Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): New Heroes

OFW: New Heroes

by Juan “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University



As of 2010, there is an estimated 8,579,378 Filipinos overseas.[1]   The number of temporary migrant workers or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) is estimated at 4,522,438.[2]  With its decades long of experience in labour migration, the Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia.  The country has also become the principal source of seafarers in the international maritime business.

The economic contribution of overseas Filipinos is substantial. Their remittances sustain their families and contribute to poverty reduction. Although, the remittances may not have a wider contribution to national economic growth, it has definitely improved the lives of many families who benefit from the money flows from their family members who are working overseas. In 2010 their remittance flow was US$18.8M which grew by 8% compared to the previous year. It represented close to 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.[3] For their contribution to the economy, they have been lauded as “modern-day heroes” by the government and by the Philippine media.

Waves of Migration

Migration of Filipino workers has been recorded as early as the Spanish colonization.[4] Early accounts of emigration from the Philippines points to a native who worked in the ship of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan when he first circumnavigated the world and discovered the Philippines for Spain in the 16th century.  However, the first group of Filipino workers who were recorded to work overseas were those who were forced by Spanish colonizers to man ships during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade between 1565 to 1815 that brought goods from the Orient to the “new world” and vice versa.[5]  During the Spanish colonial period that ended in 1898, there were Filipinos who went to Spain as students, including national hero Jose Rizal.

First Wave

The 20th century saw more Filipinos leaving for the US as a result of the colonial linkage between the Philippines and the United States which started in after the Philippine-American war (1899-1902) until the Philippine declaration of independence in 1946.   The first wave[6] of emigration of Filipinos was between 1900 to early 1940s to the United States. The first two decades after the US annexation of the Philippines in 1898, many of the Filipinos who went to the US were college and university students who were trained in US universities to spread democracy and take leadership roles in the Philippines.[7]

Second Wave

The second wave to the US began after World War II till the end of the war in Vietnam. It was also during the same period when   the Philippines gained its independence from the US on July 4, 1946.  The number of Filipinos in the US grew because of the naturalization quota of 100 per year which was approved by the US Congress and announced by President Harry Truman on July 4. The quota, which lasted for two decades was not based on ethnic considerations but based on the occupational needs of the US and if the Filipino had relatives in the United States.[8]  At that time, there were many Filipino WWII veterans who were given special US citizenship privileges. The US also accepted skilled workers– doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and other professions. When the US Congress passed the new Immigration Reform Act in 1965, it allowed family members to reunite with their American based relatives. This again led to the surge of American immigration of Filipinos.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, there were Filipinos in non-professional labour contracts that went to East Asia as barbers, artists, and musicians. There were also Filipinos who went as loggers to Indochina. The Korean and Vietnam War also created overseas jobs for Filipinos particularly in civilian and military operations in Japan, Guam, Thailand, Wake Island and Vietnam. There were also nurses who went to Canada and Australia. The third wave, which is more widely known and most persistent, was during the mid-1970s to 1990s.

Third Wave

It was in the 1970s when the government started sending migrant workers to curb unemployment and to shore up the country’s foreign currency reserves of the government. It was during this period that the labour migration program by the Philippine government was institutionalized.[9] The economic decline due to the higher world prices of crude oil created massive unemployment in the country. In the Middle East, however, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were making so much profit. As a result of the oil-export boom, there was a  high demand for labour to support its fresh enterprise.  Former President Ferdinand Marcos  was quick to tap this opportunity to  promote Filipino contract workers to alleviate unemployment that created a huge labour surplus.   The foreign policy that Marcos adopted was called  “Development Diplomacy,” which  was aimed at exporting excess labour supply. By 1980, the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) deployment of overseas contract workers has jumped by 75% compared to previous year.[10] This time, the Department of Foreign Affairs has made protection of migrant workers as a third pillar of the country’s foreign policy which is of equal significance to the promotion of the political and economic interests of the Philippines overseas.


The Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia with 10% of its population living and working  in more than 190 countries overseas.  The emigration flows can be summed up in three waves of migration: the first wave from 1900s-1940,  the second from 1940s-1960s  and the most pervasive was during the third wave from 1970s to 1990s. The economic contribution of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs have reduced poverty incidence and increased the welfare of their families in the Philippines. The remittance flow also shore up the foreign currency reserves of the country. For the country and their family members, OFWs are real-life heroes.  The Philippine government has made protection of OFWs as a key pillar of its foreign policy agenda.

[1] “Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos,” ed. Commission on Filipinos Overseas (Manila: Office of the President, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “2010 OF Remittances Surpass 8% Growth Projection; Full-Year Level Reaches US$18.8 Billion,”

[4] read Filomeno V. Aguilar Jr., ed. At Home in the World: Filipinos in Global Migrations (Quezon City: Philippine Migration Research Network and Philippine Social Science Council, 2002).and Joaquin L. Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration  (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), 1998).

[5] ———, Philippine Labour Migration.


[7] For an earlier work on Filipino migrants to the Unites States see H. Brett Melendy, “Filipinos in the United States,” Pacific Historical Review University of California Press 43, no. 4 (1974).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration.

[10] Graziano Battistella, Philippine labor migration : impact and policy (Quezon City Scalabrini Migration Center, 1992).


When is multilateral diplomacy more rewarding than bilateral diplomacy?

UN Security Council Chamber in New York.

Image via Wikipedia

When is multilateral diplomacy more rewarding than bilateral diplomacy?

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

Between bilateral diplomacy and multilateral diplomacy, I believe that many diplomats would say that  bilateral diplomacy is more rewarding. For the “bilateralists”, multilateral or conference diplomacy is time-consuming and could be  frustrating.

Arguably, the benefits and impact of bilateral diplomacy are easier to measure  given that there are only two  players  with agenda items somewhat limited in scope. However, bilateral diplomacy is not a panacea. Due to the imbalance of power relations between strong and weak states, the latter may find it incapable of pushing for its national interests in  a bilateral negotiation. Thus, some issues are best addressed among various states. Some of these issues include addressing international challenges in trade relations, climate change, migration, and transnational crimes.

Multilateral diplomacy,  which takes place when there are three or more states in a conference, could address the limitations of bilateral diplomacy and, in these circumstances, is likely to be more rewarding.

A More Level Playing Field

One significant benefit of multilateral diplomacy is levelling the playing field among states with different political and economic levels. The British Foreign Secretary Canning, after returning from a series of conferences after the 1815 Treaty of Vienna, praised normal bilateral diplomacy when he said “each for himself and God for us all”. Such remarks sum up why multilateral diplomacy limits self-interested motivations of the states.

In the United Nations, the veto powers enjoyed by the five permanent members of the Security Council prevent the tyranny of the powerful by ensuring that one veto can outvote any acts  with selfish intention or when one state resort to aggression.  Thus, it could be said that multilateral diplomacy is an effective safeguard against unilateralism and hegemonic ambitions of powerful states.


In the United Nations, states can form coalitions based on geographic and regional considerations. Some examples or regional groupings includes the Africans, Latin Americans and Arabs, and European Union.  The  Group of 77 is an aggrupation  based on economic commonalities of developing countries.  These sub-groups form coalitions, cooperate, and promote their common interests that may subdue more power states. For instance, the G-77 countries  plus China called for the ending of the Doha Round of  trade talks last year.  Another example is how member countries of ASEAN are able to navigate a region which is surrounded by powerful neighbours such as China and India through the regional  body.

Venue to Address Transnational Issues and Harmonise Policies of States

Multilateral diplomacy is also more rewarding in finding and formulating solutions to global challenges which are transnational in nature.  Some of these issues include peace and security, international trade, climate change, human rights and solving transnational crimes.

Through multilateral diplomacy, states could come up with agreed norms through treaties that harmonises the foreign policy of member-states.  The League of Nations and the United Nations were created to provide a forum for nation-states to prevent war and conflict. Although the League of Nations failed, the U.N. has succeeded in minimizing the possibility of World War III.

