CHICAGO — DePaul University associate professor David Wellman, an expert in the relationship between diplomacy, interreligious engagement and ecological ethics in building bridges across boundaries of difference, believes that transprofessional diplomacy — involving a coordinated effort on the part of track one, track two and track three diplomats — could play an important role in addressing complex challenges such as the rise of nationalism in Europe.
“The rise of nationalism in Europe is in part a response to a number of waves of immigrants seeking asylum and residency from outside the continent. Increasing waves of immigrants have led some European Union member states to see the attraction of taking unilateral actions which are not coordinated with other member states,” Wellman said.
“This creates a clear challenge for nation-state diplomats. There are a number of track two diplomatic actors — non-governmental organizations (NGOs) — who have addressed these developments in highly creative and positive ways. Their work builds bridges among different ethnic and religious communities. These organizations have been addressing this problem and taking it head-on very eloquently, very thoughtfully. They don't have the same power as nation-state diplomats, but groups such as Coexister in France or the Muslim Jewish Conference, a Vienna based NGO, are doing work that could prove to be a very important source of information and strategies for track one diplomats,” he said.
“NGOs and individual citizen diplomats are making choices about building bridges and aren't beholden to the latest election or the fear of losing a future election. Policy around the world is often driven in no small part by leaders anticipating elections and looking to keep their power. There are certain perceptual and actual constrictions on nation-state diplomats, including that a foreign service officer is obliged to reflect the worldviews of the leaders they represent and convey the positions of the administrations they serve. If you are a track two or grassroots diplomatic actor you aren't beholden to an electoral cycle, and you thus have certain freedoms to do things that a nation-state foreign service officer is not able to do,” Wellman said.
Areas of expertise
In addition to being an expert on transprofessional diplomacy, Wellman has done research on European Union integration, track two diplomacy, the role of religious culture in building bridges across boundaries of difference, and the perspective which holds that the ecological crisis can provide the language of diplomacy for the twenty-first century.
He can speak on the unusual amount of U.S. ambassador positions still left unfilled (19 vacant, 29 nominated but not confirmed as of Nov. 14, 2019) and what that projects to America’s allies.
“It tells our allies a couple of things when we do not post an ambassador in their capital. One, it means that we aren't prioritizing that relationship. Two, in the absence of filling that position, we are depriving ourselves of a clear voice which can speak on our behalf and represent us in the way that only an ambassador can represent us as the leader of a diplomatic delegation,” Wellman said.
Wellman is the author of “Sustainable Diplomacy: Ecology, Religion and Ethics in Muslim-Christian Relations” and “Sustainable Communities.” He is the inaugural director of The Grace School of Applied Diplomacy, DePaul’s newest school that focuses on empowering a diverse generation of diplomats from a wide range of professions with the education and skills needed to develop solutions to society’s most vexing challenges.