Mobilizing to Help Those in Need While Building Capacity
Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
2006 Fritz Lecture on Improving Humanitarian Response
October 10, 2006
Thank you very much for that kind introduction and thank you all for welcoming me here today. It is indeed an honor to
deliver the fourth annual Fritz Lecture on Improving Humanitarian Assistance.
For many of us here today, humanitarian assistance is an important part of what we do for a living. We have a passion
for it, and it is not hard to understand why. Somewhere in the world someone's life is better because of the work we do
each day in responding to these urgent and compelling needs.
When disaster strikes, the assistance community mobilizes. We work together to help save lives and to minimize
suffering. We do what needs to be done, and we do it reasonably well. And when we finally issue the last situation
report on a disaster, we trust we have given the people we have helped the ability not only to cope, but also the
ability to overcome and--ultimately--to flourish. This is a difficult task and one the United States Government does not
Simply responding to emergencies as they arise is not adequate. When we respond we must also assure that we do not harm
the country's developmental track, and that we try to improve the capacity of the country to cope.
We recognize that humanitarian assistance does not stand alone. Our foreign assistance budget encompasses much more than
emergency relief. If we are to spend the American people's money wisely - we must focus our efforts on both immediate
needs and mid- and long-term reconstruction in a continuous way.
To that end, we have begun to expand the universe of people who serve on a Disaster Assistance Response Team --or a
DART--to include a broader range of disciplines, to ensure that we are not missing the forest for the trees. As a
general practice when staffing a DART, we make it a point to include mitigation specialists, those who can help build
local governance capacities, and others who focus on longer-term impacts. We pull in personnel from various bureaus and
offices across the United States Government to work on crises, in order to tap into all available expertise.
In recent disasters, the civilian agencies of the U.S. Government have worked much closer with the United States
military. The logistics and air support capabilities the military provides bring essential and unprecedented capacity to
U.S. response efforts. Congress first authorized the military to begin humanitarian assistance activities in 1986.
Almost 20 years later, our Chinooks were the most recognizable symbol of U.S. assistance in the aftermath of last year's
earthquake in Southeast Asia.
But the U.S. Government cannot and should not try to do it all. It is my sincere hope that we as part of an
international community can better defer to local expertise to manage a crisis. To do that, we must continue to promote
and encourage local capacity. Basically, when it comes to humanitarian assistance, the ideal is to work ourselves out of
The United States is constantly working to help mitigate disasters and build local and national capacity to respond,
should a crisis strike.
In the Latin American and Caribbean region, USAID's Regional Disaster Assistance Program has trained nearly 43,000
participants, and certified more than 4,200 instructors in 26 countries. Many of the people trained have now assumed
leadership roles in national disaster management organizations, and presently conduct training in their own countries
using their own resources.
In Asia, we have a Program for Enhancement of Emergency Response - or PEER - that is active in Bangladesh, India,
Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines. PEER aims to provide the capacity to train local organizations' members as experts
in the areas of medical first response, collapsed structure search and rescue, and hospital preparedness. PEER's impact
was evident during tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia, when more than 20 PEER-trained hospital preparedness
professionals reached the disaster area within 24 hours.
But history has also shown us that humanitarian crises cannot always be mitigated or managed with national capacity, no
matter how much training is given or preparedness is achieved. There will always be responses that require great
international effort. So expanding the base of donor governments, as well as greater involvement from international
organizations, NGOs and the private sector is also a necessary, indeed essential objective.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs--OCHA--has brought like-minded countries together
in a Donor Support Group to not only help OCHA, but also to build alliances for better collaboration within the
humanitarian community. The United States chaired the Donor Support Group from July 2005 to 2006.
During our tenure in leading this group, the United Arab Emirates became the support group's twentieth member and the
first member from the Middle East. We must continue to encourage broadening the circle of humanitarian assistance
donors, to include nations that have not traditionally played a role in humanitarian assistance, and we hope others
follow the lead of the U.A.E.
There is a certain irony in my having been asked by The Fritz Institute to speak to you today. For most of my adult
life, I've been part of the private sector. The Fritz Institute helps apply private sector expertise to disaster relief.
And I speak from experience when I say that there are indeed untapped resources and expertise in the private sector that
can help us improve humanitarian response.
To continue to broaden the circle of donors, the case for engaging the private sector in disaster relief is a strong
one. That is one of the reasons that the Global Development Alliance was created at USAID. The private sector has
resources and expertise that has proven to be invaluable in a disaster response, and they need to be more aggressively
and creatively engaged.
Many corporations have philanthropic arms or corporate offices in affected areas. Because of their high visibility and
urgency, natural disaster situations are compelling causes for corporate support. As a result, corporations are often
able and willing to quickly channel monetary and in-kind resources for both immediate disaster relief as well as mid- to
long-term reconstruction, but they may not know how best to plug in.
