TACOMA, Washington — On January 13, 2020, President Biden announced Samantha Power as his nominee for chief administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.) Simultaneously, he elevated the position to a member of the White House National Security Council, demonstrating a strong commitment to international development. With more than $20 billion spent in 2019, the efforts of USAID are crucial for combating poverty in the 134 countries that USAID invests in. Any U.S. effort to fight global poverty starts with USAID. The announcement of Biden’s USAID nominee has been met with praise and optimism.
Background of Samantha Power
Samantha Power has a long history of service in international affairs. She started as a journalist reporting from hotspots such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Kosovo. She served from 2009 to 2013 as a special assistant to the president on the National Security Council. From 2013 to 2017, she served as the 28th U.S. representative to the United Nations. Power is also a professor at Harvard. She had been named one of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Forbes, who referred to her as “a powerful crusader for U.S. foreign policy as well as human rights and democracy.” The above history indicates that Biden’s USAID nominee is a well-qualified choice to hold the position.
The USAID Nominee Announcement
Biden’s USAID nominee was met with praise and support when she was announced. Gregory Meeks, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had high praise for the move. When referring to it, he stated that it “demonstrates the value he places on having development at the table.” He also had high praise for Power, lauding her foreign service expertise and calling her a critical part of using foreign assistance as a part of foreign policy. Biden himself called Power “a world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity” in his statement nominating her. Vice President Kamala Harris called Power a “seasoned leader and innovative thinker.”
The Elevation of the USAID Administrator Role
There are high hopes for Biden’s USAID nominee. However, the elevation of the role to the National Security Council also has new consequences: it gives Power, and USAID as a whole, far more influence and attention than the agency previously had. The move has been long advocated for by members of the development community and it signifies a renewed emphasis on a development-based approach to foreign policy rather than a military-based one.
USAID staffers and outside observers hope that Power will be able to restore the agency’s prestige and credibility. Although Power has relatively limited experience with international development, current USAID staffers are excited to have a leader with experience in the foreign policy world who commands respect among her peers. Some are even hopeful that Power will push the agency toward equal footing with the State Department, a move that would greatly expand the influence of international development on U.S. foreign policy.
Optimism for the Future of USAID
The announcement of Biden’s USAID nominee has been met with optimism, bringing hope that Power will serve to intensify the impact of USAID in developing countries and that increased focus will be brought to U.S. foreign policy as a means of alleviating global poverty.
– Bradley Cisternino