From Maxwell Perspective...

Dealing With the Three D’s

Brent Nordstrom ‘99 MA (IR)
World Wildlife Fund

Brent Nordstrom
Brent Nordstrom, in Indonesia, reviewing a poverty and environment project that had been done with WWF Indonesia.

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“They’re called ‘the three D’s’—diplomacy, defense, and development,” says Brent Nordstrom. “Every major concern of the World Wildlife Fund, with 1,300 ongoing projects worldwide, overlaps the interests of the Department of State, or Defense, or the U.S. Agency for International Development. And, sometimes, all three!” Besides the three D’s, there are still more concerned parties, including agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank Group. To succeed in its ambitious and complex mission of protecting the future of nature, WWF must actively cultivate good relationships.

“Position papers are not enough.”As the deputy to WWF’s senior vice president for policy, with responsibilities as a policy director, Nordstrom works with the U.S. government relations team and the multilateral relations team to develop mutual understandings with other organizations. “Position papers are not enough,” Nordstrom says. “We try to sustain productive dialogue with each party, keeping one another informed of our organizations’ positions. Some of these parties have become partners with whom we interact closely.

WWF has undertaken ambitious projects with the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility, USAID, and other government agencies, within and outside the United States. Ideally, a good relationship can become a partnership. And partnerships serve as platforms for accomplishing mutual objectives.”

Nordstrom leads the development of the “green diplomacy” initiative, which is an effort to relate WWF’s experience, knowledge, and research to the priorities of the three D’s. “We are framing our positions in a way that emphasizes their relationship to foreign policy, and provides a mechanism for identifying shared interests,” says Nordstrom. “Many of WWF’s concerns could be integrated into U.S. foreign policy if high-level decision makers were easily able to factor environmental issues like natural resource scarcity into development issues like food security. That’s the process we want to enable.

“It’s difficult, but not impossible, to measure any single element in leveraging change,” says Nordstrom. “When you engage with other organizations, holding to your principles in a forceful dialogue, and when it becomes clear that they respect you and want to engage, despite your criticism — that’s most reassuring. It means that something is happening.”

— Tom Raynor

Tom Raynor is a freelance writer based in Syracuse. He holds an MIA from Columbia University.
This article appeared in the fall 2010 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2010 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail