ASTANA – Innovative approaches have transformed foreign policy in recent years. Digital diplomacy is a modern and technological dimension of foreign policy, used as a new soft power tool to advance national interests, project political and economic power.
In his address to the nation, “Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan: Global Competitiveness,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev attached particular importance to digitalisation as one of the means “to get ahead of the future and decisively meet the challenges” of today’s changing world. This aim also touches upon the nation’s foreign policy, as innovative approaches in recent years have transformed its conduct.
The Astana Times interviewed Institute of Diplomacy Director Anuar Ayazbekov to learn about digital diplomacy and the institution’s current activities.
What is digital diplomacy?
Digital diplomacy today is the most modern and technological foreign policy dimension. It is widely used by governments and foreign ministries of economically developed countries as a new soft power tool to advance national interests, to project political and economic power, and, overall, to increase the degree of agency of the country.
In this respect, it is certainly very heartening that our nation follows the trend – the Committee for International Information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has made great advances in the field of digital policy. The ministry has increased its presence in cyberspace over the last few years, where it actively uses digital platforms not only to cover its day-to-day activities, but also to encourage foreign audiences to view pressing international issues from the vantage point of Kazakhstan. In addition, the committee uses the variety of digital tools to promptly respond to different issues that constantly emerge in regional and global international affairs.
What is the institute’s primary purpose?
The institute’s primary task is to provide highly-qualified human resources to our foreign service.
Kazakhstan actively promotes its foreign policy agenda and has achieved significant advances in global affairs. At the same time, in the dynamically changing geopolitical and geo-economic conditions our foreign service faces a plethora of new challenges and opportunities. Therefore, in order to be able to address them timely and adequately, the diplomatic service should possess a multi-disciplinary combination of competencies and knowledge in such spheres as public policy, economics, diplomacy, PR, policy analysis and international relations.
Here, the Institute of Diplomacy is seen as the key element of training and professional development of the country’s civil servants, mainly diplomats. Thus, it contributes to the development of Kazakhstan’s foreign service and, at large, the advancement of national interests.
What essential skills and competencies do you develop in the students?
The institute prepares managerial-level professionals in diplomacy who confidently navigate global politics by mastering such disciplines as international relations, conflict and security, negotiation and conflict resolution and foreign economic policy. And the fact that the institute is working hand in hand with the foreign ministry is of principal importance here. The ability to provide professional, practice-oriented diplomatic education is our major advantage.
Our faculty is comprised of acting career diplomats and veterans of diplomatic service. For example, the former first Minister of Foreign Affairs Tuleutai Suleimenov is our full-time professor. Ambassadors at large and directors of the departments at the MFA teach courses on a regular basis. Guest lectures of the foreign diplomatic corps accredited in Kazakhstan are also held. This is our uniqueness, as we are the only institution of its kind in the country.
This advantage enables our master students to immerse in the practical realities of foreign service as they study real historical cases, practice simulation games, learn policy analysis methods, obtain skills in the art of diplomatic protocol and etiquette, study theory and practice of negotiation techniques, gain sound regional studies training and perfect professional civil service competencies.
Moreover, upon graduation our students fluently speak and write in at least two foreign languages.
How do you position yourself among other diplomatic education establishments? Do you have joint projects with visiting professors?
Since the Master of International Relations is a quite flexible programme, it allows integrating best international practices in our education process. The programme’s curriculum is developed on the basis of the experience of leading foreign schools of international relations and diplomatic academies.
On the practical side, we do cooperate closely with our colleagues abroad. For example, for the last 10 years the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna has served as the basis for our student internships. We also collaborate with Kyrgyz, Russian, Ukrainian and Polish diplomatic academies, the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in the Netherlands, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the French National School of Public Administration.
We also aim to increase the number of our foreign students’ corps. For instance, the regional hub of civil service in Astana is annually providing grants for civil servants from Central Asia to study at the institute.
We work closely with foreign experts and practitioners – retired career diplomats, prominent scholars and representatives of the partner institutions. The institute also engages professors and researchers from the range of foreign universities and think tanks – we interexchange our experiences in teaching, invite professors to supervise theses, organise joint conferences, co-write edited volumes and form research consortia.