News: News Archives
Science and Foreign Policy
Topic of AAAS Workshop
Look at the front page of virtually any national newspaper, and you're likely to see a story that involves an aspect of science in the conduct of foreign policy. From the HIV/AIDS epidemic, to greenhouse warming, some of the most pressing global issues require the world's diplomats to be as conversant about "retroviruses" or "carbon sequestration" as they are about trade disputes and human rights.
To that end, employees of the U.S. Department of State spent the last week of June in a crash course organized by AAAS, on "Environment, Science, Technology, and Health and U.S. Foreign Policy." This is the second year that the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), which sponsors special training courses on science and foreign policy, has selected AAAS to plan and implement the week-long program. Although they organize the workshop and participate on some of the panels, AAAS staff do not take positions on the policies that U.S. diplomats are charged with promoting.
Collecting water from a well in Kanpur, India. Credit: Alan H. Bornbusch
The workshop participants attended presentations by more than 30 speakers, according to Elizabeth Kirk, Director of the Europe and Central Asia Program in AAAS' International Office.
"For many of [the attendees], it will be the first time they've actually worked in the field," said Edward Kaska, Deputy Director in the Economic and Commercial Studies Division at the Foreign Service Institute. "Say they're working on something like the Kyoto protocol; this course gives them the background they need to engage with host country officials and other interested parties, such as NGOs (non-governmental organizations), to be successful advocates of the U.S. position."
Sustainable Development Key Topic
A special topic in the course was the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, where the U.S. will be suggesting the formation of public-private partnerships to carry the resolutions made ten years ago at the Earth Summit, in Rio de Janeiro. In preparation, the FSI students interviewed experts about sustainable development and presented their findings to their colleagues in class, Kirk said.
The speakers in the course included Anthony "Bud" Rock, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, and Norman Neureiter, Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State. Their presentations opened the course, and addressed the importance of science-related issues in international negotiations.
Other speakers discussed sustainable development, the oceans, emerging infectious diseases, fresh water issues, conservation and biodiversity, environmental contamination, as well as science, technology, and commerce.
"I particularly enjoyed some of the segments where they did panel discussions, such as the oceans panel, and the energy panel. It was very helpful to have a survey of the current issues in these areas, and a nice blend of science and policy," said Sandra Dembski, Deputy Director of the Office of Aviation Negotiations, for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs' Transportation Affairs.
Dembski will be traveling to Russia, where she expects topics such as HIV/AIDS, the environment, and energy issues to arise as she works with her Russian counterparts in the government and at Russian NGOs.
"While I'll certainly never be a scientist, this [training] will help me understand their concerns and approaches," she said.
9 July 2002