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  • Dušan Pejaković

Technological advances in diplomatic practice

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

As a thinking being in its essence, man is always inclined to analyze the things and phenomena of the world surrounding him. A good part of this analysis is reduced to some kind of comparison, I would say on that kind where the correlation of the present with respect to the past and/or the possible future is observed. Looking at the past times is for some a positive experience, and for some it is negative, yet again everything depends on the perception of the individual and the intentions of the one. It seems to me that there are most of those who stick to that old maxim „historia magistra vitae (est)“ throughout endeavor to conclude that the past must be remembered at least in that “warning tone“, with the intent not to repeat the mistakes of the aforementioned.

Role of diplomacy in global change

Nonetheless, one thing it is certain, though: the time goes by inexorably and changes everything in front of you (us). Time and people are changing hand by hand. One system is replaced by another and different for that matter, followed by the period of adaptation, acceptance and action in accordance with the set value framework, and all so in a circle. Of course, the changes are subject to all spheres of human action. Through the basic ones – the way of life, work, earnings, payments, etc., to the more complex ones, such as legal forms, the economic system, the political system, and in connection with this last one – diplomacy itself. Diplomacy, which is ultimately a sphere of interest in this particular context.

Diplomacy is, to the fullest extent – the oldest form of communication between the states, synonymous with foreign policy. It is above all a social activity with an appropriate organization whose main purpose is the representation of the state in international relations and the work on achieving the foreign policy goals of the state by peaceful means. Foreign policy determines the strategy and long-term goals to be achieved, and diplomacy in this context – a tactical means needed to achieve long-term foreign policy goals. Because diplomacy is, of course, a very mature paradigm of international relations, it has inevitably passed through various changes that have always been in line with the general social changes and new tasks that were posed before this activity.

Although, like almost all else, diplomacy itself got its beginnings in the era of ancient Greece and later the Roman Empire, however, for the first true beginnings of diplomacy, the period of Renaissance was taken. Way back then, in the 15th century, with the development of a permanent diplomacy institution when Venice, Milan, Tuscany, Florence and other Italian cities introduced the appointment of diplomatic representatives – diplomacy was created as a permanent state function, and not as an occasional sending and receiving of emissaries. Permanent representatives have had clearly defined rights and duties. Changes after WW2 (mostly from the Cold War period), led to the creation of modern diplomacy, characterized by the development of multilateral diplomacy, in addition to the traditional bilateral diplomacy. This was also contributed by the large increase in the number of international law subjects (primarily state and international organizations), which led to an increase in international contacts and the strengthening of diplomatic services.

A world of digital diplomacy

Here we come to one of our stories from the beginning of the text regarding the analysis of subjects through a certain time prism. Certainly, the early beginnings of diplomacy, if nothing else, were much less expedient, slower in functionality and less developed on the action plan. It took a long time to, for example, carriages (as a model of the means of transportation of that time) come from one place to another (especially if they are some distant missions between remote countries), to accommodate the visits of foreign delegates, or to convey decrees or official letters. Therefore, today, with the development of technology and above all the technologies in the field of communication – it functions all in a much faster way. Practically, it is enough to type a few words on the phone or computer, and then click on the “send/post” button and instant diplomacy is being created. Digital diplomacy is taking on more and more power.

Modern times bring new globalized flows of information transfer, creation of new communication patterns and the way we choose when we say something, how we will communicate something, and for which audience we will make available this thought/information. Diplomacy has today become a largely digital phenomenon. Something we can easily notice is the dominance of social networks as a means of expanding communication in this particular arena of human activity. Twitter is definitely an undiscovered champion here. Politicians today are keen to share their opinions openly on Twitter (within the so called tweets) and consequently produce certain influences in the development of public opinion of certain current domicile and/or global issues.

New business of communication

After everything we have outlined in this text, we must also delineate that digital diplomacy is not completely new or even only remaining discipline nowadays - but perhaps it is best to conceive it as an inevitable stamp of time, as a complement, as a technological element without which diplomacy it would not have come to life in this present world or without which its context would certainly not be actual and accepted by the broad masses. Of course, this new face of diplomacy brings numerous advantages to the practice itself. It is much more economical and expeditious to communicate through social networks than any other means. Information is automatically available to a wide circle of people, which in the past (technologically undeveloped times), certainly could not be achieved.

We can also say that these modernisms want to fulfill the principle of subsidiarity in the structure of the rule of public programs, and that they want to (in all their respective forms), approximate as much as possible to the civilian population of politics in order to gain an easier understanding and eventual unquestioned participation in the creation of the same. If we try to put today’s diplomacy into the mold of the mentioned dichotomy of temporal perception from the beginning, there would probably be advocates of the classical one, but certainly also the advocates of modern diplomacy on the other.

I suppose that bards of this discipline from the past, nevertheless, would point out that diplomacy is lost that quintessential romanticist charm, nowadays. Or, perhaps, lost even the realization of being the balancing skill between spoken/unspoken in a given, or more precisely, in the right moment. No more direct contact, no more human ties, no more of that elusive entanglement of negotiating in bonna fide, like in the olden days. Like George Kennan have said, diplomacy has become the “business of communication between governments”. And how will we observe it all depends, above all, on our own perception of the time in which we currently are. „O tempora, o mores” – like ancient Latins would have said it.

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