Americans recognize that our security and prosperity depend on having stable global partners, able to contribute to solving shared problems. Americans also know that our influence in the world and our ability to rally peoples and nations around common challenges rests in large measure on our reputation as a beacon of humanity and human dignity.
We saw our common humanity in action earlier this year when nearly half of American households contributed to the Haiti earthquake response. In fact, more people gave money to Haiti relief efforts this year than watched the Super Bowl.
American rescue and response teams, backed by USAID, were in Haiti just hours after the devastating earthquake, lifting survivors from the rubble. They were among the first to respond to deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Taiwan, and to a devastating tsunami in Thailand. And most recently, they were the first to arrive in Pakistan assisting the millions displaced by devastating floods.
These disaster response teams represent America at its best, projecting the true character of our country to nations in their hour of need.
Heroic efforts on behalf of the American people play out every day in countries around the world. America's emergency response efforts complement a long-term development agenda that supports developing nations as they grow their way out of poverty.
Administrations of both political parties have supported these efforts, even in difficult economic times, because we recognize that it is both the right thing to do, and the smart and strategic thing to do. That is why United States emergency aid is stamped with the phrase "from the American people" in local languages. The logo of the U.S. Agency for International Development is an image of a handshake, and it has become known around the world as a sign of partnership and promise. I am enormously proud whenever I visit a health clinic, school or refugee camp and see that handshake in action.
Displaying our logo is also a matter of transparency. We believe that people in Haiti, Pakistan and elsewhere have a right to know where their assistance is coming from. And American taxpayers have a right to know where their dollars are going. International aid operations can be complex, with many organizations, local officials and donor nations working together. Transparency helps reduce the chances that funds and supplies are misdirected or misused.
We recognize that in certain geographic areas this policy can create risks and challenges for courageous aid workers operating under already difficult circumstances, including some from non-governmental organizations and charities that do not have the resources or protection of official government agencies.
That is why we carefully tailor our decisions on where and how much to label aid to the risks in any given area. We closely monitor evidence of security threats and, when necessary for the safety of workers, provide waivers that allow them to distribute unlabeled aid. We do this in the most dangerous areas of Pakistan.
When we place our name on the supplies we send, we are sending a public message that we believe in a bright future for places facing great challenges today. We are on the ground with our sleeves rolled up, working as friends and partners, because we see the promise and possibilities that future holds.
The Obama Administration is committed to the safety of our partners in the aid community. At the same time, we need to be honest and transparent about America's commitments, for our people's sake and theirs. Wherever possible, we will extend our hand openly and confidently and label our assistance, "From the American People."
Dr. Rajiv Shah is the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
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