Archive of UAA Development Issues & Conversations

The UAA offers a series of interactive conversations on a broad range of topics relevant to the interests of international development professionals. These are presented under the heading of UAA/DACOR and UAA Development Issues Committee Development Dialogues. Almost all sessions are available in audio/video form which can be accessed through the links provided below:

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Coleman reflects on USAID programs and U.S. foreign policy objectives. 


Monday, May 13, 2024, USAID Deputy Administrator Isobel Colemen squeezed time out of her very busy week to spend an hour with an appreciative and engaged audience at DACOR and on-line. In conversation with retired USAID Counselor and active UAA Board Member Chris Milligan, she reflected candidly on her experience leading USAID’s policy work during the first three years of the Biden Administration. To hear the whole program please click here. 

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue:

The Rise of the Global Middle Class by Dr. Homi Kharas

Dr. Homi Kharas and UAA Alex Shakow at DACOR, April 5, 2024

At DACOR on Friday, April 5, Brookings’ Senior Fellow Dr. Homi Kharas discussed with the luncheon (and on-line) audience some of the many complex issues explored in his new book The Rise of the Global Middle Class – How the Search for the Good Life Can Change the World. While basically an optimist, Kharas also laid out the key – and very difficult – steps societies must take if the continued growth of the middle class is to be sustained. Watch the hour-long discussion by clicking here.

Development Issues Committee Discussion: 

USAID Office of Innovation, Technology and Research (ITR) Hub

On Wednesday, March 6, a lively and highly informative Development Issues Committee session (via Zoom) was held with USAID’s Chief Innovation Officer Mohamed Abdel-Kader and Digital Director Chris Burns to discuss the work of the USAID Office of Innovation, Technology and Research (ITR) Hub.  Some 15-17 members participated.  The discussion focused on the work of the ITR Hub, formerly the Global Development Lab, which is the locus of USAID’s current science and technology research and innovation work.

The speakers discussed how the office was organized and staffed, with the technology division focusing on cybersecurity, geospatial analysis, and technology, and the research division focusing on building education capacity of science and research abroad including creating a new generation of AI (artificial intelligence) leaders, as well as the Hub’s focus on supporting new innovations to scale up, and to improve USAID programming.

Mr. Abdel-Kader pointed out the strong potential of digital development in helping USAID try to address many of its prioritized development issues.   Mr. Burns gave some examples of how USAID’s work in digital financing is helping such as in Rwanda on financial inclusion as well as in using cell phones in programs to help deliver training to individuals. The presentation was followed by a lively and inquisitive Q&A session with UAA members asking questions ranging from how the Office interacts and supports field missions in programming, how specifically money is spent, collaborating with USAID’s CIO (center for information technology) on supporting internal staff in non-programming areas, engaging other federal agencies on), and learning how to use AI (artificial intelligence) safely.   Both speakers shared information on links where UAA members and the public can get more information on resources and the work of ITR.

Additional information can be found at these links:

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

Challenges Facing the Press Around the World in the Disinformation Age

Jeanne Bourgault with Bill Clifford

At a February 13 (hybrid) lunch session at DACOR, a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue featured Internews President and CEO Jeanne Bourgault engaging in conversation with former World Affairs Councils of America President Bill Clifford on the subject of “Challenges Facing the Press Around the World in the Disinformation Age”.  Their fascinating discussion and the subsequent Q&A session ranged widely over Internews’ experience in many challenging parts of the world – including in the USA – and much more.  For the full recording of this event click here.

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

With World Bank Senior Managing Director Axel van Trotsenburg

Alex Shakow (right) introducing Axel van Trotsenburg

On Friday, January 19, World Bank Senior Managing Director Axel van Trotsenburg treated an attentive audience (at DACOR and on-line) to a stimulating overview of issues facing the World Bank and other multilateral development banks as they address the many interrelated challenges confronting the Global South – and the rest of the world, too. Watch the conversation between van Trotsenburg and the UAA’s Alex Shakow – and the Q&A period – by clicking here.

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

A Conversation with Seven Former USAID West Bank/Gaza Mission Directors

On Friday evening from 5:00 to 7:00 on December 4, 2023, a special session of the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue took place before a very large audience both at DACOR and online. This session, moderated by Tom Staal, featured a conversation among seven former USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission Directors whose tenure there stretched from 1994 to 2019.  While these very experienced AID hands did not, of course, have a solution for the current intractable situation, their reflections, based on first-hand experience throughout these years, are very useful in setting the scene to better understand the most recent events there.  The program has received rave reviews from an audience of over 200.  To watch the video and the Q&A period, click here.

Development Issues Committee Discussion: 

USAID Chief Economist, Dean Karlan, Described the Role of his new Office 

Dean Karlan

USAID’s Chief Economist, Dean Karlan, was the guest speaker for the Development Issues Discussion on October 30th. Mr. Karlan described the role of USAID’s new Office of the Chief Economist, highlighting three objectives: promoting use of cost effectiveness analysis; generating evidence of cost effectiveness; macro-economic analysis and advice to USAID Washington and the field. He noted that evidence on cost-effectiveness in development has increased significantly in the past 20 years and he stressed the importance of leveraging USAID’s resources to maximize impacts. It will be important to focus new analyses on areas where there are gaps in the knowledge base. There is already considerable demand for the services of the 20-member Office of the Chief Economist. Emphasis is placed on helping operating units to consider the trade-offs among various options to achieve their objectives, with an eye to enhancing impacts. During the ensuing question and answer period, Mr. Karlan clarified that local conditions, political economy and higher level impacts shape his Office’s work, rather than a narrower approach of counting inputs. He also described his Office’s orientation to the professional development of Civil Service, Foreign Service and Foreign Service National Economists. Additional information about the Office of the Chief Economist is available at

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

Lawrence MacDonald, Am I Too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer’s Guide to Climate Action

Alex Shakow introducing Lawrence MacDonald at DACOR

On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue lunch at DACOR featured Lawrence MacDonald, author of the forthcoming book Am I Too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer’s Guide to Climate Action.  MacDonald, a writer, policy communications expert, and Boomer climate activist, gave a spirited presentation to a supportive audience, in person and on-line, as to how Boomers – and others – can make a real difference in combatting climate change. To see a video of the full event, including the Q&A session, click here.