Promotes Peace and Security

The U.N. is also involved in peace-keeping operations and  promotes  peace in conflict zones.  The U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) agenda also provides the states with a clear target and benchmarks for global elimination of poverty. In the U.N., states are able to discuss and formulate common agenda on issues such as human rights, including the rights of women and children and rights of migrant workers and their families, which may not be tabled in bilateral diplomatic exchanges.

In the Asian region, the ASEAN+3 is the only confidence-building mechanisms and venue where rival countries such as China, Japan and South Korea could sit and negotiate on issues not just related to North Korea. At the same time, the Six-party Talks, which has as its members the United States, China, Japan, South and North Koreas, is another example of the effectiveness of multilateral diplomacy in discussing and diplomatically engaging North Korea.

Representation through Candidatures

Multilateral diplomacy is also a venue for states to exert influence in the international stage through candidatures in International Organisations. For instance, countries, regardless of political or economic levels, could field their own candidates to the U.N. bodies and International Organisations.   One example is that South Korea supported the candidature of former Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon  as U.N. Secretary-General to project South Korea  as an economic model to the developing world. Likewise, the Philippines fielded the candidature of a Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary, who lost his bid as Deputy Director General of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) , aimed at projecting the Philippines as  model in managing labour migration.

Inclusivity to Non-state Actors

Lastly, multilateral diplomacy can be more inclusive and therefore more rewarding to non-state actors.  Although the primary actor of multilateral diplomacy remains primarily the state, civil society groups are recognised for their valuable role and contribution to development and may sometimes be consulted in in decision-making process.

What benefits can a well-run foreign ministry offer the government?

What benefits can a well-run foreign ministry offer the government?

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

foreign affairs cartoons, foreign affairs cartoon, foreign affairs picture, foreign affairs pictures, foreign affairs image, foreign affairs images, foreign affairs illustration, foreign affairs illustrations

Ministries of Foreign Affairs (MFAs) are government agencies tasked to lead and conduct the foreign policy and diplomacy of their states in modern diplomacy.

Due to the forces of globalisation, new information technology, increased international trade, tourism, migration and development assistance,  and natural disasters, terrorist attacks and political crisis that affect their country’s citizens,  the functions of diplomats have enlarged. Despite these challenges to foreign ministries, they remain to be at the forefront of managing foreign policy.

A critical role of MFAs is coordinating the states’ foreign policy and international activity.  To remain relevant, MFAs need to adapt to the modern challenges of diplomacy either by outsourcing some of the functional expertise to other agencies of government or to develop its own expertise.  They also need to maximise the use of available information and communications technology in running their business. In addition, MFAs also need to be responsive to its citizens overseas.

These diplomatic challenges can be addressed by well-run foreign ministries. Well-managed MFAs offer wide-ranging benefits to government for the following reasons: First, they enable the effective and efficient pursuit of national interest; second, they can lead foreign policy coordination and management for a more effective and efficient policy implementation, and third, they can provide better delivery of services and timely responses to crisis situations.

Foreign Policy Enabler

A well- managed MFA enables the state to pursue its national interests and agenda.   By having a channel of communication and representation overseas, the government can promote its national objectives.  For political and economic purposes, the MFA can provide the overarching foreign policy direction.

When the U.S. invaded Iraq, the State Department was tasked to implement its policy and was instrumental in coordinating the U.S. alliance with the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea and the Philippines, among others, in its fight against terrorism.

In the area of public diplomacy, a well-run MFA can also provide direction and implement activities such as cultural promotion, people to people exchanges, that enables the government to pursue its national objectives.

Foreign Policy Coordination

Having a well-run MFA could provide effective and efficient foreign policy coordination in the home office as well as in country’s Foreign Service posts.

