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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

MAY 2017

23

Leveraging

Health programs are not just international good deeds;

they can be a powerful instrument in the ambassador’s toolbox.

HEALTH INVESTMENTS

FOR U.S. DIPLOMACY

Senior Foreign Service Officer Mark C. Storella is deputy

assistant secretary for the Bureau of Population, Refugees

and Migration. Prior to his current assignment, Ambas-

sador Storella served as deputy chief of mission at Embassy

Brussels. From 2010 to 2013, he was U.S. ambassador to Zambia.

From 2009 to 2010 he was senior coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and

Internally Displaced Persons in Baghdad, and has served as deputy

permanent representative at U.S. Mission Geneva. He has also served in

Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Paris, Rome and Washington, D.C.

T

he job of a chief of mission (COM)

is to advance American interests

wherever he or she is assigned. To

do so, ambassadors try to apply all

the instruments at their disposal.

Health diplomacy can be an invalu-

able tool.

The United States has a unique

capacity to have a global impact

in health. Our institutions, our people and our investments are

unparalleled. And people take note when our work saves lives,

especially the lives of children. The President’s Emergency Plan

for AIDS Relief, known as PEPFAR, will be seen someday as Pres-

ident George W. Bush described it: a “medical Marshall Plan”

that saved an entire continent. As we all work to prepare for and

FOCUS

ON GLOBAL HEALTH DIPLOMACY

defeat emerging diseases and pandemics, health programs are

not just international good deeds; they are an investment in the

security of the American people. Ambassadors would be wise to

seize the opportunity our health programs present.

Nevertheless, ambassadors are sometimes reluctant to

engage fully on health initiatives. Most ambassadors assigned

to countries with sizable health programs got there by way of

25-year careers that focused on traditional forms of diplomacy,

especially political and economic work. Their hard-wired

priorities are usually governance, security and trade. Most

State Department Foreign Service officers have only a glancing

acquaintance with health programs during an entire career.

Health programs may also seem too technical or scientific to

be easily mastered. At the mention of terms like viral load and

epidemiology, many career FSOs might want to run for the hills.

U.S. government-led health efforts have saved and improved

millions of lives, and changed the very course of the AIDS pan-

demic—yet may not initially appear to fall within the direct pur-

view of a chief of mission. Where is the room for a COM to lead?

And how can health programs advance our broader agenda?

When I arrived in Lusaka as ambassador in 2010, I had many

of the same questions. But I took stock of our goals and the tools

our mission had to achieve them. What jumped out was that our

generous Fiscal Year 2010 bilateral assistance budget of approxi-

mately $350 million consisted almost entirely—or about 85 per-

BY MARK C . STORE L LA

HeaderGraphic: iStockphoto.com/Pixtum