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McCormack Institute Senegal Partnership Receives New Support

UMass Boston’s McCormack Institute, which for nearly two decades has dealt with government and public policy issues here in the United States, is applying its expertise to those abroad. For the past two years, it has been in partnership with the Universite Gaston Berger de Saint Louis in Senegal, a largely rural country in West Africa.

This partnership was forged under a two-year USAID (Agency for International Development) grant. However, a new $148,000 grant under the federal Education for Democracy and Development Initiative (EDDI) will pick up where the former federal grant left off.

Specifically this new grant will go toward creating a multi-function resource center designed to link Gaston Berger with the surrounding community. This center will provide various services and technologies from a women’s center to a small-business assistance area to civic education to technology that will allow the community to use the Internet and other communication tools. The center will help connect the community with the university.

UMass Boston Africana Studies chair and McCormack Institute Senior Fellow Jemadari Kamara will serve as the director of the efforts in Senegal for the coming year while on a one-year Fulbright Scholarship.

The expectation is that the center will contribute to the region’s economic growth and promote education in health, agriculture, business practices, and community participation, thus nourishing a healthy, stable democracy. The McCormack Institute also intends to bring local experts in public policy and government to West Senegal advises leaders and citizens on public policy issues.

Ed Beard is the director of the McCormack Institute and explains that much of the work on the center at Gaston Berger is being done with an eye toward being able to duplicate these centers and programs throughout many other areas.

While it is true that the McCormack Institute has its roots in the government and public affairs of Boston and the region, this kind of world focus is nothing new. Starting in 1992, the institute began thinking of ways it could offer its expertise to democracies around the world, specifically in areas of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Africa.

Against the backdrop of the recent events in New York and Washington, D.C., Beard notes it serves the best interest of democracy, both here and abroad, to help people build stable communities.

“We could try to isolate ourselves completely,” he says of a U.S. response to terrorism. “Or we can try to promote democracy and economic development throughout the world so that conditions of poverty and powerlessness do not foster new generations of terrorists. We may never be able to eliminate all terrorism, but we can try to alleviate the conditions in which it breeds. In however small a way, that’s what we’re trying to do in Saint Louis.”

(Reprinted from The University Reporter October 2001)