In the Philippine case,  before a bilateral or multilateral negotiations take place, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) calls for a policy coordination meeting to hear and take into consideration the inputs and concerns of various agencies of government. The coordination role of the DFA is beneficial to the government in terms of harmonising the voices of various agencies into a single tune during negotiations.

In the Foreign Service post, the Philippine Ambassador leads various agencies of government under a one county team in the Embassy.  Under such condition, there is unity of command and coordinated strategic efforts in an Embassy under the leadership of the Ambassador.

Efficient and Effective Delivery of Service and Quick Response to Crisis

Lastly, a well-run MFA provides better delivery of services and immediate response to crisis situations.  In the wake of the Middle East Crisis and the Queensland earthquake this month, one can view how a well-run MFA works to the benefit of government and its citizens.

By having a well-run Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard was able to respond in a timely and effective fashion in ensuring the safety of Australians in Queensland. The Australian government was able to issue statements and communicate with the public regarding its assistance to the victims and their families.  The Australian  government was also able to convey its condolences and provided unsolicited financial assistance to New Zealand. Such gesture promotes trust and closer bilateral relations.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd was in Egypt to personally direct the evacuation of Australian citizens and members of the diplomatic corps out of Libya.  He  spoke on radio how the evacuation plan was being undertaken in a concerted fashion together with other countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

On the other hand, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) ran a story of how the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was slow in assisting the trapped nurses in the rubble in Queensland as well as in evacuating Filipino labourers in Libya.  The Philippine government said that despite its limited resources, it was trying its utmost in assisting distressed Filipinos in Libya.

In response to the mounting needs of Filipino workers  in Libya, newly appointed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, less than 48 hours after he assumed office,  personally traveled to Libya to lead the DFA team in executing the evacuation of some 440 Filipino workers  from Libya to Tunisia. The trucks picked up Filipino workers and travelled through a dangerous  desert route passing through a number of checkpoints both from pro and anti-government  armed groups.

A top diplomat cited that  “smile diplomacy” or the use of smiles and carefully worded diplomatic language,  helped the government bring out of harms way Filipinos in Libya.

The Philippine government  chartered a ship to transport around 5,000 Filipinos from the coastal city of Benghazi to Crete in Greece.

After Del Rosario returned to Manila, he defended the DFA from critics and said that: “The DFA is not without experience … We have a good working organization. We’re not saying it’s perfect, but we’re trying to do our best”.


The coordinated action of the DFA was crucial in the success of the evacuation mission.  Filipino diplomats took the lead in the evacuation plan. Embassies in Spain, Egypt, and Greece were tasked to receive the evacuees from Libya. Earlier, a similar team was dispatched to Cairo and the work of the Embassy in Egypt was critical in repatriating Filipinos back home.

Well-run MFAs are beneficial to the government in enabling them to pursue their national interest, in policy coordination and in responding to crisis and assistance to its citizens overseas.

However, governments must see to it that they provide the necessary support, attention, and resources to MFAs so that they could adapt to the challenges of its expanding role, in the use of information and communication technology, and  in their readiness to provide quality public service and  respond  to crisis situations.

Weaknesses of Traditional Definition of Diplomacy

January 24, 2011 1 comment
Cover to the third edition

Image via Wikipedia

Weaknesses of Traditional Definition of Diplomacy

by Juan E. Dayang, Jr.

Among the various arguments laid out by “nascent school” against the “traditional school” of diplomatic studies are the following: (a) erosion of the dominance of nation-state in diplomacy due to the increase in the number and activities of non-state actors in international affairs, (b)  information revolution has changed the landscape of information gathering and has added a new dimension to the role of diplomats, and (c) the primacy of the foreign ministry as a sole entity for conducting foreign relations has eroded with the importance attached to economic diplomacy and, hence, the increased role given to experts from other government agencies in the areas of environment, trade, and labour migration.[1]

Rise of Non-state Actors

The argument against the traditional notion of diplomacy is that it is outdated and does not reflect present realities. Diplomacy is not only played out by states and diplomats.  Non-state actors are able to practice “faster, cheaper, and more effective unofficial diplomacy.”[2] Traditional diplomacy does not account to the unofficial diplomacy conducted by international organizations, by humanitarian and human rights groups such as the International Red Cross, by global markets in capital, stocks and currencies, and by the collective action of associations of states such as the EU and  Asean.     Multinational corporations such as Microsoft, Philips, Sony, Mitsubishi, and General Motors intervene in international affairs to protect their investments.[3] The “democratization” of diplomacy has also made nation-states consult NGOs and citizen’s groups and even engage them in Track II diplomacy.

