Home > Essays in Diplomacy > How States & Foreign Ministries Should Adapt to New Realities

How States & Foreign Ministries Should Adapt to New Realities

How States and Foreign Ministries Should Adapt to New Realities

by  Juan E. Dayang, Jr.

Conclusion (last of 4 parts)

Globalization, information revolution and the emergence of non-state actors in world politics have significantly changed the landscape of diplomatic practice in the 21st century.  The nation-state as primary actor in international relations is complemented by non-state actors such as the role played by international organizations, non governmental organizations, and multinational companies in the world stage. Some writers even go as far as exploring diplomacy detached from the state.[1]

The question then is how the state and foreign ministries should adapt to these realities.

States, while remaining to be a major actor in international relations, must be able adapt to the presence of other non-state actors.  The relationship of Foreign Ministries with other government agencies and non-state actors must be symbiotic and their functions, complementary. Such coordinated undertakings include foreign missions.[2] Inver Neumann suggested that Foreign Ministries could relax its hierarchical structure to allow broader cooperation with non-state actors. [3]

Foreign Ministries must not only act as gatekeepers but as coordinators of foreign policy. Diplomacy is therefore not focused on the Foreign Ministry itself, but is spread throughout other line agencies. For instance, international cooperation on issues such as disaster preparedness, health and terrorism may be better handled, in large part, by the national agency in charge of such issues. (Inter-governmental agency coordination therefore remains vital in having a single voice in bilateral and multi-lateral forums.) Employing Track II diplomacy may likewise be a good starting point.  Foreign Service personnel must be able to establish good relations not only with their foreign counterparts but also with other bureaucrats and civil society groups in their home turf.  Further, diplomats must be trained in handling public and media relations. Neumann suggested that diplomats should be more pro-active rather than reactive in navigating the complex waters of international affairs.

In conclusion, diplomacy for centuries has been practiced by  nation-states through accredited agents to pursue national interest.  The current environment calls for greater cooperation in solving the problems unique to the 21st century. Diplomats remain crucial as a conduit in inter-state relations and despite changes in political environment, the traditional practice of diplomacy among states remains enduring.  Diplomats, however, should be aware of the changing landscape and subsequently adjust in order to better perform their function of promoting national interests in bilateral or multilateral settings.


[1] John Hoffman, “Reconstructing Diplomacy,” British Journal of Politics and International Relations 5, no. 4 (2004).

[2] For instance,  Philippine Embassies regularly organize Filipino community consultations to harness the resources of Filipinos abroad and forge partnership with NGOs to assist the Embassy in  assisting  distressed nationals.

[3] Iver Neumann, “Globalisation and Diplomacy,” Working Paper 724(2007).

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