International Policy Division

Monarch butterflies on goldenrod. Photo by Rachel Laubhan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Creative Commons attribution license.

The Department of the Interior (DOI) engages in a wide variety of international activities to advance the Department's mission and United States foreign policy objectives. The Policy Division of DOI’s Office of International Affairs (INT) serves as a central point of contact for DOI on international matters, in order to support coordination of the on-the-ground work carried out through DOI bureaus and offices around the world, as well as engagement by high-level DOI officials. Functions of the INT Policy Division include:

Iceberg near Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland, 2010. Photo by Ryan Close, U.S.  Department of the Interior.

Coordinating international issues and activities involving multiple DOI bureaus and offices. Many international issues affect or require expertise from more than one bureau or office. The Policy Division coordinates work on these issues with bureau international offices and other bureau experts to support sharing of information and best practices, gain efficiencies, and facilitate consistent policy approaches across DOI as needed.  As an example, the Division coordinates across DOI offices and bureaus, and with the Department of State, to respond to requests from Federally recognized Tribes for assistance in repatriating Tribal cultural heritage from abroad.

Representing DOI in interagency and international policymaking forums. The Policy Division serves as DOI’s primary staff-level point of contact in interagency policy deliberations on international topics important to DOI and the United States, including the development of positions on natural resources, environment and indigenous affairs in international negotiations, and cooperation with other countries such as Mexico and Canada, and in the Arctic region on shared resources. At the request of the White House, the State Department, or other federal agencies, the Division coordinates DOI advice and provides or supports DOI representation on foreign policy decisions, international negotiations, and international initiatives relating to DOI responsibilities and areas of expertise.

Supporting senior DOI management on high priority international issues. International matters sometimes require engagement by senior Department officials, up to the level of the Secretary of the Interior. The Policy Division works with bureaus and offices across DOI to help staff the Secretary and other senior policymakers as they engage with counterparts in other Federal agencies and in foreign governments, and organize a coordinated Departmental approach as needed.

A group of forest elephants. Photo by Richard Ruggiero, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Organizing and hosting visits from foreign government officials. Because of their experience and expertise, DOI leadership and technical experts are in frequent demand for meetings with foreign officials. As needed, the Policy Division manages DOI’s responses to requests for such meetings whether they are initiated by DOI, the White House, the Department of State, other U.S. government agencies, or foreign governments.

Providing information and outreach. The Policy Division supports DOI international programs by educating and informing relevant audiences – including other agencies, foreign governments, DOI's own employees, and the public – about DOI international programs.  For instance, Division staff are regularly asked to brief new cohorts of U.S. Foreign Service officers at the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute about DOI’s mission and associated international work. Since 2012, the Division and the DOI Museum have coordinated a series of brown bag lectures on DOI international programs for employees and the general public.