Washington Business Dynamics (WBD) is excited to recognize the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on November 3. Following the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act in September 1961, President Kennedy signed the bill into law two months later, issuing a concurrent Executive Order which laid out the official organization of the new US foreign aid arm. In creating USAID, the Kennedy Administration formalized and consolidated many of the foreign assistance policies and programs for the U.S. government. These were contained and, at times, in disarray for years, following their creation during the Second World War and Post-war period, leading into the Cold War. The text of the Foreign Assistance Act outlined its intentions:
to assist the less-developed nations on a long-term basis… [as they find themselves] on the threshold of achieving sufficient economic, social and political strength and self-sustained growth to stand permanently on their own feet.
For almost six decades, USAID has positioned itself at the forefront of many of the world’s most pressing development challenges –increasing access to clean water, stopping global hunger, promoting democracy, enhancing economic growth, and responding to humanitarian crises. As USAID is the U.S. government’s flagship foreign aid and international development outfit, they’re often the “face” of the U.S. for millions of people in more than 100 countries, and an extension of our American values across the world. For 60 years, the Agency has been involved in executing the U.S. foreign policy. From battling for the people’s hearts and minds throughout the Cold War, endeavoring to raise hundreds of millions out of poverty, to promoting democracy around the world following the fall of the Berlin Wall, USAID’s mission has historically been vital to American interests abroad.
Today, USAID faces challenges to global development, including economic and governance issues stemming from the digital revolution, the global fallout of climate change, and increased competition with China. In this context, the Agency’s mission stays the same:
[W]e promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad, and advance a free, peaceful, and prosperous world … lead[ing] the U.S. Government’s international development and disaster assistance through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance, and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.
The critical role of USAID has taken on new importance for the COVID-19 outbreak and Biden’s Administration recognized the Agency’s central role in advancing US foreign policy through the formal appointment of the administrator as a permanent National Security Council member.
WBD is a proud partner of USAID and wishes the Agency and its dedicated staff a happy 60th birthday. WBD helps to advance key USAID priorities in private sector engagement, economic development, capacity building, infrastructure investment, and women’s economic empowerment. Now, more than ever, we need USAID’s commitment to tackling critical development priorities and ushering in a safer, more equitable world. WBD looks forward to assisting USAID on their vital mission in the years ahead.
Author: Trey Fields, Senior Associate at WBD, is a strategy and an international development professional engaged with the firm’s Private Sector Engagement Support award with the United States Agency for International Development.