Tuesday, November 29, 2022

International diplomacy requires five reflexive abilities

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DIPLOMAT MAGAZINE “For diplomats, by diplomats” Reaching out the world from the European Union First diplomatic publication based in The Netherlands Founded by members of the diplomatic corps on June 19th, 2013. Diplomat Magazine is inspiring diplomats, civil servants and academics to contribute to a free flow of ideas through an extremely rich diplomatic life, full of exclusive events and cultural exchanges, as well as by exposing profound ideas and political debates in our printed and online editions.

By Prof. dr. André Nijhof &

The United Nations initiated already 35 years ago a university in Costa Rica called the University for Peace (or Upeace in short). This institute attracts students from all over the world with an interest in the mission of the United Nations.

In April 2016 we had the privilege of taking a group of students of Upeace on a field visit to the Dutch embassy in San Jose. On the way to the embassy students were still joking about long waiting hours to get a visa and hearing stories about national citizens in prison. On the way back, after the conversations with representatives of the embassy the same students were talking about the additional information they received about recent issues they were reading about in the newspaper and that it didn’t matter what question they asked, the representatives always had an insightful answer to it.

This illustrates the new role of international diplomacy. For all 17 areas included in the Global Goals of the United Nations, governments, non-governmental organizations and companies have to work together if we want to create impact. International diplomacy is in a perfect position to build bridges between all these societal actors and can therefore fulfil an important role in engaging all relevant actors for these goals. But this will require a lot from diplomats.

According to research of the Academy for Business in Society five reflexive abilities are relevant for this type of work: systemic thinking, embracing diversity and managing risk, balancing global and local views, emotional awareness and – maybe even most importantly – initiating meaningful dialogues (Wilson, Lenssen and Hind, 2006). What these qualities have in common is that they do not, first of all, reflect characteristics of individuals but characteristics of relationships. Effective international diplomacy in the age of sustainable development will depend on the ability to connect all relevant societal actors for the delivery of impactful initiatives targeted at the global goals.

Nika Salvetti

Five reflexive abilities needed in international diplomacy:


1.     Systemic thinking: the ability to understand the interdependency of systems between the economy and society

2.     Embracing diversity and managing risk: the ability to recognize and respect differences, building bridges across different groups and seeking common ground without forcing consensus.

3.     Balancing global and local views: the capacity to see and appreciate the impact of local decisions on the global stage for issues like climate change, access to medicine and social inequalities.

4.     Emotional awareness: the ability to recognize that decisions are not always driven by economic rationality, the tolerance of unusual approaches and a sense of humility in dealing with the big societal questions we face.

5.     Meaningful Dialogue: the ability to hold productive conversations by seeking out and valuing the views of others, including their hopes, fears and taken for granted assumptions.



Both authors of this blog are visiting professors at Upeace.

 Bout the authors:

Prof Dr André Nijhof is full professor in Sustainable Business and Stewardship and is visiting professor at Chang Gung University in Taiwan and the University for Peace in Costa Rica.

Nika Salvetti is a PhD candidate and practitioner in the field of CSR, Sustainability, Social Responsibility where she worked on in different developing countries such as Bangladesh, Uganda, Guatemala, as well as in Costa Rica, the overall Balkans and Middle East.

About Nyenrode Business Universiteit

Nyenrode Business Universiteit is the only private university in the Netherlands, founded for and by business. Nyenrode pillars of Leadership, Entrepreneurship and Stewardship are reflected in all of their programs which include undergraduate and graduate degrees in management, business, finance and accounting.

Nyenrode is a proud partner of Diplomat Magazine. Together, they have developed the Nyenrode – Diplomat Magazine Award which recognizes the talents from the diplomat network in the Netherlands and worldwide by providing them with exclusive scholarships for the programs Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Master (MSc) in Management, full-time International MBA and part-time Executive MBA. For more information visit www.nyenrodemasters.nl/diplomat and register for the launching event on June 1st at the Carlton Ambassador Den Haag.


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