“Global Governance Diplomacy” by Jean-Robert is a book with academic overtures and can be read by students of International Relations and Diplomacy. The author largely delves into where diplomacy is accounted for in resolving global issues, rather than in the art of diplomacy itself. He talks in length about changes affecting contemporary diplomacy and reliance of global governance on different modes of diplomacy.
The expanding subject matter of international relations is also having an impact on the diplomatic process. A large variety of issues that used to be exclusively domestic, such as health care, education, and human rights, need to be addressed internationally, and nations need to turn to specialized personnel and experts to negotiate issues in these areas. For example, the global effort to control the spread of disease requires the participation of health care specialists or medical personnel in the diplomatic process. Experts become critical components of international negotiations.
The premise of the book simply states that globalization of world economies has globalized political and social issues too, whereby in the not so distant past, such issues were limited to national boundaries. The creation of United Nations and its Specialized Agencies have expedited the process of resolving international issues and have encouraged nation-states to collaborate and cooperate with each other to bring relief or remedy to ever-escalating problems. The book has sub-chapters dedicated to various UN bodies and regional organizations, their inception and history, their core functions, along with a brief outlook on their successes.
The author also highlights the importance of non-state actors in mediating on behalf of civil sector on international platforms and how diplomacy is no longer restricted to diplomats only. He asserts that contemporary diplomacy is also conducted by individuals belonging to varying fields such as health, education, food security, environment, drug control, migration and policing.
Where once diplomacy was relegated to aristocrats only, to negotiate and mediate on behalf of political governments on issues which were more or less political in nature too, modern diplomacy abounds in all sectors of political, social and economic life. Environmental diplomacy is perhaps the next big and logical step for state and non-state actors to delve into.
The struggle for development now involves environmental protection. It is a central part of global governance. A surprising number of issues have been alleviated even when some, like global warming, remain intractable.
All in all, Jean-Robert gives us a cursory glance on how diplomacy addresses international problems and the role it plays in resolving issues in an increasingly globalized world.
A selection of my favourite passages from the book
Definition of Diplomacy
- The term diplomacy is used to identify a method of interaction between states or other international actors such as international organizations. It has to do, among other things, with maintaining contact, communicating, or negotiating.
- Diplomacy also implies a mode of behavior, a certain professional style. It facilitates transactions across political boundaries and bridges many differences—political, ideological, cultural, and economic. The practice of diplomacy thus requires caution, tact, and circumspection, particularly when the issues at hand are of some delicacy.
- The following must be added to the preceding qualities: adaptability—given the vast diversity of settings in which diplomacy is practiced—self-control, the ability to size up a situation (or one’s counterpart), and imagination—to create alternatives in conflicting situations.
International Problem Solving and Diplomacy
- The world is confronted with an increasing number of international problems that cannot be solved single-handedly by states—for example, environmental degradation
- They require continuing attention, that is, continuing international cooperation in dealing with them. Many situations require some form of international management to keep them from deteriorating and getting out of hand.
- More and more specialized domestic departments are involved in this kind of international work, another consequence of interdependence and the blurring of the line between domestic and international functions. Despite the distance separating them and their cultural/political differences, these non–foreign service officials are likely to become colleagues with their foreign counterparts, developing diplomatic skills on the job without ever meeting face to face.
- The greater need for international problem solving and the more complex nature of international society are likely not only to expand diplomatic interaction but to produce more innovations in the field.
- A crisis anywhere can threaten the most prosperous countries. Drug traffic, organized crime, the migration of people in search of a decent existence, and so many other problems cannot be contained without concerted efforts on the part of a large number of states, and not just the rich and powerful, although, doubtless, they have more to contribute. This points to the globalization of international problem solving and calls for diplomatic efforts on an unprecedented scale.
- National policies on migration are primarily formulated on the basis of national concerns (and public emotions), but it has human dimensions, which cannot be ignored.
- The amount of diplomatic work is beyond quantification. Of course there is disagreement. But the opportunity for negotiations is unprecedented—in international organizations, in a growing number of conferences and consultations, and in response to NGOs more anxious than ever to play a role. The multiplication of international actors means that a greater diversity of initiatives is available to address international problems.
Ideology and Diplomacy
- One modern complication in the practice of diplomacy is found in ideology although the problem varies with the values held and the extent to which decision makers are intent on the promotion of these norms.
- Ideology has pernicious tendencies. In the name of dedication to a value system, it may encourage intolerance and create barriers. It may foster tunnel vision—an inability to perceive what is not encompassed by the ideology. In more extreme cases, international issues are seen exclusively through the distorting lens of the ideology. Moreover, ideological zeal tends to infuse an emotional dimension complicating dialogue. A confrontational style makes it more difficult to explore what can be done collectively.
- Some international actors will use any international gathering to remind the world of their plight. Rationality no longer enters the picture. Single issue fixations are of course extremely detrimental to any form of diplomatic dialogue, no matter how legitimate the issues.
