THE BLOG

Ambassador Mark Palmer: Freedom's Champion

22/08/2013 15:35 BST | Updated 21/10/2013 10:12 BST

In case you read no further, I want to say one thing: watch this video.

Diplomacy is only ever as good as its diplomats. There are times to take a robust position, times to pressure a regime, times even to go to war where truly necessary, and there are times to negotiate, dialogue, engage and compromise. In all circumstances, however, the principles of freedom and human rights should always be centre-stage - but we need the individuals within our foreign services prepared to take a stand on what really matters.

Ambassador Mark Palmer showed, throughout his life, that it is possible to be a freedom-fighting diplomat, that promoting freedom and human rights using the range of tools of diplomacy is not an impossibility. He showed that being a human rights campaigner and a diplomat are not incompatible, and indeed there are opportunities open to a diplomat to promote the universal values of freedom that many other actors in the same field simply do not have.

I had the great privilege of knowing Mark Palmer, meeting him privately in his home in Washington, DC at least half a dozen or more times, and regularly exchanging ideas with him by e-mail. It was his remarkable book, 'Breaking the Real Axis of Evil', which first inspired me. He then gave me enormous encouragement in my work on places like Burma and North Korea, the work of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, and ideas for foreign policy which my friend James Mawdsley and I set out in a paper called 'New Ground' ten years ago. Mark then developed 'The Diplomat's Handbook', and I had the privilege of being involved on the periphery of the discussions that shaped it.

It was therefore with very great sadness that I learned of Mark's death earlier this year, after a long battle with cancer. Mark was the finest of fine diplomats, and the finest of human beings. His example should be taken as a role model for all diplomats, and I hope that his two books will be read widely in foreign ministries around the world, and this video will be viewed and shared and forwarded. The ultimate tribute to Mark Palmer would be if democratic governments studied his ideas and his life, and put them into action with a consistency of purpose and a depth of vision we have yet to see. He is no longer with us, but may his values and ideas live on, and may our diplomatic services have many more Mark Palmers.