21st Century Diplomacy

February 13, 2012

To those who have the stomach for this long review of 21st Century Diplomacy, read on. If not just skip it. Modern day diplomacy is a demanding profession. I recommend this piece to geeks in Wisma Putra and aspiring diplomats. –Din Merican


21st Century Diplomacy

by Ernst Sucharipa [1]

“No Diplomatic Service today can maintain its high quality without a strategy for the life-long learning of its staff.” (Melissen)

To Abba Eban, the late great Israeli statesman and diplomat, we owe the rediscovery of the following statement which he attributes to President Jefferson: ”For two years we have not heard from our ambassador in Spain; if we again do not hear from him this year, we should write him a letter”[2].

Many things have changed in diplomacy since then. And yet, the diplomat’s craft[3] has an astounding potential for survival. Its more or less imminent death has been predicted many times, mostly in the context of revolutions in communications technology.

Today, of course, we think of the World Wide Web and its consequences for a profession, which relies so much on words and knowledge management. But in all likelihood the advent of the telegraph was even more decisive. When the first dispatch sent by cable reached his desk in Whitehall, Lord Palmerston is reported to have exclaimed: ”This is the end of diplomacy”.

Similarly, Queen Victoria, when consulted whether the British Legation in Rome should be elevated to the status of full Embassy, is said to have immediately rejected this proposal because, in her assessment, given the new telecommunication techniques, the time for ambassadors, their pretensions and privileges were definitely over. [4] Here, of course, Her Majesty was wrong.

Diplomacy today is vastly different from what it was in the 19th century; it will continue to evolve and change. Tomorrow’s diplomacy will be even further removed from the famous pictures of the dancing Congress of Vienna, where the foundations for the structure of diplomacy for many decades, indeed for two centuries, were laid.

At the height of the rigged elections in Zimbabwe earlier this year (2008), the International Herald Tribune carried a picture that contrasts perfectly with the images the Congress of Vienna has left on our minds. It shows Pierre Schori, the Permanent Representative of Sweden to the UN and former Secretary of State for Development Affairs, who was head of the EU election-monitoring group, after his eviction from Zimbabwe.[5] He is in jeans and leather jacket, one hand grasping a wad of documents and in the other his mobile phone, standing all alone on what is obviously a busy London street, reporting to his EU superiors on the situation in Zimbabwe. Modern diplomacy will be more of this than the dancing type.

This contribution will deal with the following issues:

·What has changed, what will continue to change in diplomacy as a profession and in the environment in which it operates;

.what are the requirements for diplomacy in a ”globalized” world;

·how does modern information technology effect the organization of foreign services;

· what will the future of European diplomacy look like; what are the tools for the diplomat in the new 21st century, what qualifications must he (or increasingly often she) bring to this profession; what do they have to be taught, what do they have to train themselves in?

Changed interstate structures

With recent additions, the membership of the UN now totals 191 Member States, nearly four times the number at its foundation in 1945. This multiplies the instances of possible interactions between states, still the primary, but no more the sole subjects of international relations. At the same time some traditional categorizations have lost their meaning (East versus West) or tend to forego significance (North versus South). Others are becoming essential: rich versus poor, inclusion or exclusion from the process of globalization; good governance versus undemocratic, dictatorial regimes.

More and more states are members of an increasing number of international organizations to which they delegate – to varying degrees – the administration not only of foreign policy but also of economic, social, environmental issues and other areas hitherto exclusively in the domain of domestic politics. Some states have clear federative structures and their federal entities are also, at least to a limited extent, active on the international scene. Regional structures often transcend national boundaries and become internationally relevant.

New international actors

States have lost their monopoly as subjects of international law. Today, international organizations and other entities are recognized as agents under international law. In addition, a host of other international actors, irrespective of their legal status are relevant for our observations: business is active across national and international borders; multinational enterprises can boast balance sheet numbers that, individually, leave the GNPs of smaller and medium sized countries far behind. More than 15,000 NGOs (non-governmental organizations) directly involve themselves in international affairs[6].

Institutions like the International Red Cross, Amnesty International, Médecins sans Frontières, Greenpeace, Human Rights Watch and also religious organizations can look upon strong international public support for their activities. They act through staff that today no doubt also fulfill many functions similar to those of diplomats. Indeed, they probably would qualify as diplomats, if they wanted to.

The UN-organized world conferences held at Rio, Vienna, Beijing, Cairo, Kyoto, Monterrey and Johannesburg have become examples for the active engagement of NGOs in international affairs. Many important areas of today’s international relations (human rights, development cooperation, environmental politics, sustainable development and others) would be unthinkable without the active contribution of the NGO community.

Their activities are enforced by new phenomena such as international ”movements” comprising individuals, NGOs, interested States and individual representatives of public opinion which, acting jointly, pursue important international agendas: the Landmine Convention (Ottawa convention) would never have been concluded without such an international movement. The same holds true for the Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court.

All in all we see a multitude of different actors engaged in international affairs[7]. To a considerable extent the lines between them tend to become blurred; they share common tasks and interests, they are interconnected, they initiate action and reaction. Attempts by traditional diplomacy to shut out NGO activities are short sighted.

More often than not NGOs help to advance causes, which will shape the future of international relations or help to address future global challenges. In addition they can represent a democratic element much needed for diplomacy to retain its legitimacy. Of course, their participation on the international arena also raises a number of important questions, in particular as to their accountability and representativity.[8]

But the fact remains that to a large extent NGOs indeed represent international civil society and move issues forward. The same goes for important international enterprises that have started to acknowledge corporate social responsibility (CSR) and have joined the UN’s global compact initiated by Secretary General Kofi Annan.[9].

In his study on ”Polylateralism and New Modes of Global Dialogue”[10] Geoffrey Wiseman proposes that ”traditional state-centered bilateral and multilateral diplomatic concepts and practices need to be complemented with explicit awareness of a further layer of diplomatic interaction and relationships. Accordingly, the diplomat of the future will need to operate at the bilateral level, the multilateral level and, increasingly, the polylateral level (relations between states and other entities).”

In addition it can well be argued that we soon will enter a phase in which the “monopoly” of states in the conduct of foreign affairs will be further reduced to the extent that more and more actors will no longer depend on states to represent them or their interests abroad.[11]

Many entities other than states already today conduct their own “foreign policy”. The agents helping them to do so will need many of the skills usually associated with “traditional diplomats”. “Post-modern” diplomacy might therefore become a profession, which also includes agents not engaged in the service of a state but of international organizations, NGOs, business, sport federations and other entities operating on the international level.

Foreign Policy goes national

Today, foreign policy issues tend to dominate the newspapers in Europe, but more and more so also in the United States and elsewhere. Foreign policy actors have become public figures. Foreign policy is open to day-to-day public scrutiny and criticism. For the diplomat this means that she or he is also becoming more or less directly answerable to the public.

The public expects explanations, journalists need to be given background interviews,Parliaments ask for information. Many foreign policy issues have fully entered into the domain of national and even regional and local politics. Foreign policy today has to do with many issues in our daily lives.

What used to be ”low politics” (as against ”high politics”) has become normal work for the foreign policy agent: regulations for trade and investment, addressing environmental issues, regulating entry into the country and dealing with problems of migration, finding solutions to questions of road transit often endangering the living conditions of many people.

At the same time, for all these issues there are domestic ministries, experts in other government offices who increasingly are also establishing foreign contacts. They are directly interacting with their homologues in other countries and are regularly traveling to international conferences. This situation is bound to clash with the traditional ”gatekeeper” function[12] of foreign ministries, which hinges on the (false) assumption that domestic and international affairs are conducted in two very different political arenas.

In the age of globalization foreign ministries would be ill advised if they tried to maintain this claim as justification for their existence. If insisted upon too long, other ministries will simply bypass Foreign Affairs. It is not realistic to assume that in today’s world the Ministry for the Environment or the Ministries for Justice and for Home Affairs, just to take a few examples, will not have international contacts and that a modern diplomat can be an expert on detailed issues of environmental policy, or judicial and home affairs.

But the diplomat has to be able – on the international level – to assess the political consequences and possible trade-offs of a specific action or non-action in those areas of policy. This assessment can then lead to instruments of traditional diplomacy, e.g. if certain measures have to be explained or a demarche has to be delivered to the host country[13]. Diplomats have to learn this new mode of cooperation with their colleagues from other ministries.

Modern diplomats must learn to share their competence with other officials if they do not want to become redundant[14]. They have to take great care to make clear to their colleagues from line ministries what exactly the added benefit they can provide is.

Managers of globalization

The globalization of international relations, the internationalization of national policy areas and the growing awareness, that global problems require global solutions signify new important functions for diplomacy. Diplomats have become ”managers of globalization”; they are tasked to manage the ”global village” in which we live[15].

Disarmament, arms regulations, the fight against international terrorism, crime and drug abuse, the protection of human rights, the prevention of climate change and desertification, the promotion of sustainable development, conflict prevention, development cooperation, peace keeping, peacemaking, and peace enforcement, the protection of foreign investments, foreign trade issues… the task list for these ”managers of globalization” appears to be endless.

The concept of ”Global Public Goods” developed recently by Inge Kaul and others[16], which would typically include issues like disease control, crisis prevention, harmonization of norms and standards, helps to explain the workload of diplomats in the 21st century.

Diplomats need to follow developments in these fields proactively, to shape them, to involve public discourse and to give advice to decision-makers on the political levels. They need to be aware of global trends and interests and what they mean for their home country. These tasks are carried out through a combination of bilateral, multilateral and ”polylateral” diplomacy[17] (Wiseman), the latter including – in some structural way – NGOs, advocacy groups and other non-official entities. This development again calls for efforts to bridge the traditional divide between domestic and foreign affairs with foreign affairs moving beyond “gate keeping” to “coordinating” cross border relations.[18]

In the context of multilateral diplomacy the current stage of transatlantic relations is a cause of concern for many intellectuals on both sides of the ocean. There is a real difference in the approach to international law, international organization and multilateral diplomacy. This divergence of views can be exemplified by a number of examples.  Among them: reduction of environmentally harmful CO2-emissions (Kyoto Protocol); the establishment of an International Criminal Court; the right of diplomatic protection for citizens of one state, living in an other country,[19] unlawful trade restrictions (WTO-rulings against the United States); and last but by no mean least: the issue of international legality in dealing with Iraq’s program of weapons of mass destruction. On all these fronts we witness an increasing continental drift.

Certainly this tendency has been reinforced by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that struck US territory and US but also many non-US citizens. Immediate reactions worldwide and specifically in Europe left no doubt about the general condemnation of these atrocious acts and about the willingness to combat, jointly with the US, all manifestations of terrorism. NATO, for the first time in its history invoked Art.V of its constitution, the Washington Treaty of 1949, declaring these attacks an attack on all NATO members. More than a year later, it appears that this chance for a truly common approach – for reasons that still need to be scrutinized – was not used to the full extent.

Too many misunderstandings have been assembled on both sides of the Atlantic. They need to be thoroughly discussed in order to achieve not only a better understanding of each other’s positions but also to bring both sides back to resolute action on the basis of their shared common values.

The core of the transatlantic ”malaise” (to use a diplomat’s word) can be found in the perception of the USA as a truly exceptional country, or Polis, as the ancient Greek would have said. This ”city on the hill” (or as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright [left]used to say ”the indispensable nation”) will not easily succumb to international regulations, that is regulations among peers. This common American view contrasts with the Westphalian European model of an international system constituted by sovereign equals.

The most obvious manifestation of these two different models can be seen in the approach to the possible use of force outside a Security Council mandate. In the eyes of most Europeans, rule of law is paramount also on the international level and the UN’s Security Council holds the ultimate legal power to legitimize the use of force against a state that breaks international rules and regulations[20]. For the ”exceptionalist” United States such subordination is neither conceptually right nor politically practical. Hence, the impression, generally shared in Europe, that Washington – while not totally averse to multilateral action – is only willing to engage in a policy of ”multilateralism à la carte.”

Modern means of communications

For many observers, the modern means of electronic communication constitute the most obvious structural change to the environment in which diplomats operate[21]. The diplomat will never win in a speed race against the journalist. Nor should he or she. The press is not the enemy. The media and diplomacy need to be seen as complementary to each other; they also depend on each other.[22] The modern diplomat is aware of that and will consciously integrate the press into his daily work.

Diplomats will use their special confidential contacts, the empathy they have developed vis-à-vis the receiving state and its political class to report on long term trends, analyze developments and, more importantly, to propose modalities for reaction, to describe scenarios for future developments and also to sound warnings if these developments may be disadvantageous or even dangerous for the interests of his or her own country.

Diplomats must have the courage to also be the bearers of bad news, although many of their predecessors in ancient times suffered direly from such actions. In particular, diplomats should also have the necessary integrity to use their foreign vintage points to signal developments back home that may harbor problems for the future of their country’s interests.

The effects of information technology (IT) on the operation of the diplomatic service

At first glance it might look as if diplomacy has not changed all that much due to the advent of IT, as if diplomacy were to resist change. To some extent this is true, since there are no doubt retarding factors, such as a slower generational change in comparison to the business sector but also the particular relevance of the temporal factor in diplomatic procedure.

In diplomacy, probably more than in other professions, a fast decision is not necessarily the best decision. Most importantly, however, we should keep in mind that – again in diplomacy more than in other professions – human input, the human factor has considerable importance. Thus personal contacts, human expertise and experience, in-built controls and feedback mechanisms, characteristic for diplomatic procedures and not necessarily fast or highly efficient, will continue to exert influence over diplomacy making the re-engineering of diplomatic procedures a more subtle and complex exercise[23].

At the same time even in very traditional diplomatic services many changes due to the advent of IT have already occurred, sometimes not easily noticeable since they follow trends that we are observing also elsewhere in society. Some changes are in the early beginnings, so that their true impact has not yet gained too much attention within the diplomatic community. In the following, in view of their likely importance in the near future, these developments and emerging trends will be described in some detail.

Internet as information tool for the diplomat

Today it has become quite standard for the modern diplomat to have a tailor made mosaic consisting of the web sites of different national and international news agencies on his or her computer desktop or laptop and to consult them first thing in the morning. Secondly, every diplomat needs to have the homepages of all organisations and institutions, relevant for his work, ready on her or his list of ”favourites”. Diplomats today will be electronically connected with colleagues all over the world and thus can quickly and informally gather important information.

A tremendous shift in the main focus of diplomatic work occurs: no more factual reporting, no tele-copying of documents that in former times would have been obtained only after using a lot of diplomatic charm on some insider. Internet access increases the amount of information readily available. However, this information needs to be sorted and also be put in context. Factual reporting is best left to the public media. Diplomacy, even more than it has done hitherto, must concentrate on in depth analysis and drafting recommendations for action and reaction.

While information gathering has become so much easier, information management has and will continue to become much more important. The days of the old filing procedures are gone; new electronic procedures need to be worked out and established. They need to make collected and saved information accessible to all those within an organisation who need to have access to them. The danger that only highly personalised storage systems are developed must be countered. Easier information access brings more knowledge, which must be administered and managed well. Information managers need to be educated and given adequate places in the hierarchy of foreign ministries.

Let us turn now to the question of working procedures within a ministry: what has the introduction of Intranet systems changed, where will the development go?[24] In the Austrian Foreign Service today, as a matter of course, every officer up to the highest echelon and the great majority of officers abroad are linked up and have easiest electronic access to each other. In addition to electronic mail, electronic files have been introduced in the ministry; speeding up the decision making process without paper that has to be moved up and down the ministry’s scale of hierarchy.

The introduction of Intranet-systems has brought about most important changes for the diplomatic service. Among them:

– direct contacts between all officers, without the need for prior authorization, to get a message, an inquiry, an information note out or to get it received. The welcome results are higher motivation, no loss of time and greater sense of responsibility among younger colleagues;

– development of an informal reporting style;

– teamwork: officers can – independently from their geographic location – work together on a report to the minister, a draft statement, a position paper. The strict delineation between central authority and missions abroad is slowly vanishing;

-ministerial structures and lines of command at missions are being redefined, flatter authority, more delegation of responsibility are necessary by-products;[25]

– introduction of task-oriented structures independent of the physical location of the diplomats involved: limited and geographically dispersed experience or academic background in particular areas (e.g. international law) can more easily be pooled together electronically, thus also creating incentives for the continuous upkeep of specialisation (particularly important for smaller services);

– the introduction of Intranet systems leads to flatter lines of authority and increased possibilities for team working. Task-oriented organisation will change the relationship between the ministry and missions abroad;

– missions ought to be better integrated into the overall structure of the ministry, including decision making;

–  integrated resource management needs to preserve the standard functions of missions abroad in relation to their geographic location and combine these functions with new tasks relating to the available expertise in individual missions, which can be employed for specific projects.

Within the EU the ”COREU” system (Correspondence Européenne) is used for exchange of information and position shaping in the context of the Common foreign and Security policy (CFSP). All foreign ministries, the Council Secretariat and the Commission are interconnected. Per year some 13.000 COREUS are exchanged. Over the last years this number has undergone a steady but fairly slow increase. The number of COREUS initiated by individual countries figures between app. 300 and 700 according to size and related foreign policy importance. Countries holding the rotating presidency generate higher numbers of COREUs. The COREU-System has quickly developed into an excellent information network, an important means for substantial co-ordination and an operative tool to draft and finalise position papers, EU Statements and demarches.


With the further advance of IT the technique of using hyperlinks in reports and information notes will provide additional opportunities. Hyperlinks can lead the reader towards specific paragraphs of a document, background material or other related reports. This technique, once accepted has the potential of reforming substantially the format of reporting and information sharing.


As a matter of course most Foreign Ministries and more and more individual missions nowadays maintain their own web sites. They assume important information functions: presentation of leading personalities, photographs and CVs, lists of embassies and opening hours, what to do if you are about to become a ”consular case” in a far away country. In addition web sites can be used as policy oriented tools to:

– provide important statements and position papers with some background note (hyperlink);

– put more information within easy reach of visitors: statistics, archival sources;

– publicise position-papers;

– guide visitors through indication of useful links;

– create interactive programmes to generate interest in foreign policy issues or to sound out public opinion, web-chats with the minister, letterbox, etc.

Web-sites assume an important function in the ”representation” of a country, one of the traditional functions of diplomacy. Web-sites need to be professionally developed and maintained. There has to be close co-ordination of the ministry’s central web-site and those of missions abroad to prevent contradictions and in order to demonstrate corporate identity.

Negotiating per Internet

Within the EU there is by now a fairly well established and totally unspectacular use of the email-system: in many domains EU foreign policy co-operation occurs through working groups. They meet at more or less regular intervals in Brussels. In between meetings, members of the group quite successfully are in contact with each other by COREUs, or less formally, by email and comment on a draft, which might have been established by the chairman of the group (presidency delegation). When they meet again, they have a text on which a fairly large extent of agreement has already been established and in their discussion they can concentrate on the remaining points of divergence.

Techniques for group editing of texts make it possible to integrate IT even more in the negotiating process. There is, however, as yet only limited reported practical experience on the usage of information technology for negotiations. The author has experienced some of the advantages of the tools provided by modern technology for the conduct of complex negotiations when in 2000 and 2001 he served in a  pro bono function as the head of the Austrian negotiating team on the issue of restitution of property rights to victims of the national-socialist Regime in Austria. This experience was encouraging enough to recommend the wider use of this tool in diplomatic practice. The conclusions summarized here are drawn from that recent experience.

