USAID Administrator Addresses the Challenges of Ending Extreme Poverty

By Jane Tingley (Intern, IHC)
November 27, 2013

On November 21, The Brookings Institution’s Development Assistance and Governance Initiative hosted an event, Ending Extreme Poverty: Can It Be Done? If So, How?­, in which the focus was exploring the issues that arise in ending income poverty and bringing the consumption of every person on the planet above the threshold global floor a $1.25 a day.  Introductory remarks were given by Brookings Senior Fellow and Deputy Director for Global Economy and Development, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative, Homi Kharas.  Dr. Kharas acknowledged that while there is a great deal of political support for ending extreme poverty, the real question is whether this goal is achievable, and if so, how? He emphasized that based on historic trends we could theoretically end extreme poverty in the next 20 years. However, the challenge is that pure extrapolation will not include the difficulties in reaching marginalized communities, conflict areas, and regions that are facing climate and other shocks.

The keynote address was given by USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah, who highlighted the need for the U.S. to continue its development assistance by establishing a new model of development, one based on public-private partnerships that deliver measureable results.  Dr. Shah cited President Obama’s Power Africa Initiative as an example of such a partnership, coupling country reforms with private sector commitments and donor investments.  As Dr. Shah highlighted other successful programs, he also pointed to conflict and devastated regions as areas where the greatest challenge remains.  While the U.S. has been the leader in emergency aid in a variety of relief efforts, the new programmatic focus the U.S. is supporting and promoting is resilience.  Dr. Shah stressed that the focus of resiliency efforts should be “creating pathways of partnership, security, and resilience for the world’s most vulnerable people.”  Dr. Shah closed by affirming America’s commitment and readiness to address this challenge of ending extreme poverty, and that to achieve this goal, we must leverage both development investment and our national resources to this “extraordinary moral objective.”

Following Dr. Shah’s remarks, a panel explored the intricacies of addressing the challenge of ending extreme poverty.  The panel included: Brookings Fellow Laurence Chandy; Cathy Pattillo, chief of the Low-Income Countries Strategy Unit at the International Monetary Fund; Martin Ravallion, professor of economics at Georgetown University; Alex Thier, assistant to the administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning at USAID; and the panel was moderated by Annie Lowrey from The New York Times.  The panel focused on responding on Dr. Shah’s address, with a great deal of agreement between the panelists on the remaining challenges and opportunities for further development.  The panel concluded in a question and answer session.

Please click here to watch a webcast of the event, including a link to Administrator Shah’s remarks.

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