Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), presented on 9 March the Agency’s second annual letter of the agency.
Commemorating President John F. Kennedy's letter that called for the creation of the agency 50 years ago, the USAID's letter offers a progress report of USAID reforms, chronicles the results of efforts across the past year and highlights how the agency’s recent efforts and reforms serve to integrate international development into America’s key diplomatic and national security priorities, as outlined by President Obama and Secretary Clinton.
key themes risen in the second Annual Letter:
On Elevating Development: “The President and Secretary both believe that the development work our staff does is just as vital to our country’s interests and national security as the work of our soldiers and diplomats. “…As conflict erupts or threatens stability in countries around the world, development work plays an important role in building peace and keeping our country safe. “…the poorest countries left in the world will increasingly be those plagued by war, violence and instability. If we don’t confront the development needs of these states, we will be ignoring the plight of billions. “…development plays just as crucial a role in preventing conflict…By working to foster stability and expand opportunity, we can limit the need for future military intervention at far greater cost.”
On Transforming the Role of Development: “The development community has a comfort zone. For decades, it has excelled at responding to crises, fighting hunger and disease and expanding access to education and clean water. “…But opportunity doesn’t just come from a percentage point of growth or a vaccine. It comes from a free and fair society where people can speak freely, protest and choose their representatives. “…but we – and the development community more broadly – must embrace a role that supports those who struggle for dignity and self determination. “… the development community has to expand its focus from relief to resilience – from responding after emergencies strike to preparing communities in advance. “…Today, the best corporations have a much more enlightened understanding of the interests they share with the development community. “…Charity and corporate social responsibility—while well-intentioned—will not yield sustainable economic progress that can raise incomes at scale. Only investments that generate real financial returns for corporations and real income for the poor can do that. We need to help companies find profit opportunities abroad, not photo opportunities. “…it means we have to partner with companies to profitably invest abroad and strengthen our economic footing at home.”
On Fighting Poverty and Hunger: “In 2011, the world’s worst drought in six decades forced more than 290,000 Somalis to seek refuge in neighboring countries. The drought led to suffering throughout Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, a region referred to as the Horn of Africa. “…Over 13.3 million people were put at grave risk and in need of emergency assistance. “…We must also strengthen food security so that droughts no longer lead to food crises. “…A one percent gain in agricultural production can generate a four percent increase in the purchasing power of the poor. As a result, growth tied to gains in agricultural productivity is up to three times more effective in raising the incomes of the poor than from other sectors. “…To put it simply: if you care about fighting poverty, then you should care about boosting harvests.”