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New Age Diplomacy

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Emerging Diplomatic Trends: Diplomatic Fads for Solutions for Future Problems?
High-profile political events and issues have many scholars, practitioners, and observers wondering how diplomatic approaches can be better crafted for today’s world which is full of new threats and problems.

Track II and Track III approaches to diplomacy have been the most successful when traditional diplomacy has failed. There have been new and numerous attempts to develop new approaches to combat the long-last problems such as ethnic tension, extremism, promoting economic growth, and raising awareness on global crises. Developing new diplomatic approaches for global development has been the hardest. Some of the emerging diplomatic trends have potential to solve problems, but can they really guarantee results or are they diplomatic fads that will go out of style as the diplomatic community is faced with more complex challenges?

Track II and Track III approaches to conducting negotiations and reaching peace have become increasingly popular as many view regional and global institutions such as the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) ineffective as the organizations are too big and do not represent those struggling with most of the world’s issues—Africa and the Middle East. Elements of Track II can be seen in many conflicts as governments have begun to negotiate with opposition groups to reach a decision instead of the internationally recognized governments. An example of this would be the Syrian National Council which has provided to be a better alternative and avenue for peace than the regime of Bashar Al-Assad.

Track III diplomacy is more focused on grassroots efforts and are what most informal diplomatic initiatives are categorized. Track III diplomacy typically includes local professionals, community activists, local clergy, organizers of grassroots NGOs. Track III efforts focus on reducing prejudice, stopping the cycles of violence and retribution, and attending to immediate needs of refugees and IDPs and building broad-based reconciliation processes.   Track III diplomatic efforts are ran by small groups or by individuals under an idea which is to bring peace by building relationships overtime, not necessarily under a concrete and established social movement or a global development campaign.

The emerging diplomatic trends are a way to incorporate existing social trends into the diplomatic and peace making process. The use of social media, television, and culture make certain international causes more appealing to the world’s younger and more diverse groups. This increasingly includes also what prof. Anis Bajrektarevic calls ‘datafication of human behavior (meta-data hovering) for the sake of timely and precise economic or political risk analysis’. (1) Many organizations have been highly successful in meeting global and diplomatic challenges by using media.

Fashion diplomacy is an emerging trend that has been in existence for 20 years, but has come to the forefront due to it successes. The NGO, Fashion for Development, uses fashion as a way to create businesses and to bridge cultural gaps. With support from the UN, Fashion for Development or (F4D), has global initiatives active on multiple continents ranging from Afghanistan to Egypt to the United States in the key focus areas of: production/trade, promotion, skills/training, health and education. The group also seeks to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of fighting poverty through creating entrepreneurial opportunities, sustainable economic growth, promoting gender equality, and enriching and empowering the lives of women around the world. The group’s mission according to their website is “to harness the power of the fashion and beauty industries and implement creative strategies for sustainable economic growth and independence for communities worldwide through the Expression of Fashion.”(2) The fashion industry has come under harsh scrutiny for “fast fashion,” and for allowing workers to work in deplorable conditions; these items made under poor labor conditions are for export. F4D focuses on local garment making that is distributed locally. F4D is also focused on reaching the UN’s MDGs by developing economic solutions and how to make the fashion industry safer for garment workers and for the environment.

Sport diplomacy has been somewhat of a staple in American diplomatic techniques as the U.S. has used culture and sporting figures/ideas to improve diplomatic relations. Football (or soccer) diplomacy is aimed at reducing ethnic ties between ethnic and social groups and Secretary of State Kerry has called football a “very strong language.” (3) Football around the world is very much a unifying sport and the main sport in Europe, Africa, and one of the more popular sports in Asia. Football also creates a transnational society where international cultural exchanges are possible. Through soccer diplomacy, China developed better relations with African countries. China’s so-called “Stadium Diplomacy” has allowed China to invest in the infrastructure of African countries such as Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea by building soccer stadiums.(4) Gabon received, “40,000 capacity stadium built by the Shanghai Construction Group” and was entirely funded by China. (5) The stadiums are a symbolic reminder of Chinese assistance and illustrate China’s diverse aid programs that are more than loans, military aid, and support for leaders and democracy as compared to “traditionally Western forms of aid such as loans that specify the proper usage of funds or require certain democratic reforms.” (6) They are focused on rebuilding parts of the country that can be used to promote a country and increase its participation in a region.

