Current Volume: 15
Issue 1-2: Ministries of Foreign Affairs: Institutional Responses to Complexity Diplomacy
Special issue edited by Christian LequesneIssue 1-2 at Brill.com
The scholar who attends international conferences and reads regular publications on diplomatic studies and foreign policy analysis is confronted with one indisputable observation: If plenty of new academic research on contemporary diplomatic practices has emerged, few of those studies paradoxically focus on the comparative role of ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs). Thus, providing academic material to students on MFAs requires using chapters published in general textbooks; monographs based on single-country case studies; practitioners’ accounts, which can be rather descriptive; and, finally, research published more than fifteen years ago. The goal of this special issue is to fill this gap in the literature by devoting a complete journal issue to the contemporary role of MFAs in diplomacy. The special issue is built on three components: original research articles, theoretical accounts and practitioners’ accounts. Making a distinction between the three types of contributions is a clear choice to clarify who is speaking from where.
The aim of this study is to contribute to a deeper understanding of the gendered condi- tions under which diplomats network. We still have limited knowledge of how female diplomats network when serving abroad in strongly male-dominated contexts. To what extent do they experience token tendencies (visibility, assimilation and contrast) and how are these tendencies perceived to affect their access to important contacts? Based on 28 interviews with diplomats and civil servants from the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA), this study compares how female and male diplomats are expected and perceived to network. The results indicate that the greater visibility of female diplomats makes them assimilate to a stereotypical gender role that closely resembles that of diplomatic wives. Women thus legitimise their presence in the MFA and make it less intrusive. Still, they experience contrast in silent resistance and con- stant reminders of their presence in a gender-inappropriate profession.
Christian Lequesne, Gabriel Castillo, Minda Holm, Walid Jumblatt Abdullah, Halvard Leira, Kamna Tiwary and Reuben Wong
Diversity and its management have become an issue in all organisations. Ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) do not escape the issue. In the 2000s, states decided to consider more ethnic diversity in the recruitment of their diplomats. In some countries, this new goal requires affirmative action programs. This article is based on three case studies. The first case study analyses two Western countries — France and Norway — where MFAs have to reflect the diversity of immigration in their societies. The second case study analyses the case of Brazil, a country where the legacy of slavery still causes discrimination in the recruitment of diplomats. The third case study analyses ethnic diversity in the MFAs of India and Singapore, which recognise multiculturalism or multiracialism. The study draws five comparative conclusions to generalise on why MFAs in the world cannot escape the challenge of ethnic diversity in their recruitment policy.
Ilan Manor and Rhys Crilley
The proliferation of social media has had a profound impact on the practice of diplomacy; diplomats can bypass the press and communicate their messages directly to online audiences. Subsequently, ministries of foreign affairs (MFAS) are now mediatised; they produce media content, circulate content through social media and adopt media logics in their daily operations. Through a case study of the Israeli MFA during the 2014 Gaza War, this article explores the mediatisation of MFAS. It does so by analysing how the Israeli MFA crafted frames through which online audiences could understand the war and demonstrates that these frames evolved as the conflict unfolded. It then draws attention to the important way in which MFAS are now media actors through a statistical analysis, which demonstrates that the use of images in tweets increased engagement with the Israeli MFA’s frames. Finally, the article illustrates how these frames were used to legitimize Israel’s actions, and delegitimise those of Hamas.
This article uses digital research methods to explore the use of Facebook by ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) in several Asian locations. It contextualises this analysis by considering four factors that contribute to the growing complexity confronting public diplomacy: environmental factors (digitalised, networked media); institutional factors (diplomatic norms and traditions, and MFAs’ policies and practices); algorithmic factors (the programming that organises social media content); audience factors (social media users). The analysis shows most Facebook content posted by MFAs is driven by institutional factors. Yet this content is not the most appealing to digital publics, who are more likely to engage with content they find relevant and useful, or emotionally resonant. The article concludes that Facebook, and digital media generally, can provide multiple small opportunities for outreach, if due consideration is given to audiences’ needs and motivations. These audience factors may be the most important, but least considered, by MFAs.
Kim B. Olsen
Tasked with the implementation of complex geoeconomic instruments such as trade and investment regulations, targeted economic assistance and sanctions regimes, European ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) are increasingly exposed to a field introduced as geoeconomic diplomacy. This article argues that traditional literature on states’ strategic use of economic power has underestimated how MFAs of liberal and tightly integrated market economies are challenged in their abilities to realise geoeconomic objectives. Mitigating such challenges requires diplomats to engage extensively with multiple domestic state and non-state actors relevant to the state-market nexus. Through a comparative case study of France and Germany, the article demonstrates how major European MFAs have recently streamlined their organisational approaches to the geoeconomic field in various ways, and analyses how French and German diplomats were bound to manage multifaceted, yet different, domestic agency relations in their quests to successfully implement the European Union’s sanctions regime against Russia in 2014-2016.
This short provocation argues for a diplomacy studies that is less focused on the rationality of states, with the ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) as an imagined black box in which calculation occurs, and more on the idea of ‘external’ agency as the emergent effect from a range of elements within and without the state. To illustrate this idea, the essay sketches out an example of foreign policy made in the absence of an MFA entirely: Gibraltar’s 2019 intervention in the Grace 1 controversy.
Diplomacy is defined as implementation of foreign policy through communication, and the ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) is the chief implementer and communicator. This article challenges the conventional definition and argues that diplomacy is relational practice in the first place. The anchoring practice of diplomacy is to make, manage and build up relations. The MFA, therefore, is the pivotal relator who, to maintain a cooperative relationship, needs to follow two principles, both inspired by ancient Chinese philosophical thinking. The first is ‘the Confucian improvement’, meaning that improvement of self-interest is possible if and only if other-interest is simultaneously improved, and the second, ‘the Mencian optimality’, holding that self-interest is best realised if and only if a community maintains optimally harmonious relations among its members. The MFA is a good implementer and communicator only if it is able to manage well complex relations in international society.
This essay argues that the work of ministries of foreign affairs (MFAs) centres on three modes of articulation; namely, intersubjective, practical and material articulations. However, much research in diplomatic studies has yet to come to terms with the specific ways in which these modes of articulation coalesce to produce a distinctive foreign policy. I suggest that a field theory account of MFAs offers a reliable set of tools that enables us to understand how a foreign policy takes shape, the dynamics that sustain it and the circumstances under which it is likely to change. Because a field’s existence is often derived from its relational consequences, the essay clarifies the link between a field and its effects, using the concept of ‘affordance’. In this sense, theorising MFAs connects a philosophy of action — which focuses on the field theory’s concepts — and a philosophy of science — which emphasises relations within and between different modes of articulation.
Casper Klynge, Mikael Ekman and Nikolaj Juncher Waedegaard
As a small, open, advanced economy, Denmark has a lot at stake in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, the speed of emerging technologies and massive influence of multinational tech companies challenge traditional governance structures and diplomatic services around the world, creating a ‘diplomatic deficit’. That is why Denmark became the first country to appoint a Tech Ambassador and elevate technological trends to a foreign and security policy priority in mid-2017. This practitioner’s piece lays out the underlying reasoning behind engaging with the tech industry, the first-hand experiences from the initiative and some hard-won lessons before turning to the future perspectives. TechPlomacy is a political initiative with a global mandate to represent the Danish government vis-à-vis the tech industry with offices in Copenhagen, Silicon Valley and Beijing. The authors argue for new forms of coalition building engaging industry, governments and institutions in addressing the opportunities and risks of technology.
All branches of modern governments struggle to adapt to social and political changes today, in an age when such changes follow each other with speed, and change the very fabric of society. