Reta Jo Lewis
Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs
New Orleans, LA
May 2, 2013

Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction.

Governors, mayors, ministers, ambassadors, and other esteemed guests representing cities and countries around the world, it is a sincere privilege to be here with all of you. We are grateful that Ambassador Sergey Kislyak of the Russian Federation, with whom I have had the privilege to work, and the Ambassadors of Canada and Bangladesh have joined us today.

I would like to thank Mayor Landrieu and the City of New Orleans and the U.S. Conference of Mayors for hosting this dynamic program dedicated to driving the creation of vibrant cities. I am delighted to bring greetings from Secretary of State John F. Kerry to each of you as you gather to explore new ways to harness the power of culture as a force for economic and social change. What better city than New Orleans to host this event. Over the years, the people of New Orleans have demonstrated the resilience of the American spirit. We have witnessed New Orleans City leaders work tirelessly to build a stronger and more secure community.

During your time in New Orleans, you will have the chance to experience all that Louisiana has to offer – its art, music, cuisine, history, and more. I expect you will build new partnerships, meet like-minded leaders, and find new ways to cultivate the unique culture of your own city. And, hopefully, you will leave New Orleans with a deeper understanding of our shared history and the ties that bind our cities together.

As the Special Representative for Global Intergovernmental Affairs, I lead the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to collaborate with state and local leaders and their counterparts abroad to foster economic, cultural, and educational relationships. My office is charged with building strategic peer-to-peer relationships with U.S. state and local officials and their foreign counterparts around the world.

In this context, pragmatic global partnerships between mayors from cities around the world that focus on solutions are essential to solving global challenges, such as climate change, human trafficking, poverty, food security, governance, and transnational crime.

U.S. foreign policy traditionally will be focused on nation-to-nation relationships. But the scope of what defines nation-to-nation conversations are shifting in the modern, more global, and more flattened world – rendering city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues just as critical to the larger context of executing, implementing, and achieving a nation’s overarching diplomatic goals.

We understand that building peer-to-peer relationships between state and local elected officials has a direct effect on foreign policy that often goes unrecognized. Building these relationships and encouraging these engagements at the subnational level has the potential to be a force multiplier, expanding the reach and effectiveness of soft power.

Peer-to-peer relationships provide state and local leaders around the globe with an intimate glance into the American way of life, and, more importantly, into our democratic institutions and system of governance. Even at a more basic but equally important level, these interactions develop trust – an attribute essential to developing strong bilateral ties.

Confronting some of the most difficult global challenges will require innovative approaches to complex problems. Subnational engagement promotes the interchange of ideas and the adoption of best practices across different spheres. These peer-to-peer relationships between local leaders are critical if we are going to address difficult issues like climate change and urbanization.

One of the most serious challenges that we face today is the economy. When I started this job three and a half years ago, I reached out to local leaders in the United States who were engaging internationally, and asked them how the U.S. Department of State could assist them. The number one answer was to promote economic growth within their communities. Mayors and governors lead foreign trade missions because it is in their interest to do so. It is in the interest of our national economy to help local officials succeed in promoting their city or state, and ultimately making connections that lead to trade flows and economic growth which benefit all of us.

We have come to know that subnational engagement utilizes our state and local leaders as an extraordinary source of innovation, talent, resources, and knowledge. After all, it is the state and cities that are the engines of growth at the ground level where the transition from policy to practice becomes most visible.

Twenty-first century global challenges require us to work with new partners to collaborate and innovate globally to address common challenges. This is a core principal of subnational engagement, a strategy for creating partnerships for achieving modern diplomatic goals by including and engaging all the elements of our national power and leveraging all forms of our strength.

When former Secretary of State Clinton created the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs in 2010, she emphasized the need to utilize local leaders as a key component in the much needed, widespread, and deep-rooted efforts to take on our world’s greatest challenges. A key part of that charge is empowering subnational officials to lead their states and cities to a stable and secure future.

My job is to connect what the Federal Government does best with what state and local governments are doing and can do globally.

To that end, the Office of Global Intergovernmental Affairs, in conjunction with U.S. Embassies and bureaus, has led the negotiations and secured collaboration frameworks confirming commitments to prioritize subnational engagement with: Brazil (U.S.-Brazil Memorandum of Understanding to Support State and Local Cooperation), China (Memorandum of Understanding Supporting U.S.-China Subnational Cooperation), India (U.S.-India Conversation Between Cities), and Russia (Joint Statement on Strengthening U.S.-Russian Interregional Cooperation). In addition, we work closely with the U.S.-Nigeria Binational Commission.

The establishment of these four historic agreements provides opportunities for state and local leaders to increase exports, foreign direct investment, tourism, and other economic activity to support job creation and global competitiveness. Additionally, these cooperative frameworks allow subnational leaders to form innovative partnerships for education and sustainability. Advancing global collaboration at the local level is a catalyst for positive economic impact in cities across the nation.

We also have facilitated opportunities for state and local participation in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum events in Kansas City, MO in 2010, and Cincinnati, OH in 2012. The AGOA events were attended by African ministers of trade, infrastructure, and energy, as well as African business leaders and entrepreneurs.

I am also in New Orleans this week to advance U.S.-Brazil subnational cooperation. My office and the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security are co-hosting a two-day Symposium on Security for Major Sporting Events. We convened security officials from the Brazilian states which will host the 2014 World Cup games and officials from eight U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies responsible for the organization and support of Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans to share best practices on the coordination of the largest annual sporting event in the United States. The recent tragedy in Boston reminds us of the importance of effective collaboration with local officials on the security of major events. The experience underscored the importance of heightened U.S.-Brazil cooperation on security.

Over the past three and a half years, I have worked closely with U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas A. Shannon Jr., Mission Brazil and the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs to expand relationships between U.S. mayors and governors and their counterparts in Brazil to encourage collaboration in areas of mutual interest, such as education, cultural and technical exchange, economic growth, sustainable development, democracy, social inclusion, and preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In April 2012, the United States and Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Support State and Local Cooperation. This agreement affirms our mutual resolve to strengthen and expand cooperation and encourage peer-to-peer exchanges between subnational officials and local populations. These exchanges further enable local governments to bolster trade and investment, share ideas and best practices, and advance local priorities, while contributing to mutual understanding between our two countries.

In support of this agreement, I have traveled to Brazil and visited almost all of the host cities and states of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. My travels and direct contact with federal and local leaders have provided an excellent opportunity to bolster collaboration between local officials in Brazil and the United States. In addition, U.S.-Brazil cooperative efforts have focused on building economic opportunities for the U.S. private sector through Brazil’s unique position as host of these events.

At the request of Brazil’s Ministry of Sports, I traveled to Sao Paulo and Brasilia in November of last year with a dynamic delegation of sports and entertainment business leaders. The delegation’s collective and diverse experience enabled discussion on a variety of themes within the context of the mega-sporting events, including business opportunities, the creation of a positive legacy, the importance of community involvement, and racial and social inclusion. It also demonstrated the many possibilities for public and private sector engagement with the United States.

I returned to Brazil in March with a delegation of U.S. Government, private sector, and business leaders to further these discussions. We met with key interlocutors who are working actively to expand opportunities for partnerships between U.S. and Brazil state and local officials and the private sectors. Key meetings included discussions with: the Ministry of Foreign Relations; Agnelo Queiroz, Governor, Federal District of Brazil; the Minister of Justice, Special Secretariat for Security for Major Sporting Events; the Minister of Sports; and the leadership of the National Council of State Administration.

These meetings were a great opportunity to talk about the continued U.S. commitment to assisting Brazil in a wide range of areas which included the Brazilians’ interest in collaboration on security; youth development and training; women in sports; social and racial inclusion; accessibility; English language training; and cultural exchanges.

With approximately 400 days until the start of the World Cup, we are moving rapidly on several fronts to promote U.S.-Brazil cooperation to support the organization of mega-sporting events.

I will leave you today with a quote from John Kerry’s first foreign policy address as Secretary of State at the University of Virginia on February 20, 2013: “In today’s global world, there is no longer anything foreign about foreign policy.”

Secretary Kerry believes that the everyday lives of the American people are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of citizens in countries throughout the world. No one nation can stand alone.

In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, and environmental security, we will feel our success or failure just as strongly as people in cities throughout the world who we will never meet.

We must understand and utilize the positive connection between culture, people, the economy, and diplomacy worldwide.

I thank you for your time today. I hope you take full advantage of this wonderful program and come away with a deeper understanding of the American people – and with enduring friendships that will strengthen the ties of our cities.

[This is a mobile copy of World Cultural Economic Forum]

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