In addition to American Fellow Jamie Walsh, another great friend of PPI – ME recently finished his post in the Middle East. Brad Bessire served for four hears as the head of the Democracy and Governance Office at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID, which as part of a wide range of services, also supports PPI – ME. Among other areas, the Democracy and Governance Office oversees all USAID-funded conflict mitigation projects using people-to-people methods to bring an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Brad has been a frequent visitor at PPI – ME activities and even got on the court with our kids from time to time.
Brad has spent 14 years with USAID, including posts in Kazakhstan, Cambodia, Afghanistan, and short tours to Iraq Yemen and Bolivia. Before coming to USAID, Brad was a human rights lawyer, first representing Native Americans in Washington, DC, but it was a job in Cambodia that made Brad start to think globally, after which, he “never looked back.”
For the past four years, Brad has led the Democracy and Governance office at the West Bank/Gaza branch of USAID, which supports the development of Palestinian institutions necessary for a future Palestinian state by promoting the rule of law, increasing civic engagement, and enhancing respect for human rights. Brad said that “working in Israel and Palestine has been an amazing experience, and I am in awe at all of the people working so hard to make a difference. I am honored and blessed to have had the opportunity to work on CMM [conflict mitigation and management] programming, and helping grow the portfolio to include people working on issues of common concern has been a highlight of the tour. Expanding it to have more partners has helped strengthen what we do. ”
On a personal note, Brad added that “seeing kids come together and break down the learned stereotypes has been a highlight – whether in basketball, soccer or kids’ camps. Getting to know everyone’s personal story has been great.”
Like everyone working to make a difference in the region, the past couple of months have made an impact on Brad as well. “The last few weeks have been pretty depressing, but the work that the CMM partners are doing gives me hope. I have talked to many people after the Gaza conflict and they are more convinced that they are doing the right thing. I wish we could fund more programs of this type.”
We wish Brad lots of luck in his new post at USAID headquarters in DC.