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How national diplomatic missions are adapting to a fast-changing environment

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Diplomacy at a crossroads

The impact of technology in diplomacy cannot be overstated. If “twenty years ago, telegrams from embassies would arrive in paper form”, in the past years an avalanche of technological breakthroughs forced diplomatic representations to adapt. Embassies are increasingly making use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, even if that embrace is still made with reluctance by practitioners. Moreover, the phenomenon of big data suggests that the role of diplomatic missions as ‘gatherers’ of information will be enhanced, provided national diplomatic systems make good use of the ever increasing amount of data available.

Even if it is still looked with suspicion by diplomats, the role of digital diplomacy paves the way for another important shift in diplomacy, which is the rise of non-state actors that “present a formidable challenge to state primacy in the diplomatic world”. These new digital platforms give non-state actors a much easier way to reach and influence bothlocal and global audiences. Indeed, as Shaun Riordan puts it, “the sheer range of new actors – governmental and non-governmental – in international relations is truly staggering, as is their exponential growth”.

All this comes at a time when domestic circumstances are also undergoing deep change. MFAs are increasinglypressuredto cut expenditure as many countries, particularly across Europe, seek to balance their public budgets. This has led to a rationalisation of costs where possible, often with allied countries deciding to pool their resources together. This has in turn set the scene for the rise of commercial diplomacy. Increasingly “governments encourage home firms to trade, as well as seeking to make their countries an attractive destination for foreign direct investment (FDI), research and development (R&D) and knowledge”.

One example that seems to have attempted to meet all these new challenges was the period that Tom Fletcher spent as British Ambassador to Lebanon. The Ambassador chose to adopt a direct and informal communication style to reach out to his host country that included tweeting and blogging frequently. During his tenure, Mr Fletcher actively promoted trade between the United Kingdom and Lebanon by sponsoring several trade fairs and showcases of British products, while facilitating defence trade deals between the UK and Lebanon.

The impact seems to be have been highly positive. UK-Lebanon business doubled in the space of three years and the “Lebanese Armed Forces are now using British-supplied vehicles and a string of British-built watchtowers”. The period of Mr Fletcher as UK Ambassador seems to suggest a new way of diplomacy-making, with added roles for the Ambassador: perhaps more informal in style, but undoubtedly with greater public exposure and a vocal promoter of the country on cultural and commercial terms.

“The news of my death have been greatly exaggerated”: Diplomacy lives on

Despite all the changes and the lively discussion around the changes-in-waiting in the diplomatic world, it is worth pondering whether the excitement over the future of diplomatic missions is not without some hyperbole. After all, many of the novelties discussed are but means to the primary goals diplomatic missions have since time immemorial served: the advancement of a country’s interests and the protection of its citizens abroad.

Moreover, as ‘digital’ as diplomatic representations may eventually become, the role of the embassy as a building is and will remain a potentially key instrument of a country’s foreign policy. Here, the exile of Julius Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 provides a clear – if unlikely – example. After being accused of crimes of sexual nature in Sweden and declaring himself a political prisoner, Mr Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador. As at the time he was in London, he took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which he has not left since. Even if this is an admittedly unusual example, it nonetheless shows that embassies remain irreplaceable; indeed, diplomacy can never be fully uploaded onto a ‘cloud’. When Tom Fletcher writes that the model diplomat in 2025 will not “see the embassy as a building, but as an idea”, that idea cannot in any case be disassociated from the building itself.

Conclusion

Embassies will remain essential assets of a country’s national diplomatic system. They retain replaceable function in terms of a country’s power projection worldwide and in protecting its citizens abroad in emergency situations.

However, the tectonic shifts we are witnessing will force the structure of embassies to change radically. There is a multiplication of available information due to issues such as big data and the emergence of new digital platforms and social media networks. Thus, embassies are likely to be, in the words of Tom Fletcher, “managers” instead of “creators” of information when communicating with their national Foreign Offices.

Naturally, this is not a model that will necessarily fit the realities of all states in the world. First of all, there is a high degree of agency in the diplomacy envisioned by Mr Fletcher. Not all diplomats are or will ever be “authentic, flexible, connected and influential”. Moreover, the economic, social and cultural particularities of each country will always define the priorities it sets out for its diplomatic representations to achieve. It thus follows that national diplomatic systems were always highly asymmetric among each other and will undoubtedly remain so – in number, size and scope. For instance, the United Kingdom has 226 diplomatic missions abroad; Estonia, at 45, has far less. Nevertheless, both countries have issues they will want their diplomatic missions to tackle, and both have political, economic and cultural agendas they will seek to project abroad. Those topics will often interact: Portugal’s economy diplomacy agency AICEP’s work in projecting the country as being at the forefront of digital innovation was certainly a key factor in convincing Egypt to buy Portugal’s public administration innovation technologies. In this kind of synergies lies the key to overcoming the challenges diplomatic representation will face in the future.

Rodrigo Vaz holds a MA in EU International Relations and Diplomacy Studies from the College of Europe, where his thesis was recognized as the best dissertation on EU-Africa relations. He also holds a MSc in African Politics from SOAS, University of London. He was until recently Assistant Project Manager at the Assembly of European Regions in Brussels and he has worked as Graduate Attaché Researcher at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi. His research interests lie mainly in political transition and the role of international actors in political dynamics in Africa. His work has been featured in publications and websites such as OpenDemocracy, Social Europe, the World Economic Forum, EurActiv or Portugal’s DiárioEconómico.

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Diplomacy

Diplomatic Fiasco: PTI Government’s Failure on the Climate Diplomacy Front

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“Think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them”.– John F. Kerry

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have both declared that unrestrained climate change poses a threat to international peace and security. Presently, climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. We all will witness its impacts, making it a critical foreign policy and diplomatic issue. Climate change will overturn the 21st century world order and characterize how we live and work. Even so, in the midst  of a global pandemic, it is evident that climate change will be the major issue of this century. As countries will move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans will shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean and green, safe and healthy, and more resilient. Over the last decade, foreign policymakers have taken measures to better understand climate risks. To date, foreign policy responses to climate change have primarily centered on the security repercussions of climate change.

To chart a fresh course ahead, in order to initiate a global fight against climate change, President Joe Biden welcomed a diverse set of leaders from around the globe to explicate the connections between climate security, climate change and broader foreign policy objectives. The list of invitee included world leaders like President Xi Jinping of China and Russia’s Vladimir Putin, PM Modi of India, Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh to attend the two-days meeting to mark Washington’s return to the visible lines of the fight against climate risks. Though, Pakistan have its place in the same region, and fifth-most vulnerable country to climate change, it has been disqualified from the summit. Likewise,  Biden dispatched his climate envoy, former secretary of state John Kerry, to prepare the ground for the summit in meetings with global leaders. The U.S. invited the leaders of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, which includes the 17 countries responsible for about 80-percent of global emissions and GDP, along with, heads of countries that are unambiguously vulnerable to climate impacts or are representing robust climate leadership.

The current global efforts towards mainstreaming of climate change in development policies and programs are getting more traction due to expanding avenues of domestic and international climate diplomacy. For developing countries, climate diplomacy is undoubtedly becoming a key incentive to integrate climate change issues into their foreign policy. Pakistan is also a relatively new player in the climate diplomacy arena with a nascent institutional setup. The climate diplomacy adaption experience of Pakistan is still at the embryonic stage. The main problem is the gradual decline in the aptitude and capacity of institution to develop a clear policy route. The policy decline is much more rapid under the PTI government. Pakistan’s ambassadorial clout has eroded over the years due to political unpredictability and economic timidity. Similarly, the government has failed even to built a national narrative on climate change issue. Imran Khan has been warning the world of catastrophe if the climate problem is not addressed, but has failed to come out with a clear policy direction on the issue.

