• Grassroot Diplomat Announces Diplomatic and Political Award Recipients

    London, UK – May 15, 2014 – Hosted by TV Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, Grassroot Diplomat announced last night the six winners for the 2nd Annual Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards in partnership with The May Fair Hotel. The Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards recognises the achievements of UK-based diplomats and politicians who are representing civilian interests at the highest level in areas of policy, social and business.

    Recipients were chosen out of 42 shortlisted nominees in the categories of Policy Driver, delivering policy changes that positively affect local or international communities, Social Driver, working closely with non-government organisations for social projects, and Business Driver, supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.

    The winners of the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award are:

    - Cllr Sanchia Alasia (Barking and Dagenham) – Policy Driver Winner for Equality and Diversity

    - HE Dr Mohammad Daud Yaar (Afghanistan) – Policy Driver Winner for Protecting Women’s Rights

    - Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon OBE – Social Driver Winner for Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

    - HE Marie-Pierre Lloyd (Seychelles) – Social Driver Winner for MPower Seychelles

    - Chloe Smith MP (Norwich North) – Business Driver Winner for Norwich for Jobs Initiative

    - HE Edward Turay (Sierra Leone) – Business Driver Winner for Positive Business Development

    (PIC: Winners of the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards 2014 with Founding Director Talyn Rahman-Figueroa)

    Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, founder of Grassroot Diplomat notes that: “For our society to function, it is crucial that such outstanding policy makers continue to represent civil interests, to be ambassadors of this cause and push for people’s interest above and beyond political and national interest. We must focus on bringing more positive role models into society and diminish negative news - that is the grassroot diplomacy way”.

    Ms Rahman-Figueroa wore an African-style dress made by Senegalese designer Khadim Sek.

    POLICY DRIVER WINNERS

    Political Policy Driver winner Cllr Sanchia Alasia was chosen for her work on equalities and diversity, successfully winning her position in May 2010 by unseating BNP member Robert Bailey to become the youngest woman on the council. Now, as part of the Labour Black Women’s network, Cllr Alasia mentors women as well as pointing them to shadowing opportunities, so that they can learn more about how to get involved in local politics and public life.

    A dedicated campaigner, the Ambassador of Afghanistan Dr Mohammad Daud Yaar has made it his mission to protecting women’s rights in Afghanistan as the most important issue to the development of his country. Dr Yaar has managed to create an environment where men are encouraged to talk about women’s rights without the attachment of traditional stigmas within a strongly patriarchal society and thanks his wife Sadia Yaar for providing him with the strength to do so on an official capacity.

    SOCIAL DRIVER WINNERS

    A charity born out of a personal tragedy, Baroness Lawrence was awarded as the Social Driver winner for founding the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust following the murder of her son Stephen in 1993. The charity promotes a positive community legacy in her son’s name and creates an environment of social inclusion and empowerment for youths in Britain. Her charity offers free training workshops to local communities in Lewisham, Greenwich and Southwark in providing young people with tangible skills and access to professions including music, media and law.

    On the diplomatic side, the High Commissioner of Seychelles Ms Marie-Pierre Lloyd was chosen for establishing MPower Seychelles, an NGO aimed at empowering vulnerable islanders including unemployed, addicts, ex-convicts and teenage mothers. The High Commissioner firmly believes that people should be at the centre of policy, programme or project, focusing on human dignity and well-being.

    BUSINESS DRIVER WINNERS

    Chloe Smith MP of Norwich North conceived and designed the Norwich for Jobs campaign, bringing together a team from local firms to the Chambers of Commerce and charities to create jobs for young people. Since its launch in January 2013, Norwich for Jobs has directly brought about over 400 jobs and apprenticeships for Norwich young people by providing businesses with the confidence to open jobs and breaking the stereotype of the “lazy” youth on Jobseeker’s Allowance.

