THE NEW REALITIES IN 21ST CENTURY DIPLOMACY SERVICE

achamila press- by Dr. Lawson Victor Tom, KONA – AFRICA CONTINENTAL AMBASSADOR

Modern diplomacy is currently experiencing fundamental changes at an unprecedented rate, which affect the very character of diplomacy as we know it. These changes also affect aspects of domestic and international politics that were once of no great concern to diplomacy. Technical develop­ments, mainly digitization, affect how the work of the diplomat is understood; the number of domestic and international actors whose activity implicates (or is a form of) diplomacy is increasing; the public is more sen­sitive to foreign policy issues and seeks to influence diplomacy through social media and other platforms; the way exchange between states, as well as the interchange between government and other domestic actors, pro­gresses is influencing diplomacy’s ability to act legitimately and effectively; and finally, diplomats themselves do not necessarily need the same attri­butes as they previously did. These trends, reflecting general societal devel­opments, need to be absorbed by diplomacy as part of state governance

Ministries of Foreign Affairs, diplomats and governments in general should therefore be proactive in four areas

 1Diplomats must understand the tension between individual needs and state requirements, and engage with that tension without detriment to the state

 2Digitization must be employed in such a way that gains in efficiency are not at the expense of efficacy.

 3Forms of mediation should be developed that reconcile the interests of all sides allowing governments to operate as sovereign states, and yet simul­taneously use the influence and potential of other actors.

 4New and more open state activities need to be advanced that respond to the ways in which emotionalized publics who wish to participate in govern­ance express themselves

 1The Personal Element

Diplomats are bureaucrats of sorts, and certain traits of their personalities play significant roles in their specific professional activities. Negotiations in general possess an official character, but informal communication between persons through expressions of behav­iour reflect the complexity of the negotiations, the need for confidentiality, and discretion ranging from formality to informality determines the degree of its effectiveness. Charm, persuasion, or restraint may seem like clichés; however, they constitute essential features of communicative behaviour and correlate more with a person’s character than one’s training. In today’s secular and pluralistic societies, moral standards likewise depend more on a person’s char­acteristics than on specific training. Due to immigration and globalization today, diverse cultures that were once bounded by oceans and continents inter­weave more than in the past; people of diverse back­grounds now find themselves in the same public spaces, and there are simply more stimuli to per­son­ally witness and reflect on, problems such as unequal treatment of people based on gender, age, race, or other ascribed characteristics. Increasing social diver­sity can make moral conflicts matters of conscience more readily than in the more homogenous societies of the past 

Today, this social diversification, and in some ways even fragmentation, reaches far. Language skills are more widespread, and to ‘digital natives’ the opera­tion of new technologies comes naturally, while the functionaries of the past struggle to make sense of and use new communication pathways. The comprehension of gender equality and the values of private family life come from but also influence individuals’ outlooks on and participation in society generally. And these are only a few examples. All in all, per­sonal values constitute a diplomat’s ‘message’, which informs the image of his country as well as the reactions of his host country. While the recruitment of future diplomats should follow precise criteria, one question remains on which to what degree can today’s diplomats as individuals still satisfactorily represent their ever more heterogeneous societies

In a society that asks how bureaucracies can fulfil their task of supporting political decisions meaningfully by rationally applying information and knowl­edge, there is some temptation for political leaders to stigmatize the traditional civil service as old-fashioned and inherently error-prone. At the same time, hierarchy and bureaucratization have always been the means to restrict accumulation of power. However, the high level of external influences besides the government or even outside of the state reduces the influence of individual diplomats. This imbalance might even threaten the democratic principle of the responsibility of governmental action

 2Instrumental Level of Digitization

The improvements of modern communication tech­nology have complex effects on diplomatic action. “Is likely to penetrate the deep core of the diplo­matic DNA.” This can promote creativity, but also destroy existing structures of communication and its organization. It is better to know that existing ‘analogue’ diplomacy is not merely super­imposed onto technologies now shaping an environment that is facilitating digitally native prac­tices. Their analysis gives recommendations for diplo­matic practitioners who still look at new tech­nologies, including social media, as merely open and free­ly avail­able ‘services’. Amongst all the ‘instruments’ of diplomacy we will focus specifically on digitization by looking at three key factors: unprecedented time restraints for decision-making; the neces­sity to distil a high volume of incoming information responsibly; and the integration of social media