The Information Revolution and Media have Created a Different Setting in which Diplomats Operate

The widespread use of communication media such as the internet and mobile phone devices makes the flow of information more dynamic. Critics argue that traditional reporting lines are no longer relevant as information transfer is almost instantaneous. For instance, the Foreign Ministry can be aware of developments in one part of the country simultaneously with, or even ahead of, the diplomat stationed in an embassy.  It may be argued that the diplomat’s role in information gathering and analysis has been changed by media outlets such as the CNN and BBC which provide timely information and analysis. The diplomat is therefore tasked with a different kind of information gathering, which involves not only filtering noise from relevant information but also identifying alternative sources of information that the media might not be privy to.

Eroding Primacy of States and Foreign Ministries

Hedley Bull advocated applying the term diplomacy to the “official relations not only of states but also of other political entities with standing in world politics”.[4] With this, he meant the bodies like the UN; other international organisations such as the ILO and WTO; and regional organisations such as the EU and Asean. Bull also included non-state actors such as political groups, i.e. PLO, which is recognised as a political actor in the world stage.

Langhorne predicts the “end of the diplomatic primacy of states” and concluded that the continuing “role of both foreign ministries and overseas missions” is threatened. He argued that the “profile of heads of government and other parts of the government machine domestically” will increase.[5] For instance, experts from ministries of environment, labour, and trade are given roles in international negotiations, a role dominated by professional diplomats in the past. Foreign Service personnel are no longer confined to the traditional notion of diplomacy. A diplomat’s job, for instance, covers such issues as trade promotion, assistance to nationals in distress, and identification of potential areas for economic cooperation, among others.

to be continued…

[1] Richard Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors,” Diplomacy & Statecraft 16, no. 2 (2005).

[2] Stuart Murray, “Consolidating the Gains Made in Diplomacy Studies: A Taxonomy,” International Studies Perspectives 9(2008).

[3] See Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors.”; Brian Hocking, “Privatizing Diplomacy?,” International Studies Perspectives 5(2004).

[4] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of Order in World Politics (Macmillan, 1977).

[5] Langhorne, “The Diplomacy of Non-State Actors.”

Strengths of the Statist Definition of Diplomacy

January 22, 2011 2 comments
A mail sent out to diplomatic missions remindi...

Image via Wikipedia

Strengths of the Statist Definition of Diplomacy (Part 2)

by Juan E. Dayang, Jr.

The strengths of the state-centric approach to defining diplomacy are as follows:  (a) diplomacy between states has long historical roots, tradition, and established norms; (b) recognition of the crucial role of diplomats in gathering information, sending messages, and negotiating peace and security between states; and (3) a foundation for a legal basis through a treaty on diplomatic and consular relations.

History, Tradition and Norms

The practice of diplomacy has been recorded in ancient China and Egypt, classic Greece and during the Byzantine Empire.  Sending permanent envoys was established when Italian city-states appointed permanent ambassadors in the 15th century. Over the years, diplomatic tradition was established and became a norm, as with the “practice of permanent embassies” and the “immunity of ambassadors and the extraterritoriality of the permanent embassy.”[1] It was in the early 20th century, from 1914 to 1918, when states realized the importance of diplomacy in preventing war. The establishment of resident embassies, consulates and permanent missions overseas as well as the concomitant accreditation of diplomats as official representatives of the states in host countries is a customary norm in bilateral and multilateral relations. Diplomatic tradition and norms,[2] formed through practice and long experience by members of the diplomatic corps, remain relevant in coordinated action among states in facing the challenges of the 21st century.

