New Diplomacy. The rising stock of non-state actors.

Diplomacy has evolved a lot in the 20th century, from being exclusive and secret to inclusive and open. What we call the New diplomacy has many important dimensions, one of the most important is the rise of non-state actors in diplomacy. There is no doubt that non-state actors with independent means and personal agendas can affect the public discourse. People and non-state organisations can shape perceptions and even move governments to action. However theres a few big questions raised over this matter, such as, where do these non-state actors obtain the legitimacy in the eyes of the people and how do they change outcomes? The legitimacy question is one that is raised many times with this matter in particular, sometimes non-state actors take on diplomatic missions without the states approval something that would be unthinkable in the old diplomacy.

The reason this dimension of new diplomacy is so important is due to the fact that it is something that has very rarely been seen before in the realm of diplomacy. Many non-state actors explain that their legitimacy comes from the support of the general public whether or not the government agrees. The best example of this would be the international campaign in the 90’s to put a ban on landmines. The campaign was led by non-governmental organisations with the participation of Princess Diana. Despite the opposition of many strong states the goal was still met in most countries.

The use of NGO’s to influence the outcome or to start diplomatic missions is an efficient strategy, in the case of the ban on landmines this strategy was highly successful. With the inclusion of non-state actors comes new elaborate strategies such as the inclusion of celebrities (Diana, Bono,Leonardo dicaprio and many more). Politics and diplomacy sometimes seems like something far from the grip of the general public and so to include non-state actors the rest of the people feel a little more represented and interested which as we have seen works quite well.


The involvement of non-state actors opens the door to more diplomatic participation and more pressure for governments to keep their promises and meet their goals. If it wasn’t for the fact that non-state actors have such influence, issues such as coming up with a solution for global warming wouldn’t have the same urgency they have today. However many people dispute that what these non-state actors are doing is not actually diplomacy although they do achieve diplomatic ends. NGO’s are a great example of a non-state actors achieving diplomatic ends such as reducing the Green house gas emissions, feeding the poor and giving medical attention to people during conflicts.

The definition of diplomacy is not so clear however if we take the conventional definition, whereby diplomacy is something only states can do then by definition NGO’s don’t actually have any diplomatic power but they do have the tools to influence people which then affects the government in such a way that they can get their way. This dimension of new diplomacy is incredibly important, other dimensions such as the technological advances or public diplomacy (‘nation branding’) do have their importance in helping to achieve diplomatic ends however the inclusion of non-state actors doesn’t only help in achieving the goals but they help create diplomatic missions and move millions like we have seen in Global warming marches and treaties and to help shift public opinion of conflicts between countries.








Carlson, Bryan (2014) ‘Non-state actors’. Available at: (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Dodds, Felix. ‘NGO Diplomacy'(2007). Available at: (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Geraud, Andre. ‘Diplomacy, old and new’. Available at: the 18 of march 2017)

Pachios, Harold C.(2002) ‘The new diplomacy’. Available at: (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

Unknown. ‘Treaty status’. Available at: (Accessed the 18 of march 2017)

















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