#DiplomacyBeginsHere Summit Engages America on Northern California’s Strengths in Agriculture, Water, and Energy

More than 175 leaders from business, government, and international exchange communities gathered in Oakland a few weeks ago to explore the important role that diplomacy plays in making Northern California a global leader in agriculture, water, and energy innovation.

The summit, hosted September 30, was the last of this year’s four #DiplomacyBeginsHere Summit Series that brings together local, national, and international leaders across all sectors around international exchanges, raising awareness of the power of these programs and the role citizen diplomats play in American diplomacy. A joint effort with Global Ties U.S. network, the summits are sponsored by the State Department’s Office of International Visitors, which seeks to highlight the network of citizen diplomats that work together with the State Department to welcome International Visitors to their communities for networking and professional growth programs.

This summit -– organized by the Northern California World Trade Center -– convened at Oakland’s Scottish Rite Center. Northern California World Trade Center President Andrew Grant opened the event by highlighting the region’s strengths in technology and innovation. Global Ties U.S. President Jennifer Clinton also welcomed the attendees by stressing the importance of citizen diplomacy and engaging citizens internationally.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Outreach Karen Richardson providing keynote remarks at Diplomacy Begins Here -- Global Ties U.S. Regional Summit in Oakland, California on September 30, 2016. [Photos courtesy of Jamie Soja/North California World Trade Center]

As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Public Outreach, I delivered keynote remarks encouraging Americans from all corners of the country to engage in diplomacy efforts. Our job in the Bureau of Public Affairs is to bring together internal actors at the State Department, and throughout the Administration, to find ways to engage with Americans, as well as to support the establishment of relationships between our state and local elected officials and their global counterparts, to solve foreign policy challenges. Together we can address issues with global impact such as climate change, human trafficking, economic development, and countering violent extremism, among others.

Across all these issues -- especially when it comes to agriculture, water, and energy -- the work of the State Department with its foreign partners increasingly affects American communities today. For that reason, the State Department has launched Engage America, a public outreach initiative that strives to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the American public about the important value of diplomacy and its tangible impact on American lives. 

For example, at the U.S.-China Climate-Smart/Low Carbon Cities Summit in Beijing -- Oakland, San Francisco, and Sonoma County were among the first municipalities that endorsed the U.S.-China Climate Leaders Declaration, committing to reduce GHG emissions at least 80 percent by 2050. These commitments to the rapid growth of the sustainability sector will propel California to increase its efforts to combat climate change and safeguard the future of our planet for generations to come. The more connections we make between international and domestic issues, the better empowered we will be to continue to innovate in ways that improve our world.

The site of the Diplomacy Begins Here -- Global Ties U.S. Regional Summit conference in the Oakland Scottish Rite. [Photos courtesy of Jamie Soja/North California World Trade Center]

The Summit highlighted how California is at the forefront of addressing key international challenges. Panel discussions on agriculture, water, and energy illustrated how California is developing innovative solutions at a time when global resource demand continues to soar and supply continues to dwindle. Sustainable development is an essential objective for all countries, and, as citizen diplomats, we all have a role to play in ensuring our sustainable future.

During the luncheon, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf highlighted the importance of the Port of Oakland and spoke about the city’s international identity and increased global connections. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets Arun M. Kumar also addressed the need to increase the global fluency of small and medium-sized businesses. He noted that in many cases, business leaders are best suited to serve in commercial diplomacy roles. Oakland’s own Creative Wood was then recognized for its international success as representatives from the manufacturer were presented with the Export Achievement Award.

Besides a dynamic schedule of panels and a concurrent student program, the summit also included breakout sessions that explored the J-1 Visa and how the private sector can work together with international exchange programs -- as well as how attendees could pursue a career in international affairs. Stacy White, Director of the Office of International Visitors at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, took the stage to thank the attendees for being part of a national volunteer network that works with her office to host young leaders from around the globe on professional exchange programs across the United States. Through short-term visits like the International Visitor Leadership Program, the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program that brings more than 4,500 visitors to the United States each year, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields can experience the United States firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.

The concurrent student program included a U.S. Diplomacy Center refugee simulation, where participating students took on the role of diplomats and worked together to propose solutions for a hypothetical refugee crisis. Programs like this are crucial for engaging a young audience in diplomacy and inspiring the next generation to pursue careers with an international focus.

This summit successfully engaged globally-minded people from all walks of life to explore the impact that comes from strong international relationships. It was very exciting for me to support these efforts to share California’s spirit of innovation with the world as we seek solutions to challenges in agriculture, water, and energy.

It’s key to keep the conversation going beyond this summit, and, as I challenged those in the room, I challenge DipNote readers to find opportunities to collaborate with people of different perspectives, within your state, but also beyond. I encourage you to stay involved with the Global Ties U.S. network and the Department of State, especially with the Bureau of Public Affairs -- as we work towards engaging the American people on foreign policy. As Secretary Kerry mentioned earlier this year, diplomacy is not the exclusive domain of meeting rooms in capitals, but also takes place in communities, large and small, around the globe

About the Author: Karen Richardson currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach for the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

For More Information:

Panel on Water Policy at the Diplomacy Begins Here -- Global Ties Regional Summit. [Photos courtesy of Jamie Soja/North California World Trade Center]
Posted by Karen Richardson
October 27, 2016

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