2010 TOP TEN

Thank you to readers who sent messages about the 2012 Top Ten list that I posted a couple months ago. I always welcome comments and other feedback, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your impressions of the year gone by. I was also pleasantly surprised that quite a few folks inquired why I did not do a Top Ten list in 2010. Lest anyone think I slighted my first full year in office, I note that I did write a year-end summary of sorts in December 2010.

I wouldn’t want you to think that I found 2010 lacking in any way. Quite the contrary. It was a dynamic, exciting, highly productive year … in many respects a necessary reboot that paved the way for the significant work done in 2011 and 2012. So, to correct my omission then, I share now a more structured list of the efforts in which the American Mission played a meaningful role that most significantly contributed to positive momentum in U.S. relations with New Zealand and Samoa in 2010:

10. Ambassador’s Blog

At the risk of appearing unduly self-focused, the tenth slot on this highlight list goes to my own blog, launched on March 14, 2010. The blog was the first and most visible sign of the Embassy’s vigorous new focus on social media and other forms of nontraditional diplomatic engagement. It was a risky, time-intensive experiment, but even in its first year it accomplished what we hoped it would, expanding and diversifying our audience.

Duane, Dora, Joe, Liz, and me.

The blog is about personal moments as well as policy. Here, with my spouse, mother-in-law, Vice President, and mother, just before being sworn in.

Perhaps most importantly, the blog demonstrated within the Embassy the depth of front-office commitment to new forms of communication, which made subsequent steps a bit easier. For purposes of this list, the blog represents the large amount of work undertaken in 2010 to create the broad, deep, vibrant cyber engagement programs that have now become fully integrated, organic parts of how the American Missions in New Zealand and Samoa operate.

9. Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases

The first Senior Officials’ Meeting of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) convened in Wellington in April 2010, with representatives from 29 nations. We arranged a large American delegation co-headed by Dr. Roger Beachy (the director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture) and me.

An idea first floated by New Zealand the prior year, the GRA was designed to develop science-based methods of producing substantially more food while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector. The Senior Officials’ Meeting was organized to organize the effort. We worked with the Government of New Zealand to insure a successful launch of the enterprise, with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack committing up to US $90 million in funding over four years.

8. Visit of Special Representative Farah Pandith

One of the Embassy’s core themes for the year was highlighting, embracing, and engaging diversity, Kiwi as well as American. A key part of our inclusive outreach program was bringing to New Zealand the State Department’s Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, for community meetings, school visits, and other events in Wellington, Hamilton, and Auckland.

Farah Pandith

Farah Pandith talking with students in Wellington.

Farah is a passionate and articulate interlocutor, and has extensive experience in foreign policy, including at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Security Council. She was generous to us with her time, and we put her through a packed schedule that helped pave the way for additional visits and important work in the two years thereafter.

7. Independence Day Receptions

To be frank, when I arrived I had no idea what a national day was supposed to look like in polite diplomatic circles. The couple of others I attended involved harp music and trade statistics, which seemed a bit odd. So, for my first Ambassadorial Fourth of July, we decided to throw a party celebrating the great diversity that has always defined, distinguished, and strengthened America, and that is increasingly defining New Zealand.

The Topp Twins making an impertinent guest appearance by video.

The Topp Twins making an impertinent Independence Day guest appearance.

Our guests were greeted with a rock-n-roll montage of American history and culture, tastings of a half dozen of Kentucky’s finest whiskey brands, performances by Pacific island students, prayers by clergy from a local mosque and Anglican parish, taped welcomes by Secretary Clinton and others, a comedy video by New Zealand’s favorite lesbian rabble-rousers (the Topp Twins), and a cheeky speech (by the Ambassador) devoid of trade statistics. Our 2010 Independence Day places on the Top Ten list because it demonstrated unequivocally that we weren’t your grandfather’s Embassy any longer.

6. Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation

The sixth spot on the list goes to one of the first major events that we facilitated after my arrival, a week-long series of meetings of the U.S.-New Zealand Joint Commission on Science and Technology Cooperation. Starting with working sessions around the country, the Commission proceedings concluded with a couple days of plenary sessions at Te Papa in Wellington.

Joint Commission on Sci. and Tech.

NZ Minister of Research, Science, and Technology Dr. Wayne Mapp addresses the Joint Commission.

The Commission had not convened since its inaugural gathering 20 years ago. As part of a renewed commitment to expanding the already substantial cross-border collaboration in matters of science, we brought a high-level delegation that included Dr. Arden Bement (Director of the National Science Foundation), Dr. Steven Koonin (Under-Secretary in the Department of Energy), Dr. Nina Fedoroff (Science & Technology Adviser in the Department of State), and a dozen other senior researchers and officials. Progress was made, and the Commission convened again last year, this time in Washington, DC.

5. Ambassador’s First Trip to Samoa

One of the great highlights of the year was my inaugural visit to Samoa to present my credentials to His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Efi. Yes, the trip was exciting and enjoyable, but it also provided the information and experience necessary to formulate the aggressive plan that we have been implementing in Embassy Apia since then. I sprinted through a packed schedule including a long discussion with the Head of State about Samoan history and culture, a visit to a primary school to talk with teachers and see a computer training room that we had outfitted …

In the computer lab we provided to Samoa Primary School in Apia.

In the computer lab that we outfitted for Samoa Primary School in Apia.

… a roundtable discussion with National University of Samoa students, a community event at the American Corner we created at Apia’s public library, dinner with our Peace Corps volunteers to learn about their work and experiences, discussions at the Samoa AIDS Foundation, an afternoon with the crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Walnut digging foundations for fales in a village hit hard by the prior year’s tsunami, meetings with village elders and clergy on Savai’i, and conversations with numerous Government officials, NGO leaders, and my Embassy Apia colleagues. It was time extremely well spent.

4. Connecting Young Leaders Conference

Among the most important efforts of 2010 was formation of student adviser groups at universities in New Zealand as part of our new youth engagement program. The work built toward an exciting conference in October of that year that brought my advisers from around the country together for policy discussions with opinion leaders and experts, leadership training, networking, and brainstorming, including special appearances by a couple of my Washington colleagues by video feed. An absolutely exhilarating experience, the two days validated the new program, generated incredible enthusiasm and energy, and produced feedback that we used to revise and refine our approach.

Dr McWaine and me with some of my student Advisors at my Residence after the Connecting Young Leaders Conference.

With Dr. McWaine and a few of my student advisers at the Residence after the closing dinner of the Connecting Young Leaders Conference.

As I stated at the time, “[T]he goal of the conference was to bring a few dozen special people together, apply a little stimulation, let them talk among themselves, and then see what happens. What happened during the weekend was, not surprisingly, great. Now let’s see what happens in the future as these newly interconnected young leaders move forward…” Part of what happened is that we’ve expanded our adviser groups, updated all of our Embassy and Consulate General invitation lists to include Kiwis under age 30, held a second successful Connecting Young Leaders Conference, and created a full-time staff position dedicated to university engagement.

3. Ambassador’s Trip to Antarctica

That my first trip to Antarctica only places third on this list is a sign of just how incredibly productive and exciting 2010 was. From a personal standpoint, the experience remains one of the absolute highlights of my life thus far. With respect to work, the expedition contributed greatly to our reorientation of Embassy efforts around science-related projects, a commitment that has continued to grow since then. The trip energized our social media platforms with compelling reports and stunning photos, and helped us build closer relationships with the U.S. Antarctic Program and the National Science Foundation.

Deplaning at the South Pole.

Deplaning at the South Pole.

There is really no way to capture in a paragraph the adventure, magic, and value of the week I spent at McMurdo Station, Scott Base, the South Pole, and places in between. The best I can do is to refer you back to the series of reports I posted from Antarctica, drafted and uploaded late each night after getting back to the hut from the day’s adventures. You can locate the posts in my blog archive, from the last week of November and the first week of December 2010. The series remains by far my personal favorite blogging effort, and I still get reader comments about the penguins (of course).

