The AP is reporting that President Obama will nominate Rajiv Shah, a medical doctor and former official at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who currently serves as Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics at the US Department of Agriculture, to be USAID Administrator. The pick is somewhat of a surprise. I’ll spend the next few hours gauging the reaction from the aid advocacy community, but suffice it to say that Shah was not among many outsiders’ shortlists. More soon.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and described as a “whiz kid” by officials how have worked with him, Shah served before coming into the Obama administration in the spring as the director of agriculture development, director of financial services, and as manager of a $1.5 billion vaccine fund at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He also has political credentials, having campaigned for Obama, served as the former health care policy advisor to Al Gore’s presidential campaign, and as a member of Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell’s health transition committee. He was confirmed in April just a month after being announced without a hitch, and has been involved in numerous philanthropic efforts to combat poverty and hunger around the world. He also previously worked at the World Health Organization.
Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, offered the following statement regarding today’s nomination of Dr. Rajiv Shah to be Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID):
“Oxfam America welcomes the Obama administration’s announcement of Dr. Rajiv Shah as USAID Administrator. With solid experience in international agriculture and health, Shah is well positioned to lead this crucial US agency.
“We look forward to working with Shah and USAID to reinvigorate and restore the agency’s capacity to lead US development efforts around the world. Oxfam America believes that a commitment to modernizing US government development assistance can have a lasting impact on global poverty and that, over time, smart development will enhance US moral standing and national interests and ultimately build a safer world for all.
“Shah assumes responsibility over USAID at a crucial moment in history. For many years, USAID has been under-resourced and politically marginalized. But today’s international challenges – from the financial crisis to climate change — make it more important than ever to rebuild USAID from a compliance agency for NGOs and contractors to what it once was: the world’s most prestigious development agency.
“Shah’s challenges are great. He must work within a legal framework that is almost half a century old. US development efforts have become diffuse and USAID’s development objectives unclear, with the Pentagon and more than 20 other federal agencies increasingly engaged in development activities. There is a need to reassert the leadership role of USAID in managing US overseas development assistance, and strengthen its ability to deliver concrete results that will enhance USAID’s standing and credibility. Most importantly, there is a need for a national global development strategy to guide the US government’s efforts to fight global poverty.
“But there’s also growing momentum for a new era in US foreign aid, with a number of processes already underway that will reshape US global development policy. Additionally, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in both the House and Senate to initiate foreign aid reform, as well as strengthen and elevate USAID.”
“Oxfam America is eager to work with Shah as he contributes to this effort to make US development programs more effective.”
“InterAction congratulates Dr. Rajiv Shah on his nomination to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). His nomination is definitely a step in the right direction. The alliance of 187 InterAction member organizations looks forward to working with him on the historic opportunities and challenges facing the U.S. on the humanitarian and global development fronts.
The challenges are many, but USAID administrator-nominee Shah has a historic opportunity to shape the way U.S. foreign assistance is done for at least the next 50 years. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and other congressional leaders are looking to the new administrator to help guide discussions around climate change, food security, a rewrite of the outdated 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and countless other issues.”