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The formal institutions of diplomacy

by on January 6, 2013

ImageThe conclusion of WWII brought about some significant changes for the realm of international Politics. The creation of the first ‘’functional’’ multilateral ground for diplomatic negotiations the (UN), marks a desperate attempt of the nation states to drive away from the bilateral system of international negotiations, which the bodies of the ‘old diplomacy’ played a major role. To a new concept of multilateralism and arbitration to resolve disputes between states through the use of diplomatic tools.

The UN and the other institutions of the ‘new diplomacy’ that followed suit, certainly modified the parameters in which diplomacy is conducted. However, to state that the traditional organs of diplomacy have become redundant nowadays would be and erroneous assumption.  Such a remark would imply a complete abandonment of the previous bilateral diplomatic system, which in fact never happened. Moreover, during, the Cold War embassies became a precious source of intelligence gathering.

ImageEvidence of that may be regarded for the role of the former American diplomat to Moscow George Kennan on the early stages of the Cold War, and the impact the information he provided had on America’s foreign policy towards Russia.  Going even further into the Cold War, the secret meetings between the American and the Soviet diplomats in their embassies as well as the letters exchange between the two nations to deal with the Cuban Missile Crises. Presented the propensity of the two superpowers to stick with the bilateral system completely disregarding the multilateral institutions of diplomacy.

With the end of the Cold War marking the demise of the Soviet model, it would be expected that the multilateral diplomatic bodies should become more effective. However, it is naïve to assume that in an unipolar international system multilateral negotiations would be of great validity. Perhaps for the short period that one super power presented supremacy in the international system, both, the traditional and the new diplomatic bodies had decreased in value.

However, the rising of new important global actors   highlighted the weaknesses of the multilateral diplomatic bodies in dealing with important issues.  This in turn to some extent strengthen the functionality of the traditional organs of diplomacy that work on the premises of bilateral relations. A more contemporary fact providing an account for this argument is the more recent events taking place between Israel and Palestine.

The recent Israeli plans for building new settlements in what Palestine claims to be precious territory for their future state, is clearly seen as an act of revenge for most states in the international community. However the inability of the UN to deal with such a delicate issue provided grounds for some countries to use their traditional organs of diplomacy to pressurise Israel in taking back its decision. Whatever happened during the meetings when the UK, France, Sweden, Denmark and Spain summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their respective countries is yet to be discovered. As secrecy is the ‘trademark’ of the tradicional institutions of diplomacy.


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One Comment
  1. A great piece of writing!
    This piece brings into light the distinct line between modern diplomactic techniques; such as, multilateralism, summitry and that of classical diplomatic techniques; such as, bilateral negotiation and secrecy. The new style of diplomacy can be attributed to technological advances and the rise of new media and so commands a greater transparency. However, it is plain to see that classical diplomacy (i dont like the term old diplomacy because it is still developing) still has it’s place and can often provide a much more resolute platform of negotiation.

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