The Modern System of Diplomacy and Practices: What’s The Role of Liberia?

By: Josephus Moses Gray/Email: graymoses@yahoo.com/

J. Moses Gray

The landscape of contemporary diplomacy in terms of practice may have lost some of its image of exceptional ingredients, in the sense that it has to compete and interact with a much wider dynamic of the international system, conduct itself in a more time-sensitive manner, and be applied with a greater technical orientation and  to a far greater extent than in the past, diplomacy is wrapped up with domestic policy-making and political demands about governance across an extended spectrum of issue areas.

The practices have changed from the old practices to a contemporary system; beginning with the advancement of technology and education that makes it imperative to adapt to the many demands evolving from introduction an advanced hi-tech communications and continuing transformations of the international system.

The revolutionary changes in the nature of relations between sovereign states and even non-state actors have changed the responsibilities of today’s diplomacy which is basically that of mediation and communication of international issues between countries, international system and the public.

The development of instant communications and the advance of science and technology have increased the depth and scope of diplomacy in this contemporary world of civilization, especially with globalization and the emergence of new and powerful states on the world stage, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, conflict resolution, terrorism and bad governance. The necessity for a well formulated dialogue in a modern world when relative certainties of a bipolar state system have given way to a disorderly, confused multi-polarity is witnessed by the distracted pace of contemporary diplomatic activities.

In the words of Richard Rosecrance, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, in the extended sense, diplomatic techniques have undergone considerable metamorphosis since the eighteenth century. In his book titled: The Rise of the Trading State”,  Professor Rosecrance propounded that the extensive use of propaganda, subversion on a wide scale, and the manipulation of national economic instruments for foreign policy purposes have greatly enlarged the range of multilateral dealings on the world scene.

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright in her esteemed publication: New American Diplomacy,(2000), pinpointed that  Diplomacy is the art and practice of negotiation between nations, conducted mostly through private conversations and the exchange of confidential documents. According to her, Foreign Ministers and ambassadors use public statements and news conferences to explain their policies, seek support for their governments, and put pressure on other countries in the negotiations of a specify situation.

A former American Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger in his thoughtful new book: New Order: Explained that practically, new actors on the international scene are increasingly using practices employed by states with the aim of furthering their interests in the international arena and putting new issues on the global agenda.

In the words of Warren Christopher, diplomat is a crisis manager and must possess: A good knowledge of international relations, a good understanding of how international relations function between states, should be well informed, smart, bridge and possess the ingredients of contemporary diplomatic know how and the aspirations in negotiating, great moral and intellectual sensitivity, imagination and courage, the ability to make parties feel convincing and grateful for successful negotiation.

For the former Senior Ambassador At Large of Liberia, Carlton Karpeh (2010) diplomat presents his or her government policies to the foreign country in a persuasive and persuading tone, not a demanding one, as such, a diplomat always represents the interest of the nation but at the same time cannot ignore the public opinion on national and international issues that go beyond defined borders.

In the words of former Liberian Minister of Foreign Affairs, T. Ernest Eastman (2006), “The field of international relations is so important that they called diplomacy the ‘master-institution’ of international politics which influenced domestic politics. While in international relations, Eastman (2006) said diplomacy functions through a labyrinth of foreign offices, embassies, consulates, and special missions all over the world.

In the much quoted definition of a renowned Liberian author and former diplomat, Dr. Joseph Saye Guanua, “diplomat as an honest Man sent abroad to lie for the good of his country.” While in his recent book: Liberian Emerging Democracy,   Josephus Gray, (2013) reiterated that beyond representation, a diplomat is expected to possess a good knowledge and understanding of his own country; its geography, history and culture, its economy, political, social and its demographic structure, natural resources, its industry and the determinants of its foreign policy priorities.

According to a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international politics, Hans Morgenthau, diplomacy will naturally decline with the onset of modern communication technologies such as the telephone, telegraph, cable and communication satellite. For example, following the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Washington and Moscow set up a teletype system that delivered printed copy from one capital to the other.

Meanwhile, the Post Ebola era presents a challenge to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s administration to put its diplomats to work, as the government seeks international partners as the country emerges from an idle and desperate economic situation which has been paralyzed due to the Ebola’s scourge.

That is why those tasked with economic and political activities at the various embassies and diplomatic missions of Liberia must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing dynamics political and diplomatic issues to drive the desire results back home, and not just sit and wait to be tele-guided.

While the current administration primarily focused on development diplomacy in the formulation of foreign policy and the practice of international relations, indisputably, economic, trade and commercial diplomacy should be paramount in this post Ebola era. This requires a strong background of the diplomats from a multidisciplinary perspective since professional diplomacy is an appropriate instrument to perform this synthesis, to the extent that it can use its persuasive techniques in favor of businesses and investments and, simultaneously, prove to be politically and economically profitable to Liberia.

Liberia would not have received the worldwide benevolence it got during the dark days of Ebola, if not for apt diplomatic initiatives by the Foreign Ministry, and had serious negotiations not taken place sometimes long hours into the night, as perceptively as possible with grinding efforts, employing the tools of diplomacy for national advancement.

