Make the right move.

Broadening Diplomatic Engagement Across America

Report of the Truman Center

City & State Diplomacy Task Force

June 2022

Letter from the Co-Chairs

Letter from the Co-Chairs

We call on the U.S. Department of State to strengthen ties with local governments across America, including by establishing and appropriately funding an Office of City and State Diplomacy.
Jenna Ben-Yehuda

Letter from the Truman Center President & CEO

We believe that the path to expanding the foreign policy constituency begins by connecting Washington to city and state governments on the front lines of addressing transnational threats and bilateral opportunities.

Letter from Truman Center President & CEO

We believe that the path to expanding the foreign policy constituency begins by connecting Washington to city and state governments on the front lines of addressing transnational threats and bilateral opportunities.
Jenna Ben-Yehuda

Three Strategies for Elevating City and State Diplomacy

Section 1
Structuring Commitment

The State Department should do much more to promote and coordinate with city and state diplomacy, starting with creating a new office dedicated to that task.

Section 2

City and state governments should invest in personnel and other resources to grow their engagement on the world stage.

Section 3
Partnering with Communities

Academic and research institutions, community-based organizations and philanthropic organizations can all build the diplomatic capacity of city and state governments.


Why City & State Diplomacy?

Washington has long operated on the axiom that all politics is local. It must now accept that, increasingly, foreign policy is as well.
Scott Bade and Anka Lee
A Subnational Diplomacy office would allow resident diplomats and local leaders to exchange ideas and expertise. The office would be a means of bringing foreign policy into alignment with local needs and connecting foreign policy to American opportunity at the grassroots level.
Mayor Eric Johnson (Dallas, TX)
I do see myself as a diplomat.
Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington, D.C.)
American cities and states are engaging, every day, with their counterpart cities, regions and countries around the world to deliver for their constituents.
1 of 8

The Mayor of Atlanta’s Office of International Affairs has published its own protocol guide to support city departments by hosting more than 100 foreign delegations a year, and made sports diplomacy a cornerstone of their global engagement strategy.

2 of 8

In 2016, Seattle passed an ordinance establishing an International Affairs Advisory Board, which advises the Mayor and City Council on the city’s international engagement, official travel, and partnerships with foreign entities.

3 of 8

Houston’s Mayor helps lead the World Energy City Partnership network of global cities at the forefront of the clean energy transition, and its Texas Medical Center and the United Kingdom’s International Trade Department have established a “BioBridge” to advance research and innovation.

4 of 8

California’s Lieutenant Governor, herself a former U.S. Ambassador, was designated by Executive Order as the Governor’s lead for international affairs and trade.

5 of 8

Los Angeles’ Mayor Garcetti regularly meets with foreign Ambassadors and Heads of State, signs international partnership agreements, including with countries, and from 2019-2021, led the C40 climate action network of 97 global megacitie

6 of 8

At least 14 states in the United States maintain personnel or offices overseas to support economic development, tourism, and international trade.

7 of 8

More than a dozen cities in the United States have a dedicated lead for international engagement.

8 of 8

Globally, research indicates more than 200 city networks exist to support collaboration and advocacy.

Task Force Recommendations

In March 2021, Truman Center published a report called “Transforming State: Pathways to a More Just, Equitable and Innovative Institution.” The third of three pillars of recommendations in this report, “Broadening Diplomatic Engagement Across America,” lays out a vision for a “State Department that actively seeks to partner with diverse stakeholders across the country… increasing our footprint with innovation hubs, legislators on Capitol Hill, and mayors and governors.” The first recommendation in this pillar is as follows:

The State Department should establish an Office of State and Local Diplomacy (OSLD) that is led by an Ambassador-at-Large for State and Local Diplomacy ... The OSLD would serve as the connective tissue between state and local officials, Americans across urban and rural communities, and U.S. foreign policy. Mayors and governors are first responders to national security priorities like climate change, countering extremism, trade and investment, and COVID-19 pandemic recovery and response. State and local actors often have the flexibility to launch innovative pilots that, if proven successful, can be scaled to other cities and influence federal policy.

