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Do we need diplomats more or less than in the past?

‘Do we need diplomats more or less than in the past?’

This is the first question Georgie Day asked Geoff Berridge in an interview at Five Books.

Berridge’s answer was very interesting:

‘We need them more than in the past because the implications of international conflict degenerating into war are more catastrophic than ever. Weapons of mass destruction mean that it is more important than ever to nip conflicts in the bud when possible and peacefully resolve or at least manage them when it is not. Recent years have also demonstrated the key role that diplomats need to play in negotiating agreements to avert environmental disaster and global financial meltdown.’

However, Berridge’s reference to E-diplomacy startled me:

‘E-diplomacy – which sacrifices body-language and informal encounters, and keeps negotiators too close to their domestic constituents – will never replace diplomats.’

Let me repeat that … ‘keeps negotiators too close to their domestic constituents’ …

Is there such a thing? Isn’t that a good thing? I don’t think e-diplomacy will ever replace diplomacy either… but that is certainly not the reason. I simply think that e-diplomacy is a tool of diplomats. It has a time and a place… and one of those ‘places’ is keeping negotiators close to their domestic constituents. What do you think?

26 July 2010
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