USAID Administrator Shah Opens Annual InterAction Forum

Last week, MFAN Partner InterAction hosted its annual forum, “2010: Moving at the Speed of Change” in DC.  U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah delivered remarks during the plenary session on Tuesday.  He spoke in detail about USAID’s new policy, planing, and learning bureau that takes important steps to restoring policy planning and budget capacity at the agency.  More importantly, he made a commitment to work with Congress on foreign assistance reform.  Following an energized speech from Congressman Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Shah said, “…I think we have a unique opportunity to work with the Congress to have that be part of this administration’s legacy and part of this administration’s partnership with Congress. And so we’re excited to take you up on that offer and that challenge.”  See more excerpts from the speech below:

“I believe the next 12 to 18 months is a unique point in time. I don’t think the window will last much longer than that. And I think we have to do this in this moment.  Part of this opportunity is driven by political opportunity. This is a president who deeply believes in development. And in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and more recently in the administration’s national security strategy, very clearly outlined how development is the common basis – shared prosperity is the common basis of our long-term security and our deep partnerships with populations all around the world.”

“These are the types of insights that we need to do a very effective job of learning and building into all of our practices across USAID.  And so I would ask this community to focus more aggressively on evidence-based development, on country-owned planning and alignment, on creating the incentives for good and accountable governance and on building real local capacity in the institutions where we want to work.”

“The reform agenda starts with building out real policy and budget capability at the agency. We absolutely have to have the ability to speak with one voice and communicate a strong development perspective not just in the interagency or not just at the NSC but, frankly, all around the world where development partners and development practitioners look to this agency and this community of leaders to offer thoughts and insights that will take our field forward and take the practice of this discipline forward.”

“We need you to do some things differently. We need you to be transparent about getting more money out of the Beltway and into the countries and into the communities where we’re trying to serve. We need you to make the decision to invest in training local resources, instead of choosing to fly in American experts, wherever you’re given that choice. And we frankly need to ask your governing boards to do something different and brave.”


MFAN member Todd Shelton, senior director of policy and communications at InterAction, was quoted in the National Journal about the forum.  On restoring autonomy to USAID, Shelton said, “Development and humanitarian relief should be seen as a distinct discipline with its own thinking and budgeting capacity.  For our policy decisions regarding developing countries to be effective, there has to be a stronger, clearer empowered voice at the interagency table than there currently is or has been in recent years.”

Stay tuned for more coverage of the InterAction forum!

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