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Diplomacy and Protocol in the Modern World

Updated on December 12, 2016

Quotation from a Late Politician

“We live in a modern world in which nation states are interdependent. In that modern world foreign policy is not divorced from domestic policy but a central part of any political programme.”
Robin Cook, 1997. British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, 1997-2001.

A Diplomat's Purpose

So diplomacy is not all about high politics and hot crises. Even as the world's foreign ministers might be meeting to discuss how best to deal with the latest contravention of international norms, diplomats across the globe are working to make the lives of their own citizens and those of the host country better. And in today's interdependent world the quality of life globally affects us all materially, sooner or later.

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The diplomat's unseen and largely unsung work provides a huge amount of job satisfaction. It also can, and often does, leave a lasting legacy. Daily, diplomats interact with individual private citizens and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). They exchange views on best practice and knowledge about, for example, the conduct, observation and media reporting of elections; cyber security; media freedom; freedom of assembly and expression ; civilian oversight of police compliance with human rights; and environmental issues which might arise from relatively new methods of energy exploration and extraction, such as "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing).

Insider on Diplomats Impact on our World

Such diplomatic work requires a robust intellect, as is widely known, but it is essential as well that the diplomat has strong communication and interpersonal skills, resilience and patience. In addition, he or she needs to understand and adhere to diplomatic protocol. Enthusiasm and a keen sense of right and wrong might lead a diplomat to intervene in a host country’s internal affairs. Instead, what he or she is seeking to do, among other things, is to enable local people, with whom he or she engages, to understand the concepts in which international and cross-cultural best practice and expertise are grounded. And this flow of ideas is not only from the developed world to the developing world but travels in both directions. So an effective diplomat, of whatever country, as well as offering knowledge is on the lookout to gain knowledge too from local individual contacts and in-country NGOs.

The issues dealt with in the diplomatic work mentioned above all impact on people's daily lives and the long-term future of their children and their children. So diplomacy is much more than international rhetoric, responsibilities and resolutions. Even more critically, it is about people.

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