What is the United States Agency For International Development (USAID)?

The term United States Agency for International Development (USAID) refers to an international development agency run by the United States government. The organization provides international development and humanitarian assistance in a number of areas to developing nations while promoting American interests, U.S. national security, and economic prosperity abroad.  USAID was established in 1961 and works in more than 100 countries.

Key Takeaways

  • The United States Agency for International Development is a U.S.-government-run international development agency.
  • The agency works in more than 100 developing nations and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
  • Its mission is to boost democratic values across the world and help nations become self-reliant while advancing America's interests abroad.
  • USAID works in a number of different sectors, including food and agriculture, democracy and human rights, the economy, health, and humanitarian aid.
  • The agency helps partner nations achieve their goals through small-enterprise loans, technical assistance, disaster relief, and training.

Understanding the United States Agency For International Development (USAID)

The United States Agency for International Development was developed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy. He created the agency after signing an executive order to advance American interests abroad through development efforts and humanitarian aid. With the global economy still relatively fragile less than two decades after the end of World War II, it was essential for the U.S.'s own prosperity to promote growth in developing countries and to help nations maintain their independence and freedom.

USAID works in more than 100 developing countries spanning the globe in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Eurasia. The agency, which has field offices in the areas noted above, is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with organizational units that are called bureaus. Those working in each unit are responsible for programs and activities in a specific country.

The agency's mission and objectives remain the same today. According to the website, USAID's mission is to boost democratic values across the world, helping nations become self-reliant as they progress in their own development. While promoting development and reducing poverty are among its aims, it also promotes democratic governance in recipient nations, and helps counteract the drivers of violence, instability, transnational crime, and other security threats.

The international agency works in a number of different sectors including:

  • Food and agriculture
  • Democracy and human rights
  • Economy and trade
  • Education
  • Environmental issues
  • Gender equality
  • Health
  • Humanitarian aid
  • Water and sanitation
  • Crises and conflict

Development assistance is not simply the act of giving aid, but of supporting development efforts so that recipient countries become self-reliant. Some examples of the type of assistance USAID provides in reaching these goals are small-enterprise loans, technical assistance, food and disaster relief, and training and scholarships.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is a taxpayer-funded agency, which means it must report to the American government.

Special Considerations

The agency reports directly to the United States Congress on certain important matters. This is done through regular reports that the agency submits. These reports are also available on the agency's website in order to remain transparent to the general public.

The budget for the United States Agency for International Development and the U.S. State Department is recommended by the American president for each fiscal year. The request for the 2021 fiscal year was $58.5 billion. This amount included $27.7 billion managed in part or in full by the agency itself. The request furthers the U.S.'s aid to help its partners pursue self-reliance and renew their economic growth. In addition, the budget helps the U.S. protect its interests abroad, among other things.