Madison Committee
on Foreign Relations

U.S. Development Aid in the New Nation of Timor Leste – A Grizzled Development Officer is Surprised by Optimism

  • Tuesday, March 14, 2017
  • 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
  • The Madison Club, 5 E Wilson St, Madison, WI

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Speaker: Rick Scott of US AID


As the first representative of the US AID effort in Timor Leste, at the birth of its sovereignty, Rick Scott will discuss the programs he instituted. With a blank slate upon which to write he was able to attempt new and creative approaches. His long experience in development and crisis management equipped him to make the most of this opportunity. His experience in virtually all other parts of the world, from southern Africa to Central Asia, equips him to comment on many of the current situations where U.S. policy is being sharply tested.”

Mr. Scott, a graduate of Wausau high school, became interested in international development as a young man following reports of the killer tsunami that struck Bangladesh in 1970.  The tsunami flooded almost the entire southern part of the country, including the island of Bhola. From a comfortably-off family, Rick - like many idealistic young people, and especially youth of that era in American history - always wanted to help people less fortunate.  The tsunami’s dramatic destruction of millions of lives, however, propelled him towards the field of international development.

After two years on the road with the Harlem Globetrotters as a driver and gofer in the United States and Mexico, Rick went to the School for International Training in Vermont to pursue a Master’s Degree in International Development Management.  As part of the study requirements, he taught at an experimental elementary school in a small town in Maharashtra, India, for 6 months.

After graduation, a job with CARE International took him to the island of Bhola.  There he managed more than 100 Bangladeshi staff, and implemented agriculture, health, and feeding programs targeted at improving the lives of the people who had suffered so much from the tsunami.  He also met his wife, Pam, a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, there.

After three years on Bhola Island, and a brief CARE posting in Sierra Leone, Rick joined UNICEF, and was posted to the city of Lucknow in North India to run UNICEF programs, which included safe water provision and child nutrition among others.  While in Lucknow, Rick decided to pursue a second master’s degree and after three years returned to Madison, where he completed a Master of Science in Forestry.  Rick then went to Haiti where he directed a large CARE reforestation project, establishing nurseries and planting literally millions of trees. 

In 1990 Rick began a career with USAID.  He and his wife and two children lived in Morocco, Russia, and West Bank/Gaza. After his children went on to college, Rick and Pam served in Ethiopia, Liberia, Timor Leste, and Washington DC.  Rick served without his family in Afghanistan.  He served as USAID Mission Director in Timor Leste and as Acting Mission Director in Liberia.  In Washington he directed a regional office covering USAID missions and programs in East Asia, and after that a regional office for Southern Africa.  Since retiring in 2014, Rick returned to serve in Kabul where he managed an office of 80 professional and administrative staff.  Further consulting with USAID since returning from Kabul in December, 2015 took him to Eastern Europe earlier this year.

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