Working in Paraguay's Northern Zone

Posted by Steven Hendrix
November 12, 2010

About the Author: Steven Hendrix is the Assistant Mission Director for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Paraguay and 1207 Program Coordinator. Editor's Note: With the 2010 U.S. National Security Strategy's emphasis on preventing conflicts before they emerge, and with conflict and instability watch lists consistently identifying nearly one third of the world's countries as in danger of falling into conflict and instability within the next two years, there is a pressing need for the United States to engage in conflict prevention activities. Section 1207 funding managed by the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization seeks to do just that. To date, $442 million in 1207 funding has supported 33 conflict prevention projects in 31 at-risk or post-conflict countries. The following blog text has been excerpted from Mr. Hendrix's video remarks.

I'm Steve Hendrix. I work with the U.S. Embassy in Asunción, Paraguay, South America. I work with the U.S. Agency for International Development, where I am the assistant director. In my role there with the Embassy, I also function as the coordinator for what's called the 1207 Program.

The 1207 Program is funding from the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) at the State Department, which enables us to bring together all the elements of the Embassy in the country team to work for a common purpose. In Paraguay, our common purpose is what's called the Northern Zone. And we have the Northern Zone Initiative in Paraguay, focused on five strategic departments. Historically, these departments were under-served. But more profound than that, there were under-governed areas and ungoverned areas in that zone in which we needed to help local governments. And we also needed to create alternatives to an illicit economy, and create jobs.

Within our Embassy, we have brought together elements from our military, from our U.S. Agency for International Development, our public affairs, our public diplomacy. And we're all united behind a single purpose, and that is to help the Paraguayan Government become more effective in the Northern Zone area in creating jobs and extending state presence.

In terms of concrete results, we've started the program only in March this year [2010], but we've already helped create jobs in the Northern Zone area. If we were to stop all of our work today, those export-led, sustainable, market-driven jobs would continue into the future. We've already worked with hospitals to get new equipment. We've worked with schools to put new roofs, new windows, new doors on school buildings. We've worked with the Paraguayan Government in their deployment of hundreds of new police and military officials to bring increased security to the region. We intend to continue this work intensively over the next year.

On another plank of this, on our diplomatic side, the Ambassador has led efforts to work with the private sector and with the Brazilian and Chilean governments to bring their resources to bear to help address activities in the Northern Zone. Just this past week [May 2010], the Chileans deployed a group of people to Paraguay to work with customs and to bring market-led agriculture programs to the region. So this is a broad, very integrated whole-of-government effort designed to bring increased security and prosperity to the Northern Zone.

The 1207 program has been particularly useful in Paraguay in helping us integrate DOD (Department of Defense), S/CRS, the State Department, and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development), together. The funding from the 1207 program came to us outside our normal funding stream, which allowed us to jumpstart programs that we otherwise would never have been able to initiate. We are using those funds quickly and we're achieving results that are concrete, tangible, and measurable over the course of this coming year.

We are also working very closely with our DOD and State Department colleagues to make sure that these programs that are identified in the Northern Zone reach the target areas, but also promote U.S. foreign policy objectives in that region. And this is something that without the support from S-CRS we would not have been able to do because our regular program funding programming would take several years to implement. We were able to use these funds quickly. Congressional notification took place in November [2009]. Then we did a full and open market competition for the program. The funds were allocated to the mission to USAID in January. We awarded the instrument in February. The team was on the ground in March and we had concrete, tangible, sustainable export-led jobs created by April. I think that's record timing and that's a credit to S/CRS, to this 1207 mechanism, and to the working unity of the country team working to a common purpose, all under the leadership of a very capable ambassador, Liliana Ayalde.

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