During the 2016 and 2017 European Diplomatic Programme (EDP), junior diplomats from across the European Union participated in workshops strategic networking. The EDP is a training project between the EU Member States and EU Institutions. Every year the EDP is being organised and hosted by the member state that holds the EU presidency.
Networking has always been at the core of diplomatic work, but a lot can still be gained from having a sharpened network strategy and using the right tactics. Especially in the past decade, networking for diplomats deserves renewed attention because it has changed. Why?
- Online communication tools are now at anyone’s disposal and more and more actors are involved in international relations. Benefits that used to be enjoyed by wealthy organisations are not exclusive anymore, such as publicity campaigns, lobby work and coalition building.
- The easy access to online information as well as to link to specific thematic, organizational and geographical groups (access to clusters) has led to a decrease in information monopoly for diplomats
- Private actors have emerged as powerful actors in international relations. That is why foreign issues are no longer exclusively the domain of diplomats.
- Although there are still domains where diplomats have the exclusive access to multilateral fora, there are many other issues (e.g. human rights, humanitarian aid, labour standards, sustainability) where diplomats do their work alongside other actors, both governmental and non-governmental.
With networks that are growing in influence, but at the same time are more fluent, non-hierarchical and not bound to national borders, it is even more important for diplomats to consciously deal with their networking practices.