Meri Kajaia, IPD ’18

Permanent Mission of Georgia to the UN

“Friendship is my religion,” the ambassador of Georgia to the UN, Kaha Imnadze, shared with me while we were on our way to the embassy of Algeria for a bilateral meeting. We were not going to the embassy empty-handed. We toted along a copy of the Knight in the Panther’s Skin, a Georgian medieval epic poem, as a gift to the Algerian diplomat. As the car navigated through the humming New York streets and avenues all I could think about were Imnadze’s words. These words reshaped my concept of diplomacy.

If you ask Google, what does “diplomacy” mean, you will learn that it is “the art and practice of conducting negotiations between nations.” You may want to ask the search engine one more question, such as: What are the qualities required to be a good diplomat?  You’ll see the list: good writing, speaking and analytical skills, attention to details, effective negotiator and many more, except curiosity. In my opinion curiosity should absolutely be on the list of characteristics that make up a good diplomat.

It has been 10 years now since Georgia introduced the Internally Displaced Persons’ resolution to the UN General Assembly; reiterating the right of return of all displaced persons and refugees to Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia. Every year the UN General Assembly adopts the resolution, stressing the need to respect IDPs property rights and underlining the urgent need for unimpeded humanitarian access to all those residing in conflict-affected areas of Georgia. In order to let IDPs know that their rights are not forgotten and remain the issue on the agenda of the international organizations, Georgia has to ask for this support annually. Last year, 80 countries voted in favor to 14 against, with 61 abstentions. Each of the positive or neutral votes is a demonstration of the enormous work of the Georgian diplomats from year to year.

“While awaiting Georgia’s turn to address the UN Security Council open debate on “Collective Action to Improve United Nations Peacekeeping Operations””

Having opportunities to assist my ambassador to some of these bilateral meetings during the last three months as an intern, I realized how imperative it is for a person to conduct a successful negotiation. It is neither just theoretical knowledge nor the past experiences. Each of them is unique. What I found the most remarkable action in negotiation is curiosity. Although each of the decisions from other states has strong political leverage, personal relationships, building trust and strong support toward each other have no less of an impact. What is the process of building relationships and trust? Through actively seeking to answer this question we learn more about each other every day and in every situation. It’s an arduous task, but it is absolutely worth it.  By all means, it is not only about politics. It is also about culture, religion, philosophy, history, and even cuisine. It is about finding even the tiniest bond between you and another person, another group of people or country. In case you find it difficult to find this bond, never, never give up because despite all of our differences, we all have much in common.

On our way to the Algerian embassy, a 60-year old Georgian driver recalled a story from the 70’s when Algerian wine used to be bottled and sold in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. The ambassador of Georgia asked a few questions, curious for more details. Later, after 5 or 10 minutes, Kaha Imnadze started the conversation with the Algerian ambassador with the story he learned from the driver. Algerian diplomat, while offering delicious Algerian pastry and tea, was pleasantly surprised after hearing a little historical detail about friendship between Algeria and Georgia.

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