February 04, 2024

Letter from the CEO February 2024

Dear Friends of Utah Global Diplomacy,

As we usher in the new year, it gives me great pleasure to have welcomed our first group of exceptional international delegates through the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program organized by Cultural Vistas. These distinguished individuals hail from various countries, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experiences that will undoubtedly contribute to the cultural and professional enrichment of our community.

This program hosted professionals, government officials, and leaders from Benin, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Haiti, Mali, the Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, representing diverse fields, including government, media, business, and academia. While they were in Utah, they examined the importance of ethical systems for accountability in government and business, international efforts to strengthen the integrity of governments and businesses, transparency's impact on trade and economic development, and the crucial role citizens, media, academia, and civil society play in fostering transparency and accountability.

And while there is no question about the impact our exchange programs have both on our international delegates and our local community, I often wonder how many Utahns truly understand the significant importance of these delegates and the exchange programs. I had the privilege of hosting three of these individuals for dinner. 

Ms. Charity Matumbi is part of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission’s institutional leadership and has demonstrated regional and international expertise in promoting transparency and accountability, including her efforts leading the National Anti-Corruption Strategy’s Committee on Whistleblowers and Witness Protection.  She has advocated for strengthened measures against corruption in Zimbabwe and continues her work on asset recovery and civil forfeiture in Zimbabwe, as well as at regional and global levels.

Ms. Precisous Thembeka Khumalo-Sikhakhane from South Africa is the Chief Operations Officer in the city of uMhlathuze. Her portfolio is based at the Municipal Manager’s office, where she is responsible for Integrated Development Plan, Enterprise Risk Management, Communications, and Organizational Performance Management. Ms. Khumalo manages and coordinates the operations and activities of the uMhlathuze Municipality and provides both strategic and support services to the Municipal Manager to ensure that the Municipality delivers on its mandate in an integrated and coordinated manner to entrench a performance-driven culture throughout the institution. 

Finally, Mr. Sonkita Conteh, a lawyer from Sierra Leone, focuses on protecting the rights of communities and the environment in the face of abuses of extractive industry activities. He has written numerous scientific publications on the topic of land rights and environmental protection. Sonkita heads Namati, a foremost legal empowerment organization working with communities on land rights protection and environmental justice in Sierra Leone. He leads a team of community paralegals who provide direct legal and organizing support to communities on the frontlines of large-scale land investment. 

Their works focus primarily on anti-corruption efforts, so over dinner, they shared unbelievable stories of courage, determination, truth, and ethics as they work to make the world more peaceful and prosperous for everyone.

Their stories are just three out of the hundreds of delegates we host each year through our exchange programs. 

I encourage each of you to take the opportunity to connect with our international guests during each of their visits to Utah. As a community, we have much to learn from their diverse perspectives, and this exchange will undoubtedly contribute to our collective growth and understanding. This exchange program is not only a testament to our commitment to global collaboration but also a reflection of the positive impact that such initiatives have on fostering international goodwill. Utah, known for its hospitality and innovation, is poised to gain as much as it gives through this meaningful exchange.

Where to start? Join us on Friday, February 16 for Citizen Diplomacy Day and learn what we are all about. Host a dinner for an international delegation visiting Utah. Join our International Leadership Academy and learn how you can be part of international relations in Utah, across the nation, or around the world. And of course sign up for our newsletter and be in the know of what is taking place!

Felecia Maxfield-Barrett
President & CEO
Utah Global Diplomacy