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Creating a conducive environment for students of diplomacy

Published on 08 April 2014
Updated on 05 April 2024

By its nature, diplomacy cuts across cultures, bringing people from many different backgrounds together in the same room. Creating an environment that is conducive to cooperation and knowledge sharing is important.

Creating a conducive environment for students of diplomacySylvana Busuttil has been running Diplo’s PGD workshop since 2002. During that time, she’s engaged with more than 150 students of diplomacy and international relations who came to Malta for the 10-day in situ workshop that marks the beginning of the Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy. We asked Sylvana about her experiences:

What’s the main challenge you face during the workshop?

My job is to bring everyone together, to see that they bond as a group, to create a close working environment. Ten days can be quite intensive – and many of them have travelled a long way to get to Malta. We’ve had participants from Canada, the Dominican Republic, the Seychelles, Samoa, Swaziland, and everywhere in between.

At the start of the workshop, many are a little anxious about what to expect. Some might even be intimidated at how their level of knowledge compares to others who may be more experienced in diplomacy. As the course progresses though, it’s clear that everyone is willing to share what information they have. The groups are very supportive, and the interactive nature of the sessions really helps them to create more interpersonal interaction.

Where do the lecturers come from?

Diplo has a large faculty of experienced diplomats and experts in the emerging fields of diplomacy as well as the traditional aspects. It’s a constantly evolving field. Thirty years ago, climate change diplomacy would have been unheard of. Ten years ago, e-diplomacy was just emerging. We need to stay current and to provide the training our participants need. Each year we evaluate the feedback and consider how to improve, what to add, what to drop from next year’s workshop.

Why is it important to bring everyone together?

Participants have to complete five online modules as part of the PGD. When they enrol in the online classrooms, they will meet others from the workshop and have an already established network. The bonds that form in the course of the ten days can last lifetimes. Spending quality time with colleagues from other parts of the world makes it easier to call on that person later on. The world of diplomacy is relatively small. Knowing you have experts in other fields, colleagues you can call on, really helps. This is especially true when it comes to smaller states with more limited resources.

Creating a conducive environment for students of diplomacy

What’s the most common feedback you hear from participants as they leave?

I think people expect it to be more formal that it is. Don’t misunderstand me. The days are long, packed with sessions. We often have additional evening sessions, too. It’s hard work. But the interactive teaching methodology ensures that everyone enjoys it.

Last year, we introduced a cultural evening where we ask participants to bring some food or drink from their country. We then combine this with impromptu speaking exercises getting everyone to share some information about where they’re from. Later on we try different dances and hear different music. Music and dance are truly global. It’s a great opportunity for people to get a glimpse at life from another world.

It’s not often that, say, someone from Austria, will spend such a long time interacting with someone from, say, Lesotho. Their day-to-day lives are so far removed, and yet there is so much they can learn from each other. That’s one of the major strengths of this workshop.  

Do you think participants stay in touch after the workshop?

Yes. Definitely. The online classroom is always open to participants and offers an easy way to communicate. And then, of course, you have Facebook and social media.

You’ve just finished one workshop. When do you start preparing for the next?

We’re already going through this year’s feedback to determine the programme for 2015. Dates have been set for the workshop which starts 2 February 2015 and the application deadline for the programme is 1 October this year.


The Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy guides working diplomats and international relations professionals through the theoretical and practical building blocks of diplomacy, with a focus on contemporary issues and challenges.

The programme, offered in cooperation with the Department of International Relations at the University of Malta, includes a 10-day residential workshop in Malta followed by 16 to 20 months of online study.  Applicants may select Internet Governance as an area of specialisation within the Master/Postgraduate Diploma in Contemporary Diplomacy. This specialised programme gives current and future Internet policymakers a solid foundation in diplomatic skills and techniques, necessary to engage effectively in international and global policy processes. Graduates of Diplo’s Internet Governance courses hold key positions in national, regional, and international bodies working in Internet Governance, including the Internet Governance Forum Multistakeholder Advisory Group, ICANN and ISOC.


1 reply
  1. Grace
    Grace says:

    I attended the first workshop
    I attended the first workshop this year and it was such a great experience! I agree that the workshops are packed with back to back sessions but Sylvana made it all workable. She has a great personality that helps in making people from different corners of the globe break the ice. And true, we do keep in touch, despite the pressures of life, we do keep in touch.
    Thanks Syl!

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