Diplomacy, or at least its traditional form, is as old as civilization itself. The very rare form of diplomacy was very easy to define. Messengers were representing their sovereign, conveying and receiving messages, explaining, persuading, observing, reporting, and negotiating. (Kerr, Wiseman, 2013, 29) Later, Ancient Greece introduced, what is now called, traditional form of diplomacy. Next significant step was a move from church to ‘state to state’ system. The main principle of diplomacy remains the same, states still use it to communicate with each other. However, as world and society developed and changed, diplomacy adapts to the modern world. Concurrently, it has become more difficult to make a clear and simple definition of this term. But, has its nature changed as well?
Figure 1: Diplomacy Old and New, (Source: http://www.diplomacyoldandnew2012a.wordpress.com, 2012)
While diplomacy was developing, it has been institutionalized and world have seen establishment of embassies and foreign ministries along with the new diplomatic protocols and procedures. In the 19th century, diplomacy became more official and professionalized. Moreover, globalisation together with technology development brought this discipline to the higher level. Diplomacy opened itself to the public and shifted its interest on variety of new issues. From shaping the foreign policy, representing and promoting a state’s interest, to talks about oil, climate change and even tourism. Diplomacy also plays important role in the nuclear weapons management. Recently, we can see science entering the world of diplomacy in hope to strengthen the relationships and to decrease a tension between some countries.
New diplomacy covers wide range of activities and topics. Due to the broader interest, diplomacy was divided into different types. We can distinguish, for example, oil diplomacy, resource diplomacy, knowledge diplomacy, transition diplomacy, commercial and economic diplomacy, and so on. The new kinds of diplomatic relations require professionals with greater specialized skills. (Leguey-Feilleux, 2009, 144) That means that ambassadors have to reach a certain level of knowledge. This is bringing up a question whether ambassadors should be required to have formal qualification. Perhaps, this can lead to another change in the field of diplomacy as we know it.
Another impact on the evolution of diplomacy has the wider range of actors in international system. The newly emerged states brought cultural diversity into diplomacy. That includes, for instance, the new style of negotiating, more languages and different professional backgrounds of ambassadors. Furthermore, it is not only ‘nation to nation’ anymore. There are non-governmental organisations in place and they shape world affairs in the same way as nation states do.
Nature of diplomacy is also affected by growing importance of the media and technology. This has positive as well as negative affect. In one hand, it is very useful tool to speed up communication and to overcome distance. As Michael Small, diplomat and senior executive in the Canadian foreign service, says: “When the cost of communication approaches zero, geography doesn’t matter anymore.” (Small in McRae and Hubert, 2001, 231) Others argue that technology denies importance of diplomacy as it is now, ignores traditions and causes loss of patience with formalities.
Figure 2: UN climate action database enjoys big business boost, (Source: www.businessgreen.com,2016)
Diplomacy went through long process. From very simple meetings and talks between tribes up to settling peace between two superpowers and ending the Cold War. We have opportunity to witness worldwide conferences, such as United Nations Climate Conference. This year there was the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit taking place in Istanbul, where states along with non-state actors, came together to commit the action to reduce human suffering. This is an example how much diplomacy has developed.
All things considered, I have to agree with Ronald Peter Barston, author of Modern Diplomacy, that ‘diplomacy is the subject of constant change’. (Barston, 2006, 4) It must be flexible enough to keep up with the speed of changes on the international scene. Coming back to the question whether nature of diplomacy has changed, it probably depends on how do you define diplomacy. I believe, that the very pure natural form of diplomacy has not changed. However, the progress and level of development caused by evolution of society and mostly by globalization is extraordinary. For sure, it can be said that diplomacy moves, grows, ripens. Diplomacy blossoms…
Barston, R. P. (2006), Modern Diplomacy, 3rd edition, Pearson Education Limited, England
Kerr, P., Wiseman, G. (2013), Diplomacy in a Globalizing World Theories and Practices, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Leguey-Feilleux, J.-R. (2009), The dynamics of diplomacy, Lynne Rienner Publishers, Boulder, CO
Small, M. in McRae, R. and Hubert, D. (2001), Human Security and the New Diplomacy, McGill, Queen’s University Press, Montreal