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The New Diplomacy


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The term new diplomacy has no one definition and it is a term under constant debate as to its current meaning and its origin. At the time of the treaty of Westphalia in 1648, this term ‘new diplomacy’ was coined in this new system of sovereign states. These set of summits, which were held to establish peace and order in Europe in its Westphalian form, were a major step in what the international system is today. Previous to 1648, heads of state did not meet on a multilateral basis, while today it is a regular occurrence with events such as the G8, the G20 and many others, held a couple of times a year. Over a century and half later the Congress of Vienna was held in 1814/15. This conference was held in order to bring peace to Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. The next big step in this direction came in the form of the League of Nations which was created once again to establish peace and order in Europe after the devastation of WWI. This was the first organization which committed itself to holding regular meetings to talk about world affairs. The main problem with this organization was that not all the world powers were signed up to it, most notably the United States. This left the organization weak and divided and would become more divided with the rise of fascism in many European countries. The League of Nations collapsed and was replaced by a more efficient model, the United Nations, which was established after WWII. This organization included all the major states and still survives today in a more developed form. It is a well-established organization and has many branches, such as USAID and many more, to tackle a range of issues within society. Today, nearly every country of the World is a member of the UN. In the early days of multilateral conferencing, it was always in the search of peace between warring parties. We see this same pattern being repeated until after the creation of the UN when multilateral organizations sprang up and states started using multilateral diplomacy to achieve its national interest, rather than always taking the bilateral route, which had failed on a number of occasions to tackle the growing number of problems which faced the world.

This use of multilateral conferences has grown dramatically with the current trend of Globalization. Many say that ‘new diplomacy’ refers to how much easier and faster diplomacy has become with such advancements in technology in the areas of communication and transport. This has made multilateral conferencing much easier, with attendees from all over the world being able to go from their destination to where the conferencing is taking place in less than a day. It is now common practice for heads of state to travel abroad many times a year. Also diplomacy is no longer simply between state actors, but increasingly involves non-state actors like NGO’s and corporations and more. The state is simply not enough when deciding the faith of the world but we need more specialist organizations such as those named above to input more brainpower into decision-making, and these organizations are rapidly gaining influence in world affairs.
The New Diplomacy in my eyes refers to the beginning of multilateral conferences. Not only did it allow for many states to participate in negotiations but it was also a good chance for states to participate in bilateral diplomacy. This type of diplomacy changed the proceedings of diplomacy and how states would interact, whereas technology just made diplomacy easier and faster.


Environmental Diplomacy



Acting on environmental issues is a major challenge faced by the governments because of factors such as the difficulties in negotiating an effective international agreement, the densities caused by the global financial crisis, and the government hesitation of taking actions which may potentially have contrary effects on competitiveness. Those outlined limitations of state based actors are the ones that have steered an increase in the role of the non-state actors.

Ever since the creation of an international environmental agenda in the early 1970s, states and intergovernmental institutions have been at the centre of global governance. However starting from 1980s non -state actors have become more and more able to operate at different levels, from local to regional and global, they are seen as more effective and efficient, mainly due to the difficulties and slowness in diplomatic procedures when reaching an agreement.

Nowadays the issue of climate change has become more and more opened and prominent for discussion. NGOs are the ones who spread facts and statistics to the word and since climate change is a threat which affects the whole population, people are becoming more keen on familiarising themselves with the problem, as well as putting more demand on governments to act. Climate change is on the agenda for quite a large number of countries nowadays. The 2009 Copenhagen Summit spurred a lot of manifestations and demonstrations across the world and in London alone, the Wave demonstration gathered around 20,000-40,000 people.[1]  Environmental diplomacy has an influence domestically and internationally and NGOs have the ability to negotiate, provide policy advice and exchange information in order to achieve their aim in conferences and address issues which have not been given enough light by the state actors.




The New Diplomacy

Diplomacy is a subject of a constant evolution. An evolution gradually transformed from the previous ‘traditional’ to the so called present ‘new’ diplomacy. One of the most significant dimensions of the new diplomacy is world globalisation and the occurrence of new actors in the international system.  In the multilateral context alone, the number of UN-accredited NGOs had risen from 40 in 1945 to 3,536 by the end of 2011. The Top 100 NGOs ranking will inform policy-makers, business, academics and non-profit leaders [1], so the increase in number has been followed by an increase in power as well as influence.

The developing globalisation and the increase of NGOs influence leads also towards the enhancement of communication on an international level. International organisations have a voice and a say on the international agenda. Governments tend to keep NGOs on their side in order to avoid problems and also demonstrate to the public a will of cooperation and development. Depending on how determined and effective an organisation is in terms of public support and campaigning, a certain issue may become highlighted enough for the government to not have other choice but to raise the issue.

An on-going problem is the Syrian crisis which has been seen by many as an international problem and a threat. Though there has not yet been a resolution found, the issue has been addressed uncountable times by different NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch  and International Committee of the Red Cross. On 16th May 2013 in a press conference, President Barack Obama has said “all options; diplomatic and military are being considered to resolve the situation in Syria.” [2] However he also added that “Syria was an international problem and that unilateral action from the US would not bring about a better outcome in the country”[3], which arguably encourages the rest of the world player to also take an action.  

Diplomacy has been evolving and will certainly continue to in future. Although not the ideal scenario, the growing and improving cooperation amongst NGOs and Governments has the potential to bring change, development and a better future internationally.  


Public Diplomacy

“Public diplomacy … deals with the influence of public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies. It encompasses dimensions of international relations beyond traditional diplomacy; the cultivation by governments of public opinion in other countries; and the processes of inter-cultural communications.”[1]

In modern times public diplomacy represents the idea of an increased access to information by the people. Whether through television or internet, politicians are required to be more attentive and responsive when it comes to giving speeches, interviews and expressing opinions. The reason for this is the wider spread of globalisation as well as the improvement in technology and communication. In the case of a wrong statement or an unpopular opinion, the public becomes informed and aware in a very short period of time due to the less controlled flow of information.  

The term public diplomacy therefore leads also to the importance of a country’s ownership of a good reputation in front of not only their own citizens but to the once of foreign countries also. One country losing its reputation means that it could be viewed negatively worldwide. Consequently this can cause the loss of its influence as well as ability to use ‘soft power’ whenever necessary.  In order to improve its image, propaganda is one way of giving the opportunity for people to hear what they need to rather than what it is in reality.

Gradually separating from traditional diplomacy, public diplomacy deals more and more with non-governmental organisations and individuals rather than governments only. Politicians take the initiative to outreach the public directly rather than through their governments. A recent example for this is Barack Obama’s first presidential visit to Israel which aims to reset his relation with the country’s distrustful public as he “seeks to reassure them he is committed to their security and has their interests at heart” [2] This is one way in which public diplomacy involves the nation through the building of diplomatic relations between people and government officials.


Although there is no definitive start date for the use of the term ‘new diplomacy’ it is often used to denote the type of diplomacy used since the League of Nations was set up at the end of world war one. One may say this is the same time as true multilateral diplomacy began and in many cases the two go hand in hand. But I believe new diplomacy only really took of as we know it today when technology began to fuel globalisation in the 1980s with the mobile phone and the internet coming onto the world stage. These technologies have transformed the way the world works and more importantly, governments and institutions. They have changed the fabric of the embassy and government departments. States can now get in contact at the touch of a button and transactions are easy to carry out. This has helped us in times of crisis when instant contact was necessary to avoid wars. New diplomacy is also a new way of attempting to fix problems that old diplomacy could not. One example would be the Israel-Palestine problem and John Kerry’s new diplomacy approach to try and break the deadlock that has existed for decades.  This includes going back to past peace plans and trying to re-initiate them in an attempt to make some sort of progress. Another example would be China’s growing influence in the world sphere and their attempt at diplomacy to further these interests. China has used a soft power approach, which by doing so has not harmed other states through expansion of territory or military threats. It has attempted to grow simply through economic means and in the meantime has kept good relations with most of the western hemisphere. I would say this approach has on the whole succeeded as the economy has rivalled that of other large states and despite nations attacking China for its human rights record, it has on the whole kept diplomatic channels open with most states. These are just two of many examples of new diplomacy over the past twenty years. But on the whole I do believe that new diplomacy’s main concept is that of technology and how it has pushed diplomacy to a whole new level that benefits all governments and that of it’s citizens.




