The Alphabet of Diplomacy – Part I

Public diplomacy is a very flexible concept that encourages many analysts and practitioners (especially politicians) to come up with new categories whenever it seems convenient and beneficial. And there should be nothing wrong about it, maybe except for the fact that with so many new, fashionable notions and concepts, it is becoming harder and harder to navigate in this messy world of international relations.

That is why, together with launching my website, I decided to launch a series of blog posts devoted to listing and explaining various kinds of diplomacy and in particular public diplomacy. This is a working dictionary, showing some concepts from my perspective.

Please feel free to add new categories and to recommend new definitions. I will be grateful for your feedback.

Hope my dictionary works for you. Part I stands for letters A and B.

Disclaimer No1: I have not found examples for Q and Z – any suggestions, tips and hints before the cycle gets there?

Disclaimer No2: Some (most?) definitions may not suit the Oxford-style, rigorous dictionaries. Some concepts would not fit professional dictionaries of diplomacy. This is exactly why they are published in the form of a blog post 🙂

Ad hoc diplomacy – naturally, not the regular one, not conducted by permanent or resident missions (embassies/ plenipotentiary ambassadors or consulates/consuls and their political staff). When necessary, it is run by ambassadors-at-large (special envoys) and special missions. The consent of the receiving state/receiving states is obligatory.

The ad hoc diplomacy had been in use long before permanent missions have even been thought of. Nowadays in use especially when matters are specific (often missions are single-tasked) or temporary and is not limited to bilateral relations (although the New York Convention on Special Missions of 1969 regulates only the bilateral ones).

They are more flexible than permanent missions, therefore often are more suitable for the times of technological and communications revolution we live in. Since they often focus on very delicate negotiations, special missions are often headed by well-respected personalities, such as former heads of government/state, former foreign ministers or well-known professional diplomats.

Special missions may be aimed at establishing diplomatic relations, participating in important events (like coronations, royal weddings or funerals), taking part in international conferences or negotiating peace, ceasefires and other delicate matters.

Audio diplomacy – Google says it is a progressive rock music album of Fromuz (quite interesting sounds). But since music plays a big role in the diplomatic craft and politics, one should dig deeper than first results in the search engine. Let’s recall the example of wonderful Mstislav Rostropovich playing a cello concert on the ruins of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The same Rostropovich was the author of Symphony No 7, written in the times of WW2, when Stalingrad was under the Nazi siege. The symphony was aimed at encouraging people not to surrender.

Let’s also recall the example of “One Lebanon” initiative, so well explained by ambassador Tom Fletcher in his recent book titled “The Naked Diplomat”. The British embassy in Beirut has been deeply engaged in this cultural initiative, aiming at unifying Lebanese people through music and spreading the word about this country all around the world. It supports many projects, but the main thing is the annual, grand concert where Lebanese and international stars perform and promote Beirut.

Everybody knows massive hits like “We Are The World” (1985) and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” (1984), both aimed at helping African people suffering from hunger. They both helped to create a concept of “celebrity diplomacy” that was based on examples of i.e. Bob Geldof and Bono (more on this category in part II of the dictionary). More importantly, they spread the word about hunger in Africa, helped to gather millions of dollars of aid and supported millions of people. That is why there were many re-editions of these songs, aiming, for instance, at helping Haiti after a disastrous earthquake in 2010 and at haltering the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa in 2014.

There are many more examples, including Jamala (Ukraine representative) winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 with a song about the tragic deportation of Tatars from Crimea ordered by Stalin in 1944, understood as a manifesto against contemporary Russian foreign policy. And many more, and many more.

Bilateral diplomacy – in short, traditional diplomacy, the most typical type of international relations, run between two states. And when something is traditional, it faces a risk of becoming outdated and obsolete. And so is the state of bilateral relations between many countries that in their contacts do not go far beyond the Vienna Congress fashion. Moreover, since many non-state actors have appeared on the IR stage, bilateral diplomacy has certainly lost its dominating position. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to imagine the contemporary world without bilateral diplomacy with its reciprocity principle in practice, permanent representations in respective states, the usage of various bilateral diplomatic channels. Contemporary bilateral diplomacy is not narrowed down to the actions of foreign ministries but is run by each and every ministry, heads of state and government, and the parliaments, too. Foreign ministries certainly coordinate bilateral diplomacy (including the functioning of representations abroad) but do not have the monopoly over it.

Boudoir diplomacy – apparently, this type of diplomacy has found its place in “Dictionary of Diplomacy” authored by G.R. Berridge and Lora Lloyd. There are many stories and case studies of boudoir diplomacy, reaching probably to the very beginning of international relations between states, especially because inter-dynastic marriages were more than common for thousands of years. Historically, it is defined in the context of courts ruled or influenced by women, where certain decisions were made and many stories were told in boudoir circumstances.

The majority of definitions of boudoir diplomacy recall the example of Sir James Harris, a British diplomat posted to St Petersburg (1777-1783), who was known for visiting quite frequently Empress Catherine the Great in her boudoir, trying to encourage her to engage into an alliance with St James’s Court. Netflix offers many series and movies where other examples of boudoir diplomacy are presented. Search for historical, monarchical plots.

Byzantine diplomacy – this category has both historical and contemporary meanings. As for the former, it refers to the Eastern Roman Empire and its decline. It is defined as using extravagant ceremonial, floods of wealth and gold during receptions and other events so that the diplomatic representatives would report to their capitals on the majesty and power, not on the weakness of the empire. It is also defined as using all necessary means to succeed diplomatically in the circumstances of being surrounded by foes. The Bureau of Barbarians (established as early as in the 5th century!) was one of such means and the first foreign intelligence agency that set the tone and gave example for many other agencies established later in other countries

Contemporarily, it is often synonymous to the so-called Ferrero Rocher diplomacy, meaning our craft being focused primarily on receptions, white gloves, champagne and luxurious chocolates (like in the Ferrero Rocher TV commercial from 1980s-1990s) – and not on writing analyses and wires, not on negotiating agreements, not on organising state visits, not on many other things that have nothing in common with Dom Perignon (but have much in common with filtered coffee).

Are there any types of diplomacy that you would like to add here? How would you develop/complement these definitions? Please feel free to share your reviews and opinions. And stay tuned to next parts.

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