Message from the Director
This year has been a year of celebration and reflection for USAID as we mark our 50th year as a U.S. Government Agency. In 1961 the U.S. Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act, which mandated the creation of an agency to administer U.S. economic assistance programs, and on November 3 of that year, President John F. Kennedy established the U.S. Agency for International Development. The Foreign Assistance Act was an important piece of legislation that harmonized U.S. Government assistance efforts around the world and formalized “America’s unprecedented response to world challenges”, to quote President Kennedy. Worldwide USAID assistance has had a tremendous impact on poverty reduction, and has improved the welfare of millions, if not billions of people.
USAID has been working with the Paraguayan people to improve their quality of life and expand economic potential since the beginning. During the 1960s we invested more than $75 million in infrastructure projects, such as water systems, road construction, electrification and agriculture. The following decade USAID shifted focus to the needs of vulnerable populations, and engaged poor rural farmers to improve their use of technology and develop cooperatives. In the 1980s USAID sought to capitalize on Paraguay’s rapid growth during the 1970s by focusing on partnerships with private sector organizations, private voluntary organizations and the development of human resources. As an example of this effort, we supported the first graduate program in Business Administration from the Catholic University. And USAID was here during the democratic transition in the 1990s when we worked to strengthen democratic institutions and ensure free and fair elections.
As 2011 draws to a close and we move into 2012, we reflect upon two influential programs that highlight our partnership with the Government of Paraguay and the Paraguayan people. For nearly 20 years USAID, the Government of Paraguay, civil society organizations, and dedicated Paraguayan citizens have worked together to improve healthcare. During the last ten years USAID has worked with more than 200 local and regional health councils to build their capacity to manage centrally distributed “equity funds” in order to meet the unique needs of their individual communities in a transparent and equitable fashion. Without a doubt, this decentralization will continue. In addition, we have worked with the Ministry of Health, local health councils, and the private sector to improve the availability of reproductive health services throughout Paraguay, so that any couple can find affordable services that are appropriate for their needs at the time that they need them.
The partnership between the U.S. Government and the Government of Paraguay through the Threshold Program is also moving towards the end of its second and final phase, after five years of cooperation that has increased government effectiveness, transparency, and responsiveness to the public. Individual Paraguayans are benefiting daily from Threshold Program initiatives like the new passport and identification systems that have improved personal documents, digitized records, and systemized the registration process. Citizens also now have complaint systems installed in key institutions like the police, judiciary, and customs, so the Paraguayan public can hold public officials accountable. Behind the scenes the Threshold Program continues to support Paraguayan leadership to install an internal controls system (the “MECIP”) within the five largest ministries and seven other public institutions, which will increase operational effectiveness and reduce opportunities for corruption and cronyism. MECIP has the potential to greatly improve the quality of government. These are just a few of the important advances made possible through Paraguayan leadership that the Threshold Program has provided.
Entering USAID’s 51st year we will continue to work with Paraguay to address the country’s key priorities. Our Democracy Program will continue to strengthen the ability of the Paraguayan Government to provide quality services to the people and strengthen civil society organizations that are catalysts for change and hold the government accountable. Our Economic Growth activities will continue to reduce rural poverty and unleash the productive potential of the country, while we also find sustainable ways to protect Paraguay’s natural resources.
We congratulate Paraguay on its considerable successes and look forward to the continued strengthening of these important reforms. Please take a moment to learn more about our programs through our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Ms. Rose Rakas was named Mission Director for USAID/Paraguay in August 2009. She comes from USAID/Guatemala, where she served as Deputy Mission Director, and has also served in El Salvador and Bolivia. She has travelled extensivelyfor USAID throughout Latin America, and has provided services in Pakistan and Africa. She entered USAID as a litigation attorney in the USAID General Counsel’s Office in Washington DC. Before joining USAID, Ms. Rakas worked as a lawyer at the firm of Bryan Cave in Washington DC, and served as a trial lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division.
She holds a Juris Doctorate from the George Washington University National Law Center, where she was an Articles Editor of the Law Review.Her undergraduate degrees are in in Political Science and German from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After law school, she also worked in the Federal Republic of Germany at an international law foundation (the Max Planck Institute in Hamburg) and at a private law firm (Boden, Oppenhoff&Schlieder).