John Thon Majok

Refugees and Citizen Diplomacy
13 April, 2021

We welcomed John Thon Majok on the 11th March to discuss the theme of refugees and citizen diplomacy. The event was moderated by one of our Freshers’ Reps, Sam Hughes.

John Thon is a Senior Analyst at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars where he is also the Director of Grants Management. He is a former refugee himself and continues to write and speak about refugee issues. 

The event began with a talk on the power of people-to-people diplomacy. John Thon spoke of the importance of identifying the ‘push factors’ underpinning displacement to the management of refugee issues, as well as promoting dialogue and resource sharing within the international community. He highlighted the role individual citizens have in influencing political decision-making.

The second half of the event was devoted to a Q&A. There was a wide variety of questions which included topics such as refugee identities and asylum legislation, and covered John Thon’s own career and life experiences. 

The Diplomatic Hub would like to thank John Than for taking the time to talk to us, as well as all those who attended what is our last event of the academic year.

Jonathan Addleton

Diplomacy and Aid from a US Perspective
31 March, 2021

We were honored to have former US ambassador to Mongolia, and five time USAID mission director Jonathan Addleton to speak to us on 31st March about US aid and diplomacy. The event was moderated by one of our Fresher’s reps, Kirsty Duncan.

His varied career has taken him across Asia and the Middle East, including in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as a period as USAID representative to the EU. He has written books on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mongolia and received the Christian A. Herter Award from the American Foreign Service Association for intellectual courage and constructive dissent. He is currently Rector/President of Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan.

Jonathan gave an interesting insight into the US perspective on aid and diplomacy. He explored the future of aid under the Biden administration, and touched upon his experience meeting the then Vice President while ambassador to Mongolia. Furthermore, he shared some experiences from his multicultural life, and how he has navigated intercultural relationships throughout his career. He also gave advice for those looking to go into the fields of diplomacy and aid work.

We would like to thank the former US ambassador for his time, along with all those who attended the event and asked questions.

Lord Michael Jay of Ewelme

The Diplomatic Service and British Foreign Policy Post-Brexit
11 March, 2021

We were delighted to be joined by Lord Michael Jay on the 11th March to discuss British foreign policy in the post-Brexit era. The event was moderated by one of our Freshers’ Reps,  Sam Hughes.

Lord Jay has had a long and varied career in the diplomatic service, having served as Ambassador to France, and as Permanent Under Secretary in the FCO from 2002 to 2006. He has sat in the House of Lords since 2006, taking on numerous committee roles.

Lord Jay began the event with a talk on the evolving structure of the diplomatic service. He offered a fascinating insider perspective into the fluctuating relationships between government departments and the complex sources of authority within embassies.  Throughout, he provided the audience with entertaining anecdotes. 

The second half of the event was devoted to a Q&A. The audience had lots of questions about the opportunities and challenges of the government’s post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’ policy, and the difficulties of balancing a human rights agenda with other diplomatic interests. We also delved into the highlights and difficulties of a career in diplomacy.

We would like to thank Lord Jay for sparing us his time and expertise, as well as all those who attended at such a busy point of term. 

Simon Boyden and Nicolas Hopton

Regional Challenges in Libya and Mauritania
11 February, 2021

On February 11th, we warmly welcomed His Excellency British Ambassador to Libya Nicholas Hopton and His Excellency British Ambassador to Mauritania Simon Boyden for a talk on their experiences in the Mahgreb. The event was moderated by our Treasurer, Pierre-Louis Le Borgne, and our Event Manager, Maeve Berry.

Nicholas Hopton, UK Ambassador to Libya, has been in post there since September 2019. Previously the UK Ambassador to Qatar and to Yemen, as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ambassador Hopton first joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989, and has held positions in Paris, Rome and Rabat. He also worked on national security issues in the Cabinet Office, led the International Organisations Department in the FCO and was Private Secretary to the Minister for Europe.

Simon Boyden has enjoyed a rich and varied career in the Diplomatic Service, working across different policy areas in London and in Russia, Austria, Germany and, most recently, in Afghanistan. In February 2019, Mr Boyden was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

The event kicked off with Simon Boyden and Nicholas Hopton discussing their career path and sharing briefly their experience as Ambassadors to, respectively, Mauritania and Libya. They discussed how they felt when they were first informed of their current postings, and talked about some memorable experiences, some being certainly atypical, which allowed us to get a glance at what the life of a diplomat is. 

Furthermore, the Ambassadors offered answers to various questions, ranging from the challenges of dealing with governments in challenging regions to the impact of Covid-19 on their work and the countries they are posted in. They also addressed more country-specific issues, like what does the newly appointed Libyan government mean for the UK diplomatic mission or how the issue of slavery in Mauritania is being addressed.

Moreover, both Ambassadors gave advice to the students, shared their vision of what diplomacy really is, as well as how it has been evolving and continues to do so.

We would like to thank Ambassador Hopton and Ambassador Boyden for their time, as well as everyone who took time to attend this amazing event.

Jonathan Marcus

Post-Pandemic Geopolitics
28 January, 2021

Is There a New Cold War Between the US and China?

On the 28th of January, Jonathan Marcus kindly joined us for our fifth event of the academic year. The talk discussed his predictions for post-pandemic geopolitics and was moderated by one of our Co-Presidents, Sarah Ann Lim.

Jonathan has had a long-standing career in broadcasting as a defense and foreign policy analyst, working with the BBC World Service as a Defense and Diplomatic Correspondent. He leveraged on his extensive experience in the area to give us a rundown of the future of US-China relationships in the new Biden Administration, highlighting the necessity of stronger relations especially within international organisations. 

