By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
CAMP H.M. SMITH, Hawaii, May 28, 2015 – Nepal’s beleaguered citizens are struggling to recover from the April 25 magnitude-7.8 earthquake that claimed more than 8,600 lives, caused countless injuries and left many thousands missing.
But a United States Agency for International Development official said broader collaboration continues concurrently with U.S. Pacific Command on regional priorities including disaster preparedness, nontraditional regional threats, such as resource insecurity; climate change, pandemic issues and environmental considerations.
“The steady state environment of Pacom gives us the opportunity to partner to achieve USAID development objectives, writ large,” said Natalie Freeman, senior USAID advisor to Pacific Command. “In the Asia-Pacific, USAID focuses on maternal and child health, food security, climate change, and inclusive economic growth. We can cooperate across the entire spectrum of our regional portfolio.”
Focus on Economic Integration
In this vast Asia-Pacific region -- particularly in Pacom’s area of responsibility, which covers more than 50 percent of the world's surface area and is home to just shy of 60 percent of the world’s population -- USAID focuses on opportunities, Freeman explained.
“Asia is home to three of the four largest economies in the world. It is the fastest growing region with a middle class of 1 billion people. The trade volume is expected to double by 2025. Asia Pacific is expected to almost double its share of global GDP by 2050. The opportunity for regional economic integration is quite expansive.” she said.
USAID and Pacom work closely with Association of the Southeast Asian Nations to focus on economic integration, resources and security, Freeman said. “We will soon have a maritime awareness workshop, bringing in delegates from ASEAN [and] experts from our regional mission in Bangkok to discuss and agree on recommendations that will advance maritime security and in turn support regional efforts for fisheries management that will support long term food security and economic livelihoods,” she added.
Impact of Unregulated Fishing
Freeman cited a specific issue in need of attention: illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in a certain regions of Pacom’s jurisdiction. “It’s very important from a security perspective because of the risks it creates at sea,” she explained. From a development perspective, she said, overfishing can adversely affect food security and economic growth.
“Fisheries contribute to livelihood and economic development,” she said. “There is a development interest in resilient economics and security at sea advancing this goal. This is one area of shared space where PACOM and USAID can work together.”
Evolution of Relationship With India
In describing broader diplomatic successes, Freeman noted the evolution of the U.S. relationship with India.
“We are transitioning our relationship with India from that of a donor-recipient to more of a strategic partner. For example, India is a strategic partner in Feed the Future, the Presidential Initiative on food security, given that India has demonstrated the ability to achieve economic growth through agricultural growth,” she said.
And Pacom, she added, is similarly focused, as evident in the ongoing Nepal disaster response.
“Building the capacity of regional leaders is something we both take on together, [and] ideally, countries in the region are better able to respond to their own needs or crises through having more capability.”
This, in turn, empowers nations to partner with the U.S. to lead the improvement of the living environment for their citizens rather than adopt a more reliant recipient role, she said.
Collaboration with Pacom and other agencies also facilitates critical stewardship in an era of fiscal uncertainty.
“We never have enough resources for the demand,” Freeman said, “We must be strategic about the resources we have and try to make sure we get the best impact for the taxpayer’s dollar.”
Despite somewhat disparate authorities and appropriations, USAID and the military can mutually support efforts by leveraging resources, comparative advantages and unique capabilities to accomplish our respective missions, Freeman said.
“It’s important for the Department of Defense to articulate its rebalance to Asia, but equally important for the entire international apparatus for the United States, which includes development and diplomacy,” she added.
Efforts in Burma and Sri Lanka
Since the Asia rebalance began, Freeman said, USAID has opened a mission in Burma to assist the nation in its economic transition, political reform, private sector development and human rights issues. USAID, she added, is also considering support for the newly elected democratic government of Sri Lanka and has been instrumental in supporting development of better management of disaster risk reduction.
“There’s a broader message on the U.S. rebalance that involves defense, diplomacy and development, and it’s important that we coordinate that message to mutually reinforce our impact,” she said.
Beyond the initial response in Nepal, Freeman acknowledged, addressing engineering, deconstruction, reconstruction, health, sanitation issues and overall restorative efforts in Nepal will take time to complete. Meanwhile, the effort has enhanced civilian-military coordination, planning, and policy coherence.
“Since USAID’s first civil-military policy in 2008, much progress has been made. USAID and DOD know each other better now,” she said. “The Deputy Development Advisor, Garret Harries, and I include Pacom staff in relevant USAID training courses. We conduct the Development in Vulnerable Environments (DIVE) training for PACOM leadership and staff, and because we better understand how to work well together, I think we’re more successful in civil and military cooperation.”