2018 Constructive Dissent and Exemplary Performance Winners and Runners-Up

AFSA congratulates this year’s recipients of our awards for constructive dissent and exemplary performance!

Constructive Dissent Award Recipients

 

Amb. (ret.) Thomas A. Shannon, Jr.

Christian A. Herter Award for a Senior Foreign Service Officer

Ambassador Thomas A. Shannon Jr., receives this year’s Christian A. Herter Award for his efforts to promote extension of temporary protective status for citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. While Under Secretary Shannon’s efforts to persuade the Secretary ultimately did not prevail, his efforts and methods to affect a decision demonstrate the utmost professionalism and understanding of the issue.

Temporary Protective Status is a temporary immigration status granted to eligible nationals of a country that is suffering from “extraordinary and temporary conditions;” TPS allows beneficiaries to remain in the United States until the status is removed. Under TPS, beneficiaries may work and may not be deported. Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador were granted TPS in 1999 after Hurricane Mitch devastated these three countries and residents were prevented from returning home; Haiti was granted TPS in 2010 after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake left much of the island inhabitable. Upon receiving TPS, several hundred thousand people remained in the United States and began to make lives for themselves and their families. Since the U.S. government granted TPS in 1999 and 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has renewed the status, at the foreign policy guidance of the State Department. One could argue that TPS, particularly in the cases of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, was no longer temporary in nature.

In September 2017, DHS requested that the Department of State issue foreign policy guidance on whether to extend TPS for Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Haiti. However, unlike with previous Administrations, the Trump Administration indicated early on it was not inclined to renew TPS. In the initial response to the 2017 request for foreign policy guidance, the Bureaus of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) and Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) proposed recommending to the Secretary another three-year extension. Upon the guidance of S/P, which argued that revocation was in line with the President’s decision on the DACA program, WHA and PRM changed their recommendation to one of revocation of TPS for all four countries.

When Under Secretary Shannon learned about this recommended policy shift, he personally met with the WHA and PRM Assistant Secretaries to understand the rationale behind the shift. During this discussion, Shannon laid out his concerns about how the bureaus should not bend under the domestic political pressure but should provide the Secretary with the full implications of foreign policy implications. He encouraged the Assistant Secretaries to reconsider their recommendation and urged them to put forth a split memo (with S/P) to the Secretary. PRM reverted to its original position, appreciating Under Secretary Shannon’s top cover; WHA and S/P recommended revocation. Because of Mr. Shannon’s initiative, the Secretary received more nuanced arguments on TPS, with pros and cons of each recommendation.

Mr. Shannon also submitted a note to the Secretary outlining his personal views of TPS. Mr. Shannon deliberately put the note on Everest to share it with relevant bureaus to demonstrate his dissent of the pressure to bow to political domestic politics. Drawing upon his unequivocal understanding of Latin America, Mr. Shannon eloquently laid out his arguments in favor of maintaining TPS for these four countries. He demonstrated to the Department how dissent can and should be done. Furthermore, he empowered a younger generation of Foreign Service and civil service members to dissent through a professional manner that underscored respect for the system.

 

Roshni Nirody

U.S. Embassy Lisbon, Portugal

William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent by a Mid-Level Officer

Roshni Nirody is this year’s recipient of the William R. Rivkin Award for her advocacy to restructure the State Department’s approach to high-level visits and congressional relations. Ms. Nirody had long felt that the State Department could reap significant benefits by institutionalizing its approach to managing congressional delegations, including improved advocacy for State Department priorities on Capitol Hill, improving relations with Congress and more efficiently managing CODEL visits. With inputs from many experienced Foreign Service officers and military colleagues, Ms. Nirody developed a multi-pronged strategy of low-cost and no-cost recommendations to re-envision high-level visits as a policy tool to serve the best interests of the Executive branch’s foreign policy objectives, post objectives worldwide and the resources and regulatory needs of the State Department.

