The Office of Conservation & Water coordinates the development of U.S. foreign policy on conserving and sustainably managing the world’s important ecosystems, as we find out here
The Office of Conservation & Water, as part of the Bureau of Oceans & International Environmental & Scientific Affairs (OES/ECW) coordinates the development of U.S. foreign policy approaches to conserving and sustainably managing the world’s ecologically and economically important ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, drylands and coral reefs, the species that depend on them and the world’s water resources.
OES/ECW also leads on policy formulation to address international threats to nature, such as land degradation, invasive alien species and the illegal trade in natural resources, as well as issues associated with access to and the sharing of benefits from genetic resources – commonly understood as almost any biological material containing DNA or RNA, including cells, tissues and whole organisms of plants, animals and micro-organisms.
The office is responsible for advancing U.S. interests in these areas in a variety of international fora, organisations, institutions and treaties, negotiating effective, evidence-based agreements and promoting their enforcement, developing international initiatives with key partners to employ market forces and creating a foreign policy framework in which public-private partnerships that promote U.S. interests can flourish.
Access & benefit-sharing
Genetic resources are important to innovation and the development of new products across a numbers of sectors, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture and cosmetics. As a leader in public and private genetic research and development, the U.S. has a strong interested in international and country-specific approaches that support access to and benefit-sharing from genetic resources.
The ECW leads on policy development, working with relevant U.S. agencies and ensures that U.S. stakeholders are kept up-to-date with the changing international ABS landscape.
The conservation, use and management of resources such as food, water, fuel, medicines and ecosystems provides the foundation for healthy, resilient communities and economies, which in turn promotes stability and prosperity around the world.
ECW leads U.S. participation in a range of international and intergovernmental processes to promote conservation and is also responsible for international policy issues related to invasive species, migratory birds, parks and protected areas, pollinators, sustainable tourism and wildlife conservation.
The U.S. imports and exports more than $50 billion in forest products annually, as part of more than $200 billion in global trade. The United States is also one of the top five countries in the world in terms of forest cover and is a leader in forest management practices, education and research.
As policy lead within the Department of State, ECW seeks to expand U.S. expertise and leadership in forest management, address market distortions that can disadvantage U.S. industry, reduce corruption, promote stability in rural communities worldwide and advance U.S. forest practices around the globe.
Genetic resources for food and agriculture
Food security cuts across many key issues in conservation, from stable and healthy land and pollination to sustainable water resources and resilience to pests and diseases.
The ECW leads U.S. participation in a range of intergovernmental and international processes to ensure U.S. farmers, plant and animal breeders and researchers have access to genetic resources (such as seeds or other propagating materials) needed to achieve food and water security.
By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will live in “water-stressed” conditions, including almost two billion people who will not have enough water to meet human, industrial and ecosystem needs.
Scarcity and poor quality of water will increase disease, undermine economic growth, hit food production and become a growing threat to peace and security in many regions.
ECW leads U.S. foreign policy on drinking water and sanitation, water resources management and transboundary water and conflict issues. It coordinates the development of policies and positions across the U.S. government, including implementing the President’s Global Water Strategy, representing the U.S. in bilateral, regional and global fora to advance policy interests, facilitating conversations between countries where water source is a tension and managing programmes that leverage U.S. knowledge and resources to advance policy interests on water and sanitation.
The illegal poaching, transit, trade and sale of wildlife generates more than $10 billion a year for international organised crime networks. It also has devastating impacts on security, economic development while fuelling corruption and pushing species to the brink of extinction. The multifaceted nature and global scale of the problem calls for strategic cooperation at global, regional, national and local levels.
The U.S. is one of the world’s biggest markets for both legal and illegal wildlife and wildlife products and, as such, the U.S. government takes a key role in addressing wildlife trafficking.
ECW acts as co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, which coordinates inter-agency efforts to strengthen enforcement, reduce the demand for illegal products and expand international commitments across multilateral, regional and bilateral forums.
ECW also coordinates efforts to implement the END Wildlife Trafficking Act, which was signed into law in October 2016.