 Negotiating per Internet – Advantages:

–  concentration on content and substance, no ”emotional noise”;

– clarity, lucidity of formulation, less misunderstandings;

– facilitates comparison of texts proposed;

– transparency, easy to maintain record of proposals made and revisions added;

-time factor: each delegation can work according to its rhythm, time difference can be turned into advantage;

– easy and reliable method of establishing the final text;

-more than two parties can participate;

– cost efficient


-partners must share a common view on the purpose of the negotiations and the time frame;

-ground-rules need to be established (who are the active negotiating partners? with whom can you share the text? who establishes the final text?)

– it helps to have a central facilitator who maintains control over the process and convenes meetings in person, when needed;

-basic trust among negotiating partners must have been established in prior face-to-face meetings and further personal meetings at regular intervals will be needed to advance the process;

-within delegations there has to be a clear understanding about delegation of authority (once a proposal has been made electronically it cannot be easily withdrawn); as head of delegation you must be comfortable with a fairly flat structure of hierarchy within your team;

Knowledge management[26]:

Modern communications technology offers the diplomat easy and fast access to broad areas of information and speedy and reliable methods of transmission. Information gathering has thus become easier, its management, however, more difficult at the same time. The problem, of course, is known in fields far beyond diplomacy: how to filter out from the bottomless resources of the World Wide Web the information that is reliable and useful; how to connect different streams of information to a coherent whole?

Modern organizations have to change from being one in which you are rewarded for how clever you are in obtaining information to an organization in which you are rewarded for how useful the information is to the team. The fact that information is so much at the center of diplomatic activity makes this a primary challenge for the diplomat.

The easy access to information and the more ”democratic” means of information transfer offered by the Internet and Intranet also change (or at least need to change) the structures of foreign ministries and the relationship with and among representations abroad. The flow of information can no longer be monopolized and hierarchically controlled.

In modern diplomacy, as in the modern business world, we need flatter hierarchies and the encouragement of teamwork, going beyond traditionally established boundaries and partitions of labor between the central authority and the field. In his famous book ”The Lexus and the Olive Tree” Tom Friedman recounts the advice he received from a seasoned businessman: ”We are not saying that headquarters doesn’t matter. But we are redefining what the center means in ways that are more inclusive, in ways that allow us to move faster and be more responsive. Any hierarchy that bases itself on denying information to its employees is not going to work. Now it has to be much more of teamwork”.

The use of electronic communication seems to have the inherent result of not only calling for but also facilitating teamwork and a broadening of organisational structures. Substantive authority has to replace formal authority. Only those services, which are willing to bring such changes about, will be able to fully make use of the emerging vast new possibilities

The Public Diplomat

Many of the above mentioned developments (the nexus between diplomacy and internal politics, the broadening of issues to be dealt with by diplomats, the communication revolution and others) have helped to give prominence to a rather new concept in foreign relations: public diplomacy[27]. The diplomat today is above all a communicator and mediator of positions of his/her own country vis-à-vis all sections of the politically informed public in the host country.

The main business is no longer discreet and confidential dealings with the foreign ministry of the host country but public diplomacy aimed at explaining and canvassing support for positions among government circles, parliament, the political parties, the business community, the social partners, the media and representatives of academic and cultural life. For this the diplomat must build up and cultivate a dense and stable network of contacts in all areas of society with a view to becoming actively involved in shaping public opinion in the host country.

More than elsewhere this holds true for the relationship between individual countries of the European Union, but certainly also in places like Washington, where the art of public diplomacy has developed out of the more traditional networking and lobbying business and where today public diplomacy literally reaches the sky. A recent article in the International Herald Tribune carried the telling title: ”Construction boom; ambassadors compete; building castles to keep profile high in Washington.”[28]

European Diplomacy

Within the EU it has become fairly routine for some politicians (usually from opposition parties) and journalists to question the need for maintaining national embassies in the capitals of other EU Member States. And indeed with so much political activity being concentrated in Brussels and with the aspirations of forming a common foreign and security policy, the continued maintenance of national embassies might appear simply to be the perpetuation of an old and certainly costly habit and hence needs explanation.

Why then do we need bilateral embassies in the other EU countries?[29] This question so much vexed the German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, that in 2000 he commissioned a special study on this issue to be carried out by Ambassador Paschke, a former high level German diplomat and Inspector General (Office of Internal Oversight Services, OIOS) of the United Nations.[30] Ambassador Paschke, some will say not surprisingly, concluded that bilateral embassies remain most relevant, but are undergoing important changes in their activities with the following focal points:

·observing developments in public opinion in the receiving state which impact on decision making on European issues;

· analyzing long term trends, especially in regard of attitudes towards European integration;

·influencing (through direct contacts and public diplomacy) the national preparation of decision-making in Brussels;

· continuing to represent the intellectual and cultural identity of their home country in what will remain a ”Europe of Motherlands”;

·promoting scientific cooperation;

· promoting trade;

·serving as public relation agencies in a Europe where networks will become ever more important; and

· providing consular services, especially for long- term residents.

Thus for the mid term future bilateral embassies in EU countries will remain important for the pursuance of number of essential activities.

Another consideration has to do with a phenomenon, which Ambassador Paschke termed the ”illusion of familiarity”. Often the usefulness of the modern diplomat is put into question because of the close relations politicians develop with each other, their frequent meetings in the UN at regular conferences and even more so within the EU or in other regional settings.

The European Union is the primary example of these ”class room” relationships. And indeed, the personal networks of politicians, the ease with which, for example, they can resort to the telephone are fairly new developments in international relations. Frequent, periodic meetings generate the feeling of intimate knowledge not only of the politician as colleague but also of his or her thinking, his or her motives and the background of decisions provided by their home country.

However, more often than not this is a superficial felling, void of deeper analysis and knowledge about the circumstances leading to certain situations and decisions. ”Proximity has not produced intimacy.” (Paschke). Politicians, also in Europe, still think and act essentially in national categories. These vary widely and can only be properly evaluated through continuous first-hand observation. The illusion of familiarity requires correctives, which only the embassy on the spot can provide through meticulous, in-depth analysis supplying politicians with reliable ”hard” information on the political thinking of their colleagues. And only the embassy on the spot can ensure that bilateral problems are dealt with comprehensively, taking into account all aspects of the problem, and also provide the necessary follow-up.

