The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2022

30 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2022 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL A former FSO, now a Democratic state committee member for the Bronx, explains how partnerships between local and federal government can help rebuild trust in U.S. foreign policy priorities. BY EMER I TA TORRES The Future of Diplomacy Is Local Emerita Torres, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer (2009-2019), is a Democratic state committee mem- ber for the 85th District (Bronx, N.Y.). She is also a term member at the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow at The Soufan Center and the Truman National Security Project. T he American people have much to gain from network-based diplomacy at the local level—what we call “city and state” or “subnational” diplomacy. Look only to the massive power of social media networks as major global influencers and message spreaders, and the increasingly transnational nature of the threats we face—from climate change to pandem- ics—to realize that the days of exclusive reliance on traditional diplomacy between the foreign ministries of nations are long gone. Global engagement with cities, where the majority of people now live, has become a national security imperative. President Joe Biden made the case for city diplomacy shortly after his election when he met with U.S. mayors, pledging to work with them in a new partnership between local and federal government as part of his “Build Back Better” agenda. Subna- tional diplomacy can help promote U.S. values and influence abroad, as well as rebuild local community trust in our national security and foreign policy priorities. City Diplomacy in Action There is no better example than the COVID-19 pandemic to show the impact of city diplomacy on everyday lives. In the Bronx, New York, which became one of the epicenters of the pandemic nationwide, I helped develop a mutual aid group with neighbors and activists. We partnered with local community organizations and elected officials to obtain and distribute per- sonal protective equipment (PPE), including dispensing supplies FOCUS ON SUBNATIONAL DIPLOMACY YANNBLINDSALIDA