This post was contributed by Jezza Syed, GlobalConnect Programs and Data Management Fellow. It is a part of a blog series highlighting and acknowledging the work and contributions of Black diplomats during Black History Month.
Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, born in Queens, NY, currently serves as the Incoming Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs in President Joe Biden’s Administration. Jenkins started her political career early as a Presidential Management Fellow under the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. She advanced in her diplomatic and political career as a legal adviser for the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to U.S. Ambassadors, General Counsel to the U.S. Commission to Combat Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and a consultant of the 2000 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks (9/11 Commission). She later served at the U.S. Department of State’s Coordinators for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation under the Obama Administration.
Jenkins education provided the foundation for a very successful career in diplomacy and foreign relations. She attended Amherst College, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts, and she received a Master’s of public administration from the State University of New York at Albany. She earned her J.D. from Albany Law School. Additionally, she pursued a Masters of Laws from Georgetown University in international and comparative law. Later, she received a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Virginia.
Under the Department of State, as G7 representative from 2010 to 2016, Jenkins led the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Programs and advised the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Her drive to implement combatant weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs working with international organizations helped advance U.S. international security policy. Jenkins has made her mark in diplomacy by collaborating with international leaders and governments involved with the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA), an international movement focused on providing 50 countries the resources to mitigate the threats posed by infectious diseases globally. Her work in Africa has garnered global attention by working with the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DRTRA) and Threat Reduction in Africa (TRIA) in the efforts to decrease the threats of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the region.
Her passion for strengthening programs and international engagement around humanitarianism, peacekeeping, national security and women in conflict manifested in her founding of a non-profit organization called Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security (WCAPS), a platform for women of color to have a voice and cultivate a network to engage in policy and international affairs conversations. In an interview at the Council of Foreign Relations, she discussed her experiences as the former U.S. Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs and as President of WCAPS. Her exemplary national security work and vision to coordinate security programs make her an example of diplomacy in action as she empowers and inspires women in the international community.
Jenkins certainly is paving the way and is in every sense of the word a trailblazer for many young women, especially women of color, to pursue a career in security and diplomacy. She recently did an interview with Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where she emphasized the impact and challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the African American community. Reflecting on her international work she said, “It’s a passion of mine to teach the next generation why they should care about these things, why they should think about how to address these things, why it is important to have the average person doing what he or she can.”