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

As stated in the National Security Strategy of 2006, "We will work to bolster threatened states, provide relief in times of crisis, and build capacity in developing states to increase their progress." A nation's ability to build and sustain a democratic and well-governed state that responds to the needs of its citizens is diminished or absent when affected by conflict or natural disaster. Conflicts, disasters, and human rights abuses threaten people's lives and health, displace people, divide families, destabilize societies, and erode living standards. All countries face some risk of humanitarian emergency. An estimated 37 million people around the world are currently uprooted from their homes, 820 million do not have enough food to eat, and millions more are affected by conflict and disasters where they live. Humanitarian assistance responds to their needs, and transforms affected countries by forging a path toward recovery, growth, and stability.

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Photo showing members of the U.S. military delivering humanitarian relief supplies in Pakistan. The U.S. military and Pakistani military worked together to coordinate the delivery of humanitarian assistance following the devastating October 2005 South Asian earthquake.

On behalf of the American people, the U.S. Government leads the international community in responding to the needs of refugees, internally displaced persons, victims of conflict and disasters, and vulnerable migrants. For many Americans, humanitarian assistance is the hallmark of U.S. foreign policy engagement and a demonstration of American compassion. The U.S. Government directly supports more than one-quarter of the cost of humanitarian activities undertaken by the UN and Red Cross organizations, and provides strong support to other NGOs. The United States is also a leader in the promotion of legal, orderly, and humane migration, building on our history and values as a country of immigration.

The goal of humanitarian assistance is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and minimize the economic costs of conflict, disasters, and displacement. It requires urgent responses to rapid-onset emergencies, and concerted efforts to address hunger and protracted crisis situations, and build capacity to prevent and mitigate the effects of conflict and disasters. Humanitarian assistance is also the genesis of the transition to long-term political, economic, and social investments that can eliminate the root causes of conflict and displacement. The United States leads the international community in providing humanitarian assistance that is done on the basis of need alone and according to the principles of universality, impartiality, and human dignity. Without exception, flexibility to respond quickly is critical. We will improve strong, complementary multilateral and bilateral approaches to humanitarian assistance and promote responses that are rapid and well-coordinated. The United States will continue to be actively engaged in a major effort to reform UN humanitarian response, thereby holding it accountable with clear measurements for success. We will leverage influence, accountability, and responsibility-sharing by providing reliable and predictable contributions to international organizations. We will mobilize other donor governments, host governments, international organizations, NGOs and others in the private sector to maximize the effectiveness of humanitarian aid on behalf of beneficiaries and U.S. taxpayers.

Strategic Priorities

Provide Protection, Assistance, and Solutions:

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Photo showing USAID delivering tsunami relief goods in Indonesia.

Protection: U.S. humanitarian aid will protect civilians affected by conflict, disaster, and displacement from physical harm, persecution, exploitation, abuse, malnutrition and disease, family separation, gender-based violence, forcible recruitment, and other threats, to ensure that their full rights as individuals are safe-guarded. We will continue to insist that our partners adhere to humanitarian laws and principles, and provide protection and assistance under the guiding principle of "do no harm." We will work diplomatically to negotiate safe access for humanitarian workers, and to encourage other governments to respect and adhere to international refugee and human rights laws, including preventing the forcible return of refugees to countries where they would be at risk of harm or persecution. We will advocate and support humanitarian programs designed to identify and protect the most vulnerable within affected populations, such as single heads of households, children, the elderly, ethnic minorities, and the disabled, to ensure that they have equal access to assistance. U.S. Government partners will implement codes of conduct prohibiting exploitation, with emphasis on protection of women and children. We will support programs that deter violence against women and address its consequences for survivors.

Assistance: The U.S. Government provides life-saving disaster relief, including food aid, and other humanitarian assistance to people affected by natural disasters and complex, human-made crises. Within hours of a disaster, the U.S. Government—through its foreign assistance—mobilizes goods, services, and relief workers to assist survivors with food, water and sanitation, shelter, and health care, and to strengthen local capacity to respond to the humanitarian needs. These programs will strive to uphold international standards for the provision of humanitarian assistance. Where appropriate, we will restore sustainable livelihoods to encourage self-reliance and minimize the need for long-term assistance. In doing so, U.S. humanitarian assistance begins the process of stabilization and recovery as early as possible.

