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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Strategic Goal 3: Investing in People

FY 2007-2012 Department of State and USAID Strategic Plan
Bureau of Resource Management
May 2007


In his 2006 State of the Union Address, President Bush said, "For people everywhere, the United States is a partner for a better life. Short-changing these efforts would increase the suffering and chaos of our world, undercut our long-term security and dull the conscience of our country."

Ensuring good health, improving access to education, and protecting vulnerable populations are critical to transformational diplomacy. By building the capacity of partner countries to invest in their people, our diplomatic and assistance initiatives benefit developing nations and strengthen international respect for the United States. These efforts support U.S. national interests and lay the foundation for the success of transformational diplomacy.

The Strategic Goal of "Investing in People" is to help nations achieve sustainable improvements in the well-being and productivity of their populations, while advancing American interests, through diplomatic and assistance initiatives that promote effective and accountable health, education, and other social services. The strategic approach builds sustainable capacity in recipient countries to meet the needs of their populations in these areas. These efforts also improve the capabilities of individuals to contribute to economic development and participate in democratic decision-making, while ameliorating the root causes of poverty and conflict.

Strategic Priorities

Health: Our objectives in this area are to: improve global health, including child, maternal, and reproductive health; reduce disease, especially HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, and polio; and increase access to improved drinking water and sanitation services. Our diplomatic and assistance efforts in health also reduce risks of infectious diseases migrating to the United States.

HIV/AIDS poses a unique threat to health and development, and the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) provides significant funding for a wide range of prevention, care, and treatment activities to countries experiencing the most serious effects of HIV/AIDS. The President has launched major U.S. initiatives to: reduce the transmission and impact of HIV/AIDS; control malaria and reduce related mortality; limit the spread of avian influenza and prevent a human influenza pandemic; and, in the event of a pandemic, provide appropriate medical and humanitarian response. A key U.S. foreign policy objective and one of our highest international public health priorities is the complete eradication of polio. The United States also engages diplomatically to build partnerships and provide direct foreign assistance in global efforts to: fight other infectious diseases; improve disease surveillance and environmental health; and develop new vaccines.

The HIV/AIDS pandemic and the threat of pandemic influenza require immediate, coordinated, and sustained intervention among agencies, host governments, and international partners, combining diplomatic efforts to bring parties together with direct foreign assistance. HIV/AIDS programs coordinate with other agencies and partners that have core competencies in areas such as food assistance, education, microfinance, and family planning to ensure comprehensive programs that advance overall well-being.

Critical disease hazards in developing nations include tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. Many children and mothers die each year from treatable causes, so a special focus is needed for these groups. Malaria causes over one million deaths a year, and children are the vast majority of the victims. The President's Malaria Initiative (PMI) provides both coordinated development programs and strong diplomatic efforts to promote sustained political commitments to counter malaria by host countries.

Nearly half of women who express a need for family planning are not using a modern method. In some countries, women have nearly two abortions for every birth. Where family planning is not used effectively, women have children closer together, leading to especially low child survival rates and poor maternal health. Programs in family planning and reproductive health will: expand access to high-quality, voluntary, family planning services and information; expand access to reproductive health care to reduce unintended pregnancy; promote healthy reproductive behaviors of men and women; reduce abortion; and reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity.

Programs for maternal and child health will increase the availability and use of proven interventions addressing the major killers of mothers and children, and improve their health and nutrition status. These programs include: effective maternity care and management of obstetric complications; prevention services such as newborn care, routine immunization, polio eradication, and micronutrients; improved maternal, infant, and young child feeding; and treatment of life-threatening childhood illnesses.

The failure or absence of functioning health infrastructure and services in large parts of the world presents a range of challenges to U.S. interests and to human life and welfare. U.S. investments in health strengthen local capacity in disease outbreak detection and response; strengthen delivery of health services, essential drugs, and commodities; ensure adoption of best practices by field programs; provide technical oversight; and support health technology advances.

The human health consequences of unsafe water and poor hygiene are severe. Half of the world's hospital beds are occupied by people suffering from illnesses related to water. Diarrhea linked to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene accounts for nearly two million deaths among young children in developing countries each year. The U.S. Government engages donors and developing countries to ensure a focused commitment to expand access to, and effective use of, reliable and economically sustainable safe drinking water and sanitation services to improve human health. The U.S. Government also works to improve water resources management and increase water productivity, and to improve water security by strengthening cooperation on shared waters. Some activities that support these goals are: strengthening water sector governance by local, national, and regional institutions; mobilizing domestic resources; promoting large and small scale infrastructure investment; advancing improved hygiene activities for public health protection; encouraging science and technology cooperation to advance knowledge in areas related to water management; and promoting prevention, preparedness, and mitigation measures in response to disasters.

Photo showing school girls seated at their desks in a classroom.

