$6 million gifted to train diplomats on conflict resolution
“Mandela and De Klerk” is a 1997 drama on the negotiations between F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela to end the South African apartheid. Those curious about learning how the two leaders succeeded in ending apartheid can watch this movie in addition to reading a pile of books about it.
But beginning this spring, a group of young diplomats will have the chance to meet F.W. de Klerk in person and hear from him about the secrets to conflict resolution.
De Klerk will be just one of hundreds of top politicians, diplomats and executives who plan to share their experiences with future practitioners at the Kent Global Leadership Program on Conflict Resolution, an initiative undertaken by Muhtar Kent, former chairperson and chief executive officer of Coca-Cola Co.
Kent, who retired as chairperson of Coca-Cola’s board of directors last April after 41 years with the company, has been preoccupied with conflict throughout his professional life.
“There is conflict everywhere: between states, within companies, within families. Sixty percent of marriages in the U.S. ends in divorce,” Kent told a group of journalists last week in Istanbul.
Kent partnered with Columbia University’s School of International and Public affairs (SIPA), which will inaugurate this spring the program to train future leaders thanks to a $6 million gift from him.
Kent’s contribution to the program is not limited to financial support.
He seems to have given a lot of thought on how best to prepare the world’s future diplomats to deal with the world’s most complex conflicts.
“It is an unprecedented program,” Kent told journalists.
Twice a year, six to eight countries from different geographies will be selected and will be asked to send three or four of their young and bright diplomats to New York for a two-week intensive training session.
They will meet the top leaders from what Kent calls the golden triangle of business, government and civil society.
At that point, the program will benefit from Kent’s personal relationships he has built with the world’s prominent executives who have been already “recruited” by Kent to come and speak to the future global practitioners.
“We will invite Paul Kagame and ask him how he ended the Rwandan genocide. De Klerk will explain how he got Mandela out from prison.”
Madelaine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; Lakhdar Brahimi, former U.N. diplomat; as well as former CEOs of giant companies will meet with future global practitioners at sessions which will be mediated by Kent.
Meanwhile the Defne Muhtar Kent Educational Foundation established in 2010 continues to work as an education bridge between Turkey and the United States.
It is one of the only two American foundations to have a branch in Turkey. Each year, four students from Turkey are sent to the U.S. for college education. So far, the foundation has had two dozen graduates.