In September 2003, President Bush signed Executive Order 13312 establishing Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP), a call to service by highly skilled Americans to serve as volunteers overseas for flexible, short-term assignments to help achieve U.S. global health and prosperity objectives. Such objectives include providing clean water, promoting democratic governance, developing economic freedom, promoting free and open markets and stemming the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Reporting to the USA Freedom Corps, the Office of Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP Office) at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is the Federal Government’s inter-agency coordinator of the initiative. The VfP Office coordinates with the following Federal departments and agencies overseeing major U.S. development initiatives: USAID and the Departments of State, Commerce, and Health and Human Services (HHS).
The six critical development initiatives established by President Bush that comprise the U.S. global health and prosperity agenda are: President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; Middle East Partnership Initiative; Digital Freedom Initiative; Water for the Poor Initiative; African Global Competitiveness Initiative; and Millennium Challenge Account.
How VfP Works
The VfP Office is building a network of partner organizations -- U.S.-based non profits and companies -- that implement volunteer-led projects by American professionals supporting the U.S. global health and prosperity agenda. Working under the direction of over 200 VfP partners, volunteers are deployed to developing countries in flexible, short-term assignments ranging from a few weeks to several months.
VfP supports a new model of private-public cooperation in foreign assistance. Organizations representing a wide range previously not involved in official foreign assistance - including smaller faith-based and community groups, trade associations, and corporations - are becoming VfP partners to help highly skilled American volunteers answer the President's call to service.
In accordance with the Executive Order, VfP partner organizations who use volunteers can receive special consideration in applications for Federal grants awarded by USAID and the Departments of State, Commerce and HHS.
The VfP Office hosts a website that helps to match individual volunteers with skills (in such areas as health care, information technology, financial services, traded and investment, and education) to opportunities for service with appropriate VfP Partners. For example, a doctor in Chicago who wants to volunteer for three months to help HIV/AIDS patients in Uganda can contact the VfP Office and be matched with a VfP partner organization that is working in Uganda and needs highly skilled volunteers.
The VfP website is also a resource that: gives volunteers and other interested parties exposure to partners’ international development and volunteer activities; shares volunteer success stories that show how American professionals are helping to better the lives of people all around the world; and provides links to each partner organization’s website as well as to a VfP page about each partner.
The initiative promotes public recognition of service by VfP partners’ skilled American volunteers. Through a simple certification process, organizations can nominate their volunteers for the President's Volunteer Service Award.
Results to Date
Over 220 US non-profits and companies are participating in the VfP initiative. These VfP partners represent a pool of talented American professionals now exceeding 50,000.
In 2005, the number of volunteers reported deployed through VfP partners jumped to 12,000 - an increase of 70 percent over the previous year.
Grants awarded to VfP partners during 2005 totaled $22 million, an increase of more than 60 percent over 2004.
U.S. Initiatives that Comprise the Global Health & Prosperity Agenda
Volunteers work on projects that advance U.S. goals for global health and prosperity, with six other Presidential initiatives:
The President’s Emergency Plan for HIV/AIDS Relief
Announced in January 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is a five-year commitment to turn the tide in combating the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The initiative is directed at helping the most afflicted countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Specifically, the initiative’s goals are to:
- Prevent 7 million new infections,
- Treat 2 million HIV-infected people, and
- Care for 10 million HIV-infected individuals and AIDS orphans.
President Bush announced the New Partners Initiative (NPI) on December 1, 2005. The Emergency Plan will reach out to entities such as community and faith-based organizations through NPI, working to enable them to become new partners. The goals of the initiative are to increase the Emergency Plan’s ability to reach people with needed services and build capacity in host nations. Through NPI, the Emergency Plan will provide $200 million for grants to new partners through 2008 to provide HIV/AIDS prevention and care services.
