The Bandaranaike International Diplomatic Training Institute (BIDTI) was established in September 1995 under the guidance of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike for the purpose of offering advanced training courses in diplomacy and international relations. The institution, the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, was a manifestation of her vision to hone the skills of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Service. This is in accordance with the aims of the Bandaranaike Memorial Foundation to promote international peace, understanding and cooperation through such studies, discussions and dissemination of knowledge. The task of founding the BIDTI was rested on the shoulders of its first Director General, Deshamanya Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis, who joined the island’s newly formed diplomatic service in 1949. He was at the time, the first entrant to the then titled Ceylon Overseas Service. His endeavor of launching the institute was facilitated by the patronage of President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. The dedication and hard work of Dr. Mendis paved the way for the BIDTI to launch training programmes for both foreign service members as well as for the general public.
Courses for the general public were open on 1st November 1995. A comprehensive foreign service training programme at the BIDTI was conducted for the first time for 14 cadets recruited to the Sri Lanka Foreign Service in 1996. BIDTI training programmes focus on enhancing professional skills and encouraging discussion on global economic and political issues. Besides regular courses, the BIDTI also conducts specialized programmes to meet the requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since the early 2000s, under the Technical Cooperation Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an initiative was launched to familiarize foreign diplomats on Sri Lanka’s history, culture, foreign policy and other attractive attributes. This program can be traced back to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lakshman Kadirgamar’s desire to acquaint foreign diplomats on various aspects of Sri Lanka. In addition, to the training of members of the foreign service, the BIDTI also conducts training programmes for officers belonging to other organizations designated to represent Sri Lanka overseas.
Dr. VernonThe broad philosophy underlying the establishment of this institute is that the evolving global context imposes serious international responsibilities on states, particularly developing states. It is incumbent on them as a matter of survival in some cases and for their advancement in general, to equip themselves with the required intellectual and professional resources through which they can face these challenges and promote as well as safeguard their interests. This calls for a combination of skills and insights among those in key positions and decision making roles as well as an enlightened public which is aware of the gravity of regional and international events and crises. An institute such as the BIDTI, which is specially geared to meet these challenges can therefore make a decisively positive contribution.
BIDTI courses for the public were first termed as the ‘General Course,’ spanning 4 months and consisting of over 100 lectures by eminent guest lecturers. The General Course laid the foundation for many Foreign Service aspirants to obtain a thorough understanding of diplomacy and international relations prior to joining the Sri Lanka Foreign Service. Those who later joined the service expressed their sincere appreciation to the BIDTI for enabling them to obtain a head start in their education on diplomacy and international relations. Although emphasis was laid on the instruction of diplomacy and world affairs, the BIDTI has not limited itself to this sphere. In addition to these core topics, courses have also been conducted on topics such as Economic Diplomacy, International Trade, National, Regional and International Security, Air Diplomacy, the United Nations and more recently included online courses for the combatting of trafficking in persons.
Today, training courses conducted at the BIDTI have been sought after by people from all walks of life. Those who have successfully followed the one-year Diploma in Diplomacy & World Affairs could join the Post Graduate Diploma course conducted with the collaboration of the Department of International Relations of the University of Colombo provided that they possess a degree recognized by the University Grants Commission. The Post Graduate Diploma enables students to submit a comprehensive research project on a selected topic which is consistent with the themes of international relations and diplomacy.