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Athar Sultan-Khan (LGB '74) shares thoughts on diplomacy

mercredi, 13 novembre 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Alejandro Rodríguez-Giovo, Foundation Archivist
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In a community such as Ecolint, where 140 nationalities – with their accompanying languages, cultures and religions – comfortably rub shoulders each day, diplomacy is a way of life. However, in comparison with a highly qualified and vastly experienced career diplomat, most Ecolintians are no more than enlightened, talented amateurs.

How interesting and instructive it was, then, for our Year 12 students to gain valuable insights into the pinnacles and pitfalls of professional diplomacy directly from an Ecolint alumnus with 39 years of distinguished service in this field – 15 of them as Chef de Cabinet at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and more recently as Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  

During his hour-long presentation and question-and-answer session in the Auditorium of the Centre des arts, on 9 October 2019, Professor Sultan-Khan illustrated, in his interaction with our students, all the finesse and tact, polish and aplomb that only so many years of hands-on experience in the diplomatic field can confer on an individual. At the same time, he showed how it is possible to retain one’s national and cultural identity, and how they can even be an asset, whilst mediating in delicate negotiations and smoothing a constructive way forward for adversarial parties. To retain the human touch whilst observing all the necessary niceties of diplomatic protocol is an art into which Professor Sultan-Khan provided a fascinating glimpse, not least through anecdotes drawn from his long and distinguished career.

He interspersed his comments with a few colourful, refreshingly self-depreciating vignettes of his Ecolint days, enabling the students in the audience to identify with him more closely and thus project themselves imaginatively into the world of diplomacy, which is a possible professional option for many of them. 

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