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6 TED Talks for Students Studying Diplomacy

Some of the most needed and impactful careers of the current generation are in the area of diplomacy. These careers involve professionals working domestically and internationally to develop connections and promote collaboration across borders, cultures and demographics. In the below TED Talks, the following six professionals highlight some of the various ways that diplomatic professionals are navigating today’s complex social landscapes.

Carne Ross - Independent Diplomat

Carne Ross founded Independent Diplomat in 2004 with the mission of improving international relations by providing a new strategy of diplomacy. In his TED Talk, Ross shares the experiences that led him to become Chief Negotiator in Britain, as well as his experiences working with diplomats of Saddam Hussein’s regime during the controversy involving Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). His discussion on this experience sheds light on how our current political and governmental institutions handle diplomatic relations, and how, too often, these entities approach political negotiations and policies in ways that are detrimental to certain groups affected by these changes. To Ross, considering the lives and perspectives of those most impacted by diplomatic decisions—such as refugees or poverty-stricken populations—is key to building and maintaining successful political relationships. The crux of Ross’s mission in his Independent Diplomat talk stems from the inability of many current institutions to engage with marginalized or disenfranchised groups on a personal level. Ross’s discussion sets a tone for other professionals in diplomacy to approach diplomatic relations in more effective, empathetic, and responsible ways.

Alexander Betts – Why Brexit Happened - and What to do Next

Diplomat Alexander Betts is a lead researcher at Oxford University and the author of Survival Migration. In this TED Talk, he muses over the social conflict in his native Britain and the underlying issues that led to the Brexit vote. The decision by a majority of British citizens to leave the European Union highlights what seems to be a trend of intense political polarization emerging throughout the world. Betts explains that in a shrinking world where globalization is becoming more prominent and rapid change is occurring worldwide, individuals from different cultures and backgrounds find different ways of coping with these changes, sometimes by performing drastic actions. Betts argues that it is critical that all groups have access to accurate information regarding the implications of massive political and social changes, such as Great Britain leaving the European Union, to clearly understand how each of us will be affected. He believes it is up to individuals on all sides to improve diplomacy by working toward a complete understanding of our own perceptions of the world, while also making an effort to fully understand the views of others. His TED Talk offers sound advice for professionals tasked with navigating entire populations through conflict and facilitating negotiations of policy.

William Ury – The Walk From "No" to "Yes"

William Ury is a co-author of the best-selling book, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. Ury has also represented the U.S. professionally in international negotiations, and in this TED Talk, he reveals what he feels are the keys to peace and diplomacy. His discussion focuses on the theme of conflict, highlighting the importance of what he refers to as the “third side,” which Ury describes as the idea of moving away from a direct, two-sided conflict and bringing in an additional party to oversee negotiations. This additional party can involve members of the community, such as a symbolic figure of a common cultural reference or religious person, as he suggests in his discussion of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. He argues that this third side is particularly important in reminding both conflicting parties of the most important and vital points each should consider in negotiation—that local communities will be impacted by their decisions. This allows both parties a chance to step outside the immediate conflict and gain a broader perspective on the issues. Ury’s talk offers professionals in diplomacy a clear methodology they can apply to diplomatic interactions, while also suggesting the importance of creating systems in which appropriate third parties are invoked for mediating conflict and improving negotiations at all levels.

Jody Williams – A Realistic Vision for World Peace

Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams is an advocate for women’s and civil rights and active global progress toward world peace. In her TED Talk, Williams argues that without efforts toward providing those in need with basic human necessities, peace can never be achieved. Her discussion brings attention to the issue of developed nations pouring mass amounts of resources into fueling the war economy, begging the question of how these resources could be put to better use supplying basic human necessities around the world. The realization of global peace requires willful action toward that end. Williams feels this action must take the shape of collective mobility toward change in the interest of supplying basic necessities—such as ample food, education options for all, and universal healthcare—to others in need. Williams’ talk aims to encourage other professionals in the field of diplomacy who share her passion for peaceful relations to take steps, such as reorienting public funds and national and international policies to help pursue efforts like universal healthcare, toward the difficult task of enacting this change.

Inge Missmahl – Bringing Peace to the Minds of Afghanistan

Inge Missmahl is the founder of Project Kabul, which was inspired by her dealings with Afghan women affected by war, violence and poverty. In her TED Talk, Missmahl provides diplomats with insight on the core social problems she experienced in Afghanistan, and the underlying societal factors that have allowed them to persist through generations. Missmahl also shares that Project Kabul was able to address a dire need for mental health services for not only Afghan women but their families as well. Her revelations and successes highlighted in this talk can provide current and future professionals in diplomacy and international relations with a tremendous study on how to effectively manage and work through cultural policies that may be harmful or restricting to their community. Furthermore, her work showcases the opportunity for humanitarian services around the world that can begin the healing process and help societies realize ways that mental health services can serve as a vehicle of progress toward peace.

Paul Collier - The "Bottom Billion"

In this talk, economist Paul Collier highlights ideas from his book, The Bottom Billion. As Collier reveals, the title refers to marginalized communities living in stagnant and crumbling economies around the world. His main assertion in his TED Talk is that individuals working in diplomacy need a combination of compassion and enlightened self-interest to avoid a catastrophic future due to widespread suffering caused by overpopulation and a lack of resources for those in need. Collier feels that in order to approach the challenge of rebuilding places devastated by economic hardship, diplomatic relations must be approached in ways that will help empower the “bottom billion” to thrive by their own means. He drives home the point that democracy is not enough to ensure economic stability, and that professionals in diplomacy are needed to develop international standards and guidelines that help protect the interests of developing nations and help them leverage their commodities for long-term prosperity. Collier’s insights provide standards for negotiation and policy development for professionals in the field tasked with focusing on diplomatic relations with developing nations around the world.

A common theme for diplomacy echoed in these TED Talks is the importance of forming personal connections at local and international levels. Professionals in the field working to improve diplomatic relations around the world often engage in dialogue with others who have different views and experiences. Each of the above diplomatic presentations can help current and future diplomats guide the global community toward social progress and improved negotiations.

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Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in Diplomacy program provides working professionals with a broad understanding of global communications protocol and a deep knowledge of the world issues that affect international relations. The program allows you to build on your political, governmental, or business expertise with a solid foundation in the theories and practices that direct international relations and political science within the international system.

Recommended Readings
5 Essential Conflict Resolution Skills That U.S. Diplomats Need for International Relations
An Introduction to America’s Foreign Policy
The Nuclear Problem: Russia & The U.S.

Carne Ross, Business Innovation Factory
Alexander Betts, TEDSummit
William Ury, TEDxMidwest
Jody Williams, TEDWomen 2010
Inge Missmahl, TEDGlobal 2010
Paul Collier, TED2008

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