The word diplomacy is often appears inextricably linked to high level negotiations, embassies and men in suits. If you would google images on ”diplomacy” you will know this to be true. However, diplomacy is so much more than just the collaboration between governments, non-state actors, NGO’s and scientists. It is also present on much more levels. You can be a diplomat, this means you will normally be a representative of a state. You can, however, also be diplomatic in your behaviour and trade.
I see diplomacy as a way of negotiating, talking, collaborating, and engaging actors. This is a practice that happens at anytime and everywhere.
I was, and still am, highly inspired by my former supervisor of the company for whom I wrote my thesis. This man was a projectmanager in heart and soul and the best diplomat I have ever seen. He did not represent the government in negotiations but he was a representative of his employer in meetings and stakeholder engagements. He spoke eloquently, always introduced himself with his full name, listened tremendously well, and had a highly witty way of handling people so they will contribute to the project fully instead of (sometimes) even opposing it. He saw possibilities everywhere and knew which buttons to press and arguments to use to get the most of out every situation.
Would he see himself as a diplomat? Definitely not.
It is sometimes shocking how close a projectmanager and a diplomat act alike. During the Advanced International Environmental Politics simulations I mostly behaved like a project manager, as I have learned during my bachelors, but during the feedback I was identified as a ”true diplomat”.
Now I have to pull this trick off again! For my internship at Triple E Consultancy in Arnhem I am the project coordinator for the Brickz project in Spain. Brickz are small blocks of organic matter, mycorrhiza and seeds that can be used for afforestation and soil regeneration. I am tasked with setting up a businesscase to restore a degraded area in Spain with Brickz and make sure it is financially feasible without external funds from governments or lotteries. Now, I only know the owner of the degraded land in Spain and will need to work from there. To help me, I will be stationed at the European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC) for one day a week, since they have quite a large network in Spain. This still means I will need to contact a myriad of contacts in the area to set up a supply chain for the Brickz (because we will need to make Brickz there, it is not very circular economy wise to ship them). I will have to negotiate with all these partners on what we can offer, what we would want from them and how we would like to organise it. All the classic negotiation problems will be there: free riding, language and cultural barriers, who will fund what and how much.. The whole lot and much more.
It is a project but it all looks suspiciously like diplomacy to me.