1The timeframe to respond to an incident is continually shortened due to the increasingly rapid transmission of information between embassies abroad and foreign ministries, as well as between other foreign policy actors. Consequently, this rapid­ity places an increasing burden on the persons acting at the top of a hierarchy and in positions where pro­posals for decisions are worked out. This burden can be quantified as the period of time available for the receipt of an item of information and subsequent consultation about it: the less time there is, the greater the pressure on the decision maker. Due to accelerating information transmission, only a limited range of issues reach the level of the responsible deci­sion makers. Therefore, tensions arise between the expectation for quick action on the basis of comprehensive information on the one hand, and the neces­sity to act conscientiously on the basis of deliberated information on the other. Physical factors such as lengthy nightly conferences, travel across multiple time zones, and overloaded schedules only add to the strain. Despite the rising number of people responsible for the distillation of information and tactics for reducing the information to be taken into account, no solution has been found to reduce pressure on the decision-making process. Therefore there is a greater risk that wrong decisions will be made, not due to an erroneous comprehension of the known facts (a risk always at hand given the imperfection and incompleteness of human knowledge), but because time is restricted for the processing of and reflection on facts and possible courses of action

 2Information, frequently travels on non-diplo­matic paths, such as in social media. This gives op­portunities to actors such as large corporations or civil society organizations competing with governments in some areas to act independently of and possibly earlier than a government. Therefore, instead of only gathering information, diplomacy must also distil it usefully and competently. Among other things, diplomacy involves the “provision of knowl­edge.”3 However, today, diplomacy has to be more the distillation of knowledge – and in real time. Trans­cending mere knowledge distillation is the only way to process information into reasonably argued pro­posals for actions for political decision makers. The danger is that decision-making is integrated into the technological procedures without undergoing a thorough examination to see if the information can be made available quickly and avoid being super­ficial – which is essential. Modern digital diplomatic com­munication strives to make it possible to react to events in real-time. However, digital communication has to balance efficiency enhancement through increased speed, and effectiveness enhancement through calculability. This balance, if successfully reached, enhances trust on the side of the ‘consumer’ of foreign policy. Hence, the ‘cultivation of trust’ is also a fitting description of modern diplomatic activ­ity

 3Currently, governmental action is under con­stant scrutiny by the public. Social media did not trigger this scrutiny, but they transport it and the pur­suant conversations. Thus, social media are them­selves instruments of diplomatic action. These actions are not, as in the past, soliloquized ‘public relations work’. However, they strive to promote dialogue with domestic and international publics. Therefore, modern diplomats are unavoidably under pressure to use social media. This means that they are approachable and open to public criticism via digital platforms. Social media exchange with official dialogue partners and interested publics creates a far-reaching network of connections with known and unknown, influential and powerless actors, observers, and participants. Sim­ul­taneously this exchange has to adapt to the lin­guistic and formal character of the new media. Inde­pendent of their actual added value for the workings of diplomacy, social media impact on all those actors in a general manner – when for example malice is directed toward a politician – as well as in specific cases – when their users, for example, ask about cer­tain foreign policy activities. Due to their influence on publics, which can be expedited by commercialized or in other ways motivated sensationalism, dis­torted reporting or fake news (therefore not much different from that of the traditional media), social media even have the strength to create pseudo-crises, some of which may waste substantial resources

A deeper risk of the use of social media by diplomats is that it might reorient itself toward the pub­lic’s opinions about foreign policy matters. Currently, politics must be presentable and comprehensible for many publics. The need to communicate quickly and effectively with diverse publics results in oversimplified explanations that fail to reflect the true complexities of the matters at hand. That oversimplification to the detriment of complexity in turn risks affecting actual politics: decisions may be made only so that they are more easily comprehensible – leading to difficult ethical questions. Crisis management is prob­ably most susceptible to this risk because it is where measures of foreign policy concern the lives of indi­viduals most directly. Yet the impacts of social media are strongest on the formulation and conception of diplomacy and foreign policy, where the danger for the publics’ trust in decision-makers is greatest

 3Institutional Aspects

Essentially, diplomacy operates in the framework of a community within completely sovereign nation states. Nevertheless, with the reality of the dissolution of sovereignty on the one hand and the necessity to solve global problems on the other, new forums of (conference) diplomacy were established and more international and supranational organizations cre­ated. The European Union (EU) is an excellent exam­ple. It possesses instruments that are normally only at the disposal of nation states. Nevertheless, in all matters that are of major concern for member states, the EU is guided by the intergovernmental working institutions. These mechanics have an impact on the diplomacy between the member states of the EU. The European External Action Service operates alongside the national foreign services and provides collective knowledge resources for the smaller member states in particular. Thus the need for global management has produced diplomacy and diplomats that represent their national interests and supranational aims at the same time

