Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as the 16th Administrator of USAID and leads the efforts of more than 9,600 professionals in 80 missions around the world.
Since being sworn in on Dec. 31, 2009, Shah managed the U.S. Government's response to the devastating 2010 earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; co-chaired the State Department's first review of American diplomacy and development operations; and now spearheads President Barack Obama's landmark Feed the Future food security initiative. He is also leading “USAID Forward,” an extensive set of reforms to USAID's business model focusing on seven key areas, including procurement, science & technology, and monitoring & evaluation.
Before becoming USAID's Administrator, Shah served as undersecretary for research, education and economics, and as chief scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At USDA, he launched the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which significantly elevated the status and funding of agricultural research.
Prior to joining the Obama administration, Shah served for seven years with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, including as director of agricultural development in the Global Development Program, and as director of strategic opportunities.
Originally from Detroit, Shah earned his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and his master's in health economics from the Wharton School of Business. He attended the London School of Economics and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.
Shah is married to Shivam Mallick Shah and is the father of three children. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Good afternoon! I am really excited to be here today. Indeed, from the day that Tom first shared with me an early draft, I have been waiting impatiently for this book to be published. And now that the day has come, I must start by congratulating the authors – both Tom and Diane, and note how pleased I am to see such a crowded room for this launch.
We are here today to reaffirm our interest and commitment to following up on the outcomes of the Copenhagen Consultation in 2012 to provide ourselves with a new tool in our work in promoting sustainable economic growth around the world. This is essential if we are to fulfill the vision we all share for the future. Indeed, two months ago, President Barack Obama pledged in his State of the Union address that the United States will join with our allies to eradicate extreme poverty in the next two decades. He said that this will be achieved by connecting more people to the global economy and empowering women; by giving our young and brightest minds new opportunities to serve; by helping communities to feed, power and educate themselves; by saving the world’s children from preventable deaths; and by realizing the promise of an AIDS-free generation.
I must admit that it’s daunting to speak before religious scholars, and organizations such as Catholic Relief Services, St. Egidio, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. I feel like the man who was asked to speak about Whale Anatomy, and as he looks into the audience, he sees Jonah.
The task is made less daunting by the recognition that Pope John’s 23rd encyclical is accessible throughout five decades. In the 1960’s, it’s accessible during nuclear disarmament and an end to the arms race, as well as decolonization and an end to the caste system dividing nations. It can be applied to the 1970’s, as we witnessed gender equality and women’s empowerment on the rise, and an end to racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination. We can look to it as we committed to treatises on the inter-connection of global human rights and peace in the 1980’s. And in the 1990’s, it’s useful at the need to ensure that growing science and technology is pursued not as a goal of its own but as a means toward the betterment of mankind. More recently, perhaps not surprising given my position as USAID’s Deputy Administrator, it is a strong endorsement of foreign assistance as a means of building peaceful, stable societies. It may sound self-serving since my agency’s budget is going to the Hill tomorrow, but paragraph 88 reminds us:
About a year and a half ago, I saw famine for the first time. At the world’s largest refugee camp, 50 miles from the Somali border, I met mothers who had carried their children for weeks across famine-stricken and terrorist-held lands. One young Somali mother named Habiba was forced to make the heartbreaking decision – knowing she could not carry both children to safety – to leave one behind on a hundred-kilometer journey.
Across the region, the worst drought in 60 years had thrown 13.3 million people into crisis and brought more than 750,000 people—mostly women and children—to the brink of starvation. As the suffering mounted, we mobilized a large-scale humanitarian response to save lives as quickly as possible. But too often we couldn’t reach those in greatest need—even as the crisis worsened before our eyes. Armed groups openly affiliated with al Qaeda blocked our access, attacked our food convoys, and targeted food distribution centers. In the hardest hit areas of southern Somalia where these militants ruled, food aid couldn’t save lives.
But cash transfers could.
Thank you. It is really special to have the opportunity to be here, and I just want to say thank you very much.
And I do want to note that it is very special for me to get to be hosted by Senator Boozman here in his home state. He has been obviously a dedicated public servant and I think everyone here knows about his tremendous accomplishments on behalf of the state. What you might not know as much about is the fact that he chairs the Malaria Caucus and the Hunger Caucus, and that he fights really hard on issues that maybe have not traditionally been seen as particularly rewarding to spend time on from a political perspective because he brings such personal passion and commitment to the work, and I have had a chance to see that leadership in action in Washington.
It's a great honor to moderate this panel on the Framework and Priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda. I wanted to take a few moments at the start to introduce the panel and the panelists. We will be looking back over changes since the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were established, looking forward to the post-2015 goals, and even looking inward as we consider how we as governments, international organizations, civil society, and private companies can play our full and proper roles in this exercise.
Commemoration of World Tuberculosis Day
About a year and a half ago, I traveled with Dr. Jill Biden and Dr. Bill Frist to the world’s largest refugee camp, 50 miles from the Somali border. In a camp originally built for one-fifth its capacity, I met mothers who had carried their children for weeks across famine-stricken lands and terrorist-held territories.
The famine had proven once again the power of extreme poverty, extreme climate, and extreme ideology to undermine security and create a moral catastrophe. About three weeks ago, I returned to the region and saw a very different picture.
- Your Excellency, Dr. Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health
- Your Excellency, Dr. Mao Tan Eang, Director of the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control and Advisor to the Ministry of Health
- Representatives of Japanese International Cooperation Agency and the World Health Organization
- Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure to have this opportunity to speak to U.N. Special Representatives, Department of Peacekeeping Operations officials, and members of the U.N. Mediation Support Unit on the role of women in international peace and security issues. I salute your dedicated efforts to end armed conflict around the world and lay the groundwork for restoring peace, security, strong economies and democratic governance. If the name were not already taken, I would re-name the people in this room, the “Peace Corps.”
Last updated: April 30, 2013