The New Face of American Aid

Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), at Asia Society's New York headquarters on August 19, 2010. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society)

The New York Times has just run an enlightening profile of Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the highest-ranking Indian-American ever to serve in the US government.

In August, Shah appeared at Asia Society's New York headquarters with Richard Holbrooke, the Obama Administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to make a public plea for help addressing the humanitarian crisis created by this summer's massive flooding in Pakistan. The three officials made another appearance together at Asia Society's Washington Center just last week.

Pakistan's floods are just the latest crisis Shah has had to contend with since being appointed to lead USAID in December 2009. Within weeks of assuming his post, he was directing the American response to the devastating earthquake that killed some 200,000 people in Haiti.

More than that, Shah has pledged to return USAID to the prestige it enjoyed in its 1960s and '70s, when it was the premiere US aid agency, overseeing 18,000 workers in Asia, Africa, and South Africa.

Tensions and turf battles with other government bodies, most notably the State Department, have eroded USAID's status since then. But the Times article suggests that Shah, having won the respect of not only Holbrooke but also Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama himself, may be just the man to restore it to its former glory.

Read more:
New York Times profile of Rajiv Shah
Rajiv Shah, Richard Holbrooke, and Shah Mehmood Qureshi at Asia Society New York

About the Author

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Jeff Tompkins is New York Content Manager at Asia Society.