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Former USAID Head: U.S. Risks Losing Global Development Leadership Role

APRIL 6, 2015 – DR. RAJIV SHAH, FORMER administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said the nation is at risk of losing its leadership role in international aid and development during his March 30 visit at Georgetown.

In his first lecture as a distinguished fellow at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service (SFS), Shah said the United States is on track to “cede 60 years of American leadership in humanitarian affairs and development to a group of emerging economies that are already starting to come together to organize a new way of doing things.”


Nations such as China, Japan and Brazil are vying with the United States to enter emerging markets and are offering competing approaches to development, Shah said.

Unless the United States creates stronger, more imaginative approaches to infrastructure, climate resilience and pandemic response, he said, “We will have obsolete Bretton Woods institutions and an America that is not as connected to the frontier parts of the world with anything other than our military and security engagements.” 

He pointed to “broken” national politics as hampering U.S. leadership and engagement in global diplomacy, defense and development.


Shah’s lecture continues semester-long conversations on development convened by Georgetown’s Global Futures Initiative.

He said the strengths of U.S. development work lie in addressing issues such as education, water access, child health and quantifying results of related projects.

“When America offers leadership in development and humanitarian affairs, it changes the way the world sees and interacts with us," Shah said. "But more than anything, it helps our own politics come together to do some extraordinary things.”