Diary - Second UNU-CRIS Summer School

Day One – International Relations and Diplomatic Practice Today

The 2020 Second Summer School on Modern Diplomacy began on Monday 24th August, as UNU-CRIS Director ad interim Philippe De Lombaerde and Diplomatische Akademie Wien Deputy Director Susanne Keppler-Schlesinger virtually welcomed participants and introduced them to their respective institutions, describing their history and function.

Afterwards, Former Belgian Ambassador to the UN, UK and USA Johan Verbeke kicked off the first round of lectures and introduced the first of the ten modules of the Summer School: “International Relations and Diplomatic Practice Today”. Ambassador Verbeke discussed the trends of what he calls “a world in flux”, evaluating their impact on diplomatic practice and sharing his impressions on which are the ones that prospectively will govern the world.

In the first afternoon session, our participants heard from Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) Professor and UNU-CRIS Associate Research Fellow Andrew Cooper, who discussed the role of diplomacy between global governance aspirations and the challenges of populism and geopolitics. Professor Cooper compared the contours of diplomacy from two opposing periods: on the one hand, the one going from 1990s the 2008 – broadly, the years characterised by aspirational global network-building and, on the other hand, the period going from 2008 to the present – from the financial crisis to the current pandemic crisis.

In the final session of the day, General Representative of the Flemish Government to the European Union Axel Buyse gave a presentation focusing on subnational diplomacy and the specific case of Flanders. Academic studies on subnational diplomacy, or paradiplomacy, describe the competing forces manifesting in virtually all states – the international mobilisation of subnational governments themselves and the central governments’ attempts to control the by legal and political means. Mr. Buyse drew on such studies to present to case of Flanders, sharing his experience as a practitioner in this field and capturing the state of Belgian internal consultation practices that are shaping the future traits of the Belgian diplomatic engagement and internal coordination.  

Day Two – Climate Diplomacy

The second day of the Second Summer School on Modern Diplomacy explored Climate Diplomacy.

The first morning session featured Ghent Institute for International Studies (GIIS) Associate Professor and UNU-CRIS Professorial Fellow Thijs Van de Graaf, who discussed the changing face of energy statecraft as the world undergoes a difficult transition away from fossil fuels.  Professor Van de Graaf argued that climate change is an energy problem, meaning that, as most carbon dioxide emissions stem from the combustion of fossil fuels, we cannot possible tackle climate change without essentially changing what is at the basis of our energy systems – oil, coal and gas. He went on to examine how this change impacts geopolitics, exploring how it will influence “traditional” energy statecraft by re-shaping alliances, organisations and security partnerships.

In the following session, College of Europe Professor and UNU-CRIS Associate Research Fellow Simon Schunz presented climate diplomacy through the lens of the process of implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement. Professor Schunz briefly introduced international climate diplomacy up until 2015, then contrasting it with the new framework established by the Paris Agreement. Interacting with participants on the merits of the Agreement’s main characteristics, Professor Schunz concluded by outlining the building blocks for an environmentally effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.

In the afternoon, Head of the Brussels Office of UN Environment Programme Europe Veronika Hunt Šafránková provided participants with a special insight on the state of modern climate diplomacy in this time of pandemic and planetary crisis. COVID-19 only initially had a positive impact on global CO2 emission, as these are quickly returning to pre-pandemic levels. In parallel, the virus had disastrous social and economic impacts. Still, this can be an opportunity for states to design economically and socially inclusive pathways to climate neutrality by 2050. Ms. Šafránková described what the recovery ahead could look like, highlighting the importance of connecting biodiversity and climate agendas and shifting towards multi-level and multi-stakeholder climate governance.

To conclude the day, Diplomatische Akademie Wien Postdoctoral Researcher in International Law Justine Bendel presented thorough analysis of the international climate regime, delving into its most relevant institutions, processes, and principles. Dr. Bendel tackled the “wicked problem” of climate change by discussing the architecture established by international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement; unpacking the legal structure that defines and regulates the Earth’s climate.

Day Three – Cultural Diplomacy

Cultural diplomacy was at the centre of day three of our Second Summer School.

The first contribution came from Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at the University of Warwick and Research Professor at the Institute for European Studies - VUB Brussels Richard Higgott. Professor Higgott led a fruitful discussion on the changing nature of diplomacy and the position of the EU. In particular, he outlined the shift from the Westphalian nation state to a civilization state and, in parallel, the shift from normative power Europe to a geopolitical College of Commissioners.

