Tom Fletcher is Principal of Hertford School, Oxford College. Tom served as a International Coverage Advisor to Prime Ministers Blair, Brown and Cameron, earlier than turning into British Ambassador to Lebanon (2011-15) and a Visiting Professor at NYU (2015-20). He’s the writer of the bestselling Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age (2016). His forthcoming books embody Ten Survival Expertise for a World in Flux (Harper Collins, February 2022) and The Ambassador (Canelo, August 2022). He led critiques of the modernisation of the International and Commonwealth Workplace (2016), the way forward for the United Nations (2017) and the way forward for studying (2019). He’s a former chair of the worldwide board of the UK’s Inventive Industries Federation, adviser to companies, academies and NGOs, and a member of the International Tech Panel. He writes for the New York Occasions, Prospect, International Coverage, The Nationwide and others, is a daily interviewee on BBC, Sky, CNN and has been profiled by the BBC, Arab Information and extra. His Basis for Alternative helps good folks doing good issues in public life.

The place do you see essentially the most thrilling analysis and debates occurring in your area? 

I feel, in the intervening time, they’re centred round synthetic intelligence, expertise, and its relationship to governments and residents. On this area, there’s a nice debate available about liberty and safety on-line, concerning the safety of residents on-line and from weapons of the long run, reminiscent of deadly autonomous weapons, cyber-attacks, and so forth. I feel it is a actually essential area, and one the place there’s not but sufficient diplomacy. We’ve created the Global Tech Panel, and there are different programs up and operating to try to have these conversations, however they don’t seem to be transferring quick sufficient. 

How has the best way you perceive the world modified over time, and what (or who) prompted essentially the most important shifts in your pondering? 

Two key issues come to thoughts. First, my worldview may be very a lot formed by 1989 — the autumn of the Berlin Wall; the start of the ends of apartheid; Tiananmen Sq.; the sense, in Francis Fukuyama’s infamous words, that historical past was transferring in a single course and was in some way ending. I feel for lots of the diplomats of my era, 2016, significantly Trump’s election, was an actual correction to that world view. We’ve needed to perceive, at a extra basic stage, that occasions can go in different instructions as nicely. Second, I used to be over-enthusiastic, and over-idealistic, in my ideas on how shortly expertise, significantly social media, would change politics. I used to go round saying that the most powerful weapon in the Middle East is a smartphone, and it isn’t — but. I feel over time, we’ll see profound adjustments, however we haven’t come about these adjustments as quick as I initially thought. After all, that is additionally largely because of the truth that the Web has additionally been weaponised by folks for very unfavorable causes as nicely. 

Following on from Brexit and the period of Trump, how has British overseas coverage advanced, each within the sense of the transatlantic relationship and in any other case?

I feel we’re in an period now the place we try to work out what our story is — what’s our story that we inform the world, what’s our gentle energy in addition to our laborious energy, what are the alliances we require to maintain this story. I’m a giant fan of the Integrated Review, which was accomplished earlier this yr. I feel it’s a robust doc that balances out these totally different points round our values and pursuits. We’re in a interval of flux and fluidity — we should be certain that we don’t lose our fame for competence as a rustic. It’s all very nicely to leap up and down whereas waving the flag, and to provide barnstorming speeches, however we additionally must do issues nicely, and we should not lose focus of that goal.  

‘Negotiation’ and ‘compromise’ are two phrases mostly related to the follow of diplomacy. In an age of increasing political polarisation, will a diplomat’s mandate grow to be harder to implement?

Sure, it should grow to be harder to implement, however diplomats have at all times wanted to go the place the arguments had been. If this implies logging on and coping with the polarisation and division, then that’s the place diplomats belong. We will’t simply keep behind the flags on this outdated ‘maps and chaps’ strategy to geopolitics — we’ve to go the place an important arguments are, and search for negotiation area, search for compromise, and search for methods to crack issues collectively. 

As Mission Director of Towards Global Learning Goals, you place lots of emphasis on growing and focussing on frequent international academic goals. What have you ever learnt whereas working with the challenge, and what adjustments would you prefer to see in international training?

