By Patricia Senge>, Photo by Heiko Seibel
Moving from country to country, representing your nation and negotiating with high representatives – many students dream of working as a diplomat. However, studying in the field of law, politics or economics is not always sufficient. Especially negotiation skills develop through practice and experience. The Model ASEM (Asia Europe Meeting) provides a platform for students from 51 partner countries of ASEM to engage with the process of the meeting and enables the participants to work on their skills in the field of diplomacy and negotiation.
The theme of the 7th edition “20 Years of ASEM: Partnership for Future through Connectivity” stresses the importance of connectivity between Asia and Europe. Zhang Yan, the Ambassador of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF), argues, that many benefits can be reached through multilateral negotiations and the interaction between the two continents. Through increasing connectivity we can enjoy increased mobility and exchange in both, Asia and Europe. Mongolia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Lundeg Purevsuren agrees, stating that Asia matters for Europe and Europe matters for Asia. The cooperation is ever more pressing. Throughout the conference, the importance of the relationship is tangible for the 130 participant, while discussing with high ranked guests such as the Ambassador Orgil, who serves as the ASEM Senior Official for Mongolia. “I was once told that as a diplomat, you should hold your speeches in a way that right after people are questioning what you said”, the Ambassador states while laughing. Dr. Katharina Hoene introduced the Basics of Diplomacy to the participants explaining that it is much more than grand meetings between national representatives, with a sea of flags as the backcloth to the scene. Through environmental issues becoming more important, new areas, such as global sustainability, were introduced to the field that focused mainly on national security and commercial as well as economic matters. Furthermore, new actors started engaging in diplomacy as the voices emanating from NGO summits gained in importance and attention all around the world. Thus, diplomacy includes different actors on different levels, relying on the principles of trust and mutual benefits.
Model ASEM enables participants to experience the work of diplomats and practice the skills necessary to fulfil the job. More particularly, Ambassador Ferri assigned special emphasis to the person you are negotiating with: knowledge about character, experience and expertise is vital for mutual understanding and successful deliberations. In that respect it is necessary to ask, explore and to not be afraid of differences between human beings from different nations but rather be interested in them. It is as well necessary to be aware of what to say to whom. Some negotiations might be very straight forward while others are not. It is thus of great importance to think before speaking and to be aware that in diplomacy you always see each other again. What one states might affect the next encounter. Dr. Hoene advices the participants not to see the negotiation partner as an enemy or a problem that one should solve and change completely. It is necessary to be able to separate the people from the problem.
The diversity of people, opinions and countries in the world is an abundant source of inspiration and enrichment. What Ambassador Ferri particularly enjoys, is working with a team of different nationalities as it debunks stereotypes. “I am Italian but an organized person”, he states with a twinkle in his eye. While also championing the idea of breaking bias and stereotypes through diversity, the German Ambassador Thiedemann adds that living a “continuous nomadic life around the globe” is definitely not for everyone.
As a last advice, Dr. Hoene made the participants aware that creativity is central in approaching challenges and obstacles. In fact, the power of imagination, the innovative force of creative thinking and the novelty of unconventional ideas not only constitute the first step to solving the problem, but bear the potential to bring about real change. Ambassador Yan agrees: “a diplomat has to be hardworking, creative and consistent.”