The United States Partners with Australia and Japan to Expand Reliable and Secure Digital Connectivity in Palau

30 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The United States, in partnership with the governments of Australia, Japan, and Palau, will finance the construction of an undersea fiber optic cable to the Republic of Palau valued at approximately $30 million. The project will connect to a new U.S. International Development Finance Corporation-financed undersea cable, the world’s longest, spanning from Singapore to the United States. The new spur cable—Palau’s second—will help ensure reliable, secure digital connectivity in Palau, and marks the first project to be delivered under the Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment in the Indo-Pacific between the United States, Australia and Japan.

Expanding Digital Connectivity in Palau

As a nation in free association with the United States, Palau has made substantial strides rebuilding and modernizing its telecommunications infrastructure with U.S. support. In December 2017, with a loan provided by the Asian Development Bank, Palau connected to the Southeast Asia-United States fiber optic submarine cable that also connects Guam to Indonesia and the Philippines, increasing available bandwidth by around seven times providing more than half of the population with internet connectivity.

However, Palau has no service connection back-up in times of fiber outages or service disruptions, an impediment to development. Connection to a second submarine cable will provide Palau with the redundancy it needs to realize the economic and development benefits of increased and strengthened digital connectivity.

The U.S. Government is providing $4.6 million for the project, including $3.8 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development and $800,000 from the U.S. government’s Transaction Advisory Fund.

In addition, the Republic of Palau is using $7 million in U.S. Government funding made available under the Palau Compact Review Agreement between the United States and Palau.

Belau Submarine Cable Corporation, a wholly owned Palauan state-owned enterprise, will contribute nearly $1 million and will lead the spur cable’s construction.

The Government of Australia will contribute approximately $10 million (USD) to the project, including $1.4 million already invested in the marine survey and branching unit, and a loan of approximately $9 million from the Australia Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.

The Government of Japan is close to finalizing approval of their financing package through the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and Nippon Export and Investment Insurance.

Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership: Commitment to the Pacific Region

The Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership was established by a memorandum of understanding between the United States, Japan, and Australia in November 2018. The Partnership furthers the three countries’ shared commitment to promote an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, inclusive, prosperous, and secure, through support for infrastructure projects that adhere to international standards and principles. The Palau spur project is a practical demonstration of the partners’ commitment to meeting the infrastructure needs of the region and promoting secure, resilient, and trustworthy communications networks worldwide.

  • It furthers the United States’ Pacific Pledge, a commitment to partner with the Pacific Islands on their most pressing challenges, including on economic and environmental resilience, maritime security, and good governance.
    • Since the Pacific Pledge was announced last year, the United States has committed more than $300 million in assistance to the Pacific Islands.
  • The project highlights Australia’s strong commitment to the Pacific, as demonstrated by the Pacific Step-up, its AU$1.44 billion (US – $1 billion) of aid committed to the region in 2020-21, and its AU$2 billion (US – $1.4 billion) Australian Infrastructure Financing Facility for the Pacific.
    • As a Pacific country and the region’s largest donor, Australia has a strong interest in supporting the region’s prosperity, stability, sovereignty, and sustainability.
  • Japan is committed to expanding cooperation with the Pacific Island countries through “All-Japan” efforts in pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific, as demonstrated by its contribution of approximately 61 billion Yen (USD – 580 million) in development assistance for the Pacific Island Countries since the 8th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 8) in 2018. This project is another manifestation of that commitment.

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2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum Promotes Free and Open Indo-Pacific

30 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The third annual Indo-Pacific Business Forum took place online and in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 28-29, 2020.  It showcased high-impact private-sector investment and government efforts to support market competition, job growth, and high-standard economic development for greater prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.

The Forum promoted the United States’ vision of the Indo-Pacific as a free and open region composed of nations that are independent, strong, and prosperous.  Over 2,600 business and government leaders from the United States and across the Indo-Pacific region participated.

Utilizing an innovative combination of a virtual conference platform and limited in-person events in Hanoi to mitigate the health risks associated with travel and large assemblies, the 2020 Forum enabled safe and productive commercial and diplomatic engagement despite the pandemic.

