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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Subnational Engagement as a 21st Century Foreign Policy Tool

Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Fundacao Getulio Vargas
Sao Paulo, Brazil
March 27, 2012


Good evening and thank you Oliver for that very kind introduction.

I would like to take a moment to thank Fundacao Getulio Vargas (FGV) for providing me with this opportunity to speak with you. It is indeed a great pleasure to be here at this important institution. As a pioneer in the education field, FGV continues to earn international recognition for excellence in academic programs, research, and consulting.

Today, the world faces a unique set of challenges – economic, environmental, social, and political – that require collaborative innovation and determination of our world’s best minds. It is reassuring to know that FGV is continually examining these issues and leads the way in seeking solutions.

A lot has happened in the last 18 months, from revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, to renewed fears over economic default in Europe. These changes have only reinforced the Obama Administration’s conviction for the need to seize this moment, to meet these challenges, and to lay the foundation for sustained global leadership in a rapidly changing world increasingly linked and transformed by new technologies.

At the same time, urbanization is occurring at an unprecedented rate, especially in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Fifty two percent of the earth’s population now lives in cities. Every week one million people move to cities. Continued rapid urbanization will lead to three billion new urban dwellers. As a 2011 Economist entry stated, “Cities rather than states are becoming the island of governance on which the future world order will be built.”

Global partnerships which put aside individual philosophies and focus on solutions are essential to solving these global challenges and to building a more stable and secure world.

As Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton has said, and as the United States has long maintained, U.S. foreign policy relationships will always be nation-to-nation. But the scope of what defines nation-to-nation conversations are shifting in the modern, more global, and more flattened economy – deeming city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues just as critical to the larger context of executing, implementing, and achieving a nation’s overarching diplomatic goals.

Building peer-to-peer relationships between state and local elected officials has a tremendous effect on foreign policy that often goes unrecognized. Still, building these relationships and encouraging this engagement at the subnational level has limitless potential.

Peer-to-peer relationships provide state and local leaders around the globe with an intimate glance into the American way of life, and more importantly, into our democratic institutions and system of governance. Even at a more basic but equally important level, these interactions develop trust – an attribute essential to developing strong bilateral ties.

Secretary Clinton has made it a priority to engage our subnational leaders and utilize them as an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge. After all, it is the states and cities that are the engines of growth at the ground level where the transition from policy to practice becomes most visible.

Secretary Clinton has stated time and time again that 21st century global challenges require us to work with new partners to collaborate and innovate globally. At the Department of State, this has meant making a transition to 21st Century Statecraft, a strategy for creating partnerships for achieving modern diplomatic goals by engaging all the elements of our national power and leveraging all forms of our strength.

Two years ago, Secretary Clinton created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs emphasizing the need to utilize local leaders as a key component in the much needed widespread and deep-rooted efforts to take on our world’s greatest challenges – a key part of that charge is empowering subnational officials to lead their states and communities to a stable and secure future.

My job is to realize Secretary Clinton’s vision by connecting what the Federal Government does best with what state and local governments are doing and can do, and what our successful private sector is doing and can do.

So, just as Secretary Clinton engages in important bilateral discussions with Minister Patriota, so too does our office engage in pivotal conversations on a range of issues with Brazilian mayors and governors.

Over the last year, I have been working to expand the relationship between U.S. mayors and governors and their counterparts here in Brazil.

During this time, exchanges between Brazilian and U.S. subnational entities have become more numerous and robust. We have worked with governors and from California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and other elected officials to connect with their fellow leaders in Brazil. Just last week, I hosted a delegation of state officials from Rio Grande do Norto to a day of meetings with U.S. Government and private sector leaders in Washington, DC.

I also have made several trips to Brazil to support this effort. I have made a point of getting to know as much of your beautiful country as possible. I am happy to report that in each of the twelve cities and states I have visited, I have been met with incredible enthusiasm. While all of the officials with whom I have met have expressed the desire to collaborate in various ways, the issue of education is raised consistently.

I am confident that you at FGV are committed to participating in exchanges and partnerships with prestigious U.S. institutions, such as Northwestern University. I am elated that your state and local officials share your fervor for educational exchange.

The United States and Brazil strongly support the internationalization of higher education. Both nations truly are honoring the commitments established in the U.S.-Brazil Partnership on Education by working together to achieve the shared goals of President Obama’s 100,000 Strong for the Americas initiative and President Rousseff’s Science Without Borders. I am committed to engaging subnational entities in this effort, and am proud that we can count on their leadership and expertise to help make these initiatives successful.

