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The concept of "Creative Diplomacy" in international conflicts 

– Why we have to rethink diplomacy as a collective responsibility

 

"Now, we see that we are threatened ourselves. We are not watching a conflict, we are part of this conflict. If we want to end it, we have to do something together", as Ruprecht Polenz put it during a Q&A session with GDL members to discuss the Ukraine conflict on 24 February.

 

The current situation is deeply worrying the entire world. It triggers fear, insecurity and disbelief. But it also triggers a sincere hope and strong desire for international communication and cooperation to put an end to this war. It should not only shed light on the Ukrainian victims, but on all victims – Russian ones included, so that international cooperation is more inclusive and innovative solutions can be developed. 

The urgent need to bring everyone to the bargaining table is more present than never – and it can be a symbol of collective responsibility. Especially since the war is being framed as a European one and racist narratives such as categorising war victims are spreading through the media, the focus on collective action has been lost to some extent. Not everyone is yet aware of the need to jointly take responsibility. Negotiation attempts with Putin reflect the challenge of resolving the conflict collectively – Putin is by now unpredictable and the power he can leverage has become more visible; he will apparently stop at nothing to achieve his aims. The bigger picture, though, can’t be seen until currently unheard voices of civil society have been included. It’s important to remedy asymmetric power structures by including experts from the civil society. Of course, an end to the conflict should be primarily negotiated with Putin, but without leaving behind experts from civil society, so as to get further input for solving this diplomatic bottleneck and to develop possible, previously not yet considered solutions. Because Putin has made specific demands relating to security policy, the goal should be to involve him in all political debates and to remain fully aware of all political issues. The situation should not be made worse for NATO countries by them wandering into Putin’s crosshairs.

This article aims to broaden our perspective by proposing an inclusive-diplomacy approach – the concept of "Creativity in Diplomacy" by GDL member Eirliani Abdul Rahman. There obviously are no borders in civil society, so the goal should be to address experts on, and representatives of, both Ukrainian and Russian civil society in addition to the traditional discussions. With civil society included in the dialogue, new and previously disregarded perspectives can be made visible by developing discussions and solution-focussed approaches through people-to-people exchange. Furthermore, by encouraging diverse traditional and non-traditional experts to engage in interdisciplinary exchange, innovative perspectives can be gained that may enable new solutions to be found. The aim must be to take international, collective and solution-oriented action. By using the war in Ukraine as a current example, the key questions for more inclusive diplomacy are: What are the most effective tracks for de-escalation, i.e. for inclusive coordination? And how does inclusive diplomacy need to be acted out in an effective way, by involving all necessary actors, traditional and non-traditional? 

 

Taking one step back – using the Global Diplomacy Lab to determine what a creative-diplomacy approach can look like 

Eirliani Abdul Rahman – from her point of view and experience – reflects on her involvement in the Global Diplomacy Lab in the fourth chapter, titled "Creativity in Diplomacy: The Case of the Global Diplomacy Lab”, of the new releasing book "New Horizons in Creativity" by Prof Shulamith Kreitler. She stresses the importance of “Creativity in Diplomacy" – an approach that is required especially in times of diplomatic failure, when there is a greater than ever need for inclusive diplomacy. Particularly in an increasingly complex world of globalization and fragmentation at the same time, we should take a closer look at diplomacy as an active concept to create and act out and therefore rethink it. Whilst Eirini didn’t coin the concept herself, she is a strong advocate for it. The chapter therefore describes interdisciplinary ways to pursue multi-track diplomacy. This approach has the potential to establish trust, peace and collective responsibility in a sustainable way.

Harnessing 'creativity' as a tool for more inclusive diplomacy means mobilising different perspectives from several disciplines in new permutations. By establishing flat hierarchies where all expertise is valued, a 'positive-sum' game for all participants can emerge. The approach consists of two pillars – co-creation and co-facilitation – with pluralistic, interdisciplinary involvement through multi-level participation being the goal. State-level solutions sometimes don’t take civilians’ interests into account. Actors of civil society need to step up give impulses for innovation so that change can be implemented in society. With all of these different approaches to multi-track diplomacy, sustainable trust, peace and cooperation are collectively tackled and collective responsibility is sparked. It means having the sensitivity to recognize specific issues as being relevant in specific societies, and therefore creating open and safe spaces for discussing them.