Panel discussions highlighted key themes including:

  • Energy and Infrastructure
  • The Digital Economy
  • Market Connectivity
  • Health and Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • U.S.-Indo-Pacific Partnerships and Commercial Opportunities
  • Women’s Economic Empowerment.

The U.S. officials and business executives highlighted a range of commercial deals and new initiatives, including:

New U.S. Deals in Indo-Pacific

  • Since the first Indo-Pacific Business Forum in July 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce, in partnership with other U.S. government agencies, has facilitated $37.6 billion in FDI from the region into the United States supporting an estimated 50,000American jobs, and assisted 4,122 Indo-Pacific clients considering investments in the United States.  During the same period, the U.S. Department of Commerce assisted over 12,000 U.S. companies active in the region and supported an estimated 1 million American jobs.
  • The United States, Australia, Japan, and Palau announced on October 28 that they are moving forward with the financing for the construction of an undersea fiber optic cable to the Republic of Palau which will ensure reliable, secure digital connectivity in Palau. The project, valued at approximately $30 million, will connect to a new undersea cable financed by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. That cable will be the world’s longest, spanning from Singapore to the United States. This marks the first project delivered under the Trilateral Partnership for Infrastructure Investment in the Indo-Pacific between the United States, Australia, and Japan. U.S. Government financial support for the cable connection project comes from U.S. Department of the Interior Compact Funding, USAID, and the U.S. government’s Transaction Advisory Fund.
  • U.S. firm AES Corporation and PetroVietnam Gas aim to go forward with the proposed $2.8 billion Son My LNG import terminal and power plant. The agreement will open the door to billions of dollars of annual U.S. LNG exports to Vietnam.
  • India has received $20 billion of foreign investment this year from U.S. companies including Google and Amazon. In July, Google pledged to commit $10 billion in India to accelerate adoption of digital services in the key overseas market.  In January, Amazon announced a $1 billion investment in digitizing small and medium businesses, allowing them to sell and operate online.
  • USTDA announced its growing commitment to smart cities in India by funding a feasibility study in support of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ National Urban Innovation Stack – a cutting-edge smart city tool to drive innovation, data-driven governance and capacity building across more than 100 Indian smart cities.
  • USTDA also announced grant funding for technical assistance to fundamentally transform the way Ho Chi Minh City manages its daily operations through advanced data analytics.
  • USAID in Vietnam announced the launch of the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program II (V-LEEP II). This five-year, $36 million program will accelerate Vietnam’s transition to a clean, secure, and market-driven energy system.
  • Mastercard established Mastercard Academy 2.0, a flagship program that will provide essential digital knowledge and skills to 100,000 Indonesians by 2023 – including schoolchildren, young adults, entrepreneurs and mid-career professionals – to help them thrive and actively participate in Indonesia’s digital transformation.
  • The U.S. Department of the Treasury and Thailand Ministry of Finance highlighted the Framework to Strengthen Infrastructure Finance and Market Building Cooperation. This cooperative initiative is designed to support infrastructure development through market-oriented, private sector investment.

New U.S. and Partner Efforts to Advance a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