Recognition of the Crucial Role of Professional Diplomats in Promoting Peace

The function of diplomats as representatives of the state and as messengers and gatherers of information is recognized universally. The role diplomats play in preventing wars and conflict between and among states is also recognised as an effective instrument for peace and confidence building.

Diplomacy gained momentum at the end of the catastrophic World Wars in the 20th century.  It has been suggested that the lack of crucial information was one of the causes of World War I when diplomacy was not yet fully in place to effectively conduct communication among states that viewed one another as actual or potential enemies.[3] After World War II, diplomacy was a vital instrument in crisis management and conflict resolution during the Cold War between the United States and the former USSR.  The conduct of international affairs was left in the hands of diplomats who were seen as capable and adept in navigating the peculiarities of the international political environment.

To this day, accredited diplomats remain as the most reliable agents of the state in achieving   foreign policy objectives through peaceful means. What makes a diplomat unique from a politician is his or her ability to see the bigger international picture and form mutually beneficial relations with key personalities and institutions in host countries.

Codified Law as Legal Basis of Diplomacy

The practice of diplomacy was recognized in the Congress of Vienna of 1815 which gave recognition to diplomats as a special class of profession. In 1961 the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations was signed. The treaty defined a framework for diplomatic relations between sovereign states and specified the privileges of a diplomatic mission. The convention, ratified by 186 countries, formed the legal basis for diplomatic immunity. Diplomats were allowed to execute their task without fear of coercion or persecution by the host country. Its provisions were considered a foundation of modern international relations.

In addition, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 is an international treaty that identified a structure for consular relations between independent countries. Under this treaty, ratified by 172 countries, consuls are accorded most of the similar privileges, including consular immunity, a variant of diplomatic immunity.[4] A consul on the whole operates out of an embassy or consulate-general in a foreign country, and performs two important functions: (1) defending in the host country the interests of their citizens, and (2) promoting the economic and commercial relations between the two countries. Although a consul is not a diplomat, they work in the same location and, in most Foreign Ministries, Foreign Service personnel and officers have a dual function as diplomats and consuls when stationed overseas. Such codification of diplomatic practice strengthens the traditional definition of diplomacy conducted by professional diplomats.[5]

………. to be continued 

[1] Holsti, Taming the Sovereigns: Institutional Change in International Politics.

[2] For a more through study on the norms and socialization of diplomats read Mai’a Keapuolani Davis Cross, “A European Epistemic Community of Diplomats,” in The Diplomatic Corps as an Institution of International Society, ed. Paul and Wiseman Sharp, Geoffrey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

[3] For more substantive account of the evolution of diplomacy read Harold Nicolson, The Evolution of Diplomatic Method (London: Cassel Publishers, 1957).

[4] Read the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular relations at “United Nations Treaty Collection,”

[5] Donna and Hudson Lee, David, “The Old and New Significance of Political Economy in Diplomacy,” Review of International Studies 30(2004).

Is ‘diplomacy’ simply ‘what diplomats do’?

January 22, 2011 2 comments
Diplomacy (book)

Image via Wikipedia

Is ‘diplomacy’ simply ‘what diplomats do’?

by Juan E. Dayang, Jr.


Diplomacy is bound to intrigue those unfamiliar with the work of diplomats.[1]

If one were to ask professional diplomats whether ‘diplomacy’ is simply ‘what ‘diplomats’ do, one would certainly get mixed replies.

For those who have worked in the Foreign Service for the last 40 years, they would probably answer in the affirmative. For instance, the author asked the feedback of a retired Ambassador.[2] Indeed, the senior diplomat affirmed that diplomacy is what diplomats alone could do and ‘ought to be doing’. He defined ‘diplomacy’ — from a priori knowledge and from his years of experience to capture the “idea” of what diplomats do.  Other matters such as “history of diplomatic practice, problems of diplomacy, significant achievements of diplomacy, etc. —are merely derivative from the basic idea”.

