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Moreover, reflecting this kind of pluralism, it is no longer a hegemonic or unipolar era. At the core of the current dilemma is that diplomacy and its institutions are contested and stigmatized domestically by populist forces. On top of all this, of course, is the concerted challenge to contemporary diplomatic culture that U. President Donald Trump presents. On one level, to be sure, Trump can be depicted as a return to an older type of diplomacy.

After all, small states were among those that experienced the heaviest diplomatic casualties of the global financial crisis. That the contested view of diplomacy and diplomats is most robust in countries at the core of the international system, is a dynamic that can only be understood in the context of a backlash against a wider segment of established institutional culture. Foreign ministries have become more fragile in their standing across a wide spectrum of countries.

Through this type of framework, therefore, it is not surprising that diplomacy and diplomats have faced challenges of even a more formidable nature beyond the West when a combination of celebrity status and populism completely captures a state. As Serbin and Serbin Pont put it:. Changes included the modification of the Pedro Gual diplomatic academy so that professionals entering the diplomatic service would also have to do social service and experience personally the structure of the Bolivarian social missions and to acknowledge their effects on the revolution.

Personalism is no longer restricted to the leaders of distinctive political parties. Even with these caveats, nonetheless, the challenge to diplomacy and foreign ministries is a serious one.

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The efforts of Michael McFaul, the then U. Ambassador to Russia — , on Twitter with a following of 60,, falls into this category. Facing the challenge of populism, diplomacy and diplomats need to be far more reactive. Representation, in terms of standing and acting for others, is a core function of diplomacy. Historically, diplomats represented individual rulers; today they represent states. Their representative role hinges on the predominance of states in international relations. Representing states diplomatically in the 21 st century is far from unproblematic.

In the first part of this chapter, I will attempt to identify some contemporary and future challenging issues of state representation through diplomats. Moreover, in the 21 st century actors other than states make claims to diplomatic representation. The diplomat is then a representative in the same sense that a flag represents a nation. Representation implies not only status standing for others but also behaviour acting for others. Principal-agent relations arise whenever one party principal delegates certain tasks to another party agent.

Due to conflicting preferences and information asymmetry, agents may pursue other interests than those of the principal. Delegation is therefore usually combined with control mechanisms, such as monitoring and audits. The proper behaviour of a representative is a matter of intense debate, especially in the literature on representative democracy.

However, this is a simplification. While varying in restrictions, the instructions and bargaining mandate of diplomats often allow room for initiative within the given frames. Diplomatic representation rests on two-way communication and mutual influence. Are there, then, specific issues of diplomatic representation in the 21 st century?

Hereafter, I will identify some changes and trends, and raise questions concerning their implications.

As for symbolic representation, I will discuss the change from immunity to vulnerability and the question of whether diplomats ought to mirror the society they represent. How can diplomats represent divided societies? And what problems are associated with representing a populist regime?

For centuries, the fact that diplomats represented venerable principals — from powerful monarchs to established states — guaranteed their protected and privileged status. No longer being inviolable symbols, diplomatic representatives have increasingly become highly vulnerable symbols. In a polarized world diplomats and diplomatic facilities have become soft targets for terrorist attacks. One veteran U. This raises the question of whether there are non-militarized approaches to restoring the protection and security of diplomats that have been a hallmark of diplomacy throughout centuries.


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The tendency toward increasing insecurity and vulnerability not only impedes diplomatic tasks but also threatens to render the recruitment process of qualified personnel more difficult. Standing for others can be understood in another, more literal, sense. To what extent do diplomats need to mirror the social and ethnic composition of the societies they represent? The idea that diplomats should be an accurate reflection or typical of the society they represent is quite recent.

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With increasing migration, many — if not most — states will have a multiethnic and multicultural character in the 21 st century. However, the question needs to be raised how important the symbolic value of accurately reflecting their society might be in the perceptions of relevant audiences.

The nature of the principal is one important factor determining the nature of diplomatic representation. And whereas democratic states place diplomats at the end of multiple chains of principals and agents, diplomats representing contemporary authoritarian states, with one clearly identifiable principal, have more restrictive mandates. We need to think harder about differing parameters of diplomatic representation between democracies and autocracies and the possible consequences of this.

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The changing balance between democratic and authoritarian states in the 21 st century constitutes quite a change from the optimistic predictions of the final victory of liberal democracies after the end of the Cold War. This ought to make us think harder about differing parameters of diplomatic representation between democracies and autocracies and what consequences these might have.

The use of digital platforms by autocracies for info warfare represents a new facet of 21 st century diplomacy. On the other hand, digital diplomacy offers an effective tool for democratic states to bypass the controlled media in authoritarian states. A specific case of representation dilemmas in the 21 st century occur in divided societies.

On the one hand, this would seem to grant diplomats more leeway. But, on the other hand, the lack of firm and consistent policies, standpoints and instructions complicates life for diplomats significantly. Populism yields a democratic representation problem. The U. Among U. In addition, staffs are recruited among member-state diplomats. The representational function of EU delegations is well established and EU diplomats take an active part in the local corps diplomatique. Sceptics wonder how the two sets of career streams in the Commission and the Council Secretariat can be fused.

The emergence of the EU as a diplomatic persona has not replaced, but merely added a new layer to, traditional diplomacy.

Introduction: Following the Wrong Track or Walking on Stepping Stones – Which Way for Diplomacy?

Nor are there indications that other supranational entities than the EU will be granted similar diplomatic status and representation in the foreseeable future. Regions and cities are then not recognized as diplomatic personae with representation of their own. Nor are constituent states in federal governments. However, there is an increased activity of subnational units. Today, some authors speak of a renaissance of cities as international actors. Subnational levels of federal nations constitute a special case. Scotland, Wales, Catalonia and Bavaria are other examples of regional diplomatic representation.

States and international institutions are engaging TNAs as policy experts, service providers, compliance watchdogs, and stakeholder representatives. Actors behind popular digital platforms, such as Google and Facebook, have a considerable political impact by how they organize our access to information.

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However, in a passive way, these platforms already impact the way diplomacy is conducted as well as the international standing of diplomats. In sum, one may speak of a transnational turn in diplomacy. In this chapter, I have pointed to some, but by no means all, contemporary issues of representation. I have raised questions, but have not provided any answers. As for non-state representation, the uncertain future development of the EU will determine the significance of the supranational challenge, with no rival regional diplomatic actors in sight. The transnational challenge, on the other hand, has transformative potential by eroding the exclusive cross-border authority of states.

Representation, in sum, is best understood as a process rather than a static relationship. It is a process of mutual interaction between principals and agents. The most fascinating aspect of technological disruption is its remarkable capacity for both destruction and creation. On the other hand, by laying the groundwork for new economic or social opportunities, they also stimulate new thinking and innovative practices that reinforce and sustain these technologies in the long term.

This observation may prove particularly valuable for understanding the evolution of digital diplomacy and the extent to which the recent adoption of digital technologies by Ministries of Foreign Affairs MFAs will be able to substantially change the way in which diplomacy is practiced, or whether it will have only a marginal effect on its mode of operation. The first mega-trend actively encourages digital adoption and is driven by the dual process of rapid acceleration of technological disruption, on the one hand, and the MFAs commitment to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment, on the other hand.

The 5G technology, which is due to arrive in just a few years, will likely usher in a whole new level of technological disruption, which could lead to the mass adoption of an entire range of tech tools of growing relevance for diplomacy, such as virtual reality VR and augmented reality AR in public diplomacy or artificial intelligence in consular services.

Augmented reality AR adds digital elements to a live view often by using the camera on a smartphone. Virtual reality VR implies a complete immersion experience that shuts out the physical world. Using VR devices such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or Google Cardboard, users can be transported into a number of real-world and imagined environments such as the middle of a squawking penguin colony or even the back of a dragon.

In fact, as Sandre points out, the future is already here. At the lower end of the complexity scale, chat-bots now assist with visa applications, legal aid for refugees, and consular registrations. Staying ahead of the technological curve will likely require a cognitive shift from following to anticipating and possibly pushing new trends. However, by anticipating new trends, they could better operate in an increasingly competitive digital environment and set the rules and standards of digital practice before others have the chance to do it. For example, by mining open-source data from social media, satellite imagery and blogs, the Embers project sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity IARPA has generated, since , highly accurate forecasts of influenza-like illness case counts, rare disease outbreaks, civil unrest, domestic political crises, and elections.


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DDS consists of three key layers. The first layer is demand driven and connects institutional actors, groups and stakeholders that directly benefit from digital diplomatic programs. It may include diaspora groups in need of good digital consular services, embassies in critical spots facing public diplomacy challenges, and think tanks providing consultancy to MFAs on digital matters. The second layer is functional and task-oriented. Diplomatic engagement requires a minimum level of shared understanding and mutual openness in order to work.