A related issue is the extent to which membership in the European Union necessitates organizational changes within the structures of the foreign ministries of Member States[31]. The most important steps to be taken center around the organizational necessity of coping with the CFSP’s COREU-traffic (speedy distribution and, if necessary, reaction), including the establishment of a ”European Correspondent unit” within the political department of the ministry; the need, either within the foreign ministry or elsewhere within the structures of government, to ensure optimal coordination on EU related matters and the capacity to fulfill all the responsibilities concomitant with the function of the EU Presidency[32].

When we speak of ”European Diplomacy” we also have to look to the future of European foreign policy. There is considerable interest in this issue within the European Convention[33] and, naturally enough, within individual European foreign ministries.

What does the slow but ongoing consolidation and further development of the EU´s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) mean for the traditional foreign policy apparatus of Member States? In all likelihood, foreign policy of the EU will for some time at least remain in between interstate and community methods. The second pillar will not immediately disappear or collapse; rather it will slowly wither away.

In the long run, however, Political Union will be as unthinkable without a unified foreign policy as the internal market would be today without a unified foreign trade and tariff policy. And indeed, foreign policy is an obvious case study for an area, where truly combined EU action would certainly be more effective than national action. What is urgently required for the Union in order to move from ”global payer” to ”global player” is a more adequate, better-streamlined representation towards the outside world.

· the current system of rotating presidencies will have to be rethought;

· most probably we will see a gravitation of foreign policy competencies towards the Union’s High Representative, who will, in a personal union, combine what are currently both Mr. Solana´s and Mr. Patten’s job profiles. (Perhaps a High Representative as a member of the Commission, acting with a mandate of the Council);

· we will see a European diplomatic service being developed, directed by the HR and consisting of the following three elements:

-amalgamation of the Commission’s Directorate-General for External Relations with the corresponding Directorate-General of the Council Secretariat;

– further development of the Planning Unit into an independent unit for analysis co-staffed by diplomats from member countries; and

-in third countries EC-Delegations will become EU delegations, serving the whole union and with some coordinating function in the field.

At Wilton Park’s Conference on the role of diplomats in the modern world (FN 1) the point was made that the European Convention’s proposals on a “Constitutional Treaty” and subsequent negotiations at the next Intergovernmental Conference (ICG) might well bring more changes to the procedures and institutional set-up of the Union’s CFSP than has been hitherto assumed. Such a development, it was argued, would then also call for a deeper going re-structuring  in the organization and procedures of national foreign ministries in EU member states in the direction of a true “Europeanization” of foreign policy making.

The emergence of a specialized external service of the European Union will, however, only happen over some extended period of time. It might very well include the establishment of additional bridges (”passerelles”) between the remaining national services and the emerging external service of the Union. Even then a number of important reserved domains will continue to remain with the individual foreign ministries of Member States, where national interests that can and will not be dealt with on the Union’s level, are at stake.

The evolution of a European Diplomacy and a European External Service will necessitate better coordination in the training of diplomats[34]. Currently there are only a few institutions in Europe that explicitly provide training with such a vision in mind. Foremost among them is the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.

In December 2001 the Academy organized a meeting of leading European institutions in the field of diplomatic training with the purpose of finding ways and means to better harmonize training requirements and methods. The meeting adopted a number of proposals, which should guide further action in this field, among them the idea to jointly develop a  ”programme de base” for a future common curriculum for the training of diplomats. This meeting was also a first concrete reaction to various initiatives presented to the European Parliament, most notably by the Spanish MEP, Gerardo Galeote Quecedo, concerning a common Community diplomacy and the development of the external service[35].

These proposals also include the idea of establishing a European Diplomatic Academy, without however specifying to any extent the structure of such an institution. Similar proposals for coordinating the training programs and a common foundation for European diplomatic programs can also be found in Mr. Inigo Mendez de Vigos’ contribution to Working Group VII (External Action) of the European Convention[36]. Furthermore, the proposal for the establishment of a European Diplomatic Academy is also contained in the final report of Working Group VII to the European Convention[37].

Probably the most efficient and workable way to meet these various interesting and forward looking proposals would be to establish a consortium consisting of the leading institutions in this area which will operate under jointly elaborated guidelines and with the coordination of the European Commission’s Department for External Affairs.

What qualifications does the 21st century diplomat need?

Many of the structural changes that we can discern in international relations today and which will be even more relevant for the future will require important changes in some of the traditional ideas associated with the ”art of diplomacy”:

· openness instead of secrecy; while this does not mean ”open covenants openly arrived at”, it does mean a sincere willingness to communicate with the interested public and explain positions and results achieved;

· in the age of general mobility of the citizen, diplomacy must also be seen as a ”service industry”, helping citizens in need for assistance and advice[38];

·to a very large extent networking and teamwork are replacing hierarchy; delegation of authority, and streamlining of administrative procedures and decision-making become essential;

. not the quantity or sheer speed but the quality of information counts;

·diplomacy needs gender equality and must promote equal career possibilities.

What then constitutes the ideal ”new age” diplomat? I think a thorough mixture of traditional and not so traditional characteristics[39]:

· a pluridisciplinary education;

·linguistic skills;

·patience to listen and observe;

·proficiency in intercultural communication;

· sensitivity to socio-cultural differences;

· feeling comfortable with the latest communications technologies;

. ability to perform at ease in public;

·free of elitism[40];

·service orientation;

·a high level of tolerance;

·neither a ”softie” nor the ”elbow type”;

.readiness for life-long learning, mid career training;

·stress resistance, coolness in crises;

·management skills;

·ability to work in teams; collaborator instead of competitor;

·a keen interest in global issues.

Transcending these requirements is the often-posed question: should the diplomat be a generalist or specialist? The great George Kennan once confirmed the need for both the generalist and the specialist, adding that of the two the generalist will take the more essential and central position: without his leadership and the coordination over the activities of the experts, they would only produce chaos[41].

Let us look into this issue a bit more in detail: the modern diplomat must in the first instance be a coordination expert. He or she must be able to meet the demands posed by globalization and be able to draw the right conclusions and policy recommendations from international developments, which are more often than not interwoven and mutually supportive.

The diplomat must be able, also in small teams, to motivate and show leadership. She or he must be a public relations expert and must have a sound knowledge in foreign policy issues in general as well as in global issues. In Europe, the diplomat must also – as a matter of course – be knowledgeable in European integration policy. And, it goes without saying, be well versed in languages. This ”generalist” will also need a sound background in economics and should be a seasoned negotiator in theory and practice. In short, our ”generalist” is a ”specialist” in the art of diplomacy.

