The United States has long maintained nation-to-nation foreign policy relationships. But the scope of nation-to-nation engagement is shifting as countries' economies become more global in nature.
Indeed, city-to-city, and state-to-state dialogues are becoming just as important in the larger context of achieving overarching diplomatic goals. These subnational relationships, between state and local elected leaders, have growing power to change the situation on the ground.
One U.S. government office pursuing these relationships is the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, or CSO. It partners with a wide range of groups, from U.S. agencies to foreign governments to local non-governmental agencies, or NGOs, and multilateral institutions in countries where CSO works.
CSO is building an agile and flexible team of expeditionary diplomats that can deploy quickly to provide conflict-focused analysis and expertise. This Civilian Response Corps drives integrated efforts to set conditions for long-term peace.
CSO operates on the principle that local voices must drive U.S. responses to conflict. In South Sudan, for example, teams of CSO personnel deployed across the country both before and after its vote for independence from Sudan, reporting on and mediating conflict and building U.S. ties to subnational governments, tribal authorities, and others.
Other programs, such as the National Democratic and International Republican Institutes, have a long history of engaging local citizens in order to build democratic institutions. The National Democratic Institute works with legislators, council members, and attorneys general in over one-hundred twenty-five countries and territories to promote openness and accountability in government by building political and civic organizations, safeguarding elections, and promoting citizen participation.
Similarly, the Republican Institute advances freedom and democracy worldwide by developing political parties, civil institutions, open elections, democratic governance, and the rule of law.
The U.S. also encourages states and cities to engage with governors and mayors all over the world, advancing public-private partnerships. Expanding these subnational relationships allows civic leaders to share ideas about local governance and learn from each other.
These combinations of local and national government, NGOs, and business show the power of partnership at its best.