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.
In order to reach the scale and sustainability required to affect real change—to finally solve intractable problems in development—we have to overcome our remaining challenges and encourage a new era of private sector engagement in development. And all of us—businesses and development agencies—will have to take a new approach.
That food security is on the global agenda today seems normal. But it was just two years ago here in Iowa that I first introduced USAID’s Bureau of Food Security and discussed President Obama’s recently announced global food security initiative Feed the Future. It all felt so new at the time, because it was new. It represented a new model of development, which has, in many ways, come to define the way we work around the world today:
A model that advances a far deeper focus on science, technology and innovation to dramatically expand the realm of what is possible in development. A model that aligns resources behind comprehensive country plans developed and supported by policymakers, technical experts and stakeholders in developing countries. A model that engages far more broadly with private sector partners—putting behind us an old reluctance to work together, and engaging companies not as wellsprings of corporate charity, but as real partners with an interest in serving the needs of the most vulnerable. And a model that delivers more for developing countries, but demands far more as well.
That’s the guiding framework for Feed the Future, an initiative that has brought the U.S. Government together behind country-led plans that have made tough trade-offs and focused on specific regions, policies, crops and livestock with the greatest potential for fighting hunger and transforming economies. Three years later, it is high time we’ve taken stock of our progress and asked what we’ve achieved. We know there are many ways you can measure results in development, especially when you consider the comprehensive reach of Feed the Future. We know the first way is by measuring the number of people you’ve reached.
Programs like today’s Annual Meeting permit us to celebrate our successes. Indeed, the last two decades have been a validation of our work. There has been more progress in global development since the end of the Cold War than in any time in history. In the decade and a half since the mid-90s, real incomes have risen 60 percent across developing countries, infant mortality rates have plunged by a third, and primary school enrollment rates jumped nearly 15 percent.
The truth is—you are part of an incredible generation of young people. On campuses across the country and the world, you’re expressing a surge of interest in tackling global challenges, oversubscribing courses on public health, international education, global politics and development economics. And at USAID, we are working hard to support and engage this enthusiasm.
That is why it is my honor and privilege today to announce the Payne Fellowship Program, an extraordinary program that will honor the memory of Congressman Payne by supporting the next generation of leaders in global development. With two fellowships valued at up to $45,000 annually for two years, the program will provide opportunities throughout the students’ graduate studies, including two summer internships—the first working on international issues for a member of Congress and the second with an USAID mission overseas.; as well as consistent and supportive mentoring throughout the fellowship program and into early employment.
It’s a great pleasure and honor to be here to participate in the launch of a major new area of cooperation among the federal and regional ministries of health, the Ministry of Education, training institutions and USAID to strengthen human resources for health.
HANOI -- It is a great honor for me to be here on behalf of the U.S. Government and USAID to join you in opening this 8th Annual National Conference of Vietnam Public Health Association today.
Public health represents a major part of the United States Agency for International Development's global programs and we continue to be privileged to work with you here in Vietnam to address significant existing, emerging and re-emerging public health issues.
I plan to discuss today an approach to meeting food and health needs through the water programs developed and implemented by USAID and its partners. This approach is reflective of USAID’s effort, known as USAID Forward, to make the Agency more effective by changing the way we partner with others, embracing a spirit of innovation and strengthening the results of our work.
More specifically, I would like to cover how we utilize a certain set of tools and approaches, catalysts if you will, which we believe will provoke speed and action towards the overarching goal of saving and improving lives. These tools are derived from open source based development, partnerships and finance, science and technology, integrated programming and resilience and scale. They all help catalyze the development and implementation of solutions. Unsdersocring these toos is the enagagment and empowerment of women throughout our water programs.
At USAID, we have an expression: If you want to change the world, invest in a girl. If a girl stays in school, remains healthy, gains real skills, and is safe from sexual and other physical abuse, she will marry later, have fewer but healthier children, earn a higher income that she will invest back into her family, and she will break the cycle of poverty in her family and her community.
She’ll use her education to increase agricultural production, improve health conditions for her family, adapt better to natural disasters and droughts, and serve as a leader to resolve local and national and even international conflicts.
This isn’t theory: It is fact. Let me cite just one statistic: In Africa, most young girls are likely to become farmers—if we could guarantee that these girls and women had access to the same level of education, credit, entrepreneurship and other inputs that men have, it would increase agricultural production by 30 percent and feed 150 million people worldwide each year.
Two weeks ago, during the week of the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative about the need to fight human trafficking, calling it on of the great human rights struggles of our time. “Everyone has a responsibility,” he said. “Everyone can take action.” Today, to help answer the President’s call, it is my honor to announce USAID’s Counter-Trafficking Campus Challenge: A unique competition that is expressly designed for students on campuses across the United States and around the world to generate cutting-edge ideas and new technologies to combat one of humanity’s greatest challenges.
As President Obama said, “We’re turning the table on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.” The challenge has several phases—and the first one begins today, as we encourage students to come together online at the new www.challengeslavery.org website to discuss the challenge and identify potential barriers to success.
Development attracts many of the best students, brightest minds and strongest spirits. Open-source development can help keep all of us inspired by offering the true reward of being successful—combining productivity with meaning.
When you bring your expertise, your ideas, your ingenuity to the task; when you can see that something you’re learning in a classroom is helping communities to withstand natural disasters, or when you commit yourself to a career in the service of others—those are deeply rewarding results for you—and millions of people everywhere.
Last updated: March 26, 2015