I am in Washington this week for consultations. Each year I come back to HQ for a week or two to meet with colleagues at the State Department, officials in other agencies, Congressmen and staff on the Hill, think tank contacts, and NGO and business leaders working on issues relevant to projects at the Embassy. My short time in DC is always the most productive part of my year because of the efficient way in which face-to-face meetings can move projects forward, generate new ideas, obtain approvals, iron out priorities and schedules, and arrange funding.
This time is no different, and it has already been a busy week. First thing Monday morning I visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Virginia to talk about next year’s 70th anniversary of the arrival of American military forces in Aotearoa after Pearl Harbor. The Museum is a marvelous new facility with exhibits covering the founding of the Corps in 1775 through present-day missions. The Director and I discussed World War II artifacts from New Zealand, Tarawa, and Guadalcanal that the Embassy might be able to borrow next June if we can find an appropriate exhibition space.
In the two days since my arrival I have also met with my State colleagues in Secretary Clinton’s Office of Global Partnerships, the trade and strategy folks at the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, the Secretary’s Special Advisor for Innovation, our special Ambassador for Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and his deputies, and the team implementing the Presidential Memorandum on LGBT human rights, ending today with an evening call on Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell to talk about next year’s priorities in New Zealand and Samoa.
The visit to the TIP office was particularly instructive. Ambassador CDeBaca and I discussed at length the Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. Adopted by the United Nations in Palermo, Italy in the year 2000, the Protocol is a legal agreement that supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. New Zealand, the United States, and 115 other nations have ratified the Protocol and have thus agreed to be bound by its provisions.
The Protocol defines human trafficking as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”
Human trafficking is a worldwide scourge, even in highly developed societies, and numerous governments, corporations, and NGOs have launched projects to raise awareness and combat the problem. Notable examples include Stop the Traffik, MTV ACT, Save the Children, and CNN’s Freedom Project.
Created by act of Congress, the State Department’s TIP Office engages in a range of anti-trafficking activities including producing an annual TIP Report that slots countries, now including the United States, on three tiers based on how well they comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking.
Beyond the walls of the State Department, I met with friends at the Pentagon to discuss the 70th anniversary, South Pacific humanitarian missions, and a few other projects that we’re working on together. I also called on the American Association of Museums to talk about a couple of US/NZ museum exchanges that I hope to facilitate.
And, in a very 21st Century surprise, while purchasing my two daily Snapple Diet Peach Teas in a grocery store at Columbia Plaza — I wish I could find the stuff in New Zealand — I was approached by my Facebook friend Ray, whom I had never before met in person. He saw me across the aisle and came over to introduce himself and say hello.
In my two remaining days in DC I’m scheduled for another 18 meetings within State, at the White House, and on Capitol Hill. I am particularly looking forward to briefing the staff of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations regarding developments, priorities, and challenges in my two jurisdictions. Another highlight ahead is a visit to the National Museum of the American Indian, where I will tour that extraordinary institution and discuss potential projects with the Director. And of course I’ll pay my usual calls at the White House.
Friday morning I’ll head to Los Angeles for the Christmas weekend, followed by several days of commercial diplomacy in Southern California, including meetings with business groups interested in exporting to and/or investing in New Zealand and the South Pacific.
Because we’ve rented our Hollywood home while we’re stationed in Wellington, Dr McWaine and I will be crashing for a couple days with our great friends Vana and Kevin, and then with our Princeton mates (and the parents of our two oldest godsons) Keith and Rose.
I am always energized by being in DC, so I could keep on talking about the goings on here for another hour or two. But it’s getting late, and I should sign off. Tomorrow morning starts early, and the day is especially tightly packed.
If you happen to be in DC and see me on the street or at a Snapple case somewhere, please pull a Ray and say hello.