Basketball diplomacy was also a mildly successful form of diplomacy as Dennis Rodman, a former American basketball team play for the Chicago Bulls, was granted unprecedented access into North Korea (or the Hermit Kingdom) and unprecedented access to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un (KJU). Rodman was the only American to met KJU and the American diplomatic “community pressured Rodman to play diplomat—Rodman refused. Rodman, in his “diplomatic capacity, asked KJU to do him a “solid” and release Kenneth Bae.(7) Kenneth Bae was finally released in early November 2014. To say that Dennis Rodman had improved U.S.-North Korea relations is short-sighted as North Korea has lashed out calling the US a racist country in defense of itself after a UN resolution was approved referring North Korea leader to the International Criminal Court for its gross human rights violations.

Digital Diplomacy has become a method of choice as social media has become part of the diplomatic community’s repertoire. Social media thus has provided countries with more information to solve social problems.   Populations in conflict areas use social media to drum up support, organize protests, communicate, and inform the world know of events in their countries as their media is subjected to blackouts and censorship. A successful example of this would be the Arab Spring protests in Egypt and the EuroMaidan protests in the Ukraine. Digital diplomacy has brought world leaders to the United States such as former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Silicon Valley to gain inspiration for Russia’s own Silicon Valley in Skolkovo in hopes of boosting the Russian economy through innovation and technology investments. This was part of the public diplomacy effort to forge a U.S.-Russian “reset.” These efforts were mildly successful until the re-election of Vladimir Putin which saw the re-emergence of a more assertive Russia. Social media engages those in the diplomatic community, and builds stronger relationships between the diplomatic community, technology, and academic firms and institutions respectively. The Government of Sweden set up the Stockholm International Initiative on Digital Diplomacy to address these issues and for state actors to stay connected to their people. A broader understanding of digital diplomacy is using the internet to achieve diplomatic goals.

Social media campaigns are highly effective in generating media coverage, raising awareness of an issue or issues, and pressuring governments. Social media also plays a large role in human rights monitoring to track violations in otherwise closed countries and to provide news alternative to the often state-owned news outlets which are heavily restricted and peddle state propaganda. However, social media has its weakness such as whether the information is accurate, determining validity sources and reducing anonymity, and is reliant on cell and internet networks in often underdeveloped countries or countries that have wobbly infrastructures.

Due to technology and complex crises, nontraditional diplomatic efforts are becoming the norm. The diplomatic, stabilization, and peacekeeping communities are looking to NGOs, cultural exchanges and other forms of cultural diplomacy to rebuild communities after conflict. The globalized community is also looking for ways to improve governance. Due to the corruption of many countries that are experiencing, approaches that incorporate tools to increase transparency, responsibility, accountability, civic participation and responsiveness are sought after and accepted. Maintaining freedom of speech and press is paramount to preserving good governance and explains the uproar over social media blackouts in semi-authoritarian, authoritarian or autocratic administrations.

The United Nations can greatly benefit from these emerging diplomatic trends as the United Nations has a reputation for being broken and ineffective. As many programs are funded by the UN, the UN can use these approaches to its advantages and apply them to other areas of need. Many of these emerging trends are already based on known solutions that work such as empowering the most vulnerable, creating sustainable economic solutions, fostering cultural exchanges, and improving governance. These initiatives (and trends) are conducted on the unit level and the micro level and are financed by governments, non-governmental actors, and individuals making the fastest impact while encountering little bureaucracy and avoiding complicated politics.