Among the many challenges fronting the Imran Khan government will be tackling the notoriously dysfunctional U.S. – Pakistan relationship. The Biden presidency has designated climate change as a critical theme of its foreign policy, and indeed aware of Pakistan’s deep climate vulnerability. For the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pakistan is not a foreign policy priority for U.S. administration. Many high-ranking Biden government officials, including climate change envoy John Kerry, know Pakistan well. When Kerry was Obama’s secretary of state, co-chaired US-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue that counted renewable energy. Anybody familiar with how Islamabad and Washington have interacted over the last 74 years will resort to weary metaphors: a roller-coaster ride, the dynamic between an overbearing mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. Biden and his experienced team of ex-Obama administration officials are likely to press Pakistan – for Islamabad, it is a catch-22 situation. In the indigenous context, internal political strife in Pakistan and economic dependency on other countries have raised questions about our ability to effectively fight our case in international arena. The latest diplomatic fiasco speaks very loud and clear about the government’s inability to deal with fast-changing geopolitics. Washington’s broader interests in Asia, including relationships with China and India, will determine its policy at the Leaders’ Summit on Climate. It seems, Pakistan has no friends in the Biden administration. Thus, out-of-the-box thinking is required for Pakistan’s foreign policy decision makers.

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Gender Diplomacy: A concern For International Politics

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UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Diplomacy can be defined as an art of interaction between actors (states/ organizations) to achieve mutually benefitted desirable interests of pursuing parties, especially in the international arena of politics. While diplomacy is an integral part of the Liberal school of thought which has primarily dominated world politics, yet the field of diplomacy is itself deprived of liberal virtues of equality and parity. Weighing the balance of ratio between both genders in diplomacy, the dilemma of the day is that females do not reach the level of participation to be in parity with male partakers in diplomacy. Having a statistical outlook at patriarchy-ridden Foreign Services around the globe, female diplomats in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the United States of America, and France makeup to 30%-40% of Foreign Service. While even the developed states have not reached 50% of female diplomats in their respective states, developing states in the South show an even less percentile of female diplomats. South Asian states like Pakistan and India estimate to less than 15 and 20 percent of females in the skill of diplomacy, respectively.

Being an equal sharer in foreign policy-making and policy implementation is a fundamental democratic right of both genders; to serve the country and to shape the future of the land which is their identity, their respect, and their pride. Apart from this that the balanced ratio of diplomatic participants is an integral right, involving women in diplomatic interactions may aid and enhance the pursuance of goals by the states. I would like to back my argument with not only contemporary examples but historical evidence, as well. Turning pages of history back to 400 B.C. where women are named as ‘weavers’ in the writings of Aristophanes to Lysistrate; referring to women’s role as skilled and accomplished diplomats who helped in the resolution of the Peloponnesian war. This act of inter-mingle, unifying, and peace-making through the prowess of consular skill set by then women is explained by Aristophanes in a phrase: ‘Weavers of nations”. This brings me to another point is that in contemporary times as pinpointed by the United Nations, the peace-processes in which women are engagers, 35% of those tend to last for at least 15 years.

While men are more forgoing towards minor details during foreign relation analysis, women tend to put more attention to minute details, which consequently results in the production of best-suited foreign policies. But it is noteworthy that to get potential benefit from this healthy difference in nature between males and females, it is potent enough to bring anequal number of female Foreign Service Officers as compared to male Officers. Having such a salubrious balance of both feminine and masculine characteristics can also equate chances of war and peace, spontaneous and patient decisions, and use of both: hard and soft power. Eventually, this egalitarian level complies with Robert Putnam’s ‘Law of Increasing Disproportion’ which links the rank of authority and the degree of representation of high-status in society. Nevertheless, being an Ambassador, diplomat or even part of Foreign Service is a matter of great esteem and so women in diplomacy, represent women of the society. Linking the argumentative dots mentioned above, the United Nations’ report endorses the importance of the role of women in diplomacy by considering their input as a vital ingredient for stable and secure democracy.

Applying the United Nations’ analysis on the inclusion of women in the artistry of diplomacy on developing states, particularly in South Asia, we tend to project various prosperous benefits of women diplomats in the region, particularly in the context of the two-decades-long conflicts: Afghan-Taliban Conflict and the Kashmir dispute in the heart of South Asia. Women in diplomacy in Pakistan, India, and neighboring South Asian states might weaken the bone of contention between the by-birth rivals: India and Pakistan through conflict transformation strategies. While the involvement of Afghan females in the ongoing and forthcoming Afghan Peace Processes and the future Afghan government can not only uplift the societal status of women in Afghan society but will improve the longevity of sustainable peace in Afghanistan. Eventually, colleen diplomats can help to divert the state-centric state and regional security paradigm of South Asia to human-centric state and regional security, resulting in diversified and proactive approach; fostering fraternal ties leading to paced development in the region and abroad.

