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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks at the Distinguished Women in International Affairs Speaker Series at George Washington University: Foreign Policy and Science: An Essential Partnership

Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Washington, DC
October 9, 2012


As Prepared

Thank you Sarah for that kind introduction. I would also like to thank Dean Michael Brown, who couldn’t be here today, and Dr. Al Teich. It is an honor to be here today at the invitation of the Center for International Science and Technology Policy, the Global Gender Program, and the distinguished Women in International Affairs Series.

In thinking about the invitation to speak here today, I selected a broad title for my talk. As many of you know, this is a topic that fascinates me and one where I have been engaged for years. So what I felt I should do today is look at both the breadth and the depth of this essential partnership. When we come to the topic of foreign policy and science we approach it from our various disciplines, interests and perspectives. Today I want to try and give you a picture of the whole at this moment in time and talk about what it means.

I also want to give you a practitioner’s viewpoint with some of the details. As Assistant Secretary of State, I lead the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), which is a long title but gives you an idea of the breadth of what we do. In this position, I have been able to view the big picture. I have also been lucky enough to have seen the changes occurring over the past several years from the viewpoint of the technical agencies and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Foreign policy and science interact in so many ways and they are becoming more and more intertwined. Simply put -- science helps advance foreign policy goals and foreign policy helps advance our science goals -- nationally and internationally.

Our overall foreign policy seeks to ensure our nation’s prosperity and security and also contributes to stability and prosperity across the globe. As President Obama stated in his most recent State of the Union address -- we will safeguard America’s security against those who threaten our citizens, our friends, and our interests. In her testimony before Congress earlier this year in budget hearings, Secretary Clinton discussed the objectives and accomplishments of our foreign policy, more specifically including these topics: Working to put American leadership on a firm foundation for the decades ahead; cementing our place as a Pacific power; maintaining our alliances across the Atlantic; elevating development as an equal of diplomacy and defense in our foreign policy; elevating the role of economics in our diplomacy; and reaching beyond governments to engage directly with people with a special focus on women and girls.

In an earlier speech Secretary Clinton expressed our goals with the following words: “And that is what we seek to build: a network of alliances and partnerships, regional organizations and global institutions that is durable and dynamic enough to help us meet today’s challenges and adapt to threats that we cannot even conceive of, just as our parents never dreamt of melting glaciers or dirty bombs.”. To achieve these foreign policy objectives we need to be engaged with the world and build strong relationships on all levels.

From a science perspective, the Obama Administration believes that the United States must remain at the leading edge of discovery and innovation. Recent budgets, even in these challenging times, remain strong for investments in science and technology that promote sustainable economic growth, that support a clean energy future, that address global climate change and that manage competing demands on natural resources. We want to ensure that the next generation of scientists is well trained and able to compete successfully in the global research community, so investments remain high in the area of science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, also known as STEM. The President has put forward a Strategy for American Innovation that spells out a comprehensive approach to strengthening the U.S. innovation system.

International science technology cooperation provides U.S. scientists the opportunity to partner with the best scientists around the world and be members of the most dynamic teams. It also ensures that they will have access to the best facilities and be able to travel to remote locations, in other words, so scientists can work where their research leads them. Also, international collaboration allows students to learn how to work in global research settings. More and more, we are seeing research teams composed of people from different countries from around the world.

To examine the partnership between foreign policy and science we can take various views and today I will look at three different perspectives -- a bilateral perspective, the perspective of a particular issue and a multilateral perspective. What this approach also reflects is how I spend my time.

Advancing U.S. Foreign policy goals is dependent on our relations with other countries -- our bilateral relationships; our ability to advance our opinions and to affect change is very much linked to our connections with counterparts around the world. The nature of any one bilateral relationship is defined by history and defined through many different channels, many different dimensions. When you talk about diplomacy, the classic ones are economic, trade, and security. However, the range and vibrancy of a relationship is what defines its effectiveness and resilience. So we have a range of channels of engagement with different countries. The science and technology channel is typically a very positive element in bilateral relationships. It provides an opportunity to work with developed or developing countries, to share values and address problems shared between two countries, or more broadly to work on global challenges.

The U.S. science and technology enterprise is held in very high esteem around the world. There is often polling done on this. Science and technology often polls as a strong positive for the United States. We have a distributed federal system for science and technology and a highly diverse research and academic and industrial landscape. We also have an approach to innovation -- that while we are currently working hard to improve it -- is still the envy of the world when it comes to research and moving it into the productive sector.

We address our bilateral science and technology relationships with formal agreements -- science and technology agreements. These are negotiated documents that spell out our common priorities and interests, as well as mechanisms and conditions for working together. The agreements address such topics as intellectual property and treatment of human subjects.

