The Biggest Disappointment of My Diplomatic Career

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, CEO of Grassroot Diplomat, reflects on the biggest diplomatic failure that was the breaking point in her career.

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I can still remember taking my first steps off of the plane and onto Danish soil, a chill in the brisk, winter air. I was proudly wearing my UN lapel and walking through the security gates as one of the British delegates to the United Nations COP15 summit. Fresh out of university, I was excited to taste the real world of diplomacy, shake the hands of powerful bureaucrats and to have the ears of influential change makers. Little did I know my excitement was simple naivety, and over the 7 days I was in Copenhagen, I frequently found myself sighing in frustration and shaking my head in anger. I felt stuck, helpless, and wanting nothing more than to scream out my aggravation. Why did no-one seem to care about climate change? Why could none of the politicians see how vital it was to work to lower our emissions, and look beyond the greed of wanting to grow one’s own economy? What was the point of making money when we were depleting the jewels of our planet? Why was everyone acting so selfishly?

Rather depicting countries putting aside national interest for the well-being of our future generation, the UN summit instead unveiled the inefficiencies of politics. Diplomats sat at the negotiation table with preconceived plans about the position on climate change, which caused progress and discussion on the issue to come to a screeching halt. Frustrations were felt by all parties involved, and the lack of progress led to 10,000 demonstrators marching the streets of Copenhagen to make their demand for a legally binding treaty clear to decision-makers.

Five years since my first diplomatic mission, I have faith that the Paris COP21 will not repeat the mistakes of previous COPs. Over the years, I have met inspiring individuals who have dedicated their lives to ensuring action is being taken to right the wrongs. Grassroot Diplomat will not stand by inefficient governments. Instead, we will make them stronger. The focus should never be on the next election, but doing the best work now so that your legacy lives on through your achievements. Instead of waiting for opportunities to be presented to you, network with individuals in the today, so they will become your strongest allies tomorrow.

Act now to improve tomorrow. Work together to gain in order to gain individually. Think for others in order to be remembered. Become a Grassroot Diplomat and stand proudly by the people you represent. 

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