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

Fireside Chat with USAID Mission Directors: Oral Histories of U.S. Diplomacy in Afghanistan, 2001–2021

While Afghanistan turned out to be America’s longest-running war, the demands on USAID in Afghanistan since early 2002 pushed it well outside its traditional boundaries. Expectations were high that USAID would provide development to match the major U.S. diplomatic and military effort: delivering enduring development results in a war zone and with billions of dollars of assistance in the face of ever-changing priorities and urgency in a country torn apart by decades of civil war.

On August 16th, 2023, the USAID Alumni Association co-sponsored with the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) a “fireside chat” at DACOR’s historic Bacon House headquarters in Washington, DC for former USAID Senior Foreign Service Officers who served as Mission Directors and/or as State Department Economic Assistance Coordinators in Kabul to share reflections on their service in Afghanistan. Key questions for the speakers included their lessons learned, what elements USAID should be sure to do–and to avoid–next time, how to better balance State/DOD short-term immediate objectives vis a vis USAID longer-term institutional development objectives, impacts they were most proud of, their most difficult challenges, and was it worth it?

The Fireside Chat speakers included Moderator Bill Hammink, Bambi Arellano, Jim Bever, Craig Buck, Tina Dooley-Jones, Earl Gast, Herbie Smith, and Ken Yamashita.

They shared their insights, covering twenty years and four US presidential administrations, for how the Agency can improve its effectiveness in future complex national foreign policy crises of similar magnitude in which USAID is asked to help achieve US foreign policy objectives. Questions afterwards came from among the fifty in-person attendees and the over 100 virtual attendees on-line, including active-duty senior HQ officers of USAID, former USAID Deputy Administrator, former Assistant Administrators, Counselors to the Administrator, retired U.S. Ambassadors, and senior US Department of Defense officials.

Deep appreciation goes to ADST President Susan Johnson and ADST Board Chair Ambassador Anne Patterson for ADST’s leadership for the overall project “Oral Histories of U.S. Diplomacy in Afghanistan, 2001-2021” and for attracting generous grant support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation. Special recognition goes to ADST’s Afghanistan Project Manager Dr. Eva Meharry, PhD Anthropology and retired UAA Alumnus Bill Hammink, who together spear-headed the oral history recordings and transcripts of our former USAID leaders at Post as part of the project. The project has now captured valuable firsthand accounts about the U.S. intervention in and withdrawal from Afghanistan from more than 30 key leaders, including former US Ambassadors, and senior State Department officials, and USAID senior officers.

The interview transcripts collection of USAID officials has now gone live on ADST’s website, which can be viewed via the following link here.  The recording of the August 16th event at DACOR can also be reached via the following link here.

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue: 

Dr. Liesbet Steer, “The Vision of Universal Education: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It?”

On Friday, July 21, 2023, a small but highly appreciative audience at a hybrid lunch program at DACOR was treated to a marvelous presentation on “The Vision of Universal Education: What Went Wrong and How to Fix It?”featuringDr. Liesbet Steer. For the past seven years she was the Executive Director of the Education Commission, an international initiative driving progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #4 for inclusive and equitable quality education, and she is the newly appointed President & CEO of the Education Development Center.  Her Power-point presentation offers a very clear and forceful account of the current state of education globally and what must be done to strengthen it and its close ties to other key SDGs.  See Liesbet’s slides and hear her talk by clicking here.

Development Issues Committee

The Development Issues Committee, on June 28, 2023, hosted Andrew HerscowitzChief Development Officer at the United States Development Finance Corporation. The session was well attended, with insightful opening remarks and rich discussion. Mr. Herscowitz presented a critical, yet optimistic assessment of the USDFC. He noted that the USDFC is making very positive contributions, yet its instruments are not very widely understood, even within the international development community. He discussed the ways in which the USDFC is becoming more deliberate in setting development goals by sector and the need for efforts to be strengthened to support upstream development of potential transactions. Part of the discussion focused on the role of equity investment in the USDFC toolkit, its limits and how its use is constrained by its underlying financing rules. USDFC supports training across international affairs agencies and meeting participants supported the idea of directing training resources to Foreign Service Nationals. The recording of the session can be found here.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue: 

    Steve Sinding

Steve Sinding, “Whatever Happened to the Population Explosion and Where Are We Today”

On Monday, June 5, 2023, a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue audience at DACOR and online were treated to a brilliant tour d’horizon of the population issue by Steve Sinding. He is very well known in USAID and population communities for his leadership roles, both at USAID and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, as well as in many other important positions over his long career. As was very evident in Steve’s fascinating talk, no one is more qualified than Steve to review the remarkable history of the population issue and its current state.  This was also the first trial run of a Monday morning 10:00 to noon coffee session, which gave Steve a chance to speak at length on “Whatever Happened to the Population Explosion and Where Are We Today”. To see the entire program, click here.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:

Former President of Peru Francisco Sagasti speaks on “Peru-A President’s Experience… and What Lies Ahead”

Former Peru President Francisco Sagasti and Alex Shakow at DACOR, 24 May 2023

On May 24, 2023, Francisco Sagasti provided a UAA/DACOR audience an insightful description of his recent experience as Interim President of Peru and of political developments in Latin America more broadly, reflecting on the exercise of political power and authority at crisis times.  Sagasti has had a long and distinguished career in Peru and around the world, including at the World Bank and the United Nations.  Reflecting the audience’s enthusiastic reception for his comments, one attendee even stated she wished he were an American citizen so he could become President here!   To watch the entire program please click here.