The concept of multilateral diplomacy has been a recent occurrence since ww2. Although some of its origins may go back to ancient times where alliances were formed to fight of invaders, it is on the whole a practice now widely used in the 20th and 21st centuries. It has taken place with the back drop of globalization and a growing population of the world. These events have been important because of the ever increasing communication between states on all different types of things. These include issues that were not around at the turn of the last century such as global warming, terrorism among the long list. This also means major conferences and negotiations have become necessary as the only way to get the ever growing number of states together in one room.


The rise of organisations such as the UN, the WTO and the WHO have grown in stature and strength and their membership is always growing due to new nations who want to take their seats amongst fellow independent nations. Although these groups have not always been able to achieve exactly what they want, they are very powerful and hold great sway. Depending on a particular issue, it is sometimes necessary for bilateral talks to be held rather than multilateral. The problems with multilateralism can be numerous due to a number of factors. The larger countries such as America for example have great pride of their sovereignty and often in the past they have not felt the need to bend to the will of others when it comes to major talks and conferences. This can often scupper the negotiations but for such a powerful state there is often not much than can be done to come to a unanimous decision. On the other hand smaller nations like to work with their close neighbours and partners to help further causes that may affect all in a similar manner. The nations are small wealthy states such as Norway, Switzerland, and the Benelux countries.


A famous important multilateral conference that I note as a good example is the Yalta conference in 1945. It was a success in terms of how agreement was reached on post war Europe and has gone down in history as a pivotal moment in recent history and the start of the cold war. Despite only having three leaders present, hey were the most powerful men in the world at the time and in time would become enemies. The occurrence of this agreement would be the start of much larger negotiations and these have increased over the years and now have hundreds of leaders present. On the whole multilateral diplomacy appears to be a nice idea that creates an image of harmony between nations. But with current issues so divisive it is more often than not that decisions cannot be reached and therefore more disputes will happen.



Crisis diplomacy is a unique kind of diplomacy that requires a cautious and smart dialogue  to solve the situation at hand. Many of these crises arise quickly and have nearly ended in mass conflict or world war.

 Crisis diplomacy can take many forms ,but the most effective has been telephone diplomacy. Because of it’s directness, the knowledge that the information has been received instantly and it’s flattery to the receiver of the call , makes it the easiest way to make quick contact. Other diplomactic forms such as broadcasting and radio are also used during crises but not as a direct line between governments but rather to states and it’s people as a whole.



The concept of the hot line has played a prominent role in recent world crises between heads of states whom are either friendly with each other or enemies who wish to avoid war. Examples of this would be the white house –downing street line which although not often used ,has been used at crucial times during the past including during the us intervention in Granada in the 80’s.


Crisis diplomacy has become more regular since the advent of more recent technology after ww2  and during the cold war.  A good example would be the enveloping crisis after Iraq invaded Kuwait in the run up to the Gulf war. As the US and its allies were preparing a land invasion of Iraq the Soviet Union attempted to stop this through diplomatic means  when Gorbachev called Bush to persuade him to back down. Tariq Aziz, Hussein’s foreign minister played a large part in the talks by personally going to Moscow  to speak to Gorbachev before Gorbachev called Bush. The important crises talks lasted four days from the 21st-24th february 1991. Most of the talks centred on the timescale on Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait  before the us invaded. It was effectively an indirect channel  of diplomacy from Baghdad-Moscow-Washington with Aziz sending letters to Gorbachev asking questions about the American’s ultimatum. This form of diplomacy eventually failed and created confusion in Iraq as to when the us would invade. Consequently the ground invasion went ahead and the leadership in Iraq expressed disappointment with Gorbachev for failing to diffuse the situation. This in effect shows the problems with indirect communication in a time when urgent direct diplomacy is needed either by phone or face to face.