One year after assuming the post of Chief Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah spoke of the changes he had instituted so far, and outlined the Agency's future approach to development.
In 2010, the Administration of President Barack Obama elevated development, making it one of the central pillars of U.S. foreign policy. USAID is playing a leading role in that effort. "We instituted a series of reforms we now call USAID Forward," said Dr. Shah during a recent speech at the Center of Global Development.
"Thanks to those reforms, our agency is fundamentally changing, becoming more efficient, more effective and more businesslike. . . . we are seeking to build something greater: a modern development enterprise. . . . .Like an enterprise, we are listening to and improving the way we serve our customers – in our case, the people of the developing world," said Dr. Shah.
"[But] unlike an enterprise, we have no interest in our own growth and our own perpetuity. We must seek to do our work in a way that allows us to be replaced over time by efficient local governments, by thriving civil societies and by a vibrant private sector.
USAID is aggressively doing its part to usher in this new era," he said.
This means that USAID is no longer merely providing food aid in times of emergency: it is helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.
By strengthening health systems and working with partners such as the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and PEPFAR, to utilize recent advances in science, technology and innovation, USAID hopes to help client countries defeat disease outbreaks and other health crises before they even arise.
To help defeat poverty, USAID prioritizes economic growth and democratic governance. The Agency is developing partnerships for growth with countries committed to enabling private-sector investment, the basis of sustained economic development. And to encourage democratic governance, USAID is funding more open-government technologies to increase transparency, so citizens can hold their own governments accountable.
"I really believe," said Dr. Shah, "that together, we have the power to create the world we seek if we have the courage to embrace the opportunity and the willingness to do things differently."