No country exists in a total vacuum (not even closed-off nations like North Korea). For all countries, international relations are crucial for forming alliances, solving problems that transcend borders and facilitating trade.
International relations and diplomacy are even more important in modern times as the world becomes more connected. When international relations deteriorate, strife between nations may lead to different types of warfare (including economic and cyber warfare). Consequently, diplomats of every nation carry the task of maintaining good working relations with each other.
The Definition of Diplomacy
People and countries define diplomacy in different ways. In general, it is the act of building relationships with other countries to support mutually beneficial agreements. Diplomacy may also involve the following objectives:
- Protecting and advancing a country’s national interest
- Supporting a country’s safety and economic security
- Enhancing economic and military stability among world powers
- Promoting economic development in developing countries
- Improving human rights and equality
Diplomacy has many faces. Diplomats are primarily concerned with attaining goals on behalf of his or her country and its close allies. Fortunately, it is often possible for diplomats to arrive at a consensus that benefits all involved countries. Diplomats are also concerned with building strong, long-term relationships that lead to future advantages. It is ideal to build international relationships on goodwill, trust and transparency where possible.
The Interdisciplinary Nature of International Diplomacy
If you were to ask five people to name an area which international relations affects the most, you would likely receive five different answers. International diplomacy is a highly interconnected, interdisciplinary field. It involves expertise from areas like political science, macroeconomics, history, global ethics, globalization and geopolitics.
For this reason, international diplomacy also transcends governmental agencies. In the U.S., the State Department is responsible for diplomatic matters. However, agencies that handle economic, security, law enforcement and other issues may all be involved in international affairs and are often present in U.S. Embassies abroad.
The Activities of International Diplomacy
One of the activities of international diplomacy is the granting of diplomatic recognition to a particular country. Diplomatic recognition is an acknowledgement of statehood. When a country receives diplomatic recognition, other countries acknowledge its sovereignty and are prepared to form a relationship with that country on the international stage.
Some are not widely recognized, such as Taiwan. This is because other countries are unwilling to risk jeopardizing relations with the powerful People’s Republic of China, China. In addition to diplomatic recognition, other activities include:
- Diplomatic negotiations
- Diplomatic conferences
- Diplomatic mediation and arbitration
- Informal diplomacy (conducted through semi-formal channels like think tanks)
- Small state diplomacy (activities conducted by small, resource-poor countries that need a voice on the international stage)
- Protection of citizens overseas
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