Diplomacy has brought development to other nations for example as already enumerated and economic and trade values as seen in varied negotiations with bilateral and multilateral bodies, as the Liberian case illustrates, as well as increased economic and commercial activity.

But considering Liberia’s present situation, economic diplomacy should be given greater priority in our international relations since economic diplomacy is now key factor in the development of contemporary international politics. It is clear that economic and commercial interests, particularly those related to investment, exports, protection and assistance could be essential aspects of the diplomatic activities of a considerable number of countries.

The noble profession which goes with greater demands is not an end but a means; not a purpose but a method. It seeks, by the use of reason, conciliation and the exchange of interests to prevent major conflicts arising between sovereign states and other civil organizations. Diplomacy goes far beyond sparkling red and white wines, champagne, ceremonial dinner and soliciting financial and other hand-outs for personal enrichment.

It is an activity which aims to promote the national interest of a country and also a technique for accommodating conflicting interest. But it could also be construed that apart from representing national interests the role of a diplomat includes the bringing about compromises to ensure a greater peace in an age when conflict has more dire consequences.

Diplomacy today takes place among multiple sites of authority, power, and influence;   at its essence is the conduct of relationships, using peaceful means, by and among international actors, at least one of whom is usually governmental. The typical international actors are states and the bulk of diplomacy involves relations between states directly, or between states, international organizations, and other international actors.

Contemporary diplomacy in terms of practice is carry out through several processes such Shuttle diplomacy, Multilateral diplomacy,  Public diplomacy, Economics diplomacy, Hi-Tech diplomacy, Conference diplomacy, Instant Media diplomacy and Resident diplomacy which is also called Track  diplomacy;  Track One refers to the standard form of diplomacy involving negotiations between officials of two or more.

According to a leading twentieth-century figure in the study of international politics, Hans Morgenthau, diplomacy will naturally decline with the onset of modern communication technologies such as the telephone, telegraph, cable and communication satellite.

Occasionally, telephone diplomacy some time experiences problem due to tech-glitch, on a largest scale hi-tech diplomacy is wildly used by world leaders to get a quick result (Gray, Josephus Moses, 2014), The Practices of Hi-Tech Diplomacy in an Advanced Technically World). Studies have shown that the Hi-Tech diplomacy is used mainly by world leaders and emissaries to by-passed their ambassadors to put their calls through directly to their counterparts or other high ranking officials of another states to discuss issues. This form of diplomacy, unlike the traditional one, is very effective, it gives instant results.

Also technology has rendered the difference in time, space and distance irrelevant and meaningless in contemporary diplomatic intercourse. Besides, the almighty internet with its many sophisticated features including the e-mail segment cannot be denied center-stage in the community of diplomacy (US State Department report 2003).  Another factor is multilateral diplomacy which also brought in its wake new forms of diplomatic activity like public debates, extensive committee work; parliamentary procedures that back in the home country are the provenance of politicians.

Intranet” systems allow, among other benefits, presents a comprehensive and effective communication between the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions in their country. “Instant media” have a significant role in this area, especially the “chats” and social media networks like Face book, Skype and Twitter, which are used both by the foreign ministries and diplomatic missions to disseminate and receive data.

These forms of diplomacy were very effective during the 2016 US Elections which Republicans’ J. Donald Trump won over his Democrats challenger, Hillary Clinton , although seventy-five percent of news on the Facebook and internet were fake, misleading or fabrication to the disadvantage of the other party.

Another effective form of diplomacy is Public diplomacy which has grown in the world and in the age of reality TV which is used to mobilize public support, to sustain momentum in negotiations, or to sabotage negotiations by leaking details of concessions contrary to individual preferences. This practice also include Conference diplomacy has its antecedents in the Eastern Mediterranean in the 4th century.

Other area of diplomacy, which has brought great development to other nations is economic and trade diplomacy, as well as economic and commercial diplomacy. Nowadays, economic diplomacy and trade are now being given greater priority; these areas are now the key factors in the development of contemporary international politics.

In the contemporary world, the issues of economic interests, trade, protection of nationals, and security  have become much more difficult, with major challenges affecting the practices of diplomacy being influenced by major actors and powerful states, and some time the continued experiment of global, continental and regional groupings. Other factors such as bad political decisions in domestic politics, economic growth, and technological development, among others have greatly affected the international system.

In an advanced technically era, diplomats sometimes are merely the messengers of their governments rather than important advisers and policy makers, since technology has brought about a psychological warfare and propaganda that has become a powerful weapon to diplomacy and foreign policy.  At present, diplomats are engaged in an expanding range of functions, from negotiation, communication, consular, representation, and reporting to observation, merchandise trade and services promotion, cultural exchange, and public relations. Diplomats restrict their interactions and deal solely with other members of an exclusive club, comprised of governmental officials, fellow diplomats, and, occasionally, members of the business community.