Middle East Partnership Initiative
The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) was launched in 2002 to support democracy promotion, economic reform, quality education, and women's empowerment in the Middle East. Since then, it has funded more than 350 programs in 14 countries and the Palestinian territories, ranging from support for election monitoring to improvements in the quality of education to efforts seeking a greater role for women in society.
MEPI partners include many indigenous civil society groups and local reformers as well as reform-oriented governments.
The initiative and its partner organizations have negotiated agreements with nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and other US agencies to implement projects. MEPI is structured in four reform areas: political, economic, education, and women’s empowerment. Goals for this initiative include:
- Strengthening democratic processes and promoting the rule of law,
- Enhancing trade and investment,
- Expanding and improving education, and
- Reducing barriers to women’s full participation in society.
Digital Freedom Initiative
The goal of the Digital Freedom Initiative (DFI) is to promote economic growth by transferring the benefits of U.S. information and communication technology (ICT) to entrepreneurs and small businesses in the developing world. Elements of this initiative include:
- Enabling innovation through volunteer-led assistance to businesses and entrepreneurs,
- Promoting pro-growth regulatory and legal reform to enhance business competitiveness, and
- Leveraging existing technology and communications infrastructure to promote economic growth.
These objectives are achieved in partnership with U.S. business entities whose voluntary participation in the DFI provides access to new markets and competitive opportunities for developing products and services in emerging economies.
Countries participating in the DFI initiative include Senegal, Peru, Indonesia and Jordan.
The African Global Competitiveness Initiative
The African Global Competitiveness Initiative (AGCI) was announced by President Bush in July 2005 to build sub-Saharan Africa’s capacity for trade and competitiveness after the success of the Trade for African Development and Enterprise (TRADE) Initiative, AGCI’s predecessor. AGCI was created to help African countries take advantage of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in order to improve their competitiveness and to gain greater access to global markets.
The AGCI has four objectives:
- Improve the policy, regulatory, and enforcement environment for private sector-led trade and investment,
- Improve the market knowledge, skills and abilities of private sector enterprises,
- Increase access to financial services for trade and investment, and
- Facilitate investments in infrastructure.
Assistance is provided through USAID’s Regional Hubs for Global Competitiveness that are located in Botswana, Ghana, Kenya and the newest Hub in Senegal.
Water for the Poor Initiative
This initiative seeks to improve the sustainable management of fresh water and coastal resources in developing countries. Over one billion people on the planet lack adequate access to clean and safe water, and over two billion are without appropriate sanitation facilities. Others have access to clean water, but because of improper storage and handling it later becomes unsafe. In addition to water supply, the Water for the Poor Initiative supports key hygiene programs that have a major public health impact. The overall goal is to accelerate and expand international efforts to substantially increase worldwide access to safe drinking water and basic sanitations. Key elements of this initiative include:
- Broadening access to clean water and sanitation services,
- Improving watershed management, and
- Increasing the productivity of water.
The initiative also supports efforts to make sure water is safe to drink in development, conflict and emergency situations, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami affected areas or in the rebuilding of Iraq.
Private corporation and government alliances are being used to support many of this initiative’s programs. Innovative private sector financing is a key to both short and long-term solutions.
Millennium Challenge Account
The Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) is an innovative foreign assistance program designed to make US aid more effective. Administered by the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), established in January 2004, the MCA funds programs to improve the economies and standards of living in qualified developing countries. The goal of the MCA is to reward sound policy and decisions that support economic growth and reduce poverty. MCC funds will support developing counties that demonstrate a strong commitment toward:
- Good governance,
- The health and education of their people, and
- Sound economic policies that foster enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Since its establishment, MCC has signed Compacts - multi-year development agreements - with six nations: Benin, Cape Verde, Georgia, Honduras, Madagascar, and Nicaragua. MCC is also actively engaging with other MCA-eligible countries in Compact negotiations and currently expects to sign many more in the near future.
To find out more information about Volunteers for Prosperity, visit http://www.volunteersforprosperity.gov/.