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.
In the last few years, we’ve seen the momentum build and real results begin to emerge—including 8.8 million children reached through nutrition programs, and 1.8 million people who adopted improved technologies or management practices.
And although the genuine impact of our work will only be understood years from now, we have a growing sense today that the world is increasingly better prepared to absorb any shocks and stumbles without seeing families slip into poverty or nations into unrest.
UWC has partnered with USAID in a number of areas, particularly in developing and shaping higher education programs, by making USAID's development programs relevant and responsive to local needs.
I cannot tell you the number of times each week that I and other senior government officials in White House meetings refer to OTI efforts in critical crisis countries, from Haiti to Sri Lanka, from Burma to Yemen, from Kenya to Lebanon. In these situations, OTI is the eyes, the ears, the face and the conscience of our government and frequently the international community as a whole.
Equally important is the effect that the OTI model has had on the rest of the agency and the rest of the U.S. government’s foreign affairs community. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, OTI should feel flattered indeed. We are all seeking to replicate such techniques and practices as rapid deployment, decentralized programming and decision-making, expeditionary mindsets, data-driven strategies, in-situ learning, incorporation of best practices into on-going programs, adoption of sustainability principles from the beginning, and development of co-deployment platforms focusing on a broad multi-disciplinary surge capacity.
SCIP is a public private partnership between USAID, the ELMA Foundation and J.P. Morgan, in conjunction with South African Department of Basic Education, seeking to empower teachers to improve primary grade reading.
Demand for wildlife and wildlife products has dramatically increased in recent years, attracting criminal networks that have made the illicit wildlife economy a global challenge, rivaling trafficking in drugs, persons and weapons. Regrettably, wildlife trafficking can offer greater profits, lower risk of detection, and lower penalties than other illicit trade, and the profits are fueling transnational criminal activities, and even terrorism. At USAID, we believe that wildlife trafficking is not only a security and ethical issue, it is a threat to development. Because of linkages with transnational criminal networks, illicit wildlife trade undermines security and rule of law on which development depends. In regions that depend on wildlife for ecotourism, trafficking costs jobs, reduces incomes, and threatens investment. With 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases originating in wildlife, trafficking is also a global health issue. And we know that drastically reducing populations of keystone species such as elephants and tigers can disrupt delicate ecosystems on which local communities depend.
In order to reach the scale and sustainability required to affect real change—to finally solve intractable problems in development—we have to overcome our remaining challenges and encourage a new era of private sector engagement in development. And all of us—businesses and development agencies—will have to take a new approach.
That food security is on the global agenda today seems normal. But it was just two years ago here in Iowa that I first introduced USAID’s Bureau of Food Security and discussed President Obama’s recently announced global food security initiative Feed the Future. It all felt so new at the time, because it was new. It represented a new model of development, which has, in many ways, come to define the way we work around the world today:
A model that advances a far deeper focus on science, technology and innovation to dramatically expand the realm of what is possible in development. A model that aligns resources behind comprehensive country plans developed and supported by policymakers, technical experts and stakeholders in developing countries. A model that engages far more broadly with private sector partners—putting behind us an old reluctance to work together, and engaging companies not as wellsprings of corporate charity, but as real partners with an interest in serving the needs of the most vulnerable. And a model that delivers more for developing countries, but demands far more as well.
That’s the guiding framework for Feed the Future, an initiative that has brought the U.S. Government together behind country-led plans that have made tough trade-offs and focused on specific regions, policies, crops and livestock with the greatest potential for fighting hunger and transforming economies. Three years later, it is high time we’ve taken stock of our progress and asked what we’ve achieved. We know there are many ways you can measure results in development, especially when you consider the comprehensive reach of Feed the Future. We know the first way is by measuring the number of people you’ve reached.
Programs like today’s Annual Meeting permit us to celebrate our successes. Indeed, the last two decades have been a validation of our work. There has been more progress in global development since the end of the Cold War than in any time in history. In the decade and a half since the mid-90s, real incomes have risen 60 percent across developing countries, infant mortality rates have plunged by a third, and primary school enrollment rates jumped nearly 15 percent.
The truth is—you are part of an incredible generation of young people. On campuses across the country and the world, you’re expressing a surge of interest in tackling global challenges, oversubscribing courses on public health, international education, global politics and development economics. And at USAID, we are working hard to support and engage this enthusiasm.
That is why it is my honor and privilege today to announce the Payne Fellowship Program, an extraordinary program that will honor the memory of Congressman Payne by supporting the next generation of leaders in global development. With two fellowships valued at up to $45,000 annually for two years, the program will provide opportunities throughout the students’ graduate studies, including two summer internships—the first working on international issues for a member of Congress and the second with an USAID mission overseas.; as well as consistent and supportive mentoring throughout the fellowship program and into early employment.
I plan to discuss today an approach to meeting food and health needs through the water programs developed and implemented by USAID and its partners. This approach is reflective of USAID’s effort, known as USAID Forward, to make the Agency more effective by changing the way we partner with others, embracing a spirit of innovation and strengthening the results of our work.
More specifically, I would like to cover how we utilize a certain set of tools and approaches, catalysts if you will, which we believe will provoke speed and action towards the overarching goal of saving and improving lives. These tools are derived from open source based development, partnerships and finance, science and technology, integrated programming and resilience and scale. They all help catalyze the development and implementation of solutions. Unsdersocring these toos is the enagagment and empowerment of women throughout our water programs.
Last updated: April 30, 2013