In her work "A need for collaboration rather than competition", together with Suzanne Goodney Lea, Eirliani pointed out her conviction that a 'my country first' perspective in negotiation should be viewed critically because it establishes asymmetric power structures and unspoken conflicts which, as a whole, prevent real cooperation. That is what should also be avoided in the case of the war in Ukraine. 

The Global Diplomacy Lab and its strategic goal of Diplomacy 4.0 is an example par excellence of how to bring diplomacy to a higher level by connecting creativity and innovation. Every individual, who is part of the diplomatic network, gets the opportunity to reflect on current global issues. That in turn leads to everyone growing and evolving through mutual learning. At the institutional level, this fosters a process of producing concrete proposals for bringing change to the world. Regular events, e.g., activities, labs and feedback sessions, offer spaces for innovative exchange in which each perspective is equally respected and included in discussions. By involving people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and thus enriching the community with interdisciplinary perspectives, the concept of "Creative Diplomacy" is really a reflection of vertical as well as horizontal diversity.

Regarding the Ukrainian conflict, multilateralism has to be interpreted in a different and less confrontational way, by highlighting the call for cooperation. Keeping a critical eye on the invasive powers, e.g. Russia at the state level, and simultaneously enabling people-to-people exchange with the civil society, will be desirable. From an institutional point of view, the EU has come to the conclusion that collective action is needed and that the unheard voices of Ukrainian and Russian civil society must be included in the discussions, so as to support trust, a range of perspectives and common desires. 

 

What values and goals do all societies have in common, and how specifically can Putin be brought to the table, along with civil society? 

It’s definitely a difficult question, but worth thinking about in more detail. Moreover, it’s an open question with an open-ended outcome, so various perspectives and inputs can contribute in important ways to creating and harnessing an inclusive-diplomacy approach!

Further Articles

The Social Impact Travels of the Global Diplomacy Lab
GDL Member Imran Simmins explores how the GDL encompasses the message and essence of a book entitled “Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide to World Peace”.
Dialogue with ‘opposite’ Actors: Business Sector
In the last posts and the ones to come, Gina addresses dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes her experience of the dialogue between the business sector and civil society in Latin America.
Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Hope is on the Horizon
GDL Members Kathryn Bryk Friedman and Elsa Marie D'Silva, joined by water expert Prof Irena Creed presented their vision on Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Process Matters at the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference hosted by adelphi.
Dialogues among different kinds of Actors: Religious Actors
In previous posts Gina has talked about processes of dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) and societal stakeholders, in the next few posts she will address dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes how to open up dialogue with the religious sector.
Thoughts about my experience with dialogue in Latin America
In the past 10 years, GDL Member Gina Romero has been involved in initiatives promoting dialogue among civil society actors and other social actors in Latin America. She will be sharing some reflections or stories about these experiences in order to shed light on dialogue as the greatest tool for citizen diplomacy.
How street lights can ease women's lives and boost the economy
A major factor blocking women's economic integration is the lack of public safety. This is especially relevant in India, recently named the world’s most dangerous country for women. Elsa Marie D'Silva suggests that to make cities safer, decision-makers must finally consider women’s needs.
dean-ruprecht-polenz4

Dean: Ruprecht Polenz

Ruprecht Polenz was a member of the German Parliament from 1994 to 2013 as representant of the City of Muenster. He was the Chairman of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2013. He is currently special envoy of the German Government for the negotiations between Germany and Namibia about the colonial past.  The focal points of his work are foreign and security policy, with regional emphasis on the Middle East, in particular Iran and Turkey and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is following the political effects of Islam both in this region and beyond with particular interest. Good transatlantic relations with the USA are especially important to him. Polenz became senior member of the CDU party on April 10, 2000 under the presidency of Angela Merkel. From April to November 2000, he was the Secretary-General of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Ruprecht Polenz holds a number of voluntary positions: President of the German Association for East European Studies (DGO), German Co-Dean of the Turkish-Europe-Future-Forum (a common Enterprise of the Mercator-Foundation and TÜSIAD), Senior Adviser to the Bosch-Alumni-Program with the USA, member of the board of trustees of Grünhelme e.V. (“Green Helmets”, a humanitarian agency), member of the board of trustees of Münster University of Applied Sciences, member of the advisory council of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Eirliani is a student in the doctoral program in public health at Harvard University where she is a Prajna Leadership and Julio Frenk DrPH Fellow. She is a co-founder of YAKIN (Youth, Adult Survivors & Kin In Need), an NGO working in the field of child rights and child protection issues, a Chatham House Member
a Red Dot Foundation-Safecity Board Member and a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council.

