Remarks by Administrator Rajiv Shah at the Clinton School of Public Service

Thursday, April 4, 2013
International Development for the Real World

[As Delivered]

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.

You know every time people make disparaging comments about Congress or our elected officials, I just think you have an example in Senator Boozman of someone who is very special. And when the cameras are off he is fighting very, very hard for some of the most vulnerable families and doing that because he just cares about doing it right. So, thank you senator. It is a real honor to be here with you.

 I also have enjoyed getting to know Kathy who has traveled with us together. I have traveled with them together to some of these places we will talk about and I’m so glad you’re here as well.

I want to thank Skip Rutherford for having us here and for your leadership. The Clinton School has become an incredibly special place. I just got to meet with a group of students. Are they in the room? Some are in the room, right? Oh good there they are in the back there, who are just awesome. And if you don’t get a chance, if you get a chance after, please pull them aside and ask them what they are doing because it’s amazing. You’ll have a hard time believing they are students. You would think they were alums.

And I want to recognize Dustin McDaniel, the attorney general. Thank you for being here, as well as so many others leaders who aren’t here today, Stephanie Street and Bruce Lindsay both of whom have poured their hearts into this work.

And finally, Fernando Kutz who you’ve heard about, is really one of the special people at USAID and so we’re thrilled that he comes from here and I suspect likely someday he will come back, maybe have the senator’s job in the future. I just want to be on his good side basically at this point. But he’s actually been out in the field working on our projects and programs before he even got to USAID working on things like evaluation. And I guess I’ll start there.

This is Trish Flanagan. Is Trish here today? This is a photo of her in Sri Lanka. It’s just emblematic of what I know is the spirit of this institution and this school. You’re a town of scholars and people committed to being really rigorous and focused and making sure when America invests its resources abroad to do good that its actually generating that kind of a result. Clinton School students like Trish have completed 400 field projects in more than 60 countries adding up to nearly 130,000 hours of field service and even more extraordinary than the time is the kinds of things they tackle. Stan Luker, whose working in Northern Uganda to create a strategic plan for a school for former child soldiers, is an example of that kind of leader. Stan are you here? He’s in Uganda, of course. If you’re creating a school for former child soldiers you should stay in Uganda. And it will soon include Sean O’Keefe who I met earlier, and Aaliya Sarkar, who are heading off this summer to work with CARE International in Turkey to monitor and evaluate the humanitarian assistance reaching Syrian refugees. And they are here. Can you guys put your hands up? Yeah there you are, good.

And I just want to say this is really important, because the first and most fundamental thing we have to do is demonstrate with clarity that when we make investments to protect the world’s most vulnerable, to end extreme poverty, to prevent child death at large scale, that those investments, those partnerships, those ideas are delivering that result.

And I’ll talk a little bit about what we’ve done to help bring that kind of a culture of evaluation and results, and business-like rigor to the business of development. But these are powerful examples, and I think this school is going to generate a whole cadre of folks who can go out and do this work, and give confidence and knowledge to the work that is development around the world.

Now, in addition, this is a community that has amazing institutions that do work on the issues and in partnership with us. Heifer International, great institution right next door that we had a chance to visit earlier, thank you. Winrock International, just to name a few. And increasingly as development investments are frankly outpaced by private investment, it’s increasingly critical that great private companies and public companies engage as partners in the mission we have to end hunger and extreme poverty.

Part of the rationale for the visit here is to engage great Arkansas businesses and business leaders who have committed to this fight, and I look forward to learning later today about some of the efforts in Rwanda in particular that many of you have been a part of.

Now I do want to note that Secretary Clinton and President Clinton have made this work their mission. And it was an honor for me to get a chance to serve under Secretary Clinton as Secretary of State, who I think cared more about, worker harder on, and fought harder for development efforts than any prior Secretary of State, and it’s because her caring and depth of her commitment continues to be so extraordinary. The down side as someone to work for her is that she knew everybody in the field, in country after country, projects and programs from decades of really becoming a development expert herself. So she held us to a high bar of performance. I’m just kidding of course. That’s a great thing because it helps us all get better and deliver better results. But you know one of the things we talked a lot of about, with her and with President Clinton, was doing our work in a way that actually speeds the transition from dependence to dignity and self-sufficiency.

