Club news Embassy 34
Marwan Francis reflects on the future of the Young Diplomats in London as his term as president comes to an end this week.
Marwan Francis jokingly refers to himself as a “part-time diplomat” at the Lebanese Embassy. That’s because the departing YDL president has devoted so much energy to the diplomatic association during his term.
But Marwan is in no doubt about the value the YDL brings to the diplomatic community. “We diplomats are on a short schedule you have to get involved straight away and organizations like the YDL provide a network to help you get to know the city quickly and to share information.”
Party with a purpose
The YDL motto is “strangers are only friends you have not yet met” and the group has hosted an array of social events over the past year to help diplomats get together. “We are inclusive. Diplomacy is very hierarchical: rank matters, age matters but with the YDL it’s more fluid,” he says. “We can depart from formalities and loosen our ties.”
There have been big charity fundraisers which collectively raised more than £5000 and included events such as the Masquerade Ball, in aid of the Commonwealth Countries League; the Shiny Party, which supports St Mungos, a charity for the homeless in London; the Black and White Ball, the proceeds of which were donated to Kids for Kids, which provides a livelihood for children in Darfur; and the Virgin London Triathlon, where young diplomats strained every sinew to collect money for International Development Through Sport.
The final event under Marwan’s leadership was the spectacular Bollywood party (see photos in the next issue), raising funds for underprivileged girls and women in India.
Added to this have been informal drinks parties, from Caribbean rum tasting, to Central European vodka parties and a pub crawl of London’s historic pubs.
Marwan freely admits that none of this he could do on his own: “The committee plays a very important role the success of YDL is all about team work.”
Getting the job done
But YDL is not just about socialising. “It’s very good for diplomatic work too,” Marwan hastens to add. The group organises business breakfasts with top-level speakers from the Monetary Policy Committee to the Secretary Generals of the Commonwealth and the IMO and trips beyond London, such as the Entrepreneur Festival in Sheffield.
“We all struggle with access, but with the YDL we have strength in numbers,” he says, adding that having contacts in a mission also helps. “Many of our members have a wide portfolio of responsibilities and you never know what challenge is going to be thrown at you. Through the YDL you have a pool of contacts if you have a problem. And it is so much easier to call up a YDL friend at an embassy then spend your time talking to an automated answering machine!”
Having a good database is key, and so Marwan and the team have spent the last year building up an up-to-date list of contacts and a user-friendly website, which will be launched this week. The hope is that similar YDL groups will establish themselves around the world, so that as members move on to their next post, they have a ready-made network of friends.
Already 100 countries are represented in the membership but as the YDL prepares for elections this week, Marwan’s parting message is to broaden the number of countries involved in the committee.
“We don’t have representation from Africa, nor Latin America which we would like to see. We have participation from China, Japan and Australia at our events but we want them on the committee.”
Each YDL president has brought an infusion of culture and contacts from their region and under Marwan, the Middle East membership has flourished.
“Now I am hoping we will get committee members from other parts of the world and let’s see where they will take YDL next!”
Interested in joining?
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The new website
www.ydlondon.org.uk launches on 17 November.