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Friday 12 February 2016

Top diplomats talk 'Careers' at ESCP Europe, London

French Ambassador Her Excellency Ms Sylvie Bermann and Sir Simon Fraser, former head of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, shared their experiences of diplomatic life with more than 150 international students at ESCP Europe Business School in London as part of their National Model United Nations training seminar, 'Yes to UN: Young European Summit'.

Students from ESCP Europe campuses in Paris, Berlin and Turin were joined by others from ESSEC, HEC, Grenoble School of Management, Kedge and NEOMA for a weekend of training in the rules and protocols around negotiation at the United Nations, which they will visit in March. The three-day youth summit was organised by the Student Society, Call ON'U, with its President, Ms Constance Courtalon.

Both Ambassador Bermann and Sir Simon had represented their countries at the United Nations and the European Union and knew each other well, having crossed paths during their careers in Paris, London and Brussels. Ambassador Bermann had also served in Hong Kong (then under British rule), Moscow and Brussels, and was Ambassador to China before taking her post in the UK. Sir Simon had also worked in Baghdad and Damascus. In London, he ran two Whitehall departments: Business, Innovation and Skills and the Foreign Office.
Short speeches outlining experiences at the UN from each were followed by a very open Q&A session moderated by ESCP Europe's UK Director, Prof. Simon Mercado. They covered a range of topics: ethics, reconciling personal beliefs with official policy, how to influence policy, skills diplomats need in the future, the importance of getting to know who you are negotiating against, where the real work is done behind the scenes of formal negotiations, and more.
Questions included:

  • What skills diplomats of the future will need (better 'people' skills and a stronger knowledge of finance and economics).

  • How diplomats reconcile their personal beliefs with policies they would not normally support (it is a diplomat's job to support their government's policies and some have been known to leave when they have had strong views against policies).

  • How diplomats manage to behave with respect towards regimes with, for example, poor human rights records (they can support NGOs, influence policy from their home countries and also multilateral organisations such as the UN and EU).

  • The benefits of getting to know the people on the other side of a negotiation (can help a lot to meet informally. Also, diplomats often cross paths at various times in various postings and get to know each other along the way, as in the case of Sir Simon and Ambassador Bermann).

  • The feasibility of conducting meaningful negotiations in formal summits (in reality, the real detailed negotiations are conducted outside the formal sessions with ministers – even in corridors).

  • The evening ended with a standing ovation and a social evening planned for the students in a local West Hampstead venue.

The students remained in London for the rest of the weekend to continue negotiating with each other while representing countries as far flung as Bolivia, Afghanistan, North Sudan and Australia.

Professor Mercado said: "The main theme of our plenary and roundtable - modern diplomacy - is as topical as it is challenging. We are living through a period of rapid transition in international relations and diplomacy. Today, more diplomatic activity is carried out in international forum than on a bilateral basis. On both levels, diplomats are routinely involved in such tasks as seeking a resolution to regional conflicts, delivering humanitarian assistance, dealing with global environmental problems, and promoting international economic co-operation.

"The challenge and breadth of contemporary diplomacy is quite extraordinary. Hosting an event like this at a business school provides students access to a real 'action learning' experience. We are delighted to offer them the opportunity every year at our London campus."

View photos from the event

About the Call ON'U Society
As the biggest student association of ESCP Europe, Call On'U is active at the Paris, London, Madrid and Turin campuses, and has more than 80 members from 15 nationalities. Every year, its members fly to New York City to take part in the most important simulation of the United Nations' diplomatic work, the National Model United Nations. NMUN gathers around 4,000 students from top universities from all around the world. During five intense days, they embody diplomats and represent the country they have been assigned in the various committees of the United Nations: General Assembly, Security Council, IAEA, UNICEF and more. Much of the work and preparation takes place here in London this week where we welcome teams and participants from our various ESCP campuses and other leading international schools to our 'Yes to UN' seminar.
This society seeks to advance understanding of the United Nations, contemporary international issues and modern diplomatic practice. It is making a positive difference by affecting the lives and insights of participants, preparing them to be better global citizens, and emphasising collaboration and cooperative resolution of conflict. It is also adding to the richness of our educational mission and model, providing hands-on action learning experiences that promote international engagement, inter-disciplinary thinking, entrepreneurship and the principles of responsible leadership.

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