Ambassador Martin Dahinden, Swiss Ambassador to the United States, welcomed distinguished speakers, including Marcela Escobari, Assistant Administrator for USAID's Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean and Jürg Benz, Swiss Ambassador to Guatemala and Honduras, to Swisscontact’s Breakfast Roundtable on Creating Economic Opportunities for Vulnerable Populations in Central America.
Convened by Swisscontact on September 29 at the Swiss Embassy in Washington D.C., Samuel Bon, CEO and Executive Director, Swisscontact, opened the Roundtable with framing remarks on the economic pressures affecting migration and the lack of opportunities in Central America. Philippe Schneuwly, Regional Director - Central America with Swisscontact, followed with comments providing a deeper context on the opportunities for growth in the region.
The ensuing lively discussion focused on the need for long-term approaches to development and better ways to expand the impact of development financing so it reaches more than just isolated segments of the population and strengthens communities and institutions. Representatives from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of American States, The Howard G. Buffet Foundation, Inter-American Foundation, Aspen Network for Development Entrepreneurs, Instiglio, Swiss Re/MiCRO, Dupont Foundation, MCE Social Capital, Microinvest, and the American Swiss Foundation actively participated in a constructive dialogue and exchange of experiences and ideas.
Key challenges discussed included problems posed to future development by climate change and security, with attention turning to the opportunities that come through new technologies facilitating climate-smart agriculture and innovative schemes aimed at results-based financing models that can help to increase the impact in terms of creating job and income opportunities, investor readiness to support SME growth, and ways to leverage diaspora remittances and integrate returning skilled laborers. Suggestions for regional workforce mobility schemes and microfranchising opportunities were put for consideration.
The roundtable format encouraged an open dialogue provided openings and considerations for new and innovative public-private partnerships to catalyze local economic development. The discussion identified a need for increased alignment of donor and development agendas and strengthened coordination of interventions on the ground.