Annual Letter 2014

from US Agency for International Development
Published on 19 May 2014 View Original

Before joining USAID, I never could have imagined the depth of passion that exists for our nation’s leadership in global development.

When I was sworn in, people often asked me if I was worried about the unpopularity of development. According to nearly every poll, Americans wanted to cut foreign aid. But over the last four years, I have seen how a new model of development that delivers meaningful results in a cost-effective way can inspire people from all walks of life.

I have seen this excitement on college campuses, where it feels like every student wants to do a science project or an internship in global development. I have seen it in boardrooms, where CEOs look for opportunities to invest in solutions that end poverty.

And I saw it this year at the National Prayer Breakfast, where a gathering of bipartisan leaders honored our work to fight hunger and disease. When we make our case effectively, people not only listen; they unite enthusiastically in support.

I believe this passion comes from an understanding that our nation is at its best, at its strongest, at its most secure, when we lead with our values.

Today, I am more certain than ever that if we continue to advance these values with cost-effective results, we can achieve one of the greatest moral aspirations ever imagined. We can answer President Obama’s historic call to end extreme poverty in the next two decades.

Because we are closer than you think.

From 1990 to 2010, child mortality fell by half, the number of children in primary school grew to 90 percent, and around 2 billion people gained access to clean water. Since 1999, the total number of those living in extreme poverty has declined by nearly 50 million people every year, on average.

Projections of what we can achieve differ, but most experts agree that reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty from 1.2 billion to 200 million people— roughly 3 percent of the global population in 2030—is an ambitious but achievable target.

To reach it, however, we need a new model of development that reflects the exciting realities of our time. That is why, four years ago, I asked a bipartisan congressional coalition to support an evidence-based transformation of our foreign assistance. By insisting on policy reforms, harnessing innovation, and leveraging private capital, we have found new ways to focus our resources and maximize our impact. Real work remains applying these practices across the board, but I want to thank our teams and political champions for their extraordinary support to ensure that our nation pursues its humanitarian mission with effectiveness and confidence.

Taken together, our experiences over the last four years paint a picture of the road ahead for development that should push us even farther, faster.

Rajiv Shah
USAID Administrator