Inaugural Global Chiefs of Mission Conference

Cheryl Mills
Rajiv Shah
   USAID Administrator
Dean Acheson Auditorium
Washington, DC
February 2, 2011

MS. MILLS: I hope you all enjoyed lunch, and we now have the luxury, the pleasure, and the opportunity of having the USAID Administrator, who has been not only working hard to build the kind of bridges that we need here between State and USAID, but he also has lent us his senior leadership who has been joining us for today and will be joining us tomorrow as well, so we are very grateful for the leadership he has shown.

So without further ado, Administrator Shah. (Applause.)

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Hello. Well, I was going to come and talk about how important development was and how important it is for our national security and the future of our global engagements, but I realized it would be repeating Admiral Mullen, who did that with great clarity and was very convincing. So I appreciate the chance to be here.

This has been a really exciting time. We’ve gone through the QDDR process. We have a Secretary of State that, perhaps more than anybody in history, has a unique personal and professional commitment to development, both for its contributions to our national and economic security and for its core expression of our moral values.

We all know that we’re going to be more – we’re going to be safer, more secure, and far better off with more South Koreas than more North Korea – than North Koreas in the future, and that’s basically the fundamental premise that underlines what we’re trying to do at USAID in improving the way we work to achieve those types of outcomes.

We’ve seen in Southern Sudan recently our participation in a joint diplomacy and development activity that helped enable an outcome that many people didn’t think was possible even four or five months ago, and the combination of aggressive, high-level, and mid-level, and at all levels diplomacy combined with some smart programmatic activity that prepositioned ballots before anybody thought they would potentially be necessary made a big difference in bringing together the political will and the operational capacities that were required to achieve what looks to be a successful outcome in the Southern referendum.

We have, of course, seen in countries around the world like Colombia where our joint diplomacy and development activities working together led to an 85 percent reduction in trade related to narcotics and created the baseline for stability helping countries move away from conflict. And we heard a lot from Admiral Mullen about the core nature of the partnership that brings USAID, development experts, and diplomats together with the military in Kandahar and in so many other parts of that country. And that’s very, very critical to our baseline opportunity to have an exit strategy in Afghanistan and to keep ourselves secure vis-à-vis our challenges in Pakistan. So we know in all of these settings that this is a critical part of our overall security mission and a critical part of creating the kind of economic opportunities we hope to have in the future.

We also know that in a broader sense, our ability to position ourselves more effectively vis-à-vis other countries in places like Africa, in continuing countries in Central America and Latin America where development progress has been stalled to a great extent, and that has led to and contributed to all types of insecurities that come from the lack of economic opportunity, that even in those places that are not often on the front page of the newspaper, our combined efforts in diplomacy and development make a huge contribution to our long-term national security.

And I believe in the QDDR, we use the phrase that it was the – that development is, in fact, the forward defense of our national security. But when you think long term and when you play over that long term to really win, we know that we have to be a viable economic partner with sub-Saharan Africa which has a common market that will rival China’s in 20 years. And we know that we have to be an effective country selling goods and services today to what we might call the bottom billion or the bottom 2 billion people who live on $2 a day or less, but over time will represent a large and growing middle class and will require us to be competitive in that context in order to have real economic opportunities.

In order to live up to the obligations that we believe exist in elevating development, the QDDR does in fact lay out essentially a blueprint for reforming the way we work. And at USAID, I’ve called that blueprint USAID Forward so that all of our missions around the world and our teams here in the United States and our partners in embassies and other agencies around the federal government can understand what it is we’re trying to do.

And the basic premise is that we have to move away from some practices that have been, in my mind, less effective at achieving the real development results that are both measurable, real outcomes we all seek and that create the conditions of success so our assistance over the long run is no longer needed. And that starts with delivering value by putting in place more innovative and more focused strategies in each of our proposed areas of excellence – areas like food security, where we know smart, focused investments in agriculture coupled with private sector investments and infrastructure and good policies that will enable agricultural development, can really create broad-based, inclusive growth and reduce the number of people who suffer from hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition in so many parts of the world. And we know that that’s a cheaper long-term effort than dealing with the failed states, food riots, and famines that exist when we fail in that endeavor.