Report on March 6, 2023, Business Meeting of the Development Issues Committee

The UAA Development Issues Committee held a business meeting on March 6, 2023. The Committee has a very broad portfolio to manage including DACOR Development Dialogues, Development Issues presentations, and the UAA Book Club as well as UAA support for aspects of the policy agenda with USAID. The recent discussion covered operational topics including: UAA feedback to USAID on draft policies; fora for discussions on current development issues, including the Book Club; Mission coaching on aspects of the program cycle; and UAA relationships with other organizations. The ongoing need for volunteers for specific tasks was highlighted. To read the complete report CLICK HERE.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:

Tim Rieser comments on his experience as Foreign Policy Advisor to Sen. Patrick Leahy

On Wednesday, April 19, 2023, at this UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue, a packed DACOR House was treated to very thoughtful and perceptive comments from Tim Rieser.  Responding to questions from Dottie Rayburn, herself recently retired from USAID after decades on the Congressional Liaison Staff, Tim spoke candidly about his experience working for 37 years on key foreign affairs issues as policy advisor for Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) and the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, including detailed attention to USAID development programs.  The luncheon was a great social event which brought together in person many old friends and colleagues. There was also a large on-line audience. Click here to see Tim’s talk and the Q&As.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:

The American Imperative: Reclaiming Global Leadership through Soft Power

On Friday, February 10, 2023, for the first time since the pandemic began, the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue actually took place at the landmark DACOR-Bacon House.   CSIS Senior Vice President Dan Runde was engaged in conversation by Ambassador Jim Michel about Dan’s just issued book The American Imperative: Reclaiming Global Leadership through Soft Power. An audience of about thirty joined us in house for a spirited discussion, along with about thirty more joining on-line for this hybrid presentation.  To watch the nearly one-hour program please click here.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:

The Young Black Leader’s Guide to a Successful Career in International Affairs: What the Giants Want You to Know

On January 17, 2023, at a joint DACOR/UAA “hybrid” session, Aaron Williams, Taylor Jack, and Jennifer Brinkerhoff, authors of The Young Black Leader’s Guide to a Successful Career in International Affairs: What the Giants Want You to Know, discussed the origins of the book, the many important voices included, and themes of particular relevance to mentoring others. They were introduced by Hannah Jackson, cofounder of the Elliott School of International Affairs Young Black Professionals in International Affairs student organization. The event was also an opportunity to recognize the many members of DACOR and USAID Alumni Association who volunteer their time and experience to serve as mentors. For a video of this event see link here.  For more information on the Generations Dialogue Project for supporting a more representative American foreign policy, please see a short video at .

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:  

China’s Impact on Developing Countries

Dr. David Dollar, Brookings Senior Scholar and leading expert on China’s economy, led over 60 attendees through a fascinating discussion on “China’s Impact on Developing Countries – the Belt and Road Initiative, and more” at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue (Virtual) on December 7, 2022. He reviewed important China-focused background considerations before covering this topic in detail. He then responded to more than twenty challenging audience questions, a sign of the high level of interest his talk generated. To see this hour-long program please click here.

UAA DACOR Development Dialogue:  

USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Ambassador Erin McKee and former USAID Counselor Tom Staal

On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Ambassador Erin McKee was the featured speaker in a virtual UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue focused on “Ukraine – Providing Humanitarian and Economic Assistance in a War Zone”.  In conversation with former USAID Counselor Tom Staal and in her responses to questions from the audience, she spoke candidly of the many great challenges being confronted and largely overcome by USAID staff members and their partners as they help the Ukraine government meet today’s and future investment needs. Follow the entire hour’s program by clicking here.

Development Issues Committee Hosts Discussion:

PEPFAR at 20

On November 29, 2022, the Development Issues Committee conducted a well-attended virtual discussion on “PEPFAR at 20” in conjunction with World AIDS Day on December 1 and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the establishment of PEPFAR in early 2003. The discussion was led by Ambassador Dr. John Nkengasong, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, Han Kang, Director of USAID’s Office of HIV/AIDS, and J. Stephen Morrison, Senior Vice President at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Director of CSIS’s Health Policy Center.


Amb. Dr. John Nkengasong                        J. Stephen Morrison                                         Han Kang

Ambassador Nkengasong highlighted the key messages of a recently released policy paper “Reimagining PEPFAR’s Strategic Direction” designed to accelerate the path to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a public health threat by 2030 and the challenges in reaching the “last mile.” Han Kang stressed the challenges in achieving health equity to address the needs of those at most risk and ways to improve the delivery of prevention and treatment, stressing the importance of locally led efforts. Steve Morrison highlighted the bi-partisan support for PEPFAR in Congress, the need to improve the interagency process and the need to replenish a “worn out” workforce of those implementing PEPFAR. The recording of the session is linked here.

Freedom House activities around the world

On Thursday, October 6, 2022, Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz was engaged in a very interesting and stimulating conversation with Larry Garber in a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue.  After briefly describing the range on Freedom House activities around the world, including its heavy focus on protecting freedom of speech and human rights, the conversation ranged over various severe challenges – and compromises – faced by the Biden Administration and other supporters of democratic governance. Click here to see the video.

