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Frequently Asked Questions about Diplomacy
They can often be interchanged. There are however some patterns emerging in their usage. Cyber diplomacy is used more to refer to diplomatic activities related to cyber security issues. There is more confusion about digital diplomacy being used to implement digital foreign policy (new topics in diplomatic agenda) and the use of new tools in diplomatic practice like social media, websites and online meeting platforms.
It is possible to avoid confusion in the current, transitory phase of terminology settling.
– The evolving geopolitical ENVIRONMENT for diplomacy: impact of digital technology on sovereignty distribution of power, and global interdependence among other issues.
– The emergence of new TOPICS in diplomatic agenda: cybersecurity. internet governance, e-commerce, online human rights, and more than 50 other policy topics.
– Use of new TOOLS in diplomatic practice: social media, AI, big data, online meetings, virtual and augmented reality.
You can read more on terminological confusion and other aspects of digital diplomacy.
The Vienna convention (1961) on diplomatic relations does not specify how countries will be represented. They are typically represented in another country by an embassy or other types of diplomatic missions. However, there are many other options available such as rowing (nonresident Ambassadors). Online diplomatic representation can be considered legal. It is yet to be seen if this practice will increase in popularity over the next few years.
3 writings of diplomacy illustrate different ways in which diplomacy is perceived today:
diplomacy – written in lower-case letters – reflects our daily experience. At home, at work, and on the street, we deal with conflicts through negotiations, engagement, and ultimately, compromise. In addition, we represent our family, our communities, and our companies. We often speak on behalf of others. This is what diplomacy is about. Most people would not use the term ‘diplomacy’ to describe these activities. Yet, these activities are at the core of diplomacy.
Diplomacy – with a capital ‘D’ – is a profession and a system of representation for states. This is how diplomacy is seen in the news. It is about negotiations and international treaties, among other elements. Traditionally, Diplomacy is performed by diplomats and international officials working in embassies, ministries of foreign affairs, and international organisations. A lot has been written about Diplomacy; and you can read more about it on Diplo’s website.
DIPLOMACY – fully written in upper-case letters – is how diplomacy is often perceived by the general public. This is the diplomacy of flags, receptions, black limousines, and protocol. DIPLOMACY looks glamorous and aristocratic. This perception can be traced back to the history of diplomacy, when it was a profession reserved for aristocrats.
- changing digital geopolitical and geoconomic ENVIRONMENT for diplomatic activities (sovereignty, power redistribution, interdependence)
- emerging digital TOPICS on diplomatic agenda (e.g. cybersecurity, e-commerce, privacy protection, and
- new TOOLS for diplomatic activites (e.g. social media, big data, AI).
In its broadest sense, diplomacy is the conduct of international relations by peaceful means.
More restrictive is this definition: diplomacy is the peaceful conduct of international relations by official agents of states, international organisations, and other international actors.
Even more restrictive is the definition of diplomacy as the conduct of relations between sovereign states by members of their respective foreign services. There are also a wide range of definitions based on functions of diplomacy:
Representation is one of the most important functions of diplomacy. Costas Constantinou blends the concepts of representation and communication in his definition:
“At its basic level, diplomacy is a regulated process of communication between at least two subjects, conducted by their representative agents over a particular object.”
The next set of definitions is focused on communication and the sharing of information. In The International Law of Diplomacy, B.S. Murthy defines diplomacy as,
“the process of transnational communication among the elites in the world arena.” Brian White defines diplomacy, both as “a communication process between international actors that seek through negotiation and dialogue to resolve conflicts” and as “one instrument that international actors use to implement their foreign policy”.
Tran Van Dinh’s most concise explanation of the importance communication has for diplomacy is:
“Communication is to diplomacy as blood is to the human body. Whenever communication ceases, the body of international politics, the process of diplomacy, is dead, and the result is violent conflict or atrophy.” Constantiou describes diplomacy as “a regulated process of communication” (Constantinou) and James Alan as “the communication system of the international society”.
The third approach focuses on the definition of diplomacy as negotiation. Quincy Wright defines diplomacy as:
“the art of negotiation, in order to achieve the maximum of group objectives with a minimum of costs, within a system of politics in which war is a possibility.”
Hendely Bull defines diplomacy as
“the management of international relations by negotiations.”
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Unfortunately, online politeness is declining. Language is divisive and offensive.
It’s possible to regain your e-politeness with careful language usage. Sarcasm should be avoided as it can easily lead to offence.
E-politeness is about online behaviour that reflects respect and courtesy, just as it should be in real life.
But, it’s difficult to discern such clear distinctions in practice. Technology and science are often interconnected. It is not easy to tell the difference between scientific discoveries in mathematics, and the development of computers. Science and technology have been complementing one another. This distinction has become more blurred in the last ten years.
In the complex interplay of multiple issues and actors in diplomacy, the key challenge is to place certain issues on global diplomatic agendas. Similarly to the media in general and the world of the Internet, a fight for attention takes place, in this case diplomatic attention. Kehone and Nye suggest that states “struggle to get issues raised in international organisations that will maximise their advantage by broadening or narrowing the agenda.”
Currently, there are many unresolved issues related to Internet governance. As a result, extensive manoeuvring by different actors trying to place their own issues on emerging Internet diplomatic agendas is taking place.