In early January, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton elevated the role of development as a central pillar in U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense.
"Today, development is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative," she said. And leading the development effort will be the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, rejuvenated, beefed-up and re-built into the world's premier development agency.
In early March, USAID director Dr. Rajiv Shah explained at a U.S. Congressional hearing why Secretary Clinton, and ultimately, the Obama Administration, places such a high premium on development assistance.
"Investment in development has never been more strategically important than it is today," said Dr. Shah. “Helping nations to grow and prosper is not only the moral obligation of a great nation; it is also in our national interest."
Quoting President Barack Obama, Dr. Shah said that "security does not exist when people do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine and shelter they need to survive." Building the capacity of countries to meet these basic needs - providing their people with a modicum of dignity and opportunity, said Dr. Shah, is what guides USAID's work and the resources we put behind it.
One stated goal of U.S. assistance is to save lives and enhance livelihoods by improving global health, feeding the hungry, working to mitigate climate change and providing humanitarian aid. But it also means helping vulnerable people avoid sliding into extreme poverty, giving them the tools they need to help themselves; tools such as basic education for children, training in effective agricultural or animal husbandry practices, building the capacity of countries to meet basic needs of their citizens.
In many cases, the balance between a future filled with fear and a future filled with hope is fragile, said USAID Director Shah. "Every day, USAID tips the scale toward hope and opportunity.
"The investments we make today are a bulwark against current and future threats — both seen and unseen — and a down payment for future peace and prosperity around the world."