Is the GDL Ripe for Making History in a Transnational World?




Diplomacy and Foreign Relations, Global Governance, Civil Society

By Mahmoud Javadi

As the world is witnessing the rising transnational governance, the Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL) with its professional members is apt to take role in this governance. Here’s briefly how!

Six years ago, the Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL) was born with the goal of advancing “more inclusive and agile formats of diplomacy and international cooperation to deal with cross-border and global challenges”. It has never merely stuck to this goal. Rather, it has encouraged its members to follow their ideas and ambitions beyond their own countries’ borders which are believed to be in the interests of their communities and the entire globe. The life of the GDL has coincided with a pivotal development: the global community has rushed into transnationalism and a transnational governance.

No transnational governance without non-state actors

In the age of the transnationalism in which decision making goes beyond national borders and around the international spheres, the GDL is acting as a transnational entity, and since the transnational governance surpasses national sovereignty and outdoes regional/international entities, the GDL is well-equipped to lend a hand in exploiting opportunities as well as in countering threats which communities are facing with.

As Prof. Diane Stone, Chair in Public Policy in the School of Transnational Governance, the European University Institute (EUI), has expounded in one of her interviews,[1] “transnational governance gives greater emphasis to the role of non-state actors [including] individuals, groups, non-governmental organizations and social movements”. Despite this emphasis, the realm of transnational governance is not confined to these emerging spheres according to Diane Stone’s definition. The governmental and intergovernmental actors, namely ministries of foreign affairs and international organizations, also perform roles in the transnational governance.

Decentralisation allows for more inclusive politics

In addition to the diversity of ‘actors’ within the transnational governance, the core ‘structure’ within societies and communities is about to alter. The decentralization of authority and power and the non-hierarchical bureaucracies pave the way for all actors beyond and around sovereign states and international organizations to engage in policy design, norm setting and rulemaking. The incipient change in the ‘structure’ and the diversity of ‘actors’ in the policy-making arena under the transnational governance lay the grounds for the GDL to make the most of its human resources with their ambitions and aspirations to do what governments are unwilling and incapable to do. Whereas the mission statement of the GDL has underscored the evolution of diplomacy and its intent to explore “a new and more inclusive diplomacy which goes beyond traditional politics”, the six-year-old GDL has gone beyond diplomacy and made extensive contribution – from raising awareness to impact on policy processes – to fields other than diplomacy which are mostly remained below the public attention radar.

What has made the GDL impactful is its ‘member-driven’ feature which gives equal opportunity to members to pursue their ideas and turn them into reality. In the past six years, the GDL community has constantly become bigger with more high-ranking figures from civil societies, the academic world and the diplomatic sphere who inserted their GDL membership in their resume. Alongside its expansion, numerous inspirational ideas have been raised and got realized thanks to the full support of all people in the GDL. While the GDL calls itself a ‘platform’, its short history has demonstrated it is more a genuine idea-to-action incubator.

Time for next steps: Tackling human insecurities as existential threats

With many practices done and lessons learnt, the GDL is now prepared to take much bigger steps. It is high time for the GDL to seek answers for human insecurities which are becoming an existential threat in certain communities, namely the Middle East and Southwest Asia. These regions are now confronted with three non-military struggles: environmental, water and food insecurities. Thus far, most governments in the region prove that their priorities lie in power politics rather than in people’s prosperity. The void caused by national governments in the Middle East and the Southwest Asia has lately been filled by local civil societies The problem which impedes their path to success is their fragmentation in addressing the collective challenge. What the GDL and its members are now capable to do is to mobilize the forces of the local civil societies by gathering them around one single goal and lead them on the ground.

To start, the GDL can draw an action plan on the insecurity surrounding the Southwest Asia’s water resources on which the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC) as well as some cities in southern Iran rely, as they are going to be undrinkable. Currently, there are some disjointed grassroots organizations in Iran and the GCC countries that are working to resolve this challenge, from raising public awareness to finding science-based solutions to tackle the region’s extreme water scarcity that is on the horizon.[2] The GDL and its members with decades of expertise can come to the scene, unite these local efforts, and usher them to the right direction.

If the GDL gets involved, it can seize the unique opportunity to canonize itself as an embodiment of transnationalism, that contribution would also have great value for the peoples in the region in the long run: from addressing water insecurity to the creation of dialogue/cooperation between peoples whose governments are at odds with each other. This GDL-run bottom-up interaction would have spillover effects on the politics and the way people perceive each other across borders. This is one example out of numerous struggles these regions are facing or will confront shortly.

To respond to this struggle, one of the six GDL’s labs is dedicated to the water diplomacy based on the concept of Diplomacy 4.0. The Incubator Phase already took place from June, 14 to 16. This is a timely opportunity for the GDL and this lab’s participants to propose transnationally practical solutions and recommendations on how to foster the water diplomacy across different regions.
The scene is ready for the GDL to take its role in the world of emerging transnational governance.

More information on the topic:

[1]. Watch the Prof. Stone’s full interview here.

[2]. Read more about the water tension in the Middle East here.


About the author:

Mahmoud Javadi is an Iranian diplomat and research fellow at the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), affiliated with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is also active in state-funded think-tanks across the country.

Published on June 24, 2022.

Photo Credits: Mahmoud Javadi

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