The practice of diplomacy in the contemporary world as relates the new world order and international relations, the ancient practice of diplomacy has under goes several transformations to the  new effectual and dynamics ones, moving at a greater speech that requires one to precisely understand foreign politics, culture, trade and commerce, and the intellectual facility and linguistic agility to network and intelligently contribute meaningfully at major gathering where issues are brought forth and discussed.

In contemporary diplomacy, the issues of economic interests, trade, protection of nationals, and security  have become much more difficult, with major challenges affecting the practices of diplomacy being influenced by major actors and powerful states, and some time the continued experiment of global, continental and regional groupings.

Furthermore, leader’s willingness to use the telephone has carried communication a step further. In the Persian Gulf crisis of 1991, former President George Bush, Sr., and former President Mikhail Gorbachev conducted an unprecedented 75 minutes telephone conversation including the time needed for translations.

Also in recent times the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu made a telephone call to the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon dissuading him not to go to Iran, former US secretary of State, Colin Powell conducted an unprecedented about 95 telephone calls under the rubric of diplomacy to his colleagues around the world while former Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan on one occasion took advantage of this modern system of tech-diplomacy. Occasionally, telephone diplomacy some time experiences problem due to tech-glitch.

According to reports, former Secretary Colin Powell by-passed his ambassador and put a call through directly to the Secretary General. Study shows that technology has rendered the difference in time, space and distance irrelevant and meaningless in contemporary diplomatic intercourse. And now the almighty internet with its many sophisticated features including the e-mail segment cannot be denied center-stage in the community of diplomacy.

In the middle Ages diplomacy was typically engaged in by kings and princes of neighboring states directly at summit level, the practice fell out of favor partly because of the inherent risk to the personal safety and security of the royals, and partly owing to the paucity of results. The ease and speed of international travel, combined with an explosion in the range of issues that diplomacy now covers, is responsible for a proliferation of diplomatic summits with a resulting convergence between foreign policy-makers and the practice of diplomacy.

A nation’s diplomat required function as his or her country’s eyes, ears, and voice abroad, must be aware of national interests and values while being able to understand foreign politics and cultures.  At the same time, the skills required of professional diplomats include intelligence, tact, discretion, circumspection, patience, self-control, teamwork, adaptability, creative imagination, the ability to signal and communicate messages precisely to the target audience.

In certain cases, diplomats also give occasional speeches to members of the community of their host country. It is admirable profession of integrate, intelligent, honesty, political and edification elegance, free of corrupt and other unwholesome practices especially greed for financial gains.   But, now new issues such as technical matters are coming to the forefront.  Out of this sphere of unfolding developments and uncertainties a diplomat, in this modern era, should obtain the ‘requisite tools’ of education, skills, and a marketable reputation.

Evidently, diplomat presents his or her government’s policies to the foreign and domestic publics in a persuasive and persuading tone, not a demanding one, as such; a diplomat always represents the interest of the nation but at the same time cannot ignore the public opinion on national and international issues that go beyond defined borders.

Another factor responsible for the low productivity of African diplomacy is the serious issue of diplomats negotiating which missions to be assigned, instead of getting posted to counties by those with the appointing powers. It is common for these so-called influential diplomats to lobby for posting to prestigious diplomatic missions in Europe, Asia, America and multilateral organizations, as greater numbers are not willing to be posted to African missions, especially the underdeveloped ones.

The problem of concern is the existence of too many diplomatic missions abroad, which place a heavy financial burden on the scarce resources of these poor African Countries, decisively maintaining more contacts with non-African states. Studies have shown that Washington, Paris, London or Beijing wouldn’t post diplomats to countries of their choice or where diplomats do not have command over the language of the host state or uninformed diplomats to countries of strategic importance in a particular region or continent.

Diplomacy serves states in three useful channels of communication including means of negotiating agreements between states, a source of information about what is happening in host states and representing the interest of the sending state.

Diplomat should be fully aware of work every day to be able to partner with local businesses and companies in host country to enhance economic growth back home in his country. That is why those tasked with economic activities at embassy must be sharp, cognizant of global prevailing wheeling and dealing; keep check of the financial movers and shakers, be well-schooled and knowledgeable of economic diplomacy which encourages greater cooperation and relations that protect investment and bilateral ties between two states or among companies.

A nation’s diplomat required function as his or her country’s eyes, ears, and voice abroad, must be aware of national interests and values while being able to understand foreign politics and cultures. At the same time, the skills required of professional diplomats include intelligence, tact, discretion, circumspection, patience, self-control, teamwork, adaptability, creative imagination, the ability to signal and communicate messages precisely to the target audience.

In certain cases, diplomats also give occasional speeches to members of the community of their host country. It is admirable profession of integrate, intelligent, honesty, political and edification elegance, free of corrupt and other unwholesome practices especially greed for financial gains.   But, now new issues such as technical matters are coming to the forefront.  Out of this sphere of unfolding developments and uncertainties a diplomat, in this modern era, should obtain the ‘requisite tools’ of education, skills, and a marketable reputation. Watch out for part three.

By: Josephus Moses Gray

Email: graymoses@yahoo.com

 

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About Cholo Brooks 13151 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.