With this recommendation at its core, this Task Force explored how to develop this Office and its function within the State Department, while building additional capacity for city and state governments and their communities to engage with their counterparts abroad. Organized in three sections, this report responds to three core questions:

How should the U.S. State Department engage with cities, states, tribal, and subnational governments?
How should these governments build their capacity to engage in international affairs?
How can civil society, academic institutions, and community-based organizations support cities and states in building the capacity to engage abroad?
Section 1

Structuring Commitment

Two co-chairs of this task force, Representative Ted Lieu and Senator Chris Murphy, have twice introduced, with bipartisan support, the City and State Diplomacy Act (H.R. 4526 and S. 3072). This legislation proposes the creation of an Office of City and State Diplomacy within the State Department, to be led by a Senate-confirmed Ambassador-at-Large. The language of the bill states:

…it is in the interest of the United States to support robust two-way partnerships between the Department of State and subnational entities to advance United States foreign policy objectives, improve understanding of United States diplomacy, and leverage Federal resources to enhance the impact of subnational engagements…

Congress should immediately pass this legislation to make the office permanent and demonstrate bipartisan support for the city and state diplomacy. However, the power to establish such an office already resides with the Administration.

This Task Force calls for the State Department to establish an Office of City and State Diplomacy, with the mission to strengthen communication and collaboration between the State Department and city and state governments on U.S. foreign policy priorities, to expand the reach and impact of the State Department, and to develop opportunities for greater awareness of and engagement by subnational governments in global affairs.

Creating an office and identifying its leader, its staff, and its resources will launch a hub for communication, collaboration, and engagement between city and state governments and the State Department. The Office could reside in several places within the State Department or report directly to the Secretary, and should:

Be led by an Ambassador-at-Large.
Read more
With experience both at the State Department as well as with city and state governments.
Have a clear mandate and an open door from the Secretary and visibility within the Department.
Read more
With support from bipartisan Congressional and city and state government leaders.
Be appropriately resourced to support its mission.
Read more
As well as to engage with Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs and appropriate functional bureaus and offices. Where appropriate, the Office can also work with the six Offices of Foreign Missions and external partners in the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Bureau of Indian Affairs, among others.
Establish priorities.
Read more
Establish priorities informed by both the Secretary’s agenda and input from city and state governments.

Alongside creating the Office as a hub for city and state diplomacy, it is equally important to integrate subnational diplomacy into national security strategies, foreign policy tradecraft, and the career paths of Foreign Service Officers.

The deep engagements many United States city and state governments have with international partners and international issues are not yet well known or understood. Many at the State Department may not yet acknowledge this as diplomacy. However, city and state governments in the U.S. are representing their localities (and, informally, the United States) in multinational policy networks and forums, reporting directly to the United Nations on global agendas, competing to host global events, working with their counterparts bilaterally and through networks, as well as working to attract foreign investment. Recognizing this work as part of the 21st century diplomatic toolkit is essential, and must be incorporated into training and continuing education. Accordingly, the State Department should:

