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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The world is still waiting: Rethinking Canadian international policy

Blogger’s Note:  Following is my review of  Roland Paris and Taylor Owen, eds.
The World Won’t Wait: Why Canada Needs to Rethink Its International Policies (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016).  It was published recently in the in the International Journal (72:3, 2017).  Please pardon the peculiar formatting/spacing.

 


The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has committed itself to an
activist international agenda. That said, with a beaten-down, reamed-out public
service still recovering after a decade of ideologically driven neglect and abuse
under the Harper Conservatives, not much new thinking is coming up through
the bureaucracy. This is hardly unexpected. How can a patient who has been on life
support for many years, with limbs emaciated, reflexes dulled and muscles atro-
phied, suddenly get up and run a marathon?

Enter Professors Paris (University of Ottawa) and Owen (University of British
Columbia). In addressing the policy and analytical vacuum, they present ideas
generated by ‘‘some of the country’s brightest ‘next generation’ thinkers and
most experienced policy practitioners.’’ All twelve authors are believed to ‘‘share
the editors’ view that Canada needs to pursue a comprehensive, constructive and
ambitious international strategy’’ (vii).

 

The papers, originally presented at the Ottawa Forum in May 2014, offer a
sweeping critique of the Conservative government’s disastrous stewardship of
Canada’s place in the world. The anthology’s core argument is that in a rapidly
changing global environment, Canada has failed to keep up. Performance must be
improved.

Although this project was somewhat sideswiped by the election of October 2015,
not to mention the rise of the populist right, Brexit, and the Trump ascendancy,
most of the articles remain relevant.1 Moreover, while many of the contributors are
academics, several are professionals drawn from different disciplines. That uncon-
ventional mix may represent the book’s greatest strength. But it has also resulted in
several prescriptions that fall outside the purview of analysis usually associated
with International Relations.

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The internationalization of Canadian science – Part III: Getting back in the game?

Going global?

While the outlook is not entirely bleak, Canada – unlike Quebec – has not really stepped up to the plate. The government is underperforming on its commitments to science, and risks engendering a “say-do” gap. The findings of last spring’s Fundamental Science Review (Naylor Report) highlighted the need to pursue opportunities for enhanced international scientific collaboration, but the government has been slow to respond.  R&D spending lags seriously behind our competitors. The Mandate Letters presented to Foreign Minister Freeland,  Development Minister Bibeau, and Science Minister Duncan lack any specific reference to science diplomacy or objectives in international S&T more generally. There is no strategy or plan to attract and fast-track diaspora scientists and scientific refugees, an untapped resource which, if carefully exploited, could rapidly augment Canada’s depleted capacity.

Global Affairs Canada (GAC) has for many years toyed with the idea of appointing a departmental science advisor, but that has not happened, despite the rising trend to this end elsewhere. While a Science and Technology division does exist at GAC, it serves the trade and commercial side of the department, and is preoccupied largely with efforts to sell products and services abroad.  Policy planning papers have been written on science diplomacy, but they are gathering dust, and the concept – let alone the practice –  remains largely alien.

Canada signed the UN Arms Trade Treaty, but – as underscored painfully by the controversial decision to proceed with a large sale of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia – export controls have not been tightened. Perhaps most discouragingly, Canada refused to join 122 other countries in support the landmark  UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.

With a general election only two years away, the case for the government to move, quickly and deliberately, on issues of international science cooperation seems unassailable. How else will this country be able to demonstrate its commitments in this regard, or to the attainment of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, all of which feature a significant S&T component? There are, moreover, a range of accessible, low hanging fruits which are well within reach and easily harvested.

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The internationalization of Canadian science – Part II: Getting back in the game?

The way we were

Canada was once a pioneer in environmental advocacy, development assistance and creative diplomacy. Running through these enterprises there exists a strain of activity which is usually referred to as international scientific cooperation – the term science diplomacy has only come into widespread parlance over the past few years. In any case, when viewed through the lens of S&T, a summary review of the past fifty or so years illustrates convincingly that the combination of science and diplomacy has often paid handsome dividends.

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The internationalization of Canadian science – Part I: Getting back in the game?

Blogger’s note. My apologies, again, to regular followers of this series. This fall I have been preoccupied with a combination of conferences, travel, consulting, and other writing projects. As a result, I have fallen behind with my postings. I will do my best to remedy that situation, starting with this entry.   

