George Rupp: $21 million will reach hundreds of thousands of West African girls and women

September 21, 2010 By George Rupp

George Rupp is President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee

 width=I write from the Clinton Global Initiative.   I have attended CGI meetings beginning with the first one and am honored to be here again this year.  Importantly for the IRC, the commitments made by world leaders, businesses,  and philanthropists at the CGI can provide much-needed help for assisting uprooted people worldwide.

I commend President Clinton and other organizers for highlighting issues like the Empowerment of Women and Girls — a major focus of this year’s meeting.  Today there is perhaps no other area where challenges and opportunities are greater.  When women and girls are safe, healthy, and empowered, their families, communities, and countries prosper.  That’s why this year we at the IRC are making our own commitment of $21 million of programs to reach hundreds of thousands of West African girls and women over three years.

Today I am speaking at a session on Community-Led Development in Conflict Areas, with remarks by Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz and moderated by Dr. Ashraf Ghani, former Finance Minister of Afghanistan. This critical–and growing–area represents the cutting edge of humanitarian work.  Community-led development programs involve far more than a simple handout.  Instead, they empower local people to organize and make decisions about how to improve and rebuild their villages and towns, while at the same time providing them with powerful hands-on experience with democratic processes.  The IRC’s commitment last year covered almost $100 million in community-led development programs in Democratic Republic of the Congo,   with crucial support from the British Department for International Development.

This year’s annual meeting also includes a focus on Post-Conflict Education, exploring how we can ensure that even in the midst of war and displacement children never lose the hope that only education can provide.  On Thursday, I will attend a session on this topic where former IRC Technical Advisor Rebecca Winthrop, now of the Brookings Institution, will share her expertise.  The IRC is now providing education programs in twenty conflict-affected countries, but I am eager to learn more about the work my other colleagues on the frontlines are doing.

The annual arrival in this city of world leaders for the UN General Assembly and the Clinton Global Initiative taking place a few blocks away can produce world-class traffic jams.  The good news, however, is that these meetings can bring needed attention to the many positive ways that governments, business, donors, and aid agencies can work together to address global problems.  The IRC and I are proud to participate in that process.