USAID stands for the US Agency for International Development. That's the agency that oversees economic development, agricultural assistance, and famine relief in developing nations. The USAID states the three pillars of their mission are economic growth, agriculture, and trade. They are under the umbrella of the State Department, so Hillary Clinton is the big boss.
Shaw, who is only 36, had most recently been undersecretary and Chief Scientist at the Department of Agriculture under Tom Vilsack; he worked on food safety, climate, and energy. Before that he was an executive at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He was also the health care policy advisor to Al Gore during his presidential bid. His education is in medicine and health economics. By all accounts, he's brilliant.
However, the recent Big Ag-friendly, band-aid policies coming out of the US Dept of Agriculture certainly give me pause. And it can't go without mentioning: The Gates Foundation has close ties to Monsanto.
Certainly, filling this post is a good thing. It's been empty since the beginning of Obama's tenure, and the agency has apparently suffered for it. The Obama administration has stated that they are keen to make development a central tenet of foreign policy. The agency was formed in 1961, and word is, it's still run like a 1960's bureaucracy.
But I'm still concerned. US relief policies have far more to do with WTO-style economics than with actual, well, relief. It will be interesting to see if Shaw continues to carry the water of the WTO. I wonder if he has any choice in the matter, or if he even sees it as a choice to make.
Shaw is American, but his parents emigrated from India to the US when he was a child. I'd love to know his views on India's Green Revolution; specifically, if he thinks the long-term failures were worth the short-term gains. I think it would be very telling of the direction he plans to take the agency.