Exchange Matters / June 19, 2015

The QDDR in Review: Americans are our Greatest Diplomatic Assets

During a speech he delivered on April 28, Secretary of State John Kerry unveiled the 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), outlining the strategic priorities to be pursued by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development. It focused on four specifically: preventing conflict and violent extremism, promoting resilient democratic societies, advancing inclusive economic growth, and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

There’s something here for those of us who practice citizen diplomacy, including a section emblazoned by a sentence encapsulating what all of us have known for years: “In this era American leadership needs the active engagement of nearly every sector of our society, economy, and culture.”

Secretary Kerry hinted that tackling these challenges won’t be easy, but it can and must be done. To be successful, the Department of State will have to ramp-up it’s “knowledge management, data and analytics.” While acknowledging the value of traditional diplomacy and relationship building, the Secretary also highlighted the importance of engaging foreign audiences outside the traditional corridors of diplomacy.

The Secretary’s plans include marching orders for Department of State staff. Ambassadors are charged with negotiating agreements with foreign governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These will match a similar ramping-up of efforts designed to address such concerns in the United States.

Throughout the year, the hundreds of members who form our network make invaluable and sometimes unrecognized contributions to American diplomacy. These efforts are recognized in the State Department report. “Facilitating person-to-person connections between Americans and people abroad” is labeled “a vital part of [the Department of State’s] work.” “Americans are our greatest diplomatic and development asset around the world” stands out as the headline of another key section—indeed, it’s the subtext to much of what this 90-page report contains.

Discussing American diplomatic achievements over recent years, the Secretary drew a path from the experiences of his father, a diplomat who took part in the invasion of Normandy in 1944. The senior Mr. Kerry would later serve in Europe during the days of the Berlin Wall. Then as now, Secretary Kerry noted that the challenges we face today require American leadership, as well as patriotism and dedication from the Department’s workforce. He remains confident that the U.S. has the tools it needs to surmount these obstacles while creating a more prosperous world for the generations to come. For more information on the QDDR, go to For more from Secretary Kerry, go to or follow him on Twitter at @JohnKerry.

By Robert Zimmerman, Global Ties U.S. Follow us on Twitter: @GlobalTiesUS