To conclude with, as I have highlighted the irony of the hour with an un-equal statistical ratio of gender parity in the course of diplomacy and the importance of achieving this parity by incorporating women in the skilled framework of diplomacy, I would like to propose universally applicable policy measures to acquire this equivalence.  The first and foremost step is to bring awareness in society for the encouragement and acceptance of more female diplomats as opposed to the conventional fields like medical and engineering sciences. Along with this policy changes should be made to ensure equal recruitment of female diplomats, specifically on merit to counter and curtail the patriarchal dominance, mostly due to the might of money. Lastly, a female-friendly environment should be promoted to utilize the feminine potential in Foreign Offices. Conclusively, equal participation of both genders will result in sustainably productive democracies—both, in letter and spirit. Hence, gender equality in diplomacy is essential for the growth and evolution of international politics.

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Сultural diplomacy as an effective instrument of Italian soft power: the INNOPROM case

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Despite the complicated geopolitical rhetoric of European interaction with Russia and economic sanctions, international life continues. In such conditions, culture remains in fact the only instrument for supporting and developing international relations. International cultural relations strive to maintain “neutrality”. In the context of globalization, the blurring of borders, it is cultural policy that can become a point of mutual understanding, finding a common language and preserving existing civilizational layers.

Cultural diplomacy is a state policy aimed, within the framework of foreign policy, at the export of representative data of national culture and at interaction with other countries in the same cultural sphere. The tools for the implementation of cultural diplomacy are primarily used to form a positive foreign policy image of the country, as well as indirectly for the development of intercultural dialogue, sustainable development and conflict prevention and are associated with various areas of human activity: cinema, religion, science, cultural exchanges, literature, theater, etc. much more.

For 2020, Italy was ranked ninth in the National Brands Index and eleventh in the soft power rating of the British agency Portland. Despite the fact that Italy was not included in the “five” leaders, its “attractiveness” for foreigners remains unshakable. At the present stage, the development of Italian culture outside is carried out by the General Directorate for the promotion of the concept “System – Country”, whose functions include: dissemination of Italian culture, language and creativity abroad; organization of cultural events (week of the Italian language in the world, week of Italian cuisine in the world, festivals of Italian cinema); coordination of the activities of cultural institutions and language schools; provision of scholarships and grants; ensuring the country’s participation in the work of various organizations in the field of culture, etc. Thus, Italy actively uses the basic tools of cultural diplomacy (language and culture, education and science, innovation, tourism) to build intercultural relations at all levels.

One of the most effective tools of cultural diplomacy is the holding of international industrial exhibitions abroad. This event always works simultaneously in several dimensions: 1) has a political color (as a rule, politicians solemnly open the exhibition, timed the signing of various bilateral agreements); 2) gathers a large number of representatives of real business (which promotes the national brand of the country, and also develops economic diplomacy); 3) demonstrates scientific and technological achievements (contributes to the activation of scientific diplomacy); 4) conduct a series of cultural events aimed at introducing and promoting national culture.

From this point of view, the Innoprom case is interesting, where Italy is the first European partner country for organizing the exhibition.

INNOPROM is an international industrial exhibition held in Yekaterinburg annually since 2010. This is the main industrial, trading and export platform in Russia. About 80% of the visitors of the exhibition are professional buyers from different countries of the world, specialists from industrial enterprises who make decisions on the introduction of new products and technologies in production. Italy was chosen as the partner country of INNOPROM-2021 – a country in the top ten economies in the world and in the top three of the European Union, as well as one of the main foreign trade partners of Russia. Over the past few years, the country’s industry has reached new heights in such industries as mechanical engineering, metallurgy, chemical, petrochemical, light and food industries.

