Who will be the next generation of Turkish diplomats/firefighters?
The new generation of Turkish diplomats will be deprived of observing a tough negotiator, a talented politician and a state man like Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktaş.
Indeed there will be a lot that will differentiate the new generations of Turkish diplomats from older ones. And it’s only natural. The world is changing, and so does the profession of diplomacy.
In order to answer to the requirements of the contemporary world, as well as to the new realities of Turkish foreign policy, the Foreign Ministry has embarked on an ambitious process of laying the groundwork for the next generation of diplomats, or the firefighters, in the words of Ahmet Davutoğlu.
The old system of recruitment, which remained rather archaic, was replaced. The entrance exam has changed, and the ministry opened its doors to the graduates of several disciplines which previously could not apply.
The current Turkish ambassadors or those who will acquire this title in the short term are mostly graduates of political science (PS), public administration (PA) or international relations (IR). The majority speak French or German as a second foreign language. In the future we will have engineer or historian ambassadors who speak fluent Kurdish, Persian or Arabic.
Two rounds of recruitments have taken place since these amendments. In 2010 with 33 graduates out of the 100 that succeeded in the exams, IR ranked first place out of the disciplines. The second was management with 24. Economy was third with 21, public administration was fourth with nine and law was fifth with five.
Then comes international trade with three persons and the list goes on with four other disciplines. (See the detailed chart below.)
Of the 75 persons that passed the exam in 2011, with 14 graduates IR has fallen to third place, while management (24) and economy (18) ranked first and second. The list continues with political science ranking fourth, economy fifth, law sixth and journalism seventh. It is clear that interest from IR and PA graduates is on the decline. In the future they will no longer constitute the majority in the ministry.
“We want for instance more engineers to enter the ministry. They have a very analytical mind,” an official from the ministry told me.
Seasoned diplomats in the ministry are not against recruiting graduates from other disciplines. What matters, they say, is that a general minimum criterion is maintained and that one asset (speaking fluent Persian, for example) in a candidate should not be a reason to recruit that person at the expense of other criteria.
“I don’t think having been a graduate of PA has necessarily helped me,” one official told me, whereas another, who served in an international economic organization, complained to me of having given too much importance to political issues in the past while approaching economic issues with a bit of contempt.
The ministry will definitely have a different human landscape in the near future, with people with a variety of skill sets. As one diplomat rightly put it, with this type of personnel policy, the Foreign Ministry might need a professional Human Resources department.
No one is saying the old system should have been maintained. What is going on right now is a work in progress, and the guarantee of its success is to keep scrutinizing and review when necessary.
*I can’t say I have always shared his vision, strategy and tactics. But Denktaş was a real statesman (not a head of a half-state as some might suggest) and a really good man. May he rest in peace.