And this is a photograph of a visit I made with Dr. Jill Biden and Dr. Bill Frist to the world’s largest refugee camp 50 miles from the Somali border. And in a camp originally built for about 80,000 to 90,000 people, they were when we visited bringing in about 2,500 people a day and already at about 470,000 refugees. I had never previously been in the midst of a famine. But the things you see and are exposed to in that context are the kinds of images that will never leave you. We spoke to women who described a 30, 40, 50 kilometer journey, by land on foot through an area where they were impoverished, leaving with children in their arms, attacked by convoys of al-Shabab terrorist-affiliated groups. Just seeking safety, security, food, and a chance for their children to survive. We know from a retrospective review of dozens of surveys that about 165,000 children perished during this famine, and I had a chance to meet some of those children who didn’t make it because they didn’t have food. And it’s really hard to fully understand what that feels like and to communicate what that feels like.

But at that time I was really proud of our team. Our team took personal risks. They went into what were effectively a warzone. Some of our partners were killed in an effort to serve. And they brought new ways of working. When the food convoys were being attacked and it was clear that the traditional model of food aid was simply not going to save lives, they negotiated partnerships with cell phone companies.

And we got Cargill – that happened to have a big shipment going by – we got them to donate a huge amount of food and leave it at the port with local traders and we were able to get vouchers on peoples mobile phones to communities in famine-affected areas. And we were tracking food prices in about 60 different markets in Somalia. We could see when food prices were 400 percent up. That’s basically correlated with the famine and the prices went down. That meant there was enough food and enough purchase of those food, and people were back on a path of survival.

We could see as soon as these technology enabled-efforts got some real scale. All of sudden the famine and the child death challenge just plummeted. And I looked at the data recently, and you look at that and you think that was a moment when American partnership, American values, expressed through science, through technology, through a modern way of working, through measuring results, saved hundreds of thousands of children’s lives.

And it’s something every American I believe ought to take deep, deep, deep pride in what was accomplished there. But about a month ago, I returned to Somalia, went to Mogadishu. And today we are replace food aid with seeds and farm tools so that farmers can go out of the displaced persons camps in Mogadishu, back into 400 agricultural communities throughout the countryside and rebuild their lives with dignity and self-sufficiency. We’ve replaced piracy on the coastal regions with small-scale fishing markets so that people can have a legal form of making ends meet and building wealth for their families. In Mogadishu, a city once synonymous with the word war, we’ve installed 600 solar-powered street lights. And the mayor of Mogadishu told me in person that the first time in decades people came out peacefully to celebrate that first night the lights went on. And that’s the kind of hopefulness and self-sufficiency that we can transition to. Now it’s going to be very tough. This is a long, fragile context. When I was there, there were acts of violence that will slow progress. But if America stands with these types of partners who are willing to make the right decisions, fight corruption, and work to do something for their citizens, we can build a different kind of future than what I saw in this refugee camp.

This is a photo of Rangoon at night. And it’s precisely this journey from dependence to dignity that I thought about on a recent visit to Burma. At the doorstep of China we are seeing a democracy start to carefully and slowly take hold. We’re seeing a market economy begin to expand and be more inclusive of all partners. As President Obama made clear, we’ve learned a few things about how to do this work.

We’re going to work with and invest in the people of Burma in a conditional way as that government continues down the path of reform, as they make their books transparent, as they fight crony capitalism and corruption in an effective way. We will invest in these peoples’ opportunities for agriculture, for health, for road infrastructure, for energy in rural communities and for economic opportunities in areas that otherwise are not receiving such.

Burma’s today the poorest country in that region by a longshot. But one of the things we did, in this new way of working, was USAID pulled together executives from Cisco, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Microsoft. And what their own government, including Aung San Suu Kyi, referred to with a conversation with me as the tech dream team from America. We went together and said “OK, what do people really aspire for, what do they want to see?” And it turns out that those companies can partner and invest in universities and technology parks that are starting to flourish in that country.

And I had a chance on the visit to meet with 200 computer science students who drove in from all over to sort of meet the company leaders and to learn about these new efforts. And it really is a fundamentally new and different approach to development. It’s one of, if the old model of development was American institutions like USAID hiring contractors to build roads, the new model is partnering with engines of American innovation – Arkansas businesses, Clinton School graduates, the Little Rock foundations – to help nations build innovation economies and democratic societies that are more connected and intertwined with our own.

