Diplomacy – Then and Now Part I

By | October 20, 2021

Despite all the talk about globalization, people live locally in social groups and enjoy it. But they are usually curious about the neighbors and like to keep an eye on them. This is due to a need for safety and security. The most important institution that governs dialogue between states is diplomacy – an important foreign policy tool for national authorities.

  • What is the most important task of a diplomat?
  • Why do diplomats have special rights and privileges?
  • How has diplomacy evolved?
  • Do we need diplomats when we have the internet?

2: Early diplomacy

The first sources we have about diplomacy go back four thousand years. It is about as long as we know that written language has existed. In addition, we know that groups that traditionally lived without written language, such as Australian Aborigines and North American Indians, had their own forms of diplomacy. Diplomacy as we know it today, however, grew first and foremost in Europe, i.a. as a result of the development of a state system (after Christianity was divided between the Catholic and Protestant churches) and war, conflict and rivalry between these states.

The idea that representatives of one political entity live permanently with another (permanent diplomatic presence), instead of envoys and official delegations visiting from time to time, is often traced back to the Italian city-states in the 15th century. Since then, diplomacy has also become more and more regular – both by written and unwritten rules.

Diplomacy can be defined as the ways in which states communicate, negotiate and relate to each other and to the international community. A diplomat is an official representative of his country, either vis-à-vis another country (embassy) or vis-à-vis an international organization (delegation). The diplomat has a formal letter (accreditation letter) from the authorities in his own country in which it is confirmed that he or she represents the sending state.

The word diplomacy is derived from Greek, where «diploma» means a (folded) document. The first diplomats were what we today call archivists, ie those who archive documents (diplomas).

3: New framework for diplomacy

Over the last 20 years, global integration ( globalization ) has accelerated, through more integration of financial markets, increased trade, development of new means of communication, cultural exchange, migration, etc. Contacts across national borders have become much more, closer and deeper. In practice, this development has turned much of the diplomatic everyday life upside down .

Since 1945, the work of solving international challenges has taken place more and more in an increasing number of international organizations and through intergovernmental negotiations and agreements. This has strengthened norms such as state sovereignty, territorial integrity and formal equality between widely differing states.

Especially since 1990, private actors and the private sector have also become far more important driving forces in the development of international cooperation. transnational corporations , voluntary organizations , lobbyists, journalists, diasporas (religious or cultural groups living outside their home country / cultural area), internet activists, etc. influence foreign policy and international politics.

Not surprisingly, diplomacy is changing and evolving in the light of these and other processes of change. It is therefore worth noting two development features in particular : A greater breadth and depth in a country’s international activities , related to foreign and development policy, trade and finance, cultural exchange, reputation building and consular assistance (eg: when own citizens need help while staying in abroad). Diplomacy is far less about security policy and military strategy than during the Cold War (ca. 1947−90), a period that in many ways created the diplomatic expert.

  • Several actors: The distinction between foreign and domestic policy is less clear and involves larger parts of the state apparatus in international processes than before. In addition, i.a. NGOs play an important role in policy formulation and implementation. They often participate with input and facts in the design of states’ positions before international summits. Yes, they are occasionally part of the state delegations to summits.

According to REMZFAMILY, foreign policy (what is the goal?) And diplomacy (how should we proceed to achieve it?) Have one thing in common: Both must defend and promote important national interests, values ​​and welfare . Globalization has led to both a more democratized, but also a more fragmented diplomacy: it is less closed and cooperates more closely with private actors. This diplomacy is far more demanding to coordinate, because overarching goals or national interests are not always clearly defined.

A Minister of Petroleum and a Minister of the Environment may have different interpretations of a country’s interests and position on climate issues. Experts under them can have the same. The foreign policy objectives have become more numerous, and there will be different views on how to proceed to achieve them.

Diplomacy 1