Diplomacy: Diplomatic Answers

Shared embassies; secure buildings to deal with the threat of terror; direct international contact between government departments leaving diplomats on the sidelines, what is the diplomatic world coming to? Are ambassadors and the glitter of grand receptions threatened by global change?

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 March 2005 5 minute READ

Douglas Hurd

President of Chatham House and former British Foreign Secretary

From time to time commentators tell us that traditional diplomacy is dead and that the foreign service in its present form is obsolete. Sometimes the argument is based on globalisation. It is said that the speed and volume of transactions across frontiers in goods, services and money are creating a growing world unity. By comparison, it is argued, the political comings and goings of nation states are unimportant.

Or it is suggested that the speed of communications has meant that political leaders across the world now handle decisions directly with each other. This tendency was accelerated for Britain by the creation of the European Union (EU), and for everyone by the events of September 11 2001 which catapulted the American superpower into active world leadership directed from the White House. There is more than a grain of truth in these arguments. They show however not that diplomacy is dead but that it needs to adapt continuously to change.

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