnering with outside organizations and businesses that leverage innovative approaches and new technologies. This approach will also emphasize sustainability by building local capacities for operations, maintenance, and monitoring,” said Administrator Shah.

USAID’s Water and Development Strategy elevates the importance and visibility of water as a development priority within the Agency and highlights its importance in meeting the development imperatives to improve health and increase food security. The Strategy will address global water-related development needs by providing a clear understanding of USAID’s approach to water programming, emphasizing how sustainable use of water is critical to saving lives. To achieve this goal, the Strategy sets two strategic objectives:

  • Water for Health – Improve health outcomes through the provision of sustainable Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
  • Water for Food – Manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security.

“This new U.S. Water and Development Strategy will help lift poor people around the world out of conflict and poverty.  It is smart, strategic and builds on our past successes using new breakthroughs in science and technology,” Senator Durbin said. “It will save water and it will save lives.  USAID’s new plan will bring water and sanitation – the most basic of human needs – to millions of people around the globe, dousing the flames of global poverty, disease and conflict.”

Improving human health and welfare, having adequate nutrition to thrive, and maintaining the sustainability of natural systems requires a coordinated global response to the challenges of water and sanitation access for present and future generations. This Strategy reflects the commitment of the U.S. government to work in partnership with the global community to meet these challenges.

– Mary Purcell
Photo: Flickr