USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

Working with Diaspora Communities to Deliver Meaningful Results

On Tuesday, I spoke at the Global Diaspora Forum, a gathering at the State Department that brought together representatives from diaspora communities around the world, from Haiti to Tanzania.  I had the opportunity to talk about ways USAID is rebuilding our engagement with diaspora—in areas like philanthropy, entrepreneurship, and volunteerism—under the framework of the Diaspora Network Alliance.  And I shared my appreciation for the unique relationships, knowledge and skills that diaspora communities bring to development.

In the aftermath of the last year’s earthquake in Haiti, diaspora volunteers worked with Tufts University to help translate text messages from people trapped in rubble—information we fed to our search and rescue teams on the ground in Haiti that helped save lives.  In South Sudan, we worked with skilled, educated Sudanese diaspora volunteers to develop local capacity in health and education.  As the referendum for independence approached, we supported polling stations abroad so that members of the southern Sudanese diaspora could participate.

I was reminded at the Global Diaspora Forum of my own family’s experience.  My parents immigrated to the United States, and I still recall the pride my father took in sending money in blue aerograms back home to our family in India.  In 2010, global remittances were valued at over $340 billion, but I know firsthand how much more they’re really worth.  So often a result of long hours and sacrifice, they mean the chance for a child to afford her school uniform, or the chance for a young person to take out a loan and open up a business.  And when they allow a family to buy food or medicine in a difficult time, they mean the difference between life and death.  That’s why we’re committed at USAID to making sure each dollar saved and each dollar transferred reaches its recipients at the lowest transaction cost possible.

You can learn more about our work with diasporas and remittances.

I was inspired by how many potential new partners I saw at the Forum and the possibilities going forward to learn from each other, share innovative ideas, and deliver meaningful results for developing countries.

USAID Joins Netherlands, Agriculture Organizations to Boost Southern Sudan Agriculture

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah today in Juba, Sudan, signed a communiqué on behalf of the U.S. Government to help boost private sector engagement in agriculture in southern Sudan, where the vast majority of people rely on agriculture for their livelihood.  In spite of enormous potential of the agriculture sector, most southern Sudanese farmers grow only enough to feed their families, but not to earn an income.

Listen to part of his speech at the event:

USAID, the Netherlands, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and the International Fertilizer Development Center signed the communiqué, agreeing that they will help develop southern Sudan’s commercial agriculture sector by increasing agricultural productivity, supporting agribusinesses, and improving agricultural research and technology through:

  • Expanded use of quality seed and integrated soil fertility management
  • Development and expansion of an agro-dealer network
  • Revitalization of local agricultural training and research centers
  • Development of policies and regulations that support business development, sound regulatory practices, and innovation
  • Development of institutions that promote and support market infrastructure and information systems
  • Increasing farmers’ and entrepreneurs’ access to finance.

“Any effort to transform agriculture has to be comprehensive,” Shah said.  “The days of doing a small demonstration project in one part of a county and calling that agricultural development must be over.” Noting that he met with smallholder farmers from surrounding villages before the event, he added, “It is the smallholder farmers, most of whom are women, who will determine whether or not this effort succeeds.”

The event was held at Rajaf Farm, a commercial farm near Juba, which is financed by three British and seven Sudanese partners on land that was previously not being farmed or otherwise utilized.  They agreed with the population of adjoining Rajaf Village to help establish a community farm that the villagers will plant and manage, with assistance from the commercial farmers.  The collaboration has brought employment and agricultural training to the village residents, who previously did not earn a daily wage.  Now they earn 3 Sudanese pounds (approximately $1) per hour ($8 per day) to work at Rajaf Farm and are learning technical skills.

White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

By: Ari Alexander, Director, Center for Faith-based & Community Initiatives and Senior Advisor to the Administrator for NGO Partnerships and Global Engagement

Yesterday President Obama hosted a prayer breakfast observing the Christian holiday of Easter in the East Room of the White House.  In only its second year, President Obama is the first President to host such an event for Easter, and was honored to be joined by pastors and leaders from around the nation.  USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah attended the morning prayer breakfast and was recognized for his extraordinary leadership in the President’s remarks.