For example, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick led a delegation of university leaders to Brazil last year, where they established the TOP USA-Massachusetts Program, an initiative that will promote an academic exchange of faculty and students between several Brazilian and Massachusetts universities. I had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from CAPES in Washington, DC last month during their Science Without Borders exchange. They made visits to various states a top priority. During her U.S. visit next month, President Rousseff plans to visit Massachusetts where she will meet with Governor Patrick and speak at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). When the United States and Brazil initiated the Partnership on Education, this is precisely what we had in mind.

These relationships truly strengthen the U.S.-Brazil bilateral partnership. As the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games approach, and as efforts are made to prepare our young citizens for the workforce and future leadership, the importance of subnational engagement between our nations becomes increasingly palpable.

The United States and Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in preparation for these major global sporting events. In this agreement, we recalled our prior commitments from the Joint Action Plan to promote Ethnic and Racial Equality (JAPER) and the MOU for the advancement of women and affirmed that we view the events as opportunities to advance economic opportunities and to ensure citizens at every level of society benefit from those opportunities. Since the last meeting of the U.S.-Brazil Joint Action Plan in Washington, DC, my office and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs have convened a U.S. Government interagency group which partners with the Brazilian Ministry of External Relations and the Secretariat of Policies for the Promotion of Ethnic Equality on this issue.

Our collective objective is to share best practices to promote black entrepreneurship in Brazil and to create partnerships and new jobs for ethnic and minorities and Afro-Brazilians in preparation for the World Cup and Olympic Games. As host of past Olympic Games and other major global events, U.S. state and local governments have played a vital role in the establishment of inclusive economic opportunity practices.

Cities like Atlanta, host of the 1996 Olympic Games, developed strategies to ensure diverse employment, adopt inclusive procurement and contracting strategies and certification mechanisms, and empower ethnic minority and women-owned businesses. We are convening our subnational leaders and their counterparts here in Brazil to share these types of best practices, leveraging public-private partnerships, and working with NGOs to design programs to strengthen Afro-Brazilian, indigenous, women and youth entrepreneurship.

I am certain that as we seize more opportunities to unite our public officials, at all levels, we will gain so much more together than we would have on our own. That is why I work tirelessly every day to understand local leaders’ pressing questions, interests, and challenges to coordinate opportunities for them to build friendships, share best practices and knowledge, and find viable solutions to common goals.

So, as we interact with state and local leaders in Brazil and around the world, we employ Secretary Clinton’s Economic Statecraft initiative which places economics and market forces at the center of U.S. foreign policy. Economic Statecraft harnesses global economic forces to advance America’s foreign policy and employs the tools of foreign policy to shore up our economic strength. In furtherance of the Secretary’s vision, our office has leveraged U.S. state and local officials in our economic strategy in China and India, among other nations.

For instance, we supported the establishment of the U.S.-China Governors Forum in 2011. It has been reported that this dialogue fostered interactions that resulted in tangible U.S. job creation.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited several Chinese cites and corporations in October 2011, including Sany Group, which has invested $60 million in Peachtree City, Georgia. Sany Group plans to invest $25 million more in the State of Georgia, and to hire 300 engineers over the next five years.

Similarly, North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue’s interactions with Chinese subnational leaders has reportedly led to an agreement between a Chinese and U.S. company that will create approximately 300 new jobs in North Carolina.

We collaborated with Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on his historic trade mission to India in 2011. The mission resulted in opening new doors for the State of Maryland to create jobs, bolster trade and investments, and strengthen existing business relationships.

Two Indian companies plan investments in Maryland and eight Maryland businesses signed deals with India partners, with a combined total of nearly $60 million in business deals for the state and several additional deals worth millions still on the horizon.

While in India, Governor O’Malley met with a number of top Indian companies to promote Maryland as an ideal location for establishing U.S. operations. He signed an agreement in New Delhi with the Federation of India Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) to create an India-Maryland Center in Maryland to boost trade between the two regions.

In addition, Maryland signed an agreement with the U.S. India Importers Council committing Maryland and India to boost imports and exports. During the first nine months of 2011, the Port of Baltimore saw $341 million in trade to and from India compared with $229 million during the same timeframe in 2010 – a 49 percent increase.

Many of the agreements entered into between Maryland and India will be of direct benefit to India. For example, CyberPoint, a Maryland cyber security company signed a $10 million contract with New Delhi-based Appin Security Group to jointly develop security solutions for mobile phones. A $20-50 million deal agreed to by Amarex Clinical Research, a Maryland company, and Scalene Cybernetics Limited, an Indian company, will create jobs both in Maryland and India.

