Around the world, countries are facing new and growing environmental challenges, many of which require regional cooperation to solve. Bringing nations together in a region to work on a common environmental problem -- a common threat -- can advance U.S. interests in ways that go far beyond the scope of the environmental issue itself. The Department's commitment to a regional strategy complements our bilateral and multilateral diplomatic environmental efforts.
Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) Officers Around the World
There are approximately fifty Foreign Service officers located in embassies around the world who focus exclusively on environment, science, technology, and health issues within our bilateral diplomatic relationships. They engage our allies on the full range of OES issues, such as, oceans and fisheries; conservation; protection of marine mammals and wildlife; water; cooperation on satellites and global positioning systems; bilateral science cooperation; health policy; environmental capacity building under our Free Trade Agreements, and climate change and renewable energy, among others. In addition, ESTH officers represent U.S. positions in multilateral fora at the U.S. Missions to the United Nations in New York City and Geneva, and at the U.S. Mission to the European Union. ESTH officers work closely with other USG agencies and support their efforts by raising key issues at the diplomatic level. They cooperate with nongovernmental organizations to raise awareness of ESTH issues, promote good environmental governance and public participation, and advocate the use of ESTH core issues to strengthen diplomatic relations.
Regional Environmental Hubs
To address transboundary environmental issues, and to support officers working on OES issues, the Department established 12 regional environmental hubs, located in embassies around the world. The hub concept is based on the idea that transboundary environmental problems can best be addressed through regional cooperation. The regional environmental officer's role complements the traditional bilateral environment, science, technology, and health officers stationed in U.S. Embassies in many countries of the world. Rather than dealing with a single country, hub officers engage with several countries of a region on a particular issue, with the aim of promoting regional environmental cooperation, sharing of environmental data, and adoption of environmentally sound policies that will benefit all countries in that area.
Like the bilateral officers, the hubs work closely with other USG agencies and support their efforts by raising key issues at the diplomatic level. They cooperate extensively with nongovernmental organizations, and regional organizations on environmental activities within their region.
In March 2014, the Regional Environmental Officer Sam (Kent) Healy, ESTH Assistant Koffi Konin, the USAID West Africa Regional Environment Office, and three U.S. embassies arranged for a meeting of law enforcement, environmental, and judicial representatives from Burkina Faso, Guinea and Togo for the region’s first ever regional digital video conference (DVC) on wildlife crime and trafficking. The purpose of the DVC was to launch a long-term anti-wildlife crime initiative among working-level government and non-governmental organization officials in West Africa. Participants exchanged information on current situations and legal frameworks in their countries, assessed measures being taken to combat trafficking, and shared lessons learned and successful techniques for combatting wildlife trafficking as well as compared obstacles that still impede success. Participants also made important connections and shared valuable information which could improve operations and coordination across borders.
The success of this first-ever regional digital video conference on wildlife crime under the Accra environmental Hub sets the stage for the U.S. environmental team in West Africa to plan additional video conferences with other West African countries, to support the ultimate goal of an integrated regional framework developed by and for West Africans to coordinate anti-wildlife trafficking efforts.
In Kazakhstan, mobile clinics provide vital medical services to communities in remote areas far from local hospitals or clinics. Under the U.S.-Kazakhstan Joint Committee Meeting (JCM) on Science and Technology Cooperation, the Working Group on Biomedical Research has targeted wider delivery of medical services for communicable and non-communicable diseases, including pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, cancer, and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, to Kazakh communities. In March 2014, Regional Environmental Officer David Paradise and Scientific Affairs Assistant Marzhan Srymova visited the AktubeRoentgen plant in Aktobe, Kazakstan which designs, builds, and manufactures X-ray machines that can be used as stationary equipment in hospitals or as portable devices for dental exams. Machines can also be mounted on trucks (see photo) as mobile clinics for mammograms, chest and lung exams, or emergency fractures. AktubeRoentgen also builds CAT scan machines.
Regional Environmental Officer (REO) Andrew Griffin and REO specialist Adriana Quevedo are collaborating with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 and Environment Canada to share lessons learned from the U.S.-Canada experience with sustainable management of trans-boundary lakes with the Peruvian government and Peruvian and Bolivian members of the Lake Titicaca Binational Authority. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and its ecosystem and the economic health of surrounding communities are threatened by wastewater, solid waste, and heavy metals from illegal and informal gold mining. Cleaning up the lake is vital to the conservation and health of the lake’s diverse species of flora and fauna as well as the communities that depend on the lake’s resources every day as a food source and for their economic livelihoods. The United States and Canada have developed successful models for cooperation to address contamination in the Great Lakes that could be adopted by Peru and Bolivia for Lake Titicaca.
The hub teamed up with the Canadian Embassy in Peru to organize a joint U.S./Canada mission to Lake Titicaca led by EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman and her Environment Canada counterpart, Mike Goffin in May 2014. In addition to a tour of contaminated sites on the lake, the delegation participated in multiple meetings and seminars with members of the Peruvian Multisectoral Commission on Prevention and Remediation of Pollution in Lake Titicaca, with the regional president of Puno, and with the Executive Director of the Lake Titicaca Binational Authority. The visit opened the door to future technical exchanges as Peru and Bolivia seek to update the Lake Titicaca Master Plan and consider new governance structures for binational lake management.
From left to right: REO, Puno Regional President, Environment Vice Minister, Susan Hedman, Mike Goffin, and Canadian Embassy Official
In April 2014, Regional Environmental Officer (REO) Ari Nathan and Environmental Affairs Specialist, Jay Pal Shrestha met with representatives of South Asia’s main regional anti-wildlife trafficking organization, the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) to discuss support for the goals of the upcoming regional SAWEN meeting. As SAWEN is relatively new, the REO is supporting the network in its development of a binding agreement that defines SAWEN’s regional role and the responsibilities of its member countries. Ari Nathan is also working with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the World Bank on support for SAWEN for wildlife trafficking operations, training and logistical support.
South Asia is home to over 12% of the world’s fauna and 15% of the world’s flora, including many species threatened with extinction such as big cats, rhinos, antelopes, medicinal plants, sea turtles and others. The region’s biological diversity, high population density, and relative poverty, combine to make it particularly vulnerable to wildlife poaching and trafficking networks. Indian rhinos (aka greater one-horned rhinos) and Bengal tigers are prime targets due to their monetary value. The appeal of charismatic species such as tigers and rhinos is crucial for the tourism industry, which is important to South Asia’s sustained economic growth. The region’s rich ecosystems and species attract millions of tourists each year.
SAWEN is headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal and members include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.