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More than Monarchs: Diplomacy - Conservation and International Cooperation

Aug 28, 2020


  • More than Monarchs

Why Monarchs? While monarchs are intrinsically important, conserving monarchs matters for more than just their own protection.  We’re exploring the ways that monarch habitat and conservation helps people, other wildlife and the environment in this ‘More than Monarchs’ series!  Join us to learn more.

What does diplomacy have to do with monarch butterflies?  People often think of diplomacy as negotiating peace treaties after a war or something very formal that takes place in fancy rooms.  But in reality it takes many forms and happens every day, sometimes in unexpected ways. One aspect of diplomacy is maintaining good relationships with other countries, especially over issues of common concern, like monarch butterflies.

Diplomacy can be used as a tool to prompt countries to act.  For example, after alarming reports of some of the lowest overwintering numbers of monarchs ever, the leaders of the United States, Mexico, and Canada discussed monarchs at one of their tri-national summits.  Imagine that!  They spoke of the many linkages among the three countries and the parallels to the migratory range of monarchs.  The leaders also talked about how monarchs unite the three countries.  These conversations in a formal diplomatic setting resulted in all three countries committing to work together to conserve monarchs, collaboration which continues among technical experts today.

The U.S. government response to this commitment and other pollinator-related initiatives was carried out by many different government agencies with each agency contributing to the work by leveraging its strengths and expertise.  One way of implementing activities is through informal diplomacy by U.S. embassies and consulates, including some in Canada and Mexico.  Their efforts to conserve monarchs and other pollinators demonstrates U.S. commitment to sustainability and the friendship between the United States and its closest neighbors, and highlights that pollinator health is vital to our shared prosperity.

How did they do this?  Some planted new gardens or added to existing ones at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence or the grounds of the embassy/consulate offices.  They wanted to ensure the gardens would help monarchs and other pollinators.  Employees and their family members were frequently involved, and these diplomatic posts also engaged their local communities.  They publicized their efforts to be a good neighbor, and shared information about how and why they were helping monarchs and other pollinators.  Local communities warmly welcomed their efforts and were often invited to visit the gardens to learn more about pollinators and enjoy the beautiful habitat that was planted to support them.  Some properties, including U.S. Embassy Ottawa, U.S. Consulate General Tijuana, and U.S. Consulate General Ciudad Juarez, received certification by a leading conservation non-governmental organization in recognition of their support for pollinators and other wildlife.  At U.S. Consulate General Tijuana, lovely xeriscape gardens are located outside the security gates.  At the U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Ottawa, the beautiful pollinator-friendly gardens are often the site of special events like the Fourth of July celebration.  In these special places and others, everyone can see the U.S. commitment to providing habitat for pollinators, serving as a highly visible reminder of our efforts, large and small.

While most of us are not involved in international negotiations and multinational relationship building, we are all part of a diverse global and local community and can learn a great deal from this example.  Whether it’s your home landscaping or community centers like City Hall or local parks and gardens, there are ample opportunities to provide valuable monarch and other pollinator habitat.  Planting for these pollinators provides avenues to engage with your friends, neighbors, and local community to provide education and build coalitions to help support these species that need our help.  While there are many ways your community can be involved in monarch conservation, here are a few ideas to get you started: host or attend a National Pollinator Week event, encourage your city to join the Mayor’s Monarch Pledge, and support farms and farmers that are dedicated to promoting pollinator health on their lands through programs like Bee Friendly Farming.  Through our actions, we can all be diplomats for monarchs.

Diplomacy is just one example of how the work we do for monarchs can make a difference in many ways.  What are the co-benefits of monarch conservation that matter most to you?  Keep following our “More than Monarchs” series to hear more stories of what monarchs can do for us, our communities and our world.


The Monarch Joint Venture is a national partnership of federal and state agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and academic programs working together to conserve the monarch butterfly migration.  The content in this article does not necessarily reflect the positions of all Monarch Joint Venture partners.  Photo credit: US Consulate General Tijuana. Article contributed by Barbara De Rosa-Joynt, U.S. Department of State, for the Monarch Joint Venture Communications Working Group and NAPPC Monarch Taskforce.