Diplomacy, International Relations , Urbanization State Department Should Be More Diverse And Engaged Across U.S., Report Says

March 3, 2021
By Michele Keleman | NPR

Perry World House Visiting Fellow Lolita Jackson comments on how the State Department can become more diverse and engage better with domestic audiences in the U.S., particularly city governments.

The Biden administration has said it wants a foreign policy that delivers to middle-class Americans. Having more connections to cities and states could help with that, according to the authors. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also promised to make the State Department look more like America, announcing in February that he would appoint a chief diversity and inclusion officer as a first step...

Getting Congress involved is important because the agency doesn't have the kind of constituency that the military has, says Truman Center CEO Jenna Ben-Yehuda. "We can't build an aircraft carrier in every congressional district, but we can put people with ideas around the country." The time is right, she says, "because guess who is talking to China all the time? The L.A. mayor's office. Who works on climate change? Folks at the state [and city] level around the country."

That was increasingly true after the Trump administration left the Paris climate accord. "All the action has been happening in cities for four years. So really, the diplomats who are in these countries need to know that China sends people from the city level to New York and to these cities all the time," says Lolita Jackson, a climate change adviser in the New York City mayor's office.

She's become a sort of local climate diplomat, meeting with environment ministers from half a dozen countries — without guidance from the State Department.

"We just figured it out our own, but it would have been helpful for them to say, hey, you're talking to Ireland's environment minister, you might want to know these other things going on with Ireland. That would have been great."

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