The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) — which represents more than 1500 active and retired Canadian foreign service officers — held its first deep-think conference last week in Ottawa on the “foreign service officer of the future.”
While the discussion at the conference was under Chatham House Rule, as a former diplomat and (record?) five term elected member of PAFSO’s Executive Committee – and even though I wasn’t invited to speak – I was delighted to know that PAFSO is thinking about the future of foreign service. Such an exercise is timely and relevant, given that in the face of the new threat set facing humanity (climate, biodiversity, global commons, pandemic disease, alternative energy, and food and water security, to name a few), diplomacy is our best bet.
There are no military solutions — these issues are immune to the application of armed force.
That said, when it comes to diplomatic practice and institutions, there is much work to be done. Time to raise the bar, and up the game. And while diplomats are certainly already working to improve the foreign service — OpenCanada recently reported on the efforts to make the service gender balanced, for instance — I have additional advice for diplomats currently working in the field. Here are five steps each can take to improve the quality of our foreign service immediately.