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September 12, 2013

Season's first Forum speaker focuses on U.S. aid

The speaker who will kick off the 2013-2014 Cape Ann Forum Sunday argues that there is a “disconnect” between America’s foreign aid structure, our resources and our objectives — a view she has gleaned from her time serving as a U.S. aid administrator in Africa.

Kate Almquist Knopf says there is also often a mismatch between expectations and outcomes. Knopf will serve as the featured speaker at the first Cape Ann Forum of the nonprofit group’s 12th season this Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Gloucester City Hall.

Like all Cape Ann Forum presentations, the event is free and open to the public.

Over the past decade, U.S. foreign aid has totaled more than $30 billion a year, peaking in 2010 at $39.4 billion and dropping to $34.9 billion in 2011 under pressure from Congress, she notes. The largest recipients are Israel, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which together eat up half the annual budget, according to State Department figures; most of it is targeted at peace and security programs.

Knopf argues that while, it is in U.S. interests to have well-governed, prosperous states that can provide security and economic opportunity for their citizens, the U.S. needs to be more humble in our aspirations and more realistic in our expectations. She adds, however, that we can make a difference, as we did in helping to end the long-running Sudan civil war.

Knopf served in the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through much of the George W. Bush administration as a high ranking administrator for Africa.

Her presentation will mark the Cape Ann Forum‘s 78th public lecture and discussion since the community-based nonprofit was launched after the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks with an eye toward increasing public understanding of international issues.

Other forums planned for the fall will feature Boston University African Studies Center director Timothy Longman on transitional justice and memory in post-genocide Rwanda on Nov. 17 and Middle East author and scholar Omar Dahi on the war in Syria and the conflicted role of the United States there on Dec. 8.

For more information, go to the Forum’s website at www.capeannforum.org.

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