In its 21st year, the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)’s National High School Essay Contest encouraged students to think about how and why the United States engages globally to build peace, and about the role that the Foreign Service plays in advancing U.S. national security and economic prosperity.
For the second year in a row, the National High School Essay Contest focused on an important aspect of operating in countries affected by or vulnerable to violent conflict: effective coordination of the many different foreign policy tools the United States has at its disposal. Whether you were addressing the prompt for a second year or new to the contest, the contest will have challenged you to expand your understanding of the role of the Foreign Service and other actors in foreign policy, identify case studies, and provide a sophisticated analysis in a concise manner.
The essay prompt and a helpful study guide are included below; you can find out more information about the rules and how to submit by checking out AFSA’s essay contest page.
2019 Essay Question
Why Diplomacy and Peacebuilding Matter
The United States has many tools to advance and defend its foreign policy and national security interests around the world—from diplomatic approaches pursued by members of the Foreign Service, to the range of options available to the U.S. military. In countries affected by or vulnerable to violent conflict, peacebuilding tools are important additions to the national security toolkit.
In such complex environments, cooperation across agencies and approaches is challenging, but it can also blend knowledge and skills in ways that strengthen the overall effort to establish a lasting peace. On the other hand, lack of coordination can lead to duplication of effort, inefficient use of limited resources and unintended consequences.
In a 1,000-1,250-word essay, identify two cases—one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful—where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict-affected country. Analyze and compare these two cases, addressing the following questions:
- What relative strengths did members of the Foreign Service and military actors bring to the table? What peacebuilding tools were employed? Ultimately, what worked or did not work in each case?
- How was each situation relevant to U.S. national security interests?
- What lessons may be drawn from these experiences for the pursuit of U.S. foreign policy more broadly?
Download the study guide for the 2019 AFSA National High School Essay Contest