    Diplomatic winner HE Edward Turay of Sierra Leone has done remarkable work in galvanising diaspora communities across Europe, bringing better visibility to his country and people. With extremely stretched resources, the High Commissioner also heads diplomatic missions in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland which he frequents to every two months. In the UK, the embassy manages a 100,000 people diaspora with 25,000 Sierra Leone civilians living in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark alone.

    HONOUREES

    With so many outstanding candidates, Grassroot Diplomat also provided honourable mention to David Ward MP (Bradford East), Cllr Abdul Quadir (Camden), Stephen Lloyd MP (Eastbourne), HE Hamzah Thayeb (Indonesia), HE Aino Lepik von Wiren (Estonia), and the Young Diplomats in London Association for their outstanding contribution to society in the political and diplomatic arena.

    A special “Certificate of Excellence” was offered to guest speak Professor Yongjun Huang, CEO of President Xi Jinpings Thought and Study Centre for his contribution to cultural and international diplomacy.

    A special thanks to Board Member Dr Paul Clark and David Blunkett MP for their contribution to the eulogy of late Paul Goggins MP who was nominated for the Policy Driver category for the award and to HE Williams Nkurunziza of Rwanda for his heart-wrenching rendition from his poetry anthology “Pangs of Life” in commemoration of the Rwandan genocide.

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  • Saying Goodbye to Paul Goggins MP

    It is with heavy heart that we pay tribute to Paul Goggins, Member of Parliament for Wythenshawe and Sale East. We are deeply shocked to hear of his untimely passing and would like to pass on our condolences to Paul's immediate team, his friends and family, to the Labour party and the House.

    Paul was shortlisted for the 2nd Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards for his work on looked after children retaining a form of Child Trust Fund. Established in 2002, the Child Trust Fund sought to ensure that every child, including those in care, has a savings account costing £500m a year to run. The scheme was subsequently abolished in 2010 to make way for government savings but scrapping the fund meant that children in care would fall behind in grasping essential lessons of financial responsibility and more likely to create bad habits of debt at a later stage in life.

    In his own words, Paul Goggins told our Director that: “There should be no different between the parties when it comes to children in care. We should use every opportunity to support those children who are amongst the most disadvantaged in our society… We need to establish a way to open these accounts and make sure that additional payments are made.”

    As a former social worker, Paul had strong experience working with children in difficult environments and after being Minister at the Home Office and Northern Ireland Office, the MP decided to re-focus his efforts back into children in care. To start, he proposed a new savings account based on the government’s Junior ISA to allow children in care for more than a year to have a savings account with an automatic balance of £200. The child is then encouraged to add to the savings in their own capacity until at the age of 18. This simple proposal would cost the government £6.6m a year and has so far provided over 40,000 children with the opportunity to build up a “nest egg” for their own future. The initiative has been backed the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and all main parties.

    While our time with Paul was short, he amazed us and it was apparent that he was a sensitive man who took great care and attention on ensuring that the underprivileged were not forgotten by government.

    Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, Director of Grassroot Diplomat recalls:

    “In my time meeting Paul in November last year, I was deeply moved by his sense of responsibility to children in care. He clearly had a passion for this subject and cared about the welfare of people in general. I greatly admired him for his work, and we hope that his peers and colleagues continue the work he started with the Fostering Network and ensure that every opportunity is taken to support those children who are amongst the most disadvantaged in our society. I am simply echoing the words he spoke to me and am gratified to have met him. He spoke with great passion and enthusiasm, and it is truly a loss for the government to lose a dedicated and inspirational man.”

    Dr Paul Clark, Non-Executive Director of Grassroot Diplomat, who worked with Paul Goggins directly in the House fondly notes that:

    “Paul was a genuinely nice, caring person who would always put himself out for you. Apart from being an immediate colleague for 13 years whilst I was in the House, I worked with Paul in the Home Office team. He will be a great loss to the House - a well-respected person from all sides.”

    In tribute to his memory, the team at Grassroot Diplomat will pay a moment of silence to Paul Goggins at the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Awards ceremony on Thursday 3rd April, which is likely to be held at the House of Commons.

