Has multilateral diplomacy overtaken bilateral diplomacy in importance? Such assertions are made from time to time, but this is really a nonissue. Each plays its role, as processes through which countries pursue their objectives. Some issues are best handled in a multilateral forum. But as someone observed, all diplomacy is bilateral, in that countries take positions on global issues on the merits of the case and on the basis of the quality of relations with the country sponsoring the issue under debate. Simply put, bilateral and multilateral processes are the two legs of the international system. We should not leave out regional diplomacy, which is a special form of multilateralism.

Multilateralism has grown dramatically in the past three decades. The start of the annual UN General Assembly session, in the third week of September, has become a global forum that draws 60 to 80 heads of state and government, and scores of foreign ministers. Several thematic global summits meet each year. Regional summits have also multiplied, with the proliferation of new groups. MFAs deploy their best diplomats in multilateral diplomacy.

  • When complex functional issues are debated, it is the line ministries that take the lead; MFA diplomats play a supporting role. Over the years, these agencies have built considerable subject negotiation expertise.
  • Professional diplomats bring to the table wider relationship management expertise, including knowledge of interconnections between different issues that are in play with a partner country, allowing leverage and tradeoffs.
  • Mastery of conference technique is part of the professional’s compendium of skills, honed through training and frequent exposure to bilateral, regional, and multilateral negotiations.
  • Most working diplomats blend bilateral and multilateral skills, each reinforcing the other; they rotate between bilateral and multilateral posts. The Chinese are among the few that treat multilateralism as a distinct expertise area for their personnel.
  • A multilateral diplomat should, ideally, master two languages besides English; possess sharp drafting ability; excel at people skills and intercultural communication.

The skills involved in multilateral work are as follows:

1. Liaison, negotiation, representation, and confl ict resolution, involving the craft of communication, advocacy, and persuasion.

2. The work is labor-intensive, with great effort in building personal ties, aimed at getting colleagues to tilt in one’s favor, within their “zone of discretion”.

3. The envoy often has latitude for local improvisation; good MFAs ensure that this is given to their representatives on the spot.

4. Committee or conference management is a special skill, aimed at getting into the “inner group” that plays a key role at each.

5. Chairing a meeting needs sensitive judgment of the mood, a special “listening” sense, and anticipation of problems before they emerge—of course, fairness, humor, and a winning personality are taken for granted.

6. Knowledge of procedures and rules, which makes it possible to manipulate the conference to one’s purpose and block others from doing the same.


The range of entrants into diplomatic services the world over is increasingly diverse in the subjects studied, regional and personal background, as well as age (intake age has risen in most countries). Yet, they are elites in talent quality, chosen as the best among a large number of applicants.17 Effi cient management of this resource is the hallmark of the best services. This entails the following:

  • Objective, transparent management that carries conviction with the cadre; oversight of this process is usually a major responsibility for the MFA permanent head.
  • Career management that tolerates individuality and facilitates early selection of high flyers.
  • A calibrated promotion system, ideally a blend of in-depth tests, transparent selection, grooming the best for high office.
  • “Bidding” methods for assignments, via an open process.
  • Inculcation of language, area and thematic expertise to match actual needs, as they evolve.
  • Extensive “in” and “out” placement at all levels, breaking down network insularity, real and perceived, including assignments with non-state (business associations, think tanks).

The best services use elaborate methods for talent identification and selection of high value assignments.

Examples: The British FCO uses a “Job Evaluation Senior Posts” system to assign a numerical value to each (a JESP score of 8 for the head of mission (HOM) at Port Moresby, 9 for the deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Lisbon, 20 to 22 for the top six directors general at the FCO, 22–23 for the envoys to Delhi, Moscow, Berlin, and Paris, 25 for the UK permanent representative at Brussels, and 28 for the permanent under-secretary, among the 450 senior jobs). All the posts are up for bidding, with a single page application, to be considered by the “No. 1 Board,” final approval by the Foreign Secretary. Singapore uses an annual “Current Evaluated Potential” (CEP) method (borrowed years ago from Shell), which calculates the level that all offi cials with more than five years of service are expected to reachafter about 20 to 25 years of service and then guides the offi cials’ career tracks accordingly. The score is not communicated to the offi cials, but those estimated as the best are groomed for high office. Australia demands that those aspiring to promotion must apply. The US, with a like method, demands that applicants who fail to get promoted for six years must leave the service. Mexico requires promotion applicants to write out why they merit promotion; they take a written exam in several subjects; the board that interviews them includes a professor from a reputed university (the applicants pay their own travel cost). In 1995, Nepal opened up 10 percent of posts to lateral entry by qualified specialists; contrary to initial doubt, this has worked well.