2. Wellington Declaration

In the #2 spot on the 2010 Top 10 list was the signing of the Wellington Declaration by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Murray McCully during the Secretary’s landmark visit to the capital. Short and simple in form but powerful in impact, the Declaration reaffirmed our two nations’ historical ties, committed us to a renewed strategic partnership, and identified two priority areas of joint focus — practical cooperation in the Pacific region, and regularized, enhanced political, security, and subject-matter expert dialogues.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Prime Minister John Key, Foreign Minister McCully at the signing of the " Wellington Declaration" .

The signing of the Wellington Declaration at Parliament.

The document wisely emphasizes what unites us:  “New Zealand and the United States are both Pacific nations. Our Governments and Peoples share a deep and abiding interest in maintaining peace, prosperity, and stability in the region, expanding the benefits of freer and more open trade, and promoting and protecting freedom, democracy, and human rights worldwide. We recall the long history of shared United States and New Zealand sacrifice in battle, and we honor those, past and present, who have borne that sacrifice… Our goal is a partnership for the 21st Century that is flexible, dynamic, and reflects our fundamental beliefs and aspirations.” Sounds right.

1. Secretary Clinton’s Visit to Wellington and Christchurch

Of course, the signing of the Wellington Declaration was part of a larger event that clearly ranks as the most important Embassy effort of 2010 by far, the transformative three-day visit of Secretary of State Clinton to Wellington and Christchurch which in certain ways rebooted the bilateral relationship and focused it forward rather than backward.

In Wellington, she enjoyed her first-ever pōwhiri, met with numerous civil society and business leaders, engaged with my student advisers, laid a wreath at the National War Memorial, went for a supposedly incognito jog around the harbor that ended up stopping traffic, met the press, and held strategic discussions with senior officials including Prime Minister Key, Foreign Minister McCully, and Defence Minister Dr. Mapp.

With the Secretary during the Pōwhiri in the Parliament forecourt.

With the Secretary during the Pōwhiri in the Parliament forecourt.

In Christchurch, the Secretary met with Kiwi and American Antarctic scientists, held a reception for American businesses active in New Zealand, did TV interviews, engaged with more than 500 Kiwis in a public town hall discussion (with in excess of 3,000 other citizens participating via a live stream on the internet), met with Mayor Bob Parker and Minister Gerry Brownlee, and slipped away for a run through Hagley Park.

In a sign of her commitment to the relationship, the Secretary spent 3 days here during an otherwise hectic 13-day, 12-stop trip covering several nations and more than 31,000 air miles. She reframed discourse, injected a hyper-dose of adrenaline into the Embassy’s activities, validated our restructuring and reorientation, and generated momentum that still helps propel us forward today, two and a half years later. And, of course, she and just about everyone she met here enjoyed the experience. She still talks fondly about the visit.

* * *

Well, for those of you who inquired, that was 2010. It was a highly productive year that laid the foundation for the important work that has followed. It was also, frankly, a very difficult year as our teams in Wellington, Auckland, and Apia oriented to new priorities, launched extensive new programs (without new resources), and adjusted to higher expectations and new ways of doing business.

It was all well worth the effort. You’ve already seen what was accomplished in 2011 and 2012 as a result of the investments made in 2010. Stay tuned for what promises to be a great 2013.

The Global Partnership Initiative.One of the most interesting efforts I’ve encountered as Ambassador is the Global Partnership Initiative, launched by former Secretary Clinton in 2009 as part of the Department’s commitment to deploying new tools and approaches of 21st Century Statecraft.

The Global Partnership Initiative (GPI) promotes the creation of strategic collaborations among business enterprises, civil society NGOs, and public institutions to solve problems, maximize the impact of development aid, and stimulate innovation in diplomatic engagement through collective action. It creates a platform to include new participants in development and diplomacy activity in highly impactful ways.

