International Thoughts

I recently watched two TEDTalks that concerned diplomacy and national borders. In his Independent Diplomat talk, Carne Ross talked about his experience as a UK diplomat who specialized in the Middle East. He realized during his time working for the government and the UN; when dealing with countries suffering from internal conflict, these organizations failed to effectively communicate with the people, the government, or rebels (depending on the situation). The UN would make security and political recommendations or decisions without proper input from the people that would be directly affected by it.

 After trying many avenues to rectify this situation, he started his own non-profit. This organization, Independent Diplomat, is dedicated to giving diplomatic advice to groups or governments with little experience in diplomatic relations. He also focuses on getting the UN and these conflicting groups together discuss each party’s desired outcome. While he admits that his approach to increasing communication and understanding on both sides has a small chance of overall success, he argues that it is preferred to the alternative.

I found Ross’s TEDTalk and his non-profit idea very interesting. While many countries around the world are suffering from internal conflict, I never thought about how some of these groups, including governments, had little to no diplomatic experience and no way to effectively communicate to other parties or outside organizations. While I unfortunately have to agree with Ross about his chances of causing success, I think that this is a significant step towards opening up communication with the hopes of ending internal conflicts.

The other TEDTalk I saw was Parag Khanna’s Mapping the Future of Countries. He argues that many of the political boundaries that we see on the map are misleading. He exemplifies this idea through China’s relations with neighboring nations.

While in recent years China’s political borders have not changed, China’s influence and economic control has grown. In Mongolia, Chinese companies control a majority of the mines, shipping the minerals back to China. China has also increased in presence in Russia. With many Russians moving towards the western part of the country, many Chinese workers have crossed the border into Russia, inhabiting the regions abandoned by Russians moving west.The Chinese have set up bazaars and their own health facilities, slowly taking over the lumber industry in the region and sending it back to China. While the political boundaries for these countries has not been impacted, China has increased its economic presence and influence in these nations without any violence.

He takes this idea to nonindependent or conflicted groups, such as the Kurds in Iraq. Unlike in centuries past, having a presence in a region does not mean control. While the Kurds have a majority population and a military in the Kurdistan region, they are not independent of Iraq. If the Kurds gained control of the pipelines that run through their borders, they have the ability to establish economic freedom. Khanna’s main argument is that infrastructure and economics are the most important factors when considering a nation’s area of control, not simply the political borders. It is these factors that will eventually pave the way for a borderless world.


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