We applaud Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s emphasis on trade exports, and foreign direct investment. Governor Quinn announced the creation of an Export Advisory Council in his 2012 State of the State address. The Governor said that “Expanding trade opportunities in growth markets like Brazil, China, Australia, and India puts Illinois products in the international marketplace and creates jobs here at home.”

While we are committed to continue working with state and local officials to advance U.S. economic interests, we are at the same time collaborating with these leaders on the creation of a sustainable future.

Today, we face daunting global challenges and we look forward to discussing them at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, in Rio de Janeiro in June. As we head toward an urbanized planet, we will have to build over the next 40 years, the same urban capacity as we have built over the past 4,000 years.

I believe we have the ability to meet all of these needs to build a sustainable future. We have the tools and the understanding, and we have the necessary commitment to global cooperation and collaboration. U.S. subnational leaders want to work with their foreign counterparts, with the private sector, investors, and clean technology to achieve global sustainability.

Rio+20 is about the future. The United States believes that Rio+20 should be a different kind of meeting, one that transforms the multilateral approach to sustainable development and incorporates its concepts across all sectors. It is our hope that Rio+20 will be truly inclusive of a broad collection of stakeholders, including state and local officials, civil society, and the private sector.States and cities do not face a choice between green and growth: they CAN and MUST pursue both. There is no “one-size-fits-all” model for implementing sustainability, and strategies will differ across regions as they do across countries. However, we firmly believe that local government leadership bears the fundamental responsibility to support urban sustainability.

Cities across the United States have adopted comprehensive sustainability programs, and in the process are transforming themselves to greener and more efficient urban centers. Increasingly, cities are using sustainability management systems to prioritize investment decisions that enhance their “triple bottom line” – be it large metropolitan areas like New York’s “PlaNYC” or Chicago’s “Climate Action Plan,” or small cities like Fort Collins, Colorado’s “Sustain Fort Collins” or Austin, Texas’ “Climate Action Plan.” This disciplined approach is working – with savings ranging from $2 billion through New York’s Green Infrastructure Plan to $500,000 saved by Fort Collins’ pavement recycling program.

An example of our international efforts to cooperatively address the urbanization challenge is the Joint Initiative on Urban Sustainability or JIUS, announced last March by President Obama and President Rousseff. This bilateral public-private initiative will provide a showcase for financial, physical and digital innovation that is transferable to cities in the United States and around the world. The United States and Brazil, by capturing measurable economic, environmental and health benefits of green investment, aim to show leadership in the importance of sustainable city scale investment in research and development, clean energy and energy efficiency, and sustainable planning.

Another fundamental message that the United States is bringing to Rio is the importance of good governance if we are to achieve a sustainable future. We need governance at all levels to be open and transparent, with robust channels for public participation, to better engage citizens and build new networks across all sectors of our societies. We encourage governments to adapt and implement policies for access to information, and to work to build public/private partnerships so that the achievements in building a sustainable future will be long-lasting.

We hope to make Rio a celebration of the new and innovative technologies that not only bring us closer as a community, but can help us solve global challenges in ways unimaginable 20 years ago. We have evolving means to stimulate international action that go beyond traditional models for global cooperation centered on government-to-government meetings and formal institutions. The use of social media and connection technologies is making the world more inclusive. These advances can help achieve more rapid action on sustainable development, at lower cost, with more inclusive stakeholder participation ranging from women, youth, and civil society groups to nongovernmental organizations, small business, large industries, and private sector finance institutions.

So again, organizing subnational relationships promotes a deeper cultural exchange among nations, advances principals of openness, freedom transparency and fairness in economic growth, and assists in the creation of a sustainable future.

In a 21st century world, there are no shortages of great partnerships, nor shortages of great ideas when we shore up our collective will to address the challenges we face.

By combining our strengths, we can more than double our impact to this subnational end. And the multiplier effect continues if we add philanthropies, businesses, NGOs, universities and entrepreneurs. That’s the power of partnership at its best -- allowing us to achieve so much more together than we could apart.

As young people and the next generation who will inherit this planet, you have the power to make change. You have the chance to develop leadership skills and to take grassroots action for peace, prosperity, and sustainability. I am here to ask you to collaborate with us on this new generation of partnerships that reflect a global economy, a flatter world, and cities on the rise.

I encourage you to work with your state and local leaders to expand partnerships and to embark on new ones.

Thank you for understanding what we must do and how the inclusion of subnational leaders can assist in building stable and secure societies while broadening and deepening the U.S.-Brazil bilateral relationship.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.

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