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What Is Diplomacy?

Diplomacy is a word that gets thrown around a lot in today’s world, but what does it mean exactly? It is essentially another term for negotiation, specifically between diplomats who represent different states. The goal of diplomacy is to influence decisions and conduct between foreign governments and officials without violence. Treaties, agreements, alliances, and more are most often negotiated between diplomats, who also use their knowledge to help shape their own state’s foreign policies. What is the history of diplomacy and how have its functions changed over the years?

The history of diplomacy

There isn’t much information about the diplomacy of very early people, so our understanding of it begins in China, India, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. Diplomacy in a more recognizable form, however, began in ancient Greece. The Greeks built archives, a vocabulary of diplomacy, and laws and principles on international conduct. When Rome came to power, the Republic modeled itself after Greece. Initially, the Senate was responsible for foreign policy, but eventually they established a department for foreign affairs. During the Empire, the emperor made the final decisions on foreign affairs.

The first professional diplomats came from the Byzantime Empire, and after its collapse, that style of diplomacy endured in Renaissance Italy and the Ottoman Empire. France established the first modern foreign ministry under Cardinal Richelieu, who believed diplomacy was a continuous state of negotiation. Diplomacy saw a significant shift during the 19th century as power structures changed. At international meetings, ministers replaced kings, and royal courts became cabinets. This change continued through World War I and World War II, as conference diplomacy and summit meetings became the norm. The speed of communication through technology also had a significant impact on diplomacy.

How diplomacy has changed: old vs. new

How is diplomacy today different than diplomacy in the past? First of all, old diplomacy was mainly focused in Europe. As other countries became more powerful, diplomacy has adopted a more international and global approach. Old diplomacy was defined by rigid rules, but now, there are more informal contacts between leaders and diplomats. Old diplomacy was also often very secretive, but now, new diplomacy is done out in the open and made public. Even the definition of a “diplomat” is looser now, whereas in the past, diplomats belonged to an elite class. Today, diplomacy can be conducted by officials holding government positions or by citizens/celebrities given special titles and duties abroad. Anyone who represents their nation in some capacity is essentially a diplomat.

How do diplomats do their jobs?

By the 18th century, there were lots of texts on how to be a good diplomat. In general, it was believed that a good diplomat should be intelligent, trustworthy, and courageous. They should have foresight and a sense of humor. To perform their objectives, diplomats use a variety of tactics such as persuasion and offering rewards. However, diplomacy can also involve the threats of force, non-violent punishments, and putting on pressure. Diplomats can bear different titles such as Ambassador, Counsellor, First Secretary, Minister, and so on. Famous diplomats from history include:

Niccolo Machiavelli

Benjamin Franklin

Eleanor Roosevelt

Henry Kissinger

Shirley Temple Black

Madeleine Albright

Kofi Anan

Types of diplomacy

There’s a wide variety of diplomacy types used at certain times in history to promote a nation’s objectives. Some examples include:

Gunboat diplomacy

In this type of diplomacy, a nation will demonstrate its strength in order to achieve its goals. It essentially lets others know that if necessary, a nation can use military force. North Korea uses gunboat diplomacy when it conducts missile tests.

Dollar diplomacy

Using economic means (such as loans), a state displays its financial power. This diplomacy was used during President Taft’s administration. It was employed instead of military threats or force. Overall, historians agree that Taft’s dollar diplomacy failed.

People’s diplomacy

Also known as citizens’ diplomacy, this type describes the ongoing process of nations sharing communication, knowledge, influence, and culture. When visiting other countries, citizens act as unofficial diplomats and influence how others in the world see their nation.

Digital diplomacy

This is a newer term and simply means using the internet and other technologies for diplomacy. Social networks, blogs, and other media platforms are used to promote a nation’s interests and share propaganda.

The purpose of diplomacy

In today’s world, diplomacy has two main objectives: political and non-political. Policial objectives all center on trying to increase the influence of one state over others. This involves compromise, promising rewards, and negotiating. Non-political objectives emphasize fostering interdependence among states. No nation is completely independent with no reliance on others, so diplomacy is also about strengthening economic and cultural links to other countries. With both objectives, diplomacy seeks to protect the interests of the state. With globalization so prevalent, good diplomacy is more important than ever.

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Global Peace Careers is a website dedicated to career related information in the sectors humanitarian aid and action, international development, peace and conflict studies, negotiation, conflict resolution, diplomacy and international law. On our website we collect and distribute information about entry level jobs, paid internships, affordable master degrees, free online courses and other opportunities.

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