It has now been almost a year since my appointment as the seventh President & CEO in the Institute of the Americas’ 40-year organizational history. I came on aboard as the devastating impacts of the COVID pandemic were being felt across the Western Hemisphere with Latin America facing its worst economic crisis in modern history.
Beyond its COVID related challenges, Latin America’s growing income inequality has led to a shift away from neoliberalism to democratic socialism with the election of Pedro Castillo in Peru, a move in Chile towards a new constitutional reform, and AMLO’s Morena party’s on-going control in the Mexican Congress. In spite of its past economic and political challenges, Ecuador remains a bright spot with the election of Guillermo Lasso and the prospect of promoting a rules-based liberal democracy over populist socialist policies of prior administrations.
At the same time, the impacts of climate change are ever-present across the Western Hemisphere evidenced by the melting sea ice and receding permafrost of the Alaskan and Canadian Artic; severe droughts conditions in the U.S. Southwest and Mexico; extreme weather conditions threatening coastal communities of Central America and the Caribbean; the deforestation of the Amazon; the agrobiodiversity loss of South America’s High Andes Region; to degradation of coral reefs and coastal marine habitats due to warming seas and ocean acidification.
Amidst the challenges across the Hemisphere, the Institute has been working to re-tool and diversify its programs and initiatives, broadening the work of its energy program with a focus on energy transitions, renewable energy, and the emerging hydrogen economy for the region. Early this year, the Institute also launched its new Environment & Climate Change program with a focus on business and the environment; marine and coastal eco-systems, and climate resilience. Work is now underway to also develop a new programmatic initiative focused on regional economic competitiveness, human capital and work force development.
Over the past year, the Institute has also worked to strengthen its relationship with the University of California including its recent partnership with UC-TV on its Hemisphere in Transition Webinar Series and research collaborations with the UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
While COVID-19 remains a serious challenge in much of the Western Hemisphere due to limited accessibility of vaccines, the United States has begun to turn the corner with vaccination rates exceeding 45.9% nationally with over 60% of California having received at least one dose. By contrast, however, only 4.5% of Central America’s 44 million people have been vaccinated. So, while, here at the Institute, we’re actively planning our transition back to the office on Tuesday, July 6th we are doing so with full recognition that until the rest of the Hemisphere reaches herd immunity, sadly we will not be reverting to business as usual.
No doubt, much work remains to be done. Yet, with the active support of donors, friends and stakeholders like you, the Institute of the Americas is committed to delivering on its mission to “be a catalyst for promoting economic development and integration, emphasizing the role of the private sector, as a means to improve the economic and social well-being of the people of the Americas.”
We appreciate your on-going interest and support of the Institute’s programs and initiatives.
President & CEO