President's Corner: Sam Worthington

Picture | Bio

Samuel A. Worthington is president and CEO of InterAction, the nation’s largest alliance of U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations working internationally. InterAction leads, supports, and mobilizes its members to take collective action, improve the impact of their programs, increase their global reach, and advocate for efforts that advance human well-being around the world.  Mr. Worthington has represented U.S. NGOs and their programs before the U.S. Congress, administration, and media. Previously, he served from 1994 to 2006 as Chief Executive Officer of Plan USA, a global development NGO.

For more on Mr. Worthington, please see his bio.

Monthly Reflection from the President

Looking Back on 2013

For development and humanitarian actors, 2013 was a year of crisis, change and ambitious vision in which InterAction members continued to carry out their missions around the world while adapting to a rapidly changing funding and policy ecosystem.

Now in its third year, the humanitarian crisis in Syria has tested NGOs and the rest of the international community and shows little sign of improving. InterAction has been a platform for discussion and action, and worked with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to revise the U.S. government’s internal displacement policy, a landmark achievement.

Member programs and external expectations continue to undergo seismic shifts, with the rise of new development actors and aid effectiveness norms, including a renewed focus on transparency. U.S. NGOs’ business models are also being transformed by the continued suffocation of the U.S. aid budget, the rise of private aid flows and increasing “disintermediation” in which many donors are looking to work directly with local organizations.

In 2013, much of InterAction’s work focused on shaping this external environment to ensure that U.S. NGOs’ voices are included, while also providing spaces for InterAction members to think through their own evolution. The 2013 InterAction Forum was our largest and most diverse gathering to date with over 1,000 participants, and it kick-started our Young Professionals Network. We also continued to serve as a platform for the U.S. NGO community to develop its own standards, and shaped numerous sets of external standards over the course of the year.

InterAction organized hundreds of meetings with congressional staff and met with dozens of high-level officials in USAID, the State Department, the White House and the United Nations, among many others. In some areas, the U.S. government is pursuing key reforms that InterAction has shaped and supported, as was the case with food aid reform. One exciting initiative is that in response to InterAction’s member NGO Global Food Security Pledge, USAID will work with InterAction members to find new ways to partner more effectively.

In other areas of the U.S. government we have seen a disengagement from international affairs or an obsession with accounting for aid dollars that can be dangerously counterproductive for development and national security. However, we also saw a resounding victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of InterAction and our co-plaintiffs in AOSI v. USAID, affirming the freedom and independence of U.S. NGOs.

In many ways, 2013 was an historic turning point for global development efforts. The discussion on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals took off, with the important aim of integrating the new framework with the Sustainable Development Goals. Ending extreme poverty in a generation is now rightly viewed as realistic and achievable—an unprecedented vision for development. InterAction has worked to support these efforts through our Post-2015 Taskforce, which we co-chair with Save the Children and the UN Foundation. The taskforce has been in dialogue with senior U.S. government officials to shape the position of the United States and our communications team has run campaigns to build momentum.

Throughout all this, U.S. NGOs continue to advance dignity and well-being worldwide through lifesaving assistance, advocacy, advancing livelihoods and empowering individuals. The development community is in uncharted waters, but we are setting an ambitious new course, one that must take into account global shifts such as climate change and the need for sustainable approaches around the world. It is clear that InterAction continues to be a relevant and influential actor thanks to the continued leadership of our member U.S. NGOs.