Skoll Foundation


Independent Diplomat

Skoll Awardee(s): Carne Ross
Award Year: 2013
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Peace and Human Rights

(Click here to print)


  • Diplomacy is not practiced on an even playing field.  Marginalized governments and groups are often unable to present their views effectively due to lack of resources, experience or expertise.  This is not only unfair, but too often produces unsustainable agreements that fail to take everyone’s interests into account.
  • Many critical issues are now global, requiring complex, multilayered diplomacy and negotiations among states and multilateral organizations, presenting an even more complex and opaque system for the less experienced to navigate.
  • Recent events such as the Arab Spring and the climate negotiations at the UN Conference of Parties demonstrate that representative, non-state groups as well as small nations are critical to negotiation success; however, many of these parties lack diplomatic experience.


With a highly connected and knowledgeable staff of former diplomats, international lawyers and experts in international relations, Independent Diplomat (ID) provides confidential advice and practical assistance on diplomatic strategy and technique to governments, political groups and international organizations.  ID works to amplify the voices of those who have most at stake in diplomatic processes.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2014:

Independent Diplomat guides clients through complex and opaque diplomatic processes and leverages its network of diplomatic relationships to help marginalized groups effectively engage in the diplomatic processes where their vital interests are at stake.  ID’s model has the potential to make the diplomatic system more inclusive, more representative, and more effective.

Examples include:

  • Independent Diplomat’s advice enabled South Sudan’s ministers to present their own views directly at the UN Security Council even before their country had secured independence, an opportunity never before granted to a non-state party. ID then assisted South Sudan to negotiate membership of the UN in record time.
  • When Independent Diplomat began work with the Frente POLISARIO, the legitimate political representative of the Saharawi people of the Western Sahara, the group’s sole focus was on self-determination and its diplomacy was stuck. ID has successfully assisted the Frente POLISARIO to develop new themes for its foreign policy, helping the client to reframe international discussions on this long-frozen dispute by highlighting escalating human rights abuses in the Occupied Territory and Morocco’s illegal exploitation of Western Sahara’s natural resources. Through a combination of in-depth legal analysis and the development of political strategy, ID assisted the POLISARIO in its campaign at the European Parliament to reject the proposed extension of a fisheries agreement with Morocco which had allowed EU vessels to illegally fish in Western Sahara’s waters.
  • Since 2009, Independent Diplomat has worked closely with the ministers of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and other small island developing states which are particularly vulnerable to climate change, helping to amplify their voices in the formidably complex international negotiations on climate change. ID assisted the client in its central role in establishing the groundbreaking ‘Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action’, the first-ever developed / developing country alliance in the talks under the UN Climate Change Convention.



© 2015 Skoll Foundation.