A Phone Call from USAID
September 21, 2010
Last Friday, September 17th, USAID held a phone call with various news and policy institutions providing a preview of USAID’s agenda going into the United Nations General Assembly.
The first voice on the phone was Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of USAID. Dr. Shah expressed that the Obama Administration fully embraces the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and beyond this, thinks that all 8 goals are attainable by 2015. This upcoming conference (starting September 20th) is about bringing nations together and celebrating the achievements that have been made since the Millennium Development Goals were first delineated. Because indeed, achievements have been made. However the Summit is also crucially about highlighting areas where we can do better. One amongst these is improving maternal health, MDG5. At the end of the day, Dr. Shah concluded, the summit is a call to action. If the MDGs are going to be achieved by 2015, than this summit must invigorate the international community to do more.
Leonardo Martinez-Diaz, Senior Advisor to USAID, then took over the conversation outlining three points USAID hopes to convey at the UNGA. First, he said, the MDGs are about development. We need to move far away from the notion that the MDGs are humanitarian relief or simply money towards a temporary solution. Such ideas get us nowhere. To the contrary, the MDGs are about a development process and long-term sustainability for all countries involved.
The second point he made expounded upon earlier remarks from Dr. Shah: if the MDGs are going to be reached by 2015, historic leaps need to be made in the present. The words Mr. Martinez-Diaz continually used when talking about this were “force multipliers.” We need to begin combining ideas that work to ensure the greatest success in a short period of time. One of the most obvious examples of “force multipliers” is women and girls. When the international community invests in women and girls, we concurrently invest in all of the Millennium Development Goals; enabling and educating this untapped group is proven to alleviate poverty, enhance security, and improve a host of other issues (Melanne Verveer echoed these points when she spoke at CSIS.)
Beyond this, he added, we need real innovation. Mr. Martinez-Diaz stressed that innovation can mean many things. For example, innovation can mean providing new solutions such as technology, drugs, or transportation to development challenges. However innovation can also mean taking existing solutions – that are proven to work – and delivering them to greater numbers.
Last, Mr. Martinez-Diaz stressed the importance of partnerships. How do we, as agencies and organizations, work better together? How do we go beyond the rhetoric of collaborating to actually allowing that to occur? This will be an important theme going into the UNGA and certainly one that requires a dialogue throughout the summit.
Let us know what you think about USAID’s ideas heading into the United Nations General Assembly. What outcomes would you like to see from the UNGA? Do you think the Millennium Development Goals are achievable by 2015?