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.
Thank you to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and to His Excellency Mahboub Maalim for hosting us today in Addis Ababa and to the IGAD team for organizing this today. It is a sincere pleasure to be back with you again this week under more hopeful circumstances to take stock of just how far we’ve come.
We all know that the commitments made last year are not easy, and fundamentally, they require a game-changing shift in how we manage risk and address chronic vulnerability in the region. Yet, although our tasks are daunting at times, through IGAD’s leadership and the work of the Global Alliance, we have made tremendous strides toward a regional approach for building resilience. The U.S. government is proud to see real results for the people of the region, including the development of Country Program Papers (CPPs) that put plans and structures in place to combat vulnerability and build resilience. USAID is firmly committed to supporting regional and country leadership and collaboration among international development partners in support of the resilience agenda. And, we’re also committed to doing business differently – to maximize the effectiveness of this support for the people of the Horn of Africa. Last December, USAID launched its first-ever policy and program guidance on resilience, formalizing key operational changes to better enable our teams to support country-led plans and partner with local leaders to reach these vital goals. This new guidance, “Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis,” commits USAID to putting more of its development focus on the most vulnerable, building the adaptive capacity of these populations, and improving the ability of communities, countries, and systems to manage risk.
In 2012, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released an assessment of "Global Water Security." The report projected that between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources. It also noted that water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth. The report noted that while wars over water are unlikely within the next 10 years, water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, and floods – will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbating regional tensions. In addressing such challenges, water can provide a platform for building trust and cooperation between countries. Water user groups, and increased transparency and accountability between the people and service providers, can both increase access and advance democratic values. While history is not necessarily a good predictor of our future, it’s true that more often than not, water is a source of cooperation rather than conflict.
Since 2007, the United States has supported Somalia and its neighbors, first Uganda and Burundi, then Kenya and Djibouti, as Somali and AMISOM forces' efforts to drive al-Shabaab out of Somalia’s cities and towns. Throughout this time, the Somali people endured the unendurable—violence, fear, hunger, disease. But they also came together to build something—a new foundation that would anchor a stable future for Somalia.
As we reflect on what we have achieved and bring new ideas to the challenges still ahead, it’s important to remember that due to our collective follow-through on the commitments we made last year, to a fast and resolute humanitarian response and to help build resilience in the Sahel, we prevented a tragic situation from becoming much worse.
The United States continues to work through all possible channels to most effectively deliver aid. This includes working through the UN, NGO partners, local Syrian organizations and committees. Regardless of political affiliation, we are directing assistance to the most vulnerable people, and we are doing this in coordination with the Syrian Opposition Coalition.
When President Obama selected Raj Shah to be the leader of this organization, I knew instantly he'd picked somebody who understood this mission, who understood we also need to change a little bit, that we need to understand that we have to account clearly to our citizens in a time of tough budgets for all of the dollars we're spending in a very transparent and thorough way. We want to do that. But it also requires us to think creatively, sometimes out of the box, about how we may be able to deliver some of this in 21st century terms in ways that augment, multiply, when we don't have the same amount of resources we've had previously, but multiply the efforts in their return on that investment by creating greater investment opportunities, more jobs, building the economies. I think there are a lot of things that we can think about creatively together to help make that happen, and I'm convinced Raj Shah understands that, and I'm looking forward to working with him over these next years to help make that happen. We're going to get this job done.
At the Washington Call to Action, you announced that India will remain in the forefront of the global efforts against child mortality, acknowledging India’s potential to greatly reduce preventable child deaths. Today’s summit proves the commitment of India’s leaders to both the global community and the children of India. The U.S. Government is proud to be a part of this initiative, and we look forward to working with the Government of India on addressing critical child survival issues.
USAID is proud to be part of this new Commercial Farm Services Program, one of many projects we have here in Ethiopia that form part of the U.S. President’s Feed the Future Initiative. I am very pleased to see this group here today working together to achieve our common goals: to provide smallholder farmers with the tools that enable them to earn a decent livelihood and contribute to the development of their country.
I am pleased to represent the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American people today at the 2nd Annual Ethiopian Commodity Exchange (ECX) - Cooperatives Forum, supported by USAID’s Agribusiness Market Development (AMDe) activity.
Last updated: March 26, 2015