The secret of success of the Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center at the Atlantic Council: How to build relevance by fostering socioeconomic prosperity

The mission of the Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center at the Atlantic Council centers on the task of elevating Latin America’s importance on a global scale and in promoting greater socioeconomic prosperity in the region. Its secret to success, however, lies not only on this distinctive goal, but in on its unique approach to shaping policy in the region.

The Center,  promotes trade and investment relations, much like a chamber of commerce, and like a traditional Washington D.C.-based think-tank, it takes a broader research viewpoint.  “We are not a chamber of commerce, nor a traditional academic think tank. We are somewhere in the middle. We’re in this space that didn’t exist before, which takes into account the perspectives, and the needs of the business community to further invest in the region, while at the same time, taking into account the broader academic perspective and finding ways to marry them,” said newly minted Vice President of the Council and Director of the  Latin American Center, Jason Marczak in an interview with Latin Trade. “I think it is a unique way that allows for policy to move forward with a committed set of stakeholders,” he added.

The Adrienne Arsht Latin American Center at the Atlantic Council is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.  

A matter of method

On the first stages of the Covid pandemic, the Center followed closely the vaccine’s development process to know when it would be released. Simultaneously, its experts studied, and at times predicted, the regulatory barriers to get vaccines into countries. “We identified the barriers and how to best prepare ourselves to work through those regulatory challenges, such that when medicines and vaccines would come on board, that they wouldn’t get then stuck in the regulation,” Jason Marczak said.

The Center worked closely with the Pan American Health Organization, ministries of health, the pharmaceutical industry and other key agents. “We took the concerns from the region about vaccine access, to the US government,” he stated.

This proactive and cooperative approach pioneered efficient solutions in critical times. The Center built on this strategy. “We moved forward a whole area of work on broader health economy issues.”

The Center then its method to other areas. “When things get stuck at a policy level, that’s where we like to come in,” Marczak described. They achieve policy goals asking two relevant questions about the problems they encounter: “How do we unstick it, and who do we need to bring together to unstick it.”

They look at solutions regionally. The Center has done so studying topics that range from how to introduce changes to taxation while strengthening the business environment, to nearshoring, which is the new tack in its journey.

On nearshoring the Center convened a working group that will find ways to “turn rhetoric into reality.”  Its experts do build off of the work being done by the U.S. government or Congress. But where it comes in with a signature approach is on how to combine what Marczak calls push and pull factors.

On the pull side, the task is to single out, for instance, what needs to happen at the country level; where are the specific opportunities in Central America, or Mexico; what things must change to incentivize greater investment. On the push side, work has concentrated, for instance, on aligning the incentives that the U.S. government provides.

The Center’s action profits from the Atlantic Council’s global approach. It has been very active in conversations with the European Council. In Madrid, Jason Marczak socialized the findings  of a study on how to put in place a triangulated U.S., Europe, Latin American strategy. “We contextualize this so we can texture this work, as well within the broader events that are happening now and might occur in the future,” he concluded.

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