Last month, Adminstrator Rajiv Shah discussed the results of the 2013 USAID Forward Progress Report in Washington. The Administrator iterated the Agency’s “north star” as creating conditions so aid is not necessary in the future, and delivering “clear, compelling and measurable results”. In this segment, he offers examples of how USAID is meeting these objectives through partnerships around the world. The event was co-hosted by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP). Watch the full video.
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This week USAID was featured in the Sudan Tribune for the announcement following World Water Day that ” it is committed to increase the number of South Sudanesewho have access to clean water and sanitation.” At present, “only 34% of South Sudanese have access to clean water according to statistics from South Sudan’s ministry of water resources and irrigation, leading to various dangerous diseases such as diarrhea that can lead to death, especially among vulnerable groups.”
Deputy Administrator of USAID Donald Steinberg is traveling this week on a three-day visit to Dhaka, Bangladesh. During that time, he launched USAID’s new environment conservation initiative, the Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL) project, a five-year $35 million program to involve local communities in the management of key ecosystems and develop alternative livelihoods for them to reduce dependence on protected area resources. He will also “meet government officials, including the ministers for agriculture and Environment and Forests to further the partnership between the US and Bangladesh through development assistance, with a particular focus on climate change and gender,” Financial Express reports.
In its “India Ink” blog, the New York Times interviewed USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on “his recent trip to Mumbai about transformations in the development sector, the function of the private sector in development work and the aid agency’s new programs and partnerships aimed at reducing preventable child deaths.” During the Q&A session, Dr. Shah explained among other things that now, the agency is focused “on using our India mission as a development innovation laboratory to try and find those partners in the private sector, scientists and entrepreneurs who are creating great new solutions for development and then helping them apply those solutions here in India but also elsewhere in the world.”
Reflecting on the launch of the USAID Forward Progress Report today, I am reminded of the Mission Director’s Conference held four years ago in Leesburg when we all met Raj Shah for the first time. He had been nominated to be USAID’s administrator, but not confirmed, and his visit to our conference was unofficial—and under the radar of the press. I was mission director in Uganda at the time. And as the nearly 70 of us representing every mission in the world met the man who was about to lead us, the energy was palpable, his questions were many, and we were all impressed.
He had a vision to make USAID the best development agency in the world. He projected an aura of confidence that it could be done. And most important, with respect and humility, he said he couldn’t do it alone. He needed us to tell him how.
Raj left that night, and the next day we threw out the agenda the conference planners had painstakingly developed. Instead, we spent the day developing an agenda for action to present to our new administrator to restore the Agency’s place as the premier development agency in the world.
For all of us, the agenda was grounded in what we learned when we entered the Agency. Be focused and rigorous in what we do and what we don’t do. Develop strategic plans that explain country context, define development objectives, and describe intended results from our assistance. Work directly with host governments and local organizations. Build their capacity to govern and deliver services. Innovate. Use cutting-edge science and technology to enhance our efforts. Be rigorous in our evaluation and monitoring. Share the findings widely to improve what we do, and stop re-inventing wheels that keep falling off wagons. And finally, have enough staff to do the job ourselves, and not rely on hired guns.
I was a member of the group that took our agenda to Raj in his office at the Department of Agriculture the next week. We presented it to him, he asked a lot of questions, and as we left, we all felt he got it.
I returned to Uganda and spent the last three years implementing the agenda that became USAID Forward. We developed the first country development cooperation strategy in the Agency. We focused our resources on clearly defined objectives and results. Reforms in Washington led to major changes in the ways we could do business in the field.
We realized after a rigorous analysis (that we did ourselves) the key focus of our proposed value-chain work in coffee, corn and beans was already being done under a joint European program. Rather than duplicate their work, and pay overhead on a USAID program, we used newly issued procedures to award $20 million to the joint European program. Under the agreement we defined clear measures of performance and accountability. And by doing so, we saved both time and resources.
After two years of implementation, private farmers and farmer organizations are obtaining remarkable yields and services. In a similar vein, DFID recognized the success of our extremely effective reproductive health program and gave us $30 million to extend the program to every district in the country. Again, the USAID Forward reforms radically simplified the way we do business, and allowed us to double the resources we had in an existing grant (without excessive red-tape and bureaucratic delays) to provide family planning services throughout a country with one of the highest population growth rates in the world.