Diplomacy can also be understood as the media­tion of societies in a broad discoursed – not neces­sarily in a friendly conversation, but sometimes pre­cisely the opposite. Whether it is the application of hard power, coercive measures, soft power, the power of institutions, or symbolic power, governments and other international interacting actors today feel obli­gated to explain their actions not only to their official dialogue partners, but also often to their own publics, as well as to non-state observers and actors outside their own borders. Considering the tech­nological advances and increasing expectations that could even lead to ‘foreign policy autism’

Contrary to the hopes of national-populist movements’ that nation states will win back their former status as sovereign actors, in reality, the process of dissolution of physical and non-physical borders continues at great speed. While states attempt to preserve their formal status as the last legitimate source of national and international governmental leadership, avenues are opening up for non-diplo­matic, internationally active governmental institution, parliaments, internationally active companies, media, non-governmental organizations, and organ­ized crime. All of these attempt to influence a society or the community of states. Companies’ interest in shaping conditions abroad leads them to use their leverage over governments, which in turn aim to attract investments and create new jobs. The politics of nominally sovereign states depend on a flow of activities, which are mostly sub­ject to governmental control and which cross tradi­tional borders. Official politics is reduced to attempts to manage the situations that result from incidents outside their sphere of influence. Political participation takes place across borders, and not only in times of crises and wars. The discourse about foreign policy amongst elites and publics dissolves its borders at the same time. Thus grey areas are created, which are con­cerned with foreign policy to varying degrees. Here, foreign ministries are hardly poised to moderate negotiations anymore. Diplomatic institutions are rather more like diplomacy’s ‘face’ to the out­side than actual movers of the world. The variety of elements of modern diplomatic activity creates a prob­lem of coherence for diplomatic work in the foreign ministries and embassies. This difficulty is aggravated by the increasing number of ‘attachés’ of other gov­ern­mental institutions, or institutions with their own agendas and priorities in the embassies. Diplomatic bodies, which are confronted with such difficult-to-control tasks, could be tempted to retreat to technocratic procedural modes and become con­tent with work­ing results that are just ‘good enough’. The effort to avoid respon­sibility under the pressure of the latest developments could begin to drain sources of diplomatic strength and in­fluence

Presumably, civil society is only occasionally aware of the full impact of globalization on international events. However, once a public recognizes that im­pact, it demands foreign policy measures that are out­side the range of political possibilities. Thus, not only politicians, but also diplomats are forced to suggest actions that promise satisfactory solutions to publics. At least modern conference diplomacy still succeeds in following Bismarck’s notion and thus often manages to avoid conflicts for as long as possible. However, civil society or other actors regularly attempt to take things into their own hands – usually through the institutionalization and organization of publics. This sometimes makes it possible to accomplish aims that had been abandoned by traditional diplomacy. The achievements of the Paris Climate would not have been possible (and the conference might not have taken place at all) without the lobbying of highly active NGOs, which worked together for a long period with politicians and diplomats. In turn, many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals need the commitment of trans­nationally active companies

However, civil society’s demands may also be at the root of movements that do not help to solve global problems, but rather aggravate them. The anti-Islamic Pegida movement in Germany is one exam­ple. In many cases, however, the question of whether a civic movement has a positive or negative impact depends on the political attitude of the observer, as is the case in the conflict over the activ­ities of foreign NGOs in China. Diplomacy, which adapts to this new reality, has to balance its own aims as the democratically legitimate representation of the overall popu­lation of a country with the individual interests of civic organizations. Through such endeavours, and confronted with more complex operative tasks and greater public expectations than ever before, diplo­macy will be less administrative activity and more ‘politics’. This means that publics will treat diplo­macy as politics too which can result in mistrust

 4Global Aspects

Like any other form of governance, diplomacy strives to be successful. Its achievements are measured along predetermined guidelines and are judged on the value of the aims it achieved or failed to realize. For­eign policy can conceivably be successful despite diplo­matic failures. The definition of diplomatic ‘suc­cess’ must therefore encompass global conditions and future prospects as well as management of expectations caused by international requirements. However, some parts of national publics still identify with the nation-states of the past. They expect successful for­eign policy from their governments. They expect that they will be represented by them and accept that the representation of their interests may lead to substantial conflict with other nation-states. This dynamic can lead to a strong emotional impact by the gov­ern­mental use of diplomatic instruments. The prob­lem here is the public’s expectations directed at the nation-state conjoined with the need for the government to represent the interests of a nation in a world of interdependencies

