News / Asia

US Foundation, Government Agency Take Aim at Poverty in Asia and Africa

Ashvin Dayal, Associate VP and Asia Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation (left) looks over his notes as USAID Asia Regional Development Mission Director Michael Yates at launch of Global Resilience Partnership, Aug. 19, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA News)
Ashvin Dayal, Associate VP and Asia Managing Director, The Rockefeller Foundation (left) looks over his notes as USAID Asia Regional Development Mission Director Michael Yates at launch of Global Resilience Partnership, Aug. 19, 2014. (Steve Herman/VOA News)

An American foundation and a U.S. government agency have announced a new partnership, which has initial funding of $100,000,000 intended as a “bold, new vision” for building resilience to disasters and other factors contributing to poverty across Asia and Africa. 

Data showing that one of every three dollars spent on international aid during the past 30 years has been lost because of recurring crises is prompting a new initiative to break the costly cycles of suffering.

The project is called the Global Resilience Partnership. Its co-founders hope that the initial financial commitment to it will soon double to $200,000,000 with help from governments, companies and other stakeholders. 

The regional development director in Asia for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Michael Yates, at a Bangkok news conference explained that investments across sectors to make communities more resilient to disasters would help hundreds of millions of households.

“We know that we can't stop typhoons and earthquakes. But we can certainly do a much better job preparing for them and helping people bounce back far more quickly and far more robustly afterwards,” said Yates.

USAID is introducing the Global Resilience Partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation.

The private organization’s managing director in Asia, Ashvin Dayal, explains that the funders will seek ideas in a design challenge for solutions to build resilience that can be scaled for vulnerable communities.

“What does a resilient person look like or a resilient system or a resilient community? And you start to understand it has some characteristics -- for example, flexibility, the ability to adapt.  Some redundancy in the system so you have choices, excess capacity, things like that. These again sound conceptual. But they are very real things and they are choices about how you then invest in a community,” said Dayal.

Examples of resilience projects include storm resistant housing, crop insurance and better access to weather information. 

The approach is receiving an immediate endorsement from a key agency of the United Nations.

Fen Min Kan is the Asia-Pacific head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“We believe that this initiative is important because it recognizes that working with the private sector is an essential part of building resilience. And without the private sector we cannot prevent new risks from being created,” said Kan. 

Because of poor infrastructure and lack of resources, low-income countries suffer about half of fatalities from disasters although they are hit by only nine percent of such calamities.

The Rockefeller Foundation and USAID warn that food insecurity and the effects of climate change are among the other factors that demand a new approach for building resistance to disasters.

The Asian Development Bank in a separate report released Tuesday is assessing the costs of climate change and adaptation in South Asia.

The ADB is warning that unless the world weans itself from dependence on fossil fuels, South Asia could lose an equivalent 1.8 percent of its annual gross domestic product by 2050, progressively increasing to 8.8 percent by the turn of the next century. Its data suggests that the Maldives will be hit hardest, followed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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