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The Near East Foundation operates programs in 15 countries in the Middle East and Africa. NEF aims to promote sustainable development in a participatory context, sponsoring a variety of innovative self-help initiatives that equip individuals and communities with information, training opportunities, new skills and technologies. These efforts attempt to enable participants to improve their lives, increase incomes, assist others, and thus more confidently claim a greater say in the running of their own affairs. NEF's current program areas include environment and natural resource management, agriculture and rural development, urban development and rehabilitation, micro-finance, community-based and bank-guaranteed lending, employment and job creation, population, health and family planning, human resource development, leadership and institutional development, women's development and education and basic education and literacy.