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Trends in Diplomacy

15 Jul 2015 - 17:10
Source: Bob Gundersen / Flickr / cc

The “3-C diplomat” and Innovation in Diplomatic Training

As a consequence of changing dynamics at the global and regional levels, the role of diplomats is constantly evolving. Diplomats have to be able to adapt to the quickly evolving diplomatic context and be flexible towards changing patterns of diplomacy.

As Director of a large and lively diplomatic training centre like the Clingendael Academy, I witness the trends in diplomacy and the changing role of diplomats on a daily basis. As the Clingendael Academy we make sure that we are constantly innovating our programmes and methods in order to stay abreast of these developments.

In addition to the growing importance of for example economic diplomacy and public diplomacy, we can identify at least four more trends in diplomacy that are strongly related to one another: the internationalisation of home-based policy areas, the emergence of ‘hybrid diplomacy’, the virtualisation of diplomacy and the increasing significance of specialised diplomacy.

The relationship between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and expert ministries in capitals is changing fast. Expert ministries dealing with e.g. agriculture, energy, transport, justice or economics are searching for a new balance between a country’s internal and external affairs. Now, as a result of increasing global governance and international cooperation, we witness a fast internationalisation of these sectors. This demands an further inclusion of these topics into foreign affairs and hence a closer cooperation and policy coordination between expert ministries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

This internationalisation of formerly home based policy areas implies more specialised forms of diplomacy, in which permanent representations and diplomats are to develop specific expertise on such issues as climate, water, food safety, sustainable development and human rights.

At the same time, this thematic approach requires the involvement of all types of actors. The international playing field has moved beyond a purely intergovernmental context, in which more actors have gained ground in international affairs, in particular non-state actors. Governments will have to effectively involve all of them to ensure efficiency and a broad political foundation in its international policies.

Diplomats are therefore expected to have a large network of relevant actors that is open and flexible, that can be organised into groups of varying composition and around different themes or interests. In the 21st century, international relations are hybrid and cannot be dealt with through classic diplomacy. We can therefore speak of ‘hybrid diplomacy’: a combination of traditional intergovernmental diplomacy and modern network diplomacy.

In hybrid diplomacy, when dealing with many influential foreign actors, it is essential for diplomats to use public communications media for interaction with a wide range of non-governmental entities. Public diplomacy has thus become an integral part of diplomacy as it establishes a dialogue designed to inform and influence. The way a country communicates with foreign civil societies and ‘brands’ itself influences public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies and, as a result, influences the politics of other governments.

The impact of virtual diplomacy may surely not be underestimated. MFA’s increasingly are creating a virtual space for information gathering, public communications, internet based networking and the use of social media. Websites have become the first entrance of the public to contact MFA’s. Diplomatic deliverables like consular matters quickly transform to a virtual dimension. The British Minister of Foreign Affairs Lord Palmerston upon receiving the first telegram on his desk was supposed to have said in 1840: “My God this will be the end of diplomacy!” Such a quote would be applicable on the IT and social media revolution today if not integrating new technological change. Today we have to learn how to handle virtual and non virtual diplomacy in a single diplomatic environment.

Therefore, in my view the modern diplomat is a “3-C diplomat”: Connecting, Consistent, Coherent. Connecting reflects the networking and communications between people, relationships and stakeholders. Consistency is required to pursue a persistent foreign policy strategy, while coherence is needed to manage the complexity of interrelations between all internationalised policy areas.

At the Clingendael Academy, we train over 500 diplomats each year from all over the world representing the Netherlands, South East and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America (which is one fifth of the total of 2,500 participants annually). We give special attention to the above mentioned trends in diplomacy, always bearing in mind the specific context of each region and country. With the role of diplomats changing in this hybrid environment, we constantly innovate our training programmes in order to ensure that they continue to be most relevant for diplomats and prepare diplomats for the future to come.

Against this backdrop I would like to specifically highlight two new unique training programmes that are a result and reflection of the changing diplomatic landscape.

One of these innovative training programmes focuses on ‘Blue Diplomacy’, which intends to strengthen the role of diplomats in promoting sustainable development as described in the Blue Economy.

More traditional approaches towards achieving sustainability, such as related to the Green Economy, simply promote reducing the use of resources – for example by investing in environment-friendly technologies – thus implying more costs. The Blue Economy goes beyond this approach by encouraging us to respond to basic needs with what we have, to introduce innovations inspired by nature and invest less, and to generate multiple benefits – including jobs and social capital.

Water plays an important role in these Blue Economy-inspired solutions, and therefore comprises one of the elements in our training programmes. Governments need oceans and their resources to run the economy, to transport global goods, and to provide a sustainable living for many. How can diplomats promote partnerships in naval and maritime sectors, while sustaining healthy oceans?

The training programmes in Blue Diplomacy combine the Blue Economy with the knowledge and skills needed for diplomats who, for example, promote sustainable trade relations between their country and another. Training programmes include economic, public, and water diplomacy, corporate social responsibility, dilemmas in sustainable development policies, and public private partnerships. By participating in an interactive sessions and by conducting working visits, we provide the diplomats with the knowledge, tools and experience needed to be most effective in promoting sustainable development.

Second, our Negotiation and Mediation Skills Programmes are at the core of our activities as diplomatic training centre for more than 25 years. We ensure that at the end of our training programmes, participants leave the Clingendael Academy with advanced knowledge of negotiation processes and the skills needed to successfully conduct and develop strategies for a negotiation and mediation process, whether this is in a bilateral or multilateral setting.

Recently, the Clingendael Academy launched a new initiative: “Negotiation training as a conflict resolution instrument” to train, advice and coach specifically parties in conflict and their mediators.

Large scale, multi-issue, multi-party and politically sensitive negotiations are a highly specialised form of bargaining. In conflict situations many of the parties in negotiations are not experienced in strategic political negotiations, in working from a mandate or in setting clear priorities for the negotiations.

It is also important to train actors and individuals mediating these processes. After all, mediation is a facilitation of a negotiation process. What drives the negotiator, who are the negotiators representing, what are the mandates of the parties at the table, what are the pressures the negotiators are under, what are the group dynamics at the table and what role does the mediator play? It is paramount that those who facilitate fully have to understand negotiation processes and the behaviour of negotiators. In order to strive for a successful outcome of peace processes, training mediators in negotiation skills and processes is of crucial importance.

The training sessions of the Clingendael Academy provide a toolkit to groups in conflict to make conscious choices during the negotiations and to avoid pitfalls of the inexperienced negotiator, all to enlarge the possibility of durable peace.