Evening Lecture series with Ambassador Johan Verbeke on Diplomacy and International Relations

21 Nov 2017 17:00
5 Dec 2017 18:30

Venue: Institute for European Studies, Pleinlaan 5, floor -1

This event is jointly organised by the Brussels Diplomatic Academy and Institute for European Studies.

As the contestation of political power is on the rise in many corners of the world, the ancient practice of diplomacy is poised for a major comeback. In Europe as well as in Asia, the regional political architecture is becoming the subject of international negotiations, conducted via bilateral as well as multilateral channels alike. How can students of international affairs make sense of a world that has become restless? What added value can diplomats provide in a world of instant communication? What skill-set do aspiring diplomats need to hone to become proficient in their trade? With a view to shaping the next generation of foreign affairs professionals, the Brussels Diplomatic Academy and the Institute for European Studies have invited one of Belgium's top diplomats, Ambassador Johan Verbeke, to address these critical issues.

Lecture 1, Tuesday 24 October, 17:00 - 18:00 - What is Diplomacy? 

In this introductory session we will set the scene for what is to follow in this series of lectures by looking at some basic approaches to the study of diplomacy and, in particular, at the conceptual building blocks of diplomacy, its basic vocabulary: power, influence, (vital) interest, engagement vs. containment, legitimacy vs. efficacy, etc.

Lecture 2, Tuesday 7 November, 17:00 - 18:00 - The Conflict Cycle (Part I): Preventing and Managing Conflict

Preventing conflict is what diplomats are being paid for. But why then has the lofty concept of preventive diplomacy not gotten off the ground. Managing latent conflict situations is about getting a grip on the elusive dialectic between competition and cooperation. We’ll say something on that. Getting to understand the mind of the other is key in preventing and managing conflict. We’ll be looking at some important differences between the Western and the Eastern mind, so often overlooked by otherwise well-meaning diplomats

Lecture 3, Tuesday 14 November - The Conflict Cycle (Part II): War and the Use of Force

When diplomacy fails and conflict could not be prevented or contained, parties may have recourse to the threat with, or effective use of force. Threatening with force is a tricky issue and poses the question of credibility (the ‘red-lines’ issue). And actually using force is even trickier: there are questions of legitimacy (exhaustion of all remedies, proportionality…) and opportunity (so-called wars ‘of choice’ vs. ‘of necessity’).

Lecture 4, Tuesday 21 November - Diplomatic Skills (Part I): Negotiating 

Negotiation is at the core of a diplomat’s job. We will look at the structure of a negotiation setting and the often implicit rules governing its dynamics. We will then study the some ‘golden’ rules of the effective negotiator. We’ll say something on compromises, and in particular on rotten compromises. And we will have again to address the question of the so-called ‘rational empathy’: decoding your adversary’s mind.

Lecture 5, Tuesday 28 November - Diplomatic Skills (Part II): Public Speaking 

In this session we will have a look at the “art” of speech-writing and persuasive speech-delivery (speeching), as well as at techniques of media-handling, including the effective conduct of interviews: what’s to be done and what’s definitely not to be done. We may, time permitting, conclude the series of lectures with a summary-profile of the “ideal diplomat”.

Lecture 6, date to be confirmed - The State of the World - A critical geopolitical Analysis 

In this session, we will put the concepts identified in the first session at work. We will make a critical assessment of the “State of the World” from a macro-political point of view. What are the powers at work in a world characterized by strategic unease, uncertainty and unpredictability? How do the main players – US, Russia, China and Europe – interact? Where does the EU stand in all this?


The lectures will take place on Tuesday evenings. The duration of the lectures is around 60 minutes. Attendance is free of charge. If you are interested in attending, please send an email to bda@vub.ac.be.