“Before I begin, I want to acknowledge one particular member of my administration who I’m extraordinarily proud of and does not get much credit, and that is USAID Administrator, Dr. Raj Shah, who is doing great work with faith leaders.  […]  Raj is doing great work with faith leaders on our Feed the Future global hunger program, as well as on a host of other issues.  We could not be prouder of the work that he’s doing.”

Following the breakfast,  attendees gathered for a series of policy briefings from various U.S. government agencies.  The discussion included topics on: energy and climate change; immigration; fatherhood and healthy families; human trafficking; and international development.  Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council, spoke eloquently about development, calling the gathered faith leaders “champions of dignity” for those often forgotten.  She highlighted the importance of the Presidential Policy Directive on Development as well as the role of USAID and Administrator Shah in leading the Feed the Future initiative.  The gathering was a unique opportunity to gather religious leaders from around the nation for a moment of reflection during Holy Week and to dialogue about ways to partner together in caring for the most vulnerable.

You can view the full transcript or video of the President’s remarks.

Calling All Probem Solvers: Help Make Birth Safe

This blog is cross posted from the OSTP blog.

The birth of a child is a momentous event anywhere in the world.  In many countries, though, the occasion is not just one of joy, but one of fear – fear for the life of the mother and the newborn baby.  The time between when a woman begins labor and 48 hours after the birth of a baby is a high-risk period during which millions of newborn babies and new mothers die each year.

US Agency for International Development(USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah delivers remarks at the launch of a Global Partnership on Maternal and Child Health on March 9, 2011 at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, DC. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton introduced a new partnership between the US Agency for International Development, the Government of Norway, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada and The World Bank that will seek innovative solutions to reduce maternal and child mortality in developing countries. Photo Credit: Chris KLEPONIS/AFP

That’s why today the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is leveraging the collective resources of our partners—the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Grand Challenges Canada, the Government of Norway, and The World Bank—to launch Saving Lives at Birth: A Grand Challenge for Development. This grant-based program will seek groundbreaking prevention and treatment approaches for pregnant mothers and newborns around the time of delivery in rural, low-resource settings.

This extraordinary partnership underscores the fact that saving lives at birth is one of the most critical challenges facing people in developing countries.  Finding new technologies, such as low-cost infant resuscitation devices or incubators, and new approaches to improve birth outcomes for mothers and newborns would not only alleviate suffering, but would also have a significant impact on public health and economic productivity.

It would also accelerate progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5, which call for a two-thirds reduction in under-five mortality, a three-quarters reduction in maternal mortality, and universal access to reproductive health services.

Saving Lives at Birth is the first in a series of Grand Challenges for Development that will be announced by USAID in the coming years to mobilize focused attention and resources around the most pressing obstacles to achieving our development goals.  These Grand Challenges for Development are definable, quantifiable goals that address some of the largest solvable problems poor countries currently face.  USAID will partner with other funders and encourage others to invest in finding innovative solutions to these Challenges that are sustainable, scalable, easily adopted, and that build on and utilize 21st-century infrastructure and technology.

These Challenges also reflect President Obama’s commitment to game-changing innovation as a powerful and cost-effective instrument for achieving development goals.  The President’s Policy Directive on Global Development focuses on sustainable development outcomes by placing a premium on broad-based economic growth, democratic governance, sustainable systems, and the creation and application of game-changing innovation to transform longstanding development challenges into solvable problems.

We believe that these Grand Challenges can address key priorities, catalyze innovations that drive economic growth, spur the formation of multidisciplinary teams of researcher and multi-sector collaborators, bring new expertise to bear on important problems, strengthen the ‘social contract’ between science and society, and inspire students and non-development experts to get involved in problem-solving for development.

USAID and its partners cannot solve the Grand Challenges for Development alone.  We hope that the effort to meet these challenges will be taken up by non-governmental organizations, the private sector, governments, and individuals around the world.  We know there are millions of people and organizations around the world who want to help but don’t know how to start.  This is a place to start.

For more information on the Challenge and application process, visit here.

