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Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

USAID Book Club: A Farewell to Alms

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As part of USAID’s Fall Semester, we will host an online book club for our readers this fall. The Impact Blog will post suggestions from our senior experts at USAID to suggest a book on important issues in international development.  We’ll provide you and your book club with the reading suggestions and discussion questions, and you tell us what you think! Our fall reading list will  explore solutions to the most pressing global challenges in international development—mobile solutions, poverty, hunger, health, economic growth, and agriculture.

This week’s choice comes from: USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Book: A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World, by Gregory Clark

Synopsis: The source of human progress has long been a subject of debate. What makes rich countries rich, and poor countries poor? In the this book,  University of California, Davis, Economist Gregory Clark offers a provocative take on the age-old question, arguing that it was culture—rather than geography, natural resources or centuries of exploitation—that left some parts of the globe behind.

According to Clark, relative stability and effective workforces enabled certain societies to take better advantage of the Industrial Revolution’s new technologies and opportunities. Those countries with lax systems or undisciplined workers lost ground, and stayed there.

Clark’s book is skeptical of whether the poorest parts of the world will ever achieve real progress. For development professionals, it offers up a challenge to the belief that outside intervention can help bridge the vast economic divide between rich and poor.

Review:  This book impacted me because it shows how for hundreds, or even thousands, of years basic economic progress was largely stagnant. You didn’t have rapid compound increases in living standards until the Industrial Revolution when some countries and some societies got on a pathway towards growth – towards better health, longer life expectancy, higher income per person and more investment in education. Others remained on a slower-moving pathway.

That great divergence, and the study of it, is at the core of development. It is that divergence that we try to learn from and correct for. We define success in development as helping communities and countries get on that pathway towards improved health and education, and greater wealth creation.

I didn’t choose this book because I think it is the definitive story on development, but rather because I share its focus on core economic growth as the driver of divergence.

I disagree where Clark concludes that some societies failed to take advantage of the availability of modern technology because their cultures were antagonistic to development. With the right conditions in place, you can unlock a formidable work ethic from a range of different cultures and communities. The last 50 years have shown us that. By investing in local capacity and local institutions, we can leave a legacy of economic infrastructure, strong and capable leadership, and transparent, effective public and private sector institutions.

USAID’s partnerships in Latin America helped country after country develop strong institutions. The same can be said for South Korea. Unfortunately, there have been examples where aid and assistance have been provided in a manner that was not as sensitive to building lasting local capacity and institutions. This is true for all partners, not just our Agency. That’s why we’ve launched a program called USAID Forward, to refocus on working in a way that will create durable and sustained progress.

Administrator Shah is on Twitter at @rajshah. You  can also “Ask the Administrator” your questions on Crowdhall

Discussion Questions

1. Do you agree with Clark that some societies failed to take advantage of the availability of modern technology because their cultures were antagonistic to development?

2. The Nobel prize-winning economist Robert Solow has said Clark does not take into account how institutional factors, such as cronyism, inequitable taxation and ineffectual government cripple development. What role do you think these institutional factors play?

3. Clark challenges how effective outside intervention can be in helping poor nations progress. Do you agree?

4. Regardless of why some nations have fallen behind, how do you think they can bridge that gap today?

5. Has your world view changed after reading this book and how?

Get Involved: Use the comments section of this blog post to share your answers, or tweet them to us at #fallsemester

Ask the Expert: Administrator Shah on the AIDS fight

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Originally published at Global Pulse, by John Donnelly and Charles M. Sennott.

Q: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced this week that the administration would be put together a blueprint in five months for an “AIDS-free generation.” She first announced this vision eight months ago. Why does it take 13 months to put together a plan?

A: Let’s start with the goal. We were all very committed to create an AIDS-free generation. … We want to take a very honest and rigorous approach. We know it will require resources. We know it requires a great deal of local knowledge and development insights to say which communities are transmitting the most, how are we going to reach them, how do you reach people who are not as symptomatic? And what are the implementation strategies that are going to allow us to target and maximize outcomes against this goal?

We are trying to step through that in a very rigorous way. We are not holding anything up by doing that analysis. We’re embarking on an aggressive scale up of treatment, of prevention, of country ownership, of investing in country systems, even as we craft a blueprint that completely guides this country and our global partners for sometime in the immediate future.

Q: Is there a need for a blueprint, and is there wisdom in waiting for the results from the HIV combination prevention trials, which will test different approaches to reduce infections all at once?

A: The HIV combination prevention trial in Tanzania is particularly important because that’s probably the largest scale among them. It’s going to add a great deal of knowledge and data. But the reality is the pathway that defines success is going to look different based on the unique characteristics of the pandemic in countries and in communities. We need to do those trials and learn from them. We also are moving ahead with the aggressive presumption that combination prevention, including treatment as prevention, can be an effective strategy to get to an AIDS-free generation.

Q: Regarding male circumcision, you’ve had some problems in creating demand, such as what you’ve seen in Swaziland. What approach do you use now?

A: We need to apply more local insight, partnership with local institutions, better understanding of local behaviors and cultural preferences in how we scale up male circumcision programs. It is a medical intervention that has lots of data to substantiate its efficacy, but it is also a very personal and very significant cultural statement that we even in the United States in parts of our country debate and struggle with.

The big lesson learned is to take a little bit of time to be consultative with local partners who really know and are from the cultures in which we hope to scale up access to the intervention. I think we are working in the context of an aggressive scale up of male circumcision.

Q: The closing of the Global Health Initiative office ended the original dream of moving GHI to USAID. Are you disappointed that the dream didn’t materialize?

A: I kind of focus on what works and what doesn’t work, and what’s necessary to achieve our goals at a particular time. Our administration has set three critical health goals for our work: an AIDS-free generation; child survival call to action and eliminating preventable childhood death; and the virtual elimination or significant reduction of mothers who die in childbirth.

But what we learned in order to achieve them, we can’t have the current situation, where the US is keeping its funding constant in a tough global economy, but others are doing a little bit less. We know we need to have more focus and a more integrated approach. In the call to action we bring together malaria, preventing infections from mother to child, nutrition during the first 1000 days, GAVI and other immunization, and therapy for pneumonia and diarrhea. Let’s think of these as a combination approach to achieve the results of saving 5.5 million kids.

I know from my conversations with the president and the secretary that that’s their expectation — we are delivering on that. So, you know, the organizational structuring of it evolved in order to take on these goals and to address these challenges that were in our midst. Remember, GHI was launched before funding challenges existed both for US and abroad, and I think this is responsive to the reality of what’s needed.

Q: But GHI was perceived as the signature global health program of the Obama administration.

A: Just because we don’t have a Global Health Initiative coordinator at the State Department anymore doesn’t mean we don’t have a Global Health Initiative. We believe this structural approach will be more effective in delivering the kind of integration across services that we think is at the crux of getting health outcomes for the same resources, which is what GHI is about. It is true: We had a structure, we didn’t think it was the right structure to deal with the challenges going forward. We made changes to that, but we are absolutely committed to the GHI, to the goals we’ve established and to the concept of integrating service delivery to drive better results.

Q: At a panel at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Mike McCurry called on the Obama administration to articulate one clear global health goal – not three or five. But one. What do you think of that?

A: Mike was dead right. We got to this point by focusing on immunization, focusing on getting malaria bed nets to kids, focusing on HIV/AIDS. We still need to do that. But going forward, as Mike suggested, we need integrating concepts, concepts that people can be inspired by, that are operational and real, but that bring things together so that we are not competing with each other and instead grow enthusiasm for the overall effort.

That’s what the call to action for childhood survival was all about. You see 80 countries show up in the Washington meeting, co-hosted by India, Ethiopia and the United States. Fifty-six countries signed a pledge to eliminate preventable childhood deaths. Probably 20 some have already published scorecards to demonstrate how they are going to measure that. The US agencies and others have all agree to highlight the annual rate of reduction in childhood deaths as an operational metric to focus on across all of our grants. That’s the kind of coming together around something big, inspiring, and very genuinely country driven that I think will define success in the next decade for global health.

Q: Why did the call to action work then?

