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The Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference was inaugurated today by His Excellency Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State, convening more than 300 high-profile personalities, thought leaders and practitioners from the fields of international politics, diplomacy and academia as well as the private sector. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: The Arab world needs more diplomacy to solve its regional challenges, said Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

Speaking at the Abu Dhabi Diplomacy Conference on Wednesday, Dr Gargash highlighted what it takes to be a successful diplomat.

“Diplomacy sometimes is a very slow process, but it’s still a very important discourse to resolve issues. It is important because it works very well at the end of the day and it’s cheaper than open conflict,” said Dr Gargash,

“[Diplomacy] takes time, but at least in the Libya case, it is keeping the violence at a lower level while trying to work on complicated issues,” he added. He recently returned from attending a Libya conference in Palermo, Italy.

Held under the patronage of Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the conference — organised by the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA) — brought together more than 300 delegates including former and current serving diplomats, to discuss the changing role of diplomacy and ways for governments to come up with new and innovative solutions to meet these changes.

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Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak A Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; Reem Al Hashemi, and Mohammad Ahmad Al Bawardi, Minister of State for Defence Affairs at the conference in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

In a frank assessment, Dr Gargash said he believed that a lot of the problems in the region was because of a lack of diplomacy.

“Looking at diplomacy from where we are, I can say that many of the problems we have in our region are clear examples of a failure of diplomacy. We don’t do enough diplomacy.

“We don’t do enough work trying to resolve issues — complicated as they are — by taking time, addressing each other’s perspectives, reaching compromises, which I think is a sign of good diplomacy. It’s not always easy, but the alternative is much more expensive,” he added.

Diplomatic touch

With a vast knowledge and experience in the field of international diplomacy, Dr Gargash also explained the essentials of being a strong diplomat. “Personal contact [is important]. On the margins of the Palermo meeting, I had several important side talks that for me were more important.

“To me, they reflect our priorities, were a chance to explain our approach to certain issues and a chance also to hear from these parties the positions that we thought they had taken, but they haven’t,” he added.

Dr Gargash also said it was important for a diplomat to be cultured and reachable, and that a diplomat needed to be able to have more than just professional conversations.

“I’m a fan of a diplomat being very reachable, of a diplomat being very cultured because it opens up avenues for you. [A diplomat] can’t just sit down with somebody and open with ‘what did you think about the nuclear proliferation agreement?’ That’s the end of the conservation.

“You have to speak a little about the latest book [you read], or a certain show you went to or a certain restaurant,” he added.

Presenting the narrative

Reem Ebrahim Al Hashemi, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said modern day diplomacy largely revolved around diplomats presenting their country’s policies in a positive light.

“To be a good diplomat, you need people to respect your country. It all boils down to how you position your story, policies, theories, position in world affairs [and] your endorsement of certain causes or not,” Al Hashemi added.

“In this changing environment, unless you’re able to quickly adapt and frame your narrative in a way that resonates, you will become obsolete. I always look at my talking points and wonder if they’re still relevant 24 hours later, because there’s much that keeps happening and the fluidity of how that happens means that you always have to be one step ahead,” she added, highlighting the challenges diplomats face today with readily available information and content.