Dr. Rajiv Shah is the USAID Administrator and Tom Kalil Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science

Administrator Shah Delivers a TED Talk on Leveraging Science and Technology in Development

Administrator Rajiv Shah delivering a TED Talk in Long Beach. Photo Credit: Dan Shine/USAIIn the world of science and technology, we crave for the new and the different.  Innovation is described as applied invention sometimes, but true innovation creates an emotion when you’re exposed to it.  It’s a combination of fascination and an urgent instinct to share what you’ve just experienced with others.

I just finished day one of the annual TED conference in Long Beach, and amongst the sharing of breakthroughs in quantum mechanics, the relationship between policy and emotion, and a virtual choir, the audience got a chance to hear from USAID Administrator Raj Shah.

He described how we are changing the way USAID approaches aid, highlighting innovations in healthcare delivery, mobile banking, and the prevention of HIV transmission.  He focused on how important leveraging these science and technology game-changers has become, and provided a strong vision for the future.

This is a tough crowd.  TED prides itself on showing us things not seen before.  From us, they saw USAID’s innovative vision and Raj’s passion, and from all the conversations and excitement that ignited following his talk, it’s clear they were intently excited and inspired about what they saw.  Just as importantly, millions more will have access to that vision when his talk makes it’s way to www.ted.com.

USAID’s Battleground: Expanding Access and Strengthening Health Systems

Administrator Shah: “Our experience with GHI has made it clear: our largest opportunities to improve human health do not lie in optimizing services to the 20% of people in the developing world currently reached by health systems; they lie in extending our reach to the 80% who lack access to health facilities. That is where the success of everything I’ve discussed today will be determined.  That is our battleground.  And I am proud to say: that is where USAID will lead the fight.”

Today, in a packed auditorium at NIH, Administrator Shah outlined a global health agenda around five transformational goals.  Dr. Shah believes that we can achieve the following by 2016: save the lives of over 3 million children; prevent more than 12 million HIV infections, avert 700,000 malaria deaths, ensure nearly 200,000 pregnant women can safely give birth, prevent 54 million unintended pregnancies, and cure 2.4 million people infected with TB.  To achieve these ambitious goals, he emphasized the need to strengthen health systems by empowering community health workers and midwives by equipping them with better diagnostics and treatments.

As part of the President’s Global Health Initiative, USAID helps countries integrate their health systems across WHO’s six health system “building blocks” (human resources; medical supplies, vaccines, and technology; health financing; information; leadership and governance; and service delivery) and within their national infrastructure.  Recent activities included: strengthening health care financing in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Senegal through the use of national health accounts; helping nine countries implement human resource information systems; and instituting performance assessments to raise standards for HIV services in six Central American countries.

Administrator Shah Makes His Debut in Guatemala

USAID Administrator Shah Visits a Local Agricultural Project. Photo Credit: Wende DuFlon/USAID

Administrator Shah packed an enormous amount into his day-and-a-half visit to Guatemala. Dr. Shah and Mark Feierstein, Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), were hosted by U.S. Ambassador Stephen McFarland and USAID Director Kevin Kelly and USAID staff on an early morning helicopter ride over Guatemala’s mountainous terrain to a village in the municipality of Sacapulas, Quiché to meet with partners in USAID agriculture value chain, food security, and health/nutrition programs. The ride took travelers by six of Guatemala’s 33 volcanoes and past the famous destination spot–Lake Atitlan. At midday they returned to Guatemala City via helicopter for courtesy meeting with Guatemala’s President Alvaro Colom and Foreign Minister Rodas and an all-hands meeting with USAID Guatemala staff.

The Administrator held a press roundtable with Guatemalan journalists and several meetings with U.S. Government (USG) agency staff (USAID, Centers for Disease Control, Peace Corps, and U.S. Embassy sections) on two Presidential Initiatives—Feed the Future and Global Health—as well as the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI). The U.S. Ambassador and USAID Director accompanied Administrator Shah and LAC Assistant Administrator Feierstein throughout the day and evening at a dinner hosted by Ambassador McFarland at his Residence for government and civil society leaders to meet and talk with Administrator Shah to discuss security and justice issues in Guatemala.

