Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
Sao Paulo, Brazil
August 24, 2012

Good morning to representatives from the office of Mayor Kassab, State Representative Leici Brandao, Director of FIFA World Cup Committee for Sao Paulo, members of Feira Preta and Kultura Afro.

I am delighted to be with you today. I have to say that if it weren't for the talent and persistence of a young lady named Adriana Barbosa, we might not have had the unique opportunity to engage in dialogue about the importance of the upcoming World Cup and Olympic Games as unique opportunities to generate jobs, build business partnerships, and strengthen all sectors of society well beyond the moment of the games themselves.

As the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, I lead the Department's efforts to collaborate with state and local leaders and their counterparts abroad to meet U.S. foreign policy goals and to foster economic, cultural, and educational relationships.

Over the last few years, trade delegations of U.S. and Brazilian governors, mayors, and local leaders have increased significantly. In addition to their trade and investment collaborations, subnational leaders have engaged in technical exchanges and shared best practices in order to address mutual challenges and take advantage of shared opportunities.

In order to build upon and strengthen the efforts of these officials, the Department of State, through my office, the U.S. Mission in Brasilia, and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, is collaborating with states, municipalities, and other local governments to increase and deepen economic, cultural, innovation, and educational ties with Brazil.

Both President Rousseff and President Obama highlight the importance of strengthening and deepening cooperation between our respective subnational entities, and encouraging peer-to-peer exchanges between subnational officials.

Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Patriota have affirmed our resolve at the federal level to further enable subnational governments to bolster trade and investment, share ideas and best practices, and advance local priorities, while contributing to the joint social inclusion efforts of Brazil and the United States.

And because these relationships are of such a high priority, I have traveled three times to Brazil and visited 11 of the host cities and states since January of this year. My travels provided an excellent opportunity to support collaboration between local officials in Brazil and the United States, particularly as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games approach.

As host of past Olympic Games and other major global sporting events, U.S. state and local governments have played a vital role in the establishment of inclusive economic opportunity practices. I cannot emphasize enough how highly the Department of State values their expertise.

We at the State Department truly encourage their continued collaboration with Brazilian host cities and states, such as Sao Paulo, as we work to advance our collective objectives to promote entrepreneurship and gainful employment opportunities for Afro-descendants, indigenous people, and women in Brazil. And we encourage partnerships that connect a diverse cross-section of our private sector to this effort so that they can tap into and contribute to the business opportunities of a socially inclusive World Cup and Olympic Games.

Secretary Clinton stated recently during the Summit of the Americas, that “We all share the goals of expanding social inclusion and economic opportunity; of ensuring the safety of our citizens...while preserving and strengthening our heritage of pluralism, tolerance and diversity in a century in which these attributes will become ever greater global advantages."

Diversity of race, color, ethnicity and gender in the work place throughout all levels of leadership makes good business sense. To effectively compete in global markets our societies have to employ the strongest tools we have at our disposal: multi-ethnic, pluri-cultural democracies and a talented workforce. We have to meet market demands with capable human resources- men and women of all backgrounds trained and ready to face the challenges of the day.

Art and culture is no exception. In the United States we have created major industries out of an appreciation for jazz and hip hop music, food, beverages, and sports. Black entertainment, film, and television have been a great success. The art and culture of our nation is both a treasure and a commodity, one worth investing in and a sector which generates jobs at all levels from production and management to promotion and merchandising.

These opportunities have generated wealth and given youth the skills to have long-lasting career options. Big events generate rich streams of revenue for a city or state, but they can also be an opportunity to change the status quo and move beyond the inequalities that currently exist, opening doors for historically marginalized communities.

We just arrived from Brasilia where we took part in a bilateral meeting this week between the United States and Brazil to advance the Joint Action Plan to Promote Racial and Ethnic Equality. This agreement, signed in 2008, covers a number of key areas, including access to education, environmental justice, health disparities and access to justice.

Achieving the goals of the Joint Action Plan is a key priority in the U.S.-Brazil relationship. As such, the United States and Brazil have highlighted the Joint Action Plan in subsequent bilateral agreements and presidential statements. In the 2011 U.S.-Brazil MOU to Support the Organization of Major Global Sporting Events and the 2012 MOU to Support State and Local Cooperation, we specifically called for collaboration at all levels of government to contribute to the progress of the Joint Action Plan.

So to further this effort, I helped usher in a new working group focused on economic opportunities and Black Entrepreneurship in preparation for the World Cup and Olympic Games. Through the Joint Action Plan we have provided technical assistance and shared best experiences with our U.S. interagency partners, such as the Minority Business Development Agency of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor, as well as with our intergovernmental partners at the municipal, county, and state levels.

I cannot say that our way of doing things in the United States is perfect. We have a long way to go. But we have learned quite a bit in the last 50 years about what efforts need to be in place to ensure equal access to opportunity. The 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta awarded almost a third of its 387 million dollars in construction and vending contracts to companies owned primarily by U.S. women and ethnic minorities. At that time, such numbers were unheard of in the private sector. City leadership, however, embraced a commitment to minority participation as a reflection of the political importance of this issue.

Atlanta was a pioneer of sorts over 35 years ago when it began encouraging joint ventures between white-owned firms and ethnic minority and women-owned companies. The city used a 36 percent goal as a benchmark for these partnerships, although there was no formal quota system involved. But there was a deliberate effort made to build partnerships with companies owned by women, African Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who oversaw the Olympic Committee's equal economic opportunity program, ensured that these efforts would leave a lasting legacy of multi-racial business relationships in the city of Atlanta.

In 2011, we had the opportunity to co-organize a seminar with the Government of Brazil and the Rio and Bahia State governments under the JAPER program and to invite Ms. Franklin to engage with civil society, private sector, and federal and local governments on lessons learned from the Atlanta experience in the promotion of economic opportunity for all.

The games grew small minority-owned business into medium-sized enterprises by providing access to contracts for services, infrastructure, and vending. The process built capacity and created a lot of jobs.

This year, on May 24th Fulton County, Georgia and the State of Bahia, Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to promote local cooperation.

In the spirit of the U.S.-Brazil MOU to Support State and Local Cooperation signed during President Dilma Rousseff's visit to the United States in April 2012, I traveled to Atlanta to participate in the signing ceremony. I had the pleasure of joining Fulton County Chairman John Eaves and Bahia Governor Jacques Wagner, along with former Atlanta Mayors Shirley Franklin and Sam Massell, at the ceremony at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta.

The Fulton County, GA-Bahia MOU was conceived during Fulton County's participation in the United States-Brazil Joint Action Plan to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and Promote Equality meetings. The MOU recognizes and enhances this existing relationship, formalizing efforts made by Fulton County and the State of Bahia to access economic opportunity, promote social inclusion, international education exchange programs, and share experiences from the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.

At the Department of State we are committed to ongoing engagement with local Brazilian officials to discuss joint efforts to foster economic prosperity through access to education and increased trade and investment and support for social inclusion. These collaborations at the local level strengthen our overall bilateral relationship with Brazil.

We know that can achieve more together than we can on our own. So, we are not only committed but also proud to stand with our friends here in Brazil to address and surmount the challenges of the 21st century.

I am confident that our partnerships will continue to generate transformative strategies and innovative practices. I am confident because our efforts are rooted in the collective understanding that if we are to create a healthy, sustainable economic ecosystem, we must ensure that all citizens of all colors and races, at every level of society, male and female, have access to opportunities and prosperity.

Thank you.