Include subnational diplomacy across its entire training curriculum.
Read more
In collaboration with the Foreign Service Institute.
Develop training for current State Department employees and diplomats.
Read more
This includes engagement with city and state governments both in the United States and overseas, and direct all bureaus to find ways to support subnational-to-subnational engagement.
  • This should include encouraging U.S. missions around the world to more actively capture and report on their connections to city, state, and subnational leaders and communities, and consider crediting this reporting as part of personnel evaluations as an incentive for Foreign Service Officers and all State Department personnel.
Expand the existing Pearson Fellowship program.
Read more
Place career Foreign Service Officers as Fellows across the United States, beginning with a mix of state capitals, the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, tribal nations, U.S. territories, and rural, regional structures, such as the Appalachian Regional Commission or the Southeast Crescent Regional Commission. The Pearson Fellowship, created by 1976 legislation that was explicit in its intent to place experienced Foreign Service Officers with state and local governments, is today almost exclusively used to embed personnel in Congressional offices. Returning the focus of this Fellowship to the mutual benefits of experienced Foreign Service Officers working with local governments throughout the U.S. will provide a talent bridge and recruitment mechanism between communities and the State Department.
  • Assignment of these Pearson Fellows may provide the initial capacity for a city or state government to establish an international affairs portfolio, but should be contingent upon the local authority articulating priorities for the Fellow and how they will regularly be integrated into diplomatic and international engagement, including how they will access local elected leadership. The State Department should establish an application process by which subnational governments can request a fellow.
  • Congress should appropriate funding to allow for up to 150 Pearson Fellows by FY26, beginning with an initial cohort of 55 for two-year tours beginning in FY24. This scale is critical to integrate these tours as a part of the foreign service career path, to cultivate a community of practice for exchange, and ultimately, establish a strong alumni network. Opening eligibility to all State Department employees could help to source a full cohort annually.
Through opportunities like the expanded Pearson Fellowship program and other professional fellowships.
Read more
Credit service with a city or state government as part of career advancement, including as a requirement for promotion to the Senior Foreign Service.
Develop a Public Exchange Fellowship program to complement an expanded Pearson Fellowship.
Read more
Wherein city and state government personnel can serve on reimbursable details within the State Department. This program can leverage these Fellows’ knowledge of their communities and tap into experience on specific global issues, including climate action, trade, refugee and migrant affairs, gender equity, inclusive and safe cities, and sustainable development.
Expand the Hometown Diplomat Program to allow all Department employees to participate.
Read more
Broadening the State Department’s engagement through this program will provide a greater understanding of the Department’s overall mission and of the Foreign Service, as well as offer a greater and more diverse set of connections to local communities.
  • The Department should also create clear guidance, better training, and incentives to participate in the Hometown Diplomat program, broker connections to local government leaders or community-based organizations, and provide compensation for employees who participate.
Expand the Diplomat-In-Residence (DIR) program by expanding the number of DIRs from 16 to 55 or more, allocating at least one to each United States state and territory.
Read more
The State Department should also allow for DIR bridge assignments of less than one year, and direct DIRs to support outreach by Public Exchange Fellows and Hometown Diplomats.
  • As part of this expansion, the State Department should partner with and assign DIRs to community colleges and public schools with majority populations underrepresented in diplomacy, as well as Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). This expansion should include allowing civil service employees to serve in the DIR program.
Pilot an Ambassador-In-Residence program.
Read more
Encourage returning or transitioning ambassadors to spend short details supporting city and state governments with their international engagement.
  • The State Department should also connect its retirees and alumni with city and state governments, to support local leaders with advice on international opportunities and strategies.

In addition to expanding outreach to city and state governments, the State Department should create more opportunities for city and state governments to opt-in to international engagement.

For many states, cities, and subnational governments, this is dependent on both capacity and alignment with their priorities. Opening new channels will be essential to ensuring the broadest participation across the United States. The State Department should:

Identify partners to help catalog and map existing city and state diplomacy efforts underway throughout the U.S. to provide a baseline of current activity.
Read more
This effort could capture:
  1. city and state governments with dedicated international affairs or global affairs staff or strategies, and how they are structured;
  2. subnational networks that include both U.S. and international members; and,
  3. national and multilateral engagements at which other civil society representatives (e.g., private sector, youth) are convened. This “wiki”-like resource could be dynamic, publicly available, and encourage regular, crowd-sourced updates.
Consider how state, regional, and city networks can provide a hub to support communication and collaboration.
Read more
On specific technical and policy issues, providing a trusted interlocutor and force multiplier for many city and state governments.
Create a “Local-to-Global Engagement Fund,” and seek outside partnership if needed.
Read more
This fund should be overseen by the Office of City and State Diplomacy as a competitive grant program to incentivize and resource more city and state governments to develop their capacity for international engagement, particularly on specific thematic issues
  • These grants can include a simple application process that identifies what, how, and why they hope to engage, how they define success, and what community-based partners they intend to bring along.
  • Such a program would create success stories and metrics for local-to-global engagement, and build a cadre of practitioners that can share with one another and mentor subsequent participants.
Develop a toolkit for subnational diplomacy, including awareness of existing programs and opportunities for engagement.
Read more
(e.g., Pearson Fellowships, Diplomats-in-Residence, Hometown Diplomats) and resources for communities to connect on priority issues like refugee resettlement.
Expand opportunities to communicate with city and state governments.
Read more
Including by initiating:
  • An international advisory council to support the Office of City and State Diplomacy, enable two-way learning, and build trust between subnational and federal officials. This council could comprise current and former leaders from the State Department and other federal agencies, subnational governments, as well as leaders of subnational networks and associations.
  • Regular briefings on topics that may impact subnational governments, using these sessions as an opportunity to build relationships between city and state governments and the Department of State. Consider ways to deepen these relationships between briefings with regular information exchanges, such as via encrypted group chats.
  • A platform for voluntary reporting on city and state diplomacy efforts, one that also serves as a resource which provides local expertise and initiatives that may benefit partners around the world. This platform can be a resource for the Department as well, as subnational connections may provide discrete or technical options for collaboration in what may be an otherwise fraught diplomatic context.
  • A “diplomatic marketplace” or “federal register for diplomatic opportunities” through which city and state governments could suggest their leaders (or recommend others) to participate in international events, convenings, or delegations.
  • A bulletin board for collaborative projects and research opportunities between partner governments and multilateral organizations (e.g., European Union, OECD, United Nations agencies), through which city and state governments can volunteer their interest.
  • A hub to clarify and coordinate local actions in support of national security priorities. This could include recent examples such as financial and material support to Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Encouraging city and state governments to express solidarity and engage their communities in supporting these actions helps Americans feel greater ownership over national policy.
  • A guide or referral to information ahead of foreign travel and/or foreign visits, as well as regular briefings and support with vetting foreign interests in the U.S.
  • A resource hub for policy and protocol guidance, background briefings, and historical/cultural reference materials.
Identify opportunities to collaborate with city and state governments.
Read more
This can include:
  • As participants alongside business, non-profit, and elected leaders in official U.S. delegations.
  • As advocates for internationally-focused non-profit organizations (e.g. World Affairs Councils), think tanks, universities and other academic institutions.
  • As representatives to United Nations (UN) engagements, especially but not limited to UN Habitat-led convenings like the World Urban Forum, and UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Forum of Mayors.
  • As partners in diplomatic and cultural exchange programs, including through the programs led by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs focused on sports diplomacy, cultural heritage, and their International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).
  • As experts in consultation over regionally-specific issues, such as policies that affect cross-border collaboration and trade between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.
  • As practitioners with experience in transnational challenges, including but not limited to: mitigating and adapting to climate change, and transitioning away from a carbon-based economy; welcoming immigrant and refugee communities; sharing sensitive but unclassified information between the public and private sector on cybersecurity and critical infrastructure; flagging early warning signals for extremist or terrorist threats or radicalization; promoting international trade and foreign direct investment; promoting the rights of women and other marginalized genders with local policy; protecting electoral systems and voting rights; and, developing smart and digitally equitable infrastructure.
  • As host communities for diplomatic events and meetings, including major summits as well as occasional convenings that bring regional, technical, or subnational network leadership together across multiple levels of government.
  • As leaders of place-based strategies to implement global agendas and commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Climate Agreement, and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), among others.
  • As contributors to the development of metrics and reporting of city and state diplomacy and its impact, including through international commitments, visitors, exchanges, as well as public awareness and engagement in events.
  • As part of a layered approach to “thicken” existing national engagements by promoting subnational connectivity with emerging economic and diplomatic partner nations and their subnational leaders.
Connect city and state governments to other federal agencies about opportunities for international engagement.
Read more
  • As technical experts and facilitators of international assistance programs administered by USAID, or as part of security cooperation initiatives administered by the Department of Defense (including the State Partnership Program jointly led with the National Guard).
  • As participants through security cooperation initiatives that rely on multifunctional, interagency teams, and how that model might relate to supporting international engagement by, with, and through U.S. local governments.
  • Drawing on the expertise of colleagues throughout the U.S. Government, including specifically the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, many of whom have established connections with local governments throughout the U.S. through their efforts to advance international trade and development.
  • As recipients of regular briefings and training relating to awareness of and reporting on foreign influence operations, as well as human rights threats, including the transnational repression of diaspora leaders in the U.S.

