In 2021, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) commemorated 60 years of delivering results. Over the last six decades, USAID has spearheaded the Green Revolution; helped nations eradicate smallpox; turned the tide against HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and Ebola; helped billions escape poverty and deprivation; responded to more than 2,900 disasters, and backed democratic transitions or elections in nearly 90 countries since the end of the Cold War alone. 

In honor of this milestone, Administrator Samantha Power introduced a bold vision for the agency, offering Americans and the world a broad view of a future of inclusive development. Administrator Power committed to sweeping reforms that will expand and diversify USAID’s workforce and transform the way the agency delivers assistance. This blueprint for inclusive development will make the agency better able to address today’s most pressing challenges—including COVID-19 and global health security, climate change, democratic backsliding and transnational corruption—by making the agency more accessible, equitable, and responsive.

In the first year of the Biden-Harris Administration, USAID made strides delivering on its mission around the world. Here are some highlights from 2021:

  • USAID Leads Global Vaccination Efforts to End the COVID-19 pandemic
    USAID helps lead the U.S.’ global response to end the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigate the threat of dangerous new variants, and save lives now. Since the beginning of the pandemic, USAID has supported more than 120 countries in their fight to contain and combat the virus. USAID has provided $5.7 billion to help vaccinate the world, including providing more than $700 million to help countries strengthen their vaccination programs and contributing to the purchase of one billion Pfizer vaccines to donate around the world. In December, USAID announced the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, Global VAX, a whole-of-government effort in close collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies, to turn vaccines into shots in arms.

  • USAID Embarks on an Unprecedented Push to Advance Democracy and Curb Corruption
    In response to President Biden’s prioritization of fighting corruption as a core U.S. national security interest, USAID established an Anti-Corruption Task Force to elevate, strengthen, and integrate anti-corruption work across the agency and coordinate more closely across the U.S. government. At the 2021 Summit for Democracy, USAID announced a number of ambitious new programs, as part of the Presidential Initiative for Democratic Renewal, a landmark new set of policy deliverables and foreign assistance programs that will significantly expand and update the U.S. government’s work to bolster democracy and defend human rights globally. USAID’s initiatives are advancing democracy by fighting corruption, supporting free and independent media, bolstering democratic reformers, advancing technology for democracy, and defending free and fair elections and political processes. These new programs build on decades of the agency’s existing core work supporting the rule of law, empowering civil society, and promoting good governance and participatory practices in countries across the world. 

  • USAID Provides Life-Saving Humanitarian Assistance to 82 Crises in 68 Countries
    USAID provided life-saving humanitarian assistance to natural disasters and complex crises around the world on behalf of the U.S. In 2021, USAID had six Disaster Assistance Response Teams (DARTs) deployed responding to the Haiti earthquake; the Venezuela regional crisis; the alarming humanitarian needs in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador; and ongoing crises in northern Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Syria. In the 2021 fiscal year, USAID responded to 82 crises in 68 countries, reaching tens of millions of people around the world with life-saving aid. Through $8 billion in humanitarian assistance over the course of the year, USAID has helped people affected by disasters and conflict, delivered emergency food assistance to refugees, and given communities the tools they need to be resilient to future crises. This includes $1.9 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to address acute humanitarian needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • USAID Advances Major Initiatives to Tackle the Climate Crisis
    This year, USAID elevated the climate crisis as a major agency priority. At COP26, USAID announced six bold commitments, including new programs to help countries mitigate and adapt to climate change this decade. USAID is central to the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE), which will serve as the framework that brings together the diplomatic, development, and technical expertise of the U.S. to support more than half a billion people in developing countries adapt to and manage the impacts of climate change through locally-led development by 2030. USAID also announced new programs to support partner countries’ transition to renewable energy and conserve critical ecosystems such as tropical forests, as part of an ambitious goal to prevent the equivalent of six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Recognizing that the climate crisis hits the poorest and most marginalized communities first and worst, USAID announced a range of new programs and targets to advance Global Action for Climate Equity. This includes new funding to advance women and youth’s leadership in climate action, build women and girls’ resilience to climate shocks and stressors, and strengthen Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ governance over lands. 

  • USAID Sounds the Alarm on Ethiopia Crisis and Leads Humanitarian Response
    As the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia continues to escalate, USAID has helped lead the international community in calling for unfettered humanitarian access and an end to violence and atrocities against civilians by all sides. The U.S. has provided more than $663 million in humanitarian assistance to help people affected by the conflict in northern Ethiopia, including nearly $561 million from USAID.

    In June, USAID gathered world leaders and humanitarians to launch a concerted effort to raise awareness and develop a global response to the crisis. The agency hosted a day-long series of high-level meetings, convening partners, diplomats, aid workers, donor countries, and USG officials for urgent discussions on impending famine conditions and gender-based violence. 

  • USAID Tackles Root Causes of Migration from Northern Central America
    In response to President Biden’s commitment to a comprehensive response to the root causes of irregular migration, Administrator Power established the Northern Triangle Task Force as part of a U.S. government-wide strategy for Central America. Across the region, USAID provides economic opportunity, fights corruption, protects human rights, strengthens citizen security, and combats gender based violence. USAID also built the capacity of the governments of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador to transparently match workers from their countries to seasonal work opportunities in the U.S., leading to a record number of  H-2B temporary guest worker visas and helping address critical temporary labor needs in the U.S. This year, Vice President Harris also announced several USAID programs, including the $7.5 million Guatemala Entrepreneurship Development Initiative, which has leveraged nearly $56 million in private sector resources to support local businesses to address development challenges, and the MujerProspera Challenge to advance gender equality and women’s economic security.

  • USAID Leads U.S. Response to Devastating Earthquake in Haiti
    President Biden authorized an immediate U.S. response to the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Haiti on August 14 and named Administrator Power to lead this effort. USAID immediately deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team. Administrator Power traveled to Haiti to meet with Haitians impacted by the disaster, Haitian government officials and civil society, and U.S. response teams on the ground. During her visit, Administrator Power emphasized the U.S.’ commitment to supporting the people of Haiti during their time of need. USAID provided more than $55 million to aid earthquake response efforts and support the approximately 650,000 people requiring humanitarian assistance due to the earthquake.

  • USAID Increases Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility and Announces a Renewed Focus on Localization
    USAID committed to executing a comprehensive approach to advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) policies and practices in our internal workforce, program implementation, and partnerships, both in the U.S. and around the world. USAID developed a DEIA strategy designed to provide a measurable and achievable framework to guide the agency toward progress. USAID is bringing on a Chief Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility Officer to help hold the agency accountable to its DEIA goals as well as USAID’s first Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator. As part of an Agency-wide commitment to build a more diverse workforce, the agency hosted its first ever recruiting events and career expos for students, faculty and alumni in partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-Serving Institutions and has established Memoranda of Understanding through its Minority Serving Institutions Partnership Program.

    In addition, USAID has committed to diversifying its partner base. The agency launched, a website designed to lower barriers to working with USAID, allowing more local partners, small businesses, and minority-serving institutions into the fold. In an effort to support local leadership and foster sustainable results, Administrator Power pledged to provide at least a quarter of agency funds to local partners within the course of the next four years and expand the authorization for USAID’s locally-employed staff to play a larger role in awarding and managing assistance.