“How to Run the World” by Parag Khanna

AUTHOR: Parag Khanna

AUTHOR: Parag Khanna

If there is one man who built his name off the international relations brand well, it is Parag Khanna - a global citizen in action, born in India and a resident of Singapore who has lived in more than 4 countries in his lifetime. He also believes that anyone can be a diplomat today but looks at things from a realistic and practical angle that we can appreciate. To help you get into the mindset of this very complex field, we recommend the book “How to Run the World: Charting a Course to the Next Renaissance” by Parag Khanna to support Chapter 1 “Skills for a Changing World” of the Diplomatic Planner. The book paints an excellent picture on how a new kind of diplomacy can make the world a better place, exploring the potential for new and meaningful partnerships across borders.

Khanna starts off by talking how we all want world peace but what is actually stopping us from achieving this? Surely, we all want a more equitable and peaceful world, where all people have access to food, water, shelter and an education. We have been talking about this utopian world for decades and leaders continue to aspire to this when speaking on the world stage. Khanna suggest that simple techniques from the past might be the solution that is updated to our modern world. Just as Grassroot Diplomat believes, Khanna suggests that diplomacy required rethinking, moving away from the ‘old powerful men sitting around a table’ image of how diplomacy is portrayed.  

Thanks to self-interest, the world currently functions like a mosh pit at a rock concert. Different actors are all pursuing their own interests which is creating more chaos than harmony. There’s the Global North, the Global South, politicians, academics, religious groups, and multinational corporations to name a few. Each of these actors are so ambitious in their own goals, it has created a massive power struggle. When all of these forces are colliding wildly, sometimes even violently, around each other, it is difficult to work in peace and harmony. 

To change this situation, Khanna reinstates that we need a new diplomatic system, or what he refers to as “mega-diplomacy” that makes every influential force negotiate and work together with others. In the modern world, especially with the emergent of new technologies, diplomacy is far more than a means of negotiation and defense against war. For diplomacy to be “mega, diplomats themselves must be influential, proactive and collaborative.  

When an organisation like the Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) get together, delegates are not just representing their countries, but also institutions like GreenPeace, the World Trade Organisation, and major oil cartels when simulating multilateral negotiations. These simulations are useful in portraying the true reality of our time where numerous powerhouses influence international relations and the operations of diplomacy. In this sense, diplomacy isn’t just about representing nation states. Instead, new diplomats are activists, academics, celebrities, and even entrepreneurs in our modern age.

As Khanna points out in his analysis, anyone who has influence can be a diplomat and makes a case for how all diplomats should aspire to forge meaningful connections with a wide range of actors who do not officially represent a country. Diplomats must understand the synergy they can achieve through collaborations. Since diplomats are generalists, there is no way for them to understand everything about the world they do in fields like governance and development. They need to team up with people who are experts in their respective fields. By combing their skills with those of others, diplomats can produce better policies and more favourable outcomes.  

Global stability depends on regional stability depends on regional stability which means focusing more on grassroots influence and activities. Khanna mentions that the world is forming new regional systems, each with its own rules and because of their regional nature, these conflicts preclude broader global solutions. Diplomacy can help in this process of building stable regions, but not the kind of state-to-state diplomacy we are used to. A new type of crowdsourcing diplomacy is required similar to the work of Grassroot Diplomat. While there a myriad of organisations, governments and individuals that help weak states, empowering citizens to take action as local diplomats can help to interevent domestic policy and remove rogue leaders.

Helping impoverished countries implies focusing on their immediate needs and building their independence. In the end, dependence on aid impedes poor countries from making true progress. So instead of giving aid, people should focus on the immediate needs of countries by tackling more rooted problems. Their needs extend far beyond money. They also need access to clean water, food, education and shelter. While many organisations attempt to execute this approach, after a few years of implementation, many of the them become bureaucratically overburdened, politicised, and generally less effective. 

In short, the world is a convoluted mess of global actors, each driven by their own self-interest. War, poverty and suffering are rampant and the only way forward is a new diplomatic system that fosters communication among all actors.  

“How to Run the World” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register