The visit was an exceptional opportunity for USG staff to meet Dr. Shah and brief him on why Guatemala is a key player in a region that is critically important to the United States. Guatemala has the largest population and economy in Central America. Sadly, the country has some of the lowest human development indicators in the world, and income distribution is among the most unequal. Guatemala is also the epicenter in Central America of the fight against organized crime and large areas of its territory are under the control of drug trafficking organizations.

Administrator Shah’s trip signifies the long tradition of collaboration and friendship between Guatemala and the United States.

Secretary Clinton Holds Town Hall Meeting at USAID on the QDDR

On Friday, Secretary Clinton and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah spoke on the First Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), “Leading Through Civilian Power,” at a town hall meeting at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Here is the webcast in case you missed it.

Leading Through Civilian Power

After months of effort and meaningful discussions, today I was happy to join Secretary Clinton to unveil the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) at a State Department town hall.

Complementing the Presidential Policy Directive on development that was released earlier this year, the QDDR helps make real the commitment the Secretary has shown to creating a modern, efficient diplomatic and development architecture.

For USAID, the QDDR provides an opportunity for this Agency to demonstrate its capabilities, elevating the role development plays in our nation’s foreign policy while empowering us to be inclusive leaders. It affirms USAID mission directors as the top development advisers in U.S. embassies and grants USAID the hiring authority to attract and recruit top talent. It also recognizes USAID as the lead agency in charge of President Obama’s chief development initiative, Feed the Future, and positions us to lead the Global Health Initiative by the end of FY 2012.

Critically, the QDDR endorses the suite of reforms we began earlier this year—USAID Forward—recognizing this Agency’s need to develop new systems and capacities to deliver against these new opportunities. We will continue to streamline our work and cut red-tape, transforming our Agency into a modern, efficient development enterprise. But we also must renew our engagement with our interagency partners in a spirit of inclusive leadership and cooperation, and focus thoughtfully, aggressively, and primarily on delivering results for those we serve.

We should keep in mind that in the end, success for this Agency and the people we serve will not be delivered in a directive or a document, no matter how powerful or carefully crafted. Our success will be determined by the hard work and enlightened leadership we show. The QDDR has provided us a blueprint to effectively channel our efforts, but it is only as powerful as we make it.

In Honor of International Human Rights Day

Today, in honor of International Human Rights Day and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, U.S. Embassies and USAID missions around the world are opening their doors to civil society; to the Russian journalists who bravely report on corruption and abuse in the face of grave danger; to the Egyptian human rights activists who fight every day for justice; to the Kenyan political activists who recently helped shepherd a peaceful vote on a Constitutional referendum.

In 1994, USAID became the world’s first donor agency to establish democracy, human rights, and governance as core development objectives.  Since then, USAID has become the leading development agency on these issues.  With over 400 experts worldwide, USAID manages and programs the vast majority of the U.S. Government’s total budget—over three billion dollars this year alone—devoted to these issues.

These investments are critical to our national security and to reflect our national character, making the word safer and more equitable. That’s why the Obama Administration has laid out an ambitious democracy, human rights, and governance agenda for USAID.  We are engaged in a renewed focus to help our partners deliver for their citizens.

In Colombia, USAID created an early warning system to help prevent human rights violations by illegal armed actors, paramilitaries, leftist guerrillas, and drug mafias.

In Indonesia, USAID worked across 9 provinces with nearly 600 local nongovernmental organizations to increase citizen participation in local governance and social service provision.

Across Asia, USAID helped uphold rights to access for at-risk populations, including transgender communities and men who have sex with men, to HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment, as well as building regional and in-country capacities to respond.

In Egypt, USAID is supporting disability advocates to organize and lead the development of policies and programs targeting the inclusion of people with disabilities, impacting over 15,000 Egyptians with disabilities at both the local and national levels.

And in the Democratic Republic of Congo, USAID and its partners helped provide medical services, fight impunity, and promote community awareness of and response to sexual and gender-based violence for more than 100,000 survivors of rape.

At USAID, we cherish the fundamental liberties contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and we promote democratic institutions to fulfill these rights for every global citizen.

Every day, we are dedicated to making USAID the leader on advancing democracy, human rights, and governance globally.  Today on this day, with our friends, with our allies, and especially with human rights activists around the world, we support and honor the global efforts to expand human rights for all.

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