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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

19. Global Issues: Environment, Population, and Health


The global environment has a profound impact on the United States, its citizens, and its national interests.  Pollution crosses borders and oceans, affecting the health and prosperity of Americans.  Increased competition for scarce natural resources can lead to regional and international instability and conflict, thereby threatening the political, economic, and other interests of the United States.  The international community is currently negotiating and implementing agreements and initiatives that, taken together, will comprise the international environmental architecture for decades.  U.S. leadership is essential to resolving international environmental problems and ensuring that the emerging environmental regime protects U.S. interests. 

Achieving sustainable population growth will substantially contribute to environmentally sustainable development in other countries.  And, as we have unfortunately learned from the rapid spread of HIV/AIDS, only a broad global effort can combat epidemic or pandemic diseases that can quickly spread from one continent to another.  The performance goal papers which follow deal with three U.S. Strategic Goals:

1.       Secure a sustainable global environment in order to protect the United States and its citizens from the effects of international environmental degradation.

2.       Achieve a healthy and sustainable world population.

3.       Protect human health and reduce the spread of infectious diseases.

The Department of State is responsible for developing the U.S. framework for international environmental and conservation policy and for coordinating the related international activities of U.S. agencies.  Working bilaterally, regionally, and through multilateral organizations, the Department builds relationships to promote environmental collaboration and to address transboundary environmental problems.  State is also responsible for negotiating international agreements, initiatives, and other treaties that have as their principal objective to advance our environmental and resource conservation goals and protect our economic and national security interests.  [Note: Where environmental protection is a principal or related objective, State may or may not be the lead negotiating agency, e.g., free trade agreements.]

There is broad international consensus on the integral and mutually reinforcing linkages between population and development, focusing on three quantitative goals to be achieved by 2015: reducing infant, child, and maternal mortality; providing universal access to education, particularly for girls; and providing universal access to a full range of reproductive health care and family planning services. >The Department of State plays a crucial role in developing a receptive political environment for the implementation of progressive population programs and related social programs.  Policy coordination, public diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral advocacy and negotiation, and coordination of international efforts are all vital Department contributions.

The Department of State has responsibility for foreign policy issues surrounding international health, particularly for emerging infectious diseases of epidemic or pandemic proportions, which pose a serious threat to American citizens and the international community. 

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