Under-Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, US Department of State
Maria Otero was sworn in as Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs on August 10, 2009. She oversees and coordinates U.S. foreign relations on a variety of global issues, including democracy, human rights, and labor; environment, oceans, health and science; population, refugees, and migration; and monitoring and combating trafficking in persons. She also serves as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.
Ms. Otero was formerly the president and CEO of ACCION International, a pioneer and leader in microfinance working in 25 countries around the globe. Under Ms. Otero’s tenure as CEO, ACCION’s network of microfinance institutions expanded its reach from serving 460,000 people to over 3.7 million, through a combined portfolio that grew from $274 million to nearly $3.6 billion. She is a leading voice on sustainable microfinance, publishing extensively on the subject and speaking throughout the world on microfinance, women’s issues and poverty alleviation.
Prior to ACCION, Ms. Otero was the Economist for Latin America for the Women in Development office of USAID. She also served for five years at the Centre for Development and Population Activities (CEDPA). In June 2006, Ms. Otero was appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the UN Advisors Group on Inclusive Financial Sectors. She has chaired the board of Bread for the World, and also served on the boards of the Calvert Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation and BRAC Holding of Bangladesh. Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Ms. Otero is currently the highest-ranking Hispanic official at the State Department, and the first Latina Under Secretary in its history.