Restoring U.S. Leadership Abroad

With 60 years of experience, USAID tackles historic crises

U.S. Agency for International Development
5 min readFeb 4, 2021


A member of the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team watches U.S. Service members load relief supplies at Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Oct 16, 2016. USAID deployed the DART to lead the U.S. Government’s response to Hurricane Matthew in Haiti. / Cpl. Hernan Vidana, U.S. Marine Corps

Today, our world faces multiple crises of historic proportions: the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic crisis, the devastating effects of climate change, and fundamental threats to democracy, equity, and human rights. These challenges, which see no borders, have a direct impact on U.S. national security, as our health and prosperity are closely intertwined with those of other nations around the globe.

Under President Biden’s leadership, great importance has been placed on development, diplomacy, and defense in order to protect and promote the interests of all Americans. Reflecting this, the President has elevated the USAID Administrator to be a member of the National Security Council.

As the world’s premier global development agency, USAID is uniquely poised to lead the U.S. response to many of the pressing challenges we face today. USAID will help achieve the President’s vision of restoring U.S. moral leadership, creating a safer and more prosperous world, and demonstrating American values on the world stage.

With 60 years of experience, USAID will do what we do best, which is improving lives in more than 100 countries throughout the world. We will work with key partners to battle COVID-19 and prepare for future outbreaks, promote an inclusive global economy, bolster resilience to climate change, advance global health, restore global leadership and partnerships, and defend democracy and human rights.

Jenny Esperanza Peña Guerrero is a nurse at Erasmo Meoz University Hospital in Cúcuta, Colombia, a city on the border with Venezuela. The hospital was prepared for an influx of COVID-19 patients thanks to USAID’s tent donation that allowed for the hospital’s expansion. / USAID


USAID and our partners must be on the front lines bravely and selflessly battling the virus around the world. President Biden has made clear that the U.S. will help to lead this fight, through partnership and cooperation rather than nationalism or competition. Under the Biden Administration, the United States is proud to join COVAX, a global consortium working to ensure that everyone worldwide has equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.

We will continue to build and adapt our COVID-19 response. USAID has committed more than $1.3 billion to save lives by protecting health care workers, strengthening laboratory systems, distributing public health information, and boosting rapid response in more than 120 countries. We will continue to develop new efforts to strengthen the global fight against COVID-19 in the months ahead.

Farmer Aberu Mamo, 33, works with her husband and laborers to harvest wheat in Ethiopia in 2018. With USAID support, she and her husband learned how to weather drought and crop loss by saving money, taking out loans to invest in business, and diversifying their income sources. / Thomas Cristofoletti for USAID


We will take swift actions to tackle the climate crisis. On day one of the Biden Administration, the United States rejoined the Paris Climate Agreement to work with nearly 200 countries to combat the existential threat of climate change.

USAID partners with the international community to build a climate-resilient future for generations to come. USAID programs have been pivotal in helping to mitigate the impacts of climate change and in strengthening community resilience for decades.

In Malawi, Maggie Medison, 18, dropped out of school in 2015 because she became pregnant. Her life changed course when she became a peer educator as part of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)’s DREAMS initiative to reduce HIV infection among adolescent girls and young women. She now works with girls in her community to raise awareness about the importance of remaining in school and protecting yourself against HIV. / Josh Estey for USAID

Global Health

For more than half a century, USAID has saved lives and protected people most vulnerable to disease, from HIV/AIDS to tuberculosis and malaria. We prevent child and maternal deaths, we strengthen health systems, and we combat infectious diseases.

And as the world’s largest donor to reproductive health, the United States has a long history in international voluntary family planning. President Biden issued a presidential memorandum to support women’s health needs globally, including expanding access to reproductive health care and voluntary family planning, which is essential to empowering women and gender equality. Women and girls who can make informed decisions about their lives — decisions to stay in school, delay marriage, and make their own reproductive choices — are often healthier and have healthier families.

As part of a USAID project, doctors and nurses learned to use rapid HIV tests at a training in Odessa, Ukraine in February 2017. / Lesia Yatsenko for USAID

Restoring Global Leadership and Partnerships

As President Biden said in his inaugural address, “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world again.”

On his first day in office, President Biden reversed the United States’ intent to withdraw from the World Health Organization and reaffirmed the U.S.’s leadership in confronting threats to global health and advancing global health security.

USAID is committed to supporting the international organizations that shape our world. Our partnerships promote collective action to protect the planet, foster inclusive governance, and advance peace, prosperity, and a respect for human rights.

Selma Sbissi, 48, from Tataouine, Tunisia, voted in the May 6, 2018 municipal elections after she met a USAID-supported female civic ambassador who encouraged her to register to vote to make her voice heard. / Sebastian Lindstrom for USAID

Democracy and Human Rights

USAID’s work to advance democratic governance is foundational to everything we do. Citizen-responsive governance is a critical factor in development, and we believe it is not possible for any country to rise to its full potential without it.

Democracy is precious and fragile, as President Biden said in his inaugural remarks. That’s why the United States’ ability to lead by example and partner to promote democracy and human rights — both at home and abroad — is so important. We cannot help build resilient democracies without also combating inequity and racism. An unjust and unequal society will never achieve its full potential.

USAID will engage and partner with the international community to build a more stable and just world. As we celebrate our 60th anniversary, we recognize our past accomplishments and significant tasks ahead. We, the dedicated USAID staff, serve the American people to save lives and advocate for those facing hunger and poverty around the world.

About the Author

Gloria Steele is USAID’s Acting Administrator.



U.S. Agency for International Development

We advance U.S. natl. security & economic prosperity, demonstrate American generosity & promote self-reliance & resilience. Privacy: