British Diplomats of the Future — More Like ’24’ or ‘Spooks’? Read ‘Future FCO’ Report

Posted: 9:31 am PT

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Last year, there was a discussion at Chathamhouse on 21st Century Diplomats: The Changing Role of British Diplomats. Below is an excerpt from Ambassador Tom Fletcher’s talk:

I recently put in a very audacious and cheeky bid for a senior position in the Foreign Office and part of my application was to say, I think my age may be a problem. Up front, I think my age is a problem, I think I’m too old for the job. My point was that in so many of the countries that we’re now trying to influence, and this was one of them, as one of the bigger emerging economies, the people that we most need to get to are actually much younger than me. So we need to reflect on that as we work out how to engage with those new groups.
Diplomats have always been told they’re about to go out of business and we have always found ways to evolve. It’s a Darwinian profession and we have found ways to move forward and use new tools and that’s what we’re going to do in this phase. The basic qualities of a diplomat through that period, I would argue, haven’t really changed that much either. I’ve been writing recently about the history of diplomacy and consistently find that the people who make good diplomats tend to have a certain amount of courage, tend to have a certain amount of tact and can probably eat anything. That will be the case for diplomats in 100 years’ time as it was for diplomats 200 years ago and beyond.
The scientists tell us that the change that we’ll see in the next century is equivalent in sociological terms to the change we’ve seen in the last 43 centuries. So imagine that’s like going from the cave painting to the atom bomb in three generations of diplomats. This change as we’re seeing in all sorts of industries is disruptive. It is going to put a lot of businesses out of business. It’s going to put a lot of states out of business, though not I would argue states altogether. It’s going to put a lot of ideas out of business and for all of us who care about diplomacy, we have to make sure that we’re not one of those businesses that is disrupted.

The FCO has just released the Future FCO report by Ambassador Fletcher. Give it a read below or read here (PDF) to see what’s in store for the cousins across the pond.

The Future FCO report notes that the skills mix required to deliver successful diplomacy is changing. In 2020 and beyond, it will need to retain and bolster the FCO’s traditional strengths: geographical and multilateral expertise; languages; policy-making; networking, influencing and negotiating. By 2020, the FCO will also need to build or strengthen the following skills: Programme; open source data; digital diplomacy; stabilisation and mediation, particularly in volatile and/or ungoverned space; smarter use of cross-Whitehall resource, including financial, economic, diplomatic, intelligence and legal measures (as pioneered by the ‘full spectrum’ approach on security issues); working with business and non-state actors.


UK Ambassador to Lebanon Signs Off With a Memorable Blog Post: So…Yalla, Bye

Posted: 12:58 am EDT

“The driving quest of diplomacy is for imperfect ways to help people not kill each other.”
-Tom Fletcher

The Naked Diplomat is done for now.  Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon signed off from his diplomatic assignment recently. Quite a valedictory address blogpost. Excerpt below:

Dear Lebanon,

Sorry to write again. But I’m leaving your extraordinary country after four years. Unlike your politicians, I can’t extend my own term.

When I arrived, my first email said ‘welcome to Lebanon, your files have been corrupted’. It should have continued: never think you understand it, never think you can fix it, never think you can leave unscathed. I dreamt of Beirutopia and Leb 2020 , but lived the grim reality of the Syria war.

Bullets and botox. Dictators and divas. Warlords and wasta. Machiavellis and mafia. Guns, greed and God. Game of Thrones with RPGs. Human rights and hummus rights. Four marathons, 100 blogs, 10,000 tweets, 59 calls on Prime Ministers, 600+ long dinners, 52 graduation speeches, two #OneLebanon rock concerts, 43 grey hairs, a job swap with a domestic worker, a walk the length of the coast (Video). I got to fly a Red Arrow upside down, and a fly over Lebanon’s northern border to see how LAF is enforcing Lebanese sovereignty. I was even offered a free buttock lift – its value exceeded our £140 gift limit, so that daunting task is left undone.

Your politics are also daunting, for ambassadors as well as Lebanese citizens. When we think we’ve hit bottom, we hear a faint knocking sound below. Some oligarchs tell us they agree on change but can’t. They flatter and feed us. They needlessly overcomplicate issues with layers of conspiracy, creative fixes, intrigue. They undermine leaders working in the national interest. Then do nothing, and blame opponents/another sect/Sykes-Picot/Israel/Iran/Saudi (delete as applicable). They then ask us to move their cousin’s friend in front of people applying for a visa. It is Orwellian, infuriating and destructive of the Lebanese citizens they’re supposed to serve. But this frustration beats the alternative – given potential for mishap, terror or invasion, there is no substitute for unrelenting, maddening, political process.