 

Paul Heinbecker’s compelling 2010 book, from which I have borrowed the second part of my title, offers many useful insights into how Canada’s once storied place in the world might most expeditiously be restored. It does not, however, dwell upon the role of science in diplomatic practice or as a constituent element of foreign policy kit. This is not surprising. Those issues have never registered appreciably on the domestic public or political radar screen. That said, the need for, and possibilities associated with combining science and diplomacy carry critical implications for security, prosperity and development. Indeed, this connection has never been more relevant.

Or timely.

Why?

Because at this crucial juncture, were the earth to be equipped with a collision warning system, the alarm would almost certainly be clanging incessantly.

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Canadian foreign policy at mid-term: Reset, or recycled?

Two months ago, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland delivered a parliamentary address  which set out her thinking on Canada’s place in the world.

Her remarks, while unanticipated, were generally well-received, and the Minister has enjoyed something of a cake-walk through the doldrums of summer in the aftermath.

On deeper reflection, however, there are compelling reasons to conclude that the Freeland got off too lightly. Not unlike the popular perception of Canada’s recovering, if not exactly resurgent global position, her declaration deserves rather more critical scrutiny than it has been accorded to date.

The nature and provenance of the statement  raise important questions related to both administrative process and governance. For starters, what, exactly, is the relationship between this very short take  and a more long-term and comprehensive Foreign Policy Review which might mirror in substantive detail and scope the defence and development reports released just prior to the Minister’s speech?

If there is a longer document upon which the summary was predicated, it has yet to surface. I expect that if such a paper exists – at best an open question – it will have been prepared internally, perhaps solely within the confines of her office,  and likely without the benefit of outside consultations.

What can be said of the Freeland address’ content?

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Globalization, Enterprise and Governance: Twentieth Anniversary Re-release – Part V

Blogger’s Note. Reflecting upon the a recent “long read” published in the Guardian – an absorbing piece by Nikil Saval entitled “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world” – I was rather jarringly reminded of something I wrote back in the nineties.  What strikes me about this vintage analysis, published in the International Journal (53:1, Winter 1997, pp 17-37), is just how little the debate has advanced over the intervening two decades. It seems that virtually nothing has been learned, and even less done in response to this longstanding critique. Why?  As a contribution to everyone’s summertime reading, I have decided to re-release the original, complete and unabridged, in five easy pieces. With apologies for the curious formatting and the length of this concluding section , I would very much welcome reader commentary.

 

Civil society at risk

 

How, then, has globalization forced authoritarian governments – in Latin America, Southeast
Asia, Taiwan, South Korea – to become more democratic? Again, we are left peeling back the
layers. Gwynne Dyer, Francis Fukuyama, and others are convinced that the triumph of
democracy over dictatorship looms as one of the major historical themes of the late 20th century.
A more searching assessment might conclude that globalization has narrowed political options in
countries with long-standing democratic traditions and complicated the transition to democracy
most everywhere else.

 
Indeed, the greatest impact of globalization may be the extent to which it has engendered a
palpable dissonance within and between existing forms of economic and political organization.
On the one hand, multinationals have leap-frogged ahead of any countervailing form of authority
and are accountable only to their shareholders, many of whom are other firms or large investment
funds with little or no interest in corporate responsibility. National leaders, on the other hand,
remain accountable to electorates, but their ability to control or even to shape outcomes is
diminishing rapidly. When power without accountability meets accountability without power it
seems a safe bet that the sharp distinction between commercial and political choice will translate
into volatility.

 
The industrial revolution provided the tools and resources to transform countries into nationstates
and then welfare states. To a greater or lesser extent, these modern political constructs
permitted the accommodation of heterogeneity by imparting a sense of common civic culture
based on shared values and interests rather than ethnic, linguistic, or religious particularity. In
developed countries, the historic compromise between capital and labour, expressed as social
democracy and seen by some as one of the greatest achievements of this century, is unravelling
under the pressure of global competition and shifting factors of production which favour
employers, investors, and others who control capital. This winnowing of the middle ground is
especially profound in the United States and Britain but is increasingly seen in Canada, the
countries of the European Union, and Japan.

