US solider in camouflage uniform plays a saxophone for a group of school children smiling

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

The U.S. Department of State carries out the foreign policy of the President and represents the interests of the United States to other nations and international organizations.

“[America] goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.”

– John Quincy Adams

The Department’s goals may differ from nation to nation and change with time. But year after year, across presidential administrations, a few broad policies are the bedrock of the Department’s work.

These policies break down into the following five categories:

A woman wearing a headscarf sits among a group of students in a classroom.
Chad Country Manager for Ambassadors Girls’
Scholarship Program, middle, talking to girls in
Ecole Mani, Chad. (Credit: AP Photo/Sayyid Azim

Protecting the United States and American citizens

—from the threats of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, infectious diseases, drug trafficking, crime, and environmental degradation. American embassies and consulates overseas also provide protection and assistance to American citizens abroad.

Advancing democracy

—by assisting newly formed democracies and denouncing regimes that deny their citizens the right to choose their leaders in free, fair, and transparent elections.

Defending human rights 

—by holding governments accountable to their obligations under human rights standards and agreements; fostering greater respect for human rights; promoting the rule of law, seeking accountability, and changing cultures of impunity; and assisting efforts to reform and strengthen the UN Commission on Human Rights.

Encouraging economic growth and prosperity

—by supporting economic development through increased investment and exports and democratization and by reducing poverty and fighting disease through the programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Promoting international understanding of American values and policies 

—by engaging international audiences through official events and public programs at embassies around the world and by people-to-people exchange programs in a broad array of fields, including the arts, culture, education, sports, and science.

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