• The Open University
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Diplomatic Academy

Diplomacy in the 21st Century

Explore the challenges of diplomacy in the 21st century and the implications for diplomats with this course from the OU and FCO.

Diplomacy in the 21st Century
  • Duration6 weeks
  • Weekly study2 hours

Broaden your understanding of modern diplomacy with diplomats and other experts

This course, developed by the Diplomatic Academy of the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office, offers a platform for a broad discussion about diplomacy.

Although the course is written from a British perspective, the aim is to start a global conversation. You will focus on the practice, theory and tradecraft of diplomacy, rather than foreign affairs and international policy.

On the course you will learn about diplomatic representation; digital diplomacy; women, gender and diplomacy; theories of diplomacy; leading diplomatic missions; and diplomatic tradecraft including networking and reporting.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second MARTIN DAY: My two tips on networking would be around never forgetting that you might have a revolution in your country tomorrow. So the person who wants to see you today, who seems very unimportant and perhaps even boring, might become incredibly important tomorrow.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 seconds JENNIFER CASSIDY: Diplomats, just like politicians and just like journalists, are in the credibility business. And what we are seeing more and more when we analyse the use of diplomatic accounts online is that we must be careful that the gap between rhetoric and practise does not develop and widen any more than it has done.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds SIMON ROFE: The idea that diplomacy was secret and hidden away - actually there’s a greater degree of public diplomacy, and diplomacy happens in that forum to a far greater degree.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds JON BENJAMIN: We are not a news agency. What we can do, that is of value added, is analysis.

Skip to 0 minutes and 56 seconds JOANNA ROPER: If you look around the world, there are many countries now that really understand how gender equality and our foreign policy, our domestic policy, our defence policy, our development policy is really important.

Skip to 1 minute and 12 seconds MENNA RAWLINGS: Hello, I’m Menna Rawlings. I’m the British High Commissioner here in Australia, where we conducted a number of same-sex marriage ceremonies over the last two years.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 seconds ABIGAIL FOATY: And if the person wants a different person or has a different perception, well, I just told you that, I am the one representing the High Commission here. And this is my role. This is my job.

What topics will you cover?

  • Overview of modern diplomatic representation
  • The new tools of social media and wider digital diplomacy
  • The history of women in British diplomacy and the gender equality agenda
  • Overview of some key theories of diplomacy
  • The challenges of expeditionary diplomacy and leadership in a diplomatic context
  • Diplomatic tradecraft including protocol, networking and reporting

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Discuss the nature and challenges of modern diplomatic representation including the role of values, diversity and sub-state diplomacy.
  • Evaluate the role of social media and new policy and communications tools within the wider context of digital diplomacy.
  • Describe the key developments in the history of women in British diplomacy.
  • Engage with the emerging gender equality agenda in multilateral and other forums.
  • Assess the relevance of some core diplomatic theories and models to modern diplomacy.
  • Discuss the challenges of leadership in the varied contexts of the modern diplomatic mission.
  • Identify the critical aspects of informal protocol, networking and reporting as part of modern diplomatic tradecraft.

Who is the course for?

The course is for all UK government staff working on international issues, in the UK and overseas and colleagues from other Diplomatic Academies and Ministries of Foreign Affairs worldwide. It will also be suitable for people working in thinktanks, academics and professionals in any sector whose work has a close relation to diplomacy, students in fields such as diplomatic studies, and anybody interested in the nature of a diplomatic career.

Who will you learn with?

Senior L&D Adviser (Climate Diplomacy) at UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. L&D professional and diplomat. Head of Learning for Diplomatic Academy 2014-19. Chartered Fellow FCIPD.

I am the chair of FCO Women. This internal FCO network promotes gender equality. I have been in the FCO for 12 years working on climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, economics and science.

Academic Head of Digital Learning & Reader in Diplomatic and International Studies CISD at SOAS University of London. Lead Academic consultant to the Diplomacy in the 21st Century course.

Diplomatic Academy, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established1969
  • LocationMilton Keynes, UK
  • World rankingTop 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

The FCO promotes the United Kingdom’s interests overseas, supporting our citizens and businesses around the globe.

Diplomatic Academy

Ensuring we all have the knowledge and expertise we need to represent the UK and pursue the national interest.