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Polishing the art of diplomacy

posted on 29/07/2003: 901 views

Emirates Institute of Diplomacy in Abu Dhabi trains UAE diplomats to handle the demands of the swiftly changing and competitive political, social and economic world

Young UAE national Rashid Saeed Al Shamsi, a law graduate from the United Arab Emirates University and a newly recruited diplomat at the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, hopes to represent his country at the United Nations one day.

Pursuing a goal to major in international law, this young diplomat - who will undergo training in his home country before venturing abroad - is keen to hone his skills in diplomacy and do his country proud in the international arena. The Emirates Institute of Diplomacy (EID), set up recently by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the chairmanship of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, will take him closer to his dreams.

One of the aims of the EID is to train novice diplomats to function in the international arena. The institute runs periodic, short courses to supplement the learning process of the young diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before his or her posting abroad.

In an interview with Gulf News at the launch of a workshop for young attaches, Dr Yousef Al Hassan, Director General of EID, said, "The need for such an institute has been pending for a while. What we do here is train the young diplomat on negotiation skills, about protocol, economic and international issues and in communication, crises management, computer skills and foreign languages."

The world of diplomacy has indeed changed, emphasises Dr Al Hassan. It's now about presenting an honest, direct approach and being able to stoutly defend your country's point of view.

"It's important for our new diplomats to represent and promote our foreign policy in the international arena," said Dr Al Hassan, a veteran diplomat. "Since the activities of the UAE have expanded in the international arena of late and are widening day by day, we need to gear up for the challenge," he said.

The UAE foreign policy is one of balance, wisdom and maintaining good relations with international states. "We don't interfere in the affairs of others and we believe in solving crises according to international law and with peaceful means," he insists.

This former journalist, co-founder and chief newspaper editor and author of 22 books on international relations, goes on to differentiate between traditional and modern public diplomacy. The latter is what is practiced today, he points out, where there's no difference between the foreign and internal affairs of a country. "What we hope to do here is to fully equip our diplomats to represent the UAE abroad - an unprepared diplomat results in losses for his or her country," he said. Thus, the EID was established to cope with the swiftly changing and competitive political, social and economic scenario in the world.

Despite the EID being in its early stages, it has already succeeded in forming a tight network with other regional and international training centres and diplomatic institutes and is already a member of the International Forum of Academies and Institutes of Diplomacy in Vienna. The institute hopes to benefit from exposure to international diplomatic institutes as well as selective Arab institutions.

Interestingly, the EID will not just cater to fresh, first-time diplomats entering the Ministry of Foreign affairs after completing a stiff written and oral exam. It will also provide refresher courses for mid-career diplomats and train senior diplomats in certain specialised areas. It could either be in matters related to the country they are posted to or in topics such as immunity privileges, culture of foreign states or dealing with foreign societies.

There are around 350 diplomats in the ministry at present, 18 of which are women, and Dr Al Hassan attributes the rise in the number of aspiring women diplomats to the constant support and encouragement of H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, wife of the President.

The EID will also conduct courses for the spouses of diplomats who will be posted abroad, to train them in playing a supportive role and enhancing the social and cultural understanding of the UAE abroad. However, the EID is not an academic institute but a mixture of theory and the practical. Once the diplomats complete their courses ranging from three to six months in duration, they receive a diploma for that particular course.

Housed in a sand-coloured two-storey building in Al Bateen, near the Hotel InterContinental in Abu Dhabi, the institute is run by a board of trustees, which includes the chairman, Sheikh Hamdan, and other prominent personalities such as Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Information and Culture, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of UAE University and HCT, Dr Mohammed Khalfan bin Kharbash, UAE Minister of State of Finance and Industrial Affairs, and Sheikh Fahim Al Qassimi, UAE Minister of Economy and Commerce, among others.

The EID's board of directors is headed by Saif Said bin Sa'ed, the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The dream of setting up such an institute turned into a reality owing to the unwavering dedication and guidance of Sheikh Hamdan, the driving force behind the establishment of EID.

Presently, the institute has four resident lecturers who will be conducting the courses along with visiting foreign experts. The EID is equipped with a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art amphitheatre to hold workshops, conference rooms, an information centre, an archive centre, library and lecture rooms. Many workshops have already been scheduled for 2003-2004 and the programmes have been divided into three levels - advanced, intermediate and junior.

Special courses for diplomats posted abroad, courses for their spouses and courses for military, cultural, commercial and information attachés are also on the cards. The topics range from foreign policy, national cultures, regional politics, international organisations, NGOs, international affairs and law and application, how to deal with international issues, public affairs, managerial skills and teamwork, planning, leadership and organisational behaviour.

Another important course is on the skill of writing political and economical reports and diplomatic memos and letters. The institute will also help to spruce up the knowledge of diplomats on world economic organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank. Interestingly, there's no other institute of this kind in the Gulf except one in Saudi Arabia, informs Dr Al Hassan.

This former journalist/diplomat who joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1972 has served in cities such as Cairo and Washington D.C. as well as at the Arab League Headquarters and during UN meetings. Today, heading this institute of learning is, in his words now, a privilege and a "noble mission".


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