Saturday, November 7, 2015

A Rose By Any Other Name is Just as, um, Global

So, they are changing the name of the department responsible for foreign affairs again.  When I started working on the Afghanistan stuff, it was DFAIT: the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.  When the Canadian International Development Agency was folded into it, it became DFATD--Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.   This was pronounced DFAT-D or Defeated.  The new government is going to call it the Department of Global Affairs.

My response was initially:
So, sure, CGA > DFAIT >> DFATD.  But you know what is really best: DFA.  Because trade and development are both part of foreign affairs, and all of this stuff is, like, foreign.  As in outside of Canada.  If CGA was really CGA, it would include much policy aimed at Canada since Canada is part of the globe.  But the agency is going to be at least 95% if not 99% aimed at the rest of the world.  The development aid is not going to anyplace in Canada.  Yes, trade involves Canadians, but CGA's remit will be focused on negotiating with others.  So, the first strike against CGA is that it is a broader name than what it will actually be doing.

The second problem is that Global is being used because it is the hip name of the moment.  The Canadian Foreign Affairs and Defence Institute, of which I am a Fellow, changed its name earlier this year to CGAI--Canadian Global Affairs Institute.  Carleton has developed a BA program in Global and International Affairs or BGIns.  The urgency here to grab global is that international is too state-centric and perhaps Foreign is too other-ing?  But the department will be acting on behalf of Canada--a state--and will be engaging mostly but not entirely other states as well as international organizations (composed of states) and non-state organizations (which are relevant but not as imagine as they imagine themselves to be).  Yes, we have Al Qaeda, but ISIS is actually trying to be a state.

Anyhow, I am annoyed because I am stodgy and all that, but also because FA is a perfectly fine name, and everyone is going to have to change their business cards again in three or four years when Global is not hip enough or it needs additional modifiers.

And, yes, it makes book writing hard since one had to figure out whether to use the name as it was at the time of the events or project backwards the current name.  In the forthcoming book, I use DFAIT because that was the name during the Afghanistan conflict.  Or maybe I am cranky because my sleep cycles are disrupted by being in Europe and all.  

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