Eric Olson

Director of Policy & Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation

His primary responsibility is to oversee the Foundation’s engagement with the DC-based policy community. He also provides strategic policy advice to the Foundation’s Central American partners on priority issues such as promoting rule of law and good governance, ending forced migration and displacement, ensuring equity, and strengthening civil society. He oversees SIF’s Anti-Impunity Project and Independent Journalism Fund. In addition to his work with SIF, Olson is a Wilson Center Global Fellow. He served as the Mexico Institute and Latin American Program’s Deputy Director for 11 years. He has published numerous articles and books including, “Crime and Violence in the Northern Triangle: How U.S. policy is helping, hurting, and can be improved.” Prior to his arrival at the Wilson Center he worked with the Secretariat for Political Affairs at the Organization of American States as a Senior Specialist on Good Governance; at Amnesty International USA as Advocacy Director for the Americas; and at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) as Senior Associate for Mexico. He also worked for Augsburg College’s Center for Global Education and Experience in Mexico, and in Honduras as an economic development specialist. He began his career as a legislative assistant for a Member of Congress from Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota, Olson has spent over 30 year living and working in Latin America including Venezuela (where he grew up), Honduras, and Mexico. He has traveled extensively in Central America and the region. He holds a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the American University’s School of International Service, and a Bachelor’s degree in Education and History from Trinity College in Deerfield, IL.

Eric is speaking at

June 2, 2021
9:15 am - 10:45 am


  • Eric Olson (Panelist) Director of Policy & Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation
  • David Shirk (Moderator) full professor and chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of San Diego
  • Alan Bersin (Panelist) Covington & Burling LLP, Policy Consultant at Covington & Burling; Former Assistant Secretary in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; former Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • Arnau Baulenas Bardia (Panelist) Legal Coordinator, Instituto de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas, El Salvador.
  • Adriana Beltrán (Speaker) Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA), Director for Citizen Security


Security, justice and good governance are integral to  Central America’s  hopes for sustained economic recovery.  Our panelists will discuss the multi-dimensional aspects of security issues in the Northern Triangle region including  challenges of growing narco-violence, the influence of organized crime, weak governance and collapsing rule of law.  Panelists will examine proposed U.S. strategies for addressing some of these root cause factors that are triggering the northbound migration of Central Americans to the southern border of the United States.

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