María Otero Confirmed as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs

Former ACCION President and CEO to Coordinate U.S. State Department Efforts to Promote Democracy and Human Rights, to Aid Refugees, to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and to Protect the Environment and Global Health

BOSTON, Mass., August 10, 2009 – ACCION® International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance, announced today that former CEO María Otero has been confirmed by the Senate and sworn in as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs.  With her confirmation, Ms. Otero becomes the highest-ranking Hispanic ever to serve at the State Department.

The Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs coordinates U.S. foreign relations on a wide variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights and labor; environment, oceans, health and science; population, refugees and migration; and trafficking in persons.

Ms. Otero, whose resignation as ACCION’s CEO became effective upon her confirmation to the State Department, first joined ACCION in 1986 as the director of its lending program in Honduras, and opened ACCION’s Washington, D.C. office in 1989.  She was appointed president and CEO in 2000.  Catherine Quense currently serves as acting president and CEO of ACCION while a search committee seeks a permanent successor to Ms. Otero. 

Under Ms. Otero’s leadership, the number of poor microentrepreneurs served by ACCION’s partner network grew from 460,000 to 3.7 million, in 23 countries.  Over the same period, the partners’ combined active loan portfolio grew from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion.  Since 2000, ACCION has expanded significantly beyond its core microfinance work in Central and South America, launching operations in Africa and India, securing preliminary approval to begin microlending in China, and opening hub offices in Accra, Bangalore and Beijing.  Under Ms. Otero’s direction, the ACCION staff grew more than threefold, from 65 to 220.

ACCION’s work to create inclusive, sustainable financial systems for the world’s poor has also brought both Ms. Otero and ACCION widespread recognition and awards, including her selection by Newsweek as one of America’s 20 most powerful women.  ACCION’s honors include Fast Company’s ‘Social Capitalist Award,’ bestowed for five consecutive years; Charity Navigator’s highest rating, four stars, for efficiency and sound fiscal management; and, most recently, the Inter-American Development Bank’s ‘Juscelino Kubitschek Award’ for ACCION’s contributions to economic and financial development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

ACCION International is a private, nonprofit organization with the mission of giving people the financial tools they need – microenterprise loans, business training and other financial services – to work their way out of poverty. A world pioneer in microfinance, ACCION was founded in 1961 and issued its first microloan in 1973 in Brazil.  ACCION International’s partner microfinance institutions today are providing loans as low as $50 to poor men and women entrepreneurs in 23 countries in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and in the United States. In the last decade alone, ACCION partners have disbursed more than 28.5 million loans totaling $23.4 billion; 97 percent of the loans have been repaid. 

*  *  *

ACCION® is a registered trademark of ACCION International.

Bruce J. MacDonald
SVP, Communications
ACCION International
Tel. +1 617-616-1546