As you might imagine, more involvement from non-traditional actors can pose a coordination problem. It requires a common
recognition of operating principles as well as buy-in to overarching plans from among a wide variety of groups around
the world, each differently situated and often with divergent priorities.
As good stewards of humanitarian assistance, we must all make a concerted effort to reach out to non-traditional donors,
encouraging appropriate giving, and helping to provide the tools and the processes to enable them to better leverage
In disaster situations, the President repeatedly asked CEOs of prominent American companies to provide leadership to
encourage private donations for relief and reconstruction efforts. Through such efforts, we have not only been able to
raise awareness, but we've also been able to meet and exceed private sector donation expectations, while helping channel
resources to those most in need.
Humanitarian assistance is but one aspect of U.S. foreign assistance. And-as you might imagine-serving concurrently as
the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID affords me a unique perspective.
I have been charged with leading the transformation of U.S. foreign assistance programs to ensure that our foreign
assistance is used as efficiently and effectively as possible to meet Secretary Rice's transformational diplomacy goal.
The overarching goal of U.S. foreign assistance is to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that will
respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. Some initially
raised concerns that the specific words "poverty alleviation" do not appear in the goal. Others said that the goal
itself sounds too "political," in that it focuses directly on state governance. For some, the goal as stated feeds the
fear that "development assistance" is now being overtaken by foreign policy concerns-and that short-term goals will
overtake our long-term development objectives. As many here have heard me say before, I couldn't disagree more.
The foreign policy of the United States is now recognizing what has been a best practice in the development arena for at
least a decade: that empowering human potential and achieving transformational development requires more than a
short-term response or even a long-term provision of services.
As President Bush has said, true development requires far-reaching, fundamental changes in governance and institutions,
human capacity and economic structures, allowing countries to move toward having both the will and the ability to create
and maintain economic and social progress without dependence on foreign aid.
A crucial element in all of this is the role of host governments, themselves. Despite the noblest of intentions, we know
outsiders cannot, with sustainability, secure citizens' health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the
conditions needed for economic growth-all of which are necessary for development. All of these must become the
responsibilities of governments, themselves.
And citizens must understand that their governments are responsible. They must make demands of their governments, and
reject excuses for failure. That's one of the most fundamental underpinnings of democracies.I made this point recently
to fellow donors at the Stockholm Conference for Lebanon's Early Recovery.
As many of you know first hand, within days of the outbreak of violence in Lebanon-a team effort, including the
International Committee of the Red Cross, UN agencies, and the NGO community-began operating in southern Lebanon,
providing much-needed medical treatment, evacuating the injured and saving lives under dangerous conditions. With
support from the American people, the United States Government was among the donors who provided relief in the early
days of the crisis. And we appreciate the brave efforts of implementing partners who literally put their lives on the
line to deliver that relief.
Yet, while our engagement in Lebanon began as a humanitarian response in the midst of a crisis, as we turn our focus to
recovery and long-term reconstruction, it is vital that donors-and our partners-work with the Government of Lebanon to
identify ways we can support its priorities. And that, in turn, the Government of Lebanon step up to playing its
appropriate leadership role.
You see, in Lebanon today--as was the case when Secretary Marshall launched the Marshall Plan in 1947--it's not about
us, it's about them. And we must stay focused on gauging whether what we're doing to help them is coordinated,
comprehensive, and mutually supportive-so that they will be able to sustain the gains of our investments in the long
The process we are now implementing seeks to integrate U.S. foreign assistance planning, budgeting, programming, and
results reporting at every level. The goal is to better ensure that we are providing the necessary tools and incentives
for host governments to secure the conditions necessary for their citizens to achieve their full human potential.
The reforms include a framework that many of you may well have already studied at length. The framework is built around
five priority objectives of foreign assistance that, if achieved, support our overarching goal by helping move countries
toward self-sufficiency and strengthening strategic partnerships. And humanitarian assistance is one of the five
priority objectives laid out in the framework, along with peace and security, governing justly and democratically,
investing in people, and economic growth.
The new structure for foreign assistance will help us pull together a comprehensive picture for decision making. On the
macro level, the new structure will give us a better sense of where our development dollars are being spent. When you
translate that to the micro level of an emergency response, the new structure will allow us to better target our
With the new structure, I believe we will be better able to help those in need, while building-and ultimately deferring
to-local capacity. Those who have spent years working on humanitarian response know that the ideal is to work ourselves
out of a job by helping build local and national capacities. That is our objective, and I look forward to working with
you toward that ideal.
Thank you very much.
Released on October 26, 2006