    Our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time.

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  • Celebrities Grace the Grassroot Diplomat Launch Event

    On Tuesday 26th November, Grassroot Diplomat held its official launch reception in celebration of its new board of governance, kindly hosted by HE Konstantin Dimitrov at the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria. The reception was important to showcase the vision and growth of this diplomatic consultancy to a VIP audience consisting of Ambassadors and State officials, distinguished business leaders, top academics and “think tank” pioneers and supporters of diplomatic innovations.

    The event was a big success with film makers, TV stars, business leaders and Ambassadors provided the red carpet treatment and antique wines brought directly over from Bulgaria.

    In his opening speech, Board Director Mr Abbey King Khawaja noted that:

    "Today, we must become less re-active and more pro-active. We must reinforce our communication outreaches - nationally, regionally and globally - to inform, inspire and to persuade. I believe that Grassroot Diplomat is a reflection of the undeniable desire of people around the world for better understanding among nations. A strong desire to work together, to find solutions and to reach our goals we face in every region and countries of the world."

    His Excellency Mr Konstatin was incredibly supportive with the cause, making nostalgic remarks on the impact being an Honouree of the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award has had on the Bulgarian School that the embassy supports. This was the starting point of a blossoming relationship between the embassy and Grassroot Diplomat.

    A humorous yet enlightened keynote address by Dr Jamie Shea of NATO (Deputy Secretary-General) offered fascinating insights to the renewal of diplomacy and strongly advocated Grassroot Diplomat as being the modernised United Nations that works in favour of the people’s interests with big businesses. Dr Shea was delighted to have christened a new organisation that not only favoured the work of the grassroots but did not ignore the relevancy of the private sector and celebrities in bringing issues forward to the core.

    The young director and founder of Grassroot Diplomat Ms Talyn Rahman-Figueroa expressed that “we have an equal obligation to ensure that diplomacy opens access to trade where society at large will benefit” and was adamant in stressing the advanced of working with governments, big businesses and celebrities who could care more about humanity.

    TV presenter Anthea Turner stole the limelight when she arrived with Dragon’s Den star Richard Farleigh who showed a clear interest in wanting to further support the organisation as a potential Patron. Guest stars also included TV psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos, film maker Tace Bayliss, MTV presenter Kristiane Backer, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba of the Commonwealth Secretariat and Yo Sushi! Founder Simon Woodroffe MBE.

    The reception was kindly sponsored by Alex Star Floral Design, Bulgarian Wine Direct, Regal Wines Selection Catalogue Project, and canapé supplier Young and Wild. Further support was provided by Edgar Cardoso who shared his beatiful symphonies with our distinguished audience, Andrea Land and Valentino Laz who put together the launch video and animations, and Sandra Francius for her continued support for the growth and development of this young organisation.

    Photos of the event can be found on our Facebook page.

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  • The Middle East and West Africa: The Politics and Security of Oil

    On Tuesday 18th June, Grassroot Diplomat was kindly invited to an event organised by the Ambassador Partnership. As part of its re-branding launch with the Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST), the event analysed oil security in Africa and the Middle East with former British Ambassador Sir William Patey KCMG and former Ghanaian Ambassador Patrick Hayford as its keynote speakers.

    With the rise of terrorism, piracy and resource conflicts, oil security is becoming even more of a complex field to work in. All key stakeholders are dealing with new realities and new layers of accountability that largely involves the grassroots. While Sir Patey provided a good insight into how the Arab States respond to threats, risks and challenges, Mr Hayford asked many high hitting questions that are already being addressed by Grassroot Diplomat.

    Throughout his presentation, Mr Hayford threw questions at an audience made up of corporate lawyers, financial advisors and resource consultants as to whether parliamentarians were competent and had adequate access to real time information, and if bills were just written by oil companies? Having left the service, Mr Hayford commented on the inefficient lack of regulation and legislation managed by government and how appalled he was that the grassroots were continually left out of discussions that directly affected them.

