With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the Soviet Union, countries across the globe entered a period of dramatic political change. Whether in Central Europe, Africa, Asia or Latin America, authoritarian regimes succumbed to the forces of democracy, ethnic and religious groups fought for control over states, and long-standing rivals moved from the battlefield to the negotiating table. It quickly became apparent that choices made during these transition periods had an enormous influence on a country's future. It was also clear that traditional forms of humanitarian aid and development assistance were not suited to these new challenges. There was no established mechanism for meeting the rapid-response needs of the new era, such as stabilizing democratic transitions, mitigating conflict, or reconstructing war-torn nations.
The Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) was created in 1994 to provide fast, flexible, short-term assistance to take advantage of windows of opportunity to build democracy and peace. OTI lays the foundations for long-term development by promoting reconciliation, jumpstarting economies and helping stable democracy take hold. Although our interventions may appear similar to development activities, they are political in nature and strategically aligned with the perspectives of local partners, who carry out positive change long beyond the life of an OTI program.
USAID/OTI has evolved not only to address political transitions, but to support stabilization and conflict alleviation efforts. By conducting numerous small initiatives, an OTI program is able to learn what works and what does not, adapting its approach as it progresses toward the change it seeks to catalyze. Each OTI program is different because the context for each is different, and each transition initiative program must be built from the ground up. Since 1994, OTI has provided nearly $3 billion in transition assistance through over 70 programs in more than 56 countries.