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Former EU foreign policy chief shares tools for success

Baroness Catherine Ashton

Baroness Catherine Ashton, former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, was the keynote speaker at last week's Global Leaders Forum.

There is no one sin­gular way to achieve suc­cessful for­eign policy, according to Catherine Ashton, the Euro­pean Union’s former for­eign policy chief.

In a lec­ture at Northeastern’s Fenway Center on March 4, Ashton gave exam­ples of what she believes are impor­tant tools for strong for­eign rela­tions. Some of the best prac­tices she high­lighted included col­lab­o­ra­tion, the use of hard and soft power, and uti­lizing var­ious assets.

I say for­eign policy is about secu­rity, sta­bility, and pros­perity,” said Ashton, who served as the keynote speaker at Northeastern’s latest install­ment of the Global Leaders Forum. “And that’s for people in the coun­tries we represent…but also for people around the world.”

Ashton played key roles in resolving major crises while serving as High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Union for For­eign Affairs and Secu­rity Policy from 2009 to 2014. These included helping vic­tims of the 2009 Haiti earth­quake, curbing piracy off the coast of Somalia in 2012, and bro­kering a deal to nor­malize rela­tions between Serbia and Kosovo in April 2013.

You have to have the capacity to be able to work together,” Ashton explained. “The will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate, to find the common ground that is the highest common factor not the lowest common denom­i­nator, is so important.”

The Global Leaders Forum was cre­ated by Northeastern’s Center for Inter­na­tional Affairs and World Cul­tures as an oppor­tu­nity for the uni­ver­sity and Boston com­mu­nity to interact with world leaders and dis­cuss global changes. Former Lat­vian Pres­i­dent Vaira Vike-​​Freiberga served as keynote speaker at the inau­gural event in October.

During intro­duc­tory remarks, Mitchell Oren­stein, chair of the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence and co-​​chair of the Center for Inter­na­tional Affairs and World Cul­tures, noted many of Ashton’s achieve­ments. “She’s really the best of Britain,” he said.

Ashton, who is an advo­cate for nuclear dis­ar­ma­ment, was named a member of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords in 1999 and served in a number of par­lia­men­tary under-​​secretary posi­tions through the early 2000s. She has also served as the leader of the House of Lords.

During her lec­ture, Ashton brought up the topic of women in lead­er­ship posi­tions, stressing that women can take on any lead­er­ship role as well as men can. But, she said, there aren’t enough female leaders to know whether women lead dif­fer­ently than men do.

What I do know is you can’t solve 100 per­cent of the world’s prob­lems with only 50 per­cent of the talent,” Ashton noted. “Every time a woman fails to be rec­og­nized for what she can do, the world is a little bit poorer.”

-By Joe O’Connell

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