In the second morning session, former EU Ambassador to Egypt and Russia and Senior Associate Fellow at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations Marc Franco brought his expertise to examine cultural diplomacy in the 21st century and explore possible ways forward. He offered a practitioner’s perspective on the changes that have been occurring in diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, and the European Union, referring, in particular, to the role of public opinion as a catalyst for this change.

In the afternoon sessions, the module on cultural diplomacy was wrapped up by contributions from two accomplished practitioners in the field.

Drawing on his diverse and extensive career experiences, Diplomatische Akademie Wien Director, Ambassador Emil Brix, shared valuable observations on the role of cultural diplomacy and led a frank discussion on MFAs, cultural diplomacy and cultural management. Ambassador Brix detailed his vision of a successful cultural diplomacy – one that projects a credible image of one’s country (not shying away from its less appealing features) and creates relationships, thus securing its peers’ attention capital: the currency of cultural diplomacy.

During the final session of the day, Austrian Diplomat Christian Autengruber outlined the network and structure of Austria's cultural diplomacy, presenting its priority and support programmes and discussing the challenges posed by the current pandemic. Mr. Autengruber stressed the practical importance and impact of cultural diplomacy, highlighting that co-creation is the most effective form of contemporary cultural diplomacy.

Day Four – Economic Diplomacy

Day four of the programme brought the economic diplomacy module. The day opened with perspectives from experts at different ends of the field.

In the first morning session, President of the Institute for European Studies at the VUB Karel De Gucht offered an insider’s view of the actual practice of economic diplomacy, providing insights from his time serving as European Commissioner for Trade and Belgian Minister for Trade. Mr. De Gucht focused on the changing role of economic statecraft and the role of geostrategic investments.

Following this, Professor of International Economics at Universiteit Gent and UNU-CRIS Professorial Fellow Glenn Rayp, together with Assistant Professor at Universiteit Gent and UNU-CRIS Professorial Fellow Samuel Standaert presented their views as economists, exploring economic diplomacy trends of the past, present and future. They explored the effects of policies on the economy, paying particular attention to the distributional changes brought for by the different tools of economic diplomacy.

In the first session of the afternoon, Chair of the LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission and Fellow in Economics at St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford Linda Yueh offered a clear and detailed analysis of economic diplomacy in the 21st century. Professor Yueh’s presentation provided a broader look at the future of economic diplomacy, viewed from the perspective of Britain’s path post-Brexit, with an eye on how to integrate soft power in its framework.

In the closing session of the day, Guest Professor at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien Diana Bank Weinberg gave a gripping presentation on business diplomacy in the context of today’s increasingly globalised world, evaluating the positive and negative aspects of the growing interconnectedness and  mobility that globalisation inevitably entails and exploring the intersection between international affairs and international business.

Day Five – Migration Diplomacy

Day five on migration diplomacy kicked off with two thought-provoking and comprehensive contributions.

To kick things off, part-time Professor at the Migration Policy Centre (EUI) and Lead Migration Expert and Chief Strategist for the International Authority on Development (IGAD) Mehari Taddele Maru presented an analysis of migration diplomacy, exploring issues at national, regional and international level. He touched upon several mismatches – to name a few, of priorities between EU and Africa (migration is central for the former, not the latter), of representation of certain migration routes in the media, and of levels of governance, as regulations and frameworks are increasingly developed at the global level whereas the actual implementation and agency occurs at the local level.

In the second session, Regional Director of the IOM - UN Migration Regional Office for the EU, Norway and Switzerland Ola Henrikson provided a practitioner's take on the workings of multi-level migration diplomacy and governance. Mr. Henrikson described the different ways in which the IOM addresses the multidimensional issue of migration, providing examples of the negotiation IOM oversees, which often involve stakeholders beyond states. He also discussed the challenges the IOM and its partners are taking on to ensure the implementation on the ground-breaking Global Compact for Migration.

In the afternoon, OSCE Economic Affairs Officer and member of the Office of the Co-ordinator for Economic and Environmental Activities Teresa Albano took on both sessions to discuss multilateral migration governance from the perspective of the OSCE and well-beyond - drawing on her experiences on the field to balance considerations of institutional and practical nature. Ms. Albano’s candid observations on globalisation, regional organisations and the migration governance system made for an excellent last session of the week, ensuring that all parties involved would have much to reflect on during the weekend break.

Day Six – Science and Health Diplomacy

After the weekend break, the Second Summer School returned with a module on Science and Health Diplomacy.

