Binational committees — the AMC’s proven driving force

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

There is perhaps no truer statement to describe the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s (AMC) binational committees and the extraordinary results they have produced over the course of 60 years. The individuals serving on these committees have the best interests of both Arizona and Sonora in mind as they tackle a range of issues important to each state and to their respective Governors. The ultimate goal? To improve the quality of life in our region through cross-border collaboration.

The AMC was originally established in 1959 as the Arizona-Mexico West Coast Trade Commission, and by 1972 Governor Jack Williams of Arizona felt the Commission could expand its binational influence. The organization was rebranded and shortly thereafter the committees as we know them today were formed, starting with Agriculture and Livestock, Art and Culture, Banking and Finance, Education, Health, Tourism, and Trade and Commerce.

This unique structure is what sets the Arizona-Mexico Commission apart from other organizations. Today, there are 16 such binational committees, each led by a public and private sector co-chair from Arizona and Sonora. Many of our committee chairs are state agency directors, private sector leaders and experts in their respective fields.

Committee meetings are where the bulk of the AMC’s ideas originate and are the driving force behind the organization’s successes – many of which have garnered international attention. The committees welcome participation from members of the Arizona-Mexico Commission and the Comisión Sonora-Arizona (CSA) interested in helping drive the initiatives planned over the course of the year. Committee actions lead to real results, and these accomplishments are presented to the governors twice each year at the summer and winter commission meetings.

Since 1972, these committees have been an integral part of the Arizona-Mexico Commission’s foundation and the binational relationship. Under Governor Ducey’s leadership, the work of these 16 committees has been re-energized through the cooperative and productive relationship shared with Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich. Between 2015 and 2018 alone, 13 memorandums of understanding, declarations of cooperation and joint statements have been signed and issued—all of which have contributed to improvements in public safety, ease of transportation, quality of education, and joint efforts in the promotion of tourism and economic development in the shared region.

We have seen some great examples of collaboration that have resulted in game-changing projects for the region, starting in the early years when engineers from Mexico toured Arizona to learn firsthand about Arizona’s irrigation projects. A few decades later when the U.S. Hermosillo Consulate General office was facing closure due to budgetary cutbacks, the AMC spearheaded efforts to save it. Those efforts not only saved the U.S. Hermosillo Consulate General, they also resulted in a second U.S. Consulate General in Nogales. To this day, Sonora is the only state in Mexico with two U.S. Consulate General offices. In recent years, the AMC has taken things to an entirely new level with projects such as the Border Liaison Unit and the establishment of the Safety Corridor between the Lukeville-Sonoyta Port of Entry and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora. These initiatives both seek to facilitate trade and tourism while enhancing safety measures.

However, the committees have also inspired many lighthearted moments. Within the first two decades of the organization’s founding, we saw multiple friendly sports exchanges between Arizona and Sonora. Arizona hosted numerous Little League baseball teams while the University of Arizona sent multiple softball teams to play in Mexico. In 1968, the State of Sonora gifted Arizona a statue of Father Kino. The statue currently resides in Tucson, Arizona and contains a copper time capsule that is to be opened in 2235.

The Arizona-Mexico Commission has ensured that the shared language, history, culture, stories, food, and most importantly, values, transcend our shared border to offer a unique and vibrant region. It is through the 16 committees that the Arizona-Mexico Commission is empowered to champion these values that continue to strengthen an incredibly important relationship. Our ties with Mexico have never been stronger, and through the impactful work of the AMC’s thoughtful, committed partners, we will continue to make a lasting impact for the next 60 years and beyond.

Juan Ciscomani serves as senior advisor for regional and international affairs to Gov. Doug Ducey and vice chair of the Arizona-Mexico Commission board of directors.

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