Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox pledged last week to continue to seek legislation that would establish an official International Affairs Coordinating Council to promote the importance of international affairs to state and local governments.

“I believe it is vital that we strengthen communication between nations and between state agencies that provide services to resident foreign nationals as well as international visitors,” she said during a speech at a dinner held at the Atlanta law firm of Alston & Bird LLP.

The dinner was in honor of the visitors attending a workshop on free trade agreements, the first program of the non-profit CIFAL Atlanta, which was launched in September as a joint initiative of the United Nations and the city of Atlanta. CIFAL Atlanta is one of 12 centers in the world developed by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research to implement the U.N.’s development goals for more than 60 percent of the world’s population living in urban areas.

CIFAL is a French acronym for Centre International de Formation des Acteurs Locaux.

Among the visitors were Hermando Jose Gomez, chief free trade area negotiator, Ministry of Trade, Colombia; Celso Jaque, a senator from Argentina; Enrique Rierra, mayor of Asuncion, Paraguay and president of the Paraguay Federation of Municipalities and Pedro Sabat, mayor of Santiago, Chile.

Despite the failure in the General Assembly of her 2002 proposal to create the council, Ms. Cox said she pulled together representatives from a variety of state agencies for quarterly meetings to coordinate the international responsibilities of the various state and local government agencies.

The council has established a Web site at www.georgia that includes the council’s members and their responsibilities.

Among the council’s other accomplishments, Ms. Cox cited programs developed with the U.S. State Department to educate law enforcement officers on their dealings with non-citizens, and promoted increased services at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport non-English speakers.

She also described how Georgia became the first state in the United States to mandate a uniform electronic system of voting for every Georgia county.

With the improved accuracy of the state’s new equipment, she added, more than 103,000 votes were properly counted in the presidential race this year. Four years ago, Georgia experienced even more “undervotes,” also known as “lost votes,” than Florida did that year, she said.

In addition, she explained how her office has been automated so that a business may be incorporated in Georgia in four business days or less in comparison to the six to eight weeks that it took eight years ago.

For the full text off Ms. Cox’s comments go to “Columns and Interviews” at

To learn more about CIFAL Atlanta and its programs, go to