Growing up in Venezuela, Daniel Mora-Brito has seen the progress of a country's development and also its decline. He recalls learning the “universally accepted idea” that his home country was under constant crisis, even though it once was known as an exceptional model of democracy in the region.
The situation spurred the innate desire of Mora-Brito to understand political systems and their influencers. “When you grow up in a place that is so interesting and full of challenges, there is a natural tendency to try to better understand the setbacks of democracy and the difficulties in designing and implementing sustainable development policies,” Mora-Brito says.
After earning his bachelor’s in political science and international relations, Mora-Brito began working for the United Nations in Venezuela. Inspired by his research during his undergraduate studies and his work in international and non-governmental organizations, he wanted to further examine social policies addressing inequality in the Latin America. This question eventually led him to seek a graduate degree in the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
In addition to the great reputation of the University’s Latin American Studies program, Mora-Brito was drawn to its flexibility, which allowed for him to take courses in other departments to round out his skills and perspectives. While earning his master’s degree, Mora-Brito took courses at the LBJ School through the RGK Center’s Nonprofit Studies Portfolio program.
“It was a beautiful combination of understanding the political, managerial and sociological approaches to key development issues in the Latin American region, but also having a quantitative, structured policy perspective,” said Mora-Brito.
In addition to his degree coursework, Mora-Brito incorporated another passion of his into his studies at the University—the arts, especially music. Inspired by a program in Venezuela that combines the collective practice of music with social justice, known as the Venezuelan system of children and youth orchestras, Mora-Brito connected with LBJ professor Dr. Francie Ostrower on research that would analyze how cultural policy could act as an avenue to positively impact social progress. With the support of Dr. Ostrower, professors Bryan Roberts and Henry Dietz at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, and Joe Randell at the Texas Performing Arts, Mora-Brito analyzed how the collective practice of music became a highly successful social development tool in Venezuela—and the oldest social policy in existence in the country—and how this education model has been widely replicated around the world. In his research, funded by Joe and Teresa Long and the Tinker Foundation, Mora-Brito also delved into how this music education program was able to survived the intricacies of Venezuelan politics over the course of 40 years.
Committed to the role of grassroots advocacy can have on social and political change, in addition to being a classically trained musician, Mora-Brito currently serves on the Leadership Committee of the International Teaching Artists Collaborative to champion a stronger role of the arts in effecting social impact and creating awareness around key global issues, including health and climate. In Austin, Mora-Brito also supported the establishment of the first music education center inspired by the Venezuelan system’s model, Austin Soundwaves, under the auspices of the Hispanic Alliance for the Performing Arts, an initiative also supported by philanthropists Joe and Teresa Long.
“The arts are absolutely critical to improving lives and elevating society in every way,” said Mora-Brito, in response to a recent report from the World Health Organization about the impact of arts on health. “I am a big advocate of positioning the arts as a catalyst for human development, and my time in Texas was certainly a key formative period to understand that.”
Mora-Brito is grateful for the opportunities to pursue his passions through his volunteer and professional engagements in areas such as policy research, international development, and the arts. Mora-Brito currently serves as Advisor for External Relations and Communications at The Global Fund, the largest global funder of interventions against HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, and health system strengthening, and also a key player in the COVID-19 pandemic response. One of the many things that makes the Global Fund unique and very special, Mora-Brito says, is the fact that it serves as a very powerful public-private partnership that congregates donor and implementing governments, civil society, communities and the private sector around a single cause.
“These various stakeholders have a central role in the partnership’s governance, with decisions being made collectively and maintaining a balance across the positions of every single party. Not many organizations have the benefit of counting on the active and direct participation of such diverse stakeholders, all of whom have the same value and power in decision-making. The Global Fund serves as a lynchpin between sectors, providing a platform for them to work together in saving lives—50 million of them, according to our latest Results Report, since its creation 20 years ago,” Mora-Brito added.
Inter-sectoral dialogue is challenging, but Mora-Brito is proud of the work the Global Fund continues to do in building bridges across key development actors. He believes the public-private partnership model is critical in the socio-economic and political development of communities, societies and countries in the future. In this everchanging and connected world, he says, all players will have a role in achieving a collective vision.
The importance of collaboration and coordination in tackling complex development issues, especially on the policy front, is something that Mora-Brito’s training at the RGK Center always placed front and center.
“A key dimension the Nonprofit Studies portfolio program teaches you is to explore synergies across sectors, capitalize on the strengths of partners, and avoid duplication and fragmentation of efforts,” said Mora-Brito.
“In the current context, particularly as we embark on the last eight years of the Sustainable Development Goals’ agenda, unilateral action from a single sector is not entirely able to get the job done. On the contrary, it is only through concertation and strong, well-structured and accountable partnerships that we can address major global challenges.”
2022 was a replenishment year for the Global Fund. In a pledging conference hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden in New York this past September, both public and private donors committed US$15.7 billion for the coming 2023-2025 programmatic cycle. As achieved in 2019 under the hosting of France, the Global Fund has again spearheaded the largest replenishment campaign in the history of global health. These resources are meant to help the world get back on track to end AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, saving 20 million lives and cutting the combined death rate of these diseases by 64%; reducing the combined death toll to 950,000 in 2026, down from 2.4 million in 2020, and from 4 million in 2005; and averting more than 450 million infections or cases, reducing the combined incidence rate by 58%.
“I am really humbled to serve such an extraordinary mandate,” said Mora-Brito. “And I am also extremely privileged and honored to work with such an amazing group of talented and committed professionals, and to collaborate with global leaders trying to make a difference in the lives of so many people.”
Since graduating from The University of Texas at Austin, Mora-Brito has held staff, fellow and consultancy positions at the Pan American Development Foundation, the Organization of American States, the Global Business Coalition for Health, and the United Nations Population Fund. He is currently based in Geneva, Switzerland.