  • In September 2020, the United States, the five Mekong countries – Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam – and the ASEAN Secretariat launched the Mekong-U.S. Partnership to expand and deepen our relationship and promote the stability, peace, prosperity, and sustainable development of the Mekong sub-region. The Partnership builds on 11 years of collaboration under the Lower Mekong Initiative to strengthen cooperation and programming, including in the areas of economic connectivity, human capital development, transboundary water and natural resources management, and non-traditional security.
  • Since Asia EDGE’s launch in July 2018, the U.S. government has reported success stories for U.S. energy firms in the Indo-Pacific totaling approximately $29.5 billion, which have supported more than 142,000 U.S. jobs. Asia EDGE represents an initiative of a group of 10 USG agencies that is advocating for approximately $185 billion in energy deals and advancing additional energy projects in the Indo-Pacific region totaling approximately $57 billion. Asia EDGE has allocated $140 million for technical assistance programming in Indo-Pacific markets to improve those markets’ regulatory environments and procurement processes, develop national and regional energy markets, deploy private capital, and modernize their energy infrastructure.
  • The Infrastructure Transaction and Assistance Network (ITAN) includes representatives from 14 U.S. government agencies. ITAN supported dozens of projects with a market value of over $175 billion and potential export content upwards of $23 billion during the initiative’s first year in operation. U.S. government agencies directed $587 million in tools and resources to support priority transactions and capacity building efforts in partner countries. ITAN projects span the Indo-Pacific, with several projects in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand.
  • The Blue Dot Network, announced at the 2019 Indo-Pacific Business Forum, will help close the gap in the development of quality infrastructure by certifying and advancing projects that uphold international principles and standards. With partners Japan and Australia, the United States is developing this initiative to promote infrastructure investment that is open and inclusive, transparent, economically viable, and financially, environmentally and socially sustainable.
  • The Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP), a whole-of-U.S. government initiative with 10 agencies, promotes expanded connectivity and an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable internet. In the past year, the DCCP has supported 15 countries in the Indo-Pacific region with approximately $50 million for capacity building to improve digital connectivity, strengthen the private sector’s digital capacity, assist in the design, development, and implementation of information and communications technology policies and regulations.
  • The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership is launching new programs on Health in Cities, resource recovery and reuse, and sustainable transportation policies and practices. The Partnership to date has invested in over 20 projects to support the ASEAN Smart Cities Network.  Coordination with the private sector is an integral part of the Partnership.
  • The United States and the Republic of Fiji signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on October 15 that will create a platform on which to expand and deepen bilateral trade and investment ties between the two countries.
  • The United States and Bangladesh signed an Open Skies agreement on September 30 to establish a modern, market-driven civil aviation relationship consistent with U.S. Open Skies international aviation policy. It includes unrestricted capacity and frequency of services, open route rights, a liberal charter regime, and open code-sharing opportunities.
  • Cambodia has passed a new law which recognizes U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) as providing sufficient quality and safety assurances, enabling new vehicles that adhere to these standards to be imported and sold in Cambodia. With the passage of this law, Cambodia becomes the first country in ASEAN to explicitly recognize and accept U.S. FMVSS.
  • The inaugural United States-Thailand Energy Policy Dialogue on October 27 brought together high-level officials from the U.S. and Thai governments to chart a path forward for collaboration on energy related issues. Participants discussed opportunities in the oil, gas, and power sectors, including those related to renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as opportunities for mobilizing commercial investment.
  • A new collaboration between the U.S. EXIM Bank and the USA Healthcare Alliance will provide greater access to high-quality U.S. healthcare goods and services throughout the Indo-Pacific region, which can aid in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Over the last year, the Department of the Treasury has initiated seven Indo-Pacific bilateral framework agreements with Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam designed to catalyze private sector financing throughout the region. The inaugural meetings of the U.S.-Indonesia and U.S.-Taiwan working groups were held on October 5 and October 27, respectively, and drew more than 100 officials to discuss quality infrastructure investment across the region.
  • USTDA announced new funding to support the Southeast Asia Aviation Cooperation Program (SEA ACP) a public-private partnership combining the expertise of five U.S. government agencies and more than 30 U.S. companies to support technical, policy, and commercial cooperation in civil aviation in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. USTDA will support a series of reverse trade missions to the United States that will familiarize the region’s aviation leaders with U.S. policies, technologies, and best practices to promote safety and security, enhance aviation and airport operations, and foster new partnerships with U.S. industry.
  • The FAA and USTDA will co-host an inaugural SEA ACP event – an Airport Safety Webinar taking place November 17-18, 2020.  The workshop will bring together U.S. companies and Southeast Asian leaders to discuss current approaches and practices in both the region and the United States on airport safety during construction and aircraft rescue and firefighting operations.  USTDA will also partner with the FAA to train Vietnamese airport operators and aviation representatives on the latest technical, operational and managerial tools that will enhance airport operations across Vietnam.
  • The FAA also announced a virtual Performance Based Communications and Surveillance (PBCS) Workshop under the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), for APEC economies in February 2021 to enhance awareness of PBCS as well as share best practices for its implementation.
  • In collaboration with the U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program, USTDA will fund an innovative executive development training program for India’s next generation of aviation leaders.
  • The United States and Japan reaffirmed their shared commitment to establishing a secure, open, and competitive energy market and strengthening energy security in the Indo-Pacific region through the Japan-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership (JUSEP). With greater focus on joint commercial engagement, JUSEP is making concrete progress in facilitating and creating new business opportunities for joint U.S. and Japanese energy projects in the Indo-Pacific region, including in Hai Phong, Vietnam.  The two countries are also strengthening their tools for commercial engagement, including through a new Memorandum of Cooperation to strengthen energy and infrastructure finance and market building cooperation, which was signed in February 2020 between the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Finance (MOF).
  • USAID announced an MOU with a consortium of U.S. retail, apparel, and footwear companies and industry associations to help supply chain workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The participating companies and industry associations are: Carter’s Inc., Gap Inc., Global Brands Group, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Tapestry, Target, VF Corporation, Walmart, American Apparel and Footwear Association, National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, and the U.S. Fashion Industry Association.
  • USAID announced new activities that will improve access to affordable, secure, reliable, and sustainable energy through the advancement of expanded, transparent, and efficient regional energy markets, in collaboration with various public and private sector partners from throughout the region and the United States, including U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories and the United States Energy Association.

