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Copyright: Rocío Cañas

GDL Talks – Daring to Change: Alternative Ideas to Address Current Global Challenges  

By Rocío Cañas

In a globalised world, issues like climate change, gender and social and racial inequalities transgress boundaries; humanitarian and political crises affect people in different parts of the world alike; and pandemics cannot be easily prevented from spreading around the globe. In order to deal with such cross-border and global challenges, more inclusive strategies are needed in international cooperation, policy making and diplomacy.

The Global Diplomacy Lab strives to play a part in establishing an international system to deliver positive transformational change. By engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, the GDL identifies the intersection of global and local opportunities and challenges in order to address them in an innovative and collaborative way. Relating directly to these matters, the GDL Talks, in the context of the 2020 prE-Summit, delivered key ideas to work towards new ways of undertaking Global Leadership, looked at strategies for innovation in the conduct of Partnerships for Sustainable Goals, and analysed the possibility of including new partners to face global Security threats.

When considering the topic of Global Leadership and the Future of Diplomacy, there is a pressing need to actively search for new ways to relate with the necessities and purposes of communities and to strengthen the connections between people and their leaders, especially during such difficult times. Such an example can be found in countries headed by women leaders and their responses to the current pandemic crisis, deflecting from a stereotyped strong communication style and bringing to the table empathy, compassion and softness as a different way to approach, connect and lead. On a more local level and in order to face these vulnerable and uncertain circumstances, leaders have an imperative to work towards emotional resilience and general awareness to find community and strengthen connection, to take action on things they can control when possible, but also to show preparedness for new challenges. This has to be carried out until strong, inspiring and collaborative guidance becomes the rule and not the exception.

In order to build strong Partnerships for Sustainable Development (SDG 17), it is imperative to surpass the acute crisis of trust among societies that is currently affecting the way we conduct our relations towards each other and undermining confidence in official actors such as international organisations and governments, making it difficult to concur on approaches and address public issues. This suggests that a new and empathetic leadership and different strategies to collaborate are needed, beginning by: questioning traditional models of cooperation between the north and south that seem outdated and inadequate; shifting our focus towards working with new narratives that are inclusive of all partners in international development – this includes the very definition of what development means to different countries; and disrupting partnerships that have perpetuated corruption and economic growth at all costs, damaging our planet.

Finally, regarding concerns like Security: Climate Crises, Migration, Gender and Social Inequalities, and Technology, current global Security threats have made it obvious that there is a problem with the established patterns of thinking: when pondering a global issue only in terms of countries, borders and national narratives, an important dimension is clearly missing. The effects of COVID-19 as a triple-thread phenomenon worldwide, with immense consequences for health, economic and social spheres, are a clear example of this. So it is crucial to start to see everything – the world and its challenges – as a whole, given that threats can no longer be fully addressed by a single country with a solitary answer. It is time that responses to global challenges be planned and executed with a multilateral approach, making sure that everyone has a part to play in a more sustainable future.

Blog entry constructed with the arguments shared in the GDL Talks at the 2020 prE-Summit: Talk on Partnerships for the SDGs by Patrick Mpedzisi and Blair Glencourse; Talk on Leadership by Netta Ahituv and Chris Fowler; and Talk on Security by Shakeel Ahmad Ramay and Gabriela Canales.

Published on September 21, 2020.

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Gender Alliance: The Feminist Manifesto
In the framework of the Gender Alliance, several GDL members initiated the articulation of the Feminist Manifesto. Take a look at the result of the cross-network collaboration!

Rocío Cañas
Rocío Cañas is an International Analyst and Cooperation Officer, currently studying for her second Master´s degree on International Cooperation and Management of Public Policies and Development Programmes in Spain with a scholarship from the Carolina Foundation.

Rocío Cañas has worked for seven years in foreign policy, diplomatic relations, development cooperation and human rights. She has experience in both the public sector and non-profit organisations internationally, having worked as an International Relations Officer for Europe for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of El Salvador, where she was in charge of the diplomatic relations with over 20 countries and the European Union, and as a Cooperation Officer for the National Foundation for Overcoming Poverty (FSP) in Chile, a non-profit organisation that promotes greater degrees of equity and social integration and submits public policys proposals, where she was involved in the design, implementation and management of international cooperation projects in Chile and Latin America.

She has supported Amnesty International by teaching Spanish to migrants in Chile and campaigning for human rights. Rocío Cañas has a Bachelor´s degree in International Relations and a Master´s degree in Management and Public Policy as a scholar of the International Cooperation Agency of Chile. Her main topics of interest include sustainable development, human rights and migration.

Patrick Mpedzisi

Patrick Mpedzisi is an organisational development consultant with over 15 years’ experience in the NGO sector in Africa. During this time he opened various processes for CSOs in Africa to engage in regional processes. He has managed major CSO initiatives, led regional campaigns and built civil society capacities across the continent. He now focuses on building NGOs’ capacities to be more effective in their sustainability and resource mobilisation.

A lawyer by profession, he also founded, a platform for restoring, preserving and celebrating African culture and identity and promoting ownership of the evolution of culture. Prior to that, he coordinated the African Democracy Forum, was project coordinator at Southern Africa Trust and led the African Youth Parliament, among other roles. He also co-authored a paper on South African foreign policy and regional integration.


You can read more about his engagement here and about his reflections on inclusion in this interview.

Blair Glencors

Blair Glencorse is Founder and Executive Director of the Accountability Lab, an incubator for creative, youth-driven ideas for accountability and transparency around the world.

Blair is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Anti-Corruption and Transparency.

Previously, Blair was a Social Impact Fellow at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania, an advisor to the now President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, and worked for the World Bank on issues of governance and development.

He is an Echoing Green Fellow and winner of the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award, the World Technology Award and the D-Prize.


Read more about Blair in his blog post and his article about a crowdfunding development aid. Also listen to this podcast in which he shares his vision about sustainable use of resources.

Netta Ahituv
Netta Ahituv is a senior magazine correspondent at Haaretz newspaper and is the editor of the family section. She is based in Tel Aviv. In 2014 she won the Pratt Prize for journalism in the category of “Extensive and Important Body of Work”. In addition, she has a weekly spot in a TV debate on foreign affairs on the national Israeli channel.

She has an MA in Environmental Philosophy and a BA in Biology and Humanities, both from Tel Aviv University. 

She founded a women’s soccer league in Israel, in which women play soccer weekly as a hobby and as an empowering tool. Netta managed to bring 8,600 solar lights to children in Gaza who are off the electricity grid. The project was called Little Suns to Gaza and presented many challenges, especially overcoming obstacles created by the Israeli and Palestinian authorities. Nevertheless, the solar lights passed the border and were handed over to the children. The initiative proved that there is indeed a crack in everything and that's how the light gets in.

Chris Fowler

Chris Fowler serves as Senior Director of Corporate Development at the USO (United Service Organisations), where he creates partnerships to support America’s military service members and keep them connected to family, home and country throughout their service to the nation. Since joining the USO in 2018, Chris raised over $5m in support of this mission.

A born storyteller and creative problem solver, Chris was raised near Syracuse University in New York (USA) where he later earned his MBA. He has over 20 years of experience in creative professional services and over ten years in digital marketing and strategic communications, with a portfolio of projects that spans the United Nations an two hall-of-fame songwriters.

Chris is a member of the BMW Foundation responsible Leaders Network and was appointed as its first ‘Network Driver’ in North America, where he served as a volunteer community organiser from 2014 to 2019. He is engaged in other international networks as a fellow of the RSA, a charter member of the Transatlantic Core Group, and an active member of Global Diplomacy Lab.

Closer to home, Chris serves as an election officer in Fairfax County (VA, USA), is a board member of Atlas Corps Tech and serves as a member of the Steering Committee for the DC Civic Innovation Council. Staying in touch with his personal passions, Chris has performed in around 10 productions with the Picnic Theatre Company and has coached his daughter’s soccer teams for more than 10 seasons. In 2019, Chris was recognised as a “distinguished alumnus” of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at George Mason University, where he previously earned a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Studies.

An avid footballer, if a bit out of shape, Chris is a keen supporter of Liverpool Football Club. He and his partner Jennifer Herrera live in Fairfax County, Virginia, USA with their two daughters, where they all enjoy listening and making music together.

Shakeel Ahmad

Shakeel Ahmad is a scholar working on global diplomacy, global governance, climate change negotiations and track II diplomacy. He teaches at the Foreign Services Academy of Pakistan, where his focuses include digital diplomacy, negotiation skills and conflict transformation. He is also coordinator for the Imagine a New South Asia network of leading think tanks and civil society organisations, which works to mitigate conflicts and pave the way for cooperation. Furthermore he is head of Zalmi Foundation.

Shakeel also served on the board of the Climate Action Network South Asia (CANSA) and has been a member of a government delegation for climate change negotiation at the UNFCCC for the last seven years. Moreover, he works closely with the Foreign Relations and Defense committees in the parliament, and has also established a number of parliamentarian forums such as the Council for Women Parliamentarians and the Non-Muslim Parliamentarians’ Caucus, etc.

Claudia Gabriela Canales Gallardo

Gabriela is a specialist on environmental management, sustainable development, public policy and international cooperation. She has more than seven years of work experience on climate change, biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation and peace. Her work has always involved partnership development, fostering rural and indigenous communities’ dialogues, harmonising financial resources and public policies, multi-level governance coordination, facilitating negotiations and capacity building.

Gabriela works as a consultant to the Global Environmental Facility, the World Bank and the Mexican Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources on developing sustainable productive landscapes in Mexico. She holds a Master’s degree in Environmental Management from Yale University and a Master’s in Peace Studies from Kyung Hee University. She has worked in local and international projects in coordination with governments and international agencies such as GIZ, KfW, FAO, GEF, AECID, JICA, IFAD and UNDP.

She is an advocate and a vibrant communicator who is passionate about developing innovative and inclusive strategies to achieve a more sustainable and equitable world.


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