Independent Diplomat

Despatches from an Unaccountable Elite

Part of the Crises in World Politics series
July 2017 9781849044387 244pp


Independent Diplomat is a compelling insider’s account of the foreign policy world.

Carne Ross was a diplomat on the front line of today’s most pressing issues, from Israel/Palestine to Afghanistan and Iraq, over which he resigned from the British Foreign Office. He was trained to see the world through a prism of states and interests, but the reality of his negotiations revealed very different — more complex, and more human — forces at play. Independent Diplomat exposes this fundamental weakness of institutional diplomacy: exclusion of those most affected by its outcomes, whether at the UN, the EU or within national foreign ministries.

Illustrated with vivid episodes from his career — from New York to Kabul — Ross offers a refreshing critique of contemporary diplomacy and of how to put it right.


‘In his stunning insight into the surreal world of British diplomacy, Carne Ross, who resigned from the Foreign Office in disillusion over the Blair government’s disgraceful role in the United Nations debate before the Iraq war, writes about this emerging multilateral world in his book, Independent Diplomat.’ — The Guardian

‘In Independent Diplomat, Carne Ross has little patience with the qualified admiration and curiosity with which ambassadors have traditionally been regarded. He tells the story of the disillusionment and rebirth-also in diplomacy-of a fifteen-year veteran of one of the most internationally respected diplomatic establishments, the British Foreign Service.’ — New York Review of Books

‘This is a rare and honest book about real-life diplomacy, reported from the coal-face. Ross diagnoses much that is wrong with the way diplomacy is practised today, and offers some cogent—and urgent—solutions.’ — George Soros

‘[Ross] exposes the absurdity, the ignorance and indifference of international bureaucracies, quietly and with clear-sighted accuracy. His prose is ironic, measured and elegant. The integrity, the nuance of his account and his self-awareness make him impressive not just as a writer but as a person.’ — Rory Stewart, author, The Places in Between

‘Carne Ross’s book fills a significant need in the literature on the theory and practice of contemporary diplomacy. There have been numbers of valuable critical works on issues in contemporary diplomacy, but a limiting factor has been that they speak from the ‘outside’, as it were, offering analytical observations rather than recording experiences and using them as a basis for a more richly-informed critique. Independent Diplomat promises to lift the veil from practices and institutions which of their nature have been shrouded in secrecy, if not exactly in mystery.’ — Professor William Maley, AM, Director, Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, Australian National University



Carne Ross is a trained negotiator and economist and the founder and director of the Independent Diplomat. He has over fifteen years of diplomatic experience in the British Foreign Office and the United Nations.

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