The first science and technology agreements were signed with Argentina and Mexico in 1972 and since then the number has grown. The China S&T Agreement was signed in 1979 -- our first agreement with China. There are currently forty science and technology agreements, whereby U.S. Government technical agencies pursue collaborations and promote joint research. We also have twenty more agreements that are not active. Under these agreements we typically meet regularly and discuss priorities and progress. At these meetings, we look at what are the important issues and work to understand obstacles to cooperation. One topic we have been raising in all of our science relationships is the importance of women and girls participation in the science and technology enterprise. Everyone recognizes that women need to be engaged.

Agreements with partners such as Germany underpin a long-standing and vibrant science and technology relationship. The agreement with Germany has facilitated research between the Research Center Kulich and Oak Ridge National Laboratory focused on the development of thermal barrier coating systems; under the Helmholtz-National Renewable Energy Laboratory Solar Initiative research projects are underway in areas such as New Materials, and Concentrated Solar Power. There are two neuroscience projects -- one supported by the NSF and one supported by the German Ministry of Education and Research -- which are working together to investigate the challenges of spinal cord injuries.

While science and technology agreements are very formal and facilitate cooperative activities, the thread of science runs throughout bilateral relationships. As an example, I will turn to the U.S.–Indonesian bilateral relationship. Our two countries have developed a Comprehensive Partnership which highlights the many areas where we work together and the range of interests we share. Let me just give you some background facts that some of you may already know. Indonesia is a strategic partner for the United States -- it is an emerging East Asian economy; it is a strategic ally in an important region of the world; it has the fourth largest population in the world; it is the world’s largest Muslim majority state; and it is the world’s third largest democracy. Indonesia is also a center of biodiversity (both marine and terrestrial) and it is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. The partnership of our two countries is important for each of our countries, but it is also important for the world.

We have a fairly new science and technology agreement with Indonesia and we held our first Joint Committee meeting this past May. But in addition to the engagement promoted through that agreement there are multiple science connections that are interwoven throughout our broader relationship.

First of all, let me start with marine issues: The United States and Indonesia are engaged in multiple efforts to better understand and protect the unique marine biodiversity. Indonesia took a leadership role in 2007, when President Yudhoyono called for the establishment of the Coral Triangle Initiative -- which brings together the six nations of the coral triangle -- the area recognized as the global center of marine biodiversity as well as an area of some of the planet’s most important fisheries. The United States was a founding member of this initiative and USAID provides ongoing support -- including scientific studies to determine areas of high priority marine diversity, and efforts to establish new marine protected areas based on the best available scientific information. USAID also supports the Indonesia Marine and Climate Support Program which looks at ways to improve sustainable fisheries management.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Indonesia are jointly exploring the oceans. In 2010, they carried out a joint expedition of deep sea with the Indonesian ship Baruna Jaya IV and the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. Through the use of cutting edge technologies, over fifty new species of plants and animals were discovered in three weeks of exploration, and this work is ongoing.

Health is an area of shared concern. Highly infectious avian influenza, H5N1, is endemic in Indonesia; the State Department, USAID, and CDC work closely with their counterparts in Indonesia and with the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to ensure that surveillance and an understanding of this very important virus is continually expanding. Indonesia is an active member of the global network for influenza surveillance. Indonesia and the United States are working together on the issue of drug resistant TB. NIH researchers are also working with Indonesian researchers on topics that include HIV prevention, care and treatment, and health and economic effects of natural disasters.

As I mentioned earlier, Indonesia ranks third internationally in total greenhouse gas emissions and this is largely due to forest and land use issues -- particularly the draining and conversion of the vast tropical peatlands in Indonesia. The United States has supported the establishment of the Indonesia Climate Change Center, one element of which is Peatland Monitoring -- a collaborative research program to monitor and understand emissions from Indonesia’s peatlands. The Center has moved forward on a very important step, which is developing a consensus definition of peatland through technical workshops which included U.S. technical agencies and universities. This and other Center programs are attracting support from other contributors, ensuring that the U.S. investment will be sustainable over time.

If we look at forestry, Indonesia has the earth’s third largest area of tropical forests and the United States and Indonesia have worked together for many years on the issue of illegal logging -- including the critical task of developing new technologies for identification of wood species and samples. In addition, the Indonesia Climate Change Center is also working on an effort known as “One Map” of Forested Lands. The U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Forest Service and NASA have participated in the technical discussions related to developing, for the first time, a single authoritative map of forest cover, land use, and land use change. That is a really important tool in Indonesia’s forestry policy discussion as it goes forward.