Ms. Nirody targeted key State Department leadership to advance her work on creating an full depiction of the Foreign Service, its people and their work on key legislative priorities. She proved that the State Department can utilize engagements with visiting policy makers in the strategic way our military colleagues already do. Ms. Nirody welcomed further engagement with Department officials to explore the thus far missed opportunity to fully leverage a primary forum for advocacy that touches every bureau and almost every post in the Foreign Service. Recognizing that the Secretary of State is a former legislator with unique insight into how building an understanding of public service work overseas and enlisting Congress more proactively in policy advancement efforts stands to benefit the State Department, tapping the full potential of high-level visits would seem to fit into the broader objective of the State Department keeping its momentum on track.

 

Elena Augustine

U.S. Embassy Seoul, South Korea

W. Averell Harriman Award for an Entry-Level Officer

This year’s recipient for the W. Averell Harriman Award is Elena C. Augustine for her constructive and well-argued dissent channel cable named “Shaping U.S. Policy on the KORUS FTA an Opportunity for the Department of State to Lead,” which directly contributed and shaped the successful conclusion of March negotiations to amend the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (known as KORUS) which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the trade deal.

The U.S. demand to amend KORUS and even threaten to pull out of the deal strained the U.S.-South Korea relationship over the past year. Coupled with the unprecedented tension with North Korea, some South Koreans began to doubt the U.S. commitment to the alliance. The five-year old agreement seemed to be on the verge of failure and the State Department seemed to not be playing as strong of a role in this decision as it could be. That is why Ms. Augustine took the initiative to write her opinion on the dangers of withdrawing from KORUS and campaigned for the State Department to seize the opportunity to more actively shape U.S. policy on KORUS as a key midpoint between the U.S. and Korean governments. In Ms. Augustine’s dissent cable, she recommended that the U.S. not withdraw from KORUS, but instead work with USG partners to clearly define success, formulate a path to achieve success and ensure that the White House and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) took the regional strategic context into account. Ms. Augustine warned that proceeding with a vague target on how to amend the agreement or withdrawing from the alliance would risk increasing the deficit, alienate a key ally, and allow the exploitation of the narrative that the United States was no longer a reliable international partner, which global competitors could easily exploit.

The Department’s Policy Planning Staff responded by acknowledging Ms. Augustine's concerns, affirming the Department’s role in making recommendations based on how trade actions could affect our overall foreign policy objectives, stressing that the Department remained engaged on the issue and recognizing KORUS’ significance to the United States’ broader geostrategic concerns on the Korean Peninsula. This led to the affirmation of the State Department’s role in economic policy, a better negotiated FTA and interagency cooperation was strengthened.

Since June 2016, Ms. Augustine’s dissent message built upon her front-channel reporting as the lead trade officer in Seoul. While serving her time there, Ms. Augustine drafted most of the Embassy’s reporting on KORUS and served as the Embassy’s primary officer explaining U.S. policy on KORUS to working-level contracts in the Korean government, the U.S. and Korean private sector, think-tanks, and academia. This work supported Ms. Augustine’s dissent channel in giving it the authority and heft it needed to convincingly lay out the risks of the current foreign policy. Ms. Augustine skillfully tailored her reporting to USTR and interagency policymakers and accurately predicted ROK requests, alerted Washington that most South Koreans saw trade and security issues as linked, and warned about the dangers of overreaching. By actively shaping the interagency discussion, Ms. Augustine directly contributed to the successful conclusion on March 2018 of negotiations to amend KORUS.

 

Joseph Conners

U.S. Consulate Frankfurt, Germany

F. Allen ‘Tex’ Harris Award for Constructive Dissent by a Foreign Service Specialist

Joseph S. Conners receives this year’s F. Allen “Tex” Harris Award for Constructive Dissent by a Foreign Service Specialist for his pivotal role in reforming the protocol of medical shipments that are vital to adults and children abroad by bringing violations by the Frankfurt Consulate to the attention of Washington offices and pushing for logistic change. It would have been easy for Mr. Conners to have overlooked the issue as many others have done before him but he had the courage to challenge the status-quo to preserve the integrity of the consulate and his posting.

