Carne Ross, more than anyone, appreciated that with his ruse he had not only destroyed a taboo, but established a new way of doing diplomacy: Independent Diplomat was born. Forget the old-style diplomacy. In its place he would establish a transparent, inclusive, unpretentious service that would help the marginalized to the decision-making table.
From the outset, Ross was determined to distinguish his new outfit from the typical lobbyists. Independent Diplomat is different, he explains, because the firm only does "diplomatic process," helping its clients to navigate the tricky business of getting something done on the international stage. It does not "represent" them the way that conventional lobbying firms do; they have to do the heavy lifting themselves.
"The power of the state is declining," Ross argued in a TED talk two years ago -- before going on to liken the world situation to a Jackson Pollock painting, "complicated and fragmented." With the declining power of states, someone has to tackle the problems that the nation-states can't resolve: "Who is left to deal with them," asks Ross, "but us?"
Ross tells me that "we only help the good guys -- the legitimate democratic representatives, not any scumbag who will pay us." Such high-sounding aims could set a trap for ID: Many a client, determined to access the influence-brokers, might whitewash their record to look like "one of the god guys." Can Carne Ross really tell the difference between the genuine article and the phony?
Ross spent 15 years -- most of his professional life, in fact -- as a rising star in Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). A bright boy from the London suburbs, he had been on the fast-track at the FCO, and "despite speaking his mind, was seen as ambassador material," remembers Gerard Russell, a former colleague there. Ross loved the traditions that still dominated diplomatic life in the 1990s: the countless embassy parties whose gossips provided crucial nuggets of local opinion; the terminology that decreed diplomats never spoke with the individualist "I" but always as patriotic, collective "we"; the minutes (never memos) that had to be written on "blue" paper that in fact was green. He admired the ambassadors, with their veneer of charm and reasonableness; and felt at ease with the subtle distinctions of international diplomacy, whereby the British delegation could meet with top officials, but even the most junior staff could turn away a request from South Sudan, Kosovo, or Western Sahara. Statelets, with no status, they had no claim on anyone's time.