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Kate Jones, CPDS Course Director, recently attended the International Forum on Diplomatic Training’s annual conference, hosted by the Anwar Gargash Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi on 3-5 November 2021. In light of it, she reflects on the value of cultural diversity in diplomatic training.

It is axiomatic that strong diplomacy and successful negotiation involve listening to and understanding the perspectives of your counterpart, as well as propounding your own objectives. The best diplomats and negotiators will spend as long listening as talking, as long building up a picture of their counterparts’ interests as establishing their own. Understanding your counterpart and how they work is key to successful influence.

Building a capacity to understand the perspectives and approaches of others is clearly vital to strong negotiation and diplomacy. Those governments which send their most promising diplomats to study overseas understand this well: what better way to understand the UK than a year studying in a British university?  Closer to home, many governments and companies develop that capacity by recruiting diverse sources into their diplomatic and negotiation training – so that their employees will understand not only how negotiation is done at home, but also how others approach it.

Not only is diversity in training vital, but so is exchanging ideas among diplomatic trainers. The International Forum on Diplomatic Training brings together directors of diplomatic academies annually to cross-fertilise ideas and the best of training practice. At its recent conference, held in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, we discussed the new importance of training in health diplomacy, with a straw poll revealing that around 50% of the institutions present now offer it. We also focused on tools and techniques to make the best of virtual and hybrid training environments, and considered training needs in fields of pressing diplomatic challenge such as technology, science and climate change; as well as the continuing need for strength in essential diplomatic skills.

We at CPDS embrace these conversations, and the continuing discussions they provoke among international leaders of diplomatic training. We strive to be at the vanguard of training practice. We ourselves seek to champion diversity in diplomatic training: we are an organisation to whom governments and companies worldwide turn for their non-national diplomatic and negotiation training perspective. We offer the opportunity to gain cross-cultural understanding of successful international methods of negotiation and related diplomatic skills. We, in turn, enjoy hugely the diversity of perspectives that our participants bring to the (real or virtual) training room: not only in terms of cultural background, but also in gender, native language, career experience, and so many other ways. Diversity in training is essential in this multi-faceted 21st century, and brings benefits for us all.

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