As I mentioned earlier, innovation is an area of great attention around the world as the countries are seized with the question of sustained economic growth. Innovation systems are increasingly international as researchers move around and as more companies become multinational. The State Department is supporting a program called GIST -- Global Innovation through Science and Technology -- and Indonesia has been a very active participant. Activities over the past year in Indonesia have included a Business Leadership Forum, a Journalism Workshop and a mentoring workshop. There is also a competition to highlight innovation called the “Venture Pitch Competition.” The award highlights the work of managers from startup companies, and last year the winner was a woman, Nurana Paramita, of the company T-Files. As part of her award, Nurana won a trip to the United States to meet potential investors and business leaders. (The company’s product is a marine turbine that converts ocean currents into household electricity.) This innovation effort builds linkages across our two countries’ innovation systems and is important to both of our countries.

My purpose in delving more deeply into this one bilateral relationship was to show you -- where and how -- science and technology appear. It is not just in our science and technology agreements, but integrated into all of these various dimensions of our bilateral relationship with Indonesia. This is increasingly the case in many of our bilateral relationships.

Another view of the relationship between science and technology and foreign policy is from the perspective of a particular issue and one I spend a great deal of time on, which is wildlife trafficking. This is not a new issue on the international conservation agenda, but the past year has raised the visibility and the urgency of this issue for several reasons. The recent meeting of APEC leaders in Vladivostok produced a statement that included this topic as an issue of serious concern, highlighting the need for leaders to pay attention to it. Secretary Clinton is engaging her counterparts around the world to focus on this issue.

First of all, poaching in Africa has been on the rise over the past year -- particularly the killing of elephants. The most severe incident occurred in Cameroon in February where close to three hundred elephants were killed in Bouba Ndjida National Park, but elephant killings are also on the rise in Chad, Gabon, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe and other African countries. In many of these incidents the poachers have had very sophisticated weapons and they have crossed national borders. There are reports that armed rebel groups are now involved in wildlife trafficking.

The issue is much broader than a conservation issue, governed by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora-- CITES. It is also an economic issue, as the high value of the animals and animal parts, such as ivory, rhino horn, or tiger bone, is an enormous economic driver for those living in poverty, and a huge temptation for organized criminal syndicates and rebel groups. It is estimated that illegal trade related to wildlife trafficking exceeds $10 billion. Solutions are complex. They involve economic alternatives to wildlife slaughter for local communities. They involve strengthening governance and law enforcement. And they involve reducing the demand in wealthy and emerging economies for wildlife products.

Wildlife trafficking is also a health issue -- as it is estimated that up to 75% of human diseases -- such as SARs, avian influenza and Ebola virus can be transmitted (or are shared by) animals and humans. Illegal trade of live animals or their parts bypasses public health controls.

Science plays a significant role in addressing this growing challenge. First, we must understand the biology and behavior of the animal species and populations that are targeted for the trade. Protecting them from poachers requires a better understanding of where and how they live, where they migrate, population trends and reproductive patterns.

Second, science and technology are essential for the forensics of combating poaching and wildlife trafficking. The ability of a customs inspector to find tissue in a box and tell where it comes from, for example, is crucial for understanding the patterns of the trade, and for bringing traffickers to justice. The Fish and Wildlife Service operate a laboratory in Ashland, Oregon focused on this type of forensic work. Various samples from around the world go there for analysis.

Third, rapidly evolving technologies for understanding the movements of both people and wildlife can provide some of our most potent information allowing us to monitor and to track what is going on. Near-real time remote sensing from space and motion-activated monitoring camera traps are examples of the new tools that we need to bring to this issue. I recently traveled to Thailand and visited a national park, where rangers had installed clandestine surveillance cameras that not only monitor movements of endangered animals, but also serve as a lookout for poachers. We’ve also had NGOs raise the possibility of using drones as a new tool against poachers and traffickers.

Turning to a multilateral perspective, multilateral action is in many cases catalyzed by an urgent global problem or crisis. In some cases the cause of the problem and solutions are well known, such as piracy or nuclear proliferation. In other cases, only the problem is known and neither the cause nor the solution is well understood. In these cases, science is often looked to in identifying the nature and source of the problem, and coming up with the right solution.

The dynamics of multilateral diplomacy are particularly challenging given the number of countries whose interests and positions are informed by a range of factors, including unrelated domestic priorities, economic interests, or relationships with other countries. Multilateral efforts can easily be bogged down by the range of interests that may be motivated by unrelated or impractical political objectives. It is in these circumstances where science and scientists can make and have made significant contributions to policy. When multilateral efforts are at an impasse, science can often provide objective information on which parties can agree.

