What is it?
The Young Diplomats Forum (YDF) is a week of workshops, policy development group exercises, institutional and cultural visits and an opportunity to hear world leading experts debate on a variety of contemporary global and political topics. After receiving an email from the Centre for Global Programmes at York advertising the opportunity, and providing a link to the website, I applied to attend the 2017 YDF by submitting a personal statement and my CV. When I heard that I had been accepted I was invited to start networking with other delegates from all over the world via a Facebook group page. This was also an opportunity to start talking with those in my Policy Development Group, as I had been assigned to present on the management of the South China Sea with five other delegates. On arrival, on the third of September, fifty of us met properly for the first time at a wine reception at the sky-bar of the Albert hotel in Latvia’s capital city. I was pleasantly surprised to meet five other delegates from the University of York as well as those from Canada, the US, Russia, Kenya, Taiwan, China, Haiti… we altogether represented thirty countries!
What it involved
The week kicked off with a presentation on ‘Diplomacy in the 21st Century’, with Ambassadors from Denmark and the Russian Federation producing their own arguments and challenging one another on critical points. Other highlights in the week included a visit to the KBG museum and war museum to learn about Latvia’s history throughout Soviet and Nazi occupation, and its experiences in war from the 9th century all the way through to the cold war. At the end of the week, after three Policy Development Group meetings, my group presented and also heard presentations on UN Reforms, Post ISIS Middle East, the future of the EU, the Transatlantic Alliance and stability in the Black Sea region.
Not all business!
Though it was an intensive week long programme there were still multiple opportunities to socialise with one another and explore the old city in Riga as well as experience Latvian culture in the form of underground medieval restaurants, street festivals with live folk music, and hear from locals about their traditional mushroom picking and famous song and dance festival. The beauty of the week was that there were delegates who came from diverse backgrounds and all had their own perspectives to offer when discussing international issues. The week ended with a very enjoyable awards ceremony in the Guild Hall and spontaneously ended with us all singing ‘Imagine’ and ‘Yesterday’ by John Lennon and the Beatles around a piano with the former Senior Defence Economist to NATO. I am looking forward to the year ahead with the opportunities to have access to the Global Diplomatic network and hopefully seeing some of the 2017 Latvian delegates again somewhere in the world!