U.S. Strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa

On September 28, 2022, the Development Issues Committee hosted a discussion on the new U.S. Strategy towards Sub-Saharan Africa. The Strategy is available here.  The discussion was led by three distinguished experts: Ervin Massinga, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) in the Bureau of African Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, Dr. Diana Putman, Senior Advisor in USAID’s Africa Bureau (and former Acting Assistant Administrator for Africa), and W. Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD). Biographical summaries for the three discussion leaders are available here. PDAS Massinga stressed that the new Strategy reflects the USG’s intention to “reset” its strategy in the region and “sets a new baseline” based on true partnership. Diana Putman stressed that the Strategy recognizes the importance and independent responsibility of Africa which is taking an increasingly prominent role in the leadership of major international organizations and cited the renewed emphasis on private sector engagement and the role of the African diaspora. Gyude Moore noted that a number of new players other than China and Russia are growing their presence in the region, including Turkey and several Middle Eastern countries which leaves room for cooperation that may not necessarily ask Africans to commit to U.S. priorities. A robust Question and Answer session followed the initial reflections of the discussion leaders. A more compete summary of the discussion can be found here. A link to the session recording can be found here.

Michener, Dorosh, and Esposito on

“The Impending Food Crisis”

On July 14, 2022, UAA’s Development Issues Committee hosted a discussion on “Impacts on Developing Countries of the Impending Food Security Crisis Exacerbated by Climate Change, the War in Ukraine and Supply Chain Issues.”  Discussion leaders were Mike Michener, Deputy Assistant Administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, Paul Dorosh, Director of the Development, Strategy and Governance Division of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Dina Esposito, Vice President for Technical Leadership of Mercy Corps.

Click here for detailed notes on the discussion, including the Q&A period.  Click here for a YouTube video.  Click here for slides presented by Mr. Dorosh.

Covid-19’s Impact on Health Systems in Developing Countries

On Wednesday, June 1, 2022, UAA’s Development Issues Committee sponsored a well-attended discussion on “Covid-19 and its Impact on USAID Health Programming and on Health Systems in Developing Countries,” featuring Dr. Atul Gawande, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health and Javier Guzman, the Director of Health Policy and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) as discussion leaders.

In his opening remarks, Dr Gawande noted that Covid-19 was a “wake up call” on the inadequacy of health care systems in many countries, including the United States.  The pandemic has been catalytic in introducing many innovations, including new ways of doing things for USAID.

Javier Guzman noted that the past two decades have witnessed a “golden era” of global health in increasing access to health care in lower income countries.  At the same time, governments relied overly on foreign assistance, which can undermine domestic ownership and harm health systems development.

A robust Q & A session followed the speakers’ opening remarks.  A more complete summary can be found here. and a video of the session here.

A Life Unimagined – The Rewards of Mission-Driven Service in the Peace Corps and Beyond

by Aaron Williams

On Friday, May 20, 2022, UAA and DACOR members were treated to a wonderful trip through Aaron Williams’ career as presented in his recent book A Life Unimagined – The Rewards of Mission-Driven Service in the Peace Corps and Beyond. In this Development Dialogue conversation with Ambassador Jim Michel and in the Q&A session, Aaron reflected on the variety of jobs he had once he took an “adventuresome leap into the unknown” by becoming a Peace Corps Volunteer and what he learned along the way. See and hear the whole program by clicking here.

Frank Vogl on “Authoritarian Kleptocracy — 

Western Complicity and Rising Threats to National Security”

On April 20, 2022, the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue heard a forceful and timely presentation by Frank Vogl on “Authoritarian Kleptocracy – Western Complicity and Rising Threats to National Security.”  Vogl, former World Bank official and international journalist, is the author of The Enablers – How the West Supports Kleptocrats and Corruption – Endangering our Democracy.  Vogl focused on these widespread and complex issues and on actions currently being taken by AID and others — and what more is needed. Click hereto hear the hour-long program, including the Q&A period.

Dr. Homi Kharas
“Breakthrough: The Promise of Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development”

On March 9, 2022, Dr. Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow at Brookings, made a fascinating presentation to a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue (virtual) about his most recent book Breakthrough: The Promise of Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development. Rarely these days are we treated to an optimistic view of the future, but Homi reported on the promising findings of key experts that should give a great boost to meeting the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. If you wish to be informed and encouraged, please click hereto see the hour-long session.

Development Issues Committee Discussion: Public Private Partnerships

On March 16, 2022, The UAA Development Issues Committee conducted a virtual discussion on “Public-Private Partnerships — a Perspective on 20 Years of Experience.” Discussion leaders were Michael Metzler, Executive Director of USAID’s Private Sector Engagement Hub, AnnaMaria Shaker, Chief of Staff of the Deloitte U.S. International Development Practice and Heather Kulp, Manager for Strategy and Analytics at Chevron and former Director of the Chevron-led Niger Delta Partnership with USAID.

Michael Metzler noted that Hub has recently completed a comprehensive review of the many Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) which have been implemented by USAID Missions and AID/Washington Offices over the past 20 years with a view to updating Agency policy and improving systems to strengthen capacity to design and manage partnerships, particularly at the Mission level. A set of recommendations is currently awaiting approval of the Administrator.

AnnaMaria Shaker discussed the “disconnects” between public and private sector understanding of the goals and implementation of PPPs and the challenges of “co-creating” partnerships with USAID. Heather Kulp highlighted problems in structuring and maintaining PPPs with USAID caused by frequent USAID staff turnover in the Missions. Both complemented USAID’s recent openness to constructive feedback from the private sector.