An All-of-America Commitment to a Free and Open Indo-Pacific

As all nations strive to recover from the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of economic cooperation and partnership is paramount.  As the world’s largest economy and most generous humanitarian assistance donor, the United States is leading the way in that recovery effort, both at home and abroad.

The 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum enabled business executives and government leaders to forge connections, learn about industry, regulatory, and policy trends, and explore new opportunities for contributing to regional and global economic recovery.

Three U.S. Cabinet officials spoke at the 2020 Indo-Pacific Business Forum:

Fifteen U.S. Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission from across the Indo-Pacific region participated, along with Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) Chairman Kimberly Reed and senior State Department officials including Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources Frank Fannon, and Ambassador-At-Large for Global Women’s Issues Kelley E. Currie.

Other U.S. government agencies were represented by senior officials including:

  • U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) Chief Operating Officer and Head of Agency Todd Abrajano
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson
  • Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan
  • U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick
  • Department of the Treasury Assistant Secretary for International Markets Mitchell Silk
  • Department of Commerce Deputy Under Secretary Joe Semsar

Distinguished speakers from the private sector included executives from:

  • Google
  • Ford Motors
  • AT&T
  • AES
  • Mastercard
  • VISA
  • Citi
  • GE
  • Honeywell
  • Jacobs Engineering
  • Excelerate Energy
  • Medtronic
  • Cheniere
  • Keysight Technologies
  • Sanford Health
  • The U.S. Grains Council
  • The Aerospace Industries Association

The Forum was sponsored by USTDA and co-hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the US-ASEAN Business Council, and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

For additional information on the 2020 Indo Pacific Business Forum please visit: https://www.indopacificbusinessforum.com/

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Secretary Michael R. Pompeo with Aishath Shaany of Raajje TV

29 Oct

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Male, Maldives

QUESTION:  Welcome, sir.  Thank you for joining Raajje TV.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s great to be with you.  Thanks for having me with you.

QUESTION:  How has your trip been?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  It’s been great.  Too short, but wonderful to come visit here in the Maldives.  It was very kind of the president to invite me, and I’ve very much enjoyed the visit.  I think we’ve advanced the relationship between our two countries greatly.

QUESTION:  And what do you think the trip signifies?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I think – something that I’ve spoken with the foreign minister about when the new government came into office, I told him I would come – I wanted to talk about the things that we could work on together, the remarkable partnership.  We announced today that we’ll have a U.S. embassy here, which we’re very excited about.  The first time in history that we’ll have a permanently stationed American diplomat here to continue to build out what’s been a really important security relationship, an important diplomatic relationship, and of course, a deep economic relationship between our two countries as well.  And the also good work that democracies do together.  These are the kinds of thing where democratic countries who believe in transparency and the rule of law can work on together for the benefit of both peoples when a democracy can’t do that with an authoritarian regime.