In the first morning session, UNU-CRIS Founding Director and Academic Commissioner for International Institutes and Networking at VUB - Vrije Universiteit Brussel Luk Van Langenhove introduced the notion of “science diplomat” and science diplomacy, describing its network, practices, varieties and tools, and discussing the use of science for and in diplomacy that addresses global challenges.

For the second session, Senior Expert and Independent Consultant at HumanImpact5 and Visiting Lecturer at the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva Michaela Told presented the first part of her lecture on science diplomacy and global health, focusing on the example of infectious diseases. Professor Told highlighted the transboundary nature of global health, which makes it a challenge that goes beyond one government and interconnects us all.

After the lunch break, Michaela Told continued her two-part session and led an interactive debate on the key features of international partnerships for tackling infectious diseases, comparing the responses to the Ebola crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic and exploring how the two have changed the mindsets and practices of the international community when facing a global health issue.

In the day’s final session, former Deputy Director & Head of Governance for Global Health and current Principal Visiting Fellow at UNU-IIGH Obijiofor Aginam discussed the globalisation of public health and the new strategic approaches developing in global health diplomacy. The limits of inter-state Westphalian system in a globalised world are mirrored in the transformation from “international” (state-to-state) to “global” (multiple actors) health. Professor Aginam examined these new actors and their diverse interests to expose how countries try to reconcile these global, non-state-tied issues with their interest.

Day Seven – Diplomatic Skills

Day seven featured contributions from two accomplished experts on diplomatic skills.

During the first two sessions, Founding Partner of Y-Motions International and Lecturer at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien Andreas Sami Prauhart led a morning full of leadership tips to remember with metaphors: from being aware that our “mosaic identity” influences our practice of leadership, through analysing the system and ourselves as from the balcony of a ballroom, to the pizza diagram to map out all the stakeholders' narratives, interests and potential losses. This thorough discussion on leadership in international relations provided a comprehensive toolkit to diagnose and act upon the challenges of modern diplomacy.

During the afternoon sessions, Founder and Director of MAK LAW International and former Senior Legal Officer of the United Nations Office of the Legal Counsel (UNOLC) Mona Ali Khalil drew on her vast experience as a lawyer and negotiator to discuss the competences and skills needed in bilateral and multilateral negotiations. She outlined the legal, normative framework that regulates the negotiating process, explored the importance of openness, transparency, credibility and legitimacy and described the balancing act between the power of principles and principles of power.

Day Eight – Digital Diplomacy

The eighth day of the programme began with an introduction by UNU-CRIS Professorial Fellow, Institute for European Studies of VUB Brussels part-time Research Professor and University of Amsterdam part-time Assistant Professor Jamal Shahin, who described the main actors and frameworks in digital diplomacy, describing the latter as exemplar of the changes in how the state is represented and how it is representing certain issues.

Professor Shahin then moderated a panel discussion between Senior Director of Cybersecurity Policy at Microsoft Līga Raita Rozentāle, and Director of Regulatory Affairs at ETNO (European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association) Maarit Palovirta. The speakers shared their many experiences as technical actors involved in multi-stakeholder initiatives on digital governance, reviewing, among other things, the UN ongoing discussions about the role of the state in cyberspace and the challenge of active engagement in the growing plethora of international consultative formats.

In the afternoon, DiploFoundation Director and Head of the Geneva Internet Platform Jovan Kurbalija gave a masterclass on creating a multistakeholder-driven digital future. The debate on how to govern and manage digital reality, Professor Kurbalja said, is an informal negotiation of the new social contact. Governments are latecomers in the digital field. What is, therefore, their role and that of the UN in the building of new digital spaces? Professor Kurbalija explored this question, detailing his vision drawing on his first-hand experience at the UN High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.

The final session was a roundtable discussion between Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Bath André Barrinha, and Diplomatische Akademie Wien Guest Lecturer, Austrian Consul General in Milan, and former Director of the Office of Science and Technology Austria (OSTA) Clemens Mantl, who shared their reflections on the transient nature of cyberdiplomacy and the emerging role of digital diplomats.

Day Nine – Subnational Diplomacy

Day nine of the Second Summer School focused on subnational diplomacy, otherwise known as paradiplomacy.