In 2017, Mr. Conners discovered that Consulate Frankfurt was a collection and distribution base for vital medical shipments to posts all over the world. Frankfurt is an optimal trans-shipping location due to having readily accessible medication through its medical supply program directed by one of the consulate’s regional offices. This program has been in place, in one form or another, for almost 20 years. Medical shipments include live-vaccine inoculations and DEA Schedule II drugs (such as OxyContin, Adderall and Ritalin). For example, in 2017 alone, Frankfurt shipped over 6,700 pounds of essential and life-saving medicine to posts from Beijing to Bogotá. This program was instrumental in ensuring that children and diplomatic staff received their vaccines in places where medicine might not be attainable or exist. Mr. Conners realized that by using Consulate Frankfurt’s unclassified pouch bags and diplomatic tags to ship these medications, the consulate was directly violating strict pouch regulations. This violation caused Consulate Frankfurt to be at risk of losing pouch privileges altogether, which would be catastrophic to the security of embassies receiving their medications on time.

Mr. Conners took the initiative to communicate his dissent to his chain of command and colleagues through briefings, emails and telephone conferences. Mr. Conners’ thorough review and analysis of the shipment program revealed his suspicions that the medical supplies were prohibited by regulation to be shipped in unclassified pouches. In addition, they also discovered that customs regulations in other countries would allow the importation of these medications. Washington offices remained unconcerned and seemingly uninterested in changing the medical shipment program. Previous attempts to effect change had not had any effect. Mr. Conners was pegged as an “alarmist” who wanted to end the shipment of medicine to overseas children and diplomatic staff. Mr. Conners knew that it was more important to uphold the regulations than letting these violations go.

Undeterred by the response in Washington, Mr. Conners convinced his chain of command that these violations were urgent and needed to be addressed immediately. He pushed until he built a consensus in Mission Germany that would force Washington to review the program and develop a new procedure that would be in line with the department’s regulations. Because of Mr. Conners’ dissent and strong push for change, the Department finally agreed that he was correct and decided that it must identify a new legal program to ship medications with less risk of disruption to the global supply chain of medications and dramatically reduce the risk profile. Mr. Conners and his management team are satisfied knowing that they have made a positive, instrumental change in logistics that will benefit the function of Consulate Frankfurt now and in the future.

 

Exemplary Performance Award Recipients

 

Amb. (ret.) Patricia A. Butenis

Award for Achievement and Contributions to the Association

Ambassador Butenis is honored for her work on bringing AFSA's outreach efforts to a new level, beginning with her leadership on this issue during her time on the AFSA Governing Board in 2015 and continuing into retirement in her home community in New Jersey. She is a tireless advocate for the importance of telling the Foreign Service story—and few do it better.

After a distinguished career that included serving as Ambassador to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives, Deputy Chief of Mission in Iraq, and Dean of the School of Professional and Area Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, Ambassador Butenis retired in 2015 with the rank of Career Minister and stepped forward to serve on the 2015-2017 AFSA Governing Board.

As a member of the 2015-2017 AFSA Governing Board, Ambassador Butenis took an immediate and active interest in shaping the future of AFSA outreach to retirees. Working with fellow board members and members of AFSA’s professional staff, she pushed reforms to the association’s speakers bureau, advocated for additional resources in retiree engagement and outreach, and led the way in the early development of talking points, briefing materials and other resources engaged in telling the Foreign Service story across the country. She was instrumental in ensuring that outreach became a strategic pillar for the association, emphasizing in particular the need to speak specifically to retiree members and equipping them to become effective advocates on behalf of the Foreign Service and diplomacy.

Ambassador Butenis herself has been tireless in her personal outreach efforts in her part of the country. A resident of South New Jersey, she has met with countless schools and universities in Trenton, Philadelphia and other municipalities. She has demonstrated in action what she envisions for her fellow AFSA retiree members, thereby educating students, retirees and her neighbors about what diplomats do and why it matters.

 

Margaret Kennett

U.S. Embassy Kampala, Uganda

Nelson B. Delavan Award for Office Management Specialists

Margaret ‘Megan’ Kennett is recognized for her outstanding work as OMS in Kampala's Regional Security Office and her exceptional commitment to helping others both inside and outside the Mission, actively volunteering well beyond the framework of her responsibilities. This includes standing in as Thanksgiving potluck host and organizing a Toys for Tots initiative at post.

Ms. Kennett arrived at the Uganda Consulate in September 2017. When the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) discovered that due to travel she would be unable to host her usual Thanksgiving potluck for members of the community without plans, Ms. Kennett quickly volunteered to stand in her place to host the event at the DCM's residence. She coordinated with the DCM's staff, taught them how to cook two turkeys, and organized all the logistics for this very successful event, including games for the children. All who attended felt very welcome and the DCM still hear from people who appreciated Ms. Kennett’s efforts.

As the December holidays approached, Ms. Kennett’s helped the Marines organize volunteers to wrap gifts for the Marines' annual Toys for Tots drive. She participated in the delivery of toys at an urban center for refugees. Ms. Kennett also helped organize a donation of second-hand clothing along with the toys, and spent hours helping to sort clothes for the right age and sex of the children. As she spent time with the Marines, she recognized that they have limited ability and funds to see Uganda. So Ms. Kennett and her husband provided Marines with transport to game parks to go themselves. She is always on the lookout for anyone who needs to get out of the city. And just about every weekend, Ms. Kennett has adopted someone from the Mission to join her for an adventure to see the country.

When Ms. Kennett heard that a local children’s cancer hospice was in desperate need of first aid supplies, she purchased—out of her own pocket—large industrial first aid kits, with enough bandages and antibiotic ointment to supply the hospice for a year. But more importantly from the children's standpoint, she later returned in a borrowed bunny outfit to distribute toys, candy, crayons, drawing paper—again purchased from her own pocket—to bring joy to terminally ill children at the hospice.

Every year in March, the Peace Corps looks for volunteers for their "Drop Everything and Read Day." Ms. Kennett was quick to volunteer. She read to school children in two classes at a local primary school and noted that the classes had no age-appropriate books. Struck by how poorly equipped the entire school was for books, Ms. Kennett then collected age-appropriate books from Embassy colleagues. She is now organizing a much larger book drive to supply this school with adequate books for its children. She genuinely focuses on the word “service” in the Foreign Service.

 

John Warner

U.S. Embassy Mbabane

Avis Bohlen Award for Eligible Family Members

John Warner is receiving this year’s Avis Bohlen Award for his instrumental transformation of what started as a social contact and civic consciousness into full-time volunteer support to the Eswatinian non-governmental organization Kwakha Indvodza (KI) (translation: Building a Man). His willingness to take his participation to a much higher level is an incredible contribution to the overall success of efforts by KI and, by extension, the embassy.

KI is focused on presenting positive male role models to young Eswatinian men, giving them the resources to think critically about patriarchal structures in Eswatini and exposing them to practices they can adopt to ensure more equal treatment for women. It is a small organization that is entirely dependent on increasingly scarce donor resources. It is also one of the few organizations in Eswatini advancing women's empowerment by reaching men, a critical avenue for holistic success. Mr. Warner has worked himself into the titled (but still unpaid) position of Development and Donor Relations Officer. In this role, he writes proposals, coordinates resource mobilization efforts, conducts donor outreach, works on developing both the organization and its strategies, conducts research, and mentors staff.

KI had very limited staff capacity for writing proposals and monitoring grants prior to Mr. Warner’s arrival. He also apparently had limited experience in these skill sets before collaborating with KI. He nevertheless threw himself into learning these processes and has capably weathered the often high-stress process of completing proposal submissions, sometimes on tight deadlines. Mr. Warner has also helped KI develop its three-year strategic plan, with a particular focus on how the organization can more effectively mobilize resources, both from individual and institutional donors. KI’s director says that John’s work with the organization has enabled them to conduct research that they have long talked about doing, but never had the means to undertake.

As part of his research, Mr. Warner interviewed a Eswatinian traditionalist at length to better understand the tenets of local tradition and identify ways to more effectively use these to effect behavior change. These interactions led Mr. Warner to receiving a scholarship to present a paper on behalf of KI at the 2018 International Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) Summit in Bali, Indonesia. His research has also contributed to two articles that are on track for publication, which will further raise the profile of the organization and contribute to the body of knowledge on behavior change.

KI’s director says that John has demonstrated a level of commitment to the organization that goes beyond what one would expect of an employee, much less a volunteer. He has worked evenings and weekends, and even re-arranged holiday planning based on the needs of the organization. The director has also noted how well John has assimilated into the Eswatinian team at KI. He has helped and mentored younger members of staff on everything from drafting reports to preparing for their annual performance reviews.

 

Marisol Garcia

U.S. Consulate Rio de Janeiro

M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Officer

This year’s M. Juanita Guess Award goes to Marisol Garcia due to her outstanding leadership, dedication and initiative in assisting the families of Americans while serving as CLO. She comforted and supported the Consulate community during periods of frightening violence fueled by a powerful and vicious drug trade at a time when community members were physically assaulted, robbed at gunpoint, carjacked, subjected to armed home invasions, and even shot by armed assailants.

As if that weren’t enough, children were threatened by internecine drug gang violence that spilled into the American School compound from a nearby favela and temporarily shut the school down. Throughout these challenges, Ms. Garcia served as a comforting and reassuring anchor for the Consulate community, while also creating an abiding sense of community that helped counteract a prevailing sense of, at-times, paralyzing fear in an otherwise inviting and captivating local environment.

In terms of outstanding leadership, Ms. Garcia took on a leading role in organizing a Consulate-wide team-building event that brought together the U.S. and Brazilian cultures represented among Consulate staff and family members, lifting morale at a time of heightened stress. Consulate leadership praised the event, including a Senior Foreign Service member who called it the best event of its type in his entire career. It was also one of the few events held at the Consulate which attracted the participation of family members of U.S. staff, thereby creating a real sense of community.

Ms. Garcia’s leadership goes far beyond the creation of meaningful and impactful events that create a sense of community. Her contributions with the most enduring impact may very well be from fixing a broken social sponsor program and serving as the voice of the Consulate community to push for long overdue improvements in housing management which had become a high visibility morale issue. She created a social sponsor training program and rewrote the social sponsor checklist to better welcome new arrivals in Rio de Janeiro. She then engaged the housing board and led a rewrite of the housing handbook to better inform arriving officers, improve the welcome kits, and facilitate better communication between GSO and the new arrivals. Her efforts have raised morale significantly after many years of housing problems that consistently detracted from our officers’ ability to effectively do their work.

Ms. Garcia is unquestionably dedicated to her work. She is passionate and sincere about fostering community at the Consulate and demonstrates this daily by helping community members to connect with each other and with the wider community outside the Consulate through cultural excursions, sporting events, charitable activities, and many more initiatives. For example, she organized a fun soccer game between Consulate members and Street Kids International. For Women’s History Month, she brought in a fascinating speaker who informed Consulate members about local initiatives to combat poverty and helped lead a donation drive to collect needed items for a women’s domestic violence shelter. Finally, she led a group that served and fed local homeless at a soup kitchen near the Consulate, not only benefitting the community but also representing the best of American volunteerism to our Brazilian hosts. Each of these undertakings clearly demonstrates her initiative and imagination in taking her CLO role beyond than what is required.

Some U.S. staff immerse themselves in the local offerings while others have difficulty connecting with the local community. Ms. Garcia has succeeded at weaving together a tapestry of possibilities and activities that cater to both groups and help create bonds between them. A great example is the cultural excursion program she put together that interested U.S. employees, their family members, and even locally employed staff. She organized regular group outings over the lunch period to visit museums, landmarks, and other destinations of cultural significance near the Consulate in downtown Rio. She even integrated the involvement of the Consulate’s Portuguese language teacher staff so that it could have the added benefit of helping those interested to improve their Portuguese at the same time. Ms. Garcia’s accomplishments as a CLO have made a posting to Rio de Janeiro a much more fulfilling and enjoyable assignment for hundreds of U.S. staff, local staff, and family members.

 

David Bargueño

U.S. Embassy Pretoria

Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy

Inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Mr. Bargueño leveraged his former role as human rights officer at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi to counter violence against women and girls in Pakistan. Leading a yearlong series of human rights roundtables, he dramatically expanded the Mission’s contact base among women and diverse religious communities, whom he relied upon to incorporate fresh insights into his analytical pieces briefed to senior leadership in the Department, Cabinet-level officials, and the President. In order to increase public awareness of gender issues writ large, he also spearheaded an innovative campaign called “Karachi Champions Combating Gender-Based Violence,” which rallied members from across the entire Consulate community.

For this particular initiative, local and American staff interviewed Pakistani heroes who promote and defend women’s rights in schools, hospitals, police stations, non-governmental organizations, novels, and in the Senate. While filming interviews on iPhones, Mr. Bargueño his colleagues spotlighted a wide range of issues with contacts, from cyberbullying to empowering women in sports and law enforcement agencies. After professional editing by a local firm, the Consulate then published sixteen videos during the United Nations’ “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” from November 25 until December 10. As the videos went viral on social media, Mr. Bargueño coordinated orange lighting (the UN’s theme color for the 16 Days) in highly visible public areas across Sindh and Balochistan, from provincial parliamentary buildings to the Consul General’s official residence. Activists told the Consulate that the multi-sectoral campaign at once publicized resources for victims of gender-based violence, raised its profile among the public, and gave Pakistani women a unique platform to speak their own truth to power - online and offline.

Since then, Karachi activists have organized a women’s march (the “Aurat March” in March 2018) and diverse women and men have approached Consulate staff to ask how they, too, could become “Karachi Champions.” Coordinating across section and agency lines, Mr. Bargueño designed follow-up exchange programs to the United States and recruited diverse women candidates, who represented almost two-thirds of the section’s nominees. Marines regularly led women’s self-defense courses within the Consulate, and Mr. Bargueño helped to organize in-house art shows to engage with women artists and girls who had never before engaged with Americans, let alone visited the Consulate. As discussed in the March edition of State Magazine (including a write-up of the Karachi campaign), U.S. diplomats have the privilege to represent the values of our country, which include women’s rights as human rights. Mr. Bargueño hopes the campaign empowers others to take a stand against gender-based violence, regardless of their gender, job description, or wherever they are stationed in the world.

 

Kelly Billingsley

U.S. Embassy Colombo

Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy

Ms. Billingsley helped push back on China’s increasing encroachment on Sri Lankan democracy and sovereignty, while also promoting U.S. political objectives with the post-war Sri Lankan government on national reconciliation, human rights, protection of democratic institutions, and accountability for past human rights abuses. Understanding the need to challenge China’s plans to trap Sri Lanka through crushing debts and military presence, Ms. Billingsley sounded alarms through high impact reporting to Washington and engaged the embassy's Sri Lankan contact network to bolster concern domestically.

Ms. Billingsley authored a series of cables explaining how China was seeking to subvert democratic freedoms by backing the repressive former dictatorship, ensnare Sri Lanka in debt bondage by financing poorly conceived infrastructure projects, and, in the case of the country’s highly strategic southern port, offering to buy out the project when Sri Lanka would become unable to make debt payments. Ms. Billingsley detailed the national security risk in China’s growing position in Sri Lanka, particularly in the takeover of the port.

Nearly two years before the new U.S. National Security Strategy articulated this challenge, Ms. Billingsley argued that U.S. policy was too passive. She provided a series of steps that could be taken to diminish Chinese influence and ensure U.S. strategic interests. Her reporting was read in missions around the world. Other U.S. ambassadors praised Ms. Billingsley’s analysis, and in Washington the cables were widely circulated and launched an interagency discussion to identify U.S. levers of influence that can combat the threat of Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean.

Ms. Billingsley also shepherded negotiations with the Sri Lankan government on two resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. In 2015, Washington gave the Consulate a free hand to finalize negotiations with Sri Lanka on a UNHRC resolution; Ms. Billingsley was in charge of the design and implementation strategy that united the government, the Tamil minority and most international NGOs. She advised the Foreign Minister and the Ambassador on language in the resolution's text, liaised with key government and diplomatic contacts to ensure that they were moving forward strategically, and directed her section to produce timely and thorough reporting on government and public reactions. Her astute work and strong diplomacy resulted in firm, written Sri Lankan government commitments to accountability and national reconciliation, securing decade-old U.S. goals for moving the country beyond its violent past.

When the resolution came up for review in 2017, its prospects were dim: Tamil activists called for a new, punitive resolution, while Sinhalese nationalists wanted nothing at all. Recognizing the process as necessary to drive reconciliation, Ms. Billingsley successfully persuaded the new U.S. administration to sponsor a new resolution reaffirming the 2015 commitments. She worked with Washington and Geneva to draft resolution language politically acceptable to the Sri Lankans and negotiated the text with senior MFA officials. She traveled to Geneva to explain the U.S. position and gain the support of Tamil diaspora groups, human rights organizations, and country delegations. As a result of this careful maneuvering, the resolution was co-sponsored by Sri Lanka, passed by consensus, and met with acceptance by nearly all interest groups. It will allow the U.S. to remain a partner in moving Sri Lanka beyond its ethnic divisions into a just, peaceful, and reconciled society—the predominant goal of U.S. foreign policy in Sri Lanka for decades.

 

Exemplary Performance Award Runners-Up

 

Maria Valentine

U.S. Embassy Bamako

Nelson B. Delavan Award for Office Management Specialists

Maria Delfina Valentine is the runner-up for the Nelson B. Delavan Award for excelling at community outreach and making many significant contributions to the morale and welfare of the U.S. Mission in Mali. During a period of crisis, she stepped in as Community Liaison Officer (CLO) and made a real difference in morale and welfare. By taking the initiative to take on the responsibilities of the CLO, she distinguished herself as a transformational leader and helped raise morale and mission spirit throughout.

 

Lori Doutrich

U.S. Embassy Managua

M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Officer

Lori Doutrich is a runner-up for the M. Juanita Guess Award for her resilience and leadership skills as Community Liaison Officer (CLO) in an emergency evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua. It has been a very difficult and tumultuous period in Nicaragua for Foreign Service members. All EFM and certain direct hires have been evacuated due to one of the largest protests in government’s history and the deadliest civil conflict since the end of the Nicaraguan Revolution. Ms. Doutrich has provided a support network to all evacuees in Washington, D.C. by organizing weekly child playgroups, weekly lunch meetings at Main State for direct hires and ensuring everybody has the resources they need during this tumultuous period.

 

Karen Fifield

U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo

M. Juanita Guess Award for a Community Liaison Officer

Karen Fifield is a runner-up for the M. Juanita Guess Award for her tremendous dedication to the families in the mission community at U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo while serving as Community Liaison Officer (CLO). Santo Domingo is an unexpectedly challenging post for cultural adjustment and morale. Recognizing this deceptively challenging situation, Ms. Fifield has been relentless in scheduling events and instigating conversations to help people articulate these challenges, discover they are not facing them alone and strategize addressing them together as a community. Ms. Fifield has also demonstrated a tremendous breadth of capability in playing the many roles a CLO can play in the community.

 

Judith Martin

U.S. Embassy Lomé

Avis Bohlen Award for Eligible Family Members

This year’s runner-up for the Avis Bohlen Award is Judith Martin who is being honored for her work in improving the lives of women victims of human trafficking and sexual assault in Togo, through job training and skills development to produce marketable handcrafted products. Ms. Martin’s work with Queen Alaffia has made an important contribution to advancing U.S. policy goals in Africa, helping to raise awareness of the scourge of human trafficking and directly assisting victims to rebuild their lives. She has helped to give poor women new job skills that will raise incomes and improve the nutrition, health care, and education for their children.

Please click here for information on this year’s recipient of AFSA’s Award for Lifetime Contributions to American Diplomacy, Ambassador (ret.) Ronald E. Neumann.