Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The "Diplomacy Begins Here" Regional Summit in New Hampshire

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Diplomacy Begins Here Global Ties U.S. regional summit in Manchester, New Hampshire. The general theme focused on the important role that the Global Ties U.S., the U.S. Department of State, the World Affairs Council of New Hampshire, and WorldBoston play in helping make the world a better place and engaging globally-minded people from all walks of life to explore the innovation and impact that stem from international relationships.

In the beginning of the program, I had a very brief opportunity to experience how foreign policy is made and what diplomats go through behind closed doors in their mission to reach common ground with their counterparts from other countries. This surprisingly came as the world witnesses what most analysts describe as the worst refugee crisis since WWII. “Protection & Prevention: Minorities, Refugees, and International Resolution” was the title of the simulation which was offered by the U.S. Diplomacy Center for students to play the role of diplomats to find consensus and work towards agreements. The participants were divided into different groups where each person represented a fictional country or NGO. By the end of this experience, there were two things I learned. The first was that becoming a diplomat could sometimes lead to many conflicts between your personal beliefs and those of your professional affiliation, which was extremely difficult to manage to get through (no wonder why I really was terrible as a diplomat!). The second was that successful diplomacy requires, beyond the art of negotiation and the “know your opponent” tactics that every diplomat should possess, talking universally and inclusively (including allies and enemies) while being flexible, highly determined, detail-oriented, and most importantly positive at all times. Overall, it was a very interesting experience and, very importantly, an opportunity to sense the horrendous pain and sufferings of those who become subject to tremendous discrimination and injustice in wars.

The second half of the summit consisted of many inspiring and interesting talks from incredibly amazing people. Among the topics discussed were the power of exchanges in the business world, the role of New England in the international business community, and the effects of citizen diplomacy to share culture and change lives globally. During the lunch break, we also had a guided tour of downtown Manchester to learn more about the history and future of the city, which was an amazing way to meet more people and acquaint myself with this beautiful city.

Finally at the dinner, Kelly Ayotte, U.S. Senator for New Hampshire, gave an exciting speech to celebrate citizen diplomacy and corporate social responsibility while we enjoyed our super delicious entrées. After dinner, Seth Goldman concluded the summit with his own journey as the co-founder and CEO of Honest Tea, a bottled organic tea company which was acquired wholly by Coca-Cola in 2011. Besides his inspiring story as an entrepreneur, what attracted me the most was his commitment to creating a brand of social change and his strong determination to help underprivileged farmers sustain and develop their main source of income. I also had a chance to view a few pages of his book Mission in a Bottle.

I was privileged to attend this summit and meet so many great people from all around the world. I definitely made awesome friends and I look forward to visiting them in New Hampshire sometime soon.

Eyad Alnaqi is a Bahraini Fulbrighter who is pursuing a Master’s in Telecommunications Systems Management at Northeastern University.

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