THINK GLOBAL, ACT LOCAL

How to strengthen the democratic process, safeguard human rights, make better choices for the environment and spread the message of peace?

Abdy Yeganeh is the Brussels Director for Independent Diplomat. He and his colleagues were the protagonists of our last Meet the Community event, where they presented Independent Diplomat, its mission and projects.

Abdy accepted to reply to some of our question covering the global situation of today.

 

When the former British diplomat Carne Ross founded Independent Diplomat (ID) back in 2004 he set out to fill the diplomatic deficit and give a voice to those who were excluded from the diplomatic process.

ID is a unique non-profit venture in the world of international relations, diplomacy and conflict prevention. It offers expert advice and support to democratic countries and groups to navigate the world’s complex diplomatic system and ensure their needs are addressed. By promoting greater inclusiveness and accountability in foreign policy-making, ID’s work contributes to more just and sustainable solutions to international problems, whether preventing conflict or limiting climate change.

 

Abdy Yeganeh is the Brussels Director for Independent Diplomat. He and his colleagues were the protagonists of our last Meet the Community event, where they presented Independent Diplomat, its mission and projects.

Abdy accepted to reply to some of our question covering the global situation of today.

1. The modern world is full of difficult situations, how does the figure of an “independent diplomat” find a place in this picture?

Whether at the UN Security Council, European Union or other key halls of diplomatic power, often the one group of people who are not in the room when discussing a particular place are the people from that place. From the refugee crisis, to Syria or the Rohingya, you can pretty much guarantee that those most affected are excluded from critical discussions about the future of those countries or people. That is not only wrong, it also weakens the outcomes and agreements of that institution. Independent Diplomat was designed to address that problem.

 

2. ID operated in Kosovo, Somaliland, Georgia, Moldova, only to name few of the countries you are working with, which ones are the challenges of our time that you will face in the future?

The world we live in today is a complex web of interconnections and relationships. The 21st century has ushered in an era of rapid and at times incomprehensible change where we’re faced with multiple challenges and threats. Citizens in communities great and small are living in a near constant state of social, political, economic and cultural upheaval. From gross human rights violations of the Rohingya people in Myanmar, the unending war in Syria, to the existential threat to humanity posed by climate change, and the rise of populism in Europe with its right wing anti-immigrant rhetoric, it’s pretty clear that we have some chronic problems that are not being dealt with effectively. At Independent Diplomat, our efforts focus on both conflict prevention – through initiatives like our Meet the Parties project – and rapid response to emerging crises. But with so many global challenges, it’s a constant struggle to respond in all the areas where we could constructively engage.

 

3. From Facebook to Twitter, ID uses social media as a mass communications tool to shine the spotlight on the dire and challenging situations your clients are confronted with on a daily basis. How does this shape your way of working?

Social media is an important democratizing tool for NGOs, and is now a key element of effective public diplomacy. At ID we use social media to craft and share stories that help our clients achieve concrete policy outcomes. It’s a great way to gain traction with key influencers and build momentum around key issues en masse. But it can also cut both ways as authoritarian regimes and other actors often use social media to spread propaganda and misinformation. And one size doesn’t fit all. Traditional forms of media such as newspapers, TV and radio can be just as important in delivering a message, which is why when developing a campaign or strategy we use all the tools at our disposal.

 

4. What are the actions that we, as citizens, can take to create awareness around the subject of climate change. As ID is working with related issues, can you tell us about it and list few steps that we can practically do to raise our voices?

Around the world, climate change is having a serious impact on our lives and our planet, furthering inequality and making natural disasters more common and more devastating. With so much at stake, it’s essential to make your voice heard. At the highest level we’re proud to have worked with the low-lying Republic of the Marshall Islands and a coalition of countries that has been credited with securing the most ambitious elements of the Paris Agreement which included a goal to limit warming by 1.5°C rather than 2°C. But it’s not enough. Tackling climate change can seem daunting but setting individual attainable objectives that anyone can do with little effort will amount to a great deal. Especially if everyone does it. Things like:

 

1. Reading and staying informed. Knowledge is power, and will help to debunk the myths of climate change

2. Observe, listen and get involved. Sign petitions, join marches and support an impactful organisation. There are a plethora of great organisations championing the cause; you just need to find one that resonates with you. In order to limit the worst impacts of climate change, it will take a concerted effort by all countries and all sectors of the global economy. From supporting clean energy to pressuring your government to take more progressive climate action, there are many ways to do your part.

3. Monitor your carbon footprint. Instead of using the car, try to cycle, walk or take public transport. Reuse and recycle. Limit your water usage, and where possible eat locally sourced food.

4. Above all, persevere

5. Last question, tell us an anecdote of your career, that made the difference for you and your work or that gave you strength to keep going.

I have had the honour and privilege to meet many amazing people since I joined Independent Diplomat. It has been an eye opening experience, particularly supporting groups of people and issues that I knew so little about previously.
Some of my dearest moments have been working with Saharawis and their quest for self-determination for Western Sahara. On one particular occasion I recall how we had supported for a group of Saharawis refugees to come to Brussels to engage with EU diplomats and officials. It was a very powerful moment listening to the Saharawis tell a group of diplomats about the facts on the ground. But it was more than just about sentiment. The Saharawis used the opportunity to set out practical policy options that the EU could take to ease their suffering and bring about a political process that gives them their right for self-determination.

After the meeting I had many of the EU diplomats approach me to thank Independent Diplomat for arranging the opportunity, which was for many of the diplomats the first time they’d spoken to a Saharawi despite taking decisions in Brussels which have significant impact on the lives of the Saharawi and the future of Western Sahara. Bridging this ‘diplomatic deficit’ goes to the heart of what Independent Diplomat is about.