If a key aspect of diplomacy is how countries are seen abroad, official diplomats are not the only actors. In contexts as diverse as Syria, Myanmar and the South China Sea, think tanks are influential actors whose impact deserves greater study. As organisations producing independent intellectual outputs to influence public policy, think tanks engage in at least four diplomatic functions: negotiation, communication, information-gathering and promoting friendly relations in international affairs. Detailed case studies show that think tanks both directly perform and indirectly support diplomatic functions: as metaphorical hired guns, charm offensive, witnesses and safe space; as a school for diplomats, personal trainers, chief knowledge officer and wise counsel. To reach their full potential, think tanks need to overcome obstacles including resource constraints and relationships with policymakers.

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Melissa Conley Tyler is the National Executive Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, an independent non-profit organisation established in 1924 that has been ranked the top think tank in Southeast Asia and the Pacific in the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think Tanks Index for the last three years. During more than a decade leading the AIIA, she has edited more than 50 publications, organised more than 90 policy events, overseen dramatic growth in youth engagement and built stronger relations with other institutes of international affairs worldwide. Ms Conley Tyler is a lawyer and specialist in conflict resolution, including negotiation, mediation and peace education. She was previously Program Manager of the International Conflict Resolution Centre at the University of Melbourne and Senior Fellow of Melbourne Law School.

Rhea Matthews is a graduate of the Australian National University where she completed a double Masters in Diplomacy and International Relations. In 2016 she undertook an internship with the Australian Institute of International Affairs and is currently an analyst with the New Zealand government.

Emma Brockhurst is a post-graduate student at The Australian National University studying a Masters of International Relations. She also holds Bachelor degrees in Law and International Relations from Griffith University and is an admitted lawyer of the Supreme Court of Queensland. In 2016, she undertook an internship with the Australian Institute of International Affairs.

Think Tank Diplomacy
Melissa Conley Tyler, Rhea Matthews and Emma Brockhurst
Part 1. Understanding Think Tanks
Part 2. Understanding Modern Diplomacy
Part 3. Case Studies of Think Tanks in Diplomacy
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