Professor of International Relations at the University of the Basque Country Noé Cornago Prieto comprehensively outlined the rise of the concept of paradiplomacy, detailing its conceptual history, its process of institutionalisation and its steady diffusion and normalisation at the global level. Professor Cornago described paradiplomacy as an imprecise and controversial concept that has, nonetheless, gained much traction and recognition in the past few decades. This global systemic mobilisation, the Professor said, results from the combination of a functional dimension and a normative dimension relating to identity: the success of the diplomatic ambitions of regions depends on how carefully they thread  the needle between the two dimensions.

In the second session, Professor at the Department of International Relations of the St. Petersburg University Alexander Sergunin presented the interesting case of Russian Northeastern sub-national units (Regions and Municipalities), focusing on how they use paradiplomacy as a resource for problem-solving and ensuring their sustainable development. In particular, Professor Sergunin described the experience of St. Petersburg, a city that has hundreds of cooperation agreements but not all of those have resulted in highly active collaborative ties, making it an excellent case study to explore which elements contribute to a successful or unsuccessful agreement.

The final two session of day nine took on a Latin American perspective on subnational diplomacy.

In the first afternoon session, Editor-in-chief of Paradiplomacia.org and Senior Manager of Operations & Impact Scale at the International Potato Center (CIP) Horacio Rodríguez Vázquez shared experiences and lessons learned from different countries in Latin America working towards the construction of an environmental paradiplomacy agenda. Mr Vázquez provided a conceptual framework outlining the different levels and varieties of subnational diplomacy, and then presented a series of case studies from different regions and subnational entities around Latin America.

In the final session of the day, UNU-CRIS Associate Research Fellow and Head of Promotion and Exchange of Regional Social Policy Department at Mercosur Nahuel Oddone explored cross-border paradiplomacy in Latin America. Professor Oddone first discussed the different approaches of subnational studies in International Relations, outlining how they relate to paradiplomacy in Latin America, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Then, he introduced the diplomatic epistemic community, outlining its conformation and use, and exploring how this impressive growth of networks assembling subnational authorities could impact diplomacy practices in the future.

Day Ten – Supranational Diplomacy

In the final module of the Second Summer School, the focus shifted to the other end of the multi-level diplomacy structure, looking at supranational diplomacy.

In the first session, Assistant Professor of International Relations at KU Leuven Edith Drieskens presented the European dimension of UN Security Council membership, exploring the limitations and opportunities of EU actorness (or "actor mess") at the UN before and after the Lisbon Treaty. Professor Drieskens discussed the distinct difference between the UNGA and the UNSC in terms of the dynamics brought about by the EU’s push for Member-State status and a single EU seat.

In the second session, UNU-CRIS Associate Research Fellow and Chief of Staff of the Office of the Secretary-General of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) Andrew Bradley outlined the structure and scope of the organisation and discussed which role it can and should play on the international scene. The OACPS is undergoing many changes aimed at solidifying its status in the international scene. Its 76 member states, Mr Bradley stated, are positioned as a strong bargaining power with South-South solidarity dynamics.

For the final session of the day, the Summer School welcomed back Mona Ali Khalil, Founder and Director of MAK LAW International and former Senior Legal Officer of the United Nations Office of the Legal Counsel (UNOLC), to explore the concepts, actors and tasks of multilateral diplomacy. She resumed her lecture right from her previous lectures on day seven, renewing an insightful discussion on balancing principles and the day-to-day requirements of diplomatic work. She concluded an excellent series of lectures with an encouraging message on the state of international organisations and their power to positively impact the world.

Lastly, UNU-CRIS Director ad interim Philippe De Lombaerde and Diplomatische Akademie Wien Deputy Director Susanne Keppler-Schlesinger wrapped up the Second Summer School on Modern Diplomacy - one for the books for alternative socialisation, avoiding technical difficulties and combatting Zoom fatigue. The two expressed their satisfaction for the success of the Summer School, their gratitude for everyone involved in the organisation, design and delivery, and their hope that the connections created during this virtual event would continue in a fruitful collaboration in the future. Indeed, to this end, the organisers and participants remained connected following the conclusion of the programme for an extra hour of networking.

Our infinite thanks go to our partners at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien, the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, VUB - Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Universiteit Gent for their collaboration and invaluable contributions; to our speakers for sharing their time and knowledge, often well-beyond the time-limits of their sessions; to the module leaders for running a tight ship and sailing us through information-packed days, and to our wonderful participants for their active engagement and insightful interventions and questions.

The Second Summer School team is grateful for the opportunity to e-meet you and learn from you - here's to a fulfilling and inspiring experience.

A Group Shot of the Second Summer School Participants