Part IV – Innovation. adaptation and foreign policy in the age of globalization: Is Global Affairs Canada fit for purpose?

Blogger’s Note: The following series is drawn from the unabridged version of a commentary which has been published in edited form this month by The Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.

 

In considering all of the above, it must be emphasized that there exists a direct, dialectical relationship between results and resources, yet federal spending on diplomacy has been in a pattern of decline for decades. In its first two budgets the Trudeau government has done next to nothing to address that situation. To perform effectively, diplomats need to be provided with access to all of the available tools of their trade, including training, personnel support and travel, and this cannot be done in the absence of sufficient finance.

Working smarter is necessary, but will be insufficient without re-investment.

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Part III – Innovation. adaptation and foreign policy in the age of globalization: Is Global Affairs Canada fit for purpose?

Blogger’s Note: The following series is drawn from the unabridged version of a commentary which has been published in edited form this month by The Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.

It won’t be easy, but for starters:

  1. Redefinition of purpose and structure. Recast the mandate and mission of Global Affairs Canada to create a central agency for the management of globalization and the integration of international policy across government. Functioning at a higher level will require some fundamental re-engineering, legislative action, and a more sophisticated approach to the use of social and digital media. To better generate intelligence and to take full advantage of the vital connection to place, the reform package should feature a more flexible approach to representation, and a smaller, flatter, more focussed headquarters, with more foreign service and an enlarged role for missions abroad.
  2. Identification of strategic priorities and interests. Since the last over-arching international policy review in 2005, the global operating environment and landscape have become almost unrecognizable. The implications for Canada of power shift from the North Atlantic to the Asia Pacific, the emergence of a heteropolar world order, and the explosive growth of Big Data have not been thought through. Add to that the outstanding questions about managing a growing number wicked, transnational, S&T-based threats, ranging from climate change to pandemic disease, and it becomes evident that a full and fresh assessment is overdue. The appointment of a Departmental Science Advisor, the restoration of analytical capacity and charging the department with developing an international science strategy and plan would represent a beginning.
  3. Cultural transformation. Foreign ministries are renown for their authoritarian social relations and hidebound adherence to orthodoxy. After almost 10 years of battering – with little resistance – in the face of the Tory onslaught, greater openness and transparency will not come easily. Many existing executives are more comfortable with international treaties than with branding. Some of the clever courtiers who thrived on managing upwards will likely find it difficult to make the transition from risk aversion to risk management, and from following orders to rewarding experimentation and extracting knowledge from failure. Nonetheless, the days of ambitious careerists getting ahead at the expense of those they supervise, while specializing in making the boss look good, must end. Ditto for blessing the received wisdom, judging ideas by their provenance rather than their quality, and, often under the guise of team playing, engaging in corporate cloning. Continuous learning – including from failure – and an openness to experimentation represent a more promising way forward.
  4. Leadership transfusion. Any properly functioning foreign service must retain a rotational core, post abroad and promote from within the ranks, and wherever possible support long-term career planning. That said, to enlarge professional development opportunities and to augment expertise in certain specialized areas, a degree of cross-ventilation is required. Clearly, more than a few of today’s senior officials who prospered during the dark decade achieved their positions by stifling dissent and otherwise acceding to the draconian strictures imposed by the Harper government. These are not members of a leadership cadre required to offer fearless policy advice, speak truth to power, or to otherwise deliver an activist, innovative foreign policy. Through a more targeted approach to recruitment and an expanded program of secondments and exchanges both within and outside of government, now is the time to turn the inside out and bring the outside in. To weed out chronic underperformers and ensure personal and professional adaptability, make demonstrated managerial proficiency outside the foreign ministry a pre-requisite to promotion into EX group or assignment overseas as Head of Mission.
  5. Organizational flattening. In an era of lateral partnerships, connectivity and networks, GAC’s organizational structure serves to impede innovation and discourage creativity. The Department’s hallmarks remain its rigid hierarchy, insularity and jealously guarded fiefdoms. In 2017 the department has as many layers between desk officers and the minister’s office – at minimum, seven – as it did when I joined the foreign service in 1981. This costly and inefficient model slows bureaucratic process and disempowers those at the working level who are closest to the issues and actually know the files. The foreign ministry would benefit from fewer stovepipes and silos, and the encouragement of multiple professional identities. For the Head of Mission, this may mean new fashioning a role as a coach, a country or regional brand manager, a network node rather than top dog. Foreign ministries will never become Silicone Valley style idea incubators or “skunk works”, but absent movement away from the cathedral in the direction of the bazaar, progress in building a more modern, effective and supportive workplace will be impossible.
  6. Tapping new networks. Connect directly with members of burgeoning diaspora communities and harness the potential of this largely untapped resource for political (intelligence), commercial (market access) and scientific purposes. Initiate the targeted recruitment of first and second generation Canadians pre-equipped with vital language and cross-cultural skills. Assign political officers to major Canadian cities with a mandate to forge productive and mutually beneficial relationships based upon cooperation with, and respect for diaspora communities. Engage civil society by renewing long-neglected partnerships with universities, think tanks and NGOs at home and abroad. Reinstate sponsored visits by foreign opinion leaders and rebuild international education programs to dramatically increase the numbers of both foreign students in Canada and Canadians studying abroad.
  7. Flexible overseas representation. The connection to, and knowledge of place are diplomacy’s indispensable features; representational rebalancing and re-profiling are essential. But the days of cookie cutter chancelleries and fixed models governing the establishment and operation of missions abroad are long past. Contemporary circumstances demand the design of smarter, lighter and sometimes more fleeting diplomatic footprints, including storefronts, souks, barrios, banlieues. World cities and major capitals may warrant high visibility and a distinctive physical presence, but in other cases portability, adaptability and the avoidance of lingering legal and administrative overheads will be crucial. As bricks give way to clicks, Canada will need at least as many brass plaques on hotel room doors as it does gates on permanent diplomatic premises. Manuals, regulations and standard operating procedures need to make space for virtuality, improvisation and imagination.
  8. Enlightened diplomatic practice. In conflict zones and elsewhere there will always be a place for traditional diplomacy, with designated envoys transacting the business of governments among themselves, often in confidence. However in the 21st century, as engagement, advocacy and lobbying have become increasingly determinant in securing desired outcomes, it is public diplomacy , abetted by burgeoning use of the social and digital media which arose from the revolution in information and communication technologies, that has become mainstream. Science diplomacy, a specialized sub-set of public diplomacy especially attuned to grand challenges such as management of the global commons and the control of weapons of mass destruction, is particularly relevant. Elevate science diplomacy, which remains almost invisible within the current mix of available tools, to top priority status, and reallocate resources accordingly. Absent the robust pursuit of knowledge-based, technologically-enabled solutions to the vexing array of S&T-rooted issues which together constitute the new threat set, Canada will be unable to achieve its promise as an evidence-driven problem solver. This country was once a leader in these areas, but now trails the pack. That must change, with GAC, in close association with science-based departments and agencies, equipped to lead the way forward.