What we found with the In direction of International Studying Objectives challenge is that most individuals are studying issues the improper means — and this contains folks which are studying at elite establishments, in addition to folks which are out of training. So many roles will likely be automated within the subsequent thirty years, and but, a lot training is predicated on retaining information and passing exams, somewhat than the top, hand, and coronary heart — the information, expertise, and character you want to thrive within the digital age, and that’s what I want to see modified.  

As a former ambassador to Lebanon, you’ve got expertise coping with post-conflict state-building. What are a few of your takeaways from Lebanon which have modified the best way you strategy state-building within the modern-day and age?

First, you want to be humble. It’s worthwhile to bear in mind the luggage that you just are available in with, and you want to perceive the historical past of the nation wherein you might be working. Second, you want to be affected person and tenacious, and keep it up. It’s the work of generations and generations, and as we’ve seen in Afghanistan, 20-30 years isn’t sufficient to do this — you want extra endurance. A 3rd level is that we’d like extra folks to specialise on this form of work. This isn’t area the place you possibly can simply wander in as an newbie — you require individuals who perceive, and have studied, state constructing. 

In your guide The Naked Diplomat, you talk about the necessity for diplomats and politicians to adapt to the digital age. How has expertise improved our strategy to fixing international crises right this moment, and what are among the benefits and challenges of utilizing expertise on this method?

I feel there are huge benefits to utilizing new expertise. For instance, I consider that synthetic intelligence might assist us obtain a local weather change deal. I feel that blockchain applied sciences may help us present accreditation for folks transferring between nations. I feel that social media has proved immensely useful in the direction of coping with massive crises and consular responses. Via sentiment mining and the correct examine of knowledge, I feel we are able to now get a significantly better sense of longer-term nationwide and historic traits than by way of the outdated strategy of simply going to a few cocktail events. And so I’m enormously enthusiastic concerning the potential for expertise to reshape diplomacy, and it’s this sentiment that’s on the coronary heart of The Bare Diplomat, and the critiques I did of the United Nations and the Foreign Office

You latterly claimed that we’re about to expertise an “extraordinary decade of diplomacy”. How has the pandemic modified the way forward for diplomacy, and is it undoubtedly for the higher?

Sure, I do suppose that is a rare decade of diplomacy. I feel we are able to have a look at what the Nobel Peace Prizes will likely be for within the subsequent decade — they are going to be for local weather change; they are going to be for peace processes round expertise and big-tech in authorities; they are going to be round how we study to reside collectively inside our personal societies, and the connection between migrant communities and host communities. All of those types of points are extremely essential for diplomacy, however the pandemic has undoubtedly set us again. It has been an period of social distancing, and nationwide distancing, and we have to now begin rebuilding the worldwide structure and a few form of international system of cooperation. 

You will have held quite a lot of posts in a spread of profession fields from the coverage sector to academia. As a diplomat, what are some private targets you set for your self, and the way did you go about reaching them? Is the lifetime of a diplomat one thing you’ll ever return to?

I feel an incredible train, and that is one thing I’m writing about in my new guide referred to as Ten Survival Expertise for a World in Flux, is to try to write the primary paragraph of your obituary. Take into account what folks will write about you if you go, and it’ll show you how to outline what issues most to you professionally. Additionally attempt writing the primary paragraph of your eulogy. Take into account what folks will arise and say at your funeral, and that may show you how to outline the form of individual you might be. The extra that you may align these two issues, your obituary and your eulogy, the extra probability you’ve got of residing a lifetime of function and worth. That, for me, is an effective way of setting these private targets. As for whether or not I’d ever return to diplomacy, I by no means left! I nonetheless consider myself as a diplomat with a small ‘d’ — I’m not working in skilled diplomacy and statecraft, however I’m nonetheless concerned in diplomacy in numerous methods, reminiscent of tech, local weather, and training. For me, training is upstream diplomacy. 

What’s an important recommendation you could possibly give to younger students of Worldwide Relations? 

Be taught languages and study tradition. Get on the market, journey, pay attention, and develop emotional intelligence — develop antennae for understanding how totally different societies work. Be able to study, and most significantly, be variety, be curious, be courageous. That’s the recommendation I’d give to younger students of Worldwide Relations. I’m conscious this will likely sound odd coming from a Head of Home at Oxford, however I feel all of that is extra essential than studying what’s within the textbooks on Worldwide Relations, even The Bare Diplomat!

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