For years many countries (including the United States) resisted a global convention to address mercury pollution. Objective scientific data on the global transport of mercury emissions and the effect of mercury on human health and the environment is credited for neutralizing political opposition to a mercury convention. By underscoring the serious health and environmental effects of mercury, science directly contributed to a decision taken by the UN Environment Program Governing Council to negotiate a new legally binding convention to reduce mercury pollution to protect human health and the environment. The negotiations are underway and we expect them to conclude in early 2013.

Mercury is a persistent, bioaccumulative neurotoxin that is subject to long-range transport and warrants global attention due to its negative effect on human health and the environment. Mercury is a major public health threat, particularly for children and women of child-bearing age, and indigenous populations such as those in the Arctic who rely heavily on fish and marine mammals as part of their diet. EPA estimates that approximately 80% of mercury deposited in the United States originates from global sources, particularly China.

Understanding how mercury behaves in the environment has directly informed the structure of the mercury convention under negotiation. Research has been conducted by several countries, including EPA-supported studies at Florida State University and University of Connecticut. Because mercury can be transported through the atmosphere, sometimes remaining airborne for up to two years and crossing oceans, a global approach with strong emphasis on addressing air emissions is crucial.

In addition, the exchange among scientists and policymakers under the UN Mercury Partnership of information on the global cycling of mercury is credited with increasing the overall effectiveness of global mercury control strategies. Scientists from the United States, China, and Italy are working together under the partnership to enhance mercury monitoring and training.

There is a great deal of artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASMG) in Latin America, Africa and East Asia. What we are talking about here is essentially subsistence mining and it’s dangerous. Science has played a critical role in the evolution of the mercury convention’s section dealing with this topic. First, through estimates of mercury use and release within this sector, ASGM has been spotlighted as one of the largest sources -- about 18% -- of all mercury pollution world-wide, making it an important sector for inclusion. In addition, scientists have worked to develop alternative technologies for the extraction of gold that do not require mercury and can provide higher gold recoveries. These alternative technologies are very important to multilateral efforts. It allows negotiators to view mercury use in the ASGM sector not as an intractable problem, but one that has some alternatives.

Now as I approach the conclusion of my remarks I must turn to what I consider an important question. I hope from these remarks you will agree with me that the partnership between foreign policy and science is an essential partnership. But having described the various perspectives -- the question that remains and one that we can discuss -- is so what? What does this mean for foreign policy and what does this mean for science and technology?

For foreign policy, I believe that looking to science and technology for solutions to increasingly complex shared problems will only continue to grow and to provide opportunities to broaden and deepen engagement. In more discussions, the data channel will become important. The values of science are important in building productive and trusted relationships. These often-cited values include meritocracy, transparency, openness, and reproducibility.

For foreign policy, it also means that the whole of government approach that President Obama has identified and championed and that the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review -- or QDDR -- spells out is the way the U.S. Government will by necessity need to operate. This is easy to say, but harder to do because the interagency approach requires a lot of attention. But we are working on it and making progress.

For science and technology, I believe it is clear that the missions of our -- and I quote -- “domestic” science agencies, NSF, DOE, NIH, and others are increasingly international. In order for these agencies to succeed and accomplish their missions, they must operate internationally. Global engagement is essential to do the best research and to find the best answers to challenging problems. We must be a strong presence in the global research community. This trend will only continue in the future. I don’t see any back-tracking or sliding here.

One point of intersection between foreign policy and science technology that will continue to intensify is innovation and its relationship to sustained economic growth. As Secretary Clinton has highlighted in her focus on economic statecraft -- economic growth is a domestic issue and foreign policy issue as national economies are more and more tightly linked in the global economy. The work that Foreign Service economic officers conduct overseas should strengthen our bilateral relationships and it should also advance our diplomatic agenda and contribute to U.S. economic growth. The link between innovation and economic growth is recognized everywhere and our international engagement will be sought out and will be critical. It is important for us to keep our system dynamic and vibrant.

One challenge to the strengthening of the partnership between foreign policy and science and technology is our need to develop a deep understanding of the interaction between foreign policy and technical issues. And based on years of experience I can say this: These are very different cultures. The development of foreign policy, the scientific method and the innovation path are very different processes. We are now working together to develop a cadre of professionals who respect both approaches and can work in both worlds. We must continue to do this for our foreign policy and our science and technology policy.

The other challenge that remains for all of us is continually communicating clearly the importance of engagement in the world to achieve foreign policy objectives and science and technology objectives. By doing so, we can contribute to a prosperous and secure future for our citizens and citizens around the globe.

Thank you very much for your attention. It was an honor to be here.

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