A: I don’t know the analysis, I just know the answer to the question. It’s somehow the energy is coming from the countries. We had a mid-level delegation from Yemen come to the Washington meeting, and they were so inspired that when they got back, when I got to Yemen the next week, the president of Yemen and deputy health minister both approached me and said, ‘We want to be part of this call to action. We looked to our statistics, we feel we can do better.’ When that happens, and that’s the demand signal we’re getting, that to me is what this should all be about, as opposed to our trying to construct something that then we ask others to respond.

Q: The phrase ‘turning point’ is used a lot when it comes to the AIDS epidemic. Do you use that phrase, and if so, why is it a turning point?

A: Well, the pandemic, the turning point, my understanding, the way I use it, is to refer to a specific moment when the number of global new infections is lower than the number of people added to treatment. Every year after that, you are reducing the number of people with the disease. We are not there. We are still in situation where the aggregate number of people with the disease is growing, so the turning point is a very important concept because once you hit that point you are on the decline and you can legitimately say we’re working statistically downhill toward zero. But the drivers of the turning point are what’s critical. That’s where you see that expanding prevention in a focused way that reaches the most transmitting populations is critical to achieving the turning point. And expanding efforts that effectively reduce risky behaviors so that you don’t have another turning point, and go back up again, are all critical to solve AIDS over the long term. So I think it’s a very viable concept.

Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Morrill Act

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Today we celebrate the visionary leadership of President Abraham Lincoln in signing the Morrill Act 150 years ago.  Even as our nation prepared to enter one of the most brutal and challenging periods of its existence, President Lincoln demonstrated a powerful understanding that America’s success would depend on investment in the agricultural development of its new frontier. His foresight led to the creation of the most productive science- and engineering-based agricultural economy the world has ever seen. The new U.S. land-grant system democratized American access to education, graduating young scientists and engineers who have continued to transform the American economy through generations as no other single investment has.

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1,000 Photos

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

As of today, 1,000 people around the world have posted photos of their 5th birthday in support of the Every Child Deserves a 5th Birthday awareness campaign. From Secretary Hillary Clinton and Kay Warren to Tony Hawk and Mandy Moore, government representatives, faith-based and civil society leaders, celebrity activists and athletes have uploaded photos of themselves at age five to help rally the world around the goal of ending preventable child death and ensuring all children get to celebrate their 5th birthday.

Age five is an important time. It’s when we start going to school, learning to read and making our own decisions. Age five is also an important milestone in the health and development of children.  Over the last 50 years—especially in the last two decades—child mortality has fallen by 70 percent thanks to high-impact interventions like new vaccines, improved health care practices and community health workers.

Despite this progress, more than 7 million children will die this year from largely preventable causes before they turn five.  In Africa alone, 1 in 8 children will die before they celebrate their 5th birthday.  In order to change this devastating narrative, we must do more.

Today, we have the scientific, technological and programmatic advances to dramatically accelerate progress.  Today, the Governments of the United States, Ethiopia and India are working in close collaboration with UNICEF to launch a Call to Action in Child Survival.  Designed to end preventable child death by focusing on the survival of newborns, children and mothers, the Call to Action will convene 700 prominent leaders from government, the private sector, faith-based organizations and civil society to kick off a long-term, strategic effort to save children’s lives.

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Winning the Fight Against HIV in Children

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 8,000 professionals in 80 missions around the world.

Originally published at Blog.AIDS.gov.

Over thirty years ago, when the fight against HIV first began, the outlook for tackling the pandemic was bleak. Across the world, AIDS was seen as a death sentence. Within just a few years, it had devastated communities from the United States to South Africa.

But the world continued to fight, and the past three decades have seen tremendous progress in HIV research, prevention and treatment, thanks in large part to the leadership of the United States. Today, we can build on that strong legacy to answer President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s call for an AIDS-free generation.

The 19th International AIDS Society (IAS) conference will be an opportunity to renew our commitment to this incredible goal. It also marks an historic moment, as the United States hosts the conference for the first time in over 20 years now that people living with HIV and AIDS are able to visit the U.S. to attend in-person.

We know that we have a long way to go to win the fight against HIV–especially for children.

Through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)–the largest international commitment to a single disease by any individual country–the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and other U.S. government agencies provide lifesaving HIV and AIDS services to millions of children, women, and families worldwide. 