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Globalization, Enterprise and Governance: Twentieth Anniversary Re-release – Part IV

Blogger’s Note. Reflecting upon the a recent “long read” published in the Guardian – an absorbing piece by Nikil Saval entitled “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world” – I was rather jarringly reminded of something I wrote back in the nineties.  What strikes me about this vintage analysis, published in the International Journal (53:1, Winter 1997, pp 17-37), is just how little the debate has advanced over the intervening two decades. It seems that virtually nothing has been learned, and even less done in response to this longstanding critique. Why?  As a contribution to everyone’s summertime reading, I have decided to re-release the original, complete and unabridged, in five easy pieces. With apologies for the curious formatting, I would very much welcome reader commentary.

 

Globalization, national affiliation, and sovereignty

 
Corporations are growing increasingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated, able to respond to
challenges and exercise influence with subtlety and nuance. Circumstances may still dictate the
occasional hiring of mercenaries or subverting of governments, but most days corporate power is
more effectively wielded through local consultants or sympathetic national or international
organizations.

 
The received wisdom is that corporations have become stateless, and in general the location of a
company’s head office is increasingly incidental to corporate priorities and objectives. The
internationalization of production, in combination with the lure of tax avoidance, has largely
brought an end to corporate affiliation with countries of origin – except, perhaps, when foreign
assets are threatened or when it suits marketing objectives. United States flag patches, for
example, have again become a popular ornament on denim apparel – much of it made in Indonesia
or China or Bangladesh.

 
For the most part, major corporations raise capital in international financial centres, do their
design work in nodes of creative expertise, assemble where labour market conditions suit, pollute
where regulations or enforcement are weak, market where demand is strong, and so forth. With
the exception of demands related to trade policy negotiations and the control and policing of
intellectual property rights, it is in the interest of multinational corporate managers to retain at
most an arm’s-length association with host governments. No sinister plots here, just rational
responses to objective conditions.

 
The global negotiating agenda over recent years has been good for business. Dreams of the North-
South dialogue and a new international economic order have receded into distant memory and in
their place stand the WTO, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), and a host of regional
trade liberalization agreements. Successive rounds of trade talks have brought widening agreement
on basic principles intended to facilitate competition, while protectionism has acquired a bad
name.

 

In such areas as terms of entry, access to technology and intermediate goods, and the treatment of
investment capital and remittances, most barriers are down. The Multilateral Agreement on
Investment (MAI) promises to level the international economic playing field yet further – for
certain types of players. When differences do arise, reference can usually be made to one or
another of the dispute settlement mechanisms that are standard features in most trade
agreements. But these tribunals tend to meet behind closed doors, and neither their
responsiveness to the public interest nor their accountability is well established.

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Globalization, Enterprise and Governance: Twentieth Anniversary Re-release – Part III

Blogger’s Note. Reflecting upon the a recent “long read” published in the Guardian – an absorbing piece by Nikil Saval entitled “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world” – I was rather jarringly reminded of something I wrote back in the nineties.  What strikes me about this vintage analysis, published in the International Journal (53:1, Winter 1997, pp 17-37), is just how little the debate has advanced over the intervening two decades. It seems that virtually nothing has been learned, and even less done in response to this longstanding critique. Why?  As a contribution to everyone’s summertime reading, I have decided to re-release the original, complete and unabridged, in five easy pieces. With apologies for the curious formatting, I would very much welcome reader commentary.

 

 

What about growth … and development?
Development is a precondition to human security and democratization, and development
prospects are conditioned by history and geography, demography and ecology, technology and
resources. Globalization, however, worships at the altar of growth, which is now almost
undisputed as the primary indicator of national achievement, good governance, and business
acuity.
Donor countries and agencies, the World Bank/International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the
regional development banks play a central role in the globalization process through their
enthusiastic promotion of growth-centred national strategies, based on expanded trade and
investment, worldwide. The strict policy conditions attached to aid and loans are a powerful
instrument for advancing international economic integration, but the price is significant. Equipped
with heavy machinery and maps derived from infrared satellite imagery, deregulated and
unimpeded by the burden of government controls, from the rain forests to the tundra Adam
Smith’s acolytes are exacting a heavy toll.