Serving as convener, catalyst, and collaborator, the GPI has thus far worked with more than 1,000 partners and bundled approximately US$ 650 million from private and public sources to tackle chronic problems and address challenges that often get overlooked in traditional diplomatic practice. To give you a flavor of the nature of the effort, I summarize below the GPI’s four flagship initiatives and several of its other projects.

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves

Nearly half of the people in the world rely on open fires and stoves that emit toxic gases to cook their meals each day, resulting in (by some estimates) up to four million deaths annually. Launched in 2010, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves seeks to address this preventable health risk by creating a cost-effective, clean cookstove market. The Alliance’s interim goal is to help 100 million homes adopt clean cooking solutions by 2020.

Martha Stewart features the Global Alliance’s work and a couple of new clean cookstove models on her TV show. Click through for image source.

Martha Stewart features the Global Alliance’s work and a couple of new clean cookstove models on her TV show.

In 2012, the Alliance reached several key milestones including doubling its size to more than 500 partners in 38 countries; publishing a groundbreaking strategy for universal adoption of clean cookstoves and fuels; establishing the first-ever set of international cookstove standards; commissioning several cookstove research and testing centers; and catalyzing more than US$ 150 million in investments for clean cooking research.

That’s an extraordinarily powerful set of steps forward on a serious problem that you probably didn’t know existed. To learn more about the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, including how you can become involved, check out cleancookstoves.org.

Partners For A New Beginning

Launched in April 2010 and chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Partners for a New Beginning (PNB) provides a coordinating platform to address youth unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa, which are the highest in the world. The program seeks to create partnerships that will produce 20,000 new jobs initially, job training for 40,000 young people, and an ongoing focus on sustainable job creation.

Click through for image source. Partners for a New Beginning Special Representative Balderston in Jerusalem with PNB Palestine Chair Zahi Khouri and Joshua Walker

Special Representative for Global Partnerships Chris Balderston in Jerusalem with PNB Palestine Chair Zahi Khouri and colleague Joshua Walker.

To date, PNB chapters have been launched in Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Jordan, Mauritania, and the Palestinian Territories. Each local chapter identifies country-specific priorities, develops projects that address employment gaps, and works with local and American partners on implementation. PNB and its partners — including Cisco, Coca-Cola, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the International Youth Foundation, Mastercard Foundation, Souktel, and IBM — have launched more than 120 new projects since September 2010. The Aspen Institute serves as the PNB Secretariat. To learn more about the program and how you might be able to get involved, click here.

International Diaspora Engagement Alliance

“Diaspora,” the Greek word meaning “to scatter,” is used in English  to refer to a community of people who live outside their shared country of origin or ancestry but maintain some sort of link to it. In many respects diaspora is a very American concept because the U.S. is home to more immigrants (including my grandparents) than any other nation, and those immigrants send billions of dollars in remittances each year to their families overseas (as my grandparents did). This America-based, global diaspora community holds great potential to connect the U.S. and the rest of the world in a transformative fashion, as well as to influence the direction of development and diplomacy.

Launched at an inaugural Global Diaspora Forum in May 2011, our International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) is structured as a non-partisan, non-profit organization managed via a public-private partnership between the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Migration Policy Institute. More than 1,500 diaspora communities groups, businesses, and public institutions have already convened on IdEA collaborations including investment, capacity-building, enterprise mentoring, and volunteer projects overseas driven by diaspora communities in the U.S.


IdEA has also sponsored four competitions to spur entrepreneurship and business development in target regions. The Caribbean IdEA Marketplace, African Diaspora Marketplace, and Latin American Idea Partnership (La Idea) have all effectively leveraged the strength and expertise of diaspora communities to stimulate economic activity. I was pleased to join Secretary Clinton in the Cook Islands during the Pacific Islands Forum in July 2012 to launch the fourth competition – the Pacific Islands Diaspora Marketplace.

