Opinion / Christophe cermak
Meet in the middle
Where has diplomacy gone? Despite all our talk about respect for decency and value-based diplomacy in the West, it seems we have strayed further from our goals. Last year was supposed to be the year that everything changed. The United States would be back to promoting the rules-based system, and all of us – governments, media, civil society, and ordinary citizens – could begin to heal our fractured nations. And yet it’s not just the United States that people seem to be having their throats on, with little room for compromise or understanding.
From individuals to superpowers, from China to the United States and Europe, we polarize ourselves into separate camps with little ability to reach consensus. We all stand up for what we believe in, but seem determined to club our opponents into submission in the process. It feels like we have little choice: how to respond to gross human rights violations in China, rule of law violations in Hungary and Poland, or anti-vaccines in the United States and Europe, if not with an intransigent and non-diplomatic position? We sure can’t just keep while speaking and let them get away with it? There is disinformation, populism and autocracies. And to top it off, frankly, after the year we’ve all had, we’re just tired. We do not have the energy to reach out, understand and mediate disputes in our families, communities or nations. They will not understand; better to punish the other side and take refuge. We need a little personal grooming right now anyway.
It’s not really a column of answers (“They never are,” I hear you say) but somehow the approach has to change. The work of diplomacy, of mediation, of compromise, is hard. And it got even more difficult as our world divides into parallel versions of the same reality. So maybe this column is just a nod to those – the UN and its Secretary General Antonio Guterres (on the picture, read my interview with him last year here), peace mediators, compromising politicians and community activists – who always stubbornly try to reconcile differences. While so many of us seem to have given up on trying, let’s salute the people and organizations still looking for answers to end our polarization and let’s walk across the aisle with a helping hand.