10 Fascinating Facts About the State Department

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SEATTLE — This lineup of interesting facts about the State Department addresses themes about women’s empowerment, commitments to a sustainable economy, the importance of human rights and the digital divide. Here are 10 fascinating facts about the State Department and its efforts to help address global poverty and development.

The 10 Fascinating Facts About the State Department

  1. Wildlife trafficking is an issue in countries such as Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The State Department’s work to combat wildlife trafficking in these countries is a demonstration of interagency collaboration. In some cases, people commit wildlife crime because they are poor while others are motivated by greed. Involving the rural poor in development and conservation projects is an important next step in the initiative’s advocacy. In Laos, 26 law enforcement officers from Champasak Province learned about wildlife crime ultimately leading to the arrest of 23 suspected individuals for wildlife trafficking activities. Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand also implemented similar training programs.
  2. Women’s empowerment is a key part of the State Department’s mission. An initiative of the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is TechWomen, which seeks to empower women in STEM fields by exposing them to role models and a network of professionals. Safaa Boubia, a member of the 2018 cohort from Morocco, gave a TEDx-style address at an event called Womenpreneur, offering attendees advice for their career journeys. Talks like Boubia’s afford women the mentorship to bring about change in their communities.
  3. The State Departement is set to loosen restrictions on U.S. humanitarian aid to North Korea as the country lifted travel restrictions, allowing for easier access for supplies to reach North Korea. According to U.N. estimates, one in five North Korean children is malnourished. Part of the humanitarian aid that will now reach North Korea will help combat infectious diseases like cholera and drug-resistant tuberculosis. Poor health and poverty have their own cycle in which the poor cannot pay for proper access to healthcare and the ill cannot function effectively to maintain their livelihood.
  4. The Global Connect Initiative (GCI) aims to connect people all over the world by working towards bringing 1.5 billion people online by 2020. The State Department asserts that Internet connectivity is just as vital to economic development as other forms of infrastructure. Over 40 countries have endorsed the principles of Global Connect, which has been in existence since 2015. A result of GCI is the financing of $171 million to the Indian Internet service provider, Tikona Digital Networks. Tikona’s financing supports the expansion of its low-cost, rapidly scalable wireless broadband networks across India, which lacks widespread broadband service availability.
  5. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has programs in place that not only support cultural heritage but also simultaneously positively impact the U.S. economy by way of exchange programs with 160 participating countries. Among the many programs is the Fulbright Program, which is available to U.S. citizens and noncitizens. The Fulbright Program is the alma mater of 59 alumni holding a Nobel Prize. One notable alumnus of the program is the first ever woman President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.
  6. With the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a number of African countries are en route to achieving HIV epidemic control by 2020. The State Department’s Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy takes the lead in managing PEPFAR, alongside seven U.S. government department and agencies. Thirteen countries including Kenya, Lesotho and Namibia are promising HIV/AIDS control by 2020. Part of PEPFAR’s prominent strategy is the acceleration of testing and treatment, expansion of prevention and usage of quality data. Antiretroviral treatment and pre-exposure prophylaxis are parts of the initiative to prevent and treat HIV prevention. As of September 2018, the support of PEPFAR has led to the testing of 95 million people, the preventing of 2.4 million babies from being born with HIV and the caring of more than 6.8 million orphans and vulnerable children.
  7. The Our Ocean Conference (OOC), held in Bali in October of 2018, began as a Department of State initiative to bring light to the oceans and their significance in relation to economics, food security and health. One of the six areas of commitment is a sustainable blue economy. The blue economy is the sustainable exploitation of resources in rivers, lakes and oceans and “could contribute up to $1.5 trillion to the global economy,” according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Furthermore, the expansion of fisheries — which is the largest blue economy sector in Africa employing more than 12 million people — could contribute to the reduction of poverty in Africa. The work done by African fisheries is key in providing food security and nutrition for more than 200 million Africans.
  8. The State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) has hundreds of programs, such as The Human Rights and Democracy Fund (HRDF), which was established in 1998. HRDF is a reinforcing tool of the U.S. government to promote civil justice, human rights and democracy around the world. The DRL has programs in Cote d’Ivoire, with the purpose to fight corruption and human rights abuses. Human rights are linked with the economic development of a nation, as supported by The Danish Institute For Human Rights’ conclusions include “a significant, positive, long-run effect of human rights investments on economic growth”.
  9. According to the World Bank, trade is at the core of ending poverty. The State Department’s Office of Agricultural Policy (AGP) holds the objective to support American agriculture while also opening foreign markets, one of which is Mexico’s for dairy products. Working in conjunction with the Department of State is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with the purpose of helping producers connect with the market more easily since markets open to agricultural trade ultimately lowers the cost of food and thereby aids the poor.
  10. The Bureau of African Affairs is primarily focused on development within the continent along with management of U.S. policy related to the continent. A demonstrated success of the department is the Global Food Security Act (GFSA), which aims to combat food insecurity. This legislation supports the Feed the Future program, a government-wide strategy to combat hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Among the positive impacts of GFSA and Feed the Future are more than 900 developed and deployed innovations and a projected 23.4 million individuals above the poverty line.

Apart from making the State Department a dynamic part of the U.S. federal government, these initiatives and efforts are not simply ten facts about the State Department but are proof of countless, similar and ongoing projects worldwide. The initiatives ultimately help promote development and poverty reduction, thus leading to potential successes for the poor around the world.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Flickr

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