However, in particular in the case of smaller foreign services this will not suffice: If we want to recognize the dire reality of scarce resources of available personnel and funding, we must have our diplomacy specialist, also trained to be a true specialist in one particular domain: e.g. multilateral diplomacy, international law, economic integration, environmental issues or development cooperation. And he or she would expect over the course of the career to be able, more than once, to have a posting where this special knowledge can also be put to use.[42]

On the European (EU) level, the European Council of Sevilla earlier this year introduced some new developments, which are of relevance in the ”generalist versus specialist” context. Together with a considerable streamlining of the different ”council formations” (nine instead of sixteen), the General Affairs Council composed of Foreign Ministers has also been given the formal mandate for horizontal coordination. It is obvious that this reinforced role for Foreign Ministers will also result in increased coordination responsibilities for their staff, the integration departments in their ministries and beyond: a new, additional challenge for the ”generalist-specialist”.

Training of diplomats needs to correspond to these new requirements and challenges. It should be able to count on a pluridisciplinary university education as its base. The training, in addition to the obvious need of language training, should include both a thorough and academically founded program acquainting future diplomats with various instruments in the fields of economics, international relations, conflict and crisis management.

Regardless of the age-old question whether human beings will ever be able to learn, from history[43], diplomats need to be well versed in Diplomatic History and have a sound knowledge of European and International Law including Human Rights Law and international trade regulations. Furthermore, given the increasing importance of the management of ”Global Public Goods”[44] diplomats need a sound basis in development economics and development cooperation as well as in environmental and international climate issues and questions of sustainable development[45].

In addition the development of personal skills needs to be promoted (presentation skills, personal management, project management, presentation techniques, public performance etc.)[46]. Given the fast evolution in these areas and in international relations, any diplomatic service that does not provide continuous lifelong training for its diplomats will not meet the challenge of the future.[47]

In a lecture he prepared for the meeting of Deans and Directors of Diplomatic Academies meeting at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna in 1979 the then Dean of the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy, Edmund Gullion, posed the question whether there still would be diplomats in the year 2000[48]. Today we know the answer.

Gullion’s answer then was to say that while certainly the traditional diplomat cast in the Vienna mold of 1815 could well be on the way to extinction, the species diplomat per se, however, would survive and flourish, as long as it was able to adapt to changed circumstances, to a new climate and to the new environment in which the craft of diplomacy will have to be exerted.

“The year 2000 promises to be crowded and contentious. It will need a Service, which is a repository of the history of civilization; it will need wise and able negotiators and conciliators. It will need the diplomat on the spot, in danger or in calm, who can say what will or what will not work, who can foresee problems and solve them. Ideally, he is the man who is “in control of the occasion” as Demosthenes described the Athenian diplomat, “the man on whose wisdom, steadiness, goodwill, integrity and faithful account policy must rely.”

We can add nothing here, except that neither Demosthenes nor, apparently, Edmund Gullion foresaw the possibility of woman diplomats.


Literature on the issue of diplomacy and its development over the century abounds. The present list contains – in addition to a few traditional works – a sample of more recent publications, which the author found to be particularly instructive.

Andrlic, Mladen and Zubcevic, Irena (ed): Diplomacy for the Twenty-First Century: Knowledge Management  (Diplomatic Academy of Croatia, Zagreb 2000)

Andrlic, Mladen and Zubcevic, Irena (ed): Public Diplomacy and Media (Diplomatic Academy of Croatia, Zagreb 2000)

Berridge, G.R.: Diplomacy, Theory and Practice (Palgrave, New York 2002)

Braunias, Karl and Gerald Stourzh, (ed): Diplomatie unserer Zeit, Beiträge aus dem Internationalen Diplomaten-Seminar Klessheim (Styria, Graz 1959)

Busk, Sir Douglas: The Craft of Diplomacy; How to run a Diplomatic Service (Praeger, New York, 1967

Cascone, Andrea: Comparing Diplomatic Services: Structures, Networks and Resources of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of EU and G8 Member States (DiploProjects, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Malta 1999)

Gore-Booth (ed): Satow’s Guide to Diplomatic Practice (Longman, London 1979)

Hamilton, Keith and Richard Langhorne: The Practice of Diplomacy (Routledge, New York 1995)

Hocking, Brian (ed): Foreign Ministries, Change and Adaptation (Macmillan, London 1999)

Keeley, Robert V. (ed) First Line of Defense: Ambassadors, Embassies and American Interests Abroad (The American Academy of Diplomacy, Washington,2000)

Kennan, George: Diplomacy without Diplomats in Foreign Affairs 76(1997), p 198-212

Kurbalija, Jovan (ed): Modern Diplomacy (Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Malta 1998)
Kurbalija, Jovan and Stefano Baldi: Internet Guide for Diplomats (DiploPojects, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Malta 2000)
Kurbalija, Jovan (ed): Knowledge and Diplomacy (DiploProjects, Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, Malta 1999)

Langhorne, Richard and William Wallace: Diplomacy towards the Twenty-first Century, in: Brian Hocking (ed) Ministries: Change and Adaptation (Macmillan, Houndsmill, UK 1999)

Marshall, Sir Peter and Nabil Ayad, (ed): Are Diplomats Really Necessary? (International Symposium Proceedings, University of Westminster Press, London 1999)
Marshall, Sir Peter and Nabil Ayad, (ed): The Information Explosion: A Challenge for Diplomacy (International Symposium Proceedings, University of Westminster Press, London 1999)

Melissen, Jan (ed): Innovation in Diplomatic Practice (Palgrave, New York, 1999)

Nicolson, Sir Harold: Diplomacy (Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Washington 1988)
Nicolson, Harold: The Evolution of Diplomatic Method (University of Leicester 1954, reprinted 1998)

Potter, Evan H.: Canada and the New Public Diplomacy (Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, No 81/2002)

Talbot, Strobe: Globalization and Diplomacy: A Practitioner´s Perspective, in: Foreign Policy 108/1997), p 69-83

Wildner, Heinrich: Die Technik der Diplomatie (Springer Wien 1959)
[1] The author is director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. The text reflects the personal views of the author. At a recent Wilton Park Conference on “The Role of Diplomats in the Modern World” the author was able to discuss many of the issues reflected in this paper with a number of colleagues and experts. This paper does not attempt in any way to summarize its proceedings, it nevertheless mirrors the richness of ideas that the conference could bring to bear.

