A Cambodian nurse holds a stethoscope to a baby.

What are the key policies of the U.S. Department of State?

The State Department’s goals differ from nation to nation and change over time. Yet, even across presidential administrations, a few broad policies form the bedrock of the State Department’s work.

These foundational policies break down into the following four categories:

Security: Protecting the United States and American citizens

What are some threats that the State Department protects Americans from?

  • Terrorism
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Infectious diseases
  • Drug trafficking
  • Environmental degradation

If American citizens are injured, arrested, or incapacitated abroad, American embassies and consulates can provide assistance.

Democracy: Promoting free and fair elections and advancing human rights

How does the State Department defend human rights and advance democracy?

  • Promoting freedom of speech, association, religion, and the press.
  • Denouncing regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in free, fair, and transparent elections.
  • Holding governments accountable to their obligations under human rights standards and agreements.
  • Promoting the rule of law, seeking accountability, and changing cultures of impunity.
  • Assisting in efforts to reform and strengthen the UN Commission on Human Rights.
  • Fostering greater respect for human rights.

Prosperity: Encouraging economic growth

What does supporting economic growth and prosperity look like?

  • Promoting economic development through increased investment, exports, and democratization.
  • Supporting entrepreneurs by protecting intellectual property.

Development: Reducing poverty and improving health

What does global development work look like?

  • Helping people compete in the global economy to reduce poverty.
  • Responding to natural disasters around the world.
  • Preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
  • Coordinating international responses to pandemics and health crises.
A Cambodian nurse holds a stethoscope to a baby.
A trained medical staff member listens to the heartbeat of an infant at 16 Makara hospital in Preah Vihear, Cambodia. Improving global health is one of many key policies of the U.S. Department of State. World Bank photo.

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