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Uniting Diplomacy and Science to Tackle Global Challenges

DUCIGS' Anticipatory Diplomacy program emphasizes foresight and preparation

Uniting Diplomacy and Science to Tackle Global Challenges

A panel of two diplomats and a scientist called for redefining the role of diplomacy by creating a diplomacy-science partnership to tackle global challenges.

The discussion last week is part of Duke’s Center for International & Global Studies/Rethinking Diplomacy Program, which the center launched in January 2020.

Now the focus of the program is on Anticipatory Diplomacy, defined as the need to address global issues in partnership with science to determine how and when to address these issues before positions harden and developing solutions becomes even more difficult. (Watch the discussion on YouTube.)


W. Robert Pearson is a retired ambassador who served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2000 to 2003, and was director general of the U.S. Foreign Service from 2003 to 2006. He’s a fellow with the DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program.

“Young Americans who came of age in the 21st century have never actually known a time of peace and tranquility.”

“911 was followed by four Middle East wars that have not added to America power and influence. There was the great recession of 2008. And from that widespread unemployment arose a long simmering resentment of the American middle-class about their purchasing power and their loss of confidence and a better life for themselves and their children over a period of five decades since 1970.”

“(We’re) seeing America pulling back from the world. China has announced that it would replace us as the preeminent nation on earth, and following its own historical dream, Russia now is trying to call back the countries that the Soviet Union lost when it dissolved.”

“So the great game is back with us, and it may be with us indefinitely. Around the world, long ignored climate change now is producing more storms, more fires, more floods than ever before, even as the earth continues to warm and the seas continue to rise.”

“We have a pandemic unknown for a century that has already killed millions and we still don't actually know what the final effective response will be to that concern. Space is today's new Wild West with essentially unlimited competition among state and private actors.”

“The broader and more frequent use of diplomacy in multilateral settings, the partnership of good science and good diplomacy, the use of the collaborative multi-stakeholder process, and the expanded foresight to what is coming and (to) prepare for it is our proposal for facing the uncertain future with confidence, and that is Anticipatory Diplomacy.”  


Marcie B. Ries is a retired ambassador with more than 35 years of diplomatic experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. 

“On what I would call new frontiers -- space, the Arctic, all of these are problems of diplomacy, but they're also will have very important scientific components. So I think this initiative to look at how we can better collaborate between science and diplomacy is extremely timely because it addresses the very big problems that we're facing today.”

“Very often we go for the operational because it's the necessity, that's the thing that we have to do. That said, one of the things that we recognize and our American diplomacy project is that strategic thinking is a must for our diplomats today. … So the idea of anticipatory diplomacy seems to me to be a good idea.”

Lyndsey Gray, a global health researcher, microbiologist and infectious disease epidemiologist, Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning Fellow, chair of the National Science Policy Network Diplomacy Committee

“When I think of this phrase anticipatory diplomacy, what I think of is boldly thinking of future solutions that also include a high degree of resiliency and sustainability. We need solutions that are not just going to address future problems, but will also stand the test of time and the years to come.”

“When you think about what it takes to craft a scientist, they are spending years of their life pursuing a question that is inherently rooted in the unknown. They are given something that has never really been truly solved. And they are attached over a long term period of time to do their best to find answers that takes an incredible degree of personal and institutional resiliency to address.”

“And while that journey is inherently individualistic, it can't be done in isolation. Scientists have to work in teams in order to find solutions to these matters of discovery on unknown questions that are presented to them.”

“I believe that's the type of framework that we need (when) we think about some of these larger looming problems in today's conversation.”

Meet the Participants

Lyndsey Gray
Lyndsey Gray is a global health researcher, microbiologist and infectious disease epidemiologist who lead disease prevention studies in Latin America and West Africa. Previously, she was also a community health Peace Corps volunteer in Peru. She is currently a Science Diplomacy Exchange and Learning Fellow through the National Science Policy Network, chairing the organization’s Science Diplomacy Committee.

W. Robert Pearson
Former ambassador W. Robert Pearson served as U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2000 to 2003. He was director general of the U.S. Foreign Service from 2003 to 2006, repositioning the American Foreign Service to meet the new challenges of the 21st century. Pearson is the president of American Diplomacy Publishers and DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program Fellow. 

Marcie B. Ries 
Marcie B. Ries is a retired ambassador with more than 35 years of diplomatic experience in Europe, the Caribbean and the Middle East. She served as head of the U.S. Mission in Kosovo (2003-2004), United States Ambassador to Albania (2004-2007) and as United States Ambassador to Bulgaria (2012-2015). She was the senior State Department representative on the negotiating team for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between the United States and Russia. Ries is also a former senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where she co-authored the report, “A U.S. Diplomatic Service for the 21st Century.” 

The DUCIGS/Rethinking Diplomacy Program is supported by a grant from the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund.