2018/19
Danish, Norwegian and Swedish ambassadors to the UK.

On Monday the 11th of March, the Diplomatic Hub and Scandinavian Society hosted Their Excellencies Lars Thuesen, Wegger Chr. Strømmen, and Torbjörn Sohlström, Ambassadors to the UK for Denmark, Norway and Sweden respectively.

The Ambassadors discussed their roles, and what it involves day-to-day. They also gave an insight into their career path, discussing what skills and experience is needed to become a diplomat. Finally, they touched upon Scandinavia’s relationship with the UK, and how events such as Brexit are redefining the European and global landscape.

Talk on the rise of China with Tim Ruelig

In his talk, Tim Rühlig provided his take on this question aiming to provide a better understanding through Chinese lenses. His insights are mostly drawn from extensive field research in the PRC including more than 150 in-depth interviews that he conducted with policy-makers, their advisors, business leaders, think tanks, academics and activists. Apart from the mere research results, he will aim to introduce and discuss with the audience his own research approach, aspirations and self-perception of his work as well as how work on China relates to us as European citizens deeply believing in democracy, human rights and the rule of law. His current research focuses on Europe-China relations in general and China’s growing footprint in technical standardization particularly in the fields of new technology such as 5G internet and Artificial Intelligence in particular.

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On Friday the 25th of January, 16 students took part in a crisis simulation based on the board game Aftershock. The simulation was run with the support of Dr Martin Robson from the university’s Strategy and Security Institute. Acting as the Government of Carana (based on Haiti), the Army, the UN and NGOs, teams worked together to respond to a natural disaster on the island. Teams had to take it in turns to rebuild the port and airport, co-ordinate supplies to support damaged districts, and prevent loss of life. These tasks were made harder by limitations set on each group, such as certain groups not having infrastructure-building capabilities. Students were forced to negotiate strategies with each other to address areas in a state of emergency, and ensure aims were met. 

The complexities teams faced in their decision-making process was designed to reflect the complexity of disaster relief. As well as tackling logistics and supply issues, cards turned on each go created further problems for the groups, such as mass illness appearing in certain districts. Trying to balance long term aims with solving immediate issues, teams had to think strategically to reduce possibility of human loss, and plan ahead for upcoming issues.

One student remarked ‘I had an excellent time at the crisis simulation. The opportunity to apply the theories of strategy in a real-world scenario was invaluable and incredibly challenging. I learnt a lot about decision-making and feel better prepared for when I will be faced with tough decisions.’ 

We would like to thank Dr Robson for his support, and the students that participated. 

Exeter Politics Summit

The British Foreign Policy Group hosted the PPE Society, the Politics Society, Diplomatic Hub and Conflict, Security and Peace Society in the ‘The Exeter Politics Summit: The UK Aid Programme’’.

Led by panellists Myles Wickstead, Judith Smith, Dr John Heathershaw and Dr Neil Adger, the panel discussed issues with and realities of UK aid spending and its intersection with foreign policy objectives. It was a fantastic chance to engage with leading experts on the UK aid programme to find out what it is and why it matters.

This event is part of the BFPG’s National Engagement Programme, a nationwide series of events which aim to generate greater public discussion about the UK’s international position and choices.

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Our second event of the year welcomed Professor Joe Foweraker to the university. 

Having spent many years studying Central and Latin America, Prof. Foweraker provided a unique insight into the region. Discussing ideas of democratic theory, the idea of state and oligarchy, attendees learnt about ideas of formal and informal power, and how the relationship between the two shapes this region. 

Drawing on ideas from his new book, ‘Polity: Demystifying Democracy in Latin America and Beyond’, the audience were encouraged to stop discussing ‘democracy’, and instead think of these nations as ‘polities’. Finally, Prof. Foweraker turned the discussion towards ideas of populism and its essential nature in Latin American nations. 

We thank Professor Foweraker for his time and for providing us with such an engaging talk!

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On the 5th of October 2018, the Diplomatic Hub was honoured to welcome Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles to the University of Exeter.

Drawing on his extensive diplomatic experience, Sir Sherard gave a fascinating talk describing how large institutions facing complex challenges are prone to groupthink, and the need for courage and honest leadership in delivering true success.

The talk was followed by a round of Q&A, in which the students asked many interesting questions.

It was great to see so many interested people at the event!