More than anything else, I was awed by the influx of new talent in the Agency under the reform effort. Our U.S. direct hire staff grew by a third during my tenure in Uganda, and the diversity, incredible energy, and talent they brought changed our culture and way of life. We mentored, managed, and watched them grow into remarkably gifted and capable officers. In turn, they taught us the power of mobile technologies. They showed us the reach of their insight, creativity, and new ways of looking at development challenges.
Today the USAID Forward Progress Report tallies up what we have learned and done as an Agency. We have had success. We have had challenges. There is a long way to go to reach our topline indicators.
But, I can assure you one thing. The spirit of USAID Forward is in the hearts and minds of everyone in the Agency. For me, the reforms are in the rearview mirror, and they are leading us to the lane ahead. They are our new reality…and as we take up the president’s call to end extreme poverty in a generation, they will be on the horizon as well.
Take a look at an infographic that illustrates the USAID model of development that puts us on a path to deliver more innovative and sustainable results.
Earlier this year, in the State of the Union address, President Obama called upon us to join the world in ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. It was an extraordinary moment, as the President set forth a vision for one of the greatest contributions to human progress in history.
The truth is that many people don’t realize that this goal is within our reach. I often find myself battling the perception that politics today cannot support great moral aspirations or that government cannot usher in innovative, cost-effective ways of achieving those goals.
But in my last three years as Administrator, I’ve seen just the opposite. From a church in inner-city Detroit that looks after an orphanage in Ghana to the nationwide response after the Haiti earthquake, I’ve seen the depth of passion and support that Americans have for our work. And at a time of seemingly uncompromising politics, I’ve seen leaders from both sides of the aisle stand together as champions for this global task.
Today, I am pleased to share with you our third annual letter about the work our Agency does around the world to help answer President Obama’s call.
From the Afghanistan to Ethiopia, we are building on this support and a foundation of reform to pioneer a new model of development that engages talent and innovation everywhere to achieve extraordinary goals. So for this year’s letter, we’ve gathered a few examples that focus on the capacity of partnerships to maximize our impact and scale meaningful results. From partnering with small community banks in the Philippines to local imams in northern Nigeria to multinational agriculture companies in Tanzania, we are trying to change the way development works to achieve extraordinary goals.
We’re excited about our progress, but we also know we have far to go to make this model a defining part of the way we work. I am eager to hear your thoughts and reactions, and I look forward to working with you to advance our mission and realize the end of extreme poverty.
Administrator Shah offered remarks for the Global Child Nutrition Dinner held at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. on March 4, 2013. The dinner was part of the 10th annual ‘A Possible Dream Gala’, and this year, Arlene Mitchell, Deputy Director of Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was the guest of honor. Hosted by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation whose aim is to end childhood hunger, proceeds from the event enable the Foundation to provide technical assistance to countries so they can develop and expand school feeding programs.
This week Administrator Raj Shah visited India and Burma. The Press Trust of India reported on USAID’s announcement to extend “two of its flagship projects for child survival in India”. The renewed commitment of the two nations through the USAID, “aims to end all preventable child deaths and to strengthen India’s Call to Action on Child Survival and Development.” The agency “resumed work in Burma ” in November, after Washington suspended most sanctions against the country,” according to the AP. “Since then, USAID has committed $171 million to health, food security, democracy, human rights and rule of law programs.”
In an interview with Reuters, Administrator Shah exclaimed the international community is slowly rethinking its policies toward Burma in light of the government’s decision to implement a number of reforms. He noted, “Everything we do is geared toward making these reforms sustainable and more durable, and if there’s backtracking, we will not continue to expand our efforts.”
The Yemen Times reports, “During the revolution, armed militias and government forces used hundreds of children’s schools as barracks and firing points” and they left many Yemeni schools “in complete disrepair, some destroyed entirely. Now, nearly two years later, 380 of those schools have been repaired, ” thanks to a number of organizations including USAID.