Jonathan also touched upon the Thucydides Trap between the two nations and answered many questions on the impact of their relationship in regions such as Africa, India and South-East Asia.

We would like to thank Jonathan for his time, and all who came along and asked questions.


Franz-Stefan Gady

The Future of Warfighting

16 november, 2020

On November 16th, we warmly welcomed Franz-Stefan Gady for a talk on the future of warfighting. The event was moderated by our Treasurer, Pierre-Louis Le Borgne.

Having reported from a wide range of countries and conflict zones as a journalist and embedded with the Afghan National Army, NATO forces and Kurdish militias, Franz-Stefan also advised militaries in Europe and the United States on structural reform and the future of armed conflict. He now is a Research Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. 

Franz-Stefan defined what he means by the future of warfighting. He highlighted that it mainly lies on how new technologies are used together and in conjunction with military strategies, as we move toward a network centric military model along with an increase in the use of non kinetic capabilities. He also insisted on how human and military technologies will work hand in hand, and why human presence will never be fully replaced by technology. 

We rapidly progressed into the Q&A part of the talk. The capabilities of Russia, China and the US were notably discussed, as well as the role of new technologies in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, just to name these two topics. In the final part of the talk, Franz-Stefan shared with us his perspective and experience as a journalist in conflict zones, and we notably learned more about his relation with the US military compared to the British, as well as the story behind his twitter’s background picture. 

We would like to thank Franz-Stefan for his time, as well as everyone who took time to attend this amazing event, our most popular to date this year. 

Simon Mustard

British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone

22 OCTOBER, 2020

On 22 October we welcomed Simon Mustard for a talk and Q&A on his career in the police and as a diplomat. This talk was moderated by one of our Event Managers, Bethan Richards.

Having been a diplomat for over 20 years, working in Central America, Washington, the Middle East, and Africa, he is now working as the British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone. He is also the Chairman of the FCDOs Social Mobility Staff Association –  working to ensure the FCDO is an accessible career option to all.  

Simon identified from his experiences what it takes to be a successful diplomat. It is a hugely varied role, and so adaptability and resilience are important. He highlighted that there is not one route in, and that the skills he developed while working for the police, such as dealing with people during times of crisis, have been hugely beneficial to him. As well as career advice, Simon spoke of his role as High Commissioner, and Britain’s relationship with Sierra Leone. He highlighted specifically the response to Covid-19, how overnight Sierra Leoneans, as a country used to living with pandemics, adopted mask wearing and social distancing, and the positive impact this has undoubtedly had on the number of cases.

We would like to thank Simon for his time as well as all those who attended and submitted questions. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Sierra Leone from another diplomat’s perspective, our Winter 2020 edition of journal will include an article written about the civil war and its aftermath on the country.

Gabriela Castro Fontoura

Trade and Opportunities in Latin America

28 SEPTEMBER, 2020

On 28th September 2020, we warmly welcomed Gabriela Castro-Fontoura for a talk on Trade and Opportunities in Latin America. Gabriela founded her own company, Sunny Sky Solutions, and works to supporting British businesses across Latin America. Gabriela is also the proud author of “The SME Guide to Latin America” – an e-book on the region for British SMEs. This discussion was moderated by our Presidents Francesca Descher and Sarah-Ann Lim.

Gabriela leveraged on her experiences working in the UK and Latin America to paint a picture of the economic situation in both countries, outlining opportunities for growth especially in a post COVID-19 world. She highlighted the diversity of Latin America, giving us a unique insight into the local culture and working style. Throughout the conversation, Gabriela also integrated career tips for those interested in entrepreneurship and international trade as well as her inspiring story of how she eventually set up her own company.  

The event wrapped up with a Q&A segment where we received many questions about trade diversification opportunities in Latin America, as well as how her consultancy business is adapting to restrictions put in place due to the health crisis.    

Our committee would like to thank Gabriela for her time and insight, as well as everyone who took time off their schedules to attend this event.  We hope this event provided the audience a greater insight into Latin America beyond the classroom.

Exeter Lecturers Roundtable

Politics of the Pandemic

23 SEPTEMBER, 2020

This was the first event for the 2020/21 committee, and due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the first ever virtual event the Diplomatic Hub has run as well. For this panel disussion on the ‘Politics of the Pandemic’ we were joined by Professor John Heathershaw, Dr Irene Fernandez-Molina, Dr Nick Kirsop-Taylor, and Dr Elena Gadjanova from the University of Exeter Politics Department. All had been contributories to pandemipolitics.net, a blog set up by Heathershaw and his colleague Dr Brieg Powell to explore the sociopolitical issues to the pandemic. The discussion was moderated by the Diplomatic Hub’s Publicity Secretary, Georgia Mealings.

The event started with questions on the UK experience of the pandemic, with Nick and John talking about the institutional weakness of the British response due to austerity and avoidance of political responsibility. In particular John highlighted the tendency of politicians to hide behind the mantra of ‘we’re following the Science’.

Though perhaps the most enlightening part of the event was the discussion of exceptionalism, especially with regard to the UK. Irene spoke on how the stereotypes that persist against Southern Europe shaped the early perception of the pandemic, despite the high quality of healthcare in countries like Italy. Elena similarly lamented the reluctance of countries in the West to take the warnings of Asian countries and embrace international cooperation.

At the end of the event we had time for some questions from attendees, which included a question on the balance between public health and the economy.

We would like to thank all who tuned into this event and submitted questions ahead of time, it was great to see such a large turnout for our first event. And of course we are hugely thankful for our four panelists for giving up their time and expertise, we urge you to check out their pieces on the pandemipolitics blog.