2022: Diplomacy and the Environment

The American Academy of Diplomacy
The University of Virginia Center for Politics,
The Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello

Diplomacy and the Environment

This year’s discussion at Monticello took place on October 21 and welcomed Kenneth Brill, Catherine Novelli, Pamela White, and Michael Blaakman to examine, “Diplomacy and the Environment.” Vice President for Programs at Climate Central and former Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the State Department, Karen Florini delivered the keynote address.

Keynote Speaker:

Karen Florini

Karen Florini is Vice President for Programs at Climate Central, where she oversees Climate Central’s program initiatives and engages with strategic partners. Prior to joining Climate Central in 2017, Karen served as Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the State Department. Previously she spent more than two decades at Environmental Defense Fund, working both on environmental health and on climate change. She earned a law degree at Harvard, where she was Editor-in-Chief of the Environmental Law Review, but now regards herself as a recovering lawyer.


Michael Blaakman

Michael Blaakman, Assistant Professor of History and David L. Rike Preceptor in History at Princeton University will provide historical perspective on Thomas Jefferson’s environmentalism in international context.






Kenneth C. Brill

Ambassador Kenneth C. Brill was the President of The Fund for Peace on November 2010 till 2011, succeeding Dr. Pauline Baker who had held the position for 15 years.

Ambassador Brill completed a 35-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service in April, 2010. In his final Foreign Service assignment, he was the founding Director of the U.S. National Counter-proliferation Center (NCPC), which is part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Ambassador Brill served as NCPC’s Director for five years.

Ambassador Brill’s overseas assignments with the Department of State included serving as Ambassador to the IAEA and the UN Office in Vienna, Ambassador to the Republic of Cyprus, acting-Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India, and Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Amman, Jordan. His domestic assignments in the Department of State included service as acting-Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, Executive Secretary of the Department and Special Assistant to the Secretary of State, and Director of the Office of Egyptian Affairs.

Ambassador Brill has written and spoken on the subjects of the nuclear nonproliferation regime, countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the challenges of WMD terrorism, the environment as a national security issue and U.S. intelligence reform.

Ambassador Brill is a graduate of Ohio University and received his MBA from the University of California at Berkeley. He is married and has two grown children.

Catherine A. Novelli

Catherine A. Novelli is a Senior Advisor at Shearwater Global, a strategic consulting firm. She also serves as President of Listening for America, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to forging a new vision of U.S. international trade engagement. She is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, where she served as a Centennial Fellow (2018-2019). She previously served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment (2014-2017) where she promoted economic reform and open markets for U.S. products and services. As Under Secretary, Ambassador Novelli spearheaded the first-of- its-kind Our Ocean movement, which, during her tenure, resulted in $10 billion for Ocean conservation and has become a continuing global effort. She also launched the Global Connect Initiative, an innovative partnership with governments, multilateral development banks and the private sector to connect 1.5 billion people to the Internet.

Novelli spent seven years as Vice President, Worldwide Government Affairs at Apple Inc where she headed a multinational international team responsible for Apple’s government relations and public policy. Prior to her position at Apple, she was a partner in the law firm of Mayer Brown International. She had a long career at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, rising to Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Europe & the Mediterranean, where she coordinated U.S. trade and investment policy for Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East and Northern Africa. She took a leading role in many of the most important U.S. trade negotiations in those regions, including free trade agreements with Jordan, Morocco and Bahrain, and Oman. As the Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia, she negotiated most of the bilateral trade and investment agreements that underpin our economic relationship in that region.

Novelli currently serves on the Board of the National Wildlife Federation and the Advisory Board of the Pristine Seas Initiative of the National Geographic Society. She was also named an Ocean Elder.

Novelli has received numerous honors and awards, including the State Department Distinguished Service Award and the International Trade Woman of the Year Award. She is a graduate of Tufts University, holds a law degree from the University of Michigan and a Master of Laws from University of London.

Pamela White

Ambassador Pamela White, a native of Auburn, graduated from UMaine in 1971 with a degree in journalism and began a decades-long career in public service across the globe. She spent the first two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Cameroon, then earned a master’s degree at the School for International Training in Vermont in 1974. In 1999, she also earned a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.

White joined the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1978 and was assigned to West Africa for two years. As a USAID deputy executive officer, she served in Senegal and Haiti; as an executive officer, she served in Haiti, Egypt and South Africa. From 1999 to 2001, White was deputy director for East Africa in Washington, D.C., coordinating the delivery of much-needed food to Ethiopia and Eritrea, helping develop a six-year Ugandan strategy, and overseeing the expansion of programs in the Sudan and Congo.

She then headed to Mali as deputy and mission director for USAID. Her leadership is credited with tripling the number of girls in primary school, doubling the percentage of children receiving vaccinations and increasing the number of elected women leaders by 200 percent. For her exemplary work, White was awarded Mali’s highest distinction — the Knight of the National Order of Merit.

For two years, White was mission director in Tanzania, where she directed a $130 million aid program focused on HIV/AIDs prevention, malaria control, primary education, conservation of natural resources and control of corruption. During that time, confirmed cases of malaria were reduced by 85 percent.

In 2008, White went to Liberia as a mission director to implement USAID’s second-largest development budget in Africa. Two years later, she was named the ambassador to The Gambia. After two years, White was named ambassador to quake-ravaged Haiti.

White holds the rank of career minister with the senior Foreign Service. For her lifetime achievements, White was awarded the Bernard Lown ’42 Humanitarian Award from the University of Maine Alumni Association. Today, she makes her home on Orrs Island.