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Reflections on Persuasion in Diplomacy by Ambassador Joseph Cassar

Date: 2012


MR:  What is the importance of persuasion in diplomacy? Could you give us some examples when persuasion made the miracle in spite of political differences or others when it did not work?

AJC:  Persuasion is part and parcel of human existence.

In our families, in our jobs, in our political dynamic at a national level, we always try to persuade others, first and foremost. Since, diplomacy is part of the global human existence, it is natural that persuasion is an essential part and an essential tool of diplomacy … as much it is in your family life, in my family life, when you try to sort out trouble within your family, between your brothers and sisters, between your children and between your grandchildren at my age.

I wouldn’t say ‘miracles’, because miracles tend to convey the idea of some intervention that is beyond human. However, if we say ‘miracle’ in the sense of something that is totally unexpected, there have been many examples.

If one looks at the collapse of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and the choice that Nelson Mandela made, where he technically never renounced the ANC’s option to combat, but on the other hand, increasingly promoted the notion that the ANC had to try to dialogue with the authority, had to convince, had to persuade the authorities.

In such cases, miracles happen because there is something intrinsically wrong in that system.

In the same manner segregation in the United States, which had been there for so many centuries, suddenly collapsed.

However, works in overcoming critical and difficult situations where there is the will by all the sides involved to find the solution.

Persuasion does not work in resolving the issues, when a priori one of the parties is not ready to find a solution which is different to what that party wants, so that one is deaf to one does not hear, the arguments of the other.

For persuasion to work, you must listen to what all parties have to say.

Within the international community, very often there are countries or groups of countries and particular lobbies, which have a specific agenda to promote. If these groups want to promote this idea at any cost then clearly they will not be open to persuasion.

If there is the will, then persuasion works. But then, this is the basic essence, which you find in normal life. If you have an argument within your place of work, with your employer, within the family, if there is a will to overcome the crisis, or to avoid a crisis then persuasion is an instrument; if one of the parties is not willing, then the other party can try but any attempt will be unsuccessful.

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