A Public-Private Partnership that’s Saving Refugees and Rescuing Aid Workers

March 11, 2015 By David Stein

Forward-thinking businesses and nonprofits have been working with the U.S. government in innovative ways to tackle some of the toughest challenges in global development. From improving food security to providing electricity in sub-Saharan Africa, these projects leverage public resources, capitalize on new ideas, and ensure long-term sustainability.

This week, the Department of State, USAID, and Concordia – an organization that promotes effective collaboration between governments, businesses, and nonprofits – come together to highlight the impact of these partnerships during Global Partnerships Week. GPW is an annual celebration of the critical role public-private partnerships play in promoting diplomacy and development around the world.

One such successful collaboration is helping support refugees in South Sudan.

Years of intermittent violence and outright conflict in Sudan have driven more than 220,000 refugees over the border into South Sudan. Many depend heavily on humanitarian aid for survival. Delivery of food and other essential items to these impoverished men, women and children is often inhibited due to badly maintained roads and airstrips damaged by heavy rains and floods.

That is when the Department of State and the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) partnered with PAE, an American engineering, logistics, and capacity-building company, to help improve the lives of people in the region.

As a result, PAE has laid more than 150 miles of roads, repaired and maintained a 4,600-foot airstrip, surveyed the Upper Nile region of South Sudan to find the most conducive location for refugees to live without the constant fear of flooding, and drilled more than 50 wells to supply clean water to refugees and local villagers alike. Additionally, when fighting erupted in South Sudan in December 2013, PAE assisted in the evacuation of more than 300 humanitarian workers, saving countless lives.

This is just one example of the thousands of public-private partnerships the State Department and USAID have forged over the past decade. These collaborations tap into the key expertise of each partner, leveraging and multiplying impact and making the most out of that small, but mighty one percent of the budget dedicated to international affairs.

Proof that when you pair the convening power and expertise of the public sector with the market-driven ingenuity of the private sector, you get the best of both worlds.