After ten months of waiting and wondering, yesterday President Obama nominated Dr. Rajiv Shah to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). MFAN welcomed the news with a key message for policymakers and the community: For Dr. Shah to effectively lead critical, ongoing U.S. development efforts – foreign assistance reform, the global food security initiative, and Afghanistan-Pakistan, to name a few – he should be given a seat at the National Security Council from which he can lend a distinct voice for development to ongoing foreign policy discussions, and budget and policy authority should be restored to USAID, as provided for in S.1524, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 Below are excerpts from key media stories about the nomination:
- Ex-Gates Foundation exec named foreign aid chief (AP, November 10) – Given that speculation, and the delay in appointing an administrator, David Beckmann, co-chair of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, said the administration needs to move quickly in defining Shah’s responsibilities. “They’re going to need to give him some clear signals that he has real power,” he said.
- Obama Names Agriculture Official to Lead USAID (Congressional Quarterly-Caitlin Weber, November 10) – “We are hopeful that his unique combination of knowledge about global health, agriculture, and other issues will allow him to provide a strong and indispensable development voice as major decisions are made about U.S. foreign policy,” said David Beckmann and George Ingram, co-chairmen of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, in a statement.
- Rajiv Shah: America’s Next Top USAID Administrator (Washington Independent-Spencer Ackerman, November 10) – It’s not obvious to me what Shah’s credentials are, but as Josh notes, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a development-policy group, is firmly on board. MFAN wants to give the next USAID administrator a seat on the National Security Council.
- Breaking: Rajiv Shah for USAID administrator (Politico-Laura Rozen, November 10) – David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and speaking on behalf of a coalition of development assistance groups, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, applauded the nomination in a statement, urged Congress to confirm Shah quickly, and for the Obama administration to give Shah a seat at the NSC.
- USDA’s Rajiv Shah to be named USAID head (FP-Josh Rogin, November 10) – Development groups were quick to praise the selection but also to call for increased powers for the USAID administrator role, which is now under review. “Congress should confirm Dr. Shah quickly,” said Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram in a statement, “We are hopeful that his unique combination of knowledge about global health, agriculture, and other issues will allow him to provide a strong and indispensable development voice as major decisions are made about U.S. foreign policy.”
- Obama nominates U.S. aid chief, filling key vacancy (Reuters, November 10) – J. Brian Atwood, who served as USAID administrator from 1993-1999, said Shah would face a major task in rebuilding both confidence and capacity at the agency while advocating a more holistic approach to overseas aid within the government. “We need a development voice within the U.S. government, especially in economic circles,” said Atwood, dean of the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. “Finance policies and trade policies have as much to do with eradicating or mitigating poverty as development assistance.” Development group Oxfam said Shah had his work cut out for him because USAID itself has been underfunded. “U.S. development efforts have become diffuse and USAID’s development objectives unclear, with the Pentagon and more than 20 other federal agencies increasingly engaged in development activities,” said Raymond Offenheiser, Oxfam’s president, in a release.
- Administration Names Agriculture Official to Run U.S. Aid Agency, Ending Delays (The New York Times, November 11) – “This administration has inherited a very weak and fragmented Usaid and aid infrastructure,” said David Beckmann, the president of Bread for the World, a Christian group that advocates for hunger relief. “By getting someone in that position, Mrs. Clinton has taken a step forward.” Mr. Beckmann called for Mr. Obama to restore the agency’s profile by giving Dr. Shah a seat on the National Security Council, and for Mrs. Clinton to give back its independent budget and policy-making authority, which had been subsumed by the State Department.
- Agriculture expert picked to lead struggling USAID (Washington Post, November 11) – Shah “has very impressive credentials and knows many of the sectors we work in, in development, agriculture and health,” said J. Brian Atwood, who led USAID in the 1990s. But he and other development veterans say the agency has been weakened in recent years as its budget and policy functions have been folded into the State Department. “I hope he has assurances he’ll have the authorities he needs to get a very difficult job done,” Atwood said.