Ottawa will showcase its diplomacy

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie said the Canadian diplomatic network needs to “look in the mirror”, which asks its dissatisfied staff their opinion on how it can better see “what is happening on the ground” and increase the country’s presence in the world.

“I am fully aware that there are instances of frustration within Canada’s global affairs. We should take note […] Minister Jolie explained to Shouldafter meeting with more than 150 of its officials on Monday.

It presented its plan to “build modern diplomacy,” “adapted to today’s challenges,” which essentially consists of consulting its own staff as well as an independent panel of experts “to find best practices around the world” and drawing inspiration from to improve Canadian diplomacy.

“We no longer live in a unipolar world. In her bilingual address, the Minister said that old alliances are being tested, and new ones are being formed. In order to maximize our influence in all respects, strong, strategic, diverse and resilient diplomacy remains an indispensable condition.”

Understand social media

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken made similar letter To his diplomats last fall, he announced a 10% increase in the international aid budget and the creation of a communication channel for “professional dissent” within his ministry. Melanie Jolie, for her part, did not commit to anything of the sort, but she did address some of the key themes of reforming her Blinken counterpart, such as the country’s need to acquire better “digital tools” to understand social media and take more places in multilateral institutions.

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“I realized that many of my colleagues in the G7 are also wondering how they can develop their diplomacy,” she said. The repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as population migration and climate change are many examples of “challenges” for which diplomacy necessarily has to find a solution.

The minister explained that democratic countries should aim to “organize themselves better” among themselves so as not to leave the field open to authoritarian states within institutions such as the United Nations (UN). “We need to be more strategic. Melanie Jolie also spoke of ‘eyes and ears’ everywhere there is an embassy in Canada. She wants us to come there with ‘new ways of doing things’.”

If we were in Kazakhstan, or in Chile, maybe 50 years ago, everything happened from the capital. However, protest movements can come from […] From different parts of the country, and we can see them by understanding Telegram better, or by watching what is happening on TikTok. Our service must be able to read these phenomena. »

English-speaking Ministry

The department that manages Canadian diplomacy is Global Affairs Canada (GAC), a tyrannical administrative force that also manages international trade that swallowed up the Canadian International Development Agency in 2013, whose management was deemed more than francophone. The AMC in particular has since been criticized for allowing only English speakers to access the most prestigious positions in diplomacy and for making promotions to executive positions easier for the English-speaking majority.

Melanie Jolie pledges to implement the proposals for French Abroad contained in her white paper unveiled last year, and announces that two of the GAC’s new assistant deputy ministers are francophone. “We can’t take the girl out of the formal languages,” she adds jokingly, pointing to her old wallet. The minister also concluded a “social contract” with the department based on three “pillars”: official languages, diversity, and reconciliation.

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“It is important to me, it is fundamental, that the French speakers here in world affairs feel comfortable working in French. They do not feel obligated to switch languages ​​either. […] And that they have access to promotions even though they speak French. »

Towards new directions

The shift in Canadian diplomacy suggested by Secretary Jolie is above all organizational in nature and does not constitute a review of Canada’s foreign policy in and of itself. The Trudeau government is under criticism in this area, whether for the succession of several secretaries of state to one another, for its continued alignment with those of the United States, or for its poor ambition in general. The diplomats themselves want to see change, as the minister herself admits.

Canada’s last real foreign policy plan Developed in 2005 under Paul Martin. He then suggested focusing diplomacy on the North American Partnership, concentrating foreign aid in a handful of countries, investing in multilateral institutions such as the United Nations or involving more federal departments in decision-making.

The Trudeau government intends to improve this foreign policy through an “Indo-Pacific strategy” soon, said the foreign minister, who was entrusted with the task by the prime minister after his appointment, last fall. “Over the next few weeks, I will have the opportunity to present the main directions of Canadian foreign policy,” she promised.

The date for the official start of the consultations has not been announced. The AMC will have to select former diplomats or university professors to form its panel of experts, whose final report and recommendations are expected in the spring of 2023.

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“Transforming an organization takes time. I, what I want is to provide impetus for change,” concludes Melanie Jolie. Moreover, she relies on her diplomats to tell her how to do it.

It is important to me, it is fundamental, that the French speakers here in world affairs feel comfortable working in French. They don’t feel obligated to switch languages ​​either […] And that they have access to promotions even though they speak French.

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