    The grassroots are becoming better mobilised in making their voices heard by companies and governments. Local people are putting pressure on industries and the government, who are backed up by their own lawyers and making their impact felt by those at the top. Communities impacted by oil drilling should be brought into discussion, but unfortunately, it is still the case that contracts are made first with the people left as an afterthought.

    As part of its partnership with Ambassador Partnership, MAST deals with commercial disputes with a political dimension. There is, indeed, a need for corporations to work closely with diplomats to ensure that there is security on land and sea, but it is also important that people of all nation and divide talk together on common grounds.

    The words echoed by Mr Hayford reflected very strongly to the work and mission of Grassroot Diplomat, and we would like to thank Ambassador Partnership for their continued support and insight to the complex issue of oil and security in Africa and the Middle East.

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  • Labour Mobility within the EU

    Written by Graham Cromie

    On Thursday 13th June 2013, Grassroot Diplomat had the honour in attending a discussion on the European Union by invitation of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland.

    The meeting opened with the Deputy Head of Mission Dariusz Laska, identifying the benefits of free movement of Labour and highlighting examples of the Polish work force. His remarks were followed by Chris Bryant MP, arguing that we should challenge assumptions that immigration is ‘automatically bad’. He outlined that our ‘treasured’ bars and restaurants would simply have not been workable over the last 10 years if it wasn’t for labour migrants. He believed it was legitimate for the government to assess whether the migrant has a reasonable chance of finding a job and that one shouldn’t be let in on a wing and a prayer. The government, however, should have managed the process better using ‘Transitional Controls’, as our communities were simply not ready for the rapidity of the process.

    Jonathan Portes, from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, detailed the economic impacts of labour migration stating that it created 1% of GDP for the exchequer. It could possibly be argued that there was some negative impact on wage levels but at any rate, all the other advantages that migration brings to the economy outweigh the negative.

    John Wastnage from the British Chambers of Commerce said that the business community search for three particular characteristics for in the labour market: skills, experience, attitude. Only 2% said that lower wages was a key factor, a figure which challenges a lot of perceptions on Migrant Labour. The business community stated that whilst it would be ideal to recruit more locally, protectionism was not possible in the market. Hiring those with the best skills, wherever they came from, was the most important factor. Lack of experience and unpreparedness is said to be a problem in the current market, but this is not just a solo migrant problem but an issue to be tackled by a group from the ground-up with better education, skills and experience. The panel agreed that a better skill pool to choose from leads to increased prosperity. The British business community say a bigger push is needed for those with global skills which include linguistic skills, social connections in other countries and mixed cultural understanding. These combined will help to develop bonds with other markets.

    The discussion then moved towards the political debate and current wrangle over welfare reform. Pawel Swidlicki of Open Europe argued that freedom of movement has been positive for everyone including UK and the EU - the problem, however, was communicating this. The current storm over ‘Welfare Tourism’ was unfounded. Statistics showed that other EU citizens were more employed in the UK than UK citizens. He argued that whilst freedom of movement must stay, access to welfare can be re-negotiated, suggesting that wealthier countries need to be able to regulate their social provision. Jackie Morin from the European Commission made the point that equal contribution in social security should result in equal treatment.

    Juan Camillo Cock from the Migrants’ Right Network argued that more work needs to be done to protect migrant workers from exploitation in the workplace. He outlined the nature of migrants not knowing the rules on the law of minimum wage, shifts, illegal deductions and unclear payslips. This is clear illustrations that more work needs to be done to educate and protect such migrants.

    Other common perceptions were tackled including the fact that many migrants are not ‘poor’ but are corporate executives and other professionals, a point outlined by Vera Spender Kuobkova representing the Czech British Chamber of Commerce in London. All in all, the panel agreed that we should take a more positive and less threatening approach to labour migration, one that leads to better policy and a more coherent future for the EU as a whole.

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