This week Seattle hosted Dr. Rajiv Shah of USAID (formerly of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), reaffirming the city’s growing role in development issues. “It is the aspiration to work on those [global] problems that brings us together today. It’s the right thing to do and it’s our moral imperative,” said Dr. Shah at St. Mark’s Cathedral. SIF’s Executive Director Mauricio Vivero spoke to Dr. Shah and offered our help and partnership in Central America, reminding Dr. Shah about our community’s commitment to the region, and the importance of investing in countries so close and critical to U.S. interest– drugs, immigration and trade.
During a public event Shah held with federal officials, Congressman McDermott spoke about his diplomatic trip to El Salvador in 1989—a time in which the country was in the midst of a civil war, and he noted the many people from Washington State helping distribute humanitarian aid and working with many Central American grassroots organizations.
Congressman McDermott voted against CAFTA-DR free trade agreement in 2005, and is known for his involvement with Central America as well as various global issues. The Congressman commented that beyond just investing in technology and science, it is critical that development programs also focus on building human capacity, avoiding the common issue of “brain drain”. As McDermott noted, investment in technology is not sustainable “…if you do not have the man or woman power to deliver those health technologies to those who need it most”.
Congressman Adam Smith spoke about the importance of his trip to Honduras with Bill Clapp in 2004 and how it impacted his perspective of sustainable development, particularly in Central America. During this trip, sponsored by Global Partnerships and the Initiative for Global Development, Congressman Smith met with several groups, public officials, and NGO leaders to discuss a variety of issues. He listened to local Hondurans and learned of the challenges facing the United States in building a relationship with Honduras as well as the entire Central American region. Congressman Smith also met with micro-credit program leaders, community bank officials and government officials to learn of the impact of CAFTA-DR on Honduras specifically. Congressman Smith referred to an idea that he and Clapp discussed while in Honduras which inspired Congressman Smith to actively engage in global development. The main idea being that many people are critical of global development and its effectiveness oftentimes leading many to become jaded or to feel defeated. He fondly recalled Clapp had joked that if the same standard were applied evenly to all institutions, the Pentagon would cease to exist. His story helped remind the audience of several hundred of the importance of remaining optimistic and engaged despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
Congressman McDermott left the crowd with an inspiring call to action: “The application of technologies can stop people from even getting into the pipeline [of poverty]. I view economic development like a glass of water—some see it as half-full, others as half-empty. But the question is how we continue to fill the glass in the most innovative way—through the application of technology and also good-hearted people. I hope you’ll keep filling the glass.”