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[WebDebate #11 summary] Education Diplomacy: a new diplomacy for the SDG era?

Published on 11 April 2017
Updated on 05 April 2024

In our April WebDebate, we discussed Education Diplomacy, which could be described as the use of diplomacy to further education as a driver for development. We asked: What is Education Diplomacy? Is it still diplomacy? What are the approaches to Education Diplomacy? What knowledge and skills does it require?

The panellists were Dr Katharina Höne, Ms Yvette Gatilao Murphy and Ms Phoebe Farag Mikhail. Höne is DiploFoundation’s researcher and lecturer, and she works on Education Diplomacy in co-operation with the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI), the Institute for Education Diplomacy, and DiploFoundation. Her work has resulted in a number of policy papers and a highly-interactive online course. Gatilao Murphy is Director of Global Advocacy at the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) and also serves as Director of the Center for Education Diplomacy. Her experience includes bilingual education, advocacy, professional development, programme development, and working in the private sector. Farag is a consultant in international education, development, and human rights. She currently consults with the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) to develop the concept of Education Diplomacy further, and has also worked with key organisations in the education field, such as the Global Partnership for Education, Plan International, and Amnesty International.

Giving an introduction to the concept of Education Diplomacy, Höne provided examples such as the work of UNSECO, negotiations as part of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the EU Bologna process, and the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting. She defined Education Diplomacy as ‘the pursuit of context-specific education goals using negotiation and other diplomatic skills to negotiate across regional and or national boundaries or with local communities responsible for education delivery.’ She argued that the practice of Education Diplomacy can encompass interactions with multiple actors at multiple levels that aim to shape a positive policy environment for education and manage issues of education on a local, bilateral, regional, or global level. She highlighted two approaches to Education Diplomacy: an instrumental approach, which focuses on promoting state-centric interests, and a normative approach, which promotes human rights, advances individual’s lives and focuses on human progress. She described Education Diplomacy as ‘new diplomacy’, because Education Diplomacy encompasses new, non-traditional actors, new topics, and new forms of interaction. Höne concluded by highlighting that Sustainable Goal 4, which is a very ambitious goal, can only be achieved by including a large number of actors, which Education Diplomacy promotes.

Murphy introduced the audience to the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI), which is located in Washington, DC, and highlighted their key accomplishments. She noted that education challenges require innovative solutions, which the ACEI provides through three core programmes: Innovation Exchange, Global Schools First, and the Center for Education Diplomacy. The ACEI has a history of advancing education through diplomacy. In 2009, the ACEI began developing the concept of Education Diplomacy. In 2012, the Center for Education Diplomacy was launched with the purpose of forming an education hub for the development of Education Diplomacy and for establishing resources for others to further their understanding of Education Diplomacy, and in 2014, the ACEI established a partnership with DiploFoundation. Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more specifically, Murphy argued that as sustainability is based on the principle of interdependency, education is essential to achieve good health and well-being, gender equality and climate change. She pointed out that Education Diplomacy brings together advocacy skills and leadership and raises education to a higher level where it can be used as a process to promote sustainable change. Murphy then gave additional insights on the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in Education Diplomacy. This knowledge framework includes human rights, international relations, international development, and international educational policy. Key skills include the areas of negotiation, shaping consensus, developing partnerships, and building trust. She concluded by emphasising that a skilled educator must also be able to look to global trends in education.

Farag stressed that learners are at the centre of Education Diplomacy and argued that just as traditional diplomats represent their home countries, education diplomats represent learners. She stressed that Education Diplomacy is a continuous process and involves listening, learning, leveraging, leading. and leaping (the 5L model developed by the ACEI). Farag then proceeded to demonstrate how the Global Partnership for Education and the Global Campaign for Education, two important non-state actors active in Education Diplomacy, follow the 5L model. She stressed that the ‘leap’ requires forward thinking, inspiring a vision for education, and leading transformational change. The SDGs help us with the vision, and achieving them will require groups like the GPE and the GCE to help lead transformational change. The SDGs might inspire new groups to lead and to engage with education innovation.

Our panellists answered questions from the audience, commenting on the place of academia and student exchanges in the arena of Education Diplomacy, the tools diplomacy should use to overcome the digital divide and access to educational resources, the ideal and the obstacles of Education Diplomacy, the steps necessary to make individuals, governments, and civil society aware of Education Diplomacy and to give them the tools and skills to practice it.

Andrijana Gavrilovic works as an junior associate at Diplofoundation and focuses her work on the diplomacy issues. She is a student of International Relations at the University of Political Science in Belgrade, Serbia

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