[2] Abba Eban, Diplomacy for the Next Century (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1998); p 92

[3] Alan Henrikson, Diplomacy for the 21st Century: Re-Crafting the Old Guild” in  Colin  Jennings and Nicholas Hopkinson (eds): Current Issues in International Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, vol 1 (Wilton park, 1999), p 5-47

[4] Ian Soutar, The Impact of Information Technology on Diplomatic Practice in Diplomacy Beyond 2000 (University of Westminster Press, London 1996), p 2

[5] International Herald Tribune, February 10, 2002

[6] Daniel Thürer, The Emergence of Non-Governmental Organizations and Transnational Enterprises in International Law and the Changing Role of the State in Non-State Actors as New Subjects of International Law (Duncker & Humboldt, Berlin 1999), p 37ff

[7] Benita Ferrero-Waldner speaking at the “Europäisches Forum Alpbach” 2002 (www.bmaa.gv.at/presseservice)

[8] August Reinisch, Governance without Accountability; 44 German Yearbook of International Law (2001). p 270 ff

[9] http://www.unglobalcompact.org

[10] Diplomatic Studies Programme, University of Leicester, Discussion Paper No.59 (November 1999)

[11] At Wilton Park’s Conference on the role of diplomacy (FN 1) Professor Alan Henrikson from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy spoke of “demediatization” as one of the trends (“futurios”) that will impact on the way diplomacy will be conducted.

[12]Jonathan W. Moses and Torbjorn Knutsen, Globalization and the Reorganization of Foreign Affairs Ministries: (Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, Netherlands Institute for International Relations, No 80 May 2002)

[13] Horst-Dieter Steinbach, The Modern Diplomat: Envoy or Manager in Diplomacy in the Area of Globalization (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Zagreb2001) p 47

[14] Raymond Saner, Die Zukunft der Diplomatie in Enrico Brandt und Christian Buch (ed): Auswärtiges Amt – Diplomatie als Beruf (Leske & Budrich, Opladen 2002) p 339

[15] Phillipe Petit, La diplomatie du 21e siècle, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva, Point de vue  2001, No 1

[16] Inge Kaul, Isabelle Grunberg, and Marcus A Stern (eds), Global Public Goods; International Cooperation in the 21st Century (Oxford University Press, New York 1999). In this book Global Public goods are defined as “having no excludable, nonrival benefits that cut across borders, generations and populations.”

[17] see FN 10

[18] Inge Kaul and Katell Le Goulven Institutional Options for Providing Global Public Goods in Inge Kaul a.o. (eds)  Providing Global Public Goods (Oxford University Press, New York, 2003), p 372, 380

[19] Here the International Court of Justice lately in the La Grande case had to rule against the United States.

[20] For a detailed study of the norms governing use of force in international affairs see Thomas M. Franck, State Action against threats and Armed attacks (Cambridge University Press, 2002)

[21] Richard Burt and Olin Robinson, Reinventing Diplomacy in the Information Age, CSIS Report Washington 1998 (www.csis.org/ics/dia/final.htlm)

[22] Richard Burt and Olin Robinson, Diplomacy in the Information Age; Diplomatic Studies Programme Discussion paper No 58 (University of Leicester, October 1999) p 39

[23] Jovan Kurbalija, Diplomacy in: the Age of Information Technology in Jan Melissen (ed): The Innovation of Diplomatic Practice (Palgrave, New York, 1999), p 171

[24] The reader will note that in the following actual developments and discernable trends are mixed with the author’s visions relating to the future of a well functioning foreign service.

[25] Steffen Rudolf: Die Reform des Auswärtigen Dienste in: Enrico Brandt und Christian Buch (ed): Auswärtiges Amt – Diplomatie als Beruf (Leske & Budrich, Opladen 2002), p 348f

[26] In October 1999 the Diplomatic Academy of Zagreb organized a seminar under the title: “Diplomacy for the Twenty-First Century: Knowledge Management” focusing on this essential issue for modern diplomacy in its use of communication technology. The proceedings of this conference were published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia in 2000.

[27] Friedrich Höss, Concept and Substance of Public Diplomacy in: Public Diplomacy and the Media, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Croatia, Zagreb 2000.

Christian Prosl, Public Diplomacy, Diplomatic Academy Favorita Paper 1/2003 (in preparation)

[28] International Herald Tribune, August 20, 2002

[29] On this issue see also Brian Hocking Gatekeepers and Boundary-Spanners; Thinking about Foreign Ministries in the European Union in Brian Hocking and David Spence (eds) Foreign Ministries in the European Union (Palgrave New York 2003) p 1-17

[30] Report on the Future of Bilateral Diplomacy in Europe (Report on the special inspection of fourteen German embassies in the countries of the European Union), reprinted in: The Future of European Diplomacy, Diplomatic Academy of Vienna Favorita Papers 02/2001, p 7-30

[31] see Hanspeter Neuhold’s contribution on Austria in:  Brian Hocking and David Spence (eds), Foreign Ministries in the European Union (Palgrave, New York, 2002), p 37-59. An earlier version of this chapter was published as Hanspeter Neuhold, EU membership and the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Occasional Paper, No 2/1998;

The Finnish Foreign Ministry published an interesting and highly readable paper on “Challenges for the Finnish Foreign Service”, Report by Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja to the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, 12 June 2001. This report also deals with the impact of EU Membership on the Finnish Foreign Ministry (p 17ff)

[32] Alexander Schallenberg and Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (eds), Die EU-Präsidentschaft Österreichs (Vienna, Manz 1999); Otmar Höll, The Austrian Presidency of the European Union (Laxenburg, The Austrian Institute for International Affairs, 1998); David Spence The Evolving Role of Foreign Ministries in the Conduct of European Union Affairs in Brian Hocking and David Spence (eds) Foreign Ministries in the European Union (Palgrave New York 2003) p 19-36

[33] The Final Report of the European Convention’s Working Group VII on External Action (Doc.: CONV 459/02) gives an excellent overview of current thinking within the Convention (http://european.convention.eu.int/doc)

[34] Francisco Aldecoa Luzarraga: The coordination of training in community matters for the member state diplomatic corps, (Universidad Complutense Madrid, 2002,Conference Report)

[35] These proposals (in the form of European Parliament resolutions) and the reactions of the Commission are reproduced in“ The Future of European Diplomacy”(Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, Favorita Papers 02/2001).

[36] Working document 55

[37] see FN 33

[38]According to information posted on the Austrian MFA’s website (ww.bmaa.gv.at/presseserv) the increasing mobility of nationals, both as tourists and as expatiates working in foreign countries increases the workload of the consular service by roughly 10% per year.

