U.S. Reinforces Commitment to Secure, Stable, Democratic, and Self-Reliant Afghanistan at 2020 Conference

Office of the Spokesperson

The United States participated in the 2020 Afghanistan Conference on November 23-24, the sixth quadrennial gathering to coordinate international development support for Afghanistan. The conference was hosted virtually by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. At the conference, the United States emphasized its commitment to a secure, stable, democratic, and self-reliant Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, and underscored the following:

  • The United States has announced the availability of up to approximately $600 million in civilian assistance for Afghanistan for calendar year 2021. We were pleased to pledge $300 million in civilian assistance today, with an amount of up to approximately $300 million also available in the near term depending on our assessment of progress in the peace process. Future assistance beyond 2021 is planned at comparable levels provided there is consistent progress on transparency and accountability, as well as on the peace process, on the part of the Afghan government.
  • The United States will continue to support Afghanistan Peace Negotiations. All sides must seize this historic opportunity for peace and commit to a reduction in violence that will enable these talks to succeed. Future assistance decisions will reflect progress made in these negotiations.
  • We encourage Afghanistan to prioritize peace, security, protection of the rights of women and girls, as well as much-needed economic reforms, specifically its anti-corruption efforts, to achieve its goal of stability and self-reliance.
  • The advancement of women’s rights is vital to economic, social, and political progress in Afghanistan. The United States and the international donor community are united in the view that future assistance will be determined by the steps Afghanistan takes to protect the human rights of all Afghans, especially those of women, girls, and ethnic and religious minorities.
  • Today’s civilian assistance pledge is in addition to the approximately $4.3 billion per year in security assistance the United States provides to Afghanistan.
  • In addition to the civilian assistance funds pledged at Quadrennial Donors Conferences, the United States has provided more than $3.6 billion in humanitarian assistance to Afghans in Afghanistan and the region since 2002. In Fiscal Year 2020, the United States provided nearly $277 million in humanitarian assistance to support emergency food, health, humanitarian protection, shelter, and water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance to the most vulnerable Afghan households affected by conflict and natural disasters, as well as reintegration efforts for internally displaced peoples, returning refugees, and host communities.
  • The United States has provided substantial support to Afghanistan as part of our global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including more than $39 million in health and humanitarian assistance and the donation of 100 ventilators to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.

Afghanistan’s Gains since 2001

Afghanistan has faced and continues to face enormous challenges, foremost on the security front, and far too much of the cost of the war has been born by the Afghan people. But due in large part to their determination and resilience, it is undeniable that today Afghan men and women are healthier, more prosperous, better educated, and enjoy greater freedoms than two decades ago. The United States is proud of the contributions we and our donor partners have made to enable this historic progress, including in the following areas:

  • Access to education has improved significantly for millions of Afghans, especially for women and children. Support from the United States and other donors over the last 19 years has improved the access and quality of basic and higher education in Afghanistan and enabled a generation of young Afghan women to receive an education. Over nine million children are enrolled in school, including over 3.5 million girls. Approximately 300,000 Afghans, including around 100,000 women, have enrolled in public and private universities. Today, 40 percent of students enrolled in basic education are girls, and more women than ever are serving as ambassadors, cabinet members, and members of parliament and the security forces.
  • Since 2002, life expectancy among women increased from 47 years to more than 60, and the combined infant and maternal mortality rate at birth has been reduced by more than half, in part due to the support of the United States and other international donors. An increased number of midwives and female health workers has been key to this progress.
  • Afghanistan’s economy has experienced significant growth, improved development outcomes, and strengthened macroeconomic management since 2001. U.S. assistance focused on private-sector led, export-driven growth has supported the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs, improved livelihoods for farmers and Afghans across the country, expanded markets for Afghan exports, and advanced regional economic integration. The United States has facilitated over $845 million in increased sales of agricultural products and made more than 540,000 hectares of farmland more productive through better irrigation since 2006. Our trade promotion events in six countries enabled Afghan business owners, including a significant number of Afghan businesswomen, to sign over $47 million in sales agreements in addition to establishing new markets and sales channels.
  • Aided by U.S. training and assistance, Afghanistan’s criminal justice institutions – the Supreme Court, Attorney General’s Office, and Ministry of Justice – have laid the foundations for rule of law, presiding over trials, prosecuting offenders, and defending clients in accordance with Afghan law. With our support, the Afghan government has improved Afghanistan’s correctional system and deployed prosecution units focused on combatting violence against women to all 34 provinces, boosting conviction rates for crimes of domestic violence.
  • U.S. counternarcotic programs have helped address the production and trade of illicit drugs, introduced alternative livelihoods, and improved the delivery and effectiveness of drug treatment and recovery programs.
  • Our support for demining programs has reduced the threat of landmines and unexploded ordinance.
  • Since 2001, the United States has provided significant assistance to Afghan media organizations and training to journalists. The development of a strong, free and independent media over the past 19 years is a key achievement, crucial to ensuring democracy, accountability, and transparency. The United States will continue to support a free and independent media and the security of journalists who put their lives at risk to inform the public.

For further information, please contact the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs at SCA-Press@state.gov.

 

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    The Small Business Administration (SBA) develops its subsidy cost estimates for the 7(a) loan guarantee program—that is, estimates of the program's net long-term cost to the government—using a cash flow model. The model uses historical data, econometric equations, and macroeconomic projections to estimate cash flows—such as guarantee fees, SBA purchases of defaulted loans, and recoveries on those loans—for the loans SBA expects to guarantee in the next fiscal year. The net present value of the cash flows (value in current dollars) is the subsidy cost estimate. SBA generally incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimates for the 7(a) program for the fiscal year 2020 budget. Specifically, GAO found that SBA's estimation process was largely consistent with eight key elements GAO previously identified that help ensure subsidy estimates are supported, reliable, and reasonable. For example, SBA generally validated historical data, documented the cash flow model and key assumptions, analyzed the sensitivity of estimates to alternative assumptions, and had documented policies and procedures. SBA made changes in its estimation process that collectively increased the 7(a) program's subsidy cost to $99 million for fiscal year 2020 (a 0.33 percent subsidy rate when expressed as the cost per dollar of credit assistance) from $0 for fiscal year 2019 (0 percent subsidy rate). Some of these changes were routine updates to data and economic assumptions used in the cash flow model, while others were revisions to the estimation process. Additionally, some individual changes increased the subsidy costs, while others decreased it. Some of the changes that had the largest impact on the subsidy rate included the following: Incorporating the President's economic assumptions for fiscal year 2020 decreased the rate by 0.27 percentage points. Updating the basis for the size and composition of the loan cohort SBA expected to guarantee in fiscal year 2020 increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. Revising the methodology for estimating purchase amounts for defaulted loans to better reflect the outstanding loan balance at the time of purchase increased the rate by 0.21 percentage points. The 7(a) program is SBA's largest loan guarantee program for small businesses, with about $95 billion in outstanding loan principal as of the end of fiscal year 2019. Federal agencies that provide credit assistance are generally required to estimate the net long-term cost to the government—known as the subsidy cost—for each annual cohort of loans. SBA initially estimated a zero subsidy cost for each cohort from fiscal years 2014 through 2019, but estimated that the fiscal year 2020 cohort would have a positive subsidy cost and require appropriations. GAO was asked to evaluate SBA's subsidy estimation process for the 7(a) program. This report examines (1) how SBA estimates 7(a) subsidy costs, (2) the extent to which SBA incorporated key elements of subsidy cost estimation into its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget, and (3) the changes SBA made in its estimation process for the fiscal year 2020 budget. GAO reviewed SBA documentation on its estimation process, including information on SBA's cash flow model, and compared SBA's process to key elements that GAO previously identified ( GAO-16-269 ). GAO also interviewed officials from SBA, the Office of Management and Budget, and outside auditors and contractors that annually review SBA's process and model. For more information, contact William B. Shear at (202) 512-8678 or shearw@gao.gov.
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    Genetic counselors and medical geneticists are two groups who typically work together to provide genetic services, such as genetic testing and counseling. Genetic counselors have at least a master's degree in genetic counseling and assess individuals or families with or at risk for genetic conditions, and provide counseling and education on test results. Medical geneticists are typically physicians who specialize in medical genetics and genomics, and provide comprehensive genetic services, ranging from diagnosis and interpretation of test results to the management and treatment of genetic conditions. GAO's analysis of data from the professional organizations representing this workforce shows the number of genetic counselors certified to provide genetic counseling services has nearly doubled since 2009, and is projected to continue growing. The data show there were approximately 4,700 certified genetics counselors in the United States in 2019. The data also show the number of new medical geneticists has increased modestly since 2009, and the total number certified in the United States was approximately 1,240 as of April 2020. There is no widely accepted measure for how many genetic counselors and medical geneticists should be available; however, representatives from professional organizations GAO interviewed stated that demand for genetic services is rising. Data from the professional organizations representing the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces, as well as data from the Census Bureau, also show the number of genetic counselors and medical geneticists varied across states. States averaged seven genetic counselors per 500,000 people in 2019 and two medical geneticists per 500,000 people in 2020. Genetic counselors and medical geneticists primarily practice in hospital settings. Distribution of Genetic Counselors by State, 2019 Advances in genetic technology and research have increased the amount of information available to individuals and providers, and may have increased the demand for genetic services. The medical genetics workforce—which includes genetic counselors and medical geneticists—plays an essential role in providing access to genetic services. Some studies have identified concerns with the size of the medical genetics workforce and its ability to meet the current and future demand for genetic services. A House Committee on Appropriations report included a provision for GAO to conduct an analysis of the medical genetics workforce. This report describes, among other objectives, what is known about changes in the size of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; and what is known about the geographic distribution of these workforces. GAO reviewed relevant studies of the genetic counselor and medical geneticist workforces; interviewed agency officials and professional organizations representing each workforce; and analyzed the most recent available data on the size and distribution of each workforce in the United States, as well as population data from the Census Bureau. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Labor. The Department of Health and Human Services provided technical comments, which GAO incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or CosgroveJ@gao.gov.
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