November 26, 2020

The Editor Speaks: Diplomacy is dead in the water

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Colin WilsonwebRoger Cohen writing in the New York Times said last month “DIPLOMACY is dead”.

He says, “This is an age of impatience, changeableness, palaver, small-mindedness and an unwillingness to talk to bad guys. Human rights are in fashion, a good thing of course, but the space for realist statesmanship of the kind that produced the Bosnian peace in 1995 has diminished.”

“Confrontation, toughness and inflexibility: All of which may sound good but often get you nowhere (or into long, intractable wars) at great cost.”

Diplomacy involves accepting that in order to get what you want you have to give something. The central question is: What do I want to get out of my rival and what do I have to give to get it? Or, put the way Nixon put it in seeking common ground with Communist China: What do we want, what do they want, and what do we both want?

I am writing this as it pertains to the Cayman Turtle Farm debacle. On Monday (28) I met face to face with Rachel Alcock, Campaign Manager for Wildlife Trade, Neena Dhaun, International Manager for World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Caymanian, TV personality, world champion freediver, and environmentalist, Tanya Streeter who is acting as “celebrity spokesperson” for the campaign against the Turtle Farm.

It was a frank meeting but although they said they accepted my views, and I did try very hard at the ‘I give so I can take diplomacy tactic’, it met with a passionate “No” from all three. No matter what argument I put up it was met with “yes, we understand BUT ………..” In fact one of the trio didn’t even go as far as to say she even understood where I was coming from.

I even called the CTF immediately after this meeting and tried to speak to their Chief Marketing Officer leaving a message with the CTF reception desk and the Officer’s cell phone that I needed urgently to talk. I am still waiting and this is the THIRD time this has happened. Not a good way to treat the media or anyone!

I wasn’t expecting anything really positive or even constructive to come out from the meeting these three ladies together with the WSPA Campaign Leader, Dr. Neil D’Cruze were going to have with the CTF headed up by Managing Director Tim Adam. However, I was pleasantly surprised when Dr. D’Cruze said:

“We had a positive, 90 minute meeting this morning with the Farm and Caymanian Government and agreed to enter meaningful dialogue as a way of addressing the Turtle welfare problems which we now all agree are real and present. There was an acceptance, not least from a senior representative of the CTF, that WSPA’s intervention in highlighting animal welfare problems was positive, and has resulted in a recognition that things cannot stay as they are.”

Very nice. Positive most certainly. But then came the next statement and I didn’t see the bomb contained in it that was going to explode almost immediately.

“We recognise that the Farm have adopted steps to (for instance) mitigate the risk of illness posed to visitors from handling turtles and we are now awaiting the outcome of an imminent scientific report on those risks.”

Notice the highlighting.

And just a few days later and with no diplomacy by the WSPA at all they released their “scientific study” together with a press release that was confrontational, unforgiving, and exactly as I had expected after my meeting with Neena Dhaun. Both the Press Release and the Scientific Study are published in today’s iNews together with the CTF’s not unsurprisingly furious reply.

Fully understandable is this statement by the CTF:

“The CTF says it is very disappointed that, despite its recent meeting with the WSPA and listening to their concerns, WSPA continues their smear campaign based on a WSPA-­‐funded and biased “short report” released just days after the WSPA and CTF stated that they remain committed to dialogue.”

Tim Adam says, “These latest allegations are another clear effort by the WSPA to undermine the business of the CTF in WSPA’s on-­‐going goal to shut down our operations, since their campaign thus far has been unsuccessful in achieving that aim,” he states.  “WSPA told us from the outset that they want to stop people being able to touch or hold turtles, and they want us to stop farming turtles to supply the local demand for turtle meat.  Apparently WSPA has funded a report hoping it will help them achieve those objectives.”

So any “goodwill” has now gone in a flash and the blame this time lays well and truly at the door of the WSPA.

Wars are never settled to any of the opposing parties satisfaction by confrontation. Wars are only settled successfully by diplomacy.

Unfortunately, diplomacy is dead in the water and lying at the bottom of the turtle pools.

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