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The evolution of diplomacy

by on December 17, 2012

photo 1 diplomacy


Diplomacy, as any other aspect of the political spectrum has undergone some significant changes during the past centuries. One may remark the rapid technological advancements as the pinnacle for what he sees as a complete revamp in the diplomatic sphere. For others, the creation of multilateral diplomatic institutions such as the UN, has to a large extent redesigned the dynamics in which diplomacy is currently conducted.

To some extent both approaches have solid basis supporting their arguments. Undoubtedly, the speed in which information travels and reaches its destination facilitates ongoing negotiations. In the past, the waiting for a simple instruction letter being delivered by a sailing ship from overseas, would make the task of a diplomat carrying out negotiations, extremely slow and tedious. Although the negotiation process may still be extremely tedious in some cases, nowadays the necessary information for a different diplomat carrying out the same task, easily comes with a click of a button or a simple phone call.

However, the same technological gadgets that are used to maximize the efficiency of diplomats also raise some real challenges for the role of the same. At the present time, channels of mass communication have the ability to globally disperse information at the speed of the fact actually happening. The impact of decisions made in secrecy, can now be contested by the masses that quickly become aware of the implications of such decisions.

In this context, diplomats have become accountable not only to their national governments, however, to the public in general. In turn, this accountability issue has to some degree transformed the old and traditional diplomatic bodies such as embassies; into much more open institutions, embracing the general public into the diplomatic sphere. Evidence of that may be noticed at the social media channels of communication, where some embassies such as the UK to Bahrain and to Algeria Possess Face Book accounts or the Swedish embassy to the UK which holds a Twitter page.


The second significant change on the diplomatic field was the creation of multilateral diplomatic bodies. Disregarding the failure of the first attempt on such mechanisms “ the League of Nations”, its predecessors seemed to promote a much more positive outcome for diplomacy. The creation of institutions such as the UN in a worldwide concept and the EU comprising a regional sphere; drifts away from the bilateral relationship pattern of behavior adopted by nation states, regarded by many as the cause of the major armed conflicts dueled in the first half of the 20th century.

These are in fact important diplomatic institutions, and when brought into analysis 3 core aspects need to be regarded. Firstly, is the centralisation of diplomacy; Representatives and diplomats find in these institutions the pillars for which they can negotiate and try and promote the interest of the nations they represent in a collective group. Secondly, is that these institutions created the concept of Preventive Diplomacy; this has the ideals of preventing armed conflict through the use of multilateral diplomacy and negotiation. The last concept regards the structure of these institutions that seem to be “democratic” to the possible extent.

However, when tasked to answer the question of what was the most significant change in the nature of diplomacy, it became difficult to decide which one of the 2 facts above would be the most appropriate to develop an argument. After some research and consideration it became clear that neither should be the answer. This is simply because the nature of diplomacy, its essence hasn’t changed. The tools used by diplomats have considerably developed, the dynamics of diplomacy may have changed, and even the field it is played has been modified. However, diplomacy was in the past and still is in the present about promoting one nation’s national interest abroad in order to obtain gain in one or more aspects.



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  1. christianatham permalink

    The United Nations has played a major role in the peaceful resolution of armed conflict around the world through diplomacy since its establishment after the Second World War.
    The UN use of diplomacy is one of the significant changes that has affected the evaluation of it and this is what you have referred to as multilateral diplomatic.
    The United Nations’ flourished after the end of Cold War, as many longstanding armed conflicts were brought to an end through political negotiated settlements often brokered and implemented with strong United Nations involvement.
    The organization remains highly active in this field today, working increasingly in partnership with regional organizations in order to bring on-going conflicts to an end, and to prevent new crises from emerging or escalating. Also, the organization has been working hard to practice preventive diplomacy and to employ and support mediation in order to head off potential crises at an early stage.
    It will be difficult to pin point a the most significant change in the institution of diplomacy because yes it is true that its nature has not changed but the world as a whole is always changing as a result of globalization and advancement of technology. Therefore, the methods/tools used by diplomats are bound to change as well, however, Personal contacts, human expertise and experience, will remain the set up for diplomatic procedures.

  2. A blog on a blog…

    The original blog is very good.
    You spoke well of the rapid change undergone due to technology etc which is undoubtedly true. I wanted to put a spin of the debate slightly and say that you can also see how classical diplomacy still remains. It is still made up of the elites, the perminant embassy still plays a role in relations between a country (albeit more of a political statement) and the wine and dine culture of diplomacy between diplomats still remains. What are your thoughts on this…?

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