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USAID Bureau for Asia and the Near East

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I. Development Challenges in the ANE Region

Due to its physical, social, and economic diversity, the Asia and Near East region (ANE) defies easy categorization. Its boundaries encompass rich natural resources, but these are unevenly distributed, and many countries suffer from serious resource scarcities. While parts of the region have experienced rapid economic growth, this growth has often come at a cost of sacrificing environmental quality, public health, and longer-term economic sustainability, due to urban and industrial pollution and depletion of natural resources.

Demands on natural resources and environmental systems in the ANE region are intensifying due to population growth, urbanization, and industrialization. Including China, the ANE region's population is approximately 3.5 billion, comprising 60 percent of the world's total, and growing at over 2 percent per year. Much of the growth is in urban centers, where the provision of jobs and services strains the infrastructure and political fabric of ANE societies. Air and water quality especially suffer from the rapid growth which has overwhelmed the capacity of urban environmental infrastructure and public health systems to respond.

Throughout the ANE region, there is increasing attention and dedication to sustainable development through environmental protection and conservation. Sustaining progress will require efforts to deepen support for open, participatory, and transparent processes, to encourage decentralization and the resulting empowerment, to build local capacity and enhance participation, and to develop new and innovative partnerships at all levels and between all segments of society.

II. Environment Sector Overview

To address the major environmental issues occurring in the ANE region, USAID focuses its environmentally resources principally on the following five priority areas:

To address the above issues, in 1997 USAID supported 25 environmental strategic objectives (SOs) with total obligations of approximately $333 million.

Most USAID Missions in the ANE region have at least one environmental strategic objective. In addition, the USAID addresses selected issues through two regional activities:

Trends and Issues:

Rapid industrial and urban growth is resulting in increased threats to human health from air and water pollution. Asia's urban population will surpass rural numbers early in the next century.

There is increasing likelihood of global climate change from the rising use of energy and high rates of deforestation in all regions of the world.

Inadequate water quality and quantity affect health and economic well-being in all ANE countries.

The ANE region includes the countries with the greatest biodiversity in the world (at 6 each). The ANE region also has among the highest rates of natural habitat loss, both terrestrial and aquatic, due to deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urban and industrial development.

III. Approaches

As one of its overarching goals, USAID supports the achievement of broadly-based, sustainable economic growth. USAID's environmental Strategic Objectives for the ANE region provide the substantive focus for environmental investments in the region, and most involve considerable synergy with Economic Growth, Health and Population, and/or Democratic Growth objectives. While specific tactics vary by country, the general strategies behind these programs are fairly uniform, focusing on:

IV. Results

Given the different levels of maturity of ANE's environmental programs, progress at the national level is easier to measure in activities such as water and wastewater management, where USAID has over a decade of investment experience and adequate data. In areas which are newer or for which reporting data is scarce, national-scale biophysical improvements are unlikely to be apparent for another five to ten years. We can, however, begin to see annual qualitative results at the program level that give us the confidence that we are on the right track. Highlights of results reported in 1997 include:

Global Climate Change

Urban Infrastructure

Natural Resources: Biodiversity, Forests, Coastal Resources, and Water

Industrial Pollution

V. Innovative Partnerships

Implementation of the ANE environment program requires USAID to be a lead organization in marshalling and coordinating technical and programmatic expertise both within and outside of government. This demands effective collaboration with other Federal agencies, including the Department of State, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in implementing environmental programs abroad. In addition, USAID is pioneering new and innovative partnerships with the private sector through programs such as USAEP. Given shrinking resources, USAID continues to seek out opportunities to leverage or cost-share activities with these other agencies and organizations.

VI. Conclusions

Sustained economic growth and public health in Asia and the Middle East are fundamentally dependent upon proper management of ANE's environment and natural resources by the people who depend on them. In FY 98, USAID plans on providing approximately $50 million in DA resources and $280 million in ESF Resources to support the overall ANE environmental portfolio. The Bureau is seeking to increase support to the region in the area of natural resource management, and increase synergy with our economic growth, health/population, and democracy programs.

USAID will continue to work with other US agencies (e.g., State, EPA, Commerce, USDA, and NOAA) as well as other international organizations to develop and support environmental programs in the ANE region. The ultimate goal is to sustain economic progress and improve the quality of human life while preserving environmental resources and options for future generations.


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