The Foreign Service Journal - May 2017
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MAY 2017


with the world that are only of interest to one or two offices at

Main State. If ambassadors see that our top leadership in the

department views health as a national interest priority, they will

make it a priority, too.

We can work to build more incentives for ambassadors to

put their own imprint on health programming overseas by

building in opportunities for COM initiative, either through

more flexible programming or discretionary funding. Ambas-

sadors’ knowledge of local conditions, power relationships

and trends can help shape health programming to maximize

impact. If applied correctly, increased ambassadorial discre-

tion could promote greater local ownership and stronger

health partnerships.

Other incentives could include an annual health diplomacy

leadership prize, with the involvement of the U.S. Global AIDS

Coordinator in the Deputy Secretary’s Committee that pro-

poses ambassadors for the president to nominate, or an effort

to include accomplishments in health diplomacy in annual

reviews of ambassadors working in countries with important

American health programming.

Finally, ambassadors will gain more leverage in our work

on health if that work is recognized clearly as a partnership

with the American people. We should avoid politicizing these

efforts; but we should not hide our good works under a bushel,

either. We should implement a strategy worldwide to ensure

that our health investments are understood clearly as coming

from the generosity of the American people. This is an easy fix

that will enhance ambassadors’ leverage.

Diplomacy has always been the art of using whatever

instruments you have to advance your national interests. It

has always extended beyond traditional channels of formal

negotiation to embrace the full spectrum of human engage-

ment. That is why we have gunboat diplomacy, dollar diplo-

macy, public diplomacy and even pingpong diplomacy. For

the United States and its ambassadors all over the globe,

health diplomacy can be a potent tool to advance our broader

national interests.


Our work in health gave us

an entrée with important

civil society leaders that

strengthened our engagement

in sometimes unexpected ways.