Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah
This week, the President’s proposed Food Aid Reform in his FY2014 Budget Proposal garnered significant attention both from members of Congress at Administrator Shahs’ hearings on Capitol Hill and in the media.
This week Administrator Shah appeared before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. Delving into the testimony, Politico says “Rajiv Shah – the bright young star at the United States Agency for International Development” – promoted “a more modern and science-based way” to deliver food aid to those who need it most. Shah testified that “Behind all this is President Barack Obama’s plan to revamp international food aid to allow more flexible, cash purchases overseas – rather than commodity shipments from the US.”
In its “Democracy In America” blog, The Economist notes that “USAID’s head, Rajiv Shah, is optimistic that the reformers will win this argument, pointing to a fiscal environment in which every dollar must be made to count.” In the New York Times piece titled “When Food Isn’t the Answer to Hunger”, Tina Rosenberg recalls that “in many places, people go hungry because there is no food. But in a lot of places, food is available and the market is working – people are just too poor to buy it. In those places, giving individuals or charitable groups cash to buy food can make food aid cheaper, faster and fairer.” Roseenberg adds that “by strengthening and not undercutting local farmers, cash aid also helps countries to avoid hunger later.”
Watch the segment on PBS:
On Monday, April 15, USAID Administrator @RajShah participated in a Twitter chat to answer YOUR questions on the proposed Food Aid Reform in President Obama’s 2014 Proposed Budget. People asked questions using #AskUSAID @RajShah on everything from the nutritional value of #FoodAid to how to better engage with @USAID. From 2:30-3:30 p.m., we received over 20 questions and reached over 700,000 users on Twitter! @RajShah responds to your questions with lightning speed!
President Obama’s 2014 Budget Proposal and Proposed Food Aid Reform
This week President Obama released his 2014 Budget Proposal, which introduced major reform in the delivery of food assistance. The Washington Post reports the White House has proposed “the first major change in three decades to the way the United States supplies food aid to impoverished nations, significantly scaling back the program that buys commodities from US farmers and ships them to the needy overseas.” Under a budget proposal released Wednesday, “nearly half of $1.4 billion in requested funds for the aid could instead be spent to purchase local bulk food in countries in need or to distribute individual vouchers for local purchases.” USAID administrator Rajiv Shah said in an interview, “We’ve made a strong commitment to provide more flexibility,” noting that “local purchase of food allows for a response time nearly 14 weeks faster” than shipping from the US, and also is “30 percent cheaper for certain types of commodities.” Shah added, “We recognize that any transition has to be done in a careful, thoughtful manner,” but argued that over the long term “spending money to build and modernize agricultural systems in current food-recipient countries ‘is ultimately what creates tens of thousands more jobs here in our country.'”
Oxfam’s Paul O’Brien welcomed the proposals, telling the Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration has taken an important step towards long overdue reforms to bring food aid into the 21st century…This president’s proposal will get food to more hungry people faster, cheaper and more efficiently. Congress should pass them expeditiously.”
USAID Announces Initiative to Promote LGBT Rights Abroad
The four-year public-private partnership between USAID and Olivia Cruises, UCLA’s Williams Institute, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency “will work with local LGBT groups to provide leadership training, research and other help, lending the imprimatur of the U.S. government to people who in many countries are outcast and vulnerable, ” The San Francisco Chronicle reports. “This partnership leverages the financial resources and skills of each partner to further inclusive development and increase respect for the human rights of LGBT people around the world,” noted Claire Lucas, senior advisor of the USAID Office of Innovation and Development Alliances. “It can be a real game-changer in the advancement of LGBT human rights.”
Earlier this year, in his State of the Union address, President Obama made a commitment to ending extreme poverty in the next two decades. Today, with the release of the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14), we are reminded of our role in fulfilling this commitment. As an agency, we’re fortunate to have this as our mission: to work on behalf of the American people to eradicate poverty and its most devastating corollaries, widespread hunger and preventable child death.
To seize this moment, USAID is fundamentally changing the way we work: harnessing innovation, science and technology; leveraging our resources to build partnerships that have an even greater impact; and focusing like never before on delivering and measuring results. To deliver these results, we are implementing an ambitious set of reforms called USAID Forward that have touched every aspect of our work.
While real progress has been made, we’re clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. Under the President’s budget, USAID will continue to strengthen our reform efforts. Our budget fact sheet outlines some of the critical programs that are funded under this budget – and details an important new reform initiative to modernize how the United States delivers food aid.
The President’s food aid reform proposal envisions a more efficient, effective, and timely program that will reach 4 million more hungry people each year. Today, Administrator Shah will share his vision on the future of food assistance at an event hosted by CSIS. To learn more about food aid reform, please visit our food aid reform page: www.usaid.gov/foodaidreform
Alongside diplomacy and defense, our development work will continue to play a critical role in America’s economic and national security. With just over one percent of the federal budget, the State Department and USAID budget moves us closer to ending extreme poverty, advances U.S. national security, protects Americans at home and abroad, opens markets overseas, creates American jobs, forges global partnerships and delivers real results for the American people.
For additional resources on the President’s FY14 budget and USAID’s work, please visit our website.
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.
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.