“It’s a moral requirement as a leader to engage the people who gave you the mandate”.- Joyce Banda, Former President of Malawi
This is one of many profound statements spoken at the 2017 InterAction Forum, which America Solidaria was invited to speak at in Washington D.C. last Wednesday.
The event kicked off with a speech from this year’s Keynote Speaker, Bill Clinton, who urged audience members to stand up for immigrant rights given the current political climate. Other prominent speakers and global figures who spoke at this year’s forum included Mary Robinson, the first female president of Ireland, Australian actor Sam Worthington and Karen Attiah, Global Opinions Editor at the Washington Post. All offered insightful commentary and optimistic encouragement, encouraging the audience to pursue social justice and strive for positive, sustainable change.
America Solidaria U.S. Executive Director Rebecca Nelson then took the stage with Amy Coughenour (NCBA/CLUSA), Susan Wong (World Bank, CDD Global Solutions Group) and John Coonrod (The Hunger Project) as part of the “Leaving No Voice Behind: Taking Community Level Development to National Scale” panel. Nelson discussed our model for community-led development, emphasizing our organization’s commitment to promoting change through empowering community members and local organizations.
She also spoke about America Solidaria’s efforts to establish channels of consultation between civil society actors and Latin American governments. Two years after being legally incorporated, America Solidaria began developing a close, consultative relationship with the Chilean Ministry of the Exterior and Foreign Aid Agency, the AGCID (Agencia Chilena de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo). At the time, the agency had not established a channel for consultation with civil society actor, and when they decided to fund America Solidaria, there wasn’t any established protocol for how to provide the funds. That was in 2005. Since then, America Solidaria has helped the agency develop the structures of accountability that would require funding to be delivered more formally.
Shortly afterwards, America Solidaria helped the Chilean Government create El Fondo Contra la Hambre Y Pobreza (the Fund Against Hunger and Poverty). Since we were the only NGO working with the foreign aid agency at the time, we pushed for the creation of a specific budget item co-administered by the government and the UNDP. And thus began a culture of collaboration between The Chilean government and other non-profits.
Twelve years later, after working more with the Chilean government, there are now dozens of NGO’s that are bridging the gap between communities and national-level government. While eroding our own exclusive relationship with the Chilean Government may seem counter-productive to some, we view it as an accomplishment, and a step closer to our larger goal of eliminating poverty on the American continent.
Thanks to the Movement for Community-Led Development for giving us this space to share what we’re doing to advance local capacity-building and national-level recognition of civil-sector organizations!