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Ambassador of France to Canada shares tips with Global Affairs students

Students in the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program at the Munk School of Global Affairs recently got a glimpse of modern-day international relations from France’s ambassador to Canada.

Ambassador of France to Canada Nicolas Chapuis speaks at the Munk School of Global Affairs

Nicolas Chapuis, Ambassador of France to Canada, shares tips on modern-day diplomacy with Master of Global Affairs students at U of T’s Munk School of Global Affairs. Photo: Adrienne Harry.

Nicolas Chapuis shared his insights into the changing nature of global diplomacy, as well as the need for new diplomats and international liaisons well-educated in the world’s most-pressing issues.

Climate change and the digital revolution are among the factors that have transformed diplomacy in the 21st century. While diplomatic practices are are still grounded in the protection and promotion of national interests, traditional approaches no longer apply.

“Globalization means the world is less protected behind borders,” Chapuis said. “North-South, developed and non-developed…these don’t mean anything anymore. Diplomacy of territories is emerging.”

Chapuis cited climate change as one area where territorial characteristics can lead the way and transcend national borders.

“France, for example, is very centralized but we recognize the rights and strengths of cities and regions,” he explained. “In North America, Vancouver sometimes has more in common with Washington State and California simply because of their regional characteristics, just as Toronto does with Chicago and Detroit.”

Chapuis’ observations struck a chord with second-year MGA student Rebekka Bond, one of nearly 30 at the meeting.

“Diplomacy used to be defined by the strength of bilateral ties between states, but today it is about so much more than that,” said Bond. “The diplomacy of today is about building relationships with non-state actors, from businesses to civil society groups and city councils. It’s about being present online and reaching as many people as you can.”

Chapuis also noted the importance of more transparent diplomacy, saying that he spends more time on Twitter than on diplomatic cables.

“I built a new social network to extend our influence and present all we are doing. The other one per cent of what we do is on a private and very secure channel.”

First-year MGA student Janelle Deniset was inspired by the opportunity to sit across the table from a diplomat known to be accomplished and focused on a collaborative approach to problem solving.

“There is something to be said about Ambassador Chapuis’ optimism,” said Deniset. “While there are innumerable challenges in global affairs, the ambassador engages with these issues with uplifting positivity.”

The meeting is another example of U of T’s fortune to be situated in one of the world’s most culturally diverse and economically dynamic regions, home to numerous diplomatic missions of foreign nations and executive offices of international organizations.

“I’m always impressed with the calibre of guests that we host at the Munk School,” added Bond. “Few students get the opportunity to have a candid conversation with diplomat who has served in Canada, Mongolia, Singapore, Shanghai and Beijing.

“With the Munk School’s emphasis on intersectionality, we frequently host prominent guests from the public, private and non-profit sectors, not just government or foreign-service officials. And they all bring a global perspective to the table.”

Chapuis described Canada as a paradox, saying that the country is very international on the inside, but becoming less so worldwide but by virtue of studying global affairs at the Munk School, the students will be ready to navigate the new landscape.

“We need Canadians who know the world,” Chapuis said. “Ten years ago, there were 10,000 Canadians in France. Last year, there were less than 2,500. Go mobile,” he told them.

For their part, Bond and her fellow students believe they are more than up to the job.

“I like to think that Ambassador Chapuis had the MGA students in mind when he described the characteristics of the next generation of Foreign Service officer.”