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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JUNE 2015

45

Celebrating Arab-

Americans in

Foreign Affairs

BY JAMAL AL-MUSSAWI

I

n May 2014, the State Department welcomed one of its newest

employee affinity groups, Arab-Americans in Foreign Affairs Agencies. Led by an interagency executive board comprised of

Civil and Foreign Service professionals, AAIFAA has drawn more

than 100 members from throughout the foreign affairs community

in its first year alone.

AAIFAA’s goal is twofold: to expand workplace diversity and

serve as a resource for senior leaders interested in enhancing the

department’s relationship with Arab-Americans. Deputy Secre-

taries Antony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom and Director

General Arnold Chacón have personally welcomed the creation of

the group.

Open to all foreign affairs professionals regardless of their

hiring status or background, AAIFAA promotes and applies the

cultural, linguistic, personal and professional assets that Arab-

Americans and those with an affinity toward the Arab world share.

As with other ethnic- and minority-based employee groups, it

is also a forum for sharing ideas and experiences among Arab-

Americans throughout the interagency community.

To carry out its mission, AAIFAA participates in employee

recruitment drives, organizes brown-bag discussions with Civil

and Foreign Service personnel, and meets with other employee

affinity groups (EAGs). Through interactive meetings, A-100

gatherings and discussions with the Office of Civil Rights, AAIFAA

also assists diplomats-in-residence, human resources profession-

als and Foreign Service retirees to inform prospective Civil Service

and Foreign Service employees about the work of the department

and the other foreign affairs agencies.

At State, AAIFAA is working with bureaus to

attract a diverse selection of bidders by demon-

strating how particular sets of skills can adapt to assignments in a

variety of regions, fields and specialties. For example, the Bureau

of Near Eastern Affairs’ Iran and Middle East watchers—reporting

officers based in Western European capitals—are among many

such examples.

Focusing on both professional development and social net-

working, AAIFAA is also partnering with senior Arab-American

and other leaders at the State Department and beyond to mentor

staff seeking career advice. Distinguished ambassadors like

Philip Habib, Susan Ziadeh and Ted Kattouf demonstrate Arab-

American contributions to American diplomacy in areas of critical

national interest. Following in their footsteps, AAIFAA seeks to

harness the talent of the next generation of American diplomats.

Since its inception, AAIFAA has experienced rapid growth,

thanks to its conviction that fostering and enhancing workplace

diversity is not only a common goal across the department, but a

necessity to make the foreign affairs community more representa-

tive of the diverse nation we represent, both at home and abroad.

AAIFAA stands ready to continue paving the path toward greater

diversity with its EAG partners, senior departmental leadership

and anyone who supports that goal.

As a direct result of these efforts, the foreign affairs com-

munity has created more innovative and effective policymaking

and advocacy strategies. AAIFAA’s work is essential to realize the

diversity-enhancement goals of the department, the federal gov-

ernment and our increasingly multicultural nation.

n

Jamal Al-Mussawi was born in Basrah, Iraq, and grew

up in Egypt and California. He joined the Foreign

Service as a political-coned officer in 2005, follow-

ing three years as a contractor in the Foreign Service

Institute’s political training division. He has served in

Bishkek, Bridgetown and Bratislava, and is now studying Arabic at

FSI in preparation for his assignment as the political/economic sec-

tion chief in Muscat in July. He is the founder of Arab-Americans in

Foreign Affairs Agencies.

Deputy Secretary of Management and

Resources Heather Higginbottom (center)

opened AAIFAA’s first social event on Feb. 26.

To her right, in the foreground, are AAIFAA

Interim Chair Khulood Kandil, AAIFAA Interim

Vice Chair Dr. Charles Kiamie III and AAIFAA

Founder Jamal Al-Mussawi.

COURTESYOFAAIFAA

Arab-Americans

in Foreign Affairs

Agencies