Dr. Rajiv Shah led the efforts of nearly 10,000 staff in more than 70 countries around the world to advance USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient, democratic societies.
Under Dr. Shah’s leadership, USAID applied innovative technologies and engaged the private sector to solve the world’s most intractable development challenges. This new model of development brings together an increasingly diverse community—from large companies to local civil society groups to communities of faith—to deliver meaningful results.
Dr. Shah led President Obama’s landmark Feed the Future and Power Africa initiatives and has refocused America’s global health partnerships to end preventable child death. Feed the Future, alone, has improved nutrition for 12 million children and empowered more than 7 million farmers with climate-smart tools they need to grow their way out of extreme poverty. In April 2014, USAID launched the U.S. Global Development Lab to harness the expertise of the world’s brightest scientists, students, and entrepreneurs. At the same time, the newly formed Private Capital Group for Development forges a more strategic relationship between private capital and development.
Dr. Shah also managed the U.S. Government’s humanitarian response to catastrophic crises around the world, from the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
Through an extensive set of reforms called “USAID Forward,” Dr. Shah worked with the United States Congress to transform USAID into the world’s premier development Agency that prioritizes public-private partnerships, innovation, and meaningful results. He currently serves on the boards of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as participates on the National Security Council.
Previously, Dr. Shah served as Undersecretary and Chief Scientist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he created the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, he spent eight years at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he led efforts in global health, agriculture, and financial services, including the creation of the International Finance Facility for Immunization.
He is a graduate of the University of Michigan, the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, and the Wharton School of Business. He regularly appears in the media and has delivered keynote addresses before the U.S. Military Academy, the National Prayer Breakfast, and diverse audiences across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Dr. Shah was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He has served as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, been named to Fortune’s 40 Under 40, and has received multiple honorary degrees.
He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife Shivam Mallick Shah and three children and has given up mountain climbing for family bicycle rides.
Never before has a generation of young computer scientists had such a wealth of information at their fingertips—from Google Trends data to open climate information. With only a computer, Charles Xin Lui—a finalist that I met on Sunday—accessed an enormous bank of gene expression data and ran a high-end computational analysis to uncover a complex relationship between lupus and sclerosis. Today, a similar focus on opening big data sets has inspired President Obama’s own executive order to ensure that the federal government make all of its data sets open to everyone around the world—free and accessible—so that we can do extraordinary things together.
From President Obama to Secretary Kerry to Republicans and Democrats in Congress, we are fortunate to have had an exceptional set of leaders on both sides of the aisle who understand the importance of development to our nation's security and prosperity. By partnering with other countries to end extreme poverty and promote resilient democratic societies, we help transform developing countries into stable and prosperous nations. We open new markets for American businesses, prevent conflict and extremism from reaching our shores, and help our young people build skills in science and technology, all for less than 1 percent of the overall federal budget.
This is—without a doubt—a unique and important moment for Nepal. Thanks to a history of progress and new advances in science and technology, Nepal stands within reach of ending extreme poverty and securing a foundation for long-term economic growth. But this future is not inevitable.
Today, almost 8 million Nepalis get by on less than $1.25 a day. For them, every decision is a trade-off with potentially catastrophic consequences. Do you buy medicines for a sick parent, provide an evening meal for your children, or put a few pennies away towards a new roof or next year’s school fees? These questions are an everyday reality, especially for Nepal’s subsistence farmers, for whom extreme poverty is not just a statistic—but a drain on their basic human dignity
With the establishment of a formal USAID mission in Myanmar in 2012, the United States recognizes the recent reform efforts as the most significant opportunity in decades to engage with the people of Myanmar. And we are hard at work. In fact, USAID Administrator Dr. Shah is scheduled to be in Myanmar later this week to continue momentum on key issues.
Early on, the U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recognized the huge potential of Cagayan de Oro City as an economic hub in the region. In 2010, USAID’s Local Implementation of National Competitiveness for Economic Growth (or LINC-EG) project assisted the City in streamlining its business permits and licensing system through the setting up of a Business One-Stop Shop.
USAID represents a chance to build partner capacities in such a way that Afghanistan will be able to join the global economy, wean itself from donor dependency, govern its population justly, and secure its own ungoverned spaces. Development, almost any way you measure it, is a good and cost-effective alternative to eventually having to deploy soldiers. Now, as the military begins to draw-down, it is more important than ever that our Afghan colleagues, the people of Afghanistan, feel secure in the knowledge that our civilian engagement will endure, and that we will support them as they enter this decade of transformation.
This morning, I want to share an overarching purpose worthy of this room that has come together to follow the teachings of Jesus: Let us work together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime. Because this is now achievable, but only if all of us—from science, business, government, and faith—come together for the poor.
We can end extreme poverty for the 1.1 billion people who live on a dollar-and-a- quarter a day.
I am delighted to be back at my alma mater to launch, on behalf of USAID, this important undertaking, the Women, Peace and Security Project that aims to increase women’s participation in peacebuilding, peace negotiation and peace advocacy in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.
As we all know, women play a significant role in keeping the peace in our societies. Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out that , “a growing body of evidence shows that women offer unique contributions to making and keeping the peace-- and that those contributions lead to better outcomes not just for women but for entire societies.”
It’s a pleasure for me to be back here in Rome with this particular team who, together, moved quickly and effectively to respond to the Sahel’s last crisis in 2012 that affected some 18 million people—and helped to ensure that a grim situation did not take an even greater toll. Now millions of people still facing food insecurity across the region, with UN estimates of 1.2 million severely insecure and 1.5 million at risk of severe malnutrition despite good harvests in 2012 and 2013, we’re reminded of the ever chronic nature of crisis in the Sahel.
With high rates of child malnutrition under even the best of circumstances, one poor harvest can push millions into severe risk. And we know that when shocks hit—droughts, floods, locusts—it is inevitably the most vulnerable populations that are the hardest hit, often without the chance to recover before new shocks strike.
Over 40 percent of Syria’s population is now in need of humanitarian assistance. The scale of this challenge is unprecedented. In three years, we have seen a brutal civil war has created not only a humanitarian crisis, but has taken a country of engineers and artists; entrepreneurs and doctors; teachers and scientists; and destroyed more than three decades of capital stock in that country. The UN estimates that Syria has lost 35 years of development in just two and a half years of conflict.
Last updated: April 15, 2016