In global health, we are trying to put in place the Global Health Initiative to demonstrate that we’re going to get more value for our money and better outcomes in a more sustainable way for the countries in which we work if we can move away mentally from treating our programs as individual stovepipe programs that treat diseases, however important those diseases are, and think of them instead as platforms from which we build real health systems so that someone coming in for HIV treatment and services – and I see Eric here, Eric Goosby – is now getting maternal and child health services and access to family planning and the ability to have their children immunized and protect them from unnecessary disease and even death. Very simple approach that can improve efficiency and improve outcomes and give us and our partners the resources to capture the next frontier of major gains in human improvement from – in global health.

In economic growth, we’ve had a major refocusing of how we think about that. I think over the last several decades, people have thought less about economic growth as the core underlying driver of development. And one of the big outcomes of this year’s Presidential Study Directive and the QDDR is to reintroduce a focus on economic growth, and not growth generated through a series of projects or a series of specific investments from the U.S. Government alone, but growth – the kind of growth that comes when you have the right policy framework in mind, a real focused partnership and relationship with heads of state, senior leaders and real private investment that comes in to create the basis of broad-based economic growth.

We can go through all of our areas of work – democracy and governance, climate change, disaster relief and crisis response. In each of these areas, we’re seeking to put in place more effective, more modern, and more efficient strategies to get better results and better outcomes. But they all have the same basic premise. The premise is that we know in order to get the outcomes at the scale we seek them, we basically need to do a better job of working together. The Secretary talks about working in partnership, not patronage. I interpret that to mean that our diplomats and our development experts need to hold hands and pursue these goals together. I would ask of you, as chiefs of mission, that you elevate the priority you place on development and think about introducing these goals in your conversations with heads of state. I’d ask that you engage deeply with your USAID missions, if you have one in one of those countries, and really work in a way that helps enable that work to be more significant, more visible, in deeper partnership with host governments, and more effectively tied to the private sector.

I’d ask that you help us implement a new evaluation policy that I think is really designed to make USAID programming really the most transparent and results-oriented in the world, where we’ve committed that every major project will have an independent third-party evaluation, study designs will be conducted from the outset to make sure we’re actually learning and not just reporting on results, and every project, whether successful or not in the short term, will have that evaluation published within three months of completion on our website so it’s publicly available and the whole world can benefit from the things we are going to learn together.

I’d ask that you help us implement our procurement reforms, which I think are probably the most fundamental reforms to how we want to work in the future so that we recognize that we need an appropriate balance between a reliance on contract partners that are able to do large-scale projects and programs quickly but that we have much more room built into program activities for local institutions and local NGOs and civil society organizations, local private sector firms, and perhaps most importantly, host country systems, whether they are ministries or other agencies that we build up over time.

I’ve enjoyed the opportunity recently to visit Guatemala and El Salvador and see what sustained commitment to building local institutions can look like over 10 or 15 years, and it looks like success. And that’s a success that’s really recognized and valued at the highest levels of government but, perhaps more importantly, across all levels of society, public and private sector.

And finally, I’d ask that you help us think about the future and put in place the kinds of programs and policies that take advantage of science and technology and innovation. I personally believe that the most powerful force for development over the last 10 or 15 years has been the mobile phone, not anything, unfortunately, that a single aid agency or a multilateral development bank has done. And we now have a force for change through ICT technologies but also technologies in health and food and water purification and so many other areas of life where the next technological frontier can really transform human welfare in a very fundamental way if we approach the opportunity in a focused and strategic manner.

So I appreciate the chance to be here today and to speak with you. I really commit USAID and all of our missions to being aggressive in implementing the USAID Forward package of reforms that come out of the QDDR and I think what success will look like for us and for all of us together is that we’ll have a development policy and a development organization capable of operating at the highest levels of government and at the – and in the smallest, most rural villages across different countries, capable of engaging heads of state, local civil society leaders, and women farmers, who often are the most important force for good in the countries that you may be working in.

And when we get there, the kind of success we can achieve – like we did in the ‘60s and ‘70s and early ‘80s when we helped launch a green revolution and when we introduced oral rehydration therapy and saved tens of millions of children from unnecessary death – will really transform so many parts of our world in the fundamental way that I know you all seek and we all seek together.

So I am excited to be here at this particular moment in our time when we have a Secretary of State, a President, and a leadership team that’s so committed. And I know that each of you as chiefs of mission play a hugely important role, and I ask for your engagement. Thank you. (Applause.)

PRN: 2011/148