 

 

Part II – Innovation. adaptation and foreign policy in the age of globalization: Is Global Affairs Canada fit for purpose?

Blogger’s Note: The following series is drawn from the unabridged version of a commentary which has been published in edited form this month by The Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.

 

Relief and reconstruction

Clearly, some demonstrable diplomacy of the deed will be required if the Government of Canada is re-establish its liberal internationalist credentials. But for that to happen, a fundamental rethinking of international policy directions will be essential. The once storied foreign ministry – and indeed the entire diplomatic ecosystem – needs a major overhaul.

This is now job one.

Canadians have been promised a progressive, activist and engaged foreign policy. Yet apart from the fact the diplomatic corpse has been running mainly on fumes, expecting that kind of performance from today’s GAC is something akin to asking a nearly brain-dead former athlete, ignored for years and left on a gurney in the hallway, to get up and run a marathon. With limbs shrunken and torso emaciated, muscles atrophied and reflexes dulled from years on life support, this won’t happen unless reconstruction and relief are provided.

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Part I – Innovation. adaptation and foreign policy in the age of globalization: Is Global Affairs Canada fit for purpose?

 Blogger’s Note: The following series is drawn from the unabridged version of a commentary which has been published in edited form this month by The Canadian Foreign Policy Journal.

 

Abstract

The continuing evolution away from state-centricity requires that diplomacy become more public, inclusive and participatory. Responding to that imperative, and recognizing that the foreign ministry is not a cathedral, the foreign service is not a priesthood, and diplomacy is not liturgy, collectively represent the sine qua non for bringing Canada “back”. By privileging talking over fighting, embracing innovation and re-thinking diplomatic practice and representation abroad, Canada can both advance its interests, effectively pursue its policy goals and make a significant contribution to global peace and prosperity. Absent radical reform and a commitment to praxis, however, none of these outcomes are likely to eventuate. This commentary surveys the past 50 years of diplomatic history, assesses the current government’s record to date, and suggests eight preconditions for real progress.

 

(Text begins)

Canada veritably oozes soft power, which is earned rather than wielded, and has never been able to achieve its international policy objectives through the use of coercion. Today, however, that wellspring remains largely untapped. Rather than being strategically channeled in support of the advance of Canadian interests, policies and values globally, it is being wasted.

