Mayor honored for promoting city and encouraging citizen diplomacy

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Mayor Richard Berry, center, accepts an award from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for his commitment to citizen diplomacy and his fostering of cultural exchanges around the world. Presenting the award are Global Ties ABQ Director Adelle Lees and Board President Darrell Garcia. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry on Tuesday received two honors — both of them for promoting Albuquerque on the world stage and for advancing citizen diplomacy.

The first award was from Global Ties ABQ on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The award recognizes Berry’s “extraordinary commitment to encourage citizen diplomacy and to foster commercial, educational, and cultural exchange between Albuquerque and nations from all over the world.”

Global Ties ABQ is a local nonprofit that connects emerging leaders from other countries with New Mexicans via international exchange programs and events sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Yearly, Global Ties ABQ brings about 30 state department-sponsored international exchange groups through Albuquerque. The delegations are part of the International Visitor Leadership Program, and the delegates are emerging leaders in fields ranging from entrepreneurship and economic development, human and minority rights, tourism, and civic activism.

Adelle Lees, director of the Global Ties ABQ, gave a concrete example of how citizen diplomacy at its best can work. In 2013, Rebeca Gyumi, a woman from Tanzania, was among the delegates who met with Berry’s Youth Advisory Council. She was so inspired by the local youths’ passion to be a part of change that when she returned to Tanzania she filed a petition with that country’s high court, winning a landmark case to raise the minimum age for marriage from 14 to 18.

Berry also received the Sister Cities International 2017 Innovation Award for Economic Development, which recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding community and individual sister city programs that promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Albuquerque’s first sister city relationship with Sasebo, Japan, Berry and representatives from five Albuquerque companies traveled to Japan earlier this year to meet with business officials from Japan and Taiwan to promote international trade.

“I’m humbled that these great groups, which have been here long before I was the mayor, would recognize the fact that we believe in them, have worked hard on their behalf and our community’s behalf for the last eight years,” Berry said.

In emphasizing the importance of citizen diplomacy, Berry noted that people often read or see news accounts about elected national officials and ambassadors doing this kind of work, “but as mayor I’ve seen first hand that citizen diplomacy can build bridges and find solutions that others can’t. I would encourage our next mayor to continue this work because it’s vital.”

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