In September 2015, the #FullStop to #childsexualabuse campaign that Eirliani led on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi reached 16 million people over six weeks. She won the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award the same year.

She is an award-winning author. She was lead editor of "The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth. Voices from the Global Diplomacy Lab", a peer-reviewed compendium of essays on the demographic dividend (Anthem Press 2021). Eirliani also contributed a case study to the medical textbook Essentials of Global Health, co-edited by Babulal Sethia, Past President and Global Health Lead of the Royal Society of Medicine (Elsevier 2018). The book won first prize under the Public Health category in the 2019 British Medical Association book awards. She is co-author of "Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse" (Marshall Cavendish 2017). Now in its third print run, the book won joint 2nd Prize at the inaugural Golden Doors Award in September 2020. She edited Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi's book "Will for Children" (Prabhat Prakashan 2016).

Eirliani worked in Singapore’s Foreign Service from 2005 to 2015, serving in Berlin as First Secretary (Political) and then in Delhi as Political Counsellor. From June 2015 to November 2017 she was a member of the Advisory Council of the Global Diplomacy Lab. She is a Fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and Warwick University, Eirliani was a British Council Pathfinder scholar. She speaks English, Malay and German fluently, and has rudimentary understanding of Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin and Russian.

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Read more about Eirliani in her latest blog article. You can also read her articles about her polar expedition and about human trafficking and learn more about her workactivism and contribution to the Gender Alliance.

Eirliani Abdul Rahman

Eirliani is a student in the doctoral program in public health at Harvard University where she is a Prajna Leadership and Julio Frenk DrPH Fellow. She is a co-founder of YAKIN (Youth, Adult Survivors & Kin In Need), an NGO working in the field of child rights and child protection issues, a Chatham House Member
a Red Dot Foundation-Safecity Board Member and a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council.

In September 2015, the #FullStop to #childsexualabuse campaign that Eirliani led on behalf of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi reached 16 million people over six weeks. She won the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Award the same year.

She is an award-winning author. She was lead editor of "The Demographic Dividend and the Power of Youth. Voices from the Global Diplomacy Lab", a peer-reviewed compendium of essays on the demographic dividend (Anthem Press 2021). Eirliani also contributed a case study to the medical textbook Essentials of Global Health, co-edited by Babulal Sethia, Past President and Global Health Lead of the Royal Society of Medicine (Elsevier 2018). The book won first prize under the Public Health category in the 2019 British Medical Association book awards. She is co-author of "Survivors: Breaking the Silence on Child Sexual Abuse" (Marshall Cavendish 2017). Now in its third print run, the book won joint 2nd Prize at the inaugural Golden Doors Award in September 2020. She edited Nobel Peace Prize laureate Kailash Satyarthi's book "Will for Children" (Prabhat Prakashan 2016).

Eirliani worked in Singapore’s Foreign Service from 2005 to 2015, serving in Berlin as First Secretary (Political) and then in Delhi as Political Counsellor. From June 2015 to November 2017 she was a member of the Advisory Council of the Global Diplomacy Lab. She is a Fellow of the London-based Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

A graduate of the London School of Economics and Warwick University, Eirliani was a British Council Pathfinder scholar. She speaks English, Malay and German fluently, and has rudimentary understanding of Arabic, French, Hindi, Mandarin and Russian.

......................................................................................................................................................

Read more about Eirliani in her latest blog article. You can also read her articles about her polar expedition and about human trafficking and learn more about her workactivism and contribution to the Gender Alliance.

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