In his opening speech at the 5th Summit of the Americas in April 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama said that "unless we provide opportunity for an education and for jobs and a career for the young people in the region, then too many will end up being attracted to the drug trade." He proposed a pilot program to form education partnerships with countries that have the highest levels of economic and educational inequality, significant numbers of unemployed and at-risk youth, and the ability to secure additional public and private sector resources.
The proposed program, which would focus on youth at risk such as underemployed and out of school youth, and former gang members, would work by improving access to services and programs needed to prepare them for citizenship, work, and life.
Under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the International Youth Foundation, President Obama's idea evolved into a two-year Latin American and Caribbean project called the Obra initiative. It was officially launched in Jamaica on April 14th.
The Obra initiative will be administered from three regional secretariats: one in Kingston, Jamaica; another in Lima, Peru; and the third in Guatemala City, Guatemala, said Director of the Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the U.S. Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, John Dickson: "What is impressive about Obra is what it does hold for the future of foreign policy and foreign policy approach. And that is the notion of partnership. So, not only is it a partnership with other countries, specifically Peru, Jamaica, and Guatemala as secretariats, but they will partner with other countries, they will partner with private sector organizations, and with NGOs. And so the idea of not just building a project to take place in one country, but to partner with other organizations to build projects and to expand and build on existing projects and coordinate is what Obra is all about."
And that is what the approach of the United States is to the region, said John Dickson. It is all about partnership.