MFAN: Prepares to blog the State Department’s QDDR

Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) is a reform coalition composed of international development and foreign policy practitioners, policy advocates and experts, concerned citizens and private sector organizations.

MFAN’s goal is to help build a safer, more prosperous world by strengthening the United States’ ability to alleviate extreme poverty, create opportunities for growth, and secure human dignity in developing countries. Its members are “some of the most well known experts and organizations in the world. They make up the critical link between U.S. international development policy and its practice in the field, providing a unique perspective that informs its recommendations for streamlining and enhancing U.S. investments in the health, stability and economic growth of developing countries.” See more of the leadership here.

The release of initial findings from the State Department’s landmark Quadrennial Diplomacy & Development Review (QDDR) will for the first time provide a strategic blueprint for U.S. development and foreign assistance efforts. MFAN considers this a key moment in the long push for foreign assistance reform, and has launched a blog series to ensure lively debate about the goals and impacts of the QDDR (the preliminary report expected to be released sometime in April with the full report to be released in fall this year). 

The maiden post was by MFAN Co-Chair George Ingram (MFAN QDDR Blog Series: Time for Hard Questions | March 16th, 2010). This was followed by QDDR Blog Series: MFAN Principal Noam Unger on the Relation to the PSD on March 17th, 2010.

Development experts from across the MFAN community will post blogs on the QDDR and the importance of transparency, civil society engagement, gender, ownership, and legislation to making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable. 

Check back here and on for the group’s updates.

The Cat in a Hat’s Tale from Ambassador Godec

Robert F. Godec is currently the Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism in the Department of State. From 2006 to 2009, he served as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia. Ambassador Godec has also served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and was Deputy Coordinator for the Transition in Iraq, charged with organizing the transition of policy and operational elements of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the standup of U.S. Mission Iraq.

During his time as US Ambassador to Tunisia, Ambassador Godec blogged at Tumbler here. One of our favorite posts was one he did about a year ago on “Reading Rocks!” at the American Cooperative School of Tunis.  Below are some kids dressed up as their favorite book characters and two ambassadors playing along. That’s UK Ambassador Chris O’Connor in the Union Jack hat and Ambassador Godec as the Cat in the Hat.

Photo from Ambassador Godec’s blog

The Cat in the Hat’s Tale (Or… Why reading is magic!)
A poem by Bob Godec (with apologies to Dr. Seuss)
Written for the ACST “Reading Rocks!” Assembly | March 2009

I’ve come here today
With my striped hat and tie
For reading is magic
And I want to say why.

So this I must tell,

For it is just what is true
When you read a good book
You’ll never be blue.

Left all alone?

No one to play?
Read a short story
It’ll take you away!

With books as your friends

You’ll go many places
Some far, far away…
Why you’re off to the races!

There’ll be castles and dragons

And flights to the moon
Oh my,
Don’t you want to go soon?

One day you can run

A race out on Mars
And the next you can sip
Tea with the stars.

You can cross a great desert

On a camel, in the sun
And find a lost kingdom
Now won’t that be fun!

Want to climb a tall mountain?

Meet a wizard or two?
Just open a book
There’ll be wonders for you.

For me a good book

Or a story so right
Is just what it takes
To make life really bright.

So I hope you will read

And give adventure a try
For there’s magic in words
And now you know why.

Well it’s time, I must go

But I’ll leave you with this
Trust the Cat in the Hat
And you just cannot miss.

Turkmenistan Crime and Safety 2010 Report Released

Tolkuchka Bazaar, Ashgabat, TurkmenistanImage via Wikipedia

OSAC released its Crime and Safety Report on Turmeninstan in early March. Quick summary below:

The Government of Turkmenistan publishes no crime statistics, but the overall rate of crime appears to be low.  Foreigners are rarely the targets of violent crime, although women in isolated surroundings face an increased risk of harassment or assault.
Foreigners  are often perceived as wealthy, encouraging occasional crimes of opportunity. Petty thieves tend to operate in crowded markets frequented by tourists, such as the Tolkuchka Bazaar. Maintaining a heightened sense of awareness and careful protection of valuables can greatly reduce the chances of becoming a victim in these locations.  Displaying large quantities of cash is inadvisable.  In the center of Ashgabat, large numbers of police and other security personnel tend to deter petty crime.
There is a relatively high rate of home burglaries, as local citizens tend to keep their cash at home rather than at local banks. Home burglaries are not common for expatriates, but good residential security measures are recommended.
Violent crime does exist in Turkmenistan.  Although not publicized or officially made known to the RSO, crimes such as rape and murder are not uncommon to Turkmenistan.  These crimes affect the local population more than they affect foreigners and expatriates, and they are often linked to the drug trade and/or prostitution.

Terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement are active in Central Asia.  However, there have been no reports of these groups operating within Turkmenistan. Terrorists do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.  Due to increased security at official U.S. facilities worldwide, terrorists are seeking softer civilian targets such as residences, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, hotels, schools, events, and resorts.  Travelers to the country should carefully weigh Turkmenistan’s proximity to regions of past and current instability.

Read the whole thing here