“USAID has been active from Morocco to Iraq and almost every country of the Middle East for between thirty and fifty years,” said USAID Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Michael Harvey:
“It has been a sustained long term partnership that has really been focused on building these countries’ abilities to take control of their destiny and to build a future that they define for themselves.”
In a recent interview, he noted that a lot of the money U.S. taxpayers have spent in the region has gone into creating things that while difficult to see, like potable water systems, touch peoples’ lives every day.
“But probably the more important thing that USAID has been doing over these last thirty or fifty ears is building the human capacity in countries across the Middle East. So there’s just been a tremendous amount of money and time and effort spent on training: doctors’ training, teachers’ training, ministries of finance, ministries of planning.”
What makes him most proud, he said, is to walk on to almost any university campus in the region and realize that much of the faculty was trained in the United States, often on USAID scholarships:
“We have seen how this decades-long investment in people, in human capital, is having a powerful impact on bringing modernization and bringing new ways of doing business and organizing society to these countries.”
Mr. Harvey pointed out that for much of the Arab world a dramatic modernization is going on. The challenge, he said, is that the pace of modernization can be slower than the expectations of the region’s youth:
“And that’s why we see young people coming out on the street from every country, from Morocco to Iran. . .They’re all talking about the same thing. They want government to be accountable. They want it to be honest. They want it to be transparent. They want to have a voice in how they are governed. And they want to see their economies modernized, opened up….They know what a normal country looks like, where you can travel and you can invest and you can build a business. That’s the future they want for themselves.”
As it has for decades, USAID will continue to support the aspirations of the people of the Middle East as they work toward that future.