Actor Matt Damon says he would work with Donald Trump, hoping the president-elect will provide foreign aid for Damon’s efforts to solve the global water crisis. USA TODAY NETWORK
DAVOS, Switzerland — Actor Matt Damon appeared to give President-elect Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt Wednesday over whether he will help break the cycle of global poverty that arises from lack of safe water and sanitation.
“We can work with anybody. It remains to be seen what (Trump’s) relationship to foreign aid is, what his feelings about that are,” Damon said in an interview with USA TODAY on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.
Damon, 46, star of the Bourne movie series, was attending the week-long event to raise awareness about the 663 million people worldwide who lack access to safe water and the 2.4 billion people who don’t have access to a bathroom. In 2009 he founded the non-profit Water.org with civil and environmental engineer Gary White.
The organization raises funds to “micro-finance” loans for people in impoverished communities around the world to establish hygienic connections to water and toilets. Water.org says that a child dies from a water-related disease every 90 seconds and that diarrhea is the third-leading cause of childhood death.
The group announced Tuesday that it secured a $4.8 million commitment from Belgian beer brewer Stella Artois for clean water projects. The Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned unit is also continuing with its “Buy a Lady a Drink” campaign, where a share of the proceeds from each sale of limited-edition beer glasses are donated to the charity.
“We tried to get with the best people we could find, on a solvable problem” said Ricardo Tadeu, a senior executive for Anheuser-Busch InBev in Africa, who has been appearing at the forum this year with White and Damon.
“We don’t see our role here (at the World Economic Forum) as being part of a global elite. We see it as trying to help get the poorest of the poor a seat at the table,” Damon said.
At a news conference Tuesday, the American actor said he has never met Trump and wasn’t sure what his relationship with the developing world would be. “His interest has been in high-end golf courses and hotels. … At a certain point our work isn’t dependent on the political winds and we just have to keep doing the work that we’re doing,” Damon said.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has a $23 billion budget for 2017. While Water.org has largely had bipartisan support, its work does not rely on foreign aid. Trump has consistently expressed an America-first preference for global problems. On Wednesday, Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, faces his Senate confirmation hearing. He has called for eliminating the EPA.
USAID said it was providing information and briefings to Trump’s transition team. “We are ensuring that the president-elect’s transition team has the tools and resources necessary for a smooth and efficient transition,” the organization said in a statement.
“The poor that we are trying to bring these services to are so disenfranchised and they face so many struggles that the last thing that’s really going to have a direct impact on their lives is who is in our White House,” White said. “I am hopeful that our foreign policy can be shaped in a way that can eventually have some trickle-down effect on these lives, but right now they are living in crisis. There’s a million of them dying every year because of lack of access to water and sanitation,” he added.
“That number didn’t change much whether it was George W. Bush or President Obama, and it might not change much with Trump,” he said.