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Mongolia: dancing between the bear and the dragon

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Since the establishment of a democracy in Mongolia following the collapse of the Soviet Union, foreign interests have attempted to reassert control over the landlocked piece of steppe between China and Russia.

Mongolia’s position, located between two ambitious powers, means that it is the target of Chinese and Russian influence, often to the detriment of the fledgling democracy and its people. Historically Mongolia’s geographical position and nomadic inhabitants (of which there are still many) has made it vulnerable to the influence of its neighbors. Mongolia was subjugated to both Beijing and Moscow at different times and still struggles with the political influence of both powers.

Economics further complicates Mongolia’s diplomatic issues; vast amounts of mineral wealth have been discovered in Mongolia since the early 90’s including large reserves of copper, gold, and coal. Previously Mongolia’s weak economy, based on pastoral products such as beef and cashmere production, meant that it provided very little potential wealth for powers seeking to control it. These discoveries have led to serious interest from a resource-hungry China, which accounts for 89% of Mongolia’s exports, as well as Russia, which faces more competition for resources in an ever more hostile Europe.

Despite the renewed interest from its neighbors, most foreign companies involved in the Mongolian mining sector have been Canadian or Australian, of the 11 foreign companies invested in copper production, 9 of them were Australian or Canadian. In most sectors the primary owners of the mining companies have been Canadian or Australian, with a few from Hong Kong or the UK. These firms often own and operate mines in conjunction with the Mongolian Government, which creates friction when the negotiations go sour, such as with the massive Oyu Tolgoi mine that has seen constant delays from shareholder disputes and concerns over the operating cost.

The access to fossil fuels and raw minerals have given some measure of control over Mongolian politics and makes government corruption all the more dangerous to the Mongolian people. On February 26th the president of Mongolia pardoned 3 foreign nationals involved in the mining industry who had been convicted of tax evasion. The foreign nationals were accused of evading 6.8 Billion USD, a sum so ridiculous that the arrests shook foreign confidence and caused complaints in the UN over human rights violations. The simultaneous state of unprecedented economic growth and unrelenting economic exploitation have left the Mongolian authorities and people with as much resentment for foreigners as gratitude. A former member of Mongolian parliament and minister of foreign affairs stated “It is no secret that small Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese investors are commonly robbed, threatened, and slandered in cases brought on false charges.” An ineffectual and divided Mongolian Government coupled with widespread corruption enables foreign interests to undermine the welfare of the state over the acquisition of its resources.

Submitting to foreign nations for political reasons over economic ones often holds serious financial consequences for Mongolian taxpayers. In 2009 the Mongolian government passed a nuclear energy law, and, under Russian pressure, revoked the uranium licenses of Khan Resources, a Canadian company that owned the Dornod Uranium property. The government then seized Khan Resources’ assets with no compensation, resulting in a lengthy legal battle between the company and the government. On March 2nd an international arbitration tribunal determined an award of 100 million USD to be paid by the Mongolian government to Khan Resources. It is speculated that Russian companies were interested in entering the uranium sector in Mongolia and pressured the government to pass the nuclear energy law and attack the competition, especially since the law came right on the heels of an announced joint venture to mine uranium between the Russians and Mongolians.

The Chinese are also muscling in on foreign companies, especially ones that produce the construction materials that China needs to power its real estate boom. The Canadian mining company, Turquoise Hill Resources, recently sold its entire stake in SouthGobi Resources to Novel Sunrise Investments. Novel Sunrise and its affiliated groups intend to use their logistics and marketing experience to leverage their way into procuring raw materials for construction, iron ore and coal, that companies such as SouthGobi produces. Many of the mining firms in Mongolia are based in Hong Kong and seek a larger share of the untapped mineral wealth.

While most mining companies in Mongolia are not owned by either the Chinese or the Russians, the local geography means that nearly all imports and exports come from those two countries. The next 3 biggest importers, South Korea, Japan, and The United States, account for about 19% of imports combined, nearly 10% less than Russia alone and less than half of China’s imports. These are all major regional players whose imports have been impeded by Mongolia’s dependence on the rail systems through China or Russia to transport goods to and from the pacific. This level of dependency has upset Mongolia, which claims that China takes advantage of its isolation by buying Mongolian coal for less than it’s worth. There is very little competition for Mongolian exports, even Russia only makes up 1.5% of Mongolian export value, preferring to export to, rather than from, Mongolia. Mongolian officials have tried to reach out to other nations, most recently Japan and the DPRK, but the government can only do so much to escape the limitations of its physical location.

