Director's 50th Anniversary Speech
Thank you very much to everyone for sharing this cold night with us -- but a night so warm in friendship, stories and memories -- in this beautiful building that represents part of the history of Paraguay and is considered part of the Asunción’s cultural heritage.
USAID is 50 years old this year. We share this anniversary with the Peace Corps, another agency of the United States Government with a long history of cooperation with Paraguay.
We are also happy to share our anniversary celebration with the celebrations for the bicentennial of the independence of Paraguay. I take this opportunity to congratulate Mr. President and all the people of Paraguay for 200 years of independence, and to highlight the quality and warmth of the celebrations that we enjoyed, not only here in Asunción, but throughout the country in recent weeks.
In 1961, USAID was officially formed under the presidency of John F. Kennedy. By then, the governments of Paraguay and the United States already had a history of collaboration with programs such as "Point Four" and the "Services for Cooperation," which provided assistance in the areas of Health, Agriculture and Education.
During the 1960s USAID invested more than $75 million in infrastructure projects such as water systems, road construction, electrification and agriculture.
In the 1970s, USAID activities focused on the needs of vulnerable populations. Efforts were directed at small farmers and other groups promoting technology for small farmers, development of rural cooperatives, and community development.
During the 1980s, due to economic growth in the past decade, USAID emphasized work with private sector organizations, private voluntary organizations and the development of human resources. As an example of this effort, USAID supported the first graduate program in Business Administration from the Catholic University.
USAID also began supporting other civil society organizations, such as the Paraguay-Kansas Committee. Another example of support to civil society is the support offered towards the creation of the Moises Bertoni Foundation and the purchase of land and creation of the Mbaracayú Reserve, designed to protect natural areas and valuable natural resources.
Today we are proud to continue supporting the Agricultural School for Girls in Mbaracayú. Those of us who have had the opportunity to meet these girls have witnessed their enthusiasm and dedication, and we are left with no doubt that Paraguay has a great future.
Since the democratic opening of the 1990s, the country embarked on a modernization effort. With the implementation of a new constitution and a new Supreme Court, the United States Government supported the improvement of the judiciary and civil-military dialogue with the participation of many Paraguayan experts.
During the 1990s, USAID programs took a new direction and focused on:
- Institutional strengthening of national and local governments, and civil society;
- Protecting the environment;
- Improving competitive conditions, access to markets, and the importance of private sector; and
- Improving decentralized health systems.
The constantly changing needs of the development environment has led to much closer collaboration with the Government of Paraguay, such as with the Threshold Program, which began in 2006 and continues today. Many of the advances and improvements promoted by the Government of Paraguay through the Threshold Program a have been shared with many of you in the past. Without a doubt, these accomplishments demonstrate how USAID can support the leadership of Paraguay and Paraguayan projects for reform that benefit all citizens.
Since my arrival two years ago, I have witnessed how Paraguay has improved by strengthening institutions with USAID assistance. For example, yesterday the Minister of Interior announced significant enhancements to the fingerprint identification system using high technology. These improvements are based on a fingerprint system developed under the Threshold Program. USAID is proud to have play a small role in this great achievement of the Government of Paraguay, which is essential to improving the security of the country and the region. Undoubtedly, Paraguay is advancing, improving and increasingly fulfilling its role in the international community and global markets. We are proud to be part of this progress.
Finally, let me extend special thanks the U.S. Ambassador, Liliana Ayalde, who has always given her support to all of our activities and will end her mission in Paraguay shortly. Ambassador Ayalde is and will always be a great friend of Paraguay and the work of USAID in the country, so please give her a warm round of applause.
We are turning 50 years old. Many here know that turning 50 is not always easy. For some it is a time of sadness and depression. However, the 50th anniversary of USAID does not find us sad. To the contrary, we are celebrating full of energy and optimism, proud to have the presence and support of all of you, and also proud of the role that USAID has played over the years in the development of Paraguay.
Thank you very much.
June 9, 2011