Diplomatic Upstart

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion World Map

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion World Map

Independent Diplomat (ID) is an upstart in a world governed by tradition, long-standing, often opaque codes of conduct and large bi-lateral and multi-lateral bureaucracies--the world of international diplomacy. ID was founded in 2004 by former British Foreign Service officer Carne Ross (pronounced Cahrn) to respond to the needs of a new set of players entering this arena, looking for a seat at the table--young states, political groups and NGO's.

Since launching, ID has worked with the representatives of Burma, Croatia, Kosovo, Somalila, Southern Sudan and The Elders, Human Rights First and The World Wildlife Fund among others, counseling them on effective access to or navigation within the international community. One part humanitarian watchdog, one part Emily Post, one part high powered PR firm, Independent Diplomat's visibility has grown as the number of actors seated at the table continues to increase, magnifying the complexity and fragmentation of the global playing field.

The business world is accustomed to innovators, change-makers in its midst. The diplomatic one? Not so much. Tellingly, six years into operations, ID remains the only diplomatic advisory group of its kind. Equally telling? It had over 50 applicants for its most recent senior job opening, twelve of whom were former Ambassadors. Those two facts speak to the delicate challenge of creating an effective diplomat-for-hire business model, as well as to the hunger within the diplomatic community to serve ID's broader mission--to promote justice and conflict resolution--free from the confines of a national agenda.

It's almost impossible to keep up with the pace of the high impact events playing out globally minute-by-minute right now. In four short months we've had Wikileaks, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, the broader Middle East and Japan, each one contributing to dramatic changes in how diplomatic conversations happen, who participates and the resources available and needed to move them forward. ID's relevance is likely only to increase in light of these events, and it will be interesting to see how its business model, client base and reach evolve in their wake.

Carne Ross has been actively engaged in the conversation surrounding the question of establishing a no-fly zone in Libya, serving up a suggested set of non-violent measures to "boycott, isolate and sabotage" Libya in advance of resorting to force. You can read his Huffington Post article on the subject here and his Financial Times article here. And you can hear him discuss the issue on the BBC with Read Admiral Chris Parry here.

The image above is a Dymaxion Map, designed in the 1950's by Buckminster Fuller. It graces Independent Diplomat's website. By not splitting continents, portraying the earth's landmass as one island in one ocean, the Dymaxion Map was intended by Fuller to overcome the limitations of traditional maps, which, in his view, cause humans "to appear inherently disassociated, remote, self-interestedly preoccupied with the political concept of it's got to be you or me; there is not enough for both." Fitting--and optimistic.

Carne describes his path into and out of the British Foreign Service and how Independent Diplomat came to be in the video below. Carne's blog is here and you can follow his updates on Twitter here.