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My 2012 Annual Letter: Elevating Development within America’s Foreign Policy

About a year ago, I decided to write an annual letter to share some of the work our Agency does saving lives and improving human welfare around the world. I also wanted to describe some of the priorities we’ve set and tough choices we’ve made in order to deliver meaningful results for and on behalf of the American people.

Now, I am pleased to share our 2012 Annual Letter, which we issued last week.  This letter highlights the work we’ve done over the last year to seize pivotal opportunities in development and achieve generational legacies of success.

From helping communities build resilience before disasters strike to helping countries improve child survival so they can reap what’s known as a demographic dividend, USAID is working hard to answer President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s call to elevate global development.

We’re also stepping out of our comfort zone, embracing challenging roles and responding quickly to world events. As the Arab Spring took hold in North Africa and Middle East, we helped empower citizens as they embraced new freedoms and participated actively in the political process for the first time. And we’re partnering much more closely with the private sector to expand opportunities for investment in the developing world.

Ultimately, this letter describes our efforts to help countries build the capacity to direct their own development, as we work together to shape a brighter future.

I hope you enjoy reading it, and please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

An Alliance for Global Development

Originally posted on the White House Blog

When Prime Minister Cameron meets President Obama in Washington today it will have been ten months since our two countries signed a new Partnership for Global Development. The partnership outlines specific areas where we are focusing our collective efforts, reaffirming our commitment to saving lives and improving human welfare around the world.

If you needed proof of how much more we can achieve by working together than acting alone, our response to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa demonstrates the transformative impact of our partnership.

Over the last ten months, USAID and the UK’s Department for International Development’s (DFID) leadership and decisive action in the region has helped avert an even larger catastrophe. As heads of our nations’ respective development agencies, we have both visited the Horn of Africa and seen for ourselves the scale of the crisis, which placed more than 13.3 million people in need of emergency assistance. That is roughly the combined population of London and Washington. (Watch this video of Rajiv Shah and Dr. Jill Biden’s visit to the Horn of Africa last year)

While the drought was regional, the crisis only led to famine in southern Somalia, where a governance failure and lack of access obstructed international relief efforts. This underscores the importance of the recent London Conference on Somalia hosted by Prime Minister Cameron that brought together over 50 countries and international organizations to consider how best to support Somalia not only on development but on issues like piracy, the political process and security. DFID led a parallel set of discussions on preventing future humanitarian crises.

Thanks to the generosity of the British and American people, our nations led a significant humanitarian response that helped save hundreds of thousands of lives in Somalia alone, and reached millions of people across the region with food, health care, and water and sanitation services.

But we must do more than provide relief. We must help countries build resilience, so they are prepared for disasters before they hit. USAID’s Famine Early Warning System provided some of the first alerts of the impending crisis, giving us time to pre-position food and health supplies in advance. And many of our programs on the ground have allowed families and smallholder farmers to weather the crisis.

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USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah Honors the Life, Memory of U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne

U.S. Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey. Photo Credit: USAID

A statement on the passing of a true advocate of USAID’s work, Rep. Donald M. Payne of New Jersey.

“There have been few greater friends of USAID than Rep. Donald M. Payne. Mr. Payne beat the drum of dignity and civil rights for women and girls from Rwanda and Afghanistan to Colombia and Morocco. He was a giant in the world of African affairs whose sage counsel I relied upon time and again – whether on the challenges of promoting economic development and justice in post-apartheid South Africa or helping to sustain peace between Sudan and South Sudan. He was there the day South Sudan became an independent republic, and was personally involved in the development of the African Growth and Opportunity Act, the creation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and the strengthening of the African Union. His imprint on our Agency is large. Mr. Payne visited nearly every USAID Mission in Africa and directly touched the lives of our staff in the field and here in Washington, DC. From protecting human rights, to promoting food security or combating HIV/AIDS, Rep. Payne held our Agency accountable for delivering real results. His absence will leave a deep void, but his legacy as a champion for those in need will live on.”