Our intention is to continue to catalyze innovation, engagement, and impactful giving by diaspora communities through an annual Global Diaspora Forum. The 3rd Forum is scheduled for May 14-15, 2013 and will expand to multiple cities instead of just Washington, DC. This year’s focus will include developing a diaspora volunteer corps and creating a more structured platform for diaspora philanthropy.

Accelerating Market-Driven Partnerships

The fourth and newest anchor program of the GPI is called Accelerating Market-Driven Partnerships, or AMP. Announced last April during the Secretary’s Global Impact Economy Forum, AMP is intended to bring together a coalition of government, business, and non-profit entities to develop, seed, and scale innovations that generate revenue opportunities while also strengthening communities and protecting the environment.

Matthew Bishop, New York Bureau Chief for The Economist talks with  Sir Richard Branson during the Secretary's Global Impact Economy Forum. State Department image.

Matthew Bishop (New York Bureau Chief for The Economist) talks with Sir Richard Branson during a prior Secretary’s Global Impact Economy Forum.

The first AMP pilot project is in Brazil, where recent economic growth lifted more than 30 million Brazilians out of poverty but created significant environmental and social challenges. AMP is working to facilitate strategic relationships between the government and potential corporate partners to address those challenges through development of new business models that will attract private enterprise. For example, AMP is working to bring to market new solutions in waste recycling, e-waste, and bio-degradable packaging — a multi-billion dollar potential market opportunity that creates jobs, relieves pressure on the government, and benefits the environment.

Other Projects

In addition to the four large flagship programs described above, the Global Partnership Initiative is working to facilitate a number of other collaborative, enterprise-based, cross-border projects. I will just mention a few of those by way of example.

Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA). In 2012, the State Department launched the LIONS@FRICA partnership at the World Economic Forum on Africa. Linking key public and private sector partners, the effort is intended to strengthen Africa’s startup and innovation ecosystem, promote and facilitate new investments in Africa’s technology entrepreneurs, and foster innovative business models.

Click through for image source.Five African start-up enterprises are applauded after receiving Lions@frica awards after two days of pitches by dozens of entrants at the DEMO Africa conference. The five winners will be flown to Silicon Valley for mentorship sessions and introductions to potential investors.

Five African start-up enterprises receive Lions@frica awards after pitches by dozens of entrants at the DEMO Africa conference. The winners will be flown to Silicon Valley for mentorship sessions and introductions to potential investors.

Mekong Technology Innovation Generation and Entrepreneurship Resources (TIGERS@Mekong). This month (February 2013), GPI is launching TIGERS@Mekong, a new public-private platform designed to boost competitiveness and stimulate growth in target Mekong Delta economies by training and supporting young innovators and entrepreneurs.

The Global Equality Fund. Last year GPI launched a new partnership with the mGive Foundation to promote the State Department’s Global Equality Fund by means of a mobile giving campaign. The Global Equality Fund provides support for civil society groups around the world that are working to protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

I have occasionally quarreled with diplomacy traditionalists who don’t see the foreign affairs point of any of the above activity. I think that a Metternichian focus is far too narrow and self-defeating in our modern era. Diplomacy has always been about building relationships, finding commonalities, and creating productive networks and partnerships. When practiced wisely, diplomacy uplifts, empowers, and stabilizes. It defuses potential conflict and avoids potential upheaval.

That’s what the Global Partnership Initiative is intended to do. It is impactful, strategic diplomacy at its finest, an inclusive idealism firmly rooted in pragmatic, results-oriented realism. And it saves, enriches, and enhances the lives of millions of people around the world, which elevates all of us. Sounds right to me.

Just before 4:00 p.m. today, Friday, February 1st, Senator John Kerry was sworn in as America’s 68th Secretary of State. The oath was administered by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan in the hearing room of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which the Senator had chaired.

