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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Obra Initiative

John Dickson
Director, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
Washington, DC
April 20, 2010


INTRODUCTION: Obra is an initiative designed in response to U.S. President Obama's call at the 2009 Summit of the Americas for renewed and strengthened partnerships to promote greater opportunities among the region’s youth. A two-year initiative launched earlier this month, Obra will ensure young people at risk have improved access to services and programs needed to prepare them for citizenship, work, and life by creating effective alliances among public, private, and civil society actors.

QUESTION: At the 2009 Summit of the Americas, President Obama called for renewed and strengthened partnerships to promote greater opportunities among the region’s youth. Tell us about Obra and how this new initiative is aims to do just that.

MR. DICKSON: What’s important about the Summit of the Americas and what President Obama committed to there a year ago is that it is a process. It’s not just a meeting between leaders once every three years, but it’s a process in a series of ongoing activities. And Obra is one of those activities that the president committed to. Obra in Spanish means work. This is an initiative for this region that supports youth and employment. It’s an initiative between the United States, but also more importantly it’s with all the other countries in this region.

QUESTION: You just returned from Jamaica, where you attended the three-day Obra launch and workshop. Tell us about the launch and your experience.

MR. DICKSON: Well the launch did just take place for Obra in Kingston this week. There was a workshop for a couple of days and then the final day was really a ceremony to launch the activity. It was a launch that not only did the prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, attend but also representatives from three other countries where the three secretariats are. And those three secretariats are Kingston, Jamaica, Lima, Peru, and Guatemala City, in Guatemala. Each of those cities will be and will have a secretariat for their regions. And there are three private sector organizations in each of those countries that will be partnering with us, and partnering with other countries, to develop youth and employment activities, specifically targeted towards youth at risk. I should add too, that there was a buzz and an excitement and an energy at the Obra launch that I have not seen in many other activities, particularly of this nature.

QUESTION: How are initiatives like Obra shaping the future of U.S. foreign policy?

MR. DICKSON: What is impressive about Obra is what it does hold for the future of foreign policy and foreign policy approach. And that is the notion of partnership. So, not only is it a partnership with other countries, specifically Peru, Jamaica, and Guatemala as secretariats, but they will partner with other countries, they will partner with private sector organizations, and with NGOs. And so the idea of not just building a project to take place in one country, but to partner with other organizations to build projects and to expand and build on existing projects and coordinate is what Obra is all about and what the approach of the United States is to the region: it is all about partnership now.

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