A robust Q & A session followed the initial presentations of the three discussion leaders. A more complete summary can be found here.

“The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and USAID:

Shaping International Development Cooperation over 60 Years”

Over 100 UAA and DACOR members were treated to an excellent walk through history at the Development Dialogue at DACOR session on Tuesday, February 12th, 2022.  The subject was “The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and USAID: Shaping International Development Cooperation over 60 Years”.  The speakers were Richard Carey (joining from Paris), a long-time DAC official and co-editor of the recently published history of DAC’s first 60 years; the UAA’s Ambassador Jim Michel, DAC Chair from 1994 to 1999; and Brian Atwood, USAID Administrator from 1993 to 1999 and DAC Chair from 2010 to 2013. Richard first sketched out highlights of the DAC story and then Jim and Brian focused on their experience in leading the DAC s it played a prominent role in building international consensus on key development policies, including advancing partnerships and the importance of local ownership and local context. To see the entire program, including the Q&A session, please click here.

“Combating Corruption: Democracy Summit Follow-Up”: 

Larry Garber and Shannon Green

On January 7, 2022, at the year’s first UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue, Shannon Green, Senior Advisor to the USAID Administrator and Executive Director, USAID’s Anti-Corruption Task Force, in conversation with UAA’s Larry Garber, gave a terrific account of her office’s remarkable level of activity in the seven months since it was created. Their discussion highlighted “Combating Corruption: Democracy Summit Follow-Up”but also much more as AID seeks to raise anti-corruption work to a much higher level of importance than ever before, implementing a major initiative of President Biden and A/AID Samantha Power. Watch the full program, including the Q&A period, by clicking on here.

“Localization of Development Assistance and

the Implications for USAID Programming”

On Wednesday, January 26, 2022, the Development Issues Committee hosted an informative virtual discussion on “Localization of Development Assistance and the Implications for USAID Programming.” The discussion was led by Ambassador Donald Steinberg, currently serving as an Expert Advisor to the USAID Administrator focusing on expanding locally-led development, re-aligning U.S. policies with the Sustainable Development Goals, and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, Natalie Africa, Chief of Staff to the Africa Director of the Gates Foundation, based in South Africa, and Betty Wilkinson, Chief Executive Officer of Financial Services Deepening Zambia.  The discussion focused on the promise and challenges of implementing USAID Administrator Samantha Power’s commitment to increasing the Agency’s work with local, country-based organizations.  Ambassador Steinberg summarized the considerable steps the Agency has taken over the past few months to launch the localization initiative, Betty Wilkinson provided perspective from a field-based local implementer and Natalie Africa offered comments on the Gates Foundation’s efforts to forge partnerships with local organizations.    A detailed summary of the discussion may be viewed on the UAA website by clicking here.

COP-26:   Implications for US foreign assistance programming on climate change

 On Tuesday, December 14th, 2021, the UAA Development Issues Committee hosted an informative virtual discussion on the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP-26 and its implication for U.S. foreign assistance programming on climate change.   Kathryn Stratos, Deputy Director of USAID’s Center for Environment and former USAID Mission Director Jay L. Knott as discussion leaders provided an excellent summary of COP-26 key highlights, accomplishments, as well as some areas that needed more attention to combat climate change.  The event was recorded and slides on USAID’s draft climate change strategy will be made available for the newsletter for members.  Kathryn Stratos provided an excellent summary of some the Conference’s highlights and shared a slide on some of the accomplishments. One area of progress noted was the inclusion of initial talks on phasing out coal which had been left out of earlier conferences.  Jay Knott also mentioned as a very positive step forward in the Conference was the commitment to reduce methane by 30 % by 2030 to reduce carbon emission.  In support of the Conference emphasis and commitment of resources to help countries with their mitigation and adaptation efforts to climate change, Kathryn Stratos provided a short presentation on USAID’s climate change strategy with an emphasis on helping countries in their adaptation efforts by increasing their local capacity in developing policy and implementation.  Funding made available will support renewable energy, sustainable landscape (deforestation and reforestation), and governance.  She noted that USAID as an Agency will do its part as an institution in reviewing its operations and programming to contribute to reducing its carbon footprints.  Jay Knott also pointed out the need to encourage businesses to be more climate change friendly.  A more complete summary of the discussion is availablehere .

“Economic and Social Development in the Northern Triangle
as a Contribution to U.S. Immigration Policy”

Graphical user interface, application, Teams Description automatically generatedThe Development Issues Committee hosted a well-attended virtual discussion on November 5th, 2021, on “Economic and Social Development in A picture containing necktie, person, wall, person Description automatically generatedthe Northern Triangle as a Contribution to U.S. Immigration Policy.” The discussion leaders were Claudia Umana Araujo, President of El Salvador’s Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), Jonathan Fantini-Porter, Executive Director of the Partnership for Central America, a coalition of private sector organizations promoting economic and social development in the region, and Michael Camilleri, Senior Advisor to the USAID Administrator and Executive Director of USAID’s Northern Triangle Task Force. Claudia Umana highlighted some of the challenges facing civil society organizations in the region, in particular the need for greater

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emphasis on a “bottoms-up” approach to economic and social development, for strengthening the rule of law and for increased standards of ethics that promote transparency. Jonathan Fantini-Porter noted that the recently created (2021) Partnership for Central America has engaged some 75 private sector firms, including Mastercard, Microsoft and Nespresso, in efforts to address challenges to increased investment in the region, including the mobilization of capital and increased digital inclusion. Michal Camilleri highlighted the just announced Centro America Local initiative of USAID (part of USAID’s emerging localization strategy) which will channel $300 million over 5 years to the Northern Triangle countries, of which $230 million will be directed to local partners, to address the root causes of migration. A lively question-and-answer session followed the speakers’ opening remarks.

Paige Alexander on

“Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope — The Work of the Carter Center”

On October 13, 2021, Paige Alexander, former USAID Assistant Administrator and now CEO of The Carter Center, presented a sweeping overview of the Center’s array of programs in a Development Dialogue talk entitled “Waging Peace, Fighting Disease, Building Hope — The Work of the Carter Center”.  The large audience included numerous former close colleagues who were delighted to see and hear Paige once again, and during the wide-ranging Q&A session she emphasized her appreciation for their valuable support and friendship earlier in her career.  Watch and hear this hour-long program at this link.

UAA DACOR:  John Norris and The Enduring Struggle

John Norris, author of the UAA-supported independent history of USAID The Enduring Struggle, covered a broad range of topics addressed in the book in a conversation with Carol Peasley and in a spirited Q&A session during the September 15, 2021, UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue. About 150 UAA and DACOR members attended this virtual session to hear John’s thoughtful comments.  Watch and listen to this hour-long program at this link.

ADST:  John Norris on “The Enduring Struggle”

On Thursday, July 29, 2021, The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training held a Virtual Diplomatic Lunch Discussion, hosted by its President Susan Johnson, featuring John Norris, author of the recently published book “The Enduring Struggle:  The History of The U.S. Agency for International Development and America’s Uneasy Transformation of the World”.  In conversation with UAA and ADST Board Member Jim Bever, Norris spoke in general terms about the book and particularly on the 60-year history of competing visions of development and diplomacy.  The Q&A period that followed focused as well on how development can best serve U.S foreign policy and national interest.  Click here to watch the video.  Also, the book is currently on sale from Amazon or from the publisher—Rowman and Littlefield at, 1-800-462-6420 with a 30 percent discount using code RLFANDF30.”

UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue with Greg Starr

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On Wednesday, July 7, 2021, the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue featured the Honorable Greg Starr, lead author of a recent American Academy of Diplomacy report, Changing the Risk Paradigm For US Diplomats. Starr, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State of Diplomatic Security, described the origin of the report and highlighted its three major recommendations designed to address the alarming level of risk intolerance in the State Department and in U.S. missions abroad. Two very experienced former USAID Mission Directors, Jim Bever and Chris Crowley, strongly endorsed the report’s findings and reflected on the serious impact such constraints have on USAID staff being able to carry out the Agency’s programs. Watch the video of the session, including the Q&A period, here.

Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios with Ambassador Jim Michel

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On Friday, June 18, 2021, former AID Administrator Andrew Natsios  entertained about 100 UAA and DACOR members at a very candid and stimulating session of the  Development Dialogue at DACOR. Co-hosted on behalf of the UAA by Ambassador Jim Michel, Natsios described his new co-edited book Transforming Our World: President George H.W. Bush and American Foreign Policy.   Natsios, currently Director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs at the Bush School of Government and Public Policy, Texas A&M University, briefly described the gist of each of the book’s chapters, peppering his comments with many interesting anecdotes and personal stories.  He often referred, with great appreciation, to individual AID alumni with whom he had worked closely during his period as director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Click here to see a video of his talk and the Q&A session that followed.

DIC Discussion:  Bonnie Glick and Justin Finnegan on

Competition with China

On June 16, 2021, the Development Issues Committee sponsored a highly informative discussion of “U.S.  Assistance is More Valuable than One Belt, One Road; A Conversation about Competition with China,” attended by about 40 UAA alumni. The discussion leaders were Bonnie Glick ,Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and and former USAID Deputy Administrator from 2019-2020– (click herefor her bio)– and Justin Finnegan, Managing Director, Asia/Pacific (APAC) for Bloomberg New Economy and former Deputy Assistant Administrator in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security (click here for his bio).

Bonnie Glick highlighted the growing role of China in providing loans to developing countries, particularly for infrastructure projects, through its “Belt and Road Initiative,” launched in 2013, but noted that such loans can (and have) result in increased Chinese influence and dependency on China as countries struggle to keep up with debt repayments. Justin Finnegan added that in a growing number of countries, Chinese contributions have been narrowly focused on specific projects or particular sectors, without regard to the local political, economic, and institutional context. This has left countries that were not really prepared to manage and absorb the Chinese investments to fail to gain the benefit they had anticipated. They pointed out that the USAID’s “self-reliance” approach, which China does not practice, can offer more balanced development such as increased domestic resource mobilization and greater focus on the political, economic, and institutional context.  Although both agreed that China will remain a serious competitor in developing countries there will be likely growing demand for agencies like USAID to focus their development programs on balanced economic growth and development in the post COVID-19 environment.  Justin emphasized that the U.S. nonetheless needs to be careful not to respond by adopting inward-looking policies to advance our own interests, even at the expense of others and that we need to act in ways that are consistent with our values, including respect for human rights.

The remarks of the two discussion leaders were followed by a robust Q & A session that touched on World Bank approaches, natural resources, telecommunications, and the need for more a more coordinated approach to development assistance.  A more complete summary of the discussion can be found here.

