Shah is leading a renaissance at USAID that puts poor people in the driver’s seat

By Oxfam

Washington, DC – International humanitarian and development organization Oxfam America commended USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah for clearly defining for the American public today why fighting global poverty is in America’s vital interests and how the agency’s bold new reform agenda—USAID Forward—will strengthen US development efforts, making it more effective, more modern, and more focused on ending global poverty.

"With these bold new reforms, Administrator Shah is changing the way USAID does business,” said Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness for Oxfam America. “His agenda for the coming year is to show how those reforms deliver better results and greater accountability. This means making deliberate choices of the type he laid out today.”

More than 2.5 billion people—40 percent of the world’s population, struggle to survive on less than $2 per day. The persistence of global poverty continues to pose a challenge to the security, prosperity and values of the United States. 

The Administrator emphasized today that USAID is changing its approach so that it is more “business-like,” holding the US to a higher standard of accountability and focusing more on innovative strategies that will help poor people escape the harsh realities of poverty, and ensuring equitable growth that has the potential of opening new markets and creating more stable global partners.

“In a tough budget cycle, the US will be required to make difficult decisions about its investments to create ‘efficient local governments, thriving civil societies, and vibrant private sectors,” said Adams. “Administrator Shah described for the America public that making smart business decisions means having the best people with the best information. Protecting these investments will be vital in ensuring that USAID's workforce remains strengthened and its monitoring and evaluation reforms are carried forward.”

“For too long USAID has been understaffed,” continued Adams. “Building up USAID’s internal capacity is critical to its long-term development success. This will require reshaping USAID’s global footprint, closing some missions and offices and expanding staffing in others, while continuing US leadership and participation in key international forums.”

Significant reforms named in Administrator Shah’s speech include establishing a new evaluation policy that will ensure program results are released within three months of completion no matter if they are a success or failure; establishing a new implementation and procurement system that will increase competitiveness and reduce its reliance on contractors; graduating at least seven countries from US dependence on foreign assistance by 2015; establishing a taskforce that would look to eliminate corruption and make governments more accountable; and empowering local citizens to achieve long-term sustainable economic growth.

“We applaud USAID for placing country ownership—that is letting governments and citizens in poor countries set their development priorities themselves—at the heart of its internal reforms, said Adams. “Success of this reform agenda will be measured in terms of progress toward reducing hunger and food insecurity, helping poor people build resilience to climate change, and saving lives.”

In keeping with President Obama’s US Global Development Strategy, Oxfam America calls upon the administration and members of Congress to actively support USAID, providing the agency the necessary political and financial resources that will ensure the long-term success of these far-reaching reforms.

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