QUESTION:  Another (inaudible) during this time where COVID-19 pandemic is going everywhere.  I wanted to ask some questions about that, especially since small island states like Maldives require great financial assistance to overcome the many challenges, and Maldives was – the tourism sector, which was the most beneficial in the country, was on a standstill and is kind of still on a standstill if we really think about it.  So we need financial assistance, such as debt relief.  So is – will the U.S. be providing essential assistance for the country?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We spoke with both the president and the foreign minister about this today.  We’ll certainly do our part to make sure the Maldives has a chance to get through this very difficult time.  This thing has impacted – this virus came from Wuhan, China, and impacted the whole world.  Your economy depends heavily on tourism; people can’t travel.  We want to do all the things that help get you – certainly debt relief to help get you through and delaying payments, but importantly, the United States is leading the world in assistance.  We provided $3 million and many, many ventilators here to the Maldives.  We’re working to get a vaccine; I’m hopeful we’ll have the vaccine before too terribly long.  All of the things that innovation, creativity, and democracies can deliver to the world, the United States is doing.  It’ll benefit not only the people of Maldives, but people throughout the region as well.

QUESTION:  And I’d like to go back a bit far in the past, to back in 2018.  U.S. was very critical of the then administration, especially after a controversial supreme court – Maldives 2018, in February 2018, and there were calls to restore democracy and people’s rights.  So how do you feel about the country, where the Maldives is at right now?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  The people of Maldives have taken a great turn we’re excited about that.  It’s allowed us to build out a relationship.  We wouldn’t – if we didn’t believe that with all our heart, we wouldn’t be putting an American embassy here.  So we’re excited about that.  We’re excited about the improvement in the lives economically for the people, we’re excited in the advances that are being made for the fundamental rights, including women here in the Maldives.  These are important things, and this government is working hard to implement those things that I think the people here care about and the United States cares about too.

QUESTION:  Okay.  And being a small island state, we were disheartened about United States position to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.  Do you believe that this was the right move?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah, absolutely.  The Paris Agreement’s a joke.  The countries that have signed onto it have no intention of actually complying with it.  If you look at what China, for example, has done, it’s the biggest polluter in the region.  It presents the greatest threat to the people of Maldives and their economy.  If you want to look to the greatest risk for increasing the amount of CO2 in the air, you need look no further than Beijing and its surrounding environments.

Contrast that with the United States, that we withdrew from the Paris climate agreement, but we in spite of that have reduced our CO2 emissions dramatically.  Look, we did it the way democracies do it: we did it with creativity, did it with innovation, and we did it because it made sense for our people to do.  This is how we solve problems, and it’s why it was such an important visit.  Two democracies working for a shared vision – this is how we’ll handle things like changes in weather patterns, it’s how we’ll handle all of the elements of our relationship.  Every strand in the security relationship, things that matter to the people of Maldives, will work better when they work alongside a good friend like the United States and a fellow democracy.

QUESTION:  Your announcement today about an embassy being opened shows that the relationship between both countries is strengthening.  So how do you see it growing in the future, especially with the embassy?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So there are so many different pieces of it.  I always think that the best thing democracies do together is they unleash the capacity for their citizens to create and innovate.  So that’ll be Americans who come here and want to invest, they want to help build countries – or companies and do joint ventures with companies from the Maldives.  And we’ll have students, I hope, that want to come to the United States and study and then return here.  We see this with our security relationship too, where officers from your services come and train in the United States.  These are the kind of things that we can build out true, strong relationships, make our countries both stronger and more capable.

QUESTION:  Is there anything you would like to add before we conclude?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  No, I think it’s really important to watch as the democracies in the region are beginning to work together.  I think it’s something that was underappreciated for so long.  So whether it’s the Maldives working closely with India, or working closely with Japan and South Korea, the United States, Australia, Indonesia – all the democracies of the region working together, I am very confident that we will leave our citizens in the next generation better off than they are today.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for joining us.  And I know this was a very short trip, so I hope you get to come back and enjoy the Maldives more.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I would welcome that very much.  Thank you for having me with you today.

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

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Joint Statement on the Israel-Lebanon Maritime Talks

29 Oct

Office of the Spokesperson

The text of the following statement was released by the Government of the United States and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon.

Begin text:

Building on progress from their October 14 meeting, on October 28 and 29 representatives from the governments of Israel and Lebanon held productive talks mediated by the United States and hosted by ​the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (UNSCOL). The United States and UNSCOL remain hopeful that these negotiations will lead to a long-awaited resolution.  The parties committed to continue negotiations next month.

