The State Department’s Special Representative For Global Intergovernmental Affairs (S/SRGIA) hosted a policy briefing for the National Conference of Black Mayors. The host of the day-long conference, Reta Jo Lewis, Special Representative, presided over the meeting. After welcoming the attendees, she explained her office’s mission to build relationships between state and local officials in the United States and their counterparts around the world in an effort to benefit U.S. objectives.
S/SRGIA is a new office that seeks for the first time to assist state and local leaders with their international needs. In addition to mayors, the office’s outreach includes governors, city and county officials, and state and local organizations in the United States, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Yesterday’s Smart Partnership Dialogue with black mayors was part S/SRGIA’s Global Engagement Series which seeks to further the Department’s foreign policy objectives and to exchange ideas and best practices.
Over 30 black mayors were in attendance. Some were from midsized cities such as St. Louis and others were from rural communities in the South. Mayor Robert L. Bowser, President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, shared the organization’s appreciation for the event.
His Excellency, Dr. Adebowale Adefuye, Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S., spoke early in the day. He shared his intention to work with local governments in an effort to establish more opportunities to do business in Nigeria, but also to strengthen local communities’ relationships with Nigerian Americans.
Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was lauded by the group for his many years of international service. Ambassador Carson has over 37 years with the Foreign Service. He has had ambassadorships in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Uganda. Prior to his current position, he was the National Intelligence Officer for Africa at the NIC.
Ambassador Carson laid out his offices five core objectives:
- Strengthen democracy and good government principles
- Promote economic development
- Help prevent and mitigate conflicts across the continent of Africa
- Fight HIV and AIDS
- Work with African countries to fight global challenges, such as, global warming
Other speakers for the day included, Ambassador Demetrios Marantis, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative, Jim Doumas, Executive Vice President and Interim CEO, Sister Cities International, and Neal Denton, Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships for the American Red Cross. State Department senior officials working with Colombia, Africa, and the Caribbean also addressed the mayoral delegation.