5 September 2014
Studying the Children in Families First ACT, the US pro-adoption law that is intended to get more intercountry adoptions through international aid, we had some questions. And thus called the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Would you believe…
Would you believe that the US Center of Excellence on Children in Adversity is just one person, not a real Center with a special office and an operational team?
Would you believe the US Action Plan on Children has no legal basis and no budget? That CHIFF needs to be signed by President Obama first.
No, we would not have believed it. Until yesterday’s wake up call!
Phonecall Arun Dohle (Against Child Trafficking) – Rob Horvath (USAID)
Thursday, 4 September 2014
AD: I am looking for the Special Advisor on Children on Adversity
Secretary: On what?
AD: on Children in Adversity
Secretary: Oh, that would be Robert Horvath
AD: I am looking for the Center of Excellence for Children in Adversity.
RH: OK that’s me.
AD: What is the exact physical office address?
RH: Uh, my physical address? The Center is a part of of our department of USAID, so the Center does not have its own address. But I can give you my office address.
AD: OK, so it is in the Headquarters.
RH: Yes, at USAID
AD: I am just trying to understand, because I am writing a paper and a blog. So there was a Special Advisor on Orphans and Vulnerable Children before. Do I get it right that he was now replaced by the Special Advisor on Children in Adversity?
RH: That’s the same position.
AD: On the website it gives a legal mandate under PL 109-95, but in the law I cannot find Children in Adversity. I can just find Orphans & Vulnerable Children.
RH: Which website are you going to? To that childreninadversity.gov website?
AD: Yes, I have just been trying to understand
RH: PL 109-95, which is the actual law that created the Special Advisor Position and also called for a greater coordination among the US Government Agencies working on these issues. From that was established a small Secretariat, here at the USAID, under the Special Advisor.
And that small Secretariat held a US Government Evidence Summit in 2011. The result of that Evidence Summit was an Action Plan on Children in Adversity. And so I think that really people refer much more to the Action Plan on Children in Adversity now then the public law component. Because the Action Plan is really the framework that is driving this forward, as opposed to the public law aspects of it.
AD: So let me get this right, the appropriation of the funds; the CHIFF ACT is actually there to boost the Children in Adversity because only with the CHIFF Bill the Action Plan will get enough funding to implement it. Is that correct?
RH: There is no CHIFF legislation right now.
AD: Exactly, but the Center for Excellence is mentioned in the CHIFF ACT.
AD: So how does that connect. I don’t understand.
RH: The CHIFF legislation is new legislation that some people in our Congress are interested in seeing put forward. And what that is trying to do, I think, is – well it tries to do a number of things. Change the coordination, how that’s done. Change a little bit the structure of the department of our State Department. And it also is looking to support the Action Plan on Children in Adversity to get implemented. The Action Plan on Children in Adversity, which they call the APCA is actually coordinated by the Center of Excellence for Children in Adversity.
AD: So it is coordinated by you, or by Neil Boothby.
RH: Well, Neil Boothby has left, so I am the Interim US Government Special Advisor.
AD: Oh, Neil Boothby has left already. When did he leave?
RH: He left in March.
AD: when exactly?
RH: I don’t have the exact date, but he went back to Columbia University although he continues to work with us on a part-time basis, on a part time contract basis.
AD: There was a meeting, I don’t remember the exact date, but there was a meeting in the European Parliament. So, what was the intention of that?
RH: (hesitating) I was not at that meeting, so I cannot speak about that.
AD: OK. You work closely with Lumos? The organization from J.K. Rowling. Right?
AD: So, what is the relation with that?
RH: The Lumos Foundation is obviously a foundation of funding, as well as an implementing organisation. We are working in some of the same countries. Over the past couple of years, a new kind of alliance has emerged, called the Global Alliance for Children. And that alliance has a number of donors and foundations who are interested in these issues and really their strategy is based on the Action Plan.
Lumos is a member, a founding member, of that alliance, as is USAID.
So our connection is through the Global Alliance and our connection is also through working in some same countries.
AD: And what is your actual strategy for Europe?
RH: For where, what Europe, what do you mean?
AD: In particular Romania, Bulgaria, Montenegro; the new accession countries?
RH: Our Action Plan is really the framework, and that’s a global framework.
We are working in some of those countries, in Armenia, in Moldova. For example as an agency USAID may be in other countries that I am not aware of, but through the action plan – in another program that I manage, which is called the Displaced Children and Orphan Fund, we are working in a number of those countries for quite a number of years.
Moldova is one of those countries where Lumos is active, as is USAID. At least we are funding a group called Partnership for Every Child in Moldova. I was on a trip recently with Lumos and others to look at Moldova.
AD: Does USAID also fund Lumos?
RH: No, we do not. Lumos is a Foundation USAID does not fund Lumos.
AD: What is your general take on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
RH: I ……would not want to speak to that, because the US has their own position on the CRC. And you would probably have to talk to the Department because that’s the diplomacy side.
AD: So, in your external action with the Action Plan on Children in Adversity You haven’t really taken into account the UNCRC. That is at least my kind of perception, from a European perception. I don’t really know how that conflict could be resolved.
RH: (silence) That’s a good question.
The Action Plan is a very specific strategy for these issues. How we are going to coordinate and work together, but it does not speak directly to the CRC. That is correct.
AD: And how do you coordinate your actions with other international organizations, like the European Commission?
RH: That will be fairly country specific. I know that Neil when he was here, that he had meetings in Brussels, with the EU and with the US Rep to the EU, to look at ways in which we might be able to coordinate work in specific countries. And Moldova is one, and the EU is quite big in Moldova. Much bigger than the US. If we are going to do work in Moldova it certainly makes sense that the EU would be part of that partnership as well.
One of the roles that Neil is continues to play is on multilateral and foundation kind of commitments and partnerships on the Action Plan.
AD: And what is the relation to the Private International Conference in The Hague?
RH: Uhhh, I do not know.
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