In business, innovation is distinct from invention; while the latter covers new ideas or concepts, innovation produces higher revenues and/or profi ts. In the public services, innovation stands for greater effi ciency or effectiveness; that also applies to diplomatic tasks. Canada lists innovation among its four mission objectives for Canada International (i.e. the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). The British FCO abolished its Policy Planning Department in 2002 and created a directorate for “Strategy and Innovation”.

At the MFA, innovation entails the following:

  • Networking with domestic ministerial and non offi cial partners, often in unconventional ways, for example harnessing NGO personnel, “in” and “out” personnel exchanges.
  • Creating a learning organization, one that welcomes new ideas, involving “young turks” in system issues, integrating them with the experienced.
  • Flexible response, adaptable mind-sets.
  • Calibrated human resource policy, locating the best for the critical jobs.
  • “Zero base” budgeting, and use of “challenge funds” to foster competitive spirit and emulation.
  • Using the internet as a vehicle for outreach, at headquarters and through the embassies, using new methods.

At the embassy it includes

  • Envoys geared to “public affairs entrepreneurship,” willing to undertake measured risk in pursuit of clear goals.
  • Open styles, use of informal local networks and advisory groups.
  • Using thematic, cross-functional teams, putting aside hierarchies.
  • Inculcating breadth of subject awareness, plus ability to find cross-connections between issues.
  • Working outside the circuit of privileged partners in the capital, extending activities to provincial administrations, regions, and cities.
  • Harnessing ethnic communities, returned students, and other affi nity clusters.

Practical Innovation

  • In 2005, the German Embassy in New Delhi created an internet-based “Science Forum” that takes advantage of past and existing S&T cooperation, and the presence in India of a large number of holders of Humboldt and other distinguished fellowships, for generating ideas on expanding mutual cooperation.
  • In 2004, the Danish Embassy in Israel created 10 functional teams, cutting across ranks, to pursue priority subjects.
  • Many countries hold annual or biennial conferences of all their envoys posted abroad (some also hold smaller conferences of ambassadors in particular regions). Such conferences are a vehicle for organizational communication. Indirectly producing experience-sharing and reform generation, they are an annual feature in some large services (China, Japan, Germany, Thailand; UK held its firstever conference of all ambassadors in January 2002, as part of its reform process; India held its fi rst in December 2008). A few small networks seldom use this device, but hold episodic gatherings in regional clusters. Despite the cost, the conferences are worthwhile, especially when held in the home capital, with careful planning and follow-up.
  • Singapore invites its honorary consuls to a conference in Singapore every fi ve or six years, to show the importance attached to their voluntary work, and to give them insight into Singapore’s worldview; in 2010 Kenya joined the rather few countries that do the same. Malta is to run training programs for its honorary consuls.

Innovation can be facilitated but not ordered. Systems that permit easy, fl at internal communication and seek out ideas from the shop floor are the winners.

In pursuit of global standards of democracy, human rights, and good governance, a kind of universal charter of citizen rights is under evolution, led by Western countries (e.g. the concept of “responsibility to protect” that was accepted by the UN General Assembly in 2005, as an inescapable obligation for all states toward their peoples, during confl icts11). The sovereignty doctrine does not shield countries that blatantly transgress these norms. This is international law in the making—still amorphous, selective in application, and driven by a fi ckle cycle of world media attention.

Democracy is broadly acknowledged as a universal ideal, but its application in interstate relations is conditioned by other overriding bilateral and regional objectives driven by national interest, security, or other compulsions; its proponents often end up supporting undemocratic regimes. After the experience of Iraq and Afghanistan, even democracy zealots now acknowledge that it cannot be exported or imposed from outside. Human rights are closely monitored today, and enter the interstate dialogue, but again violations are treated with selectivity. At the UN, the abolition of the Human Rights Commission and its replacement by the Human Rights Council, composed of ‘independent’ experts has not produced expected results. Good governance is even harder to enforce, though aid donors now make this a condition, and [but] gross human rights abuse in some countries results in foreign aid cutoff, and even sanctions; governance standards are now widely accepted, even while those at the receiving end of Western pressure on grounds of governance resent this.

President George W. Bush made freedom around the world a major theme, but as before, calculations of self-interest, and indulgence for alliance partners, overrode declared principles. After January 2009 the Obama administration has put value promotion on the back burner. Nevertheless, value concepts have moved forward; developing countries are far more sensitive to these standards, compared with even a decade back, with their own civil society organizations leading demands for improvement. Media publicity, right to information initiatives and citizen actions, are visible in many countries. In Africa, a voluntary oversight mechanism, led by eminent experts, has gained traction in over a score of countries.

  • Western states produce global surveys, joining international NGOs, with their extensive annual reports, on application of these universal norms (e.g. Amnesty, Transparency International).
  • On the ground, pressure to improve human rights involves foreign governments in partnerships with these non-state actors; joint actions are often tacit.
  • In the affected countries, foreign states cannot really substitute for the actions that must come from domestic publics; external pressures have their limits (as seen in Myanmar and Zimbabwe).

It is the powerful that project their values on the others. How far does international law support universal social and economic standards, beyond what the UN Charter and international covenants lay down? The global economic recession of 2008 has called into question the universality of market capitalism, a frequent theme in Western value prescriptions, also pushed by the World Bank and IMF.14 But overall, stricter accountability for governments and higher standards of governance have gained traction worldwide, and this is welcome.

Facebook is the most popular social networking site. It is because of this that it must stay up to date on the newest ways to connect people with similar interests in the simplest way possible. Their newest tactic for doing this is Facebook interest lists, which John Haydon explains in his blog post “What Facebook Interest Links Mean for Your Nonprofit and (Why You Should Care)” on Razoo.com’s blog Inspiring Generosity.

Interest Lists are user organized topic lists that link people and pages with similar interests of on similar topics. This new feature makes it even easier for nonprofit organizations to connect with new people who have either similar interests, pages or friends. Facebook users are able to subscribe to other users lists and share with their friends.

Mari Smith, for example, created the public Interest List known as FACEBOOK Experts & Resources to connect and share valuable information about how to properly navigate and operate Facebook.This is a very helpful resources not only for nonprofit organizations but for my topic in COMM 3309, Facebook for Nonprofits.

When a nonprofit organization’s page or a member of a specific organization is added to a number of different Interest Lists, then the organization has strengthened their Facebook fan base by expanding their range beyond only their “fans” or “friends.”

John Haydon also describes all the benefits this new feature can have for Nonprofit organizations. “This means more Facebook fans, more engagement with your content, more traffic to your website and more volunteers and donations (eventually).”

All in all these new Interest Lists sound like a great idea, but how can you be sure you are using them properly. Haydon describes with nine important things that Nonprofits need to know in order to maximize the benefits of this new feature. I will list some of them that seem to offer the most benefit.

First, is to check and see if your nonprofit organization or your “friends” have already been added to any current interest lists. This is done by searching keywords that are directly related to your organization. Secondly, it is important to optimize your organizations Facebook page for search to ensure that your page will “pop-up” when keywords that are pertinent to your organization are searched. You can do this by editing your pages “About Me” section.

Another helpful hint Haydon offers is “try not to be all things to all people.” What he means by this is stay on topic and make sure that your pages content is focused on topic and not too broad. This is to make sure that people can easily place your organization in the appropriate Interest List. Haydon encourages organizations to promote the lists that you have been added to through all other forms of social media that are at your organizations disposal. This includes Public Relations campaigns, through your nonprofits email, twitter and blogs. All of these resources are very helpful for driving more traffic to not only your Nonprofits Facebook page but also your website.

Beth Kanter is the brilliant mind behind Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media, one most popular, not to mention longest running, blogs for nonprofits on the web. With her over 30 years of experience within the nonprofit sector, she has become one of the nations leading authorities, the guru if you will, on how nonprofits can successfully use the emerging world of social media effectively to promote their cause.

In her most recent blog March 2, Kanter describes how Facebook’s ads can be an affordable and effective way to market your nonprofit to the local public. She also provides a link, to an excellent resource for Facebook ad beginners, How the Create Epic Facebook Ad written by the co-author of Facebook Marketing for Dummies, Andrea Vahl. This e-book describes how these Facebook ads work, how they are created, how they are tested and who should be targeted in these ads.

“Placing ads on Facebook provides a targeted advertising strategy because Facebook knows the demographics and interests of its millions of users,” says Kanter. Facebook ad’s run on a “bidding system.” This means that organizations and advertisers “bid” for likes or being added as interests on people’s personal profiles. The more likes or adds an organization has, the more people they are likely to reach. A majority of nonprofit organizations use these Facebook ads in an effort to gain more fans, however, they are also excellent way to increase engagement or gain visibility within a larger market.

This method has proven to be effective for the AXIS Dance Company out of Oakland, California who designed a strategy for Facebook ads in an effort to engage more fans by utilizing testing and targeting. This being their first attempt at Facebook advertising they decided to start simple. The ad consisted of the AXIS Dance company avatar, the slogan “Change the way you think about dance forever,” and “Like” us on Facebook.

In order to test how effective their advertising would be, they took out 2 ads targeting people within a 50 mile area. The first was able to reach a greater number of people because it targeted people within broad categories of interests such as #dance or #disabilities. The second ad, however, was much more narrow because it targeted people who “liked” specific companies in this particular community, such as the San Francisco Ballet.

After one week of testing the ad the AXIS Dance Company’s Facebook page experienced a noticeable spike in its Page Views as well as Reach. In just one day the small nonprofit organization received 17 likes and 67 page views. Now that they are beginning to see a positive change in their online presence they have decided to remove the general ad and start advertising events and other more specific AXIS news.

This is just one example of how Facebook ads can be a great resource for Nonprofits!