World AIDS Day: New Advances Are Critical to Achieving the Vision of an AIDS-free Generation

An activist sets up a red ribbon during the commemoration of the World AIDS Day in San Salvador, on December 1, 2010. AFP PHOTO/ Jose CABEZAS

Featured on Huffington Post

For the first time since the AIDS virus surfaced, devastating communities and overwhelming nations, the world has the tools and knowledge to ensure an entire generation is born free from its scourge. By building on a strong legacy of progress and bipartisan support and relying on proven interventions and new breakthroughs, the United States is leading the world in making real the vision of an AIDS-free generation.

Our efforts at home and abroad have informed each other. HIV prevention and treatment approaches pioneered in Nairobi and Cape Town now benefit communities in the U.S. Thanks to President Obama’s strong support of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief—better known as PEPFAR—millions of patients worldwide are able to receive affordable treatment that used to be out of reach.

At the same time, American researchers and pharmaceutical companies have made game-changing discoveries that are helping save millions of lives around the world.

Despite these successes, every day more people become infected than start treatment. Every day, more people—many of them women and children—join the ranks of the already 34 million living with HIV today. In order to end this devastating reality, we have to work faster, more effectively and more efficiently than ever before.

As Secretary Clinton recently said, our efforts must begin with the American people—and our drive for innovation, unfailing sense of generosity and track record of breakthrough research.

To realize the future of an AIDS-free generation, we have to strategically focus our efforts on proven, cost-effective ways to fight against HIV/AIDS: stopping mother-to-child transmission, expanding voluntary medical male circumcision, supporting community adherence and investing in new biomedical tools.

But we also have to focus on propelling new advances.

Just a few months ago we saw new results that demonstrated the effectiveness of HIV medication taken orally, once a day, at not just treating HIV but preventing its transmission.

Discoveries like this may one day change the way we fight AIDS, both in America and in developing countries.

As the head of a federal agency dedicated to improving human welfare, I have seen firsthand the deeply moral, social and economic costs of HIV/AIDS: children who have been born HIV-positive and find the odds in life already stacked against them; businesses close in regions where HIV is rampant while hospitals fill up; and the despair fueled by a single disease.

This reality has always been unacceptable. For the first time, we can confidently say it is also avoidable. With the continued support of a remarkable bipartisan constituency of congressional leaders, faith-based institutions, multilateral alliances and private sector partners, we can build on the momentum of proven results and scientific discoveries.

Today, as we once again mark World AIDS Day, we should do so knowing the world finally has the ability to create a future without AIDS.

Shah: In defense of smart foreign assistance

As featured on CNN’s Global Public Square

This week more than 2,000 government, civil society and private sector leaders have gathered in Busan, South Korea with one goal: to improve the quality and effectiveness of development aid.

The setting is especially significant; 50 years ago, South Korea was largely a country of peasant farmers. It was poorer than two-thirds of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa and its people barely lived past the age of 54.

Today, South Korea is a high-tech hub, a net donor and its people have some of the longest life expectancies in the world. South Korea also happens to be the seventh largest market for American goods; we sell more to the South Koreans than we do to the French. The free trade agreement President Obama recently signed with South Korea means we’ll be selling even more to Seoul in the future, leading to high-paying American jobs.

South Korea’s economic miracle – from one of the poorest countries in the world to one of the wealthiest – serves as a powerful example of how effective foreign assistance can be, if delivered well and used wisely to catalyze growth. With a focus on transparency, mutual accountability, strong private sector engagement and meaningful results, development assistance can help developing countries thrive.

President Obama, Secretary Clinton and I have worked hard to reform the way America delivers assistance abroad. As part of our nation’s first ever Presidential policy on development, we’ve made our assistance more transparent, accountable and effective.

We created foreignassistance.gov – an online dashboard that anyone can use to track American foreign assistance investments. We launched a major effort to deliver our aid directly to the people we intend to help, rather than routing it through middlemen and contractors. And we launched the Open Government Partnership, a new multilateral initiative through which governments – including the U.S. – make concrete commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and use new technologies to strengthen governance.

But America will do even more to ensure our development assistance is delivered transparently and accountably. Yesterday in Busan, Secretary Clinton announced a major step forward for development transparency: the United States – the world’s largest donor of foreign assistance – will join the International Aid Transparency Initiative.  This international standard of data reporting demands that we provide our taxpayers and our partners data about our investments in a clear, accurate and timely manner.

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