ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Wisconsin takes lead role in a Global Citizen Diplomacy

Wisconsin proudly takes the lead this month in establishing the states' role in global citizen diplomacy at a national summit on that topic, the first to be held since the Eisenhower administration. The summit's chair, Secretary of State Hillary ...

Wisconsin proudly takes the lead this month in establishing the states' role in global citizen diplomacy at a national summit on that topic, the first to be held since the Eisenhower administration. The summit's chair, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, leads a coalition of sixty-five national authorities on citizen diplomacy in support of more than 1100 NGOs working in this area.

Citizen diplomacy begins with the premise that individuals have the right, even the responsibility, to help shape and strengthen U.S. foreign relations. Our interpersonal relationships help shape U.S. foreign relations "one handshake at a time." But citizen diplomacy's potential benefits extend beyond creating a network of individual relationships that sustain goodwill when formal diplomacy suffers disruptions. We've seen it drive our growing export economy. We see it in education exchanges that yield new research and policy solutions.

States can no longer afford to be haphazard participants in global citizen diplomacy. As they take a more prominent place on the global stage, states will see economic opportunities increase. And they will see a more globally literate workforce develop and thrive in more culturally aware communities.

We've been at it a long time in Wisconsin. The state that boasts more Peace Corps returnees than any other state and a 45 year partnership with Nicaragua also has a high level of participation in exchanges K-12 and in higher education, significant international commerce and multiple productive relationships with other cities and states around the globe. But, like nearly every other state in the union, what we don't have is a systematic way to connect, elevate, and leverage citizen diplomacy to maximize its impact on national security and on our state's economy, and to generate higher levels of activity.

When I lead the roundtable on the role of the states for the U.S. Summit and Initiative on Global Citizen Diplomacy in November, the models for progress will be Wisconsin's. We're designing a framework to power up international partnership programs; connect what happens in one part of the state to schools and universities and organizations and state agencies everywhere else; activate new technologies to extend our reach; and turn a searchlight into a spotlight on the impressive ways our state connects to the world.

ADVERTISEMENT

We're working with UW System to develop an innovative interactive web portal for international planning and networking statewide. It will include a web-based map capable of displaying a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the state's global presence. UW World emerges from a template that will be made available to all states.

And we look to build on the success of the National Guard State Partnership Program, which matches states to partner countries as a strategy to support emerging democracies. We are working with the Departments of State and Defense, and USAID, to develop a framework to bridge interagency efforts with all fifty states through the revered National Guard. With that wider frame, we can expand the corps of citizen diplomats beyond citizen-soldiers to initiate and sustain commercial, civic and intellectual relationships in countries around the world. With that wider frame, we can achieve enhanced security goals and increased prosperity at the state and national levels, and underwrite fulfilling the aspirations of self-governed civil societies committed to sustainable peace.

Today the states share their pressing need to navigate an increasingly complex global economy and to take a prominent role in partnership with the federal government in national security objectives. I applaud the UW System and Wisconsin's National Guard for stepping forward to prepare the way for a new administration to develop the tools to mobilize Wisconsin's talent toward building a strong and resilient economy that supports the creation of new jobs.

Barbara Lawton is Wisconsin's outgoing lieutenant governor.

What To Read Next