Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, the District, or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. It was founded on July 16, 1790 in accordance with a provision within Article I of the U.S. Constitution, which allowed for the creation of a special district to serve as the permanent national capital. The District is therefore not a part of any U.S. state and is instead directly overseen by the federal government. The District is located on the north bank of the Potomac River and is bordered by the states of Virginia to the southwest and Maryland to the other sides. The city has a resident population of 601,723; because of commuters from the surrounding suburbs, its population rises to over one million during the workweek. The Washington Metropolitan Area, of which the District is a part, has a population of 5.4 million, the eighth-largestmetropolitan area in the country.
Washington, D.C. is a major cultural and technological center in North America, home to many museums, libraries, and other cultural institutions. As the seat of the United States federal government, it is responsible for producing countless volumes of public domain media. The year 2012 is a United States presidential election year, thus giving attendees a unique opportunity to see Washington in the middle of what will be a very busy campaign season.
The headquarters of all three branches of the U.S. federal government, and of many national and international organizations, are located within the District. Washington, D.C. hosts 174 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). As an international city, Washington, D.C. is home to large immigrant communities, including the second largest Ethiopian community outside of Ethiopia, as well as a large populations from Vietnam, El Salvador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Colombia, and has a large African-American population. Washington is also religiously diverse, with 10.6% Muslim and 4.5% Jewish populations.
Washington's safety record is stellar, especially in the Northwest where most of the conference will take place. Murders are at their lowest level since 1966. In total, violent crime declined nearly 47% between 1995 and 2007. Property crime, including thefts and robberies, declined by roughly 48% during the same period. Once plagued with violent crime, many D.C. neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights and Logan Circle are becoming safe and vibrant areas due to overall trends of reduced crime in the District and also through the effects of gentrification. Furthermore, public transportation is readily used by millions of commuters each week as a safe form of transportation in the District, as opposed to other large US cities where public transportation is associated with crime. Washington's former reputation as a haven of crime has largely become obsolete. Washington, D.C. is also out of hurricane-vulnerable areas, and it won't be prime hurricane season. Attendees can come to Washington and expect a safe and pleasant trip.