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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