And I fundamentally believe whether we’re working in places where the conditions are more ripe – like Tanzania, or, you know, a country like that that has had rapid growth and increasing in transparency and good governance, or places that are fragile, that are aspiring to that future like Somalia or Burma – that this new model can engage American institutions’ leaders, and most critically young people, in really transforming the world around us, and in leading the fight to end extreme poverty.

Now to achieve this goal we’ve had to do things differently. This is a photo you may recognize, some of the folks in this photo. Our good Senator from Arkansas there on my left, and Senator Inhofe as well. But this is a trip we all made together to a project called Project Mercy in Ethiopia. And Project Mercy is a special place because Marta and Deme, who are in the middle there, are the founders of it. And Marta was the first woman senator in Ethiopia, who fled during a revolution there, came back and created this organization. And it is basically an effort that is very, very true to the local reality of where we work.

They have 1,500 or 1,600 kids in school learning every day. We got a chance to meet them. For parents who send the kids to school, they either pay for it or they provide some service to the project, either working on making glasswear that can be sold for export, or working to support the model farm that produces high-nutritious foods for the community. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of families have been able to move out of poverty because of this effort. And for a long time, the United States, believe it or not, was actually not able to support organizations like Project Mercy. We were told “well they’re an African organization and so we may not be able to track the money, or we won’t know exactly what’s happening.” Well it turns out today we’ve been able to provide, since this visit, significant support to Project Mercy. And we’ve been able to do that because we’ve changed the way we worked. We want to find local solutions, and local entrepreneurs and local leaders who can be the most efficient at delivering results at the least cost with the investment of American taxpayer resources.

To get there we’ve had to make tough choices. We’ve cut programs, 180 programs around the world. That’s 22 percent of our total program portfolio since I’ve started. We’ve shut down missions in 14 countries in order to concentrate people and resources in places where there is the majority of extreme poverty in the world, and where we can work to end that kind of extreme poverty. We’ve introduced a new approach to evaluation where every project at large scale that we invest in will be evaluated by a third party based on strict criteria that the American Evaluation Association has called a model for the federal government. And the results will be put online, in fact if you have an iPhone you can download an application. Just Google, or look up USAID in the app store and we only have a few apps. But please download them. I think I’m one of the common customers of this evaluation app.

I got to tell you, it’s very cool. The Clinton School students will understand this. It’s really fun to read these really well done evaluations that tell you both what’s working and what’s not working. We found that 50 percent of our projects and programs have been adapted based on that kind of structured learning. And today there are about 130 or 140 evaluations that are public on there.

Not all of them document success; a lot of them document failure. But if you’re not willing to learn what’s working and what’s not working, you can’t manage to those kinds of results and those types of successes. And in practice we’ve moved more than a $1 billion from the traditional model of development to these smaller-scale local solutions that we can prove generate better results for the investment in American taxpayer resources.

Now, that’s a big part of succeeding as we go forward. But there’s a larger trend at work. And that trend is that over the last few decades, international development assistance in its traditional form, which used to be far larger than foreign direct investment in these countries, is now considerably smaller, one-tenth to one-fourteenth the level of foreign direct investment in seemingly very poor countries. Why is that the case?

It’s because we’ve seen a huge emergence of new economies like India and Brazil that are actively investing in Africa and their neighbors. And it’s because six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa, and each of them have levels of extreme poverty that are higher than 20 percent. In fact most cases higher than 30 or 40 percent. And so we know there is an opportunity right now to partner with and bring great American businesses and great investors to the task of ending extreme poverty with us.

This is a photo of a group in Central America, through a partnership with Walmart in Honduras and Guatemala, we’re helping thousands of families to sell boxed vegetables into Walmart’s local and regional supply chain. In Guatemala, the partnership has helped 600 smallholder farmers and their families have direct access to those supply chains. And what that means is as I visited the program in Guatemala – I haven’t been to Honduras – when you go to this village, it’s been transformed.

It’s a place where 60 percent of the children used to be stunted because they didn’t get adequate nutrition. And 10 years ago nobody even asked for things like schools or other things for the children to actually learn and improve their lot in life. Today, as a result of the Walmart partnership, every dollar of taxpayer dollars that we invest, Walmart puts in two dollars. And not a philanthropic resource, of actually purchasing output from that community. They’ve helped the farmers, with our support, improve production of potatoes and onions and vegetables. They get a much higher farm-gate price for these improved products that are going into a systematic supply chain.

