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Shawn Steil, Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam Visits GPS

Valuable insight into the role of ‘Middle-Powers’ Diplomacy with Shawn Steil, Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam 

GPS’ visit from Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam, Shawn Steil turned into a MasterClass on the  challenges and rewards of fruitful and effective diplomacy.

Shawn told us a little bit about what got him interested in international diplomacy in the first place. Clearly, his experiences as an IB Diploma student at Pearson’s College UWC and his experiences with Youth Challenge International had a significant impact on his career choices. We also learned a bit about Shawn’s favorite Vietnamese dishes.

As a fellow IB student, Shawn is one of us!! 

Shawn spoke to us about the importance of having role models in your career and former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Prize winner Lester Bowles Pearson. Pearson was instrumental in helping to create the global human rights protection framework we enjoy today.

Shawn also introduced us to Stephane Dion and Melanie Joly who practiced principled pragmatism’ and ‘pragmatic diplomacy’ and how they contributed to contemporary Canadian foreign relations.

Shawn was very honest with us about the skill-set, knowledge, abilities, know-how, and competencies we should have if we are thinking about going into the foreign service. But he also said that this skill set, especially the willingness to listen and work towards common goals, is a big part of any professional experience.

The focus of the second part of Shawn’s discussion was linked to what he sees as the ultimate goals of diplomacy at the international and regional level. He challenged us to think about the challenges of ‘doing diplomacy’ when engaging in our complex world with single-party states, monarchies, & multi-party states.

What changes and what remains the same.

Important to Shawn clearly is the idea of respect for whomever you are working with and the special conditions that they face. In other words, according to Shawn, empathy is a key tool in the diplomatic tool box that remains on the toolbelt at all times.

Shawn also asked us to consider the different  ‘domestic drivers’ of foreign policy and how these might impact a state’s approach policy making. States, according to Shawn, make connections and reflect on the trade-offs between values-based, interest-based, power-based and rules-based approaches to policy making. 

More regionally, Shawn talked about what it means for Canada to be a ‘Dialogue Partner’ with ASEAN and the role that ASEAN plays in Canadian policy formulation.