Approximately three billion people in 150 countries have benefited directly from the gift of food from the American people since the creation of the Food for Peace program. Over the next five years, food aid will continue to be a key element of U.S. humanitarian assistance. We will continue working with all stakeholders to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of this program, and to ensure that this most visible gift of the American people continues to contribute to peace and stability in troubled areas of the world.

Solutions: For millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, our priority is to achieve durable solutions to their plight. There is no preferred solution, although the majority of displaced people may prefer to return home. The best solution must be determined according to the protection needs of the individual or family. Where peace has taken hold, we will facilitate the voluntary return and reintegration of people to their homes in safety and dignity. For those unable to return, we will encourage local integration in their host communities, where both communities and the displaced are willing. For refugees for whom resettlement to third countries is the appropriate durable solution, the United States will continue its tradition of welcoming them to begin new lives in communities across the country.

Prevent and Mitigate Disasters: U.S. foreign assistance will build the capacity of affected countries, American responders, and the international community to reduce disaster risks, prepare for rapid response, and increase the affected population's ability to cope with and recover from the effects of a disaster. We will develop local and global capacity to anticipate and respond to suffering by establishing and strengthening early warning systems to reduce vulnerabilities to food insecurity, hunger, and famine. Our Famine Early Warning System Network, operational in 30 countries, will encourage collaboration among international, national, and regional partners to provide timely and relevant information to prevent famine. Preparedness and long-term risk reduction measures minimize the human and economic costs of disasters and offer lasting improvements to communities. Our comprehensive approach to disaster management presents a prototype for subsequent disaster responses by the international community.

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Photo showing refugees heading toward a plane.

Promote Orderly and Humane Means for Migration Management: People migrate for many reasons, including to escape conflict or persecution, to avoid natural disasters and environmental degradation, to seek economic opportunities, and to reunite with family. Among migrants, women and children are especially vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Addressing the challenges of migration is important, not only because the United States is a destination country, but also because we believe that the exploitation of migrants is a serious affront to human dignity.

The U.S. Government will help build the capacity of host governments to manage migration effectively and to ensure full respect for the human rights of vulnerable migrants in accordance with law. We will promote orderly and humane international migration by supporting and participating in regional migration dialogues that bring together governments to share best practices and cooperate on a range of region-specific issues, including border control, asylum procedures, and the protection of the human rights of migrants. We will provide protection and other services such as financial, material, and technical assistance to meet basic human needs and reintegrate returning vulnerable migrants. We will continue to support, according to need, the resettlement in Israel of humanitarian migrants from the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Near East, and other countries.

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 Homeland Security: Homeland Security is responsible for refugee adjudications for resettlement into the United States and for admitting such individuals upon arrival. Our Homeland Security colleagues also provide the technical expertise on migration related matters for U.S. Government involvement in regional migration dialogues.
  • Department of Health and Human Services: Health and Human Services is a key partner in international emergency and refugee health issues, particularly through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's work with the UN and other humanitarian partners.
  • Department of Defense: Defense plays an important role in efforts to mobilize large-scale logistical support in humanitarian emergencies; to stabilize countries affected by conflict, including providing security for the provision of humanitarian assistance; and to provide humanitarian assistance in environments so insecure that civilian agencies are not able to operate.

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

  • Security concerns that may inhibit international relief efforts, slowing or impairing our ability to reach beneficiaries in need of humanitarian assistance and protection;
  • Continued violence against humanitarian workers that represents a serious constraint to the efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance;
  • Lack of coordination among international organizations to fill gaps in their respective mandates;
  • Inconsistency between U.S. efforts on the one hand, and political actions and material assistance from foreign governments and NGOs; and
  • Countries' vulnerability to disasters and their ability to recover in terms of their development status and capacity for disaster prevention and response.

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