Last week, USAID Administrator Raj Shah released his second annual letter describing the ways in which the agency has elevated development over the past year, with a nod to USAID’s 50th anniversary celebration. The letter focuses on three areas that have framed the agency’s work including seizing pivotal opportunities, embracing challenging roles, and building capacity, not independence.
Regarding opportunities, Shah describes his trip to Kenya in which he visited the largest refugee camp in the world in Dadaab. Using this example, he makes the point that “The development community has to expand its focus from relief to resilience—from responding after emergencies strike to preparing communities in advance.” Aside from the work USAID did, some of it in partnership, to prepare for the severe drought, he also notes the success of the FWD campaign to educate Americans and spark a call to action.
The letter also goes into detail about the value in boosting harvests as a means to fight poverty and in educating young people and expanding access to voluntary family planning to “reap a demographic dividend” and promote economic growth for future generations.
In another plea to the development community, Shah argues the community “must embrace more challenging roles” in light of the growing connection between conflict and poverty—as seen in the Arab Spring—and the entrance of new actors into development practice, such as the private sector. Shah lays out development’s growing role on the frontlines, acknowledging the concern about the militarization of aid, but writing, “…the truth is, the cost of conflict—developmental, economic, human—are simply too high for the development community to ignore.”
Using the expansion of mobile technology as inspiration, Shah then describes USAID’s Grand Challenges for Development, designed to attract innovative solutions to global problems and embrace change.
Lastly, the letter outlines USAID’s vision for sustainable foreign assistance: “Americans can take pride in knowing that the United States is helping people persevere through crisis and overcome poverty, while helping countries build a more peaceful and prosperous future. But they should take comfort in knowing that by building capacity instead of dependence, we not only create lasting progress in developing countries, we help deliver meaningful results for the American people.”