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.
At USAID, we believe we have the opportunity today build a new, more open model for development that builds on our strong legacy of university engagement to solve some of the greatest development challenges of our time. In food security, that challenge is more pressing than ever. By 2050, the world will need to double agricultural production in order to feed a world of 9 billion people. At the same time, a changing climate will lead to warmer temperatures, more erratic rains, and longer more severe droughts.
Here in Mississippi, you know this better than anyone. The Mississippi river has fallen to near record lows—and a stretch of the mighty river near Greenville has had to close briefly. And rural communities across the country continue to feel pressure from a parched land. But the truth is that our nation has some remarkable systems in place to support farmers and ranchers in a time of significant drought. They can buy insurance products, access our government’s real-time data monitoring, and count on the USDA and universities like MSU to study the problem and foster new solutions.
The United States, President Obama and Secretary Clinton, have been very clear that we are calling on the Assad regime to end its brutal treatment and attacks on its own people. And President Obama has also asked us, the United States, to do everything we can to support the critical humanitarian needs that are in this region.
That's why we've already provided more than $82 million of support for humanitarian priorities, reaching more than 700,000 Syrians with food, water and medical support. And that's why, today, I'm quite pleased to announce an additional $21 million commitment. In this case to our colleagues at the World Food Programme, who are taking responsibility for providing effective food access to people who are in dire need, here in this camp, throughout parts of Syria and in other parts of the region.
The United States is gravely concerned by the multiple crises that are affecting the people of Mali: a political crisis following the military coup d’état of March 21, a security crisis as a result of conflict in the North and the actions of several armed groups, a food security crisis affecting populations across the country, all resulting in a complex humanitarian crisis that is affecting the people of Mali as well as its neighbors in the Sahel. 4.6 million Malians face severe hunger; 175,000 Malian children are at risk of severe acute malnutrition; and more than 450,000 have fled their homes because of ongoing violence coupled with food insecurity.
Many of us in this room and thousands of other across the globe have and continue to spend tremendous energy on improving our effectiveness in development. We choose smarter things to do, focusing on key competencies and appropriate roles. We measure relentlessly, inviting cold hard facts to challenge our warm, fuzzy assumptions. We have become hard-nosed in pursuit of our soft goals, and, when doing so, we have often invoked the ideal of 'How They Do It In The Private Sector.' ... Perhaps we need to explore how we could use an open source development model to connect our work to all people. Perhaps to genuinely win the war against extreme poverty, leverage social networks to deliver real democracy, and ensure every kid everywhere lives to see their fifth birthday and thrives in school in the years ahead, we need to both elevate development in the Situation Room of the National Security Council and in the hearts and minds of how millions of additional people express their own personal quest for meaning.
It is an incredible honor to be here and to be here with so many members of Diaspora communities from around this country and around the world. I’m one of you, and so, I’m pleased to be able to join. In fact, joining you last year and hearing about the businesses you’ve started, the volunteer programs you’ve supported, the innovations you’ve generated and the resources and inspiration that you’ve offered to your original home communities was one of my more personal and inspiring moments of the year. So, thank you for allowing me to participate.
Today, more than 62 million Americans, a full fifth of this nation are first or second generation Diaspora community members. That undoubtedly is what makes our country great. We all collectively represent a vast and diverse community, and we do so much both here and with our home communities and the countries from which we came that we’re excited to now have the opportunity to partner more deeply together to improve on the results we can accomplish when we do work together.
At USAID, we understand that our development assistance will never be fully effective unless we draw on the full contributions of the entire population, including previously marginalized groups such as the LGBT community, women, young people, ethnic and religious minorities, people with disabilities, and displaced persons.
We come together at a moment of great hope and equal challenge with respect to the refugee situation in Afghanistan. We celebrate the return of nearly six million people to Afghanistan from neighboring countries, a clear reflection of the progress we have collectively achieved in rebuilding and stabilizing the country. People are voting for a better life for themselves and their families. Indeed, this is an expression of confidence in the future, one that the United States government has been able to support with more than $700 million in assistance for refugees and returnees over the past decade.
Ten years ago, I took part in the first Tokyo conference on Afghanistan on behalf of the United States Government. In many ways, I have a strong sense of deja vu. In January 2002, in the wake of the fall of the Taliban, the world came together to pledge our mutual commitment to support the stability and reconstruction of a fragile and devastated Afghanistan. Working together as a community in support of the Afghan people and government, we have kept faith over the past decade. This fact is reflected in a 15 year increase in life expectancy for the Afghan people; the presence of some seven million students – of which nearly 40 percent are girls -- in schools; a huge decline in infant and maternal mortality; and a three-fold increase in per capita income.
In Tokyo, the international community and the Afghans will come together to discuss the best way to solidify the progress we've made in the past decade. The timing of this conference is significant because it some so quickly on the heels of the G8 in Chicago that focused on the 2014 transition. As we all know, there are really two transitions in 2014 - the transfer of security operations to the Afghans, and also the first democratic transfer of power in the history of Afghanistan.
Dignity and freedom were the banners of the peaceful revolutionaries. They came carrying dignity, and another banner as well, their humanity. They were searching for the humanity inside them; they lost their humanity because of oppression, corruption and injustice. They came sacrificing their lives, their money, their property, and their children – carrying dignity and humanity. The dignity they were asking for was not in vain. This is something God has granted them.
All religions in the world talk about the dignity of the human being. Islam talks about dignity for humans; this is a part of the Quran. Also, the same thing is in the Holy Bible. This dignity comes from humans as a means for rights. This dignity is a regional value that is carried by all human beings, despite their backgrounds or their beliefs. The youths of the Arab Spring and the women raise a banner of dignity, freedom and justice. Free people of the world – let us work for the dignity of all people.
And in the forefront of the Arab Spring, let us support dignity there; let us support dignity in your own countries. You may be surprised why I say your country instead of our country – because i always believed that humanity, that all of the people of the world are one nation. All of humanity is one nation, and all of the people are brothers.
Last updated: April 30, 2013