U.S. undersecretary for Democracy and Global Affairs to speak at Notre Dame

by Elizabeth Rankin

Maria Otero

Maria Otero, U.S. undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, will speak at the University of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies on Oct. 13 (Thursday). Reporting to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Otero is one of the nation’s foremost foreign relations officials, with a portfolio that includes issues as diverse as human trafficking and global water security.

She will speak on “Democracy and Human Development” at 4:15 p.m. in the Hesburgh Center for International Studies auditorium on the Notre Dame campus. The talk is free and open to the public.

Sworn in as undersecretary in August 2009, Otero oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign relations on a variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights and labor; environment, oceans, health and science; population, refugees and migration; and monitoring and combating trafficking in persons. She also serves as the special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

Four years ago, Otero was awarded the 2007 Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America for her work to foster economic opportunity for the poor. Administered by the Kellogg Institute, the Prize recognizes the efforts of visionary leaders to enhance the region’s welfare.

At the time, she was the president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer in microfinance working in 25 countries around the globe. She has been a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women’s issues and poverty alleviation.

Born and raised until she was 12 in Bolivia, Otero is currently the highest-ranking Hispanic official at the State Department, and the first Latina undersecretary in its history. In 2005, Newsweek named her one of the 20 most influential women in the United States. Her ties to the University are long-standing: her father, Rene Otero Calderón, attended law school at Notre Dame in the 1940s.

In 2006, Otero was appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the U.N. Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. She has chaired the board of Bread for the World, and served on the boards of the Calvert Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation and BRAC Holding of Bangladesh. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Contact: Elizabeth Rankin, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-9184, erankin3@nd.edu; Therese Hanlon, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-4150, Therese.Hanlon@nd.edu