These emerging trends cannot replace the larger institutions and larger governments that are able to assist in dire complex humanitarian emergencies such as the Ebola outbreak, the looming global threat of Islamic State and the refugee crisis caused by the Syrian civil war, and global hunger and malnutrition. Many of the non-traditional initiatives have been successful on a community-scale, but groups lack funding and manpower. Joint projects with Track II and Track III initiatives and larger institutions may be the key.  Fashion diplomacy may be undercut by the cheap textiles produced by Southeast Asia countries. Digital diplomacy is susceptible to government regulation such as media and social media blackouts which have occurred in Turkey, Egypt, and Venezuela during times of civil unrest and protests. Sport diplomacy is subjected to the whim of country, country involved and their motivations, social attitudes of that time and who is involved. The world may require nascent and untested approaches as older traditional forms of diplomacy have not met the expectations of countries and groups of people in need.

Samantha M. Brletich is a researcher and writer specializing in Central Asia and governance, security, terrorism, and development issues. She possesses a Master’s in Peace Operations Policy from George Mason University in Virginia, United States. She works with the virtual think tank Modern Diplomacy specializing in Central Asia and diplomatic trends. Her work has appeared in multiple publications focused on diplomacy and Central Asia respectively. She is currently an employee of the U.S. Federal Government.

Diplomacy

Biden-Putting meeting: Live from Geneva

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19:00 The places of the flags on the Mont Blanc bridge on which President Biden and President Putin will pass to reach the meeting venue on Wednesday usually hold the flags of the different Swiss cantons. Not today. The American and Russian flags have been placed to welcome the two leaders. 

18:00 A day before the Geneva summit: Hotel Intercontinental where the American delegation and probably President Biden himself is staying, how the city looks like a day before the meeting, what are the security measures like, why isn’t the UN involved and are the usual protests expected?

Iveta Cherneva with live video political commentary from Geneva one day ahead of the Biden-Putin Summit

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Diplomacy

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

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In recent years, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, have been trying to bolster their ‘Soft Power’ in a number of ways; by promoting tourism, tweaking their immigration policies to attract more professionals and foreign students and focusing on promoting art and culture. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has taken the lead in this direction (in May 2017, UAE government set up a UAE Soft Power Council which came up with a comprehensive strategy for the promotion of the country’s Soft Power). Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS), Saudi Arabia has also been seeking to change its international image, and it’s Vision 2030 seeks to look beyond focusing on economic growth. In the Global Soft Power Index 2021, Saudi Arabia was ranked at number 24 and number 2 in the Gulf region after the UAE (the country which in the past had a reputation for being socially conservative, has hosted women’s sports events and also hosted the G20 virtually last year)

Will the promotion of cricket in GCC add to its Soft Power?

   One other important step in the direction of promoting Soft Power in the GCC, is the attempt to popularize cricket in the Gulf. While the Sharjah cricket ground (UAE)  hosted many ODI (One Day International )tournaments, and was witness to a number of thrillers between India and Pakistan, match fixing allegations led to a ban on India playing cricket at non-regular venues for a duration of 3 years (for a period of 7 years from 2003, Sharjah did not get to host any ODI). The Pakistan cricket team has been playing its international home series at Sharjah, Abu Dhabu and Dubai for over a decade (since 2009) and the sixth season of the Pakistan Super League is also being played in UAE. Sharjah has also hosted 9 test matches (the first of which was played in 2002).

 Sharjah hosted part of the Indian Premier League (IPL) tournament in 2014, and last year too the tournament was shifted to UAE due to covid19 (apart from Sharjah, matches were played at Dubai and Abu Dhabi). This year again, the UAE and possibly Oman are likely to host the remaining matches of the IPL which had to be cancelled due to the second wave of Covid19. The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup to be held later this year (October-November 2021), which was actually to be hosted by India,  could also be hosted not just in the UAE, but Oman as well (there are two grounds, one of them has floodlights). International Cricket Council (ICC) is looking for an additional venue to UAE, because a lot of cricket is being played there, and this may impact the pitches. The ICC while commenting on the possibility of the T20 World cup being hosted in the Middle East said:

