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Posts Tagged ‘Haiti’

Michelle Obama Applauds USAID Employees at Town Hall

Friday, May 7th, 2010
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Raj Shah Michelle ObamaFirst Lady of the United States Michelle Obama appeared at this week’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) town hall meeting to recognize and give thanks to agency employees and the work they do on behalf of millions around the world.

Mrs. Obama enumerated the many difficult challenges facing our country and the world as a whole, including global hunger, climate change, natural disasters, and the fast-rising youth population.  But in doing so, she spoke of the dedication and commitment demonstrated by USAID employees, from risking their safety working in dangerous environments, to spending long stretches of time away from family.  She also referenced the two decades’ worth of development work in Indonesia her mother-in-law, President Obama’s mother, took part in while with USAID.  “And you do it all,” she told the audience, “because you believe in the power of development to make America stronger in the world and improve the lives of those less fortunate.”

She listed improved basic health, sustainable agriculture, and democracy and human rights as major advances over the years as a result of USAID’s efforts.  She highlighted ongoing work in Haiti as a shining example, saying “…wherever I went, I was amazed and incredibly touched to hear the stories of your sacrifice and your compassion and your amazing partnership with the Haitian people and folks around the world in the aftermath of that disaster. It was clear from my visit that people valued the work and saw this country in a different way because of the work that you were doing.”

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Shah Outlines Vision and Reforms for USAID at Town Hall

Friday, May 7th, 2010
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Shah USGLC town hall 2Almost four months to the day after taking the helm of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Administrator Rajiv Shah Wednesday articulated his vision for the organization he hopes to restore as the global leader in development.

The town hall event, sponsored by MFAN partner U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, marked Shah’s first major speech to the development community, and followed his own town-hall session with USAID employees earlier in the day.  Shah set the stage by underscoring that the time for reform was upon us.  “Back when I was sworn in, I talked about my belief that we have a narrow window of opportunity to elevate development,” he said.  “To capture the moment, we have to actively seize this opportunity. We have to act quickly, and differently, or we risk losing our chance.”

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MFAN Statement: Raj Shah Vision Speech at USGLC

Friday, May 7th, 2010
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MFAN Statement: Shah Speech Touches on Important Elements of Reform

May 6, 2010 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

MFAN congratulates U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah for his visionary speech yesterday to supporters of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.  In the speech, Administrator Shah strongly endorsed elevating development as a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy and empowering it as a distinct discipline that requires unique resources and authority.   Citing the fact that global hunger and extreme poverty have increased in recent years, Administrator Shah issued a call for reform of his Agency and America’s development apparatus overall, in order to drive more tangible results for recipients, implementers, and taxpayers.

He outlined a new agenda for USAID that mirrors this week’s leaked draft of the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development Policy (PSD-7):

  • Commit to honoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)
  • Ensure country ownership and growth through trade, cost-effective and long-term investments, and diplomacy
  • Use science and technology to develop and deliver transformative tools and innovations
  • Insert development expertise into policy debates for conflict areas and frontline states

Administrator Shah also announced that USAID would reconstitute a policy planning bureau and as-yet-undefined budget vehicle, as well as drive procurement reforms and institute a new measurement and evaluation regime this year, which are all positive steps towards making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable.

What was missing, however, was a stronger pledge to work with Congress to pass legislation supporting these much-needed reforms, particularly by rewriting the antiquated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  We urge Administrator Shah to work with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA), who is likely to  submit a rewritten bill this year.  We  also strongly encourage Administrator Shah to establish an open and consistent line of communication with Congressional leaders including Chairman Berman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA), Ranking Minority Member Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), among others.

In implementing PSD-7, the Administration also must ensure the Administrator Shah is fully empowered to lead U.S. developments.  We look forward to working with the Obama Administration to reach this goal.

Shah Testifies on FY11 Budget at Senate State Foreign Ops Hearing

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
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Raj Shah

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah testified earlier this week before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on the FY2011 Budget request for USAID.   In his opening remarks, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) expressed his appreciation for Shah’s leadership at the beleaguered agency, which he characterized as a “formidable task.”  He continued, “USAID is in urgent need of reform… I don’t think USAID is living up to its potential.”  He went on to say, “I think that USAID has to change its culture, change the way it does business if it wants the kind of money that you’re here legitimately asking for… in this committee, in the Senate, Republicans and Democrats, you will not find stronger supporters of your mission among the men and women on this committee anywhere else in the Senate.  We want nothing more for you to tell us how you can change.”

Shah began his remarks by noting the “once-in-a-lifetime or a once-in-a-generation type of opportunity” we face on foreign assistance reform, saying, “the president, the secretary, members of this committee, yourself, members of Congress have all called for a more effective, a more transparent, and a more capable development enterprise.”  Shah listed specific areas that need reform at the agency:

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PSAid Contest: “Cash is Best”

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
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PSAid — Public Service Announcements for International Disasters — will soon announce the winners of its annual contest for U.S.-based college and university students, “To Help the Most, Cash is Best.”  The contest, now its fifth year, asks students to submit broadcast or print public service announcements that communicate the importance of appropriate disaster relief, while building support for U.S. agencies and organizations that conduct international disaster relief.   The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI) sponsor PSAid. Given the ongoing relief efforts in Haiti, these ads seem all the more relevant. The challenge, however, is to transition from international disaster relief to effective, long-term development.

See below for examples from this year’s finalists.

Make sure he gets what he needsOne size fits all