Hello everyone. It’s a pleasure to see you all tuned in this morning.
Thank you Karen for hosting this important ceremony for USAID India and Bhutan, and thanks to Ambassadors Keshap and Sandhu for your remarks on this special day for incoming Mission Director, Veena Reddy.
And to Veena, congratulations. Thank you for taking on this vital role—and for making history as USAID’s first-ever Indian-American India Mission Director.
Veena and I also share a bit of history; we both arrived in the United States as immigrants from Ireland––and we may or may not still be trying to overcome an Irish brogue…
Veena’s journey from Andhra Pradesh to Ireland, then to the United States embodies the best of what we––a nation of immigrants––has to offer. A determined sense of possibility. A bold vision that paves the way for sustainable and inclusive development around the world.
Her career in foreign service makes her uniquely qualified to lead our Mission in India at a time when the challenges the Indian people face call for thoughtful, strategic leadership and innovative solutions.
While they were sad to see her go, Veena’s colleagues in Cambodia marveled at her devotion, and knew she was the right person to build on a more than 70-year partnership with India.
Veena was “more than just an inspired woman leader,” one colleague said, “but also a sister and a good friend.”
Her presence “empowered and gave confidence to so many, especially women,” according to another. .
Veena isn’t just a great leader, she’s a nurturing one, taking care of her colleagues “like family members” one said. And that includes writing birthday cards for her staff—something I can barely do for my own kids.
In Cambodia, Veena helped shift the Mission’s strategy to counter the anti-democractic moves by the government, increasing investments in civil society, human rights defenders, and an independent and free press.
We’re lucky to have Veena’s continued leadership in the Indo-Pacific region––an asset, both for the people of India and the United States.
Veena brings a wealth of experience to one of USAID’s most complex portfolios. Our long standing partnership with the government, private sector, and civil society has led to significant reductions in poverty, dramatic gains in public health, and spurred the country’s remarkable economic growth.
But like much of the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated long-term inequality and set back efforts to generate inclusive prosperity. In May, India was witness to a truly terrifying spike in COVID-19 cases, peaking at over 400,000 newly-discovered cases a day.
We were quick to spring into action, working with our DoD colleagues to send several planeloads of health commodities to the Indian Red Cross—nearly 1,500 oxygen cylinders, 700 concentrators, one million rapid testing kits, 2.5 million N95 masks. We also lent our expertise, working with the government of India to establish oxygen-generating plants at 150 hospitals. And we continue to work with the Government of India on its vaccination campaign—the world’s largest—helping supply doses both through COVAX and bilaterally.
We remain committed to helping India recover from its devastating second wave and stand ready to support our partners until we have defeated the virus.
A significant component of our pandemic response efforts––and our development efforts broadly––is increased engagement with India’s robust private sector. Between 2014 and 2019, USAID established 54 private sector partnerships that have leveraged $505 million in additional financial resources toward our shared development goals.
Leveraging our resources. Stretching our money further. USAID India can be a model for our development efforts globally, as private sector engagement serves as a powerful tool to implement creative solutions that address the secondary impacts of COVID-19 on the economic, health care, and education systems. And critically, as Ambassador Keshap said, our partnership with India’s private sector is making headway in clean energy, environmental reform, and in combating the effects of climate change.
I know our team and our partners on the ground in India are prepared to confront the challenges that lie ahead––and I know Veena is eager to get to work building on existing relationships, forging new ones, and deepening the important, decades-long partnership between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest.
I am personally excited to have you taking on this role, Veena, and we’re all grateful that you’ve chosen to take this next step for the Agency. We wish you the best as you transition to Delhi.
It’s my pleasure now to administer the oath.