Click through for image source. John Kerry takes his oath of office on a bible held by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

John Kerry takes his oath of office on a bible held by his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Secretary Kerry was born in Aurora, Colorado and educated at Yale University. He served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, was decorated several times, and became a prominent anti-war activist upon his return from Vietnam. After graduating from Boston College Law School, he worked as a prosecutor in the Boston area, and then in his own private law practice. He was elected Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts in 1982 and as one of that State’s U.S. Senators in 1984, a position he has held for the past 28 years. In 2004 he was the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Secretary Kerry joins a long line of chief American diplomats marked from the iconic Thomas Jefferson, who served as the United States’ first Secretary of State years before becoming President. (John Jay, America’s first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, served as Acting Secretary for several months before Jefferson was sworn.) The esteemed roster of Secretaries of State also includes several other future Presidents including James Madison and James Monroe … legendary orators such as Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and William Jennings Bryant … five Nobel Peace Prize laureates including Cordell Hull …

Click through for image source. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Secretary of State John Kerry.

… grand strategists such as George Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, Henry Kissinger, and James Baker … the first female Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright … the first African American Secretary of State, Colin Powell … and of course former First Lady and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Our new Secretary is no stranger to diplomacy. His father was a Foreign Service Officer and held posts abroad. He himself served for years as chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. (I was honored by his presence at my own confirmation hearing 4 years ago, in the room in which he was sworn into office today.)

As Secretary Clinton stated as she left the Department, “John Kerry brings judgment, experience, vision, and a deep understanding of what diplomacy and development require. He’ll be an excellent Secretary of State.”

Secretary Kerry is well-known for his commitment to environmental protection, education, free trade, and expansive international engagement. He worked on acid rain issues as Lieutenant Governor early in his career, and he is committed to addressing the grave risks posed by climate change. He has a firmly held, nuanced vision of America’s place in the world developed over a lifetime of service at home and abroad.

As he left the Capitol after being sworn, the Secretary told the assembled media that he was honored to have been nominated and confirmed, and that he is anxious to get to work. Welcome to Foggy Bottom, Secretary Kerry.

A special highlight of my time as Ambassador has been getting to know and working with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. A tenacious advocate of innovation and inclusion, she has remolded the Department and refocused American policy in powerful ways that harrumphing old-boy insiders in smoke-filled clubrooms may never fully appreciate.

Secretary Clinton.

I have been particularly impressed with — and grateful for — her tireless efforts to advance the cause of equality for women and minorities around the world, what she refers to as the “unfinished business of the 21st century.” In her powerful last public speech as Secretary of State, delivered to a distinguished audience at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, she forcefully restated that point:

“The jury is in. The evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue. Which of course it is. It’s an economic issue and a security issue … It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy.”

She also forcefully and candidly emphasized the importance of maintaining a muscular foreign policy in a “dangerous and complicated world,” of being strategic about all levers of global power, and of embracing creative diplomacy and smart power. The speech was a tour de force review of her four years in Foggy Bottom and her vision for America’s diplomatic future. You can watch for yourself below, or read the full transcript here.


Tomorrow will be the Secretary’s last day on the job. At 2:30 p.m. Friday (8:30 a.m. Saturday, New Zealand time), she will take the elevator down from the 7th Floor, address State Department officers and employees in the C Street Lobby, and then leave the building for a final time. Her goodbye remarks will be live streamed on the State Department’s YouTube Channel.

It has been a great privilege to work with Secretary Clinton and to host her landmark visits to New Zealand and the Cook Islands. I have been a more positively impactful Ambassador because of the vision she articulated, the new tools she deployed, the tangible commitment she demonstrated to our Pacific region, and the experiments that she encouraged.

On a personal note, I am deeply grateful for the warm, natural, and inclusive way in which she embraced my spouse and the same-gender spouses of thousands of other LGBT colleagues in the Department. At a time when overt, state-sanctioned discrimination at home and abroad still inflicts very real damage on same-gender couples trying to serve their country, she offered tangible as well as moral support and a refreshing, encouraging glimpse of a better future.

Secretary Clinton, thank you for your service to the United States and the world. Bon voyage.