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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Wisdom Session on Diversity, Inclusion, and U.S. Foreign Policy


Remarks
Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs 
Closing Remarks
Marshall Conference Center
Washington, DC
June 7, 2012

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As someone in the business of convening thought leaders on a wide range of pressing issues, I must commend you: Your presence here today is a testament to how greatly we at the Department of State value your talent and insight.

We know that in this shared and interconnected world, relationships among national governments are important—but so are partnerships among state and local officials, business leaders, academic institutions, and individual citizens that keep us connected with the needs and aspirations of the many segments of our diverse communities.

Secretary Clinton has made clear that foreign policy and diplomacy goes beyond nation-to-nation; so, as the Secretary’s Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, it has been my mandate to reach out to governors, mayors, and county officials to collaborate on international issues such as trade, investment and economic development, energy, sustainability, urbanization, and global health. My job is also to reinforce the Department of State’s foreign policy objectives by working with new and diverse partners and encouraging people-to-people exchanges.

The U.S. Government actively promotes diversity and inclusion best practices worldwide; in fact, as today’s excellent key note speaker emphasized, diversity and inclusion are a ‘mission critical’ element of our foreign policy. We know that diverse communities make us and our allies stronger. Inclusive workforces raise the level of social cohesion. Inclusive and representative governments make more stable partners. And the recommendations you have generated in your working groups today are clear indicators of the important global role that diversity and inclusion leaders play in this effort. We are proud to have the opportunity to exchange best practices with you and explore ways to collaborate and translate these strategies to wider audiences around the world.

When I served as Vice President and Counselor to the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, my duty was to work with minority and women-owned businesses in order to form alliances to compete in the global marketplace. I made sure that they were brought into the dialogue on vital business policy matters, and that Chamber resources and programs harmonized with their needs. So I am enthused that the U.S. Government has chosen to draw on corporate expertise to communicate as broadly as possible best practices for diversity and inclusion in all sectors and develop relationships with the corporate sector as well as with the education and nonprofit sectors to improve results in diversity recruiting. I understand you have also proposed an exchange of public and private sector diversity leaders including in the foreign policy sphere that can only lead to greater successes for us all.

You have further generated excellent proposals about quickening the pace with which we share diversity practices overseas and advocate for diversity and inclusion at the global level.

And you have pointed out the need for a curriculum module to inform emerging diversity professionals in the U.S. about the foreign policy implications of diversity and inclusion.

I am quite impressed by the outcomes of today’s consultations, and the potential for partnerships that is so palpable. I firmly believe that global, inclusive partnerships, which put aside divisive philosophies and focus on solutions, will be the way to solve, together, the most complicated problems on the planet.

Before you depart today and begin to enact the next steps of your newly-defined collaborative efforts, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences here at the State Department as a convener of nontraditional partners. I have had the pleasure of engaging U.S. states and localities in various inclusion efforts, as well as the academic institutions and corporate entities that reside in these localities. I am constantly on the road both here and abroad to support their relationships with their counterparts around the world, because they complement our bilateral relationships and reinforce our friendships with other nations. I have seen firsthand what an incredible role these leaders play in promoting inclusive practices, and it’s truly inspiring.

A few months ago, Special Representative Pandith asked that I lead a delegation of young U.S. political leaders to participate in the 2012 Transatlantic Inclusion Leaders Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. I was there with some of your colleagues who are here today: David Johns of Impact DC, Mischa Thompson from the U.S. Helsinki Comission, Zach Abramovitz from the State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and Lora Berg, senior advisor to Special Representative Pandith. This training conference provided an excellent opportunity to strengthen relations between emerging minority leaders in the United States and Europe. I was honored to be in the presence of so many young elected leaders who are dedicated to creating more open and representative institutions. They learned a great deal from each other about how to approach the work of integration and inclusion.

In 2011, the United States and Brazil signed a memorandum of understanding to work together in preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. 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 has been working with the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs/Race, Ethnicity, and Social Inclusion Unit, led by Senior Advisor Zakiya Carr-Johnson, who earlier today shared her hard work on racial and ethnic inclusion in the Western Hemisphere. The Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs and my office 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 major sporting event preparation. We’re working 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 Chair of this working group, I’m ensuring that U.S. state and local governments are fully engaged in our mission to develop solutions. As hosts 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.

I have since traveled to 11 cities in Brazil to encourage Brazilian subnational leaders to work with their U.S. counterparts to share best practices, as well as leverage public-private partnerships, and work with NGOs to design programs to strengthen Afro-Brazilian, indigenous, women and youth entrepreneurship.

So as I note this important diversity and inclusion work at the state and local government levels, I am pleased to be present with you all today to draw connections to what you are accomplishing here as corporate and academic inclusion specialists. You’re contributing to our ongoing effort to advance cutting edge diversity strategies in the foreign policy sphere. You are integral members of a multi-faceted global network of likeminded thinkers committed to effecting positive change.

Your presence at this event exemplifies engagement for the 21st century – engagement which must be built first on listening, seeking to view the challenges and understand the solutions in front of us through the perspective of other sectors and professional disciplines.

Secretary Clinton has said that President Obama “has led us to think outside the usual boundaries. He has launched a new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect.” These words are so true. I look around, and I see no boundaries for our shared success. I see only possibilities.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in this ground-breaking event and sharing your valuable insights. And above all - thank you for being a part of this uncommon and fruitful meeting of the minds.



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