At INNOPROM-2021, the Partner Country will present the achievements of the Italian industry, innovative developments, investment opportunities and prospects for further cooperation between the countries. The Italian Republic will become the Partner Country of the 11th International Industrial Exhibition INNOPROM. The exhibition will take place in Yekaterinburg from 6 to 9 July 2021, and the theme of the exhibition will be “Flexible Manufacturing”. During a working meeting with the Minister of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation Denis Manturov, Prime Minister of Italy Giuseppe Conte confirmed the readiness of the Italian Republic to participate in the INNOPROM 2021 exhibition. and the nature of modern world economic relations, ”said the head of the RF Ministry of Industry and Trade.

At the moment in Russia there are about 500 enterprises with the participation of Italian capital. Italy views Russia as a long-term and reliable partner, and is also interested in the further development of trade, economic and industrial ties.

“In our opinion, this is a confirmation of how strong our ties are,” said Giuseppe Conte at the opening of the Russian-Italian business forum for cooperation in the field of small and medium-sized enterprises. More than 100 Italian companies have expressed interest in participating in the exhibition. According to preliminary data, the exposition of the Partner Country will be about 3000 sq. m., and leading Italian companies in the field of automotive, mechanical engineering, metallurgy, etc. will present their stands. As Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano noted, “Italy is chairing the G20, and in July it will become the first European country to partner with Innoprom. Despite the sanctions regime imposed by the EU, Italy and Russia have a special relationship. The largest industrial companies in Italy (not only manufacturers of luxury and luxury cars) are actively working on the Russian market, and the Italian embassy, ​​which occupies the famous Berg mansion in Moscow, remains, perhaps, the most hospitable». 

The Sverdlovsk region and the Italian republic have been closely cooperating for many years. The Sverdlovsk Region has an Agreement between the Government of the Sverdlovsk Region of the Russian Federation and the Government of the Piedmont Region of the Italian Republic on trade, economic, scientific, technical and humanitarian cooperation dated July 22, 2002. In October 2015, within the framework of the visit of the delegation of the Sverdlovsk region to the Italian Republic, a memorandum of intent was signed between the Governor of the Sverdlovsk region (Russian Federation) E.V. Kuyvashev and the President of the region of Liguria (Italian Republic) G. Toti. The cities of Genoa and Turin are twin cities of Yekaterinburg. The city of San Benedetto del Tronto, San Remo are twin cities of the Verkh-Isetsky district of Yekaterinburg. The town of Selva di Val Gardena is twinned with the Kachkanar urban district. The city of Asti is twinned with the urban district of Krasnoufimsk. In 2019, the foreign trade turnover of the Sverdlovsk region with Italy decreased by 30.8%, while exports decreased 57.8%, imports increased by 3.7%. In 2019, for export to Italy from the Sverdlovsk region, mainly metals and products from them were supplied, including ferrous metals and products from them (semi-finished products of unalloyed steel, ferroalloys, sheet products, pipes), aluminum (rods and profiles), copper ( refined, rods and profiles), other metals (titanium, chrome), wood (plywood), mineral products.

On March 18-19, 2021, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Italian Republic to the Russian Federation Pasquale Terracciano arrived on a visit to Yekaterinburg. During a meeting with the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Yevgeny Kuyvashev, they discussed the participation of Italy in the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM-2021 as a Partner Country of the exhibition. During the press approach after the meeting, Pasquale Terracciano named the companies that are planned to be presented at the exhibition. These are, in particular, the international energy group Enel, the oil and gas company Eni, the Leonardo machine-building holding and the car tire manufacturer Pirelli. During the visit, the ambassador had a rich cultural program. The representatives of the delegation visited the Museum of the first President of the Russian Federation B. N. Yeltsin; opened a photo exhibition of the Italian photographer Elio Ciol; visited the Sverdlovsk Philharmonic (as part of the visit to the Philharmonic, the choral singing of the performers was heard, the cultural program of the Innoprom exhibition was discussed with the director of the Philharmonic); visited the Museum of Architecture and Design, where an excursion was held for the guests (issues of preparation for the cultural program of the international exhibition “Innoprom” were also discussed).

Thus, the participation of Italy as a partner country of the international industrial exhibition INNOPROM is the most important effective tool for implementing cultural diplomacy. The event is not limited to an industrial exposition, although this is extremely important for Italian business, but also has a wide range of cultural interaction and drawing attention to the Italian cultural heritage and way of life.

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