, “The ICC Board has requested management [to] focus its planning efforts for the ICC Men’s  T20 World Cup 2021 on the event being staged in the UAE with the possibility of including another venue in the Middle East’

GCC countries are keen not just to host cricketing tournaments, but also to increase interest in the game. While Oman has a team managed by an Indian businessman, Saudi Arabia has set up the SACF (Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation) in 2020 and it has started the National Cricket Championship which will have more than 7,000 players and 36 teams at the school level. Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise T20 cricket team, representing the city of Peshawar the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which plays in the Pakistan’s domestic T20 cricket league – the Peshawar cricket league —  extended an invitation to the SACF, to play a friendly match against it. It’s owner Javed Afridi had extended the invitation to the Saudi Arabian team in April 2021.  Only recently, Chairman of SACF Prince Saud bin Mishal  met with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr Ausaf Saeed, to discuss ways for promoting the game in Saudi Arabia. He also visited the ICC headquarters at Dubai and apart from meeting officials of ICC also took a tour of Sharjah cricket ground.

GCC countries have a number of advantages over other potential neutral venues. First, the required infrastructure is already in place in some countries, and there is no paucity of financial resources which is very important. Second, there is a growing interest in the game in the region, and one of the important factors for this is the sizeable South Asian expat population. Third, a number of former cricketers from South Asia are not only coaching cricket teams, but also being roped in to create more enthusiasm with regard to the game. Fourth, UAE along with other GCC countries, could also emerge as an important venue for the resumption of India-Pakistan cricketing ties.

Conclusion

In conclusion, if GCC countries other than UAE — like Saudi Arabia and Oman  — can emerge as important cricketing venues, their ‘Soft Power’ appeal is likely to further get strengthened especially vis-à-vis South Asia. South Asian expats, who have contributed immensely to the economic growth of the region, and former South Asian cricketers will have an important role to play in popularizing the game in the Gulf. Cricket which is already an important component of the GCC — South Asia relationship, could help in further strengthening people to people linkages.

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Diplomacy

Analyzing the role of OIC

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oic

Composed of fifty-seven countries and spread over four continents, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is the second-largest intergovernmental body following the United Nations (UN). And it is no secret that the council was established in the wake of an attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Safeguarding and defending the national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of its member states is the significant provision of the OIC’s charter. OIC charter also undertakes to strengthen the bond of unity and solidarity among member states. Uplifting Islamic values, practicing cooperation in every sphere among its members, contributing to international peace, protecting the Islamic sites, and assisting suppressed Muslim community are other significant features of its charter. 

Recently, the world witnessed the 11-days long conflict between Hamas and Israel. In a recent episode of the clash between two parties, Israel carried out airstrikes on Gaza, claiming many innocent Palestinian lives. The overall death toll in the territory rose to 200, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1305 injured, says Hamas-run health ministry. This event was met with resentment from people across the world, and they condemned Israeli violence. After 11 days of violence, the Israeli government and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire. The event of Israeli violence on Palestinians has called the role of OIC into question. The council, formed in the aftermath of the onslaught on Al-Aqsa mosque, seemed to adopt a lip service approach to the conflict. However, the call for stringent measures against Israeli aggression by the bloc was not part of its action. 

Likewise, the Kashmir issue, which has witnessed atrocities of Indians on innocent Kashmiris, looks up to the OIC for its resolution. Last year, during the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Niamey, Niger, the CFM reaffirmed its strong support for the Kashmir cause. The OIC categorically rejected illegal and unilateral actions taken by India on August 5 to change the internationally recognized disputed status of the Indian Illegally Occupied Jam­mu and Kashmir and demanded India rescind its illegal steps. However, the global community seems to pay deaf ears to the OIC’s resolution. The Kashmir issue and the Palestine issue are the core issues of the world that are witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis. And the charter of the bloc that aims to guard the Muslim ummah’s interest rings hollow. About a year ago, the event that made rounds on electronic and social media was the occurring of the KL summit, which reflected another inaction of the OIC. The move of influential Muslim countries (Iran, Turkey, and Indonesia), to sail on the idea to establish another forum to counter the OIC, manifested the rift in the bloc.  

