Shah: “Sustainable development is essential to sustainable national security”

Last Friday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addressed a crowd at the National Press Club, outlining reforms at the agency and broader, government-wide initiatives that impact development.  When asked whether or not the Presidential Study Directive and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review would be released publicly, Shah answered, “Both will be released to the public, and in both cases, as soon as possible. I believe the Presidential Study Directive which is one of the things to which you referred, will perhaps be public sooner. The QDDR, which is the Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review which was launched by Secretary Clinton, will be publicly available this fall.”

Shah used the speech as an opportunity to outline reforms at USAID saying, “My job as administrator is to make good on the President’s promise to revitalize USAID by modernizing the agency” through a “comprehensive set of operational reforms designed to partner and deliver high impact, cost efficient development.”  Below are excerpts from the speech that describe Shah’s reform agenda for the agency:

  • “…we will rebuild USAID’s budget accountability with a strong focus on getting better results for U.S. taxpayers. We will pursue a development strategy that is based on focus, scale, and impact. We will focus in fewer sectors in each of the countries that we work.”
  • “Second, to achieve greater returns from our investments we are readying a package of procurement reforms… We are redoubling our efforts to support local institutions and build local capacity.”
  • “Third, to get the best out of each employee we are reforming our personnel policies. A development entrepreneur needs real flexibility and the ability to take risks.”
  • “Fourth, we need to do a much better job at monitoring and evaluation so we can easily identify what works, what doesn’t work, and why, and implement changes quickly in our programs to optimize against that information.”
  • “Finally, our agency will embrace the concept of extreme transparency. We will meet President Obama’s open government directive and seek to set a standard on transparency for the field of development…We owe American taxpayers hard evidence of the impact their money is making.”

Shah also reinforced the administration’s commitment to reform, despite what the community sees as tension between the State Department and USAID, saying “I actually see all of this coming together as really elevating development, elevating all of the different parts of development policy, and certainly elevating in a very significant and fundamental way USAID.” Shah closed with an urgent call to action: “I think it’s incumbent upon us to get this reform agenda enacted and to make USAID the most effective and strategically significant development enterprise anywhere in the world.”  Watch the speech below.

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