As part of a new course offered by Prof. Patrick Cotter on “Managing International Marine Pollution,” students in the International Environmental Policy program at the Middlebury Institute had the opportunity to experience a United Nations diplomatic meeting at the International Maritime Organization in London. This voluntary immersive learning opportunity was arranged by Professor Cotter through his work for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs and his responsibilities as a technical representative on U.S. delegations.
“It was incredibly exciting to be able to see policy-making in action. Watching the way in which the delegates communicate with one another to get their positions across was truly an invaluable experience,” remarked Melis Okter MAIEP ’16. Classmate Mairi MacEachern MAIEP ‘16 adds that it was a great opportunity for networking and “being able to get some inside information about how and why each country proposed changes and how big of a difference word choice can make in the results of these meetings.” Okter, MacEachern and five other students traveled to London with Professor Cotter in October for the annual meeting of the Governing Bodies for the London Convention and London Protocol, which deals with global protection of the marine environment and human health from ocean dumping of waste and other matter.
The students attended five lectures on the organizations involved before their departure and prepared position papers on selected agenda topics that were scheduled for discussion and debate at the meeting they attended. The format for the papers was based on the design used by the U.S. delegation at previous meetings. In addition to attending the full session, the Middlebury Institute “mock delegation” met with several delegates, including members of the U.S. delegation and representatives from Canada, Panama, and Turkey. They also visited the U.S. Embassy in London and enjoyed a “great discussion” with the environment, science, technology, and health counselor at the U.S. Embassy to hear about his work coordinating with nations before the UN Conference on Climate Change, which is scheduled for Paris, France from November 30 to December 11, and his career as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State.
“Being able to see the delegates from various countries interacting with each other to tackle complex issues really helped to put a lot of the things we work on at in class into context,” shares MacEachern. She notes that being able to rely on professor Cotter’s knowledge of the IMO and the delegates was especially valuable. “He was able to share what had happened in previous years to help us better understand the meeting and the milestones that were being reached.”