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Developing more inclusive and effective diplomacy

Published on 17 March 2013
Updated on 19 March 2024

How to make diplomacy more inclusive and effective is a recurring theme in the history of diplomacy.[1] Aldo Matteuci explains in his blog how even the powerful Catholic Church had to find ways to accommodate the various secular interests at the Council of Trent. Although only bishops sat around the negotiating table, other ‘stakeholders’, including Martin Luther, were very present, indirectly, in negotiations.

Vienna CongressAnother important phase in the attempt to make diplomacy more inclusive was the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), one of the most successful events in the history of diplomacy. The Vienna treaty laid a foundation which achieved a long period without a major world war (until 1914), and set the basic rules of multilateral diplomacy and protocol.

The main reason for the success of the Vienna Congress – as explained in Dr. Paul Meerts’ article – was achieving the right balance between inclusion and exclusion. The Congress was very inclusive, since all players at the time were invited to Vienna, but it was ‘exclusive’ since actors had different roles in drafting and negotiations, divided in circles and committees. The core circle included 5 great powers (France, Russia, Prussia, Austria and Britain) and other circles gradually expanded, to the outermost circle, which had close to 200 representatives of dukes and other rulers. Committees focused on specific issues and were open to all players. For those who were not present around the negotiating table, a space for persuasion was created in the lively social life in Vienna.

The question of exclusion/inclusion remains as relevant today as it was two centuries ago in Vienna. Legitimacy can be achieved only through the full inclusion, not only of the 193 UN member states, but also of other increasingly relevant stakeholders (civil society, business, academia). At the same time, efficient negotiations can include only a very limited number of actors, according to one simulation, 12-15 as a maximum. Some attempts to address the ‘efficiency’ problem through the various Gs (G8, G20) are being criticized for their exclusivity and lack of legitimacy. Is global policy making undertaking a search for this delicate balance between inclusion and efficiency? Will e-participation bring new possibilities to this eternal challenge of diplomacy?


See also: Evolution of diplomacy and technology | E-diplomacy course | E-diplomacy Platform

[1] Inclusiveness should be understood in historical context. In the Middle Ages, it referred mainly to secular players who wanted to be included in Church-driven power circles. Today, inclusiveness often refers to policy shaping groups beyond traditional government organizations.


1 reply
  1. Ginger Paque
    Ginger Paque says:

    It is very interesting to
    It is very interesting to read of the importance of the Catholic Church in earlier diplomatic processes, at a time when a new pope (Francis) will possibly usher in a new style of papacy with a focus on the ‘new world’ (the Americas) and the poor. Will inclusion and multistakeholder principles bring religion into diplomatic circles again? Can religious diplomats take part in current diplomatic, and multistakeholder processes, without crossing the line that many states draw between church and state? I know this is tangential to your point, but I am wondering how this affects the changing definition of inclusion?

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