[39] In a short piece on “Diplomatic Training, the Dutch way” the Director of the Department of Training and Education at Clingendael, Jan Melissen (The Clingendael Newsletter, 9/2002) reminds us that much of what some of the most eminent writers on diplomacy (e.g. the 17th century Dutchman Abraham de Wicquefort, his French contemporary Francois de Callières or more recently in the 1930s, Harold Nicolson) wrote about the requirements for sound diplomacy is still relevant today. However, while these great “diplomatists” stressed a number of highly appropriate character values, which they wanted to see in the ideal diplomat, who otherwise would be a true homo universalis, “no diplomatic service today can maintain its high quality without a strategy for the life-long learning of its staff.” (Melissen)

[40] Roland Kliesow, Wer sollte sich für den Auswärtigen Dienst bewerben? in: Enrico Brandt und Christian Buch (ed): Auswärtiges Amt – Diplomatie als Beruf (Leske & Budrich, Opladen 2002) p 254

[41] Stanley Martin, The Future of Diplomatic Training in: Diplomacy beyond 2000, International Symposium Proceedings (University of Westminster Press, London 1996), P 72

[42] The above-mentioned new possibilities offered by modern information technology could – if put to good use by well-intentioned personnel departments – help to achieve this goal.

[43] The great Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann once said: “History teaches many lessons but finds no pupils”.

[44] See above: FN 15

[45] “The foreign Service is expected to incorporate environmental and sustainable development aspects, in a comprehensive and coherent manner, in all activities of the Service, e.g., in development cooperation aims and country programmes, in trade policy relations, in international financing co-operation and in regional cooperation,..” Report by Foreign Minster Erkki Tuomioja, see FN 31

[46] In 1979 Ralph Feltham, one of the great scholars of diplomacy in our time, then director of the Foreign Service Course at Oxford University prepared a substantive paper for discussion for the meetings of Deans and Directors of Diplomatic Academies and Institutes of International Relations on the issue of “Training for an International career”, published in the ISD (Institute for the Study of Diplomacy) Legacy Edition series. To a large extent this paper is still relevant today, although of course is does not deal with the IT revolution and its impact on diplomacy.

[47] The Diplomatic Academy of Vienna provides a well-rounded one-year training program. See the program of studies for the Academy‘s traditional Diploma Course: http://www.da-vienna.at

[48] Anticipation of Diplomacy in the Twenty-First Century, Occasional Paper of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Washington 1979, ISD Legacy Edition

8 thoughts on “21st Century Diplomacy

  1. For Wisma Putra, please note two points:-

    Point 1: “Training of diplomats … It should be able to count on a pluridisciplinary university education as its base. The training, in addition to the obvious need of language training, should include both a thorough and academically founded program acquainting future diplomats with various instruments in the fields of economics, international relations, conflict and crisis management”.

    Point 2: ‘In addition the development of personal skills needs to be promoted (presentation skills, personal management, project management, presentation techniques, public performance etc.). Given the fast evolution in these areas and in international relations, any diplomatic service that does not provide continuous lifelong training for its diplomats will not meet the challenge of the future.”

    There are no short cuts; but the investment will pay off. The money now given to Cowgate people should have been given to Wisma Putra for the development and training of our diplomats.–Din Merican

  2. By the time you find a diplomat with these qualities you have to pay him at least RM104,366.56 a month.
    No problem to pay a diplomat with these qualities a rm100k+. Because it is expensive to invest in and develop such a person. Quality education is not cheap.–Din Merican

  3. Din

    Good effort, good article. Only one flaw. Them guys at Wisma Putra will find this article too trying … it is written in English … a language that they struggle with even when posted to their foreign missions.

    So you see, your attempt to educate these worms is stillborn.Try translating the article into Malay (no google translation, please). The brighter worms may give a try to read it … though they will still struggle with the concepts.

    Too bad. It is their loss, not mine. Others who read this thread may gain some understanding about diplomacy in the modern era. –Din Merican

  4. The United Nations is supposed to be the the pinnacle of everything that diplomacy stands for; but almost from the moment of its inception, large powers have lorded it over the rest of their world. All in the name of diplomacy when in reality it has either been about how best to relieve resource-rich countries of their wealth or to interfere in their normal political evolution.

    Well trained diplomats, it appears, do not really matter in international affairs… so long as they understand the meaning of self-interest.

  5. Too simplistic, Isa. The pursuit of self-interest to the exclusion of other considerations leads to what I would call cowboy diplomacy. This approach under G W Bush has been costly to the United States, for example. In the era of globalisation and interdependence, nations must cooperate and collaborate on many fronts like climate change, epidemics, and natural disasters. No nation is an island onto itself. That is why diplomacy is complicated and challenging.–Din Merican

  6. Ideally, he is the man who is “in control of the occasion” as Demosthenes described the Athenian diplomat, “the man on whose wisdom, steadiness, goodwill, integrity and faithful account policy must rely.”

    Isnt that the ideal but we are so far away from this, its not funny. I have heard them speak in public, there those who dont even want to give an English speech because they are too shy f their weak command of the language,let alone speak 2 or mroe languages. I cringe looking aorund wondering what the audience may be thinking.

    Dato’,thank you for this article. Alas, the majority are not competent in English & thus will not benefit.

  7. The argument that, ” well trained diplomats, it appeares, do not really matter in international affaires … so long as they understand the meaning of self-interest”, to say the least is flawed and putting the cart before the horse. You need that comprehensive training because not only in diplomacy but in all other professions there are times when you have to think on you feet bfore you can talk about selfinterest. If you are unable to do that you will be left behind. They are times when say that I will have to look it up and let you know, you have already lost valuable ground.

    The training that is most invaluable for diplomats is the ability to go through paper work quickly and accurately. You must be trained to read the papers that come to you and also to read in between the line and not just concentrate what is on the line before you can fit that self or national interest into the equation. You also must be ready to read around the subject. There are no shortcuts.A diplomat has to do the leg work of reading himself and do the important tasks himself and not delegate it to his staff. There was this one incident during a State Visit when the Head of State asked his Ambassador what was the next programme. The Ambassador did not know it off-hand and could not answer. The Head of State looked it up in his programme and found that out.Incidents like this alywas show up during negotiations and if you do not do your own leg work you will be stranded like that unfortunate Ambassador.

    Finally, just becuse failure are the pillars of success you do not build a bridge with hundreds of pillars to build a successful one. If you do not have the training you will say more pillars the better. If you come from Jerantut where a bridge was built over the Pahang River in the late 70s which was washed away by the floods that year you will get the drift.

  8. Simplistic, Dato? Not a bit. The world would be much better off (and safer) if we do away with the United Nations as it stands and allow world affairs to be conducted on bi- or multi lateral basis, like in the old days.

    Those who think that globalisation of the economy, that has proved to be such a disaster, was the first attempt, might like to ponder that it was the UN that was the precursor of globalisation…. in diplomacy. It has proved to be more wanting than its version in economics.

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