Reflection on the Role and the Importance of Diplomacy in Our Today’s World

By Wadner Pierre

In a fragile, volatile and globalized world, diplomacy continues to remain the best tool to address local, national and global issues. The states are no longer the only actors in the international arena, but also the non-state actors.

52133_731678456877960_3736622496617742578_oFirst, what is Diplomacy? Traditionally, Diplomacy, according to Britannca.com is “the conduct of official relations between sovereign states.” Similarly, Hans J. Morgenthau wrote, diplomacy is “a method of conducting foreign affairs.” In other words, Diplomacy  could be referred to the official business between States in the Community of Nations. However, Diplomacy could be define as the way people interact with each other, and the peaceful mechanism they use to sort out their differences. In a nutshell, diplomacy is a tool on which state and non-state actors rely to address and resolve local, national, regional and global issues without resorting to force.

Success and Failure in Diplomacy

To begin, all diplomatic appointees are political appointees. The main task of all diplomats is to carry out the foreign policy of their respective governments. Therefore, they are the representatives of their people in the host countries. One thing that diplomats seem to agree on, is that diplomacy entails persistent dialogue, infinite patience and compromise is certainly inevitable. As professor Stephen Hopgood said, “Successful diplomacy is about reaching some kind of agreement, bargain and compromise that everybody can live with.”

In addition, successful diplomacy requires that both sides be treated equally, and know from the very beginning that comprise will be inevitable. Therefore, a failed diplomacy is nothing than the failure of the antagonist parties to keep dialoguing until a workable agreement is hammered out. In that case, one can argue that diplomatic dialogue can collapse as we often witness in the case of Middle East Endless Peace Talk, Syria the list can go on, but diplomacy as a tool survives.

In the past few years, I had opportunity to attend few global diplomatic conferences in the in different parts of the globe and listened to career diplomats who have been working on the Middle East Peace Talk for years. When you asked them about progress that has been made, they have so much to tell you, and you can only conclude that diplomacy works just by having both side talking to each other one way or another. It is my belief that diplomacy as a tool works, but actors, because of their lack of understanding of this important tool sometimes fail to make good use of it. Nonetheless, at the end diplomacy survives because they often come back and reach an agreement.

Diplomatic Talk Should a Peaceful Process

It is common to read or listen to people argue that they are proponents of a diplomatic solution to a particularly issue, and then after few hours the same people flip-flap and argue that a military option should be on the table. Well, if force is sometimes necessary to achieve peaceful treaty, why should we initiate a diplomatic dialogue? Another question is, how far should the antagonist parties go to solve their problems without resorting to force? Finally, if we believe that diplomacy is an antidote to war, so why should an actor even think of using its military might to achieve its goal instead of negotiating a two-way solution?

Diplomats cannot run out of patience. For example, President Barack Obama understood, first, Iran did not represent an immediate threat for the U.S. national security; second, he knew having other supper powers participate and support his U.S. position, would legitimize U.S.-imposed economic sanctions on Iran; third, it was President Obama’s readiness to compromise to facilitate the P5+ 1 group to achieve their ultimate goal. President Obama made a risky, but calculated diplomatic decision to show world’s leaders that diplomacy still works as long as diplomats are ready to exhaust all diplomatic tools, including secret talks, that they have at their disposition. Thus, it is obvious that force cannot be considered as an element in diplomacy. The militarization of diplomacy is nothing than a calculated diplomatic debacle.

What Are the Qualities of a Good Diplomat

At the beginning of this course, we have read many articles and watched several interviews on diplomacy and its role in the community of nations. But, what are the qualities of a good diplomat?

Let me begin with the role of diplomats. Diplomatists are representatives of their countries in a foreign land, and their main task is to advance their country’s interest. From the way they dress to the way they speak or behave, diplomats are constantly being watched, and every single word they speak is subject to rigorous scrutiny.

First, my assessment is that one of the qualities of a diplomat is to be diplomatic in whatever he or she is dealing with. As Harvey Sicherman wrote, “in diplomatic technique, there is a difference between “a waltz and a march.” A diplomat needs to know when to “involve and when to take a step back.”

Second, when talking on the different qualities of a good diplomat, former UN-Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Baroness Valerie Amos said a diplomat “can’t give up” she or he has to persevere. In other words, patience is key.

Third, diplomacy as a profession requires a certain set of skills. Chas Freema wrote that those skills can be acquired through practice. Freema cited ten functions in diplomacy that he said are “inseparably connected,” and three of them in my opinion are key: advocate your government policies; establishing relationships with the officials, political and business leaders of the host countries; and most importantly cultivating an image that links to your nation’s interest.

Diplomacy in Action

Today, diplomacy has evolved, it is no longer an affair between sovereign states. That is why Louise Diamond, PhD and former diplomat John McDonald have come up with the word Multi-Track Diplomacy. As Alan Henrikson argued, the future of diplomacy depends on the ability of diplomats to work in a globalized world. Thus, when talking about diplomacy we can no longer think of states actors only for non-state actors like religious and business leaders and private citizens are involved as much as governments are and can influence decision-making, Paris Accord on Climate Change is a classic example of that.

Yes, traditional diplomacy has remained the core of this profession, but diplomacy has evolved. Diplomacy is no longer an affair between sovereign states anymore, non-state actors are more in more becoming important players in diplomatic negotiations. Two recent examples are the involvement of Pope Francis in U.S.-Cuban diplomatic talk that led to the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two former Cold War foes, and the Pope’s involvement in Colombian Peace Talk that led to the final peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC leaders are the two recent example of the role of non-state actors in diplomatic negotiations and global peace.

Conclusion

Thus, I argued, it may occur that antagonist parties, because of their lack of ‘miserable patience’ fail to work out a deal during the first phase of a diplomatic negotiation, whereas that should not be considered as a case of a failed diplomacy. Moreover, I argued that diplomacy as tool survives for we have witnessed diplomats leave negotiating tables, or boycott diplomatic talks, and we have also seen them return to the table to pick up we they had left off and brokered a deal. Finally, diplomatic solutions tend to last longer than we can even imagine, an example of that argument is: The Peace of Westphalia in 1648.

Sources:

Freema, Chas.1995. Diplomacy as a Professions. January 11, 1995 American Diplomacy. Retrieved December 20, 16 at http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2016/0106/ca/freeman_profession.html.

Henrikson, Alan K. The Future of Diplomacy?: Five Projective Visions. Netherlands Institute of International Relations’ Clingendael’, 2005.

Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy. 2016. Multi-Track Diplomacy. Retrieved December 21, 2016 at http://imtd.org/multi-track-diplomacy.

Sicherman, Harvey.2006.Benjamin Franklin: American Diplomacy Traditions. November 28, 2006, American Diplomacy. Retrieved December 20, 16 at http://www.unc.edu/depts/diplomat/item/2007/0103/sich/sicherman_franklin.html.

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