"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela
For over 40 years, the San Diego Diplomacy Council has connected world leaders across sectors with San Diego to build trust, dialogue and collaboration, promoting global prosperity and peace.
This year did not unfold in a way any of us could have predicted. Our 2020 calendar was set to be filled with international delegations, cohorts of international fellows, and community hosting opportunities. Groups were scheduled to explore topics from STEAM education to Migration, Foreign Policy to Government Accountability. We started strong by sending 19 San Diegans on a citizen diplomacy trip to Cuba, hosting 100 international leaders from 36 countries, and featuring Brett McGurk as part of our Talk-About Series; but sadly the pandemic stopped all our programs and events.
But we are not one to admit defeat! Rather than seeing the pandemic as a barrier to our mission, we approached it as a means to innovate and share our work with an even broader community. From moving to online events and virtual exchanges to creating a brand new global leadership youth program, we have weathered the challenges of 2020 with resilience and forward-thinking.
Thanks to our community of citizen diplomats and partners, we've demonstrated that our work has never been more important to foster the type of knowledge, engagement, and collaboration that will take us through this crisis and other global challenges.
Our Response to a Global Crisis
Our Programs at a Glance
Connecting San Diego with emerging and current international leaders
This year we celebrated the 80th Anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program. This flagship program is supported by the U.S. Department of State boasting over 225,000 alumni to date. Our exchange programs have offered bountiful opportunities for us to connect with emerging leaders across the globe.
Between January and March, we hosted more than 100 international leaders including Yasmin Al-Qadhi of Yemen who received the 2020 U.S. Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award. Al-Qadhi has demonstrated exceptional leadership, strength, and courage as the founder of the Marib Girls Foundation working to uplift women through economic empowerment and striving to change social norms for women. Notably, 2020 is also the fifth year in which we have been selected to host an IWOC Award recipient.
Just before the pandemic closed off tourism, we led a trip of 19 participants to Cuba in early March in partnership with Cuba Cultural Travel.
Promoting Understanding and Collaboration Online
In September, we implemented for the first time the International Visitor Leadership Program virtually. Since then, we have hosted 96 international emerging leaders online and connected them with local subject-matter experts and community members to discuss topics such as protest movements and models from around the world, women in STEM, global economic cooperation, entrepreneurship, and more.
In partnership with Global Ties U.S, we nominated 16 local Youth and Cultural Ambassador applicants who will perform at the US Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai in 2021, which will be the first World’s Fair to be held in the Middle East, and is expecting 192 countries to participate. The expo’s theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future, "will highlight innovation and progress through the connection of people and their ideas. It will run from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.
Preparing the next generation of diplomats and changemakers during the pandemic
In partnership with La Jolla Country Day School, we launched a Summer Global Leaders Online Program and a Global Leadership Youth Program (GLYP) for Fall and Winter. These unique opportunities for students aged 14-18 years old aimed to engage the youth to address important global issues as the next generation of global leaders. In total, 113 students enrolled in the program. With the generous support of our community, we also offered 40 scholarships to students from under-represented communities who have an interest in global affairs. Learn more about our summer program Here.
Connecting, Informing and Engaging
Prior to the pandemic, we hosted two Talk-About Series, one with Brett McGurk, the former special presidential envoy for the global coalition to defeat ISIS, and one featuring Dean Patricia Marquez from the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego. While McGurk centrally highlighted the need for clear objectives in diplomacy and the alignment of resources in the Middle East, Dean Marquez shared her experience and analysis of the crisis in Venezuela.
With the pandemic, we had to cancel all our other events and rapidly adapt our in-person programs to virtual space. Within a month, we were ready to host bi-weekly E-Talk-About Series covering topics ranging from COVID-19 and diplomacy to women and gender in diplomacy. We focused our sights on issues of current concern and featured subject matter experts like Susan Sloan, Dr. Ken Dekleva, and Molly Montgomery. Montgomery, a former White House Special Advisor and Senior Foreign Officer, spoke on the U.S. and European Union’s differing responses to the COVID-19 crisis. “The three principles they’ve [EU member states] asked countries to base their reopening plans on are epidemiological criteria, sufficient health system capacity and sufficient monitoring capacity,” said Molly Montgomery
In May, we launched a Global Leaders Online Forum to re-connect with our international alumni and provide a platform for online conversation between them and our community. We partnered with San Diego Pride and Sempra Energy to provide a space for our LGBTQ+ IVLP Alumni to reconvene and share their remarkable stories of making strides within their communities. Jennifer Henshaw, Founder and Executive Director of Lesbian and Gay Alliance of Liberia (LEGAL), shared how despite accusations that the LGBTQ+ community in her country is the source of COVID-19, they are striving to educate the community on pandemics.
“The victories that we are able to sustain here in the United States have a very direct impact on folks all across the world.”- Fernando López, Executive Director of San Diego Pride
We embraced the role culture plays in diplomacy. This year we hosted 10 cultural online diplomacy events including cooking demonstrations, as well as fine arts, and photography, dance, and music performances. Earlier this year we welcomed the very talented Chef Jeff Roberto, sushi master and owner of Sushi On A Roll (SOAR). We learned about cultural etiquette, how to prepare sashimi, and the intricate process of creating the perfect dish.
Finally, we closed the year with a unique Online 2020 Signature Event exploring how video games can promote peace and diplomacy in the world.
Our Stance for Racial Equity
Following the murder of George Floyd prompted by a long history of racial injustice in our country and community – we pledged to advocate for equity and justice for Black people in our communities. We attended a series of trainings and created a committee in charge of building awareness, sharing solutions, developing leadership, and promoting racial justice locally and globally. We are also in the process of developing a racial equity work plan for 2021-2022.
I am a senior at High TechHigh Media Arts interested in advocacy, government, and educating myself on topics that interest me. This is why G.L.O.P was incredibly enjoyable and worthwhile for me. Throughout the two immersive weeks that I participated, I heard from insightful and accomplished professionals, honed skills such as collaboration and communication, and most importantly delved deeper into a topic of great significance.
Maya Jimenez, HighTech High Media Arts Student, alumna Summer Global Leadership Youth Program 2020
The whole IVLP program and the time with the San Diego community and fellow travelers actually gave me the energy and spirit to realize what I am actually capable of.
Massam Hussain Ansari, Administrative and Financial Manager of Sathi Foundation, Pakistan, IVLP Alumni 2017 and speaker at the 2020 World Pride Forum