State Department’s historic plan to advance equity in U.S. foreign policy

The U.S. State Department is embedding equity across its foreign affairs work and raising the visibility of racial and other inequities globally, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced April 14.

Providing equal opportunities for racial minorities and underserved communities is a Biden-Harris administration priority at home and abroad.

On April 14, the White House kicked off the next stage in this effort by making available “Equity Action Plans” outlining every U.S. government agency’s plan to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities. Read the State Department’s plan.

In addition to raising the visibility of racial and other inequities globally, Blinken said the new approach will “generate better-informed foreign policies to decrease barriers to equity and equality worldwide.”

Advancing equity through foreign policy

The State Department has already taken several concrete steps to advance equity through U.S. foreign policy and will continue to build on these actions. Some tangible steps include:

Participating with Canada and Mexico in trilateral commitments, such as the Global Equality Fund to project LGBTQI+ rights, the Trilateral Working Group on Violence Against Indigenous Women and Girls and the North American Partnership for Racial Equity and Inclusion.

Strongly supporting the creation of the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent at the United Nations to improve the safety and quality of life of African descendants globally.

Expanding data collection on racial equity and underserved communities for the department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report and working with the White House and 20 other Cabinet agencies to integrate an equity-based approach into U.S. anti-trafficking policies and programs.

Supporting Colombia’s efforts to implement the 2016 peace accord and elevating the importance of the accord’s ethnic chapter, the most important mechanism in place to advance racial and ethnic inclusion in Colombia.

Implementing the first National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality, released by the Biden-Harris administration in 2021. Using an “intersectional approach,” the plan seeks to break barriers and empower women, girls and LGBTQI+ people, in all their diversity, in the United States and globally.

Offering Americans the use of the “X” gender marker on passports. The State Department was the first U.S. government entity to offer the marker on identity documents.

The word 'equity' (©

Key areas

As outlined in its Equity Action Plan, the State Department will take steps to advance racial and gender equity in all operations, including:

  • Diplomatic engagements.
  • High-level dialogues.
  • Multilateral efforts.
  • Foreign assistance.
  • Public diplomacy and exchanges.
  • Procurement and contracts.

Diversity on the world stage

Triptcych of two women and one man (© Tom Fitzsimmons; ©Alex Wong/Getty Images; State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
From left: Sara Minkara, special advisor for international disability rights; Justin Hansford, U.N. Permanent Forum on People of African Descent; and Jessica Stern, special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people. (© Tom Fitzsimmons; ©Alex Wong/Getty Images; State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Several U.S. government officials serve as advocates for minority rights worldwide.

Sara Minkara is the U.S. special advisor on international disability rights. She is responsible for ensuring that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance support people with disabilities worldwide.

Jessica Stern is the U.S special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons, with a mission is to promote equal respect for the LGBTQI+ community worldwide.

Justin Hansford, a Howard University law professor, was elected to serve on the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent to address racial discrimination for the 2022–2024 term. The United States strongly supported the creation of the forum.

“Equal opportunity is the bedrock of American democracy,” President Biden said in the executive order that he signed on his first day in office in 2021 on advancing equity, which launched this governmentwide initiative.