Diplomacy Talk and Social: Students of IDIG Meet British Diplomat
“Are diplomats still relevant?” “How has diplomacy changed?” “What are the preconditions for a successful diplomatic endeavour?” These are some of the perennial questions occupying students of diplomacy and have variously been tackled in theoretical and scholarly discussions at our programmes at The Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance (IDIG). However, they acquired a new significance when addressed to a practicing diplomat at a recent IDIG event: Master’s students were able to hear first-hand answers to these and other questions from British diplomat and civil servant Christopher Holtby OBE.
During his extensive career, Chris has served in Brussels as UK liaison officer to Javier Solana, the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU, and policy adviser to Dr Solana on Asia/Pacific issues; as Deputy Head of Security Policy Department in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, responsible for UK policy on NATO, European Security, military and civil-military operations and co-operation, as well as maritime security; and been in the role of the chairman of Working Group 1 of the international Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. Later, he has also served as Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia; Consul General in Melbourne; and Head of the UK Office for South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
The discussions revolved around the questions raised above, in light of specific events and experiences drawn from Chris’s career, ranging from conflict resolution in Indonesia, to confronting international piracy, and multilateral maritime cooperation and coordination. Students learnt how the success of the latter required not only technical know-how and problem-solving skills, but also skilful negotiation and relationship-building.
These discussions resonated with themes covered in our various modules, especially themes of change in diplomacy and transprofessionalisation covered in Diplomacy in the Digital Age; diplomatic negotiation covered in International Negotiation, respectively studied in all or most of our programmes; themes of peace-building and international security covered in MSc Security, Peace-building and Diplomacy; and themes related to the development-security nexus covered in our module The Politics of Violence: Development, Security, Sustainability taken by students of IDIG as well as the cross-Institute interdisciplinary programmes contributing to Loughborough London initiative Development and Social Change.
Students had the opportunity to raise and discuss a variety of questions concerning them, from the current situation in Ukraine to China’s foreign policy. The discussion concluded with advice on pursuing career in diplomacy.
The talk was followed by an informal supper and social event, where students were able to continue the conversation with Chris less formally. Students spoke of their appreciation for the insight and inspiration they drew from the exchange, as well as the opportunity to engage with a diplomacy practitioner more generally – something which IDIG strives to provide throughout the year.
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