The Changes

One consequence of globalization: many people feel that their lives are shaped by external events that are outside their control. Crisis has many faces. Take the global recession of 2008, producing economic insecurity, loss of jobs, decline in incomes, and slowdown in production, virtually in every country. Terrorism is another pervasive concern, with subterranean roots in foreign lands. Climate change affects all of us, threatening the very existence of small low-lying island states. Other dangers are more insidious, such as the infl ux of foreign cultural infl uence, viewed with alarm by those that struggle to conserve their own heritage. Migration is another interconnected issue, of the “home-external” kind, both for countries from where the migrants originate and for the destination states. Each of these is a new kind of security threat, a consequence of interdependence among states and peoples. These are products of relentless globalization.

Why globalized diplomacy? About two generations ago, politics was in command and was the prime focus of foreign ministry work; the best diplomats specialized in this fi eld. Then, commencing around the 1970s, economic diplomacy began to emerge as a major component of external relations, in some ways overshadowing political diplomacy; export promotion and foreign direct investment (FDI) mobilization became the priority activities of the diplomatic system. More recently we have seen the rise of culture, media and communications, education, science and technology and even consular work as some new priorities in diplomacy. Taken together, this third tranche is seen as a manifestation of soft power and as “public diplomacy”. Paradoxically, after the end of the Cold War, political diplomacy has also regained salience, becoming more open and complex. The techniques of relationship building and confl ict resolution have also become more sophisticated and require measured but rapid responses. Overall, diplomacy has become multifaceted, pluri-directional, volatile, and intensive.

Diplomacy has globalized in other ways. For one thing, with a breakdown in Cold War blocs, there exists no predetermined matrix of relationships. The West and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are now the dominant groups, but their former adversaries are also their networked partners, even while rivalries subsist. These are “normal” situations of contestation, driven by self-interest, as expressed through a search for resources and energy, and markets, to name only a few of the drivers; ideology is no longer an issue. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has been hollowed out, and remains as a loose coalition of have-not states; its ritualistic biennial summits persist, but NAM members are much more preoccupied with smaller, issue-based groupings. In essence, every country fi nds value in working with networks that stretch into far regions, in pursuit of common or shared objectives. Often, economic opportunity provides the driving force, and this too is subject to globalized concerns.

Regional diplomacy has taken on a life of its own. Virtually every country is a member of multiple groupings, many of them geography driven, besides those that have their locus in some other kinds of shared objectives. The membership pattern of such groups takes on a kaleidoscopic character; the names of the groups and abbreviated titles make a veritable alphabet soup. Even seasoned specialists fi nd it hard to keep up with the profusion. Managing membership of such communities, and joining hands with different domestic ministries for this purpose, is a new challenge for foreign ministries (MFAs).

We should consider another change element. Some large and economically successful countries are seen as today’s “emerging powers,” joining the high table of the world’s major and nearmajor powers. One such small group is known by its acronym IBSA, that is, India, Brazil and South Africa; none of these states is quite a major power, but seems to offer the potential of reaching this rank. Another putative group is BRICS, consisting of Brazil, Russia, India, China and now South Africa; two of the fi ve are permanent members of the UN Security Council, but only one is a member of G-8. Both IBSA and BRICS have emerged on the international stage as groups that pursue mutual cooperation at multiple levels, ranging from summit meetings among their leaders to functional collaboration among researchers and business groups, along mutually benefi cial trajectories. Behind these small clusters are other states, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Mexico, and Nigeria that aspire to recognition as emerging powers. Each seeks through its external policy to reshape the international environment in consonance with its own interests. Since 2008, G-20, which began as a gathering of fi nance ministers, is now a major politicoeconomic forum. The international process is more kinetic and more volatile than ever before, resembling a large, multi-arm mobile, constantly in motion, continually reshaping interrelations among its composing elements, large and small.

Another element merits consideration. Some countries—be they large, medium-sized or small—manage their external relationships in distinctly better ways than others. What is the key? This issue dominates the analysis presented in this book. Briefly, the success factors are clarity of objectives and mobilization of all available resources to attain these, clearly prioritized. In diplomacy, effectiveness hinges not on the money spent, or numbers of people deployed, but on well-considered actions, nimbleness, and sound calculations of risk and gain. The best foreign ministries optimize the talent that resides within diplomatic services—the only real resource that they possess—and pursue reform and adaptation. Public-private partnerships (PPP) also contribute; governments have seen the utility of joining hands with non-state actors, both at home and abroad. Benchmarking and mutual learning are among their regular practices. They also manage knowledge in a calculated and consistent manner.


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