Diplomacy innovation for a more complex Asia
New Director of Asialink Diplomacy, Erin Watson-Lynn, is building a ‘Diplomacy Lab’ for Track II activity.
2016 was a watershed year for diplomacy in Asia. There is deepening competition over the South China Sea, unexpected partnerships between regional leaders, and uncertainty ahead for regional trade. According to Bilahari Kausikan, Singapore’s Ambassador-at-Large and keynote speaker at the Asialink Singapore Chairman’s Dinner, Asia’s future will be increasingly ambiguous and uncertain.
This strategic environment poses challenges for Australia’s diplomacy. Changes in regional security and economics have already shaped major government decisions on foreign investment, defence procurement and trade diplomacy. In recognition of Asia’s changing landscape, the Australian government is now preparing a foreign policy White Paper, the first document of its kind in more than a decade.
Australia must develop a more innovative tool kit for regional engagement. Navigating an uncertain and ambiguous Asia requires greater collaboration in the region over ideas, stronger partnerships among regional institutions and diversifying the regional links between people. To drive this process forward in 2017, Asialink has appointed Erin Watson-Lynn, a leading expert in policy innovation and youth diplomacy.
As the new Director of Diplomacy, Erin will pilot a series of networking and engagement projects in a ‘Diplomacy Lab’. This is an experimental hub for regional Track II activity, which targets younger voices and innovative thinkers in Asia. Building on Asialink’s strength in high-level dialogue and incorporating key findings from other projects, including the Women in Leadership video series, the Diplomacy Lab will explore new areas of opportunity in Australia-Asia relations.
As part of this initiative Asialink Diplomacy is delivering the inaugural Australia-ASEAN Emerging Leaders Program (A2ELP). There is a dynamic community of purpose-driven enterprises throughout the region which are tackling socio-economic challenges. Announced by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at this year’s Australia-ASEAN summit, A2ELP will bring together pioneers working in social impact across ASEAN and Australia to share insights and develop connections. Over an 8 day period in March 2017, 15 participants will take part in a series of workshops, field trips, and networking events with industry experts in Melbourne and Sydney.
Overseen by Asialink Diplomacy’s Project Manager, Nisha Srinivasan, A2ELP will leverage Asialink’s regional network to seed ideas for collaboration in the future. Along with several other projects being designed in the Diplomacy Lab in 2017, this program will channel the latest regional thinking to strengthen policy collaboration and public understanding.