- Geographical details are usually of great importance in convincing one’s opponents of the demands and limitations of given situations on the ground, or in deciding who will be allowed to enter specific areas and the resultant implications for the maintenance of cease-fires or the disengagement of military units.
Interdependence of Nations
- Interdependence is at the root of globalization and globalization generates more interdependence. Russett, Starr, and Kinsella have identified globalization as “a process whereby economic, political, and cultural transactions are less and less constrained by national boundaries and the sovereign authority of national government.”
- Another aspect of interdependence and globalization is the expansion of the diplomatic agenda. A multiplicity of issues that used to be confined to the domestic order must now be addressed internationally.
- No nation state is self-sufficient; but some states are more sheltered from global influences than others.
- Small states learned to unite in the decolonization process, in their search for development assistance and in their efforts to avoid being pawns in the Cold War.
- In more severe cases of alienation, civil society groups have resorted to violent disorder, as in their opposition to globalization and to the work of the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO.
International Organizations and Diplomacy
- In addition, some non-sovereign territories are now occasionally invited to participate in international conferences. And some revolutionary movements are heard in international gatherings. Even when distrusted or seen as illegitimate, some of their representatives actually participate in the diplomatic process, as was the case with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
- Great powers are probably more inclined to act unilaterally (even when they do not have to), seeing it as “taking the lead” in approaching questions of concern to them, perhaps inviting others to follow them or join them. They are often resented for not consulting other actors before embarking upon their own courses of action. It must be noted, however, that this kind of unilateral initiative may be the only mode of global governance available when apathy prevails, or when a deadlock prevents collective action. And it is true that there are situations in which collaborative approaches are not critical.
- No organization will achieve the objectives of its founders if the member states fail to carry out their obligations. This is the instrumental dimension of international organizations—and member-state diplomacy is critical in this respect. States remain in the driver’s seat. Their diplomacy, the way they interact within the organization, is critical in the role international organizations will play in international affairs. This is the first condition for institutional effectiveness in global governance.
- International organizations have given weak states the means to be heard, to take initiatives, and to participate in decision making. The formation of voting blocs gives them power.
- None of the Asian regional organizations have a specific mandate to promote or protect human rights and a number of Asian countries are accused of serious human rights abuses by the international community and human rights organizations.
- But nature is difficult to control when it comes to what generates natural disasters. The Hyogo strategy has to do with preparedness, conscious human action to reduce vulnerability, and mitigation of consequences. It seeks the development of institutions and mechanisms at all levels to address the issue and build resilience to hazards, as well as the inclusion of risk reduction in programs of emergency preparedness. It shows concern for early warning.
The Changing Nature of Diplomacy
- Because of the expansion of the diplomatic agenda, states are increasingly using a multiplicity of executive agencies other than their foreign ministries in dealing with other states with regard to specialized issues of international governance.
- Chief executives seldom relish the thought of failing in their negotiations and therefore try to determine in advance how much can be agreed upon.
- Another reason for advance negotiations is that summits must remain relatively short
- Symbolic summits, such as the 1992 Earth Summit, in which the bulk of the diplomatic work is done by the conference delegates before the arrival of the heads of state or government. The presence of the chief executives, in this case, is used to emphasize the significance of the event.
- The involvement of departments other than foreign ministries in global governance is demonstrated also in the changing composition of the personnel of embassies in foreign capitals: a large number of specialized departments (e.g., justice or agriculture) station officers in the national embassy.
- One important limitation of conference diplomacy is the relatively short time available for interaction.
- Reconvening regularly can be seen as a kind of institutionalization of the conference. Some conferences may even be given a permanent Secretariat to prepare for the regular sessions.
- One of the most challenging departures from traditional sovereign practices has been the Council of Europe’s judicial enforcement of its own human rights convention. The system is truly revolutionary in that the citizens of the member states (currently 47 of them with a population of more than 820 million) may bring cases even against their own governments for violating the convention.
- Legal order is one of the foundations of international peace—perhaps maligned because of the many violations endured by the global legal system with seemingly no hope for international enforcement. The rule of law is nevertheless indispensable to the functioning of international society.
- When two parties value their relationship but cannot find a negotiated solution to what is now dividing them, an impartial determination of what they are entitled to under the law can be a way out. In the name of their cordial relations, they pledge to accept whatever the law offers—not that they necessarily consider it right or desirable, but an impartial decision under the law can be accepted for the sake of their valued relationship.
- In the early stages of a problem, taking preventive action may trigger the crisis it is trying to prevent. Early on, the UN found an alternative: international observation. This could take the form of international civilian or military observer groups to report what is happening. Keeping the situation under continuing observation can reveal the nature of the danger and how to respond.
