Today, President-elect Joe Biden announced Ambassador Samantha Power as his nominee for Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Power is a crisis-tested public servant and diplomat and has been a leader in marshaling the world to resolve long-running conflicts, respond to humanitarian emergencies, defend human dignity, and strengthen the rule of law and democracy.
A leading voice for humane and principled American engagement in the world, Samantha Power will rally the international community as our next USAID Administrator. She will work with our partners to confront the biggest challenges of our time — including COVID-19, climate change, global poverty, and democratic backsliding.
Here’s more about her background:
Samantha Power as USAID Administrator
An immigrant from Ireland, Ambassador Power began her career as a war correspondent in Bosnia, and went on to report from places including Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Before her service in government, she was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.
From 2009 to 2013, Ambassador Power served on the National Security Council staff as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, advising the Obama-Biden national security team on issues such as democracy promotion, UN reform, LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, atrocity prevention, and the fights against human trafficking and global corruption.
She then served in the Obama-Biden Administration Cabinet between 2013 to 2017 as the 28th US Permanent Representative to the United Nations. During her time at the United Nations, Ambassador Power rallied countries to combat the Ebola epidemic, ratify the Paris climate agreement, and develop new international law to cripple ISIS’s financial networks. She worked to negotiate and implement the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals, and helped catalyze bold international commitments to care for refugees. And she advocated to secure the release of political prisoners, defend civil society from growing repression, and protect the rights of women and girls.
As our next USAID Administrator, Samantha Power will be a powerful force for lifting up the vulnerable, ushering in a new era of human progress and development, and advancing American interests globally.
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Editor’s note: Could we pin all of the foreign policy mistakes of the Obama / Biden administration on Samantha Power? Perhaps, but probably not. She was a diplomat, not the president, for starters. Also, to conclude “more of the same” would be to expect a Harvard professor to be incapable of learning things, a dubious assumption.
Her defense of the Syria intervention before the UN, arguing a “responsibility to protect,” was perhaps the most frustrating moment. Also on her shift at the United Nations was US backing for an anti-Russian coup in Ukraine, which led to other troubles in Ukraine, between the United States and Russia and otherwise.
The Pulitzer Prize winning war correspondent? Yes, she got to know ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda before becoming a US diplomat. This surely informed her performance at the UN.
The immigrant from Ireland? She was only nine years old when she came to the USA, but perhaps she has been touched by the political culture of one of those nations — like Afghanistan, Norway and Vietnam — that can be and has been overrun but never fully subdued.
She steps into a set of tasks ignored and generally set back by Donald Trump and his transactional politics, the restoration of US “soft power” in the world. It’s a job to be done in the shadow of China’s growing influence. We shall see if it involves the traditional US foreign policy aim of tipping balances of power so as to avoid one single country or alliance establishing hegemony over the Eurasian land mass.
Power also took part in the Obama administration’s break with old policies of isolation and vilification of Cuba. Donald Trump reversed those. Figure that Ambassador Power will resume where the last Democratic administration left off, and with a Cuban exile leadership that hitched its wagon to Trump’s star and thus is likely to have far less say about US policy in the Americas than it has ever had since Fidel Castro came to power in Havana in 1959.
Ambassador Power played an important role in the international effort to keep an Ebola outbreak in Africa from becoming a worldwide pandemic. Compare that with the near-absence of any US helping hand — even to Americans — as COVID-19 swept around the world.
A “US political story?” Yep. But we should expect that Panama will be affected by this appointment.
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