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Using Diplomacy to Meet the New Threat Set

On June 2, AFSA welcomed

former Canadian Foreign

Service Officer Daryl Cope-

land to engage with AFSA

members in a wide-ranging

discussion about the foreign

policy challenges ahead.

Mr. Copeland opened

the conversation by stating

that the greatest threats to

safety and security today are

climate change, diminishing

biodiversity, environmental

collapse, pandemic disease

and water shortages.

Unlike more “traditional”

threats, which can be specific

to a group or region, he said,

these new threats affect the

entire world. Solving them

will require diplomacy that is

focused on human centered

security and development—

something best achieved

through dialogue, negotiation

and compromise.

But a world system is now

emerging, Mr. Copeland said,

in which states, groups and

even individuals derive power

and influence from dissimilar

sources—social, economic,

political, military or cultural.

This makes diplomatic

processes more difficult,

since each state or non-

state actor (for example, the

United Nations or Médecins

Sans Frontières) has its own

power bases, priorities and


New Tools

Quoting Einstein, Mr.

Copeland explained: “No

problem can be solved by the

same kind of thinking that

created it.” Diplomacy has to

change; the modern diplomat

needs to make use of new

tools to be effective.

One of those tools, he

suggested, is science diplo-

macy—specifically, diplomats

coming together to advance

scientific objectives.

It is important to make the

distinction between scientific

cooperation—which takes

place within the scientific

community—and science

diplomacy, which is backed

by the state.

State-backed science

diplomacy is necessary

to solve the world’s worst

crises. For the best solu-

tions, Copeland feels that it

is important to have scien-

tific advisers involved in the

diplomatic process from the


This will be a challenge

because scientists and diplo-

mats have different training

and ways of thinking, which

can lead to difficulty commu-


The real difficulty, said

Copeland, is achieving

engagement. Science is a

complex, esoteric subject,

practiced by people who

almost speak a different


Science Diplomacy

By helping scientists

to speak in terms of ”sci-

ence policy” rather than the

language of the lab, diplo-

mats can explain how they

can benefit each other and,

together, benefit the world.

Copeland singled out the

United States as a leader

in integrating politics and

science. He noted that Sec-

retary of State John Kerry

has a full-time science and

technology adviser (currently

Dr. Vaughan Turekian) and,

while the advice is not always

taken, at least it is there to be


During a Q&A session

following his talk, Cope-

land discussed the need to

provide science and technol-

ogy courses within interna-

tional relations programs,

use American Spaces to

promote science diplomacy

and re-establish science and

technology as a priority at

the Department of State.

Visit videos to see a video of




—Gemma Dvorak,

Associate Editor

Daryl Copeland answers questions from the audience during his discussion of the new threat set.