When the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was created, it brought together several existing foreign assistance organizations and programs. Until then, there had never been a single agency charged with foreign economic development, so with the passage of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (pdf) by Congress, U.S. foreign assistance activities underwent a major transformation.

USAID's mission statement highlights two complementary and intrinsically linked goals: ending extreme poverty and promoting the development of resilient, democratic societies that are able to realize their potential. We fundamentally believe that ending extreme poverty requires enabling inclusive, sustainable growth; promoting free, peaceful, and self-reliant societies with effective, legitimate governments; building human capital and creating social safety nets that reach the poorest and most vulnerable.

Resilient, democratic societies don't simply maintain stability: they are essential to sustaining development progress. Resilient, democratic societies feature broadbased economic growth; healthy, well-nourished, and educated populations; and environmental sustainability. They embrace not only elections, but also legitimate, inclusive, and accountable institutions that effectively deliver services to all of their people, respect and promote human rights, and strive to advance freedom, human dignity and development. They have the ability to manage conflict, mitigate the impact of natural disasters, and forestall crisis that otherwise roll back development gains. These societies are equipped to ensure that pathways out of poverty are sustained.

At the core of our mission is a deep commitment to work as partners in fostering sustainable development. Rather than impose, we seek to empower and support through collaboration. We work hand-in-hand with those we seek to assist as well as others striving to support the most vulnerable. Nations and communities must increasingly be able to meet the needs of their citizens whether by providing health care, education, or economic opportunity.