July 17, 2019
Seasoned diplomats are more than the sum of their personal gifts. Effective diplomacy requires serious study, cultural immersion, and practiced collaboration. And so, a young diplomat named Bolor-Erdene Yura found herself in Washington, DC, this June, far from her home in Mongolia, immersed in a seminar on public diplomacy and the future of the international system.
Ms. Yura was one of 13 inaugural participants in The Asia Foundation’s Young Asian Diplomats Program: Strengthening Emerging Asian Leadership in Global Relations. The program offers an intensive, three-week U.S. study tour for diplomats under the age of 40 that would take them from the ivied halls of Georgetown to the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte, Nebraska. Under a four-year award from the Henry Luce Foundation, the program will bring up to 14 young Asian diplomats, nominated by their own ministries, to the United States each year.
This year’s group includes these talented young diplomats, all under the age of 40: Zikrul Hasan Fahad of Bangladesh, Somaly Chea of Cambodia, Prerna Shahi of India, Saud Ringo of Indonesia, Chanthala Vanhnahong of Laos, Rosfazidah Razi V.R. of Malaysia, Bolor-Erdene Yura of Mongolia, Thu Rein Saw Htut Naing of Myanmar, Norman E. Padalhin of the Philippines, Witchu Sopana of Thailand, Charitha Weerasinghe of Sri Lanka, Hugo Immanuel Garcia of Timor-Leste, and Ha Thanh of Vietnam.
Diplomats face complex challenges in today’s rapidly changing and interconnected world, from international law and security to environmental sustainability and economic development. They must master core concepts and competencies of statecraft, be knowledgeable about global actors and influencers, and be fluent on a range of regional and international issues. And they must continue to sharpen the skills of leadership, negotiation, and communication to navigate foreign societies and pursue shared interests.
This year’s curriculum, with a focus on the formation of U.S. foreign and domestic policy and relations between Asia and the United States, included skills-based training and academic seminars on statecraft, global security, global and regional politics, human security, and international economics. Diplomats attended classes and workshops at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service; the Presidential Precinct, a consortium of the College of William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and four presidential historical sites; the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln; and leading institutions representing the political, academic, and civil society sectors and the innovation economy in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The program opened in Washington with an analysis of statecraft and the world order by renowned diplomat Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering. The diplomats explored principled leadership and ethics with Dr. Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, the formulation of U.S. foreign policy with Dr. Evan Medeiros, and international negotiation with Dr. Mark Habeeb, all of the Walsh School. These were accompanied by meetings at the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the Pentagon. At historic Morven Farm in Virginia, part of the Presidential Precinct consortium, a three-day leadership workshop focused on interpersonal influence, communications, and negotiation skills with distinguished professionals including Ambassadors Kristie Kenney and Steve Mull.
They then took to the road for a taste of the economic, social, and political currents of American life. From Charlottesville, they traveled to Nebraska, the only U.S. state with a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature, where they visited industrial and agricultural sites, met with leaders at the Nebraska Innovation Campus, and attended the Nebraskaland Days Buffalo Bill Rodeo. The last leg of the tour brought them to the San Francisco Bay Area to explore new approaches to leadership and policymaking with Wikimedia, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Facebook, and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
The Asia Foundation’s Young Asian Diplomats Program exposes participants to U.S. foreign and domestic policymaking and cultivates skills and perspectives valuable for future leadership. The camaraderie and dialogue among the yearly cohort can plant the seeds of future regional cooperation, and The Asia Foundation supports ongoing alumni engagement to nourish these bonds of friendship and cooperation.
David L. Kim is senior director and Nicole Ripley is senior program officer of Leadership and Exchange Programs at The Asia Foundation. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected], respectively. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors, not those of The Asia Foundation.
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