It has not always been thus. For the better part of the last half century – with the notable exception of the past decade – this country has managed its international image and reputation to rack up an enviable record of success. Creativity, cross-cutting partnerships, and effective diplomacy have been hallmarks. The work of a high functioning, adequately resourced foreign ministry played an indispensable role in achieving these results.

From Trudeau to Trudeau, there have been some significant accomplishments.

But not lately…

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Sharpening the effectiveness of Canada’s diplomatic corpse in five (un)easy pieces

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.

Bomb Ebola?

Not.

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.  

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Cultural diplomacy writ large: Is Canada anywhere to be seen on the world stage?

Blogger’s Note: On December 14, 2017 I appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs and International trade Committee to provide testimony on the place of culture within Canada’s suite of international policies and relations. A lengthy Q&A session followed my oral presentation, the transcript of which  may be found below.

 

 

Many thanks for the kind invitation to share my thoughts with you on this important matter.

When I was reflecting on the subject, I was drawn to what might be considered a radical assessment, at least in the sense of a fairly high level of analysis of trying to get to the roots of three key issues which I think are in play today. I’m going to set out my argument in terms of background, foreground and a conclusion, a bit like a briefing note. I would like to begin by posing three of what I think are the most fundamental questions.

When we speak of culture, diplomacy and science, what exactly do we mean? In each case, if at all, how are these big blocks of human enterprise interrelated?

Culture is perhaps the most all-encompassing yet amorphous of the three concepts, but it is not airy-fairy and fuzzy. In fact, it can be defined or understood as a collectivity of the norms, customs, characteristics, traditions, artistic expression and behaviour of human groups. It’s transmitted through social learning, which I think is key.

Science, which is often regarded as dense and impenetrable, is an empirical, objective and evidence-based method of knowledge creation which through interrogation, trial and error, and rigorous analysis provides systematic insights into the nature of things. Its methods include postulation, experimentation, data analysis and theorizing.

Diplomacy, sometimes described as the world’s second oldest profession and usually terribly misunderstood, is actually an approach to the management of international relations characterized by dialogue, negotiation, compromise, problem solving and complex balancing. Its tools include soft power, the power of attraction, advocacy, persuasion and influence.

Culture and science, along with education, media relations and advocacy, when bundled together and used by governments internationally to pursue their interests, promote their policies, and project their values is commonly labelled “public diplomacy.”

Let’s dig deeper by unpacking and examining the connections among and between these three critical but too often misunderstood aspects of Canadian foreign policy.

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LA TECHNO POUR SAUVER LE MONDE

Blogger’s Note: Readers may be interested in the following feature article, published earlier this month in L’actualite magazine,  which was the result of an interview with the author. Please excuse the curious formatting.

La techno pour sauver le monde
MondeAvoir 18 ans en 2018

La techno pour sauver le monde

Entretien avec l’ancien diplomate Daryl Copeland, membre du Centre d’études et de recherches internationales de l’Université de Montréal.

Fêter son 18e anniversaire en 2018 garantit de voir, de son vivant, le premier président américain issu des géants du Web de la Silicon Valley.

Le président Donald Trump s’est appuyé sur deux
piliers du XXe siècle pour se hisser au sommet : une
fortune amassée dans l’immobilier et une notoriété
acquise à la télévision. Or, le jour approche où un candidat
conjuguera les deux grands pouvoirs du XXIe siècle pour
s’installer à la Maison-Blanche : une fortune amassée grâce
aux renseignements personnels des particuliers soutirés sur
Internet, et une célébrité alimentée par les réseaux sociaux.
Quelqu’un dans la salle a dit Mark Zuckerberg, fondateur de
Facebook ?
Ce pourrait être un mal pour un bien, puisque l’avenir de
la planète se jouera au confluent de la science et de la technologie,
estime l’ancien diplomate Daryl Copeland, membre
du Centre d’études et de recherches internationales de
l’Université de Montréal et auteur du livre Guerrilla Diplomacy
: Rethinking International Relations (Lynne Rienner
Publishers).
Selon lui, le défi des nouveaux adultes sera de réorienter les
immenses ressources humaines et financières utilisées pour
combattre le terrorisme vers la science et le développement
humanitaire afin de sauver la planète. Une tâche à la mesure
de l’ambition de cette génération, dit Daryl Copeland, qui a
fait le point avec L’actualité.
religieux. Ce sont des menaces réelles, mais les
chances que ces phénomènes touchent
directement un jeune Canadien de 18 ans sont
aussi faibles que de prendre son bain dehors
par beau temps et d’être frappé par la foudre !
Or, nous y consacrons l’essentiel de nos efforts
sur la scène internationale.
L’avenir de la planète n’est pas remis en
question par cette bataille de territoires ou
d’idéologies. Il faut consacrer davantage de
ressources ailleurs.

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