Principal, Hertford College, Oxford
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Tom served as Britain’s youngest ambassador, in the Middle East, then penned Naked Diplomacy: Power & statecraft in the digital age. Now on the Global Tech Panel, he sets out three geopolitical trends, five lessons from history and questions that every organisation must urgently address. “Two thirds of today’s young people are likely to work in jobs that do not yet exist.”
Tom Fletcher was the UK’s youngest ever senior ambassador when he was appointed the country’s representative in Lebanon. Prior to his posting he worked as a foreign policy advisor in Downing Street under three Prime Ministers. As well as lessons from dealing with actors in the uniquely combustible region, he considers the nature of leadership and negotiation, the power of social media, and the future of engagement and education.
Tom’s work has taken him from leading reviews into modernising the UN and the UK Foreign Office to advising the Global Business Coalition for Education (which uses the private sector to help fifty-nine million children into school) and teaching as a Visiting Professor of International Relations in New York University and the Emirates Diplomatic Academy. He has also debated with Hezbollah on Twitter, and job-swapped for a day with a teenage Ethiopian housekeeper to highlight the abuse domestic staff often suffer (she, on the other hand, grilled a senior politician and held a press conference).
Believing more of the world wish to co-operate than build walls, Tom looks at the big picture issues of global power structures. With examples, and anecdotes, from meetings with the likes of Merkel and Obama, Tom considers the importance of three elements of leadership – inspiration and vision, engagement, and implementation. His bestseller Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age, looks at the opportunities and challenges a connected world presents to policy makers, asks whether companies like Google should be treated more like a nation than a business and examines the need to revolutionise education to reflect the advances of a digital world. He considers the effects of new technologies on everything from the Sustainable Development Goals to the threat of lethal autonomous weapons to building a stronger international community.
His book Ten Survival Skills for a World in Flux focuses on how ESG has become essential to how we make sense of human endeavours. Tom details what his experience advising the Prime Minister at G20 meetings and climate conferences taught him about the gap between geopolitics and sustainability, outlining a roadmap to more sustainable living in a post-lockdown world. He has also written a thriller, The Ambassador, drawing on his insight into the highest levels of diplomacy.
In his Radio 4 series The Battle for Liberal Democracy, Tom examines what future historians may well regard as the most fundamental issue of the 2020s: the complex, multi-faceted and far-reaching international contest between liberal democracy and its enemies. He draws on his experiences to reveal how this battle has developed since the end of the Cold War.
Now serving as Principal of Hertford College, Tom is Oxford University's youngest Principal. He is a regular contributor to The New York Times, TLS, Prospect, and a commentator on global politics on BBC, CNN, and Sky News. Alongside the serious insights Tom also recounts tales from behind the scenes including why Gordon Brown was laughing when Nicholas Sarkozy visited Number 10, a surprising response to David Cameron’s first G8 summit, and why Obama thought he was unhygienic.
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Tom manages to do something that not many speakers can – make you feel optimistic about current affairs. While the world might seemingly be spiralling into despair, Tom explains why he believes the ‘co-existors’ will triumph over the wall builders, and that globalisation and digital communication will bring us together and not drive us apart. Humanity just has to try a little bit harder. JLA Agent Adam Harkness
JLA Speakers Breakfast
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