The State Department should establish an Office of State and Local Diplomacy (OSLD) that is led by an Ambassador-at-Large for State and Local Diplomacy ... The OSLD would serve as the connective tissue between state and local officials, Americans across urban and rural communities, and U.S. foreign policy. Mayors and governors are first responders to national security priorities like climate change, countering extremism, trade and investment, and COVID-19 pandemic recovery and response. State and local actors often have the flexibility to launch innovative pilots that, if proven successful, can be scaled to other cities and influence federal policy.

Section 2

Building Capacity

In the United States, city and state governments comprise tens of thousands of governing entities with differing sizes and configurations of elected and appointed officials and their authorities. While all subnational governments in the U.S. have a stake in global challenges, including climate change and pandemics like COVID-19, not all may benefit from a dedicated individual or team focused on international engagement. A model for city and state diplomacy that works for Los Angeles or New York may not make sense for Des Moines or even the states of Indiana and Tennessee.

Yet all of these subnational governments have been engaged in international affairs. Despite their differences, they have realized benefits for their communities by engaging with the world.

This engagement makes communities stronger and more resilient. Accordingly, city and state governments should:

Evaluate and set priorities for international engagement.
Read more
Recognizing that there is no one model to fit the different structures of U.S. city and state governments, this Task Force recommends city and state leaders begin by designating an international affairs lead, or work closely with an outside partner organization to capture and translate their international priorities into an actionable agenda.
  • Establishing a lead may involve designating an individual already serving as a liaison for economic development, tourism, cultural affairs, immigrant affairs, or protocol to include international affairs in their remit. This gives others a clear point of contact with whom to engage.
  • For others, local action toward privacy and open data standards, sustainability, resilience, public innovation, or “smart” infrastructure may offer lessons worth sharing with other city and state governments, and serve as a gateway for international collaboration. City and state governments should capture what works, and look for opportunities to share these lessons with their counterparts globally.
  • For city and state governments unable to resource a full or part-time international affairs lead, they should reach out to former diplomats, retired or separated foreign service professionals living in their communities, to build a team to help advise and develop their international engagement strategy. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has convened a successful, bipartisan team of former diplomats to serve as his International Advisory Council.
  • All city and state governments should consider how membership in state, regional, and city networks may augment their capacity for engagement, including as a shared platform for the exchange of best practices and information, for collective impact and advocacy, and as an opportunity to represent the community’s values and reputation. Networks build regular engagement, relationships, and trust through which additional collaboration grows. This may extend to advocacy for shared values and solidarity, or even awareness-raising activities.
Continue to welcome foreign visitors and delegations regularly, with or without coordination or support from the State Department.
Read more
These visits provide an opportunity to share local priorities and promote economic interests, as well as connect with local diaspora and immigrant communities, community-based organizations, and cultural ambassadors. They also demonstrate American leadership, openness, and friendship.
Connect regularly with any foreign consular missions based in or near their communities.
Read more
Learn more about their priorities, existing exchange programs, and other opportunities to build collaboration.
Assess and champion the ways in which international engagement may benefit their residents.
Read more
This includes economic development, cultural exchange and educational opportunities, as well as strengthening connections between local action and global issues. Clearly articulating desired outcomes from international engagement, such as foreign investment, tourism, student exchanges, and jobs, will help local leaders communicate a value added for residents.
  • Economic opportunities include trade, foreign investment, tourism and major events, jobs, entrepreneurship, foreign study and exchange, and contracts for small and local businesses.
  • Cultural and educational opportunities include travel and visitors, heritage, affinity and cultural celebrations, exhibits, festivals, and diaspora engagement.
  • City and state leaders also value opportunities to connect local initiatives to global affairs, demonstrate alignment with international cooperation and contribution to transnational solutions, as well as  raise the profile of their community. Many communities have lessons to share on disaster resilience, modern infrastructure and transportation, climate action, social rights, global health, and advanced education. Others have aligned to international commitments, including the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Developing a set of criteria and goals can help to assess which thematic networks or membership organizations offer the strongest value for the cost and time commitment.
Advocate the benefits of international engagement with their residents.
Read more
Help to link their efforts to greater economic, cultural, and experiential opportunities.
Share their international engagement as part of their strategic communications, through traditional and social media.
Read more
Highlight how these relationships convey benefits for residents and to elevate stories of international cooperation.
Measure and report the impact of international engagement regularly.
Read more
Such metrics may track value (e.g., number of jobs or investment) or presence (e.g., total number of delegations, events, exchanges) and capture impressions through affiliate surveys or evaluations. Partnerships with academic institutions and non-profit leaders may ease the time and resource commitment to develop and track these metrics.

As the United States works to end the global democratic recession, cities offer powerful examples of democracies delivering results to people in real time—a lesson for national governments to shorten the distance between policy and impact.

Section 3

Partnering with Communities

The term “civil society” is often used to encompass all organizations and sectors other than government, including but not limited to academic institutions, think tanks, community-based organizations, and philanthropic organizations.

These entities are deeply rooted in the communities they call home, but often have extensive international ties and attract human and financial resources from around the world.

The recommendations that follow center on how these varied non-government actors can build the capacity of their communities, and specifically city and state governments, to engage globally. These recommendations are included as a third and distinct section of this report for three reasons.

First, civil society organizations are force multipliers that already play a critical role in supporting local governments to engage on transnational issues and with one another. Organizations like Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Brookings Institution, German Marshall Fund of the United States, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have long invested in platforms and capacity building with city and state governments, including city networks like C40 and ICLEI.

Second, in many international meetings and forums, subnational governments are considered “civil society” and grouped together with all non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This fails to differentiate governors, mayors, and other local officials as legitimate, elected actors invested with public trust, and fails to recognize that civil society plays an important and distinct role in holding both subnational and national governments accountable.

Finally, some civil society groups may have long-standing partnerships with the State Department that do not involve their city and state governments. These relationships may exist to facilitate foreign visits and exchanges, public diplomacy, technical assistance, or research initiatives. But they also represent an opportunity to build greater capacity and international engagement with city and state governments.

Academic and Research Institutions

This Task Force recommends that academic and research institutions:

Leverage their resources—including faculty and experts, students, convening spaces, and often, their global brand—to support local governments with the development or advancement of their international engagement strategy.
Read more
For example, Phoenix has worked closely with Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management to build its global ties and engagement. These institutions benefit through opportunities for faculty and students to collaborate on real civic challenges and applied research, and to deepen their connections within the community.
  • This is especially true for academic and research institutions with satellite campuses overseas. These institutions have the opportunity to connect real challenges facing their host communities, and build local diplomatic ties through collaboration. As of 2018, 77 U.S. universities had foreign branch campuses.
Connect their students to internships, externships, and projects focused on local-to-global issues.
Read more
Such as the international trade and investment, the SDGs, climate action, and migration with their city and state governments. This collaboration builds trust, opportunity for public services, and a greater mutual understanding of the complex challenges facing subnational governments.
  • These institutions should also engage with international students, particularly on marking cultural celebrations and developing their own institutional cultural competencies.
Support city and state governments with training on international affairs and diplomacy and cultural competencies, research and tools.
Read more
Expand local Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) efforts and opportunities to participate in international and cultural exchange and language acquisition.
  • These institutions should also partner with secondary schools to support development of an international affairs curriculum and related educational and cultural opportunities.
Work with city and state governments, consulates, and community-based organizations to provide opportunities for young people to experience diplomacy and international affairs.
Read more
Providing stipends and paid internships for students to travel to international convenings like the World Expo or the UN Climate Change Conference for Youth opens opportunities for a greater awareness of how their communities can engage with the world as well as eye-opening experiences for young people. Working with the federal government to expand programs like the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange & Study (YES) program and Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program, as well as scaling city and state government programs like Los Angeles’ Mayor’s Young Ambassadors (MaYA) program for community college students, should be a priority.
Assist city and state governments by cataloging the internationally-focused organizations and equities within their communities.
Read more
City and state governments interested in establishing or growing their international engagement should understand where global connections may already exist, and draw upon this baseline to set priorities.
  • Mapping where cities and states have existing international engagement, both governmental and non-governmental, creates a degree of accountability and permanence between political cycles. Having a third party support this effort adds to its independence.
  • For communities along the northern and southern border of the U.S., academic institutions should work with city and state governments to map and catalog cross-border collaboration, from youth programs to water-sharing agreements.
Community-Based Organizations

Organizations that serve a community include: faith-based organizations; local chapters of global organizations like the World Affairs Councils of America, United Nations Association of the USA, and Truman National Security Project; affinity and community diplomacy groups like the Global Ties Network and Sister Cities International; alumni of the Peace Corps; service clubs like Kiwanis or Rotary; and local chambers of commerce.

These membership-driven, community-based organizations (CBOs) should offer their support to city and state governments, including their ideas and contacts to promote international cooperation. Pathways to do so include:

Hosting and facilitating forums on international topics relevant to their community, and inviting local government officials to participate.
Advocating for their city and state governments to align their local action to global agendas.
Read more
For example, the SDGs, Paris Climate Agreement, human rights and other international conventions.
Assisting city and state governments by hosting incoming foreign visitors and delegations.
Read more
And with the preparation and coordination of local leaders traveling overseas, consistent with legal and ethical provisions.
Communicating to city and state governments their own goals for engagement internationally.
Read more
As well as where they see benefits and value from a greater global presence.
Helping city and state governments to connect with diaspora communities.
Read more
Convene local leaders with these community leaders to better understand their policy priorities, including their opinions regarding U.S. foreign policy.
Encouraging city and state government leaders to set priorities for international engagement and building the team to take action on those priorities.
Identifying opportunities for city and state government leaders to share their international engagement priorities and experiences.
Read more
This can be done through their platforms and in annual events and reports.
Supporting city and state governments with the attraction of international businesses.
Read more
As well as major global sporting and entertainment events, foreign direct investment, and other economic development activities.
Establishing “twinning” projects through existing relationships like Sister Cities and Partner Cities.
Read more
This can help to deepen subnational government-to-government collaboration through applied efforts that respond to their mutual needs.
Philanthropic Organizations

This Task Force recommends that philanthropic organizations:

Connect their networks of grantees to city and state governments interested in building international engagement, or in advancing international agendas like the SDGs.
Read more
Initiatives like The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program catalyzed city-to-city collaboration and built a community of practice which linked city-led efforts on sustainability, food security, disaster recovery and emergency preparedness, and climate resilience.
Help to launch new public-private partnerships that may support international outreach by their city and state governments or a stronger international presence in their community.
Read more
These partnerships can help ensure continuity and insulate international engagement by a local government from turnover between political cycles.
Offer grants to support the expansion of additional work on city and state diplomacy.
Work with private sector partners through their corporate social responsibility and volunteer programs.
Read more
This can help to connect their philanthropic efforts with city and state diplomacy and priorities for international engagement.
Consider how to, with the support of the State Department, pilot the recommendations of this report.
Read more
This can include the proposals to catalog city and state diplomacy efforts and pilot a grant fund to grow international engagement by subnational governments.

The United States faces overlapping global challenges that can only be solved by working with allies and partners around the world.

That collaboration is strengthened by fostering new connections based on shared values, culture, and action.

Such connections are not exclusive to the federal government—they exist between cities, states, and their international counterparts as well. The State Department must value and invest in diplomacy led by cities and states, to bring more voices into how the United States builds and executes foreign policy. Cities and states should respond in kind, and grow deeper connections with the world that unlock benefits for their constituents. The challenges the United States faces demands the use of all the resources available, including the partners closest to home.


The Truman Center for National Policy would like to acknowledge and thank our colleagues, Task Force Co-Chairs, Task Force members, and financial supporters who all generously contributed to this report.

A report of this magnitude and scope is only possible because of the breadth and depth of knowledge that so many of our co-chairs, reviewers, members, and advisors brought to the conversation. This report was principally authored by Erin Bromaghim, with Jon Temin and Eliana Reynolds. The authors would like to acknowledge Julie Egan for her expertise. We would like to thank Jenny Lin and Jessy X. Castillo for the production and design of this report.  Additional published material on the topic of city and state diplomacy can be found at Truman’s living resource library.

Finally, the Center is grateful for the generous support of the Open Society Foundations. The findings and conclusions contained within this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the Truman Center for National Policy or any other organization.

Positionality statements are an acknowledgement of the vantage and context from which researchers approach their work. We have chosen to include one here, to recognize our perspective as persons engaged in and with the practice of diplomacy, including diplomacy led by city and state governments. We represent a diversity of backgrounds and expertise, but acknowledge this report does not include a thorough exploration of diplomacy from the perspective of all subnational governments, and specifically rural or tribal governments. The recommendations of this Task Force are meant to be actionable, informed by our collective experience working across government, private sector and civil society.  These changes will take time, but offer an opportunity to center the progress of our communities - toward greater resilience, equity, and sustainability - as a foundation for U.S. foreign policy.  

Task Force


Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook

Executive Vice President, Bertelsmann Foundation

Max Bouchet

Senior Policy Analyst and Project Manager, Brookings Institution

Erin Bromaghim

Visiting Senior Fellow for City and State Diplomacy, Truman Center for National Policy

Franklin Carrero-Martínez

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM)

Celeste Connors

CEO, Hawaii Green Growth, Local2030 Hub

Adom M. Cooper*†

U.S. Department of State and Fellow, Truman National Security Project

Nils Gilman

Senior Vice President,Berggruen Institute

Heather Wild-González Rubio*†

U.S. Department of State and Fellow, Truman National Security Project

Dan Hymowitz*

Fellow, Truman National Security Project

Corey Jacobson*

Legislative Director, Representative Ted Lieu

Vanessa Ibarra

International Affairs Director, Atlanta Mayor's Office

Laura Jay

Regional Director for North America, C40 Cities

Ian Klaus

Senior Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs; Director of Policy and Research, Global Parliament of Mayors

Anka Lee*†

Fellow, Truman National Security Project

Robert C. Llewellyn*

Federal Affairs Coordinator, City of Los Angeles Mayor's Office of Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs

Paul W. Neville†

U.S. Foreign Service Officer and former Subnational Pearson Fellow for the City of Seattle

Kimberly Olson*

Fellow, Truman National 
Security Project

Anthony F. Pipa

Senior Fellow, Center for Sustainable Development, Brookings Institution

Luis A. Renta

Walmart✻PolicyLab, Walmart Inc.

Tim Rivera*

Senior Advisor for Innovation & Strategy, World Learning

Maryum Saifee*†

U.S. Diplomat and Former Lead of Truman’s Transforming State Task Force

Jimmy Santos*

Special Assistant for Policy, Mayor’s Office, City of Boston

Liz Schrayer

President & CEO, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC)

Julia Spiegel

Deputy Legal Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

Emerita Torres*

Former U.S. State Department Diplomat and New York State Committeewoman, 85th District (Bronx)

Carrie Booth Walling*

Professor of Political Science and Faculty Director, Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service, Albion College

Rebecca Yang*

Fellow, Truman National
Security Project

Jon Temin

Vice President for Policy and Programs, Truman Center for National Policy
†Task force member is participating in their personal capacity and views expressed are not necessarily those of the U.S. Government.
*Member of the Truman National Security Project