- Under international law, no state has a right to obtain custody from a state in which the fugitive is found. In the absence of a treaty of extradition, the host state is free to decide whether to return the individual or not. And most states are very cautious in helping foreign states exercise their criminal jurisdiction (because of different outlooks as to what a crime is and what punishment to apply).
The Role of NGOs
- NGOs have been a major factor in this phenomenon. They mobilize opinion, exercise leadership, and thanks to digital technology, network around the world. NGOs are becoming more aggressive and resorting to their own diplomatic outreach to achieve their objectives, especially in international organizations.
- The degree of openness and democracy in a given society is, of course, making a difference in NGO activity and individual participation. And so does local culture since some societies are more interested than others in activism and in joining volunteer organizations. And there are differences also in the degree of people’s international interests.
- But representatives of states are still wary of NGOs and, toward the end of the preparatory process, may meet in closed informal sessions, leaving them out of the negotiations.
- Local NGOs have intimate knowledge of the communities in which many projects are to be carried out and provide valuable assistance on the ground (at times beyond the capacity of the international agencies trying to address the problems at hand).
- NGO contribution to the implementation of field projects has another dimension: helping donor countries and international organizations to channel development and humanitarian funds into less-developed countries. The funds are made available to NGOs to carry out local projects. With the spread of failed states and of governments whose administration is ineffective in parts of the country because of unrest or corruption, NGOs are given the means to provide social services, which these governments cannot offer.
- NGOs fought out contentious issues among themselves, then took an agreed position to the national delegations on which they served. When NGO representatives could not reach agreement, they would communicate to their national delegations what the problem was and where a compromise might be found. This process led to a climate treaty.
- The most remarkable partnership between states and NGOs led to the creation of the global treaty to ban antipersonnel landmines, which the UN itself had failed to do.
- They are not normally major decision makers and often add a degree of complexity to global diplomacy—not necessarily constructive. Some NGOs, too, are out of touch with reality (but so are a number of other international actors, including states). NGOs give a voice to many people, which many decision makers are unwilling to hear.
The UN, its Subsidiary Bodies & Specialized Agencies
- The UN is extensively involved in disaster relief and it endeavors to achieve global coordination of relief efforts. For that purpose, its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva has created the Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Center (Virtual OSOCC), whose main object, through the ReliefWeb site, is to facilitate decision making for a widespread response to disasters around the world, by means of near real-time information exchange, among all international actors involved in such operations, including a variety of international organizations, governments, and NGOs.
- Before the UN was created, the Allies launched independent Specialized Agencies eventually to be linked to the UN. This approach continued even after the UN was established. The Charter of the World Health Organization (WHO) was drafted in 1946 and became operational in 1948.
- Each WHO representative has diplomatic status and enjoys diplomatic privileges and immunities. Significantly, the WHO representative is a trained physician and does not have the nationality of the host country, literally a new kind of health diplomat.
- Given the magnitude of this devastating pandemic, the ECOSOC established UNAIDS in 1994, a coalition of ten, eventually eleven, UN institutions, identified as “co-sponsors.” They are as follows: the UNHCR, UNICEF, the WFP, the UNDP, the UN Fund for Population Activities, UN Women, the UNODC, the ILO, UNESCO, the WHO, and the World Bank. Launching UNAIDS was tantamount to the establishment of a new agency with an unconventional structure. Its effectiveness is dependent upon these eleven institutions working together, hence, the importance of their diplomatic process.
- The Universal Declaration is very comprehensive and straightforward in its presentation of universal human rights. It includes civil and political rights, for example, freedom of expression, the right of assembly, and the right to take part in government (Articles 19–21); legal rights such as equality before the law, freedom from arbitrary arrest, and the right of due process of law (Articles 7–11); personal rights, including freedom of movement, the right to found a family with the free and full consent of the intending spouses, and the right to own property (Articles 12–18); economic rights, among them, the right to work (free from any discrimination), the right to rest, and the right to join labor unions (Articles 22–25); and finally, social and cultural rights, including the right to education and to participate in cultural life (Articles 26–28). The Universal Declaration also clarifies that “everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible” (Article 29).
- Moscow Mechanism, which allows the establishment of ad hoc missions of independent experts to assist in the resolution of human rights issues. In extreme situations, an investigation may be carried out without the consent of the state in question.
- Multinational corporations (MNCs), also called transnational corporations at the UN, have long been controversial. They are economically powerful and their number has grown dramatically. They can strengthen the economy of underdeveloped countries, bring badly needed capital, provide technology, employment, training, and increase production and trade. But they often do it without taking into account the special needs of these countries. Increasing their profits is of course their main objective. They do not hesitate to use their enormous power to force host states to do whatever serves their purpose, even exploiting them. They stifle local competition, inhibit local infant industry, and export their profits. Their technology and modus operandi may even be ill-suited to the local economy.
- Companies currently spend one-third of all sales revenue on marketing their products, roughly twice what they spend on research and development