And when I visited, I said “well what do you all need now; well, how can we be most helpful,” thinking the answer would be “we’d like this great new seed variety and agricultural technology” or “we’d like farm tools’ or something related to agriculture.” Across the board, they wanted schools, because now their children didn’t have to work on the farm. And what’s the first thing we all aspire for the minute we have the opportunity? To invest in them is to be able to grow and expand their own horizons beyond what these families have been able to do. And it was just a very, very powerful example. Last year as a result of our efforts to expand these types of partnerships, we’ve leveraged more than three and half billion dollars of investment in agriculture from private companies, which is a larger amount than what USAID now invests in that space. And it just goes to show you the potential of partnership as we go forward.

This is one example of how we do it. We have a program called the Development Credit Authority that starts from the very fundamental premise that many of these countries have their own sources of local wealth to drive their own development. And if we can be smart in leveraged, in unlocking that wealth, we can accelerate the end of extreme poverty without making huge direct investments ourselves.

By working with local banks, in particular in offering credit guarantees for them to lend money to small scale business operations, entrepreneurs, and other types of food and agriculture enterprises, we’ve been able to mobilize a record $700 million in local commercial capital lent to those small-scale job creating businesses in rural communities around sub-Saharan Africa. This capital will empower more than 1 million entrepreneurs in 140,000 businesses around the world, from a print shop in Dar es Salaam to a mango farm in Haiti – that, by the way, now partners with Coca-Cola to produce the Haiti Hope juice that is on the shelves here and is a USAID product I’m very proud of. So if you get a chance buy and consume Haiti Hope.

We also deployed the Agency’s first ever cadre of field investment officers. And this was an interesting evolution for us. It was a traditional foreign service didn’t have people that necessarily start from the presumption of having private-sector backgrounds and a desire to work with banks and investors, but our field investment officers have helped us get this kind of glide-path of leveraging local resources.

And I’ll conclude with this concept: this is a map of a new network that we’ve created called the Higher Education Solutions Network. And we really fundamentally believe if we’re going to end extreme poverty, if we’re going to tackle preventable child death, if we’re going to end hunger, it’s going to be done by young people who have a passion and commitment that we’ve seen here at the Clinton School. So we’re now trying to build a global network of higher education institutions of students, and faculty, and scientists and researchers who want to create the types of innovations that will lead to the breakthroughs that will change what’s possible.

Senator Boozman has been a longtime leader in malaria. One of our partner institutes at Berkeley has a group of medical students and engineers that came together and created something they call a cell-scope. It’s basically an iPhone attached to a microscope, and it can take a photograph of a slide sample of blood. And without any sending of a sample to a laboratory, it can run an internal software algorithm and diagnose malaria based on that field-based technology.

Taking laboratory diagnostics out of the challenge of treating and saving children’s lives could allow us to make some huge gains in that effort. And that’s just one example of I think the thousands of breakthroughs we’re just at the cusp of, that can really change what is possible in our world.

And so it is with that inspiration and with that aspiration and belief, that President Obama this year during his State of the Union address issued a challenge and a call to all of us. He said we can work to end extreme poverty within a generation. Just last week, actually earlier this week, the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, said the same thing, that we can get from 21 percent, or 1.3 billion people of the global population, 21 percent of the global population, living on a dollar and a quarter a day, we can get that down to 3 percent by 2030 if we do the types of things we’re talking about here.

And at a time when budgets are tough in Washington – you’ve all noticed that – and at a time when people believe it’s hard to work across the aisle and bring Democrats and Republican together around a common vision. I’m hopeful, and Senator Boozman has been my guiding star on this, I’m hopeful that there is leadership and aspiration that America can do big things. That we know when we travel around the world – from that refugee camp on the Somali border to Rangoon a few weeks, to Tanzania or Ethiopia where some of these companies are making these new investments, to parts of Latin America where we’re unlocking a lot of this local wealth to fuel development – we know that we can succeed, and we know that people look to America for this kind of leadership even when times are tough, in fact in particular when times are tough.

And so I’m thrilled to be with you here, I ask you to join the fight. I ask you to be hopeful that it is an achievable goal. And I ask you to talk to your kids or your students or your neighbors about the fact that hopefully in just 17, 18 years we can wipe out something that’s been with us since the beginning of time, which is large scale extreme human deprivation. Doesn’t have to be that way, it’s finally become profitable to end the task, and let’s do that together.

So thank you, thank you for the chance to be here.

Little Rock, Arkansas

Last updated: April 06, 2017

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