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 all for coming together with us to have this very important discussion. And allow me to recognize the presence of Undersecretary Gil Beltran from the Department of Finance in the Philippines, with thanks for taking time out of your very busy schedule to attend this important event. Of course I would also like to thank Stephen O’Connell, USAID’s Chief Economist who is joining us from Washington DC, and so many other distinguished guests.
I am delighted to be with you today on the beautiful campus of Dhaka University to open the International Conference on Gender, Diversity, and Development. Today, and throughout this event, we celebrate the achievements that Bangladesh has made in empowering women. More importantly, this conference provides a platform for us all to discuss the challenges ahead – challenges that we must address now – to fully affect change and achieve true equality for all women and girls.
As we have already heard this morning, South Africa is burdened by one of the most severe TB epidemics in the world. Additionally, South Africa has the greatest burden of HIV-infected individuals - and the TB and HIV epidemics are fueling each other.
It is an exciting time as 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations.
The anniversary is an opportunity to take stock in how far this relationship has come and how much it has benefited the people from our countries. Over the past 20 years, our bilateral trade has grown from only $450 million to over $35 million annually in 2014. Over approximately the same time period the people of Vietnam have reduced their country’s poverty level from nearly 60 percent in the 1990s to 17 percent in 2012.
At USAID, we believe that by partnering to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies, we are helping developing countries transform into peaceful, open, and flourishing partners for our nation.
The United States has been a leading supporter of disaster risk reduction through its development assistance. USAID alone has provided about $1.2 billion to support disaster risk reduction in 91 countries over the past decade. As part of USAID’s new policy on resilience, we are marshalling our humanitarian and development resources to help the world’s most vulnerable mitigate risks in the face of recurring disasters. We are pursuing public-private partnerships to help scale up these efforts, including the Global Resilience Partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Greetings, all. I’d like to start by thanking sincerely panelists Boots, Su-Mei, Leena, and Shalaka for helping us to better understand how investors, women entrepreneurs, women’s rights activists, and development practitioners are engaging in the field of gender lens investing in Asia. They’ve helped us to better appreciate how important it is to link gender expertise with philanthropic, investment, and government funding, for the greater social good. I read an article recently in the New York Times by Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, who in her bestselling book calls on women to “lean in” at work and embrace the will to lead. She’s also calling for a new way to advocate for gender parity. She writes: “We need to go further and articulate why equality is not just the right thing to do for women but the desirable thing for us all.”
I am honored and humbled, to be here with you on the anniversary of such a catastrophic event. Thank you for allowing me to pay my respects and solemnly represent the people of the United States.
On behalf of USAID, I am delighted to be here today to celebrate International Women’s Day and to honor the accomplishments of women throughout the world, but most particularly in Bangladesh. Over the past four decades, Bangladeshi women have made enormous strides. They have achieved political empowerment, better job prospects, and improved education. Women have been the engine behind the amazing growth of the ready-made garment industry, which is now number 2 in the world – second only to China. Women now constitute approximately 80 percent of the workforce in this hugely important industry.
This is a wonderful opportunity to engage with lots of smart folks on the major barriers and opportunities for scaling-up promising innovations, to help us all better address development challenges and deliver stronger results.
Last updated: March 26, 2015