Samantha Power with Stephen Colbert

Colbert Power

USAID Administrator Samantha Power participated in a one-on-one interview with Stephen Colbert on his nighttime “A Late Show” on Friday, June 10, 2021.   Colbert asked questions to educate the audience about the role of the US Agency for International Development in the world.  Power explained the global presence and breadth of focus of USAID’s engagement, both in terms of development content and geography – “a soft power arsenal.”  She also described the importance of America’s pledge to donate 500 million vaccine doses to developing countries around the world – a “major” job for USAID.  She said the vaccine effort will engage with other countries to do more— “American catalytic leadership at its best!”  When Colbert raised the issue of the Northern Triangle troubles, Power responded that USAID is the primary entity exercising President Biden’s “root causes strategy” for the border issue, explaining many of the difficult elements of the complex situation.  Finally, in response to Colbert’s last question about whether USAID’s work is valued, Power noted that USAID’s current work on massive vaccine distribution is, in effect, both in our national interest and that of struggling countries around the world.  You can see the interview by clicking here.

DIC Discussion:  Charles North and Susannah Hares

On May 19, 2021, the UAA Development Issues Committee sponsored a highly informative discussion on the “Challenges of Transforming Education in Developing Countries through the Pandemic and Beyond.”  The discussion leaders were former USAID Mission Director Charles North (bio), now Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and Susannah Hares (bio), Co-Director of Educational Policy and Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD).   Susannah Hares led off the discussion with a slide presentation (hereof a recent CGD analysis of the impacts of the pandemic on education.  She noted that the pandemic has caused millions of children worldwide to lose many weeks of education which seriously affects their ability to maintain a normal progression of learning.  The impact has been particularly acute for children with limited access to remote learning, as is the case in many developing countries.

Charles North reminded us that there was a crisis in education even before the pandemic, particularly for girls who may be forced into child marriages or into working at household chores, preventing them from attending school. The pandemic has exacerbated this situation.  He noted, however that the pandemic might actually present opportunities to transform education.

The GPE provides grants to educational partners working at the country level to increase the capacity of educational systems, identifying and implementing transformational solutions to improve education and accelerate girl’s education.  The initial presentations were followed by a robust Q & A session which addressed a wide range of issues.  A more detailed summary of the discussion can be found by clickinghere.

Former USAID Administrator Mark Green

with Brookings’ George Ingram

On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue series featured former USAID Administrator Mark Green in conversation with Brookings’ George Ingram.  Green, just recently appointed President/CEO of the Wilson Center, reflected candidly (among many other topics) on his experience leading USAID during the first three years of the Trump Administration, including accomplishments of which he Is most proud, as well as the disappointments.  Click here for the full conversation and the Q&A session.  

What’s New at USAID in Policy, Planning and Learning?

USAID’s Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL):  Briefing for the UAA

On Wednesday, April 14th, the UAA Development Committee

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On Wednesday, April 14, 2021, the UAA Development Committee (DIC) hosted a highly informational virtual briefing by the leaders of the Office of Policy, Planning and Learning (PPL) at USAID. Michele Sumilas, the Assistant to the Administrator for PPL, introduced her PPL leadership team to the UAA participants: Joshua Kaufman (Director of Policy), Kathryn Stevens (Director of Strategic Plans and Policy, SPP), Aye Aye Thwin (Director of Learning, Evaluation and Research, LER); and Courtney Maloney (Deputy Director of the Program Office).  Michele and her office leads highlighted the importance of Samantha Power’s new USAID leadership; the inclusion of USAID in the NSC; Gayle Smith’s appointment as State Department lead for the international COVID-19 response, and Gloria Steele’s leadership role as Acting Administrator. The UAA participants actively engaged with Michele and her office directors, and Committee Co-Chair Steve Giddings noted the possibility of UAA members volunteering their services to collaborate with PPL and other USAID units throughout the Program Cycle. A more complete summary of the briefing is here and the USAID slide presentations are available here.

Bob Gersony with Rick Barton

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The UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue (virtual) on Thursday, April 8, 2021 featured “Bob Gersony in Conversation with Ambassador Rick Barton”.  Gersony regaled his record-setting audience of nearly 200 AID and State alumni with fascinating reflections on his many decades of contract work on the front lines around the world. He also used this unique opportunity to express by name his deep gratitude to many of the individuals with whom he worked. Bob is the subject of a just-published book by best-selling author Robert Kaplan entitled The Good American – The Epic Life of the U.S. Government’s Greatest Humanitarian.  Ambassador Rick Barton began the session by asking Bob a number of important questions about key aspects of his career, after which Bob responded to many audience questions and comments for the remainder of the special 90 minute program. To view the video of the entire session please click here.

Jerry Hyman

Former Director of USAID’s Democracy and Governance Office

On Wednesday, March 10, 2021, Jerry Hyman, former Director of USAID’s Democracy and Governance Office, spoke on “Whither or Whether Democracy Promotion? Democracy Assistance, Development and Foreign Policy” at a virtual UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue conducted by Alex Shakow.  Jerry reviewed AID’s experience with democracy assistance and, among many other recommendations, stressed the need for a careful, non-ideological and honest assessment of these past programs to determine how future programs should be designed and implemented.  His often unconventional views led to a lively Q&A session with well over 100 attendees.  To view the video of Jerry’s talk and his responses to a raft of questions from the attendees, please click here.

George Ingram, Brookings Institution

On January 13, 2021, exactly one week before the inauguration of the new Administration, George Ingram spoke to a crowd (online) of more than 150 USAID alumni and DACOR members on the timely topic of “What should be the big priorities for development in the Biden Administration?” George, currently a senior fellow at Brookings, has spent his career dedicated to strengthening international development.  That wealth of experience was evident as he highlighted, in his opening comments and in the lively Q&A session that followed, the array of issues and choices the new AID Administrator-designate, Samantha Power, will need to confront. View the video of this event here.

Brian Atwood

How Development Fits in a 3-D Future Development Strategy

On Wednesday, November 18, 2020, former USAID Administrator Brian Atwood spoke at a UAA.DACOR Development Dialogue hosted by Alex Shakow.  Brian’s topic was “How Development Fits in a Future 3-D Development Strategy”which gave him a great opportunity to spell out his views on how a Biden Administration could bring the US back into a leadership role on international development initiatives.  His extraordinary depth of experience and range of current interests and contacts was evident throughout the hour-long program. Particularly touching were his expressions of appreciation for the valuable AID service and advice he had received during his tenure as A/AID from many of the UAA members who asked questions during the Q&A period. View the video of the event here and read the text of his presentation here.

 Jeremy Konyndyk on
“Responding to Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises”

On October 14, 2020, nearly 100 UAA and DACOR members from around the country were treated to a very thoughtful and challenging presentation by Jeremy Konyndyk on “Responding to Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises”, hosted by Alex Shakow.  Jeremy is a Senior Policy Fellow, Center for Global Development and the former Director of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). Based on his wide experience and current research he laid out the important steps that should be taken to change the model for addressing pandemics and for providing humanitarian assistance more broadly for maximum and lasting impact. View the video of his presentation and responses to many audience questions.

Henrietta Fore – UNICEF Executive Director and Former AID Administrator

On September 16, 2020, the UAA and DACOR were delighted to have Henrietta Holsman Fore join us for an hour to discuss “From USAID Administrator to UNICEF Executive Director — Challenges and Opportunities.”In conversation with Alex Shakow and in a half hour of Qs&As with some of the more than 125 members in the virtual audience, she spelled out clearly the vast array of issues UNICEF faces every day around the world. It was inspiring to hear her high level of knowledge, passion, commitment, vision and insight on UNICEF’s current focus and its priorities for the future. View the video by clicking here  to hear her comments and responses.

UAA Development Issues with Andrew Herscowitz, CDO of the DFC

The Development Issues Committee held its first virtual meeting Zoom on August 27, 2020.  Our guest discussion leader was Andrew Herscowitz, Chief Development Officer of the recently created U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC), the successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).  Mr. Herscowitz, a Minister Counselor in the Senior Foreign Service, and formerly the Coordinator of USAID’s Power Africa Initiative, led a discussion of the origins of the DFC in the Build Act of 2019 and the accomplishments and challenges of the organization’s first nine months of operation.  He outlined the structure of the organization and the composition of the Board of Directors, one of whom is the USAID Administrator, and emphasized his mission to assure “development” remained a primary tenet of the organization.  He described DFC’s new screen for evaluating the merits of proposed new investments, called the Impact Quotient (IQ), which looks at a project’s potential to contribute to economic growth, is inclusive of women, minorities and those “at the bottom of the pyramid,” and is innovative.  He also emphasized close collaboration with USAID and noted that the Development Credit Authority had been transferred from USAID to DFC.

This was a highly successful first virtual meeting for the Development Issues Committee and the first large-scale meeting held by the UAA through its recently created Zoom account.  The meeting was open to all UAA Members who had made their 2020 contribution by July 31, and 61 members registered for the event–triple the number who normally attended the in-person meetings of the Committee at Arizona State University’s D.C. campus.  In all, 43 people participated in the meeting.  Holding a virtual meeting greatly expanded the ability of the Committee to reach a much wider audience, including a significant number of alumni outside the DC area.  The committee will look at ways to reach out to alumni outside the DC area or who cannot attend in-person meetings once the restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have been lifted.  The Committee plans to hold its next meeting in October or November.

Former AID Administrator Gayle Smith on UAA’s First Zoom Event 

On June 30, 2020, the UAA and DACOR held our first virtual Development Dialogue at DACOR. This unusual event, with an audience of over 100 from around the country, was required by the impact of COVID-19 and featured Gayle Smith, former AID Administrator and current President/CEO of the ONE Campaign and host, Alex Shakow.

While her main topic was “Attacking Poverty in a Rapidly Changing Global Environment”, she also answered questions for about 45 minutes on a wide array of subjects. While expressing deep concern about the impact of the virus and other discouraging developments (including at USAID), she also found important reasons to be optimistic and hopeful. See the video and hear her comments and responses to more than a dozen questionshere.

Afghanistan Lessons Learned Panel

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On Monday morning, February 10, 2020, a large crowd of UAA and DACOR members were treated to an unusual and highly interesting panel discussion entitled “Afghanistan: Lessons Learned for America’s Future – Insights of USAID Mission Directors to Kabul”.  This panel, moderated by  Bambi Arellano,  was comprised of Craig Buck, Alonzo Fulgham, Bill Hammink and Skip Waskin, each of whom has had long USAID service elsewhere in addition to their assignments in widely differing circumstances in Afghanistan.  The focus of their comments was on lessons learned and their advice for others going into similar settings in the future.  Among their many suggestions, they noted how important it is, in conflict situations, for key staff to be able to work well in a complex, high profile inter-agency environment, including the ability t o make clear how USAID can contribute to U.S. policy objectives, what the Agency can do – and what expectations it cannot meet. They also stressed how critical it will be, before reaching their post, that future officers assigned to such environments spend some time to learn from the experience of their predecessors. [Note – To promote an open discussion this session was not recorded.]

Eric Rubin

Before a full-to-capacity crowd at lunch at DACOR on Wednesday, January 29, 2020, Ambassador Eric Rubin, President of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), gave a wide-ranging talk entitled “The State of the Foreign Service and its Future”.  He detailed the many steps that AFSA has taken to improve services for FSOs while at the same time reflecting on the many problems and challenges the Foreign Service face and what needs to be done to address them. Listen to Ambassador Rubin’s talk and the discussion that followed by clicking here.

UAA Development Dialogues prior to 2020 are available here.