In his diverse career working with multiple U.S. government departments and agencies, international assistance agencies from other countries, and hundreds of U.S. and international NGOs, Dr. Kent Hill has seen all sides of foreign assistance. One thing his experience has taught him is that democracy and civil society are necessary ingredients, and we don’t have the recipe to implement them quickly. “What are the conditions that make democracy and civil society possible?” he asks. Pointing to studies by the PEW foundation, Dr. Hill identified religious freedom as a precursor to economic wellbeing. He provided the example of many national leaders who use their power in a way to undermine democracy, and stated that for democracy to be possible, such leaders have to learn the ability to tolerate minorities. In his words, “You cannot define democracy as majority rule; in other words, the majority does what it wants. Majority rule, yes, but with minority rights. You must have that for democracy.” And in a democratic society, development is possible because programs move in a direction in which people will flourish. To make development successful, he offers the following advice: (1) Think early on about sustainability. Foreign assistance cannot just be a handout; the community must be involved; and (2) Support civil society. Poverty, hunger, access to clean water – these are symptoms of the problem. The problem is governance and corruption. If we can promote values, and get governments to use the resources they have for their own people, we can achieve meaningful, sustainable development.

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