The Inter-American Foundation, an independent U.S. government agency, was created by Congress in 1969 to channel development assistance directly to the organized poor in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IAF has carried out its mandate by responding with grant support for the most creative ideas for self-help received from grassroots groups and nongovernmental organizations. It also encourages partnerships among community organizations, business and local government directed at improving the quality of life for poor people and strengthening democratic practices. The IAF is governed by a board of directors appointed by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. A president, appointed by the board, serves as the Inter-American Foundation’s chief executive officer, managing a group of employees based in Washington D.C.
According to Part IV, Section 401(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1969, the IAF's enabling statute, "it shall be the purpose of the Foundation, primarily in cooperation with private regional and international organizations, to:
Strengthen the bonds of friendship and understanding among the peoples of this hemisphere;
Support self-help efforts designed to enlarge the opportunities for individual development;
Stimulate and assist effective and ever wider participation of the people in the development process;
Encourage the establishment and growth of democratic institutions, private and governmental, appropriate to the requirements of the individual sovereign nations of this hemisphere."
Once considered experimental, the IAF’s approach is increasingly recommended as the most effective way to improve the quality of life in marginalized communities.
Since 1972, the IAF has awarded about 5,100 grants valued at more than $720 million. Grantees promote more profitable agriculture, micro businesses and community enterprises; they provide the skills training vital to well-paid employment; they offer access to water, basic utilities and adequate housing, allowing people to channel their energy into productive work.
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