miércoles, 23 de mayo de 2012

Diplomats will evolve...but will survive!

“No government could survive without champagne. Champagne in the throats of our diplomatic people is like oil in the wheels of an engine.” (Joseph Dargent, 1953)

I must start with a caveat. I am myself a diplomat. And I do not consider myself as a dillettante. In commenting Kelley's excellent article on the challenges of diplomacy today, I must say that most people still has in mind the stereotype of the diplomat as a classy man with refined manners, a  bon vivant who speaks French perfectly in nice ballrooms where champagne and caviar is equally enjoyed by Ambassadors and beautiful mysterious women - most of them spies. I certainly had the dream of being at least once in one of such reunions. But that diplomacy has - fortunately? - almost disappeared. What a pity!
Those nice old times...
Diplomacy certainly has evolved in the last years and I am sure that will continue doing so. And it is not only the existence of new actors and new ICTS and social media. As Kelley suggests, the State itself has evolved and today many issues that were considered as clear attribution of its power has diluted into a new world where TNCs and NGOs have a say in those issues. This has created a radical change in the way to make diplomacy and probably this is what Kelley does not explain in depth. Within the State there are many new agencies, ministries, and institutions that did not exist many years ago in charge of problems that did not exist many years ago. States have sometimes lost its overall power on every single issue but at the same time have evolved into a complex machinery with many inter-related actions to operate. This has challenged diplomacy since most of these new issues have also become global. This is what I perceive as a first challenge in the evolution for Diplomacy. "New" issues relate to trade, environment, health, labour, etc. Diplomats now share responsibility for negotiating a whole set of new issues with experts of other agencies. This is a first crisis. 

Only as a second step comes what Kelley identifies as new actors and new media. And I concur that the state is ceding ground to non-state actors - although I have some doubts about the real value of celebrities' diplomacy and popularizing the term "Ambassador"- and I certainly believe that the five features that he identifies for the future of diplomacy are already on the minds of every "new" diplomat, being part of the diplomatic service or part of another interest. But as Kelley also states, "transition are a fixture of modern diplomacy." Diplomats are already aware that in a world where almost everyone has access to the same information at the same time and can also express ideas at the same time, their "expertise" must be sufficiently real for them to be heard. 

I believe new generations of diplomats are already thinking in the new role of Diplomacy in the XXI century. As Kelley explores, this is specially true for Public Diplomacy, that has regained importance. New diplomats are using already new technologies to communicate. I believe, as a "Peruvian" diplomat, that our challenge is to find ways in which these technologies can also serve "our" national interests - such as connecting our diaspora, expressing our ideas or promoting our country. But for us the challenge is also to understand that these technologies are value-neutral (Alec Ross commented this in a recent remark) and that if Diplomats will survive is because they are still relevant. 

I believe that unless a dramatic transformation on the nation-state occurs, diplomats will still be relevant, certainly sharing a space with other "new" diplomats. Nevertheless, I think at this moment all diplomats - being those officials or "new" diplomats - are still struggling with realizing the real role anyone can play in the international arena and what their behavior should be. And in this world of doubts, at least "official" diplomats have the certainty of what interests we are pursuing. So, to end with relief, I can just quote Gloria Gaynor: I will (hopefully) survive.   

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