Printer Friendly

IO/PRF: "a model for conducting 21st-century diplomacy".

Over the past year, staff from the Office of Policy and Regional and Functional Organizations (PRF) in the Bureau of International Organizations (IO) oversaw the signing and implementation of a historic agreement with the Arab League, deployed to the U.S. Mission to the African Union (USAU) to resolve disputes on peace and security issues, supported the U.S.-led G8 presidency, coordinated U.S. diplomacy on Israel-Palestinian issues in international organizations, furnished negotiating guidance to U.S. missions and drafted policy memos addressing future diplomatic threats and opportunities.

The youngest office in IO, PRF was created in 2009 in accordance with recommendations in the initial Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Former Assistant Secretary Esther Brimmer said she established the office to fill "the need for a cohesive U.S. response to the rise in power of regional and sub regional organizations and the requirement that we think strategically about the ongoing evolution of the world's multilateral architecture."

Four years later, the world's regional and sub regional organizations continue to grow in sophistication, capabilities and influence. For instance, the AU has conducted military interventions in Somalia, Sudan and Mali; the Arab League has lead efforts in the U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Council to isolate the Qaddafi and Assad regimes; the European Union has been more assertive in such areas as its seeking state-like participation privileges; and east Asian countries are developing regional institutions amidst the rise of China. While the nation-state remains the primary building block of the current international system, regional organizations reflect and influence behavior by their member states and global institutions, making PRF's perspective all that more valuable.

In cooperation with the Department's regional bureaus, PRF is moving aggressively to deploy multilateral officers to select missions abroad. In the summer of 2012, PRF built on its temporary support to USAU, provided by PRF's Matthew Goldstein, to establish in Addis Ababa IO's first permanent overseas position outside the traditional multilateral capitals. In that position, Thomas Whitney has reduced friction between the U.N. and AU, and provided invaluable reporting.

According to U.S. Ambassador to the AU Michael Battle, "IO/PRF, with its deep expertise in Africa and the U.N. system, provides critical diplomatic and policy support to USAU. The deployment of an IO multilateral affairs officer to USAU, along with TDY support from IO/PRF, has been a force multiplier for the mission, enhancing our diplomacy with both the U.N. and AU."

PRF is talking with other regional bureaus about establishing PRF's next regional multilateral officer position.

PRF has a particularly close working relationship with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA), stemming in part from cooperation in bringing about the high-profile signing in September 2012 of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Arab League Secretary-General Elaraby. The MOU emerged from strategic thinking about how to engage the Arab world's multilateral structures more successfully.

To put the MOU in place, PRF's Middle East watcher, Tim Haynes, identified the opportunity, facilitated contact with Arab League officials, served on the negotiating team in Cairo and choreographed the signing. Before he finished his PRF tour this summer, he coordinated with the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to enhance humanitarian coordination and with the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs on a ground-breaking educational resources initiative.

The Arab League MOU is now a template for cooperation with other regional organizations, and an MOU with the AU signed in February offers similar opportunities.

Because disputes over Palestinian status affect so many international organizations, PRF was asked to coordinate U.S. policy and tactics in a variety of multilateral forums. With NEA's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, the office co-chairs a working group that identifies looming disputes, marshals policy and legal arguments, strategizes with allies, makes recommendations to senior Department and White House officials and provides guidance to delegations. PRF's value is its ability to connect Middle East, legal and technical experts, and develop an understanding of procedural issues and the diplomatic context. That frees U.S. negotiators, whether from the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, the U.S. Mission to the U.N. in New York or other U.S. agencies, to focus on their goals.

Acting Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Dean Pittman, a core member of the team that authored the first QDDR, said the QDDR's framers wanted PRF "to be both an idea incubator and implementer.

"It's described in the QDDR as 'a clearinghouse for best practices' regarding multilateral organizations, but it also has a mandate to 'enhance links among U.S. approaches in global and regional bodies,'" he explained. "We wanted a policy shop that is grounded in ongoing diplomacy."

Fulfilling the mandate to think creatively and make policy recommendations, PRF staff members have penned policy papers on the future of the Non-Aligned Movement, improving cooperation between the U.N. Security Council and the AU's Peace and Security Council, responding to Palestinian multilateral goals and enhancing multilateral participation by small island states. PRF has consulted with the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs on incorporating a multilateral issues component into the U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue, and furnished speakers for meetings of Department and Intelligence Community analysts assessing the influence of the "BRICS" bloc consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Reflecting on what it's like to work in PRF, Georgiana Cavendish said she drew on her previous work experience at the European Union in pursuing better multilateral cooperation with European institutions and traveling to London to support Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman's negotiations at the April G8 Ministerial.

Another PRF staffer, Agata Malek, is identifying needed reforms at the U.N.'s Regional Economic Commissions and supporting U.S. negotiators at such venues as the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. Air Force Major Jens Lyndrup, on detail to IO/PRF from the Defense Department, wrote a policy paper on the potential for drone use by peacekeepers in Africa.

Though the office is small, fewer than 15 people, PRF has hosted temporary tours over the past year by Patty Bass, Mario Crifo, Charlotte Griggs, Nate Haft, Bob Kerr, Elisabeth El-Khodary, Ioanna Paraskevolpoulos and Ramona Payne, and is well supported by Office Management Specialist Lontria Beale.

The Nobel Prize-winning U.S. and U.N. diplomat Ralph Bunche, who combined the virtues of scholar and envoy, is a model for PRF staff members, who are drawn from the Civil Service, Foreign Service and other agencies. All must think critically, collaborate wholeheartedly, negotiate energetically and recommend incisively.

"On all the issues it covers, including supporting G8 negotiations and our strategic coordination with Israel on Palestinian issues, IO/PRF identifies problems and proposes solutions, working closely with other bureaus," Under Secretary Sherman said. "PRF's commitment to strategic planning and action is a model for conducting 21st-century diplomacy."

By Joseph P. Cassidy, director, Office of Policy and Regional and Functional Organizations
COPYRIGHT 2013 U.S. Department of State
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2013 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Office of the Month
Author:Cassidy, Joseph P.
Publication:State Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2013
Previous Article:A novel idea: reading program broadens youths' views.
Next Article:Family matters: officers take parents to overseas posts.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |