International Activities: How to Get Involved

four young people posing for picture with trees in the back
Godson Kimaro (center), a manager at Serengeti National Park (Tanzania), was a World Heritage Fellow at Yellowstone National Park

NPS Photo

According to the National Park Service’s mission statement,

“The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.”

Since 1962, the Office of International Affairs has worked with parks and partners to fulfill the international component of our mission and to increase environmental and cultural awareness throughout the world. The office also works with the US State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the World Bank and others to provide expertise to other countries looking to improve or even create their own national parks. The Office of International Affairs helps the United States implement the World Heritage treaty at home and abroad. Learn more about the important work the Office of International Affairs does.

The National Park Service is involved in many unique and interesting programs throughout the globe and the Office of International Affairs is a source of information for National Park Service staff who are interested in getting involved in those international activities.

There are many ways for National Park Service staff to help advance our international mission—below are a few examples:

1) Promote and interpret your park's international connections

National parks around the world are all ultimately linked together by a variety of natural and cultural phenomena.

Park staff can find ways to interpret their site’s international connections, whether migratory species including birds and bats, non-native invasive species, shared cultural resources along international borders or historic connections to the world outside the United States.

How can your park collaborate with others throughout the birds’ ranges to increase awareness of migratory bird issues? How is your park promoting these conservation efforts?

2) Promote your park’s international designations

Many National Park Service sites are also formally designated of being of international significance.

The most important of these designations is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO World Heritage Site. Currently, 19 units of the National Park System are included on the World Heritage List. These sites are known for their outstanding universally recognized natural and cultural features. They are so significant that they are important to all humanity. They are a heritage Americans share with the world.

Some National Park Service sites have been designated as Biosphere Regions, International Dark Sky Parks, Ramsar sites, Globally Important Bird Areas, etc. National Park Service employees can help their parks promote these designations through interpretive media, during formal programs, websites, social media, and news stories.

3) Get involved in your park's "Sister Park" partnership(s) or develop a new one!

Dozens of parks have a “sister park” in another area of the world. These types of partnerships increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts to address many common issues, such as non-native invasive species, climate change, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, and more.

Once a national park has an interest in establishing a sister park arrangement, and a potential sister park has been identified, a dialogue needs to begin. The Office of International Affairs can assist the park and its partners in making the initial contacts or the park itself can begin the conversation.

4) Host an international volunteer!

Through the International Volunteers in Parks Program (IVIP), college or university students, as well as park and preservation professionals from other countries can come and exchange knowledge while working in national parks. IVIPs volunteers must meet visa and immigration requirements as well as have a formal training plan. These students usually have a background in environmental or cultural related fields.

Note: Because of the ongoing pandemic, visa issuance at US Embassies is extremely delayed and it is taking two to three months to get an appointment. Also, US borders are closed to citizens from certain countries. There are other regulations that parks and possible volunteers should be aware of.

5) Connect with international “communities of practice”

There are several international “communities of practice” related to protected area management, historic preservation and other related fields. Staff can connect with international colleagues this way and help promote cooperation across boundaries.

Some of those organizations include: World Commission on Protected Areas, National Association of Interpretation, Nature for All, the International Ranger Federation, and the International National Trusts Organization.

6) Host international delegations and visitors

Each year, the National Park Service hosts several hundred official visitors, from park and related government agencies or non-governmental organizations. Some of these visits are organized directly by the Office of International Affairs, others by the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

The National Park Service welcomes visitors from all over the world. Staff, particularly with foreign language skills, can provide programs tailored to international audiences. They can also use social media to promote the parks to international audiences.

Learn more about the Office of International Affairs and about what the National Park Service is doing around the world.

Last updated: February 3, 2022