Archive of UAA Development 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 form which can be accessed through the links provided below:


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 UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue. About 150 UAA and DACOR members attended this virtual session to hear John’s thoughtful comments.  Watch and hear 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


A picture containing text, person, person, indoor

Description automatically generated


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


A picture containing text, indoor, wall, person

Description automatically generated


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 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 here for 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 view the interview by clicking here.



DIC Discussion:  Charles North and Susannah Hares


On May 19, 2021, the UAADevelopment 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 clicking here



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

A person speaking into a microphone

Description automatically generated

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


A couple of men posing for the camera

Description automatically generated with medium confidence


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 (on line) 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, 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, 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, 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 questions here.

Afghanistan Lessons Learned Panel

Kabul aficionados gathering for

On Monday morning, February 10, 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.

David Beckmann

On Monday, October 7, David Beckmann, long-time head of Bread for the World, led a lively discussion exploring the reasons for the great progress made in recent decades, both in the U.S. and abroad, in reducing poverty and how we can help to insure that these advances are sustained. Hear David’s comments and the discussion that followed here.

Rafe Pomerance

To an overflow DACOR luncheon crowd on Friday, September 6, climate pioneer Rafe Pomerance described with great clarity – based on his more than forty years of leadership on this issue – the nature of the global climate crisis and the essential steps required to address it. Listen to the audio of his talk and the Q&A period here.

Liz Schrayer

Before a capacity crowd at a luncheon meeting at DACOR on Friday, July 12, Liz Schrayer, President of the US Global Leadership Coalition, gave a spirited overview of her long experience leading the bipartisan efforts of the USGLC – a broad-based coalition of over 500 businesses and NGOs – to educate political candidates around the country and in the Congress about the importance of foreign assistance and US global engagement.   This UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue event drew many State Department retirees as well as UAA members, and we were also delighted to have the next generation of a USAID Foreign Service Officers, represented by the 2019 Payne Fellows, attend the event as well. To permit her candid commentary, Ms. Schrayer’s presentation and the Q&A period was not recorded.

William “Bill” Reese

On June 3, at DACOR, William “Bill” Reese, CEO Emeritus of the International Youth Foundation USA, engaged with an appreciative audience  on  “Addressing the Youth Bulge – Is it all about Youth?”  Reese, a very experienced NGO leader who was for nine years also head of USAID’s voluntary foreign aid advisory committee, emphasized why it was so important for the development community to help countries deal within this enormous challenge.  Listen to his talk and the discussion that followed here.

Kristin Lord/George Ingram

On Monday, May 20, before a large crowd at DACOR, Kristin Lord (CEO of IREX) and George Ingram (Brookings Senior Fellow) engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of “Where is Global Development  Headed?” based on their recent interviews with 94 of the sector’s leaders.  Their report – entitled “Global Development Disrupted” – contains lots of different answers and very little consensus, which made the session particularly interesting and thought-provoking.  Listen to the presentation and the Q&As and take a look at their slides.

Anthony “Bud” Rock

On Wednesday, April 24,  at a UAA/DACOR Development Dialogue lunch, Anthony “Bud” Rock gave a highly informative and realistic presentation entitled  “Gaza from Within: The Challenges of Humanitarian Relief Efforts for Palestinians Today.”  Rock, a retired senior State Department officer and now the leader of  Global Water 2020, described NGO efforts to bring clean water to the people of Gaza and West Bank in  exceedingly difficult circumstances compounded by rapidly diminishing resources and the near elimination of U.S. aid.  Hear Bud’s talk.

Alex Dehgan

At DACOR on April 1, Alex Dehgan took his audience on a fabulous tour of beautiful and isolated parts of Afghanistan as he described how he and his colleagues worked with Afghans at the local level to establish a national park and to preserve many different exotic species of animals and birds.  Deghan, formerly USAID’s Chief Scientist, has told many of these fascinating stories in his book “The Snow Leopard Project and other Adventures in War Zone Conservation.” Hear the audio of Alex’s talk and the Q&A here.

Tony Barclay

Tony Barclay

On March 11, Tony Barclay (inter alia, former CEO of DAI) provided a wide-ranging   and   highly   perceptive assessment of the evolution of the  USAID – contractor relationships  in  his UAA/ DACOR  Development   Dialogue talk entitled “How  USAID   and  the Contractor Community Should Adapt to a Changing Development Ecosystem”.  Listen to Tony’s talk and the Q&A’s here.



Andrew Herscowitz and the Power Africa Team

At a sold-out lunch on Tuesday, March 5, 2019, the UAA and DACOR honored Andy Herscowitz and the USAID Power Africa Team, 2018 winner of the prestigious Service to America Medal (Sammies) for National Security and International Affairs.  Joined by USAID Counselor Chris Milligan and other guests, DACOR President Jim Benson and UAA Co-Chair Chris Crowley expressed members’ great appreciation  for the team and our delight that its work had been recognized through this US government-wide award. Hear Andy’s talk about Power Africa and the Q&As here.


Andrew Natsios (before a meeting of the UAA Development Initiatives Committee)

On January 31, Andrew Natsios, USAID Administrator from 2001-2006, shared his views with a group of about 60 USAID alumni in a wide-ranging, candid, off-the-record discussion. This exchange took place at a special UAA meeting organized by the Development Issues Committee at Arizona State University’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. Over the course of two hours, Andrew led a dialogue with former USAID colleagues covering USAID’s role in global development, Congressional earmarks, the present state of the international system and global politics, migration and fragility, the emerging role of China, climate change, and more. Click here to read notes on the presentation.

Ken Wollack

On February 4, 2019, at a UAA Development Dialogue at DACOR, recently retired long-time President of the National Democratic Institute Ken Wollack gave a wide-ranging review of the state of democracy across the globe in his talk on “U.S. Foreign Policy and Assistance: Interests and Values”. Hear the audio of his presentation and the Q&A here and read the text of his remarks here.


UAA Development Dialogues prior to 2019 are available here.