Today the Secretary sent a note to State Department staff summing up a busy year and charting the course ahead. His message got me thinking about the pivotal foreign policy events that took place this year, and a great hashtag – #2015in5Words – which was recently trending on Twitter.
Surely the year was not without challenges. Our hearts are with the families that lost loved ones to terrorism, natural disasters, disease, and violence. Our work to secure our national interests and to build peace and enhance prosperity around the world continues in honor of them.
At the same time, it’s also important to take a step back and look at how the United States has helped change the world for the better. Our diplomats have been busy, and they have met with significant success across a range of issues – each of these issues vital in their own way to ensuring the safety, security, and prosperity of the American people. So, here's my take on #2015in5Words.
Diplomatic Relations Re-established With Cuba. #2015in5Words
U.S. and Cuba Re-establish Diplomatic Relations: In January, Cuba and the United States began talks to re-establish diplomatic relations after 54 years. Those talks resulted in the July re-opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. and the United States Embassy in Havana. To mark the occasion, Secretary Kerry traveled to Havana, Cuba, where he watched as the American flag was raised at the Embassy building there. By his side stood three retired U.S. Marines – the very same ones who lowered the flag at our Embassy in Havana more than five decades earlier. The achievement is just the first step in strengthening our relationship with the Cuban people, and those links continue to deepen with each new development, like the resumption of scheduled flights and mail delivery between our two countries. We look forward to further deepening these ties in the New Year. (More about U.S.-Cuba Relations on DipNote)
Winning Fight Against Violent Extremists. #2015in5words
The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism: In February, the White House hosted the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), bringing together foreign leaders, senior officials from the United Nations and other international organizations, and private and civil society representatives to discuss the challenges facing nations working to prevent and counter violent extremism. This monumental summit launched an ongoing global CVE effort now underway that reaches throughout the world and across countless nations. Although challenges remain, we have made positive strides over the last year, including in our fight against ISIL. This forward progress will only continue as more countries pledge resources to the anti-ISIL effort and as citizens around the world increasingly reject ISIL's misguided ideology. Moving forward we know that together the global coalition – active both on the battlefield and on the airwaves – can and will degrade and ultimately destroy extremist organizations, like ISIL. (More on CVE)
Protecting Arctic Climate and Communities. #2015in5words
U.S. Chairmanship of Arctic Council: Secretary Kerry traveled to Iqaluit, Canada in April to attend the biennial Arctic Council Ministerial. While there, he formally assumed the two-year chairmanship of the Arctic Council from his Canadian predecessor and announced that the Council would focus on three key themes: the impacts of climate change; promoting Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions for Arctic communities. The Artic it is not just a picturesque landscape. It’s a home. It’s an ecosystem. It has a history. And we all have a duty to protect it and its people. (More about Arctic Issues on DipNote)
Iran Peaceful Nuclear Program Ensured. #2015in5words
Iran Nuclear Agreement Announced: The Nuclear Agreement with Iran, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was finalized in July 2015. After weeks of intense multilateral negotiations on the ground in Vienna, it was announced that an agreement had been reached, one that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful. On that day Secretary Kerry spoke to the press, stating that “the agreement we’ve reached, fully implemented, will bring insight and accountability to Iran’s nuclear program – not for a small number of years, but for the lifetime of that program. This is the good deal that we have sought.” (More about the Iran Deal on DipNote)
Stemming Tide of Ebola Outbreak. #2015in5words
Ebola Response: August 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of the United States government’s robust response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, an unprecedented effort that has helped turn the tide of an unprecedented outbreak. The United States was actively involved in fighting Ebola from the beginning, sending more than 3,000 people – including aid professionals, public-health specialists, soldiers and logisticians from USAID’s Disaster Assistance Response Team and the Center for Disease Control – to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the height of the response to support more than 10,000 civilian responders. Even as the situation on-the-ground improved over the course of 2015, the United States continued to respond to the crisis, working to contain the outbreak of the virus with the goal of getting to zero new infections. And while the Ebola outbreak now has been brought under control, the U.S. remains steadfast in working with its partners to ensure monitoring continues unabated so as to prevent any resurgence of the epidemic. Health crises like Ebola threaten the security of communities and countries. The United States remains committed to helping nations build capacity to prevent events like this in the future, and build a brighter world for our children. (More about Ebola Response on DipNote)
Committing to Ambitious Development Goals. #2015in5words
Sustainable Development Goals Adopted by United Nations: At the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) hosted this past September in New York, UN member nations came together to adopt an ambitious set of global goals that seek to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. During UNGA, President Obama pledged the United States’ support for the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying “in times of disaster and crisis, the world can count on the friendship and generosity of the American people.” While enormous progress has been made in tackling the development challenges that confront millions around the world, there is still much to be done and the SDGs mark an important milestone in to global effort to put our world on an inclusive and sustainable course moving forward. (More about the SDGs on DipNote)
Open Door to Free Trade. #2015in5words
Trans-Pacific Partnership: On October 5, negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) successfully concluded in Atlanta, resulting in a historic free trade agreement that links together 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific. Not only does this agreement set high standards on labor, the environment, and intellectual property, but it will also serve to deepen our partnerships throughout the Asia-Pacific region – a message Secretary Kerry reinforced when he said, “With today's successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, the United States and 11 other nations have taken a critical step forward in strengthening our economic ties and deepening our strategic relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.” (More about Trade on DipNote)
Protecting Health of Our Ocean. #2015in5words
Second “Our Ocean” Conference: Also in October, the Chilean government hosted the second global “Our Ocean” conference in Valparaiso. During the conference -- which brought together individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities to look at ways to protect our ocean -- the United States announced the creation of two new national marine sanctuaries. Secretary Kerry also used the opportunity to underscore three key areas for engagement: ocean monitoring, stopping illegal fishing, and climate change. The United States will host the next “Our Ocean” conference in 2016 demonstrating the Secretary’s personal commitment to making preservation of oceans a central part of our security agenda. (More about Our Ocean on DipNote)
Strongest Climate Agreement Ever Negotiated. #2015in5words
COP21 Climate Change Agreement: In December, world leaders from across the globe gathered in Paris for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to focus on the fight against climate change and negotiate an ambitious, inclusive and durable global climate agreement. On December 12, it was announced that a global climate agreement had been reached. Secretary Kerry lauded the historic moment, saying in Paris “I think that we’ve reached an agreement here that is the strongest, most ambitious global climate change agreement ever negotiated.” (More about COP21 on DipNote)
Bringing Peace, Security to Syria. #2015in5words
Syria: The conflict in Syria has continued to unfold in tragic ways over the course of 2015. From the humanitarian crisis endured by refugees fleeing violence, to the reprehensible human rights violations and violence carried out by the Asad regime, the Syrian people have borne a heavy load. The United States and many members of the international community have stepped up to aid the Syrian people during their time of need – the United States has led the world in humanitarian aid contributions since the crisis began in 2011. Led by Secretary Kerry, the United States also continues to push for a political transition in Syria, and under his stewardship, in December, the UN Security Council passed a U.S.-sponsored resolution that puts forward a roadmap that will facilitate a transition within Syria to a credible, inclusive, nonsectarian government that is responsive to the needs of the Syrian people. (More about Syria on DipNote)