Foreign investment in the mining sector has spurred serious economic growth; for a period of time Mongolia had the world’s fastest growing economy, the mines provided better jobs for Mongolians and fostered urbanization to replace the pastoral nomadic lifestyle that remained pervasive throughout the country. However, this massive influx of investment now represents the vast majority of the economy; so in recent times where commodity prices have slumped for Mongolians and international confidence in the Mongolian government is low, growth has been significantly stunted. In response the Mongolian government formed a super-coalition last December consisting of members from all major parties attempting to deal with the economic problems. The main policy goals of the coalition were to alleviate the economic downturn by reducing the government restrictions on mining to get foreign investment back on track while continuing to pursue economic ties with nations outside China and Russia.

This series of policies gets to the root of the Mongolian problem: Mongolia cannot prosper without foreign investment and by opening itself up to political and economic influence from interests that have very little concern for the welfare of Mongolia or its inhabitants. Mongolia’s vulnerability to the economic interests of its neighbors means that its needs from Russia and China translate into political capital that undermines Mongolia’s economic and political independence.

First published by the International Policy Digest under the title Mongolia: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Russia’s Cultural Diplomacy in Multipolar World. Africa’s Role, Challenges and Benefits

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After a careful research to find the meaning and implications of the term “multipolar world” often used these days, the freedictionary and englopedia offer insights as a system of world order in which the majority of global leading powers coordinate and commonly agree on economic, political and cultural influence and acceptable directions. 

Both dictionaries further explain that countries have multipolar approaches to foreign policy. Participating countries necessarily conceive multiple centers of power or influence in the world, have a multipolar approach to foreign policy. Multipolar world could mean the various differences in thoughts, views and ideas regarding anything in particular which different people desire to do across the world.

It appears from several reports that China and Russia intend to lead the new world order. Speeches from both sides are extremely critical “based rules and regulations” given by the United States and Europe. The United States global dictatorship might end, so that the unipolar would then become a multi-polar world, in which democracy could actually thrive.

In practical terms in order to lead multipolar system requires outward, broad and integrative approach. While China, to a large extent, has portray this approach which is readily seen around the world, Russia’s method full of slogans, highly limited. With the emerging new global order, China appears more open and integrative than Russia. Despite the fact that it madly advocates for creating and ultimate establishment of this multipolar world, Russia exits significantly from the global stage, thus isolation itself and further contributing towards its own “cancel culture” instead of the opposite.

Whether people like it or not, the United States will conveniently operate within the emerging multipolar system. The United States is and remains as an “indispensable” power. Russia and a few of its allies in this evolutionary process, without adopting cautious steps and strategic approach, will definitely remain “dispensable” in the end.

Russians seriously brush aside the relevance and the role of culture and for that matter soft power in foreign policy while advocating for this emerging new order. Here examining broadly all aspects of culture that basically includes continuing the struggle for self-determination, for creating the grounded opportunity to live in peace and preserving valuable traditions. Language, of course, plays its unifying role.

Some contradictions and different interpretations might exist. On the other hand, there are divergent views and different perceptions relating to the current geopolitical changes, but frankly speaking the study of foreign languages, including English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and the emerging interest in the Chinese and Russian languages, has been a long part of people’s lives, especially those who hope to move across borders and dream to have smooth interactions with other nationals from different countries around the world.

For the past three decades since the collapse of the Soviet era, Russian language studies has been low among the African population primarily due to lack of interest and adequate motivation, and lack of consistent interactive cultural activities by Russian authorities, experts frequently say.

Most Africans prefer to study foreign languages to ensure smooth participation in interstate activities such as trade and in order to maintain relationship with people abroad. Foreign countries, for example Britain, the United States, European countries and now China are their favorites. There are always interactive programmes and cultural activities operated by foreign missions and NGOs.

Interpreted from different perspectives, Russia has not been a major economic giant in Africa compared to Western and European countries and China. Due to this historical truth, Africans have little interest in studying Russian language and its culture. The Russian language itself does not sound attractive in terms of its economic opportunity and therefore Africans prefer to study languages that readily offer opportunities. China is making huge contributions to the continent and this has made Africans see the need to understand the language in order to have better interaction with them.

The worse obvious side is that the Russian government has not created necessary conditions and reasons to study the language simply because it has little influence on the continent. Besides that, the trade and commercial links between Russia and Africa are quite negligible so there is no demand for the Russain language for businessmen. Admittedly, Russia is not a welcoming holiday destination for African elites and the middle-class which constitutes 40% of 1.3 billion population. Travel and tourism is a huge business, the unique geographical landscapes and changing attractiveness of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sochi – these are unknown to the African elite and middle-class.

With the evolving political and cultural processes, the West and Europe will still have a strong classical grip on Africa, influencing everything first from culture and tourism, and onward to politics and economics. Perhaps, Russia has to play correct openness and welcome African travellers, tourists and visitors. Closing doors, in these critical times, might negatively distract Africa’s support for Russia.

The worrying tendency is that Russotrudnichestvo, an agency under Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, pays little attention to educational and cultural questions in Africa, compared to its assertive counterparts – USAID, Alliance Française de France, The Goethe Institute, British Council, Instituto Cervantes that operate throughout the world.

Another Russian organization – The Russkiy Mir Foundation, which is directly responsible for promoting Russian language and culture abroad, does little in sub-Saharan Africa.

Russia appears quite removed from Africa’s development issues, it is only mentioned in limited areas like weapons and military supplies to French-speaking West Africa. Nowadays, China is being viewed as a strong strategic partner in Africa given its (China’s) strong footprints in diverse economic sectors. China has more than 20 Confucius Centers in Africa. Western and European, and China support civil society, youth programmes and women’s issues, – these are completely not on the Russian radar.

Russia allegedly allows its own cancel culture by the United States and western allies. In practical terms, creating a multipolar system deals largely with cultural and social orientation, it deals with openness and friendliness. At this new historical reawakening stage, Russia has to focus on building relations, both with substance and refined approach, and strategically engage with civil society, youth organizations and non-state institutions.

By and large, Russia has to intensify its people-to-people connections soft power and cultural diplomacy with Africa. There is a huge cultural gap of new thinking, working with young professionals and associations to promote people-to-people diplomacy through business links, cultural exchanges and competitions. As Russia charts multipolar system, this has to reflect in its current foreign policy and approach especially toward the developing world, in Latin America, Asia and Africa. 

Late October, during the final plenary session of the 19th meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club, the focus was on matters related to the changing geopolitics and civilisation diversity, the new world order and its future developments. Under the theme – “A Post-Hegemonic World: Justice and Security for Everyone” – the four day-long interactive meeting brought academic experts and researchers, politicians, diplomats and economists from Russia and 40 foreign countries.

President Vladimir Putin discussed, at considerable length, so many controversial questions. According to him, classic liberal ideology itself today has changed beyond recognition. Predicted the end of United States global dominance, but fell short in proposing an appropriate Russia’s template – the principles and mechanisms – for realizing the lofty idea and approach to establishing multipolar world.

Putin did not say anything about Russia becoming a power, but awarded that position to China. Giants like China, India and Indonesia with large population are showing economic growth; in Africa large counties – some of them with a population of 200 million – are emerging and making progress, as well as countries in Latin America.

According to him, Russia still have friends around the world. He mentioned that in Central America and Africa, the Russian flags are flying everywhere. “There are flags in European countries and in the United States too, by the way, we have many supporters there. By the way, a large proportion of the US population adhere to traditional values, and they are with us, we know this,” he added in his conversation with the Valdai gathering.

Putin, along the line argued that the support for multipolar order largely exists in the global south. Russia is not the enemy and has never had any evil intentions as regards the European countries and the United States. He appreciated Africa’s struggle for independence and against colonialism. These absolutely unique relations were forged during the years when the Soviet Union and Russia supported African countries in their fight for freedom. 

In this context and in relation to Africa, Natalia Zaiser, Founder of the African Business Initiative Union, apparently talked about the new historical stage, need to establish new or different institutions of international partnership. 

Her series of questions to Putin: “Mr President, what is your vision of a new international partnership institution? Which basis of parities is Russia ready to offer at the international level? Which mechanisms, tools and personalities are needed to acquire new allies, partners and friends, not at a declarative level but at the level of unquestionable responsibility in terms of agreements? Do you think we should also change or build up other approaches within the future international partnership?”

Putin’s answer was: “We must and we can focus on cooperation, primarily, with countries which have sovereignty in taking fundamental decisions. This is my first point. My second point is that we need to reach a consensus on each of these decisions. Third, we need to secure a balance of interests. As part of which institutions can we do this? Of course, these are primarily universal international organizations, and number one is with the United Nations.”

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Higher Education and Diplomacy: Essential Skills for Becoming a Diplomat

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Do you want to become a diplomat? Are you interested in learning more about diplomacy? If yes, you should know that diplomatic skills play a key role in today’s global society. Therefore, mastering these skills is crucial for students who aspire to pursue a career in international affairs or diplomacy.

A career in diplomacy requires specific knowledge and expertise beyond academic study. To achieve their goals. Young diplomats must master various aspects of communication and negotiation. With conflict management, crisis response, cultural awareness, and language proficiency.

“Diplomatic skills” encompass a wide range of abilities. From interpersonal relations to public speaking and effective leadership. These skills are essential in negotiating agreements between countries, improving trade relations, and resolving conflicts. Here are the crucial skills for becoming a diplomatic.

Education Requirements

Although there are no set educational prerequisites to enter the field of diplomacy. A degree in a relevant subject can help hone the abilities needed to succeed in the industry. Writing assignments are often very important for university students.

Most colleges require that students complete at least three academic papers per semester. And since these papers usually take several weeks to complete. You must learn to give yourself plenty of time to craft a high-quality piece. It would be best if you always doubled check the assignment requirements before starting to write your paper. Make sure you’ve covered every aspect of the assignment, use a Fixgerald plagiarism checker to ensure your papers are unique and meet the necessary requirements, and check your topic selection to referencing style. If you need help figuring out where to start, consider asking your professor for guidance.

Since diplomats might go in several different directions professionally. Knowledge in a wide range of disciplines is useful. All candidates, however, need to have a solid grasp of international relations and diplomacy. So many people choose to major in similar fields.

For example, a master’s in global studies and international relations prepares students to understand the complex interplay of politics, law, economics, and security worldwide.

You can choose from four concentrations. Thid includes global health and development, conflict resolution, diplomacy, and international economics and consulting.

Some Degrees Give You An Upper Hand

U.S. diplomats have varied levels of education, from high school diplomas to doctorates.

In a great number of nations, including the USA and UK, among others. To enter the diplomatic service, one must first score well on a general aptitude test. Candidates for FSO positions should therefore brush up on their foundational skills such as algebra, reading comprehension, and reasoning in advance of taking these exams. The purpose of such tests is to gauge the applicant’s general knowledge.

It is helpful but not required to have a background in history, politics, law, or human rights. Most embassies and consulates will tell you that learning about government and international politics is essential if you want to work in diplomacy as a career.

Learn More Languages

For the simple reason that the United States mandates pre-departure language training for all successful applicants. Being able to speak the language well is not a prerequisite for a diplomatic position. However, your application will stand out more if you have international experience and can speak two or more languages. It is more valuable than knowing Chinese, Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu to be able to speak and write your native language.

After a person has done well enough on the test to get in. Most embassies and consulates will perform exhaustive interviews and screenings to establish if a candidate is qualified for a foreign service position.

Be Prepared For The Challenges

The field of foreign service is a challenging one. The ability to keep in touch with loved ones is a challenge for FSOs. This is because officers frequently have to uproot their families in order to serve, and the job itself can be strenuous. However, this in no way diminishes the value of a career as an FSO. There are always a lot of prospective FSOs and experienced officers at an embassy or consulate, all of whom want to get posted somewhere exciting.

Rookies will generally be sent to the most dangerous places first. Since seniority is the most important factor in finding a new job. If you want to be a good FSO, you need to be able to adjust to change. They need to be self-aware enough to see when they need assistance, and determined enough to put in the work required to succeed.

Conclusion

Are you interested in studying to become a diplomat? There are plenty of opportunities, and you don’t even need to go abroad to get them. The reality is diplomacy is both a science and an art. And because it involves negotiation skills, communication ability, and conflict resolution. It requires specific skills. To become a good diplomat, you need to develop these essential skills.

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Religious diplomacy

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With the pandemic still hanging over our heads and a looming global recession, there’s a simple question before us: Will the world move forward–or fall back?

If we want freedom to spread, open societies to grow, trade to increase, and economic growth to advance, we must all see these as interconnected. They transcend day-to-day politics and grow instead from older, deeper sources, particularly religion. Not the kind imposed from above, but the kind that grows through and across societies and cultures. For those who understand the value of that kind of faith, what has happened in Bali, Indonesia must be engaged.

There is a remarkable convergence of religious wisdom and perspective in Indonesia this week; all the world needs to pay attention, especially the parts that might have looked down on the so-called Global South.  Recent weeks have seen contentious elections and surprising volatility even in the most stable countries. In Sweden, a nationalist party has surged to the forefront. In the United Kingdom, three Prime Ministers in a matter of months.

Beyond and behind these surprising headlines is a gathering global turbulence.

The institutions that inspired free trade, open borders and remarkable economic growth are deteriorating. We have several choices before us.

We can do nothing, but that would hardly provide us much hope for the future. We would only face greater headwinds and worse outcomes. We can replace those institutions, but there are few if any convincing or compelling ideas about what those substitutes would be. Or we can work to critically examine our institutions, see where their foundations are weakening, and seek out thoughtful ways to replenish and renew them.

In Bali, the R20 is launching to pursue that path of replenishment and renewal. Launching through and alongside the Group of 20 or G20, that body’s Religion Forum (“R20” for short) will mobilize faith leaders to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of peace, progress and prosperity in the 21st century. Among the R20’s goals is “infusing geopolitical and economic power structures with moral and spiritual values.”

One of the world’s senior Islamic scholars, Dr. Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary-General of the Muslim World League, announced on day one of the R20: “Major global challenges today are not merely political or economic … They are moral. And navigating the world out of these crises requires moral leadership. This year, the world’s religious leaders are for the first time part of the G20. It is time we acknowledge that religion must be part of the solution for global crises.”

This is exactly what the G20 needs; even many of its most stable countries are stumbling. Like the United States, some lack shared unifying practices–a monarchy is one example–and so their polarization becomes ever more severe. Could thoughtful, compassionate, and genuine religious traditions, developed over generations to become meaningful pillars of diverse societies, be the answer?

As a member of the nobility of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu, a 600-year-old historical thalassocracy, I have dedicated many years working with traditional Islamic monarchies in Southeast Asia and have a unique viewpoint on why the R20 matters. Considering I was born in the Roman Catholic faith, this might be a rare perspective of course, since many in the West–the historic core of the developed world–know comparatively little about Islam or Southeast Asia.

Let alone Islam in Southeast Asia.

Which is why launching the R20 in Indonesia is massively meaningful. Not only is Indonesia the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but it is also of course a G20 economy, a secular democracy, and home to the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a unique organization that represents some 100 million moderate Muslims–a huge portion of Indonesia’s population. Its General Chairman, Mr. Yahya Staquf, is a compelling Muslim thinker and scholar, who has challenged critical misinterpretations of Islam.

In my purview, the NU is a major reason why Indonesia has remained a secular democracy.

To begin this conference in such a dynamic society is incredibly heartening; not only does the Forum gain from the experience of one of the world’s largest Muslim bodies, but that body (the NU) is also closely partnering with the previously mentioned Muslim World League, the world’s largest Islamic non-governmental organization, to build the R20. A wise pairing: NU promotes a pluralistic approach to Islam, with roots in Southeast Asia going back many centuries. That makes the Muslim World League a natural partner and amplifier.

Behind its Secretary-General, Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the Muslim World League has become a remarkable force for moderation, inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, and global religious consciousness. The NU and the MWL reach huge numbers of Muslims, the world’s fastest-growing faith community, much of which lives outside the G20. If the principles of an open world order are to survive and expand, they will need to find ways to engage audiences beyond their borders.

To convince them that their values and many of the original sources of the G20’s dynamism are not at odds. That is something NU, the Muslim World League, and the R20 can well do.

To say nothing of their wider reach. In that spirit, in fact, the Muslim World League announced at the R20 “a new humanitarian fund for the victims of war everywhere.” Not only is the fund not directed only to Muslims, but it also reaches beyond Muslim-majority countries more broadly. Dr. Al-Issa emphasized that Ukraine would be a primary area of the fund’s focus. That is sure to encourage other faith leaders in attendance that the R20 is not just an exercise in lofty rhetoric, but active, on-the-ground engagement.

His Holiness Pope Francis has already addressed the R20; he is joined in his participation by other leaders of the Catholic Church, the world’s largest single faith denomination, as well as senior representatives of the Protestant World Evangelical Alliance, representing 600 million believers in over 140 countries. That is not to mention clergy from Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, as well as other Christian and Muslim traditions. In that spirit, the next G20 (and R20) will take place in India, followed by Brazil; the world’s largest Hindu and Catholic countries, respectively.

India is a place where more conversations about religion, the state and freedom need to happen urgently. About 84% of the world’s population say religion is important, if not very important to them—the future of the world’s freedom and flourishing requires a thoughtful engagement with the thoughtfully religious. Without religious freedom, there cannot be economic freedom. Without economic freedom, we are unlikely to see meaningful, sustainable, long-term human flourishing. And in that aspect, Dr. Al-Issa is right, religion must be part of that process.

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