The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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ministers picked up to hammer out the final Paris Agreement.

Remarkably, Sec. Kerry participated actively throughout

most of the final two-week Paris conference, huddling with the

U.S. negotiating team, prodding other ministers and interven-

ing from the floor at critical junctures during round-the-clock

negotiations over the final text. Such strong and sustained politi-

cal firepower from Pres. Obama and Sec. Kerry on down gave a

huge lift to rank-and-file negotiators, particularly during the final

stages of the UNFCCC’s relentless series of meetings heading

into and at Paris.

The Role of the Foreign Service

Historically, State’s career civil servants have been the core

of the U.S. government’s climate team supporting politically

appointed lead negotiators. Their expertise encompasses

multilateral negotiations as well as the many dimensions of

climate such as clean energy, forestry and land use, adaptation

and climate finance. Their creativity and skill in developing

and implementing climate assistance programs led directly to

fostering positive impact on the ground with developing coun-

tries, thereby building the goodwill and mutual understanding


nvironment, Science, Technology & Health (ESTH)

jobs offer great opportunities for our best FSOs to

shine. You need not be a scientist or a physician to

tackle these issues. You already have the requisite intel-

lectual and communications skills to be an FSO. Here

are some tips on how to be an effective ESTH officer, and

maybe also have some fun along the way.

Connect your ESTH work to broader U.S. govern-

ment and mission goals (e.g., security, prosperity and


Help your front office see the links between

ESTH issues and other priorities. You may also find syner-

gies where you least expect them (e.g., your Mil Group or

Narcotics Affairs Section might have assets that can help

in combating illegal wildlife traffickers, not just the usual

suspects). And pay attention to what top U.S. government

leaders are saying and doing. You can bet that host country

ministers and other counterparts do the same.

Get out and meet people in their own habitat.


out their priorities and what they think. Calling on coun-

terparts is about more than expanding your “contacts.”

It is about building relationships and trust. Go to their

place, and ask about their views and priorities. This helps

you learn about what is really going on and enables you to

provide better-informed reporting to Washington. Build-

ing trust quietly with counterparts puts deposits in the

“emotional bank account” that you may later need to draw

on when the chips are down.

Look for ways that U.S. interests might intersect

with those of your counterparts.

Demonstrating genu-

ine attentiveness to their concerns, not just those of the

United States, can open up possibilities for closer coopera-

tion and win/win outcomes.

Be entrepreneurial.

Yes, budgets are tight. But you

can still exploit opportunities to harness and showcase

American know-how. For example, pay attention to country

clearance requests. You may discover an impending visit

of a U.S. expert or a routine port call by American research

vessels that could open up greater opportunities for official

engagements or public outreach.

Make friends with your Public Affairs Section.


issues often offer a bright spot in what might otherwise be

difficult bilateral relations. Turn those pro forma scientific

exchanges, document signings, ribbon-cuttings and the like

into opportunities to drive ESTH-oriented public diplomacy


If you’re in a separate ESTH unit, be sure to form

a tight team with your Econ, FCS and FAS colleagues.

You’ll likely find common interests—e.g., promoting the

export of U.S. goods and services in clean technology or

U.S. know-how in sustainable agriculture.

Rely on and support your Locally Employed staff.

They can be your secret weapon in advancing U.S. interests

and avoiding pitfalls. Not only do they have the institutional

memory, but they may also know the technical or contex-

tual issues better than you do. They may also be well-

connected to their home country’s officials and thought


—Tim Lattimer