Remarks by Administrator Rajiv Shah at Pepperdine University

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Good afternoon, Pepperdine. It’s wonderful to join you today, and it’s clear—looking around the room—that Pepperdine’s well-known dedication to service and citizenship is still a strong part of its community today.

In fact, I understand that each spring 184 Pepperdine undergraduate students give up their spring break to service in 13 locations around the world.

And you rank second among all colleges in the nations for the highest percentage of student who study abroad.

This is a tremendous legacy—and perhaps nowhere is it more visible than in your work to combat human trafficking. From India to Los Angeles, Thailand to Ecuador, Pepperdine students and faculty have played a significant role in raising awareness about this too often hidden problem.

As a student, Mike Masten—who is here today—gathered a team of Pepperdine students to identify signs of trafficking right here in LA. Together, they founded an organization called Project Exodus that works closely with the Los Angeles Police Department’s trafficking unit to uncover likely establishments supporting human trafficking. This past summer, law students Taylor Friedlander and Brittany Takai traveled to Ecuador with the ABA Rule of Law Institute to fact-check the report on the nation’s record of human trafficking.

Pepperdine has also served as a launching pad for many students to focus their career on combatting human trafficking. During law school, alumnus Jon Derby began working for International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that we will hear more about later today. After moving to Mumbai, Jon started his own organization called Counsel to Secure Justice to help provide victims of rape with stronger representation in court.

It is because of the extraordinary commitment of the Pepperdine community to this issue and many others in development that I’ve come here today. Because the truth is—you are part of an incredible generation.

On campuses across the country and the world, you’re expressing a surge of interest in tackling global challenges – oversubscribing courses on public health, international education, global politics, and development economics. In fact, since 2006, there has been a 34 percent increase in the number of degrees conferred in these areas across the country.

At USAID, we want to harness this passion for international issues by creating new ways we can support student ideas and innovations and help them become actual solutions to global challenges. Challenges like ending preventable child death and ensuring all children are learning to read in their classrooms; challenges like reducing extreme poverty by 90 percent and ending hunger; challenges like ensuring our world is populated by many more complete democracies, where citizens can participate in their government, fight corruption, and enjoy equal protection under the law; and challenges like ending the outrage of human trafficking.

Although we don’t have precise numbers, as many as 20.9 million men, women and children may be essentially enslaved in sex or labor exploitation—more than double the population of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago combined.

We know that human trafficking thrives in the shadows of poverty and conflict—and affects men, women, and children in every country in the world.

We know that it is fundamentally linking to development challenges we face every day—from limited education and employment opportunities to the tenuous rule of law.

And we know that trafficking is a highly lucrative business, grossing an estimated $32 billion a year and perpetuating a vicious cycle.

In order to solve these challenges, we have to move beyond a top-down institutionally driven model of development and create a new model that brings tens of thousands of new people into our efforts to realize these goals. Everyone from big private sector companies, like Citi and Dupont, to individual student organizations right here on campuses—like Pepperdine’s Global Justice Program, which places students in human rights organizations around the world.

Today at USAID, we’re increasingly focused on harnessing the creativity and expertise of a much broader development community. We call it “open source development,” and it reflects our desire to literally open development to problem-solvers everywhere.

Universities are actually one of my favorite places to talk about open source development, because I know you guys get it. You grew up in a world where real-time information and good ideas aren’t the privilege of an elite few, but actually belong to everyone with a phone in their pocket.

I call it the “Kiva-world” where a student from anywhere can go online and choose the individual dairy farmer she wants to support in Bangladesh and offer that farmer a $25 loan. That dairy farmer can then invest in her business, vaccinate her animals, improve their feedstock, and track milk output and local prices through her mobile phone. In an open source development model, inventors around the world could see that her biggest challenge is getting the milk to a chilling facility before it spoils and could invent new forms of “on-farm” ultra-pasteurization.

By employing this much bigger definition of development, we can tackle our greatest—and most somber—challenges.

Two weeks ago, during the week of the U.N. General Assembly, President Obama spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative about the need to fight human trafficking, calling it on of the great human rights struggles of our time. “Everyone has a responsibility,” he said. “Everyone can take action.”

Today, to help answer the President’s call, it is my honor to announce USAID’s Counter-Trafficking Campus Challenge: A unique competition that is expressly designed for students on campuses across the United States and around the world to generate cutting-edge ideas and new technologies to combat one of humanity’s greatest challenges.

As President Obama said, “We’re turning the table on the traffickers. Just as they are now using technology and the Internet to exploit their victims, we’re going to harness technology to stop them.”

The challenge has several phases—and the first one begins today, as we encourage students to come together online at the new website to discuss the challenge and identify potential barriers to success.

These discussions will help frame the next phrase, as we ask students to propose innovative technological solutions to advance the prevention of trafficking and the protection of vulnerable people everywhere. It could be a cell phone app with an emergency call button and a GIS locator. Or a new tool to help teachers identify and help vulnerable students before they’re at risk. The winners will be announced at the end of February and be invited to share their proposals with CTIP and development professionals.

