On March 6, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Melanne Verveer as the first ever Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues. She’ll report directly to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The office and the officeholder couldn’t be more appropriate. In 1992 Melanne headed the Washington Transition Office of the soon-to-be First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has always supported the view that the foreign policy sector could benefit from the advancement of women. Partly as a result, Swannee Hunt who was US Ambassador to Austria in July 1997 gathered 320 women leaders from East and West Europe and the US for a conference dubbed Vital Voices: Women in Democracy. The First Lady gave the keynote, and Melanne Verveer, her chief of staff, was right in the middle of the mix. The Clinton White House and State Department adopted Vital Voices as an ongoing initiative. At the end of that administration, it was spun out as a new NGO, the Vital Voices Global Partnership. Verveer guided the organization into a robust international nonprofit investing in emerging women leaders. Honorary co-chairs of the organization were Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Senator Hillary Clinton.
So now the team will continue as Ambassador Verveer takes her place alongside her Secretary of State. Together, they will protect women victims of abuse and hardship and work upstream of those problems by supporting the advancement of women policy makers. Worldwide, women are poised to transform their countries. Supporting them is a perfect example of what Secretary of State Clinton calls “smart power.”