Author, Naked Diplomacy
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Tom served as the foreign policy advisor to Blair, Brown and Cameron, before becoming British Ambassador to Lebanon (at the age of 36). He is now the Principal of Hertford College, Oxford as well as serving on the Global Tech Panel, promoting the UK creative sector, leading work on the future of learning, and working with business to get millions into education. He's also led influential reviews of the FCO and UN. His insider's view of modern international relations, Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age is the bestselling book on diplomacy ever written by a British author. Tom considers the 21st century survival skills we need as states, businesses and individuals.
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 has played a part in summits, negotiations and conferences at the highest level, whilst also overseeing the everyday aspects of representing the UK abroad. Tom was one of the pioneers of using digital and social media to interact with local populations (and bypass the diplomatic rules). In a time and a role where engaging publicly was viewed with at best suspicion, and often outright hostility, he saw it as giving a human face to diplomacy and the British government.
Tom’s forthcoming book focuses on how ESG at all levels, from the efforts of the individual to that of the nationstate and private enterprise, 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. These experiences have helped grow Tom’s ‘head, hand and heart’ programme at NYU and Oxford, where he seeks to prepare a generation of ESG leaders for the challenges ahead.
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. He has 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). He provides insight into the influence of social media and direct interaction with the people most affected by his work.
Believing more of the world wish to co-operate than build walls, Tom looks at the big picture issues of global power structures; how things are changing, and whether companies like Google should be treated more like a nation than a business. Tom examines the need to revolutionise education to reflect the advances and challenges of a digital world and the future global economy. He considers both the positive and negative effects of AI and new technologies on everything from the Sustainable Development Goals to the threat of lethal autonomous weapons to building a stronger international community. Tom also explores key ideas and survival skills for the 21st century that we need as states, businesses and individuals as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and into a world with new priorities and perspectives, themes he explores in his book, Humanifesto.
Tom has led reviews into modernising the UN and the UK Foreign Office and is the author of Naked Diplomacy: Power & Statecraft in the Digital Age, the bestselling look at diplomacy in the digital age and the opportuinties and challenges a connected world presents to policy makers. He also advises the Global Business Coalition for Education which uses the private sector to help 59 million children into school. He is a Visiting Professor of International Relations at New York University and the Emirates Diplomatic Academy. He's a member of the EU Global Tech Panel and was an adviser to the Dubai Future Academy. His Foundation for Opportunity supports good people doing good things in public life and his most recent report sets out the survival skills we all need in order to thrive in the 21st century.
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
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