End text.

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NEW DNC AD IN PENNSYLVANIA: ‘Deserves’

29 Oct

The DNC War Room released a new television ad today, “Deserves,” that highlights who Trump really is: someone with a long record of lying, cheating, and stealing his way through life and whose failed leadership has plunged Pennsylvania into crisis.

“Pennsylvanians know we can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “His failures have sparked one crisis after another, costing Pennsylvanians their health, lives, and livelihoods. Working families deserve competent, unifying leadership in the White House. That’s why voters across the state are making a plan to vote and casting their ballots to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

The ad is airing this week in the Philadelphia media market as part of a six-figure buy.

WATCH HERE:

The post NEW DNC AD IN PENNSYLVANIA: ‘Deserves’ appeared first on Democrats.

NEW DNC AD IN FLORIDA: ‘Deserves’

29 Oct

The DNC War Room released a new television ad today, “Deserves,” that highlights who Trump really is: someone with a long record of lying, cheating, and stealing his way through life and whose failed leadership has plunged Florida into crisis.

“Floridians know we can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “His failures have sparked one crisis after another, costing Floridians their health, lives, and livelihoods. Working families deserve competent, unifying leadership in the White House. That’s why voters across the state are making a plan to vote and casting their ballots to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.”

The ad is airing this week in the Miami media market as part of a six-figure buy.

WATCH HERE:

The post NEW DNC AD IN FLORIDA: ‘Deserves’ appeared first on Democrats.

Launch of the NCD Investment Case for the Russian Federation: Prevention and control of non-communicable diseases as a catalyst of economic growth and social well-being in Russia

29 Oct

Scaling up efforts on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) can avert over 4.3 million deaths and yield RUB 8.1 trillion (USD 105 billion) in economic benefits in Russia over the next 15 years – suggest the results of a recent analysis by WHO and UNDP under the United Nations Interagency Task Force on NCDs. These immense benefits can be achieved through investment in five proven and cost-effective intervention packages recommended by WHO to address the major NCD risk factors.  

The analysis, presented at the 4th All-Russia Forum on Public Health, highlighted that NCDs exert a significant economic, social, and sustainable development toll on the Russian Federation every year. NCDs are the leading cause of mortality and disability and are accountable for 87% of all deaths in the country. It is estimated that an average person in Russia has a 25% risk of dying prematurely (i.e. before the age of 70) from one of the four main NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. In 2016, 1 635 000 people in Russia died from NCDs while still in their prime productive years. The effects of such losses go far beyond the health sector and hinder Russia’s broader development priorities of increasing human capital, reducing poverty and inequality and strengthening inclusive economic growth. The investment case report shows that in 2018 alone, NCDs cost the Russian economy around 3.9% of GDP, with 86% of all costs stemming from indirect losses linked to premature mortality and reduced productivity of workers.

However, most of the socio-economic damage from NCDs is preventable. The results of the analysis show that by scaling up the national NCD response, the Russian Government can continue to improve the situation in the country. 

The analysis assessed five cost-effective intervention packages within the Russian Federation: four policy packages to reduce the prevalence of behavioural risk factors for NCDs – tobacco use, harmful use of alcohol, physicalinactivity, and excessive salt consumption – and one clinical intervention package to address cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The results show that implementation of these packages can significantly reduce the burden of NCDs and increase people’s well-being and quality of life while also accelerating economic growth. The return on investment is expected to far exceed the required costs and be as high as 50-fold over a 15-year period in the case of some interventions. In addition to these returns, the Government can expect to receive revenues from increasing taxes on health harming products - tobacco, sugar-sweetened beverages, and alcohol – which is part of the recommended intervention packages.

“Economic growth, equity, demographic security – nearly all facets of sustainable development are affected by the NCD burden in Russia. These investment case findings – and the real progress made to date – confirm that Russia is on the right path, but the pace needs to be increased to meet the 2030 targets.” Dudley Tarlton, Programme Specialist, Health and Development, UNDP

The analysis conducted by the WHO/UNDP joint programme under the UN NCD Task Force can be used to facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and promote a whole-of-government, comprehensive approach to tackling NCDs in Russia. It takes into account the country’s institutional and social context and contains a diverse range of compelling evidence-based arguments that could be used to appeal to a broad range of stakeholders, both in the public and the private space.

The Government of Russia has already demonstrated strong commitment to strengthening the prevention and control of NCDs, and the Ministry of Health's strategic goals under Presidential Decree No. 204 of 2018 include several NCD-related priorities. The Russian Federation also supports other countries in their efforts to tackle NCDs, for example through the WHO/UNDP joint programme on catalyzing multisectoral action on NCDs.

"The Russian Federation continues to demonstrate outstanding leadership on the prevention and control of NCDs at national, regional, and global levels. We are happy that the comprehensive analysis conducted by UNIATF can inform Russia’s continued multisectoral and multistakeholder efforts to address NCDs and other health-related SDGs."  Dr Svetlana Akselrod, Director, Global NCD Platform, WHO

The analysis prepared by the Task Force confirms the importance of such commitment and advocates for further scale up of Russia's national NCD response to improve health and wellbeing of millions of Russian people while enhancing economic growth and prosperity for millions more.

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Young people and digital health interventions: working together to design better

29 Oct

WHO and partners launch new guidance on designing digital health interventions with and for young people.  

Digital tools are an increasingly popular approach to improving health worldwide – particularly among adolescents and young people, who are accessing the internet at earlier stages of life.  

Youth-centred digital health interventions is a new framework developed by WHO, HRP, UNESCO, UNICEF and UNFPA. It provides guidance on effective planning, development and implementation of digital solutions with and for young people to address the many health challenges they may face as they grow into adulthood. 

Meaningful youth engagement at every step  

The 2019 WHO Guideline for recommendations on digital interventions for health system strengthening advises that digital health interventions adapt the way they transmit information to specific audiences in order to improve the health and well-being of the people they were designed to reach.  

This is critical when working with young people, who still encounter considerable resistance to being viewed as equal and valuable partners in programme design and delivery. This is true even when it comes to programmes, strategies, policies, funding mechanisms and organizations that directly affect their lives.  

The new framework includes a list of “do’s and don’ts” for engaging young people in the process of digital health design and delivery, based on consultation with young social media influencers, health content and intervention developers, health advocates, educators, and current or future health professionals.  

Young people are the experts on their own health needs, the technologies they use and how they access information,” said Dr Lianne Gonsalves, technical officer in the WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research, who led the development of this guidance. 

Youth-centred digital interventions is a pathway to collaboration: trusting young people, learning from them and paying them for their work. As well as being essential for successful solutions, meaningful youth engagement empowers young people to evolve from beneficiaries, to partners, to leaders.” 

Learning lessons from the first generation of youth-centred interventions 

Aligning with a growing body of WHO digital health guidance, the new framework builds on important lessons learned from the first generation of youth-focused digital health interventions.  

Instead of standalone websites and SMS-based pilot programmes that are not integrated into existing health infrastructure, the new guidance notes that solutions should complement and enhance existing digital and non-digital tools already in the health system.  

The next generation of digital health designers, developers, researchers and funders can use the framework to learn from the experiences of experts in the field – missteps, course corrections and successes – and better meet young people’s diverse health needs.  

WHO and the future of digital health 

With the right approach and effective investment, digital health tools have the potential to transform health services and help to achieve universal health coverage. 

WHO has a growing suite of digital health tools which can help countries effectively put into place, scale-up, maintain, and evaluate the impact of digital health interventions. 

Youth-centred digital health interventions is a companion to the recent Digital Implementation investment guide: integrating digital interventions into health systems (also known as the DIIG). This step-by-step tool from WHO and partners was developed to help ensure that investments in digital health are effective, sustainable, and equitable, and implemented in ways that are appropriate for the local context. 

The DIIG and the youth-centred framework are underpinned by the same core steps for digital health intervention development,” said Dr Garrett Mehl, scientist in digital innovations and research at the WHO Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research including HRP. 

Used together, these tools can enable meaningful youth engagement, responsible investment and long-term good governance for digital health interventions – ultimately ensuring that every young person has access to the health care, information and education that is right for them.” 

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