U.S. and Western Hemisphere: Partnership and Shared ResponsibilityAbout the Author: Tina Huang serves in the Office of Public Diplomacy for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
Friday marked the beginning of a series of important dialogues between the Department of State and leading members of the private and nonprofit sectors about U.S. diplomacy efforts. Hundreds of scholars, policymakers, and community leaders gathered at the State Department to discuss current issues related to U.S. relations with Latin America. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered opening remarks, noting that we have, more than ever in today’s world, the chance to cooperate, collaborate, and innovate. It’s why the United States is committed to building a new architecture of cooperation, one where we leverage all the tools at our disposal, our diplomacy, our development efforts, civil society, the private sector, through crosscutting partnerships. Regarding Latin America, Secretary Clinton commented, “We see a lot of positive trends, but there remains a huge reservoir of potential that needs to be tapped to continue building on this progress over the years and decades to come, and we want to do a better job of partnering with friends and allies in the region.” She also emphasized the role of her smart power approach, which begins with engaging in more robust diplomacy, both with and beyond governments.
High school and university students from New York City; Orlando, Florida; and San Antonio, Texas, also participated in the event via videoconference. Susana Molina from University of Central Florida asked about the U.S. response to the rise of the left in Latin America. Secretary Clinton responded, “We want to build a strong base of democratic support for fundamental freedoms of all people, and governments need to be effective, accountable, and responsive to the needs of their citizens and so we need to make it absolutely an article of faith that any leader elected must not just further his own position and his power base, but respect the rights of the people who elected him and build up the democracy so that democratic development and economic development can go hand in hand.”
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero spoke on various cross-cutting global issues, ranging from the U.S. presence at the Copenhagen Climate Change conference to the importance of water security, women’s empowerment, and human rights. In all of these ongoing discussions, Under Secretary Otero emphasized the integral roles of technology and global partnerships in efforts as diverse as purifying water or decreasing emissions, and empowering women by including them in all our efforts within the process. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela also highlighted three main terms of U.S. engagement in the Western Hemisphere: (1) reducing poverty through enhanced competitiveness and public-private partnerships in infrastructure, capacity, people, and technology; (2) addressing public insecurity through initiatives to fight organized crime and reduced transnational threats; and (3) building institutions and democratic governance from the federal down to the local levels.
Following the mornings remarks, conference participants attended breakout sessions featuring panels on trade, citizen safety, and citizen engagement. During these panels, senior State Department officials and members of the private sector, nonprofit sector, and academic communities engaged in discussions on U.S. trade opportunities and economic initiatives in Latin America, response and cooperation on border issues and H1N1, and innovative opportunities for both people-to-people and virtual citizen engagement.
What opportunities do you see for U.S. cooperation and innovation in the Western Hemisphere?