William Brownfield

By:Annette Perez Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables

Poverty Reduction Takes Comprehensive Solutions

William Brownfield

The Biennial Roundtable on Poverty Reduction focused on the dedication of governments, corporations and NGO’s to fight to reduce poverty in the Western Hemisphere. In particular the roundtable discussed the root causes of poverty and how to work from a proactive approach rather than a reactive approach. During the session, U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield remarked on the extreme poverty prevalent in the hemisphere. Brownfield acknowledged that, “A large number of Colombians are coming to America without documentation.”

In fact, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean reports that 35% of the entire Colombian population lives in poverty and 17%, or more than 9.6 million people, live in extreme poverty. And, the poverty situation continues to worsen during the recession. Today the main sources of employment in Colombia are the agricultural, manufacturing, transportation and construction industries, which are unfortunately suffering the worst effects. As a result, social and economic development is becoming a focus, instead of just security. “Today there are three areas we focus on – drugs, security and economic development,” said Brownfield.

“Washington must adopt a broad strategic vision for a multidimensional relationship based on cooperation in trade, energy, the environment, social programs, and human rights. The U.S. should look beyond crises toward the advancement of the Colombian economy and society as a whole. We must turn this bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Colombia into a long-term, sustainable relationship,” he said.

Brownfield believes that to address the root causes of poverty, we must have comprehensive solutions. He used a farming analogy to make his point. “If you give a farmer corn and he does not know how to grow it, then give the farmer a hoe and plow. If the farmer has no road to move the product, then give him a road. If the farmer has children, then send them to school.”

As a U.S. diplomat serving in difficult countries, Brownfield does not come without controversy. In 2007, he was threatened with expulsion from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for “provoking the Venezuelan people.” Brownfield served as the United States Ambassador to Venezuela from 2004 to 2007 and before that as United States Ambassador to Chile for two years. Because of his experience in the region, he was appointed as the United States Ambassador to Colombia on August 21, 2007.

Brownfield is married to the former United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney. Although he was not born in the state of Texas, he considers himself a self-proclaimed Texan.