About the author: Nisha Desai Biswal is USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Asia
For nearly 50 years USAID has been in the business of providing assistance to individuals in need to alleviate suffering, save lives, and foster a brighter future for families around the world.
Our mission here at USAID is a unique one: to put ourselves out of business. We seek to carry out development so effectively that people around the world no longer need the assistance we provide. To achieve our mission, we partner with countries, at their request, to assist them in the process of developing national structures that ultimately can function independently, without foreign aid.
Today, on the behalf of USAID, I accepted an award from the Republic of Korea’s (South Korea) Health Minister Chin Soo-Hee to honor a history of partnership that helped transform a once-struggling nation into a donor partner.
The collaboration began in 1954, when the International Cooperation Association, the predecessor to USAID, coordinated an agreement between the University of Minnesota and Seoul National University that facilitated the post-war exchange of medical education and research at a critical period in Korean medical reconstruction.
In subsequent years, USAID continued to provide health assistance that promoted the ongoing development of the Korean medical system. Today, we recognize the Republic of Korea as one of our longest-standing partners and identify them as a world leader in medical research and technology.
Once a recipient of U.S. development assistance, the Republic of Korea is now a donor partner that itself provides assistance to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Today, the country produces high-quality, affordably priced vaccines that have played an invaluable role in preventing disease and childhood death around the world.
In 2010, the Republic of Korea became the newest member of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, or the DAC. Its DAC membership marks the only time since the OECD was established in 1961 that a country has joined the “advanced nations’ assistance club” after transitioning from an aid recipient to a donor. To have made this transformation in just a few decades truly speaks to the Republic of Korea’s extraordinary economic rise, the compassion of its people, and its commitment to effective and coordinated assistance.
We are very proud of the role USAID played in helping the Republic of Korea achieve its development goals. Its remarkable transformation in such a short time span is an inspiration and a reminder. It reminds me that our mission is achievable.