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DiploNews – Issue 25 – 15 September 2000

DiploNews – Issue 25 – September 15, 2000

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An increasing number of reports, both from government and private sector sources, are examining the changing role of diplomacy in the modern world. Several of these reports have been featured in previous issues of DiploNews. This issue of DiploNews introduces some recent assessments of changes in diplomatic training that may become necessary to properly equip diplomats for their work in an increasingly globalised world.


DiploProjects, at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, has in many ways anticipated recent changes in the role of diplomacy, and has been offering non-traditional training courses for diplomats for several years. The basis of the DiploEdu approach is that with modern information technology, information is a fast changing and easily accessible resource. Students in DiploEdu courses, rather than memorising information which may not be useful or valid by the time the examinations are passed, are trained to use available technology which will allow them to access the most up-to-date information when it is needed. Furthermore, they are taught how to assess the value and validity of information, how to link it to other information, and, in short, how to create useful knowledge which can be applied to day-to-day problems and decisions in their work from the mass of information now available. This approach will benefit individual diplomats, and even more, allow the diplomatic services of developing countries to use available technology to play a more active role in international affairs, previously denied to countries without the resources to support large diplomatic services and to set up missions in a large number of host countries.

In more concrete terms, DiploEdu courses begin with a short introductory workshop held in some central location, followed by a distance learning phase conducted via the Internet. The distance learning phase allows diplomats to take part in the course while remaining on the job, in the position to immediately apply their new skills and knowledge. Distance learning via the Internet also introduces them to means of communication which are increasingly used for fast and inexpensive interaction around the world. Exercises include not only group discussions of relevant topics and suggested readings, but simulations of international negotiations over the Internet and development of IT-related projects immediately useful to the participants' ministries of foreign affairs.

While each country's diplomatic service needs to assess the role and therefore the training needs of its own diplomats, we believe that DiploEdu training courses offer a useful model, especially for the diplomatic services of small or developing countries. For more information on DiploEdu courses, please visit the DiploProjects homepage.

Heisbourg Report on International Relations Studies in France

At the request of the Office of the Prime Minister of France, Mr. François Heisbourg, former diplomat, director of the IISS, and adviser to private enterprises on international affairs, wrote a report on the situation of teaching and research in the field of international relations in France. He found that the discipline of international relations is not recognised in the highly centralised French academic system. Where international relations is taught, this happens within other academic disciplines such as law and economics. As a result, the multidisciplinary approach is rather lacking. Thus, the considerable need for knowledge of international relations in France is only very imperfectly satisfied. For example, there is no specific training of diplomats either upon entering the foreign service or in the course of their careers. Research institutions do not particularly concentrate on international relations but prefer studies of more restricted areas. All this means that foreign students and researchers interested in international relations are not attracted to French institutions. This compares poorly with the situation prevailing in other countries such as the UK, the USA, Germany and Switzerland. As any significant reform of the French academic system would be a complex and long-winded exercise, the report suggests that the teaching of international relations be intensified within existing disciplines while making it a multidisciplinary hub, especially at graduate level. A few selected academic institutions would operate in this way under the supervision of a national board which would decide on attributing the international relations label to given theses. This could later lead to the establishment of a French School of International Relations which would operate in conjunction with but independently of existing academic institutions.

The full report , kindly translated to English by Professor Dietrich Kappeler, is available.

The Case for a European Diplomatic Academy – Jörg Monar

A paper by Professor Jorg Monar, Director of the Centre for European Politics and Institutions at the University of Leicester, examines the need for a European Diplomatic Academy. Current discussion and debate within the European Union has highlighted the need, as the external responsibilities and activities of the EU increase, for changes in the EU's foreign affairs system to meet these rapidly increasing challenges. "Yet", Monar writes, "there is one dimension which tends to be largely neglected in the reform debate: The demands which the Union's growing external responsibilities put on the training of EU officials in Brussels and abroad who have to prepare decisions on international issues, negotiate at the international level, monitor international developments and represent together with the Member States' missions – in hundreds of posts abroad – the external image of the European Union." Monar proposes the establishment of a European Diplomatic Academy which would see to the training needs of both EU officials and national diplomats, thus contributing to "the emergence of a common European diplomatic practice and culture".

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