Diplomacy – Then and Now Part III

By | October 20, 2021

6: Diplomacy and the media society

Is the modern media society about to crack down on diplomacy? Much is written and meant about this, and the disagreement is great. The WikiLeaks revelations in 2010−2011 put the finger on one of diplomacy’s main tasks, namely to report on the situation in the host country / region. At the time, confidential and sometimes very candid reports from US diplomats back to Washington were leaked.

Today, the source of resources at home and abroad is enormous and includes the media’s 24-hour news bulletins, the internet, international organizations , NGOs , journalists, researchers and others. An embassy’s reports, assessments and advice are therefore not the only source of information on which political decisions are based.

If diplomacy is reduced to just gathering information, it is likely that modern technology will prevail over the seconded diplomat. However, this becomes too easy. The journalist, diplomat and researcher have different roles and contribute in different ways
to the understanding of the world and international politics. In terms of knowledge, the three roles complement each other :

The journalist is usually alone in delivering the news, the researcher has his strength in being able to see connections where others get lost in the details. The diplomat has the most privileged access to the primary sources, through good contact with the host country’s authorities or insight into what is going on in an international organization. Diplomatic networks are important for gaining this insight, which i.a. can be used to ensure the quality of what the media reports.

In the media society, organizations and companies are dependent on information, information exchange and flow. This will continue to be an important task for diplomats, even after WikiLeaks, because it is crucial to defending national interests. But the content of the information will change, depending on how the world changes.

7: A hybrid diplomacy emerges

As before, the main purpose of diplomacy is to deal with and resolve conflicts of interest in order to avoid international conflicts – preferably through bilateral or multilateral negotiations. Diplomats are increasingly negotiating at a global level, as important challenges are often global. It is often at this level that it is most important to gain support for one’s own positions and initiatives.

The ways in which diplomats work have changed dramatically, not least thanks to modern communication technology, and so have the actors who perform the tasks. Foreign Ministry people are no longer alone in pursuing diplomacy. According to THEFREEGEOGRAPHY, many ministries and other public actors have extensive international activities and conduct their own diplomacy. Most ministries in Norway have their own delegates to a number of important embassies and delegations. And many interest groups (such as (county) municipalities, voluntary organizations and business interests) have their own representative offices in e.g. Brussels.

In response to the processes of globalization, diplomacy is used to influence as widely as possible; not only governments and decision makers, but also society and the public. Reputation building has become an important tool, ie various measures that are to influence other people’s perceptions of or attitudes towards the home country. Norway’s reputation as a nation of peace is one example.

Since the interwar period, diplomacy has slowly but surely opened up and become “democratized”, and globalization has helped to reinforce this development. State and non-state actors are part of constantly new patterns of cooperation. We believe the result is a hybrid diplomacy (hybrid means mixture). The term should be understood as follows:

  • There is and will be a need for diplomacy in a globalized world because states are still the most important players in international politics. Since many of the challenges to our values, our growth and our prosperity are international and even global, it is important to have a well-functioning system of states. Who else could have negotiated on behalf of the citizens?
  • This diplomacy will not only use traditional state government channels, as provided for in the Vienna Convention, but will also address:
    1. key resource persons and relevant organizations and networks regardless of formal roles
    2. broad population groups, media and the public through reputation diplomacy
    3. lower-level authorities such as prisons and health services, especially in connection with consular cases
  • This work will not always be carried out by ordinary diplomats, but for example by:
    1. Other ministries, underlying agencies, regions and municipalities
    2. National and international companies and business organizations
    3. Representatives of international organizations such as the UN and the EU
    4. Voluntary organizations, such as Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council
    5. High-profile celebrities such as royalty, pop stars and actors who take on positions as “ambassadors” for an international cause, humanitarian issues, etc.

A state system consisting of strong and secure states, with good governance, is the best defense for national interests and values. This is an important basis for pursuing good national policies in a more closely integrated world. Therefore, there is a need for diplomacy – a diplomacy that tackles the challenges of ensuring good coordination of all the domestic actors who either work abroad, or who try to influence Norwegian foreign policy. Good diplomacy at home is crucial for good diplomacy away from home, whether it is bilateral or multilateral.

Diplomacy 3