Hillary Clinton was arguably the highest profile and most politically powerful Secretary of State in recent history. She commanded a domestic constituency in the United States. Around the world she was a known entity, popular among elites and regular people on every continent.
She could have used that power to serve any number of ends — but she used it to advance human rights, development, and elevate the status of women around the world.
Arguably her most lasting legacy will be the formation of an entity in the State Department dedicated to the empowerment of women around the world. Creating the office of the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues means that there is a bureacracy within the United States government that is solely focused on making sure that women’s issues are elevated when foreign policy decisions are made.
This is a key issue of our time. Of all the Millennium Development Goals, the ones pertaining to the health and welfare of women and girls are farthest from their targets. Child birth kills 800 women every day; and there are an estimated 222 million women around the world who don’t have access to modern contraceptives. Women continue to be marginalized even though studies show that the surest way to improve economies and boost development outcomes is to invest in women and girls.
Women have served as Secretaries of State before, of course, but this was a singular cause for Hillary Clinton. There are other accomplishments to praise, including adding the protection of LGBT rights to the US human rights agenda; experimenting with new methods of digital diplomacy and engagement; and championing public-private partnerships like The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.
These were important and worthy things for the Secretary of State to champion, of course. But, in my book, Clinton’s legacy will be most clearly manifested in her support for women and girls. Clinton knew that this was the key development and human rights issue of our time, and took very concrete steps to make sure that the USA would support women and girls around the world long after she leaves office. She will be remembered as a steller Secretary of State.