Musicians Turned Diplomats for a Day

Colombian high school music students participate in a U.S. Diplomacy Center diplomatic simulation in Spanish in Washington, D.C., on May 5, 2017.

The U.S. Diplomacy Center (USDC) is the first museum and education center dedicated to the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy. Student groups visiting the USDC have the opportunity to experience diplomacy first-hand by participating in our immersive Diplomatic Simulation program. In these simulations, students play the roles of diplomats and stakeholders, and engage in negotiations to peacefully resolve pressing issues of our time, including refugees and migration, nuclear non-proliferation, combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS, and countering violent extremism.

The “U.N. representative” speaks during the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s first diplomatic simulation in Spanish on May 5, 2017.

On May 5, 2017, 20 Afro-Colombian teenaged musicians participated in the first diplomatic simulation conducted entirely in Spanish. The young musicians from the Tumaco and San Basilio de Palenque regions of Colombia enthusiastically adopted the roles of leaders charged with resolving a hypothetical refugee crisis tinged with elements of racial and ethnic discrimination, issues all too familiar to the students. The “U.S. representative” did not hesitate to firmly hold all parties accountable for the well-being of the refugees, while the “Foreign Minister” of the fictional authoritarian country at the heart of the crisis resisted making concessions to the international community. Meanwhile, the 14-year-old “U.N. representative” shuttled between opposing sides in search of compromise. After negotiating and proposing a solution to the crisis acceptable to all sides, the participants analyzed the life skills they used during the activity: communication, active listening, humility, cooperation, and negotiation. All sides agreed that diplomacy was challenging, but fun.

Colombian students interact with fellow students during the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s first diplomatic simulation in Spanish on May 5, 2017.

The musicians visited the United States on a cultural exchange program initiated by the Colombian government with support from the U.S. Department of State. The program also included visits to cultural and educational institutions in Washington, D.C., and Maryland, and a public concert in Memphis, Tennessee. The exchange supported the goals of the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality, which recognizes ethnic and racial diversity as a crucial element in the development of democratic and multicultural societies. The Action Plan explores best practices to promote economic opportunities, education, culture, sports, and sustainable development in the United States and Colombia.

Senior Advisor Judith Bryan engages with Colombian students during the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s first diplomatic simulation in Spanish on May 5, 2017.

During the 2016 academic year, the U.S. Diplomacy Center has conducted over 50 diplomatic simulations with both U.S. and foreign participants, and offered 15 training sessions for facilitators. The diplomatic simulation materials, including the refugee scenario in Spanish, will soon be available online to educators for use in their classrooms. The diplomatic simulation program aims to improve global competence in students, while giving them a taste of diplomacy.

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About the Author: Judith Bryan serves as a Senior Advisor in the U.S. Diplomacy Center in the Bureau of Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Originally published on DipNote on May 12, 2017.