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Reconnecting and Reimagining: The MIRD Re-Connect Gala 2024

On 17 February 2024, Leiden University's Scheltema building was abuzz with the energy of the annual MSc International Relations and Diplomacy (MIRD) Re-Connect Gala. This year's event marked a joyous return to in-person gatherings, bringing together 200 students, employees, and esteemed alumni of the prestigious MIRD programme.

The evening commenced with insightful opening remarks by Professor Madeleine Hosli, followed by a captivating keynote address by Professor Sarah Wolff, also of Leiden University. Dr. Wolff's address delved into the complexities of navigating a Europe grappling with issues of secularism, democracy, and right-wing populism.

Professor Sarah Wolff

Professor Wolff's Compelling Insights

Sarah Wolff emphasised the importance of ‘multiplicity, engagement, and reconstruction’ in contemporary Diplomacy. She highlighted the evolving role of the European Union (EU) in navigating religious engagement and fostering a nuanced approach to secularism in its foreign policy. Her address addressed the critical distinction between peaceful expressions of Islam, such as Sufism, and extremist ideologies.

Dr. Wolff also explored the growing trend of feminist foreign policy (FFP) adopted by various global actors. She discussed the importance of decentering traditional approaches and the value of research in understanding the specific needs of diverse communities. The concept of FPP as a tool for promoting gender equality and equity resonated strongly throughout the keynote address. A lively Q&A session followed Dr. Wolff's address, where topics such as Euroscepticism, Turkey's EU aspirations, and the challenges of Eurocentrism were thoughtfully explored.

Panel Louise Beynon, Rosa Stienstra, and Saskia Postema

Feminist Perspectives Take Center Stage

The first panel discussion, titled ‘Feministic Perspectives in International Relations’, was moderated by Sofia Tejada, a current MIRD student. The panel featured distinguished alumni of the MIRD program as speakers: Louise Beynon (UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office), Rosa Stienstra (Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and Saskia Postema (President, Women in International Security Global - Netherlands chapter).

The discussion focused on the practical application of FPP in various national contexts. The panelists explored how FPP can be employed to advance gender equality not only within their respective countries but also at the European level. Additionally, the panel addressed the challenges and opportunities associated with the FPP label, its impact on diplomacy, and the complexities of measuring its effectiveness.

The second panel delved into the intersection of efficacy and altruism in contemporary diplomacy.

Effective Altruism: A Call for Ethical Action

The second panel discussion was moderated by MIRD student Diego Takahashi, on ‘Effective Altruism in Diplomacy’. The esteemed panel speakers, all alumni of the MIRD programme, included Abdullatif Sleibi (PAX for Peace), Dr. Stacey Links (Assistant Professor, Leiden University), and Alexander Sultan Khan (Deputy Head, Sub-Delegation, ICRC Syria).

The panel delved into the intersection of efficacy and altruism in contemporary diplomacy. They explored the historical roots of humanitarian action, critically examining the potential pitfalls of paternalistic approaches. The discussion highlighted the importance of impartiality, local community engagement, and long-term considerations when designing and implementing effective diplomatic interventions.

A Night of Celebration and Rejuvenation

The evening culminated in a festive gala event, featuring a delicious dinner, a captivating live band performance, and DJ music that kept the energy high well into the night. This provided a wonderful opportunity for students, employees, and alumni to reconnect, forge new friendships, and celebrate the MIRD community's enduring spirit.

The MIRD Re-Connect Gala 2024 served as a powerful reminder of the programme's unwavering commitment to fostering intellectual curiosity, promoting cultural understanding, and nurturing a new generation of diplomats, policymakers, and business leaders equipped to navigate the complexities of the 21st century. As the MIRD community continues to grow and evolve, the Re-Connect Gala will undoubtedly remain a cornerstone event, fostering a global network dedicated to building a more just and peaceful world. Stay tuned for the next edition of the Re-connect Gala event in 2025. 

The two-year Advanced MSc International Relations and Diplomacy programme offers students a unique blend of academic education in international relations and political science with practical graduate education and training in international negotiation and diplomacy. Students attend a wide range of courses, develop their analytical and research skills, take on an internship, write their master’s thesis, and build network with experts in relevant fields. Upon graduation students are prepared to take on positions in international organisations, politics, and diplomacy; or for PhD research.

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