Education: The United States seeks to help those in the developing world gain the skills and knowledge they need to build free and prosperous societies. U.S. educational assistance has been particularly valuable in establishing and extending a lasting, positive image of the United States. This is especially true given the extent to which inadequate educational opportunity and poor educational quality hampers human development in large parts of the world. Approximately 770 million adults are illiterate, while 77 million primary school-aged children—most of them girls—are not enrolled in school. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only two-thirds of children who enter primary school complete it.

Given these circumstances, it is not surprising that investments in basic education generally yield high returns, particularly in the developing world. It is the foundation on which individuals and institutions build stable and prosperous lives and democratic states. The quality and accessibility of basic education play a critical role in determining whether learners acquire core skills, including literacy and numeracy, and have a chance to continue their education. Given the particularly significant challenges facing girls, we will devote special efforts to reducing barriers to education for them. Educating people in critical thinking and the scientific method builds demand for objective, democratic decision-making based on the rule of reason, while preparing citizens to become productive participants in the local polity and economy. Moreover, higher education strengthens the institutional capacities of public and private institutions to: teach, train, conduct research, and provide community service; contribute to development; and promote professional development opportunities, institutional linkages, and exchange programs.

The U.S. Government helps build education systems that enable countries to better compete in the global economy by enhancing knowledge and skills and improving education completion rates. Educational systems must foster equitable access, as well as the quality and mix of human capital needed for accelerated national development. By promoting linkages with U.S.-based institutions, our assistance will strengthen the capacity of universities and colleges to help address their countries' development problems.

Sharing knowledge with other countries also yields direct benefits for the United States. For example, joint research and development efforts with other nations build U.S. knowledge, while leveraging resources to advance science in areas ranging from space exploration to the development of new energy technologies. Thus, we will promote sharing of knowledge in the international scientific community that will enhance the efficiency and hasten the fruition of U.S. research efforts, and promote international scientific collaboration.

Photo showing a child receiving polio vaccination in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2006.
AP Image

Social Services and Protection for Especially Vulnerable Populations: Our objective in this area is to help especially vulnerable populations manage risks and gain access to opportunities that support their full and productive participation in society. Providing a social safety net for and protecting the rights of such groups are among a nation's greatest responsibilities. The U.S. Government supports policies, regulations, systems and capacities to develop or reform safety nets. When structured effectively, safety nets provided by governments, international organizations, and NGOs can mitigate the long-term and social economic impacts of conflict and torture, and help populations rebound from temporary adversity or cope with chronic poverty, reduce vulnerability, and increase self-reliance. These services build faith in state institutions and political support for effective governance.

Social services will assist those whose needs are not addressed under humanitarian assistance or other programs, facilitating a transition from humanitarian relief to longer-term development and growth. These include groups such as: the disabled; orphans, children, and at-risk youth; victims of trafficking, gender-based violence, or torture; refugees, returnees, ethnic minorities, internally displaced or other socially excluded groups; the elderly; and female heads of household. Services may protect groups, mitigate adverse conditions they face, or remove barriers to help integrate them into society. Components may include measures to: increase the capacity of local service and advocacy NGOs, and professional social workers; establish public/private service delivery partnerships, and family and community-focused service models; establish effective referral networks; develop appropriate service protocols and methods for screening prospective recipients; and improve public understanding and sensitivity to the needs of the vulnerable. For the poor or those suffering from temporary shocks, financial or technical support is provided to meet basic needs, enable cash transfers with conditions, and provide subsidized access to key services.

U.S. Government Partners and Cross-cutting Programs: The following are key U.S. Government partners with whom we will coordinate to achieve this goal:

  • Department of Health and Human Services: Health and Human Services and its constituent agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health, Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) are major partners in meeting the U.S. objectives for health.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: EPA supports health-related projects such as improving water quality and reducing indoor air pollution.
  • Department of Homeland Security: Homeland Security cooperates on programs to prevent the spread of avian influenza.
  • Department of Defense: Defense coordinates on health programs in post-conflict situations and provides military-to-military assistance to fight HIV/AIDS in military populations.
  • Department of Agriculture: Agriculture coordinates with USAID on child nutrition, avian influenza, and providing incentives for school attendance.
  • Department of Education: Education represents the U.S. Government in many international fora.
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation: MCC supports all the Investing in People objectives.
  • Peace Corps: Peace Corps supports Investing in People programs at the community level.
  • Other partners include: Departments of Commerce, Labor, and Justice.



The following are key factors, external to the Department and USAID, which could significantly affect the achievement of the goal:

  • Mutations of infectious diseases, or new human exposure to diseases;
  • Stigma and cultural practices affecting access to disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment;
  • Price and availability of disease-fighting drugs, and the role of intellectual property rights;
  • Priority placed by some governments on social issues; diversion of attention/funds to other initiatives;
  • Government sensitivities to international involvement in "internal affairs;"
  • Speed and nature of economic growth or global demographic changes in developing countries;
  • Capacity within host governments to address links between public health, and agriculture, environment, or the economy;
  • Conflict or natural crises impeding access to public services and increasing the number of displaced persons; and
  • Availability of trained health care workers to provide basic and specialized health services.


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