The United States’ top aid official is wasting no time in his attempt to spur support for a robust foreign aid budget. Rajiv Shah released March 9 a letter to the U.S. public about the U.S. Agency for International Development’s progress and contributions to protecting American interests around the world.
The second annual letter comes just two days after Shah, who leads USAID, discussed the agency’s reform process at the Council of Foreign Relations. He also testified March 6 before two U.S. Congress panels to convince budget-conscious U.S. lawmakers to approve President Barack Obama’s foreign aid budget request for fiscal 2013.
The U.S. international affairs budget, which includes funding for USAID programs and operations, is often among the heavily contested accounts in Congressional budget deliberations. A number of lawmakers are keen to significantly trim down foreign aid spending, and the key appropriator for foreign and state operations in the House of Representatives has already slammed Obama’s 2013 request.
In his letter, Shah highlighted USAID’s work in North Africa and the Middle East, and in East Africa — two regions that have captured international attention in recent months.
USAID continues to expand its role to support democratic transitions and civil society empowerment in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, among other transitioning countries, Shah said. In East Africa, the agency is leading U.S. efforts to address humanitarian needs while building long-term resilience through Feed the Future programs, he added.
Shah also discussed USAID efforts to support agriculture development, which he described as key to helping people out of poverty. He even echoed philanthropist Bill Gates’ statement that to care about the poor is to care about agriculture.
The administrator highlighted different USAID initiatives that aim to spur innovation and private sector engagement in its development programs. Finding new ways to partner with the private sector, he said, is essential considering that “foreign direct investment in developing countries is almost ten times higher than official development assistance.”
Shah also discussed USAID’s move to channel more aid through country systems. This shift, which is central to the agency’s reform program, helps reduce aid dependency and leaves “behind a legacy long after our dollars are spent,” Shah said.
And this shift, Shah emphasized in his letter, “not only creates lasting progress in developing countries” but also helps “deliver meaningful results for the American people.”
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