diplomacy – Diplomacy – DIPLOMACY: the three different ways of writing this word illustrate three 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.
The practice of Diplomacy has changed significantly since the times of aristocracy. It has become just another, though highly important, profession; yet, the perception of Diplomacy has been changing more slowly than its reality. DIPLOMACY, seen mainly as an elitist profession, is still deeply ingrained in the public perception.
For example, in an attempt to increase standing, hundreds of hotels worldwide are named ‘Diplomat’ or ‘Ambassador’. Most likely, you have one of them in your city. The title ‘Ambassador’ is used by representatives of companies, charities, and other organisations and still carries a certain prestige. But, paradoxically, it is difficult to find streets named after prominent national diplomats in capitals worldwide.
While DIPLOMACY as an abstract concept is attractive and luring, the applied diplomacy of reaching peace through compromise usually falls short in the historical competition with military victory and national bravery.
An awareness of these three perceptions of diplomacy is important now, at a time when we need to use diplomacy more than ever before. In the digitally-driven world, interdependence requires diplomatic solutions. They lie more in persuasion and engagement than in military might, as we can see from the latest diplomatic breakthroughs (Iran Nuke, Cuba, and Kosovo, to name a few). We need to negotiate more than ever before - be it in the family or in global politics. Local communities and companies are starting to develop their diplomatic capacities.
Traditional diplomacy (with a capital ‘D’) has to adjust to profound changes in the modern world. Diplomats no longer have a monopoly in managing relations with foreign entities. Many more actors are now involved in the conduct of diplomacy. Diplomats have to engage with ‘diplomats’ representing cities and local municipalities, civil society, and the business sector.
Finally, the public has to learn to perceive diplomacy as its own tool. Diplomacy should no longer be a distant realm reserved for the few. As a way of solving conflicts while respecting others, diplomacy is becoming a vital element of modern society.