However, when a similar question was raised to a junior Foreign Service officer with eight years of experience in the home office and in an overseas post, he viewed his work as not being confined to traditional notions of diplomacy. [3]

This essay provides a critical analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of defining diplomacy as an instrument of the state to pursue its national interests by negotiations and through peaceful means.

First, the classic definition of diplomacy will be presented. Second, the strengths as well as the weaknesses of the argument will be analysed. And third, the essay will conclude that despite the changes in the political and socio-economic environment of world affairs, the classic definition of diplomacy centred on the dominant role of the state remains valid.

However, its apparatus – the foreign ministry and professional diplomats — need to adapt to new international realities by assessing its current practice and modes of conduct and by proactively engaging non-state actors.

Traditional Definition of Diplomacy

Diplomacy is the conduct of foreign relations by sovereign states through peaceful means.  The nation-state is the primary actor in international relations and diplomacy is an instrument of state craft.

The Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which marked the beginning of the modern system of nation-states, initiated the establishment of modern diplomacy. Writings of diplomacy by De Callieres, Satow, and Wicquefort[4] as well as those of  Nicolson, Kissinger and Berridge espouse the centrality of states in diplomacy. [5]

Berridge defines diplomacy as “official channels of communication employed by members of a system of states”[6] and “the conduct of relations between sovereign states through the medium of officials based at home and abroad, the latter being either members of their states’ diplomatic service or temporary diplomats.” [7] Nicolson defines diplomacy as “an ordered conduct of relations between one group of human beings and another group alien to themselves”.[8] Diplomacy, simply defined, is

(a) an instrument of foreign policy used to achieve goals considered to be of vital interest of the state;

(b) done through peaceful means and;

(c) accomplished by way of established diplomatic protocol and procedures represented by accredited agents.[9]











[1] Diplomacy continues to conjure images of diplomats who go overseas and live a life of privilege and accorded with respect and diplomatic immunity by the host country.

[2] Personal communication of the author with retired Ambassador Jose Lino Guerrero, 18 January 2011.

[3] Personal communication of the author with Second Secretary and Consul Arnel Talisayon, 18 January 2011.

[4] Read Sir Ernest Satow, A Guide to Diplomatic Practice (London: Longman, 1922); Francois De Callieres, The Art of Diplomacy, ed. M.A. Keens-Soper (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1983); A. De Wicquefort, The Ambassador and His Functions, trans. Jr  Digby (Centre for the Study Diplomacy, 1997).

[5] See Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1994).

[6] G.R. Berridge, Diplomacy Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001).

[7] G.R. and James Berridge, Alan, A Dictionary of Diplomacy, 2nd ed. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

[8] See  K.J.  Holsti, Taming the Sovereigns: Institutional Change in International Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

[9] See Keith and Langhorne Hamilton, Richard, The Practice of Diplomacy (London: Routledge, 1995); R.P. Barston, Modern Diplomacy (London: Longman, 1988).

Globalization and Sovereignty: a Challenge for Diplomacy?

September 29, 2010 1 comment
A major force in public international law, the...

Image via Wikipedia


by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

Globalization and the emergence of non-state actors have raised the question: Quo Vadis state sovereignty? For the past three centuries, the world as we know it has been defined by the interaction among states as primary actors which originated from the Westphalian system. Through sovereignty, states assert their supreme and exclusive authority over its territory, its freedom from any higher legal authority, and  independence from interference from other states.   The concept of sovereignty is however challenged by the rise of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), social movements, transnational business corporations, transnational terrorists, and supra-national organization. Sovereignty is also being questioned by those who espouse intervention on humanitarian grounds to protect citizens under illiberal regimes. For them, sovereignty could not be used as justification for non-interference in matters such as “crimes against humanity” which in International Law is considered as jus cogens or peremptory norms

My assessment is that sovereignty in the 21st century  remains relevant; yet it is undergoing pervasive change and persistent continuities characterized by both order and disorder. To grasp this paradox is to locate this discourse on the interactive tensions between fragmentation and integration. James Rosenau argues that the post Cold War era is an age of fragmentation and that there is a need for a new concept beyond the limiting scope of sovereignty. His argument is that the world cannot be simplified in terms of interactions of states and institutions because humans are the key actors within a state. Humans as actors are non-linear, multi-perspective, have inherent traits and are socially conditioned.  With the absence of a new conceptual framework, nation-states remain central.

