Making Canadian diplomacy smart and effective again

In an insightful article based on his testimony to the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2017, former diplomat Daryl Copeland makes a persuasive case for putting culture, science and diplomacy back at the heart of Canadian international policy:

For too long, culture, science and diplomacy have suffered from neglect in Canada…. Rather than looking at them as esoteric outliers in the overall scheme of things, we need to see them for what they are: Undervalued instruments of statecraft. And they should once again be integral to Canada’s contemporary image, reputation and brand.

Copeland defines culture as the norms, customs, characteristics, traditions, artistic expression and behaviour of human groups, and science as an empirical and objective form of knowledge creation and civilization’s best bet for achieving progress. Diplomacy is the management of international relations characterized by dialogue, negotiation, compromise, representation, problem solving and complex balancing.

Public diplomacy is the term for when governments bundle culture and science with education, media relations and advocacy to pursue interests internationally, promoting policies and projecting values.

Copeland recalls how science and diplomacy once enjoyed “pride of place” in Canadian foreign policy, with stellar examples including our deep involvement in the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) negotiations, environmental accomplishments from the Acid Rain Treaty to the Montreal Protocol, and essential but generally unheralded achievements like the Global Partnerships Program.

But then came Stephen Harper’s war on science, culture and diplomacy and its devastating results:

Once respected as a peacekeeper, longstanding proponent of North-South relations, and determined promoter of sustainable development — an honest broker, helpful fixer and provider of good offices and innovative ideas — Canada has come to be regarded as an obstruction to progress, a country with little to bring to the table. Unrecognizable to many of its citizens, former partners and friends, the country has become something of an international pariah, the country that others don’t want in the room. – Science and diplomacy after Canada’s lost decade: Counting the costs, looking beyond (Daryl Copeland, Policy Paper for CGAI, November 2015).

To restore culture, science and diplomacy to the heart of our foreign policy and “international branding” once again, Copeland makes a series of concrete recommendation including to:

  • Identify science, culture and diplomacy as international policy priorities within a comprehensive framework, strategy and plan.
  • Reinvest and rebuild.
  • Reinstate and augment the panoply of promotional programs cut by the Conservatives.
  • Ensure there is a sufficient international component to the welcome increased funding for science already committed by the Justin Trudeau government.

The ultimate result is not only smarter Canadian foreign policy but a strengthening of the fabric of international relations:

Culture and science with the international political agency inherent in diplomacy can help build relationships that go beyond commercial or state-centric alternatives. These currents run deeper and tap into something very elemental and very human.

For the full article, click: Rediscovering Canada’s undervalued statecraft tools  (Daryl Copeland,, 24 May 2018). For the policy paper on which it was based, click: Science and diplomacy after Canada’s lost decade: Counting the costs, looking beyond (Daryl Copeland, CGAI, November 2015).

For the full testimony, click: Copeland Senate Testimony, December 2017.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons (Lester B. Pearson Building, 125 Sussex Drive).

Tags: "peacekeeper", Acid Rain Treaty, CGAI, culture and diplomacy, Daryl Copeland, Diplomacy, foreign policy, honest broker, Montreal Protocol, public diplomacy, Science diplomacy, Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Stephen Harper, UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)