Continue reading,  So…Yalla, Bye, running on over 300 comments right now.


There’s UK’s Naked Diplomat, Now Japan’s Barefoot Diplomat, Ball’s In Your Media, American Diplomats

— Domani Spero

First, there was the Naked Diplomat. Remember him?  See Are You Ready for The Naked Diplomat? FCO’s Man In Beirut Strips Down. That’s Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon who writes:

“The Naked Diplomat has a smartphone to protect his modesty. But also the skills that have always been essential to the role: an open mind, political savvy, and a thick skin. He or she will learn the language of this new terrain in the way he or she has learnt Chinese or Arabic.”

Enter Japanese diplomat Yasuhiro Murotatsu, also called The Barefoot Diplomat.  He’s seeking his first wrestling win in Sudan.  He apparently is the first foreigner, and the first diplomat to fight in Sudan’s wrestling arena.  He has had about four matches but he’s not giving up. Below is Murotatsu’s Return Match Preview. Watch, you’ll love this! (Translation maybe added later, our translator is in school).

BBC News covered one of his wrestling matches.

They call him the barefoot diplomat: Yasuhiro Murotatsu, the political officer at the Japanese embassy in Sudan, also carries out an unusual form of physical diplomacy.

He takes on the best Sudanese wrestlers in the ring.

Mr Murotatsu hopes his fights can even bring the Sudanese closer together.

“I will be very happy if all Sudanese, from different parts of Sudan, from different tribes of Sudan, come together to support Sudanese wrestlers against a foreigner, a Japanese diplomat,” he told the BBC.

Go, Muro, Go!

Mr. Murotatsu has his own YouTube channel here. The BBC News video clip is here.

Okay, folks, your turn.

* * *

Are You Ready for the Naked Diplomat? FCO’s Man in Beirut Strips Down

… to 140 characters, that is. Sorry, cannot pass up on The World Today’s title🙂.

Tom Fletcher CMG, the British Ambassador in Beirut since August 2011 has an interesting piece in the Dec/Jan issue of The Today’s World. An iPad rather than letters of credence? A digital demarche? The need to  interact, not just transmit? Are you ready to abandon the banquet in favor of the smart phone? Excerpt below:

via Chatham House’s The World Today, Volume 68, Number 11 (pdf):

When people ask me whether at 37 I am too young to be an ambassador, I sometimes wonder if perhaps I am too old. I worked in No 10 for the last ‘pen’ PM, Tony Blair; for the first ‘email’ PM, Gordon Brown; and for the first ‘iPad’ PM, David Cameron. Delivery of government services by social media is being transformed.
Diplomacy has always been Darwinian: we have to evolve or die, just as diplomats did when sea routes opened up or the telephone was invented. Someone once said that you could replace the Foreign Office with a fax. We saw off the fax, and – only this year  – the telegram. Now we have to show that you cannot replace us with Wikipedia and Skype.

Social media are now indispensable to our core tasks: information harvesting; analysis; influence; promotion of English as the code for cyberspace; crisis management; commercial work. Imagine a reception at which all your key contacts were interacting. You would not stand in the corner silently or shouting platitudes, nor delegate the event.

In this brave new digital world, the most effective diplomats will carry an iPad rather than letters of credence; a digital demarche will be more powerful than a diplomatic one; and the setpiece international conference of the 20th century will be replaced by more fluid, open interaction with the people whose interests we represent. For the first time ever, diplomats can engage directly on a meaningful scale with the countries we live in. We no longer have to focus solely on elites to make our case.

This is exciting, challenging and subversive. Getting it wrong could start a war: imagine if a diplomat misguidedly tweeted a link to the offensive anti-Islam  film which provoked riots across the Muslim world. Getting it right has the potential to rewrite the diplomatic rulebook.
The digital revolution has opened up a new frontier. Equipped with the right kit and the right courage, diplomats should – as ever – be among its pioneers. Diplomacy not just for diplomats; but not diplomacy without diplomats. Jamie Oliver pioneered the idea of ‘The Naked Chef’ – pared back, simplified, focused on the essential essence of the job. The Naked Diplomat needs a smartphone and those oldest of diplomatic attributes – thick skin and an open mind.

Continue reading, Our man in Beirut strips down to 140 characters.

He also blogged about the naked diplomat here.  Follow Ambassador Tom Fletcher on Twitter @hmatomfletcher.

The State Department has Alex Ross upfront on the digital frontier.  There is also career diplomat, Richard Boly of eDiplomacy.  And we have several American ambassadors populating Twitter.  But we don’t know that we have any of the our credentialed ambassadors openly talk about their thoughts and their work on how they bridge the digital world in diplomacy.  If anyone has talked about this inside the building and we missed it, zap me a note.

domani spero sig


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