Many OIC countries are underdeveloped and poorly governed and are home to instability, violence, and terrorism. The consequences of the violence and terrorism in the OIC countries have been devastating. According to Forbes, 7 out of 10 countries, which suffer most from terrorism are OIC members. The Syrian conflict is another matter of concern in the Mideast, looking up to OIC for a way out. An immense number of people have lost their lives in the Civil war in Syria.

Several factors contribute to the inefficiency of the bloc. The first and foremost reason is the Saudi-Iran stalemate. Influential regional powers (Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) in the Mideast share strained links following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Both sides dissent each other on many fronts. Saudi Arabia accuses Tehran of interfering in its internal affairs, using terrorism as a tool to intimidate neighbors, fuelling sectarianism, and equipping proxies to de-stabilize and overthrow the legitimate government. Locked in a proxy war in the Mideast, the KSA and Iran vie for regional dominance. Moreover, Iran’s nuclear program is met with strong resentment in the KSA since it shifts the Balance of Power towards Iran. Such developments play a vibrant role in their stalemate, and the bloc’s effectiveness is hostage to the Saudi-Iran standoff.

Political and social exclusion in many OIC states is the norm of the day, contributing to upheaval and conflict. In OIC countries, the level of political participation and political and social integration is weak. This fact has rendered OIC countries vulnerable to unrest. Arab Spring in 2011 stands as the best example. Furthermore, conflicts, since the mid-1990s, have occurred in weak states that have encountered unrest frequently. 

Saudi Arabia has tightened its grip on the OIC. The reason being, the OIC secretariat and its subsidiary bodies are in the KSA. More importantly, the KSA’s prolific funding to the bloc enhances its influence on the bloc. One example includes, in the past, the KSA barred an Iranian delegation from the OIC meeting in Jeddah. Saudi authorities have not issued visas for the Iranian participants, ministry spokesman, says Abbas Mousavi. “The government of Saudi Arabia has prevented the participation of the Iranian delegation in the meeting to examine the deal of the century plan at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Mousavi said, the Fars news agency reported. Given the Iranian growing influence and its access to nuclear capabilities, the KSA resorted to using financial leverage to reap support from Arab countries against Iran. For instance, in past, Somalia and several other Arab states such as Sudan and Bahrain received a commitment of financial aid from Saudi Arabia on the same day they cut ties with Iran. Furthermore, the summits of OIC, GCC, and Arab League are perceived as an effort by Saudi Arabia to amass support against Tehran. 

Division in the Muslim world and their clash of interests is yet another rationale behind its inefficacy. These days, many Muslim countries are bent on pursuing their interests rather than paying commitment to their principles, that is, working collectively for the upkeep of the Muslim community. Last year, the governments of Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced that they had agreed to the full normalization of relations. Following this, the Kingdom of Bahrain became another Muslim country to normalize its links with Israel. Such moves by the Islamic countries weaken the OIC agenda against Israel. 

OIC’s efficacy would be a distant dream unless the Saudi-Iran deadlock finds its way. For this purpose, Pakistan can play a vital role in mediating between these two powers. Pakistan has always been an active player in the OIC and played its role in raising its voice against Islamophobia, Palestine Issue, and the Kashmir issue. Shunning their interests and finding the common goals of the Muslim ummah, should be the utmost priority for the members of the bloc. Every OIC member ought to play its part in the upkeep of the bloc. Furthermore, a split in the bloc should come to an end since it leads to the polarization of member states towards regional powers. Many OIC countries are rich in hydrocarbons (a priceless wealth, which is the driver for the growth of a country); if all OIC members join hands and enhance their partnership in this sphere they can fight against energy security. And OIC is the crux for magnifying cooperation among its member states to meet their energy needs.

In this era of globalization, multilateralism plays a pivotal part. No one can deny the significance of intergovernmental organizations since they serve countries in numerous ways. In the same vein, OIC can serve Muslim ummah in multiple ways; if it follows a course of adequate functioning.

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