The question of whether the present societal and global changes will be the catalyst for homogenization or heterogenization of diplomacy remains unanswered in this volume. States learn from one another, and today they also learn from new inter­national institutions. At the same time, their own intellectual traditions play an additional role. The United States and Europe are impacted by their ad­herence to various forms of market liberalism. In Russia and China the communist-led government traditionally influenced diplomacy through the prin­ciple of ideology over pragmatism. Having these various politico-economic heritages in mind, states (unaware of the influence of non-governmental actors in their national pursuit of transforming economic power into diplomatic influence) lack the fundamental understanding of today’s geo-economic strains in diplomatic activity

The role of diplomacy in the 21st century is less clearly defined than in the past. Its influence on the organization of the international order is decreasing. Diplomacy is caught in the continuous dispute be­tween new technical demands and opportunities coupled with the expectations of new actors and pub­lics as well as internal societal changes. At the same time, the diplomacy of a nation-state has to pursue, due to its traditional foreign policy pragmatic ra­tion­alism,5 effective, efficient, and (legal as well as moral) legitimate strategies in the international environment. The question of a new normative frame­work for this kind of significantly changed diplomacy, and whether this is even possible, remains unanswered for the Working Group. An answer will eventually be determined by whether the governmental activity of democracies can gain or re-establish the indispensable trust of citizens in the representative institutions of foreign policy

DIPLOMAT AND THE USE OF ECONOMIC SANCTIONS

Diplomats have been closely involved in the threat and actual use of economic sanctions – a manifes­tation of the “capacity to interrupt commercial inter­course.”6 However, the central role of diplomats in wielding this particular instrument of economic force has not yet received systematic scrutiny. On the one hand, diplomatic practitioners usually deal with broad­er issues of war and peace in their autobiogra­phical accounts, and, if they discuss particular cases in which they relied on economic sanctions as a means to extract concessions, they do so in a rather anecdotal fashion. On the other hand, scholars com­monly employ various theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence in order to generalize across different contexts, thereby offering little practical insights into how to deal with concrete cases

Equipped with only an impressionistic body of practical knowledge about the use of economic force, diplomats from the United States and the member states of the European Union (EU) are struggling to keep up with an increasing reliance on ever more sophisticated economic sanctions in the pursuit of national security and foreign policy objectives. Until now, there exists not a single official American or European doctrine that could provide guidance for the use of economic force. This lack of systematic thinking contrasts sharply with the elaborated mili­tary doctrines that lay out principles governing the use of armed force by specifying the triggering con­ditions, applicable procedures, and responsible actors tasked to carry it out. This intellectual imbalance can hardly be justified given that military and economic power occupy opposite sides of the same coin.7 At a time when the selective and comprehensive impo­sition of trade as well as financial sanctions has emerged as the go-to option for decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic, addressing a constantly growing number of perceived foreign policy and national security threats emanating from state and non-state actors alike, what has previously figured merely as a lamentable lacunae may soon turn into a strategic liability

Against this backdrop, I assess the changing role of diplomats in the use of economic sanctions by draw­ing on empirical evidence from foreign and national security policy of the United States and the EU. This chapter proceeds as follows: in the first section, I brief­ly discuss the causes of the increasing prominence of the use of economic sanctions after World War II, and its adverse consequence of contributing to the side-lining of diplomats in contemporary diplomacy. In the second section, I briefly review how the existing political science literature has inadequately theorized the relationship between diplomats and the use of eco­nomic force. In the third section, I conclude by sug­gesting why the role of diplomats in the use of eco­nomic sanctions should be strengthened and offer some practical steps in that direction

PROGRESSING PRACTICE

When conducting political intercourse beyond their borders, rulers had used economic sanctions to restrict trade and financial interactions well before the term diplomacy entered into the French and Eng­lish dictionaries in the late 18th century.8 Until the first half of the 20th century, these measures had over­whelmingly complemented the use of armed force among the consolidated political communities in North America and Europe, either in the form of land-based sieges or naval blockades. 9 Consequently, monitoring and enforcing the respective restrictions required physical inspection such as interdicting cargo transported via train or ships, a task carried out by members of the armed forces.10 Diplomats came to replace soldiers as agents of the use of economic force when the newly created international institutions, first the League of Nations and later the United Na­tions, as well as individual nation states acting alone or together, gradually substituted the use of armed force with that of economic force beginning in the second half of the 20th century

Best Regards

H. E. Dr. Lawson Victor Tom (Continental Ambassador to Africa)

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