Richard Walden, Contributor
Richard Walden is President, CEO and Founder of Operation USA (also known as Operation California), a Los Angeles-based nongovernmental organization specializing in disaster relief as well as international health and economic development projects.
Privately funded, Operation USA has worked in 90 countries since 1979 and has provided over $215 million in aid and development assistance. Operation USA currently has long-term development projects planned, supervised and evaluated by Walden in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Cuba, Iran, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Ethiopia. Operation USA has also recently been active in Iraq, the Balkans, Turkey, Georgia, Taipei, North Korea and E. Timor. For the recent conflict in Afghanistan, Operation USA sent $1.2 million worth of medicines and, for Iraq, $1.8 million in hospital supplies. After the 2004 quake in Bam, Iran, Operation USA sent a 747 cargo jet with emergency supplies to Tehran and built a health center and a Womens Clinic in Bam. The December 2004 Tsunami was Operation USAs biggest challengemanaging a relief and recovery program involving airlifts of $11.5 million in donated supplies and expenditures of $4 million.
Waldens Operation USA shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize as a key member of the International Campaign To Ban Landmines. Walden also coordinated work with UNESCO, NASAs the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories and other advanced technology companies and labs to find new and quicker solutions to the global landmine problem as well as to search for new water sources in countries suffering the effects of drought. The use of advanced technology to locate underground water sources has been termed unparalleled by UNESCOs Chief of Water Resources.
Walden is also an active California-licensed attorney who is specialized in civil rights and health care issues; and served as Commissioner of Hospitals for the State of California (1977-82) under former Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr..
Walden holds a B.A. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Arts & Sciences (1968) and attended the Wharton School of Finance (1964-66); he earned a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School.(1972). He also studied history, economics, psychology and African Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles. He taught undergraduate law at the University of California at San Diego.
From 1972-1974, he served as Deputy General Counsel of the New York City Health Services Administration under Mayor John Lindsay; and, as a consultant to various government and private agencies on both health care and international development issues, including planning and evaluation missions. From 1974-1975, he ran the Legal Aid Society of San Diego (CA) Countys Health Law Center. From 1976-the present, Walden has maintained a private international law practice in addition to managing Operation USA.
Walden currently serves on the boards of InterAction, a consortium of 160 international nongovernmental organizations which Walden co-founded in 1984, and of the Institute for International Mediation & Conflict Resolution in Washington, D.C.. He also served on the Advisory Board of The Asia Society and is a member of the Pacific Council on Intl Policy.
Operation USA was awarded the President’s Volunteer Action Award by the White House in 1983 for the organization’s work as the first U.S. NGO to provide relief to Cambodia and Vietnam after the end of the Vietnam War (1979). Under Waldens leadership, Operation USA has scored a number of firsts among US NGOs involved in international reliefflying in aid to Cambodia, Vietnam, Poland, Bosnia, Lebanon, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Turkey, India, Iraq, Iran, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Congo/Zaire, North Korea and The Philippines during or immediately after disasters and/or conflicts have occurred. Worth Magazine (in December, 2001) named Operation USA one of Americas Best 100 Charities.