 

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Globalization, Enterprise and Governance: Twentieth Anniversary Re-release – Part II

Blogger’s Note. Reflecting upon the a recent “long read” published in the Guardian – an absorbing piece by Nikil Saval entitled “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world” – I was rather jarringly reminded of something I wrote back in the nineties.  What strikes me about this vintage analysis, published in the International Journal (53:1, Winter 1997, pp 17-37), is just how little the debate has advanced over the intervening two decades. It seems that virtually nothing has been learned, and even less done in response to this longstanding critique. Why?  As a contribution to everyone’s summertime reading, I have decided to re-release the original, complete and unabridged, in five easy pieces. With apologies for the curious formatting, I would very much welcome reader commentary.

 

 

Inclusion for consumers
At the international level, and notwithstanding the occasional recourse to coercive force, guns will
remain a last resort. Globalization’s most obvious, and possibly most powerful, milieu is cultural,
manifest through technology, popular entertainment, and the media. The Internet is at the leading
edge of the current wave, but with the satellite-enhanced penetration of television and the spread
of VCRs and video rentals, an international community united by similar tastes and appetites has
been in formation for some time. At the most fundamental level what is most remarkable about all
of these media is that they share a look, a feel, and an ambiance which derive from common
production values.
In the early 1980s, filmmaker David Cronenberg probed the assertion that ’video is the retina of
the mind’s eye.’ His vision was disturbing, and since then the scale and intensity of electronic
homogenization has grown. We should ask: what kind of culture is being created, what kind of
norms are being imparted as a result of constant saturation by the latest in broadcast and
information technology? To a large extent the values transmitted are those associated with the
uninhibited pursuit of self-interest. What are the implications for democracy when in the United
States 43 million more people watched the Superbowl than voted in the last presidential election?

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Globalization, Enterprise and Governance: Twentieth Anniversary Re-release – Part I

Blogger’s Note. Reflecting upon the a recent “long read” published in the Guardian – an absorbing piece by Nikil Saval entitled “Globalisation: the rise and fall of an idea that swept the world” – I was rather jarringly reminded of something I wrote back in the nineties.  What strikes me about this vintage analysis, published in the International Journal (53:1, Winter 1997, pp 17-37), is just how little the debate has advanced over the intervening two decades. It seems that virtually nothing has been learned, and even less done in response to this longstanding critique. Why?  As a contribution to everyone’s summertime reading, I have decided to re-release the original, complete and unabridged, in five easy pieces. With apologies for the curious formatting, I would very much welcome reader commentary.

 

Globalization is about borderless nations, stateless firms, infirm states, and a new frontier –
without frontiers. That’s the Reader’s Digest version, popular with cocktail party cognoscenti
and among those who imagine themselves, someday, attending the World Economic Forum in
Davos, Switzerland. Globalization is emerging as the defining historical phenomenon of our
times, transforming structures and conditioning outcomes across an expansive range of endeavour.
It is a work in progress, a new order under construction, an expression of power relationships.
Given the relentless diffusion of the mass media and entertainment industries and rising levels of
trade and international investment, travel and immigration, education and communications, it
seems likely that more of the same is in train. Loved or loathed, globalization can be resisted, but
it can’t be ignored.

Simply put, globalization is working at the supranational level to create a single world society.
This is possible because fundamental change – greater interdependence and technological capacity;
increased mobility of most factors of production; higher levels of market integration and
liberalization; and deregulation, privatization, and a reduced role for government – has reshaped
the world economy.

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The Dark Nexus: Diplomacy, Sport, Politics and the Media

These are disturbing, even bewildering times.

We appear to have entered a post-empirical era in which ideology, emotion, conviction and dissembling have displaced evidence, fact and truth in public life, policy development and decision-making.

Special interests have trumped the public interest.

Amid the current blizzard of startling developments in national and global affairs, it is altogether too easy to retreat and recoil, and to focus instead on issues much closer to the front door.

That would be a mistake, particularly if  that preoccupation includes spending time on Facebook and other social media, which we now know to be implicated in a swathe of efforts to manipulate user behavior.

As an alternative, why not limber up and stretch our minds a bit in the analytical gym?

Think, for instance, of the relationships among these distinct fields of professional practice: diplomacy, sport, politics and the media. At first glance, given the amplitude of such divergent topics, this task might seem a rather daunting, even ungainly enterprise. Upon closer inspection, however, I would suggest that there exist not only significant parallels among and between these strange bedfellows, but also some intriguing paradoxes and potentially consequential pitfalls.

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