Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the InterAction Forum here in Washington D.C thanks to the kind support of my host organization. I must say that one of my greatest points of satisfaction and gratitude are the opportunities for learning and development which this fellow has provided. That said, let me briefly reflect on some key highlights and takeaways from last week’s conference (perhaps this will be divided into separate blogs).
Firstly, for those who are not aware the Forum has for the last three decades sought to convene leaders from a variety of sectors, becoming one of the largest gatherings of international development and humanitarian professionals. The three day gathering featured high-level plenary sessions, diverse breakout sessions and an awards banquet. I was particularly drawn to the Forum’s Young Professionals track, which featured a full day of networking activities and sessions catering to the needs of development professionals under the age of 30.
Opening address by Former President Bill Clinton
As if having the opportunity to hear one former U.S president (George W. Bush) speak at the Council’s own annual conference in April wasn’t enough, I had the chance to hear another at this event. Former President Bill Clinton, a man who I have had much admiration for no matter what, opened the event with thought-provoking ideas about our interdependence as a people and the need to work collaboratively. While reflecting on his own philanthropic pursuits, Former President Clinton spoke on issues of health, peace and security and climate change. Some of my takeaways from his speech included:
- Our potential to spread hope through real work and the provision of opportunities to all.
- The need to build broad base support from governments for global development.
- The need to expand the definition of ‘us’ and give up the ideas of us versus them and see people for they are- people just like ourselves!
- The need to remain steadfast and not be discouraged by the crack down on NGOs in many countries around the world. Nor be distracted by temporary emotional and political victories.
- He reminded us of the need to be grateful and to tell the stories even when it is difficult.
- He emphasized the fierce urgency of NOW and the need to work more closely with both the private and public sectors.
Following President Clinton’s remarks was an interesting plenary conversation with InterAction CEO, Sam Worthington, and Joyce Banda – Former President of Malawi and Mary Robinson- Former President of Ireland. The two (female) former heads of state reflected on their leadership experiences and spoke to need to engage with the people you serve, be inclusive (including of people with disabilities) and empower women. They also noted that the current challenge faced from countries looking inwardly at national development rather than global development presents an opportunity for the development sector to form smart partnerships.
All in all, I believe that the ideas which emanated from the Forum, at least on the opening day, were truly fitting as the international development and humanitarian sectors continue to face mounting challenges.