By: Alexander Nelson (EUR Travel Coordinator)
John Kerry said earlier this year, “This era requires much more nimble institutions, more agile foreign policy. And part of that agility comes from engaging diaspora communities.” To that end, on September 8 the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA), a program under the auspices of the Secretary of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, teamed up with the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to kick off the first in a series of web-chats. These web-chats are a brand new initiative developed for top diplomats at the Department of State to directly engage with diaspora communities.
Using the hashtag #DiasporaVoices, IdEA solicits questions and comments from diaspora groups and individuals for a panel of experts, specialists, and sitting and former Ambassadors on the broad topic of U.S. government engagement with diaspora communities. In the first edition, Principle Deputy Assistant Secretary and former Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern hosted the panel which was rounded out by Ambassador-designate to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt, Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills. If you missed it you can watch their entire conversation here: share.america.gov/diaspora-voices
“To bring change one person at a time, it takes a long time, but it’s the most effective way,” according to Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Heffern. “People to people contact is the human element of diplomacy,” said Ambassador Yovanovitch, and through diplomacy, she continued, “we connect in really profound ways; through shared values and shared hopes for the future.” Fostering these connections is what IdEA is all about.
Diaspora engagement has been a focus for the Department since then-Secretary Hillary Clinton formalized diaspora outreach with the creation of IdEA at the inaugural Global Diaspora Summit in 2011. Top diplomats across the Department have realized that extremely difficult challenges can be overcome when the ability of the U.S. government and U.S. embassies to convene various groups, investors, and thinkers is combined with, as Ambassador Pyatt put it, the diaspora’s “dynamism, flexibility, and ‘let’s get it done’ mentality.” The IdEA network grows stronger every time these hardworking and passionate members are given the opportunity to connect with influential conveners and change makers.
This was the first such web-chat and IdEA will be hosting several similar events alongside the regional bureaus within the Department of State over the coming weeks. Next up will be the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs which covers all of South and Central America, the Caribbean and Canada. The more questions and comments that are submitted, the more engagement that is created, the more successful this project will be, and the more good that can be done. As Ambassador Yovanovitch said in the inaugural web-chat, diaspora engagement can help bring the U.S. and other countries “closer together for the benefit of all of us.” So readers, to borrow a phrase from Ambassador Mills, “communicate, communicate, communicate!” by tweeting #DiasporaVoices.