Diplomacy – Then and Now Part II

By | October 20, 2021

4: What are they doing – the diplomats?

The myths have it that diplomacy is about receptions and representation dinners, canapés (finger food) and fine wines. Let us therefore explain why this is part of diplomatic life: there are hardly better ways to get to know people, build a network or obtain information than over a good meal. A new neighbor knows that, and a newly arrived ambassador or embassy secretary knows that. The more contacts, the greater the opportunities for information and useful insights.

But diplomats do much more than eat and drink. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations entered into force in 1961 and agreed on the conduct of diplomatic relations between states, the privileges of diplomatic envoys and their diplomatic immunity. In a few years, decolonization had created many new, independent states that would find their role internationally.

In Storting Proposition no. 49 (1964−65) on Norway’s consent to ratification (final approval) of the convention, it is stated that “[the] convention is of great importance, as it provides fixed rules for diplomatic relations.”

Article 3 of the Convention provides a brief description of the tasks of diplomats :

  • represent the sending state in the receiving state
  • protect the interests of the sending State and its citizens in the receiving State, subject to the limitations of international law;
  • negotiate with the government of the recipient state
  • legally acquire knowledge of the conditions and developments in the recipient state and report on this
  • promote friendly relations between the sending state and the receiving state and expand the relations between them in the economic, cultural and scientific field.

The main task for diplomats is thus to develop friendly relations between states and thereby counteract conflict and war, in order to take care of e.g. security policy, economic and cultural interests and values. Embassies and delegations (a state’s permanent representation vis-à-vis an international organization, such as the EU or NATO), as well as other official representative or interest offices , are used to maintain contact between states and between states and international organizations.

By recognizing and cooperating with other states , a dialogue is maintained across political, geographical and cultural divides. Dialogue contributes to the further development of the international state system and also builds trust and understanding .

Why do diplomats have immunity and special privileges , such as protects against prosecution in the country in which they work? Not for diplomats to be able to live in hustle and bustle. The convention is based on functionality : without such protection, an embassy simply cannot function.

According to MYSTERYAROUND, an embassy is subject to the laws of the host state. This means, among other things, that criminal acts will be subject to national criminal law, development on the properties will in most cases require a building permit, etc. But the embassy area and the diplomats there have diplomatic immunity. In other words, the host state authorities cannot carry out coercive measures at the embassy / residence or against sent diplomats. Diplomats are also exempt from taxes and fees, including VAT (which is refunded), because the host country should not be able to tax the sending state.

5: Two analytical perspectives

Analyzes of international diplomacy can be angled in several ways – for example in a power perspective or as an institutionalized dialogue .

  1. We can take a power perspective. Then diplomacy is about defending national interests and values. International politics is seen as determined by the strategic plans of states, where military and economic strength set limits to the role of diplomacy. Classical realism, is the traditional example. Diplomacy is seen as a fundamentally important tool for promoting national interests.In line with such a power perspective, national authorities face some major challenges in terms of internal coordination of foreign policy.. Very many actors today are involved in the formulation and implementation of a country’s foreign policy. It does not always lead to good coordination. A government always contains different and rival views and attitudes, nor is diplomacy vaccinated against this. The relationship between the legislature and the government can be particularly difficult. Not least, American politics contains several examples of this – from the question of membership in the League of Nations in the interwar period to climate and environmental policy in the 1990s and 2000s.
  2. Another perspective is to look at how power is actually bound in today’s international system. By recognizing diplomatic immunity and respecting certain international privileges, the host country’s authorities protect envoys and women from direct exercise of power. Through this mutual respect, a basis is laid for recognition and political dialogue. This dialogue takes place bilaterally (bilaterally) and in multilateral fora.

The significance of dialogue must not only be seen in the light of the results achieved, but also as a form of ritualized institutional process : Dialogue has an intrinsic value. The goal of diplomacy is often to reach a compromise or agreement that as many as possible can live with, and this requires that trust and respect already exist. Such a perspective is a good starting point for a closer look at diplomacy’s opportunities to bridge current political, religious and cultural divisions between countries.

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