This challenge is not ours alone—we are joined by a variety of partners who have a long-standing commitment to combating human trafficking: MTV Exit, Not For Sale, Free the Slaves, and Slavery Footprint.

I encourage you to visit their websites to learn more about their unique programs and partnerships that can inspire your ideas and innovations for this CTIP campus challenge.

For example, Slavery Footprint has a partnership with the State Department to enable over 825,000 consumers in 200 countries to calculate the likely number of slaves involved in the creation of products they use on a daily basis.

Thanks to this creative tool, over 200,000 letters have been sent directly to companies asking them to provide products made without slave labor.

This challenge also builds on the work our Agency has done to scale up more effective, innovative, and results-oriented approaches in counter-trafficking. Last February at the White House, we launched a new policy in counter trafficking to ensure our programs reflect our aspirations. And we have adopted a Code of Conduct to ensure our personnel, contractors, and grantees around the world abide by the highest ethical standards.

Today, our programs and partnerships are working across the world—from the Thailand to Zimbabwe—to uncover, rescue, and support victims of trafficking. In Ukraine, we have helped more than 3,000 victims reintegrate into society, either by helping them get back into school or a job. Since 2006, 265 survivors have started 187 micro-businesses and 99 percent of those remain operational today, and 58 percent have created jobs in their communities.

During his speech, the President shared the story of Marie, a trafficking survivor in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who sought help at a transition center that USAID supports. She gave her permission for her last name to be used so that President Obama could tell her story—and it could provide inspiration to thousands of others to take action. Despite being raped at least five times and losing all five children, she remained strong—seeking medical care and an education at the transition center so that she could begin a new life.

Over the next two years, we’ll assist more than 300 girls and young women in the eastern DRC who, like Marie, have been exploited and abused. And we’ll help rehabilitate and reintegrate 1,200 child soldiers. With new ideas and approaches from students like you in the Campus Challenge, we hope to ensure that Marie’s story of slavery can be one of the last.

The CTIP Campus Challenge is not the only way we are reaching out to students. At USAID, we want to do everything we can to encourage your ingenuity and help deepen your engagement in development.

That’s why we’ve launched a new online space for young people called USAID Fall Semester. If you visit, you’ll see three buttons that say serve, solve, and join the conversation about development. And by clicking on any of the three, you’ll be able to access opportunities and resources tailored just for students.

If you’re a freshman and you’re looking for your first internship, we have a list of opportunities, including one that enables you to become a part of our virtual Foreign Service from right here on campus. If you’re working on your senior thesis, and you need some information about one of our projects, you can access a wealth of information that we’re opening up and making easier to use. You can even use an iPhone or iPad app to read third-party evaluations of our work.

If you have a great idea and are looking to help solve the toughest challenges in development, we list all competitions and prizes we offer. We want your ideas—whether it’s for a new mobile app to connect families separated in a crisis or a new learning tool that helps teachers track the progress of their students.

And if you simply want to join the conversation with development professionals—and help us do our jobs better, we now have a one-stop-shop for all our engagement tools, including Facebook, Twitter, and a brand new tool we launched just this week through crowd-hall called Ask the Administrator—so that you can get your questions answered.

Now this one website isn’t going to do it all. We know that federal government is still a tough beast to get your arms around. But the website is our effort to break down the walls of bureaucracy and open up development for you. Ultimately, we hope we can be a resource to you—as we work together to expand opportunity and improve human welfare around the world.

I joined USAID determined to bring a business-like focus on results, based on the premise that if we can show and deliver great results Americans will support us. For the last few years, many of us in development have continued to spend tremendous energy on improving our effectiveness—and it’s working.

We’re choosing to do smart things, focusing on key competencies and appropriate roles. We measure relentlessly, inviting cold hard facts to challenge our warm, fuzzy assumptions. We become hard-nosed in pursuit of soft goals, and in doing so, we have often invoked the ideal of “How They Do It In The Private Sector.”

I recently had the chance to meet with several business leaders and CEOs, and set out to take notes and learn what new methods we might be able to borrow and adapt for our work.

But what has surprised me is the central and powerful place that some exceedingly soft ideas have in these hard analyses. Forging common purpose and shared values. Meaningful work. Deep respect for others. A sense of being part of something bigger than oneself. These deeply personal and important issues.

Development attracts many of the best students, brightest minds, and strongest spirits. Open source development can help keep all of us inspired by offering the true reward of being successful—combining productivity with meaning.

When you bring your expertise, your ideas, your ingenuity to the task, when you can see that something you’re learning in a classroom is helping to communities withstand natural disasters, or when you commit yourself to a career in the service of others, those are deeply rewarding results for you—and millions of people everywhere.

Thank you.

Pepperdine University