Saturday, March 03, 2007




Rebellious Diplomat Finds Work as Envoy of the Voiceless


GUILT is not a word that most diplomats would choose to sum up their careers, but Carne Ross uses just that as he looks back at much of his work over 15 years. Guilt, frustration and anger.

Until about two years ago, this 40-year-old with closely cropped hair had a promising career ahead of him in the most prestigious ministry in British government, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. By his 30s, he had done foreign service in Germany and Afghanistan and held a senior post in the British delegation at the United Nations Security Council, where he was responsible for Iraq policy.

He seemed headed toward an ambassadorship as a member of the elite, fast stream of the Foreign Office, followed by a comfortable retirement.

But things fell apart in the most public fashion, unusual among the tight-lipped mandarins of Britain’s foreign service.

Unhappy with American and British claims that Iraq was developing unconventional weapons, Mr. Ross testified in June 2004 at an official inquiry into the British government’s use of intelligence. Two months later, convinced he could no longer work in the foreign service, he resigned. Since then he has written many articles criticizing the American and British rationale for going to war.

But it is his broad critique of the way international diplomacy is conducted that has ruffled feathers the most.

In a book released in April, “Independent Diplomat: Dispatches From an Unaccountable Elite,” he takes the foreign service to task. He says it routinely made “bad decisions in closed rooms” and acted “with little or no consultation of the people in whose name those decisions are made.”

The British Foreign Office scrutinized the book before publication to see if it breached the Official Secrets Act. It deleted some parts and concluded that Mr. Ross “risks damaging the credibility and morale of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the relationship of confidence and trust within the government,” according to a statement later released to the news media.

MR. ROSS seems to relish the controversy. The rupture of his career over Iraq, he says, made him realize that much of what he did in the foreign service gave scant thought to the people he was affecting, and that realization gave rise to his anger.

“Diplomacy is too closed a box,” Mr. Ross said, dominated as it is by the big powers on the United Nations Security Council. Its permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — create policies without insight into their impact, Mr. Ross argues.

“More often than not, we took decisions with little understanding of the situation,” he said. “The people we were discussing were not present, whether it was Iraq, Palestine or the Western Sahara.”

That prompted to him to find a way to help those countries and regions he considered to be excluded from the world of international diplomacy.

The result is a nonprofit agency called Independent Diplomat, like his book. It offers advice to inexperienced or politically marginalized regions and groups. Its motto is “a diplomatic service for those who need it most,” a phrase that some former colleagues derided, he said.

Full article here.

Reminds me of Confessions of an Economic Hitman and Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and its Discontents, among others.

I wonder if these critiques and exposés coming from insiders mean our institutions must prepare to make some changes? Or ar they just attempts by a few individuals to personally repent for what they have been a part of, while accepting that the big wheel keeps on turning.

1 comment:

varske said...

It sounds interesting work but who is going to pay him? As always the little people or NGOs working on their behalf don't have enough money to pay independent diplomats.