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Knowledge is power, the old saying goes, and in the case of the world’s middle powers, it’s potentially even more potent.
That’s why 25 scholars from Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia have gathered for a two-week specialist short course at The Australian National University’s Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs.
The course is part of the academic network of MIKTA – a grouping of the G20’s middle powers, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia, and a key tool in Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s diplomatic efforts.
Ms Bishop has designated the Bell School at ANU as the Australian hub of the MIKTA academic network, which was launched in Seoul this May.
Bell School director Professor Michael Wesley said that the course plays a vital role in enhancing middle power diplomacy and advocacy at the international level, with debate, dialogue and the sharing of ideas helping countries like Australia muscle up on the global stage.
“MIKTA’s academic network provides a forum for an international meeting of minds, which aren’t constrained by official viewpoints, and which can work towards developing shared approaches to and understanding of the globe’s biggest problems.
“As academic diplomacy is a relatively new form of foreign relations, it provides the opportunity to rethink how we do diplomacy. It provides a forum for the exchange of frank views which can be confidently shared regardless of historical legacies between nations.
“Here at the Bell School, we’ve gathered some of the best thinkers on global affairs. Over the two weeks, scholars from the MIKTA academic network have had the chance to engage with these leading minds, learn from them and, I am sure, teach them a thing or two as well.
“This is a chance to drive meaningful and sustainable change on the global stage. It’s an exciting time for diplomacy and I am excited to see where it leads.”
During the two-week short course the 25 scholars have tacked some big challenges, ranging from combating climate change and meeting energy security demands, ensuring equitable development, and meeting emerging security threats.
Erika Ruiz Sandoval, a public servant working in foreign affairs and a professor of international relations from Mexico, is one of the 25 scholars attending the workshop.
She says that MIKTA’s greatest innovation is getting to know people from different member countries.
“MIKTA is taking a risk, in getting close to partners who aren’t traditional partners,” said Ms Ruiz Sandoval.
“But we are learning from the different cultures and the different countries, and also about the hopes and expectations of young people from these countries and what they think the future of their own country might look like.
“Form my time here I’ve learnt that we are more similar than we thought we were. Even culturally. And I think that gives me a rounder image of my partners within MIKTA.
“That is the most valuable thing about being here.”