Remarks by Administrator Rajiv Shah at the U.S. Global Development Lab Launch

Thursday, April 3, 2014
Administrator Rajiv Shah speaking at the launch of the U.S. Global Development Lab
Administrator Rajiv Shah speaking at the launch of the U.S. Global Development Lab
Tyler Mallory

As Delivered

Good afternoon! Welcome to off-Broadway! I think we’re hoping this afternoon earns USAID a Tony, so we’re going to aim high.

It is wonderful to look out and see an audience of young people and leaders from all parts of society who are committing their skills, ideas, and talents to do something extraordinary: ending extreme poverty in the next two decades.

I am always struck by the depth of engagement and passion I see when I am on college campuses in particular, where I feel like everyone wants an internship opportunity or wants to do a science project related to some aspect of our mission somewhere around the world.

I’d like to welcome our colleagues from across the government who have lent their expertise and support to make this day possible. Certainly the USAID team, which is too big and well represented here to mention by name, but would USAID folks just put your hands in the air? Congratulations, and I am so proud of you.

I’d like to thank Daniel Yohannes, Deputy Secretary Higgenbottom, Doug Carey, Hillary Chen, and so many others who are representing our Washington colleagues here in New York today.

I want to especially recognize our cornerstone partners. We are embarking on this endeavor with 32 outstanding partners—people like Mike Fernandez of Cargill, Jay Collins of Citi, Jeff Seabright of Coca-Cola, Kathleen McLaughlin of Walmart, Sharon D’Agostino of J&J, Jim Borel of DuPont. Those of you in the corporate sector that are dedicating your time and energy to help this succeed makes all the different, and we’re really very, very grateful.

We also our trusted, closely-held partners from NGOs, like CARE, Helene Gayle is here, Save the Children, Carolyn Miles, Sean Callahan, CRS, and so many other great institutions. We even have Charlotte Petri-Gornitzka from Sweden, who is a critical launch partner for this effort and so many of our great American and international universities represented. I want to welcome you.

There are a number of special advisers, people like Dick Blum, who have helped us craft this concept. Jack Leslie who leads our ACVFA board. Paul Maritz and Jim Watson who are taking on new responsibilities to advise us as we go forward.

For all of us together, I will just say it is inspiring and truly special to see you all embrace President Obama’s historic call, issued now twice in States of the Union addresses, to end extreme poverty within two decades.

Across the decades, Presidents from both political parties have led our nation to new heights of leadership in global development.

Not because it was easy—or safe—and I can tell you, because they have all told me, they certainly don’t do this because it polls well.

They do this because they know that America is at our best, America is strongest, when we lead around the world with our values—and when we demonstrate that we can effectively bring more prosperity and security to the most vulnerable parts of our world.

They do this because they know that America represents an unparalleled legacy of innovation, technology and advancement, not just to our own people but to aspiring people all around the world that look to America as representing something special.

This vision—of innovation, science, technology, has guided us for over 50 years at USAID, but today it takes on new meaning.

Because today exciting technologies made available by important new partnerships are emerging to redefine what we can achieve together.  

We can end extreme poverty for the 1.1 billion people who still live on a dollar-and-a-quarter a day.

We can end hunger for the 860 million people who will go to sleep hungry tonight.

And we can end the outrage of unnecessary child death for the 6.6 million children who will die this year before ever celebrating their 5th birthday.

But we simply cannot do this way alone.

The only way we’ll get there—the only way—is by mobilizing the energy and ingenuity of a new generation of students, inventors, and entrepreneurs to bend the curve of progress.

And that is why I am so proud to announce the launch of the U.S. Global Development Lab—a bold new collaboration with 32 cornerstone partners to develop, test, and take to scale groundbreaking solutions to help end extreme poverty.

Modeled on some of the most innovative and technologically advanced centers for discovery across the country, the Lab will serve to connect our world’s brightest minds to our toughest and most meaningful challenges.

Today, good ideas aren’t just the privilege of an elite few, but actually belong to everyone anywhere with a phone in their pocket.

To focus the efforts of this talented community, we have outlined nine core areas where science, technology, and innovation can drive development forward—from improving child literacy to advancing human rights to expanding financial inclusion through digital services.

We are already working across these areas with a renewed sense of shared purpose and possibility—as the world’s most enterprising students and entrepreneurs are already pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

In fact, many of them are here in this room with us today.

This afternoon, you’ll hear DevTalk presentations from world-class innovators, whose passion for service led them to tackle age-old problems in new and interesting ways.

To help build the ranks of these talented development leaders, we are proud to announce the first-ever class of 62 USAID Research and Innovation Fellows, who will deploy to more than 50 institutions across the world and examine everything from climate data in the Sahel to the impact of pathogens on child nutrition in South Africa.

A few of the Fellows are here today, and I encourage you to join them after this event in a workshop with the wonderful Dr. Amy Smith from MIT’s D-Lab, who is going to demonstrate what it takes to “design for development” and give you an opportunity to put your problem-solving skills to the test as you help build an inflatable light. I am going to give that a shot myself.

You know, a few weeks ago I visited Nepal, a country whose exquisite natural beauty is only surpassed by its gut-wrenching poverty. In a country with such tremendous potential, one in every 22 infants still dies before she even turns 1.

But after conducting a randomized control trial, we discovered a medical gel called chlorhexidine cuts the risk of infant death by 23 percent and can save 1,500 lives in Nepal this year alone—for pennies per dose.

In the last few years, we worked with a local pharmaceutical company in Nepal, another in India, and yet another one in Nigeria—and as a result, we’re helping save infants born into some of world’s most desperate, poor, and vulnerable communities.

With support from the Lab, we will ensure that this story—of solutions rigorously tested and applied on a transformational scale—increasingly defines how America works around the world.

As we do, our students will have greater opportunities to develop math and science skills—and lend those skills in service of mission bigger and greater than themselves.

Our entrepreneurs will form connections in the markets of the future.

And all of us will be inspired by the contributions we can each bring to the task of ending extreme poverty.

Thank you.

New York, NY

Last updated: April 11, 2014

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