The concept of sovereignty is changing pervasively.  Thomas Friedman described the world as “flat”. A world where economies are interconnected and people-to-people exchanges are no longer defined by strict boundaries.  Despite the diminishing role of the state as an exclusive authority in rule-making, it still has the capability to pool resources, restrict territorial borders, protect weak sectors in the market economy, and power to act as ‘traffic manager” to the interaction of non-state actors.  The world has also become more complex. Even in ‘melting pot’ countries, U.S. citizens have asserted their identities as Filipino-American, African-American, or as American Jews whose loyalties are divided.  Multiculturalism is also argued to weaken the state and the state’s ability to rally broad consensus and support. Internet has also made territorial boundaries porous.  Apart from globalization,  issues of morality, justice and ethics in politics and business have been raised.


Challenge to Diplomacy

Diplomats will have to contend with the diminished role of the state in shaping outcomes with the increased influence of NGOs, social movements, and transnational organizations. The world economy is interdependent and the  ‘low politics’ of economy has become a top agenda of states veering away from traditional ‘high politics’ of security. The information age has also made diplomacy virtual.   These paradigm shifts necessitate governments to adjust their ways of interaction with other relevant actors in a pluralistic world.  This does not mean total relinquishing of its diplomatic initiatives to non-state actors since this will only further diminish its authority.  New questions are raised such as:  What is the new function of diplomacy in the information age?  Should sovereignty be defended? How could diplomacy remain relevant in the information age and globalization?

Two implications could be drawn from globalization and information age. First is how can diplomacy continue to pursue foreign policy goals and second, how can diplomacy influence and assist non-state actors  in a multi-centric world.  In the new era, information is power. Diplomats could easily access information that will be useful in bilateral, regional and global negotiations. For security purposes, information and new technologies make it possible for the U.S find accurate information on countries developing nuclear weapons and avert terrorist threats. Virtual diplomacy could be used to aid diplomats in performing their duties, prevent war, and increased cooperation and coordination on various multilateral issues with other states.

On the second implication, diplomats have a role in managing and assisting non-state actors through joint cooperation and partnership. For instance, governments promoting migrants’ rights could have allies with social movements and NGOs in providing services and advocating human rights. At the same, time diplomats need to adapt its communications styles and develop expertise on specific issues.  Diplomats may work in providing opportunities for transnational corporations to increase trade and investments and build stronger ties abroad. Furthermore, international organizations and supra-national organizations are new arenas of diplomacy in influencing outcomes and creation of norms and social contracts on issue areas such as climate change, financial and trade infrastructure, and cooperation against human trafficking and other transnational crimes.

In summary, sovereignty could be described by change and continuity, order and disorder, integration and fragmentation. In a globalized world, the scope of diplomacy has been enlarged beyond the traditional state system that was constructed during the Treaty of Westphalia. The emergence of non-state actors such as NGOs, transnational corporations, supranational bodies, and transnational crimes has opened the door for other actors in shaping the world order.  Apart from globalization, there is also a rise in localization.  The growing importance of identity and culture have expanded our understanding of the way diplomacy is being practiced in a more complex and pluralistic world. Diplomacy finds its relevance in persuasion and negotiations as well as in championing the need for new social contacts that will define the new world order. States remain to be relevant as “traffic managers” in a globalized world. Transnational diplomacy remains vital in managing complexity and in achieving common interests among multi-stakeholders in a multi-centric world.  As the concept of sovereignty is changing, so does diplomacy need to adapt to these changes.

%d bloggers like this: