Future of diplomacy: What are the emerging challenges in a globalised world?

Diplomatie & internationale Akteure

The Youth Dialogue 2016 aimed at identifying the emerging trends in the contemporary diplomacy. Precisely, how globalisation affects diplomacy and what challenges have to be faced by diplomats today.


Societies have changed with the increasing relevance of new information channels and of the internet for politics. The importance of Social Media and the speed of the flows of information are challenging the traditional ways of interactions between governments. As a result, citizens are becoming more aware and more interested in policy-making.

At the same time, traditional state actors have to cope with the rising influence of extreme right-wings parties, populism and the increasing defiance of a large part of the population. This lack of trust can be partly dealt with by a strong communication on government’s activities. In the field of diplomacy, it means that people have to understand what diplomats do and why. Therefore many foreign policy ministries encourage embassies to develop their presence on Social Media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

But can we really call this new phenomenon ‘Public Diplomacy’? An increasing number of Ambassadors have a Twitter account and journalists bring more details on foreign policy to the public. But, at some extent, confidentiality still remains a fundamental aspect of negotiations. Diplomacy is a matter of networking and you need to preserve trust to establish strong relationships, so you can’t simply diffuse everything to the public.

How Diplomacy has evolved in a globalised world?

In the 21st century, challenges have become more complex and interrelated. The world is seemingly smaller than before. We haven’t seen the predicted “end of history” by Francis Fukuyama after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the hope of building a better world is threatened by an increasing number of conflicts, economic and social stress, income inequality and fear related to globalisation.

As a result of the changing dynamic around the world and the increasing speed of information diplomats are becoming less influential than in the last century. They have to be ‘good at everything and at nothing at the same time’. Indeed, diplomats are now ‘in the process’ when they are relevant in information.

At the same time, diplomacy involves more non-state actors now than ever before. For instance, foreign policy ministries defend interests of the private sector; especially business groups are involved in ‘commercial diplomacy’. The number of actors taking part in a conflict might complicate the peace process—as it did in Syria. It is hard to define who should be invited to the negotiation table (e.g. do we involve groups close to ISIS or al-Qaeda?).

NGO are becoming more involved in the contemporary diplomacy, because they sometimes have the necessary expertise on a variety of fields to resolve an issue. By establishing the dialogue between state and NGO, diplomats can obtain crucial information and develop further understanding on the challenge(s) they are facing.

Why do we need diplomacy?

Issues have certainly become more complex and stakeholders have been multiplied. New challenges affect the capacity of states to solve problems through traditional diplomacy. At the same time, in a globalised world where both issues and actors are becoming more interrelated, developing cooperation among actors is an unavoidable need. Challenges affect more states at the same time and they cannot be managed without cooperating and exchanging views among a large panel of actors. For students which aim at embracing a career in the field of diplomacy, it means they need to be ready to dig into these issues. To be a diplomat requires the will to understand the world we all belong to and the curiosity to understand challenges we all face.

The Junior Diplomat Initiative (JDI) Youth Dialogue 2016 took place on the 20thApril at the Maison de la Paix and was organized by the Junior Diplomat Initiative in close collaboration with the Graduate Institute, DiploFoundation, foraus, GCSP and swisspeace. Students could confront their theoretical knowledge of diplomacy to the experience of the guestsjunior professionals and high-level representativesduring panel discussions in the morning session. During the afternoon session, participants were involved in interactive workshops on international peace mediation, e-diplomacy and leading with influence.