Sept. 4, 2019 — University of Houston Law Center student Allison Pratt traveled to Bangkok over the summer as a selected delegate for the International Diplomacy Forum, an event co-hosted by Humanitarian Affairs Asia and the United Nations to promote foreign cohesion and achieve UN goals of sustainable development.
“Attending the International Diplomacy Forum this summer was an eye-opening experience for many reasons,” Pratt said. “I'm working to develop a global career that requires the ability to use comprehensive diplomatic skills each and every day.”
After becoming aware of the conference, Pratt worked diligently to give herself the best chance of attending.
“I wasn't even sure if I'd be selected, but I knew that I had to try, and once I tried I could figure out the funding aspect later,” she said. “My birthday was July 7, and I managed to get family members to pitch in to assist with funding. It was the best birthday week I've had in a while.”
The event took place from July 10-12, and consisted of multiple meetings meant to educate attendees about different facets of diplomatic work.
“The purpose is to bring together emerging leaders from across the globe to discuss diplomacy and understand our part in the international scheme,” Pratt said. “Through a series of practical sessions, interactive workshops, solution-based discussions, and negotiation exercises, we learned that diplomacy goes beyond politics.”
Despite countless nations being represented and a variety of professionals participating, Pratt was the only African-American woman in attendance, which significantly shaped her experience at the conference.
“Being the only African-American woman in a room full of delegates from all over the globe was an honoring experience, to say the least,” she said. “Much of the panel discussions at IDF involved the current administration’s policies. As the only African-American woman in the room, I definitely felt that my narrative positively contributed to the discussion about immigration and human rights.”
Pratt feels the influence that the International Diplomacy Forum had on her is matched by the impact she had on others.
“I was constantly complimented on my ‘presence’ when walking into the room. That was flattering and reminded me of all that I represented,” she said. “I've developed a more authentic view of how to carry myself in unknown spaces because I understand who I am, and attending IDF further honed this skill.
“There are other girls out there who may look to me and say they can do the same things I do. Because of this, it's important for me to take chances and strive for things that sometimes I feel are impossible.”
While in Bangkok, Pratt met the current U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, and former UN Security Council President, Kishore Mahbubani. The two taught delegates about diplomatic etiquette.
“It was an honor to meet both the ambassador to Malaysia and the former president of the UN Security Council,” Pratt said. “They both provided a lot of practical advice on things we can do in our home countries to promote diplomacy.”
While at the forum, Pratt was invited to the United Nations Peace Summit, which will take place in 2020.
“I plan to do more networking with international leaders at the Peace Summit,” she said. “I'd like to start a nonprofit upon graduation and would like to further discuss my ideas with my colleagues at the Peace Summit.”
Pratt encourages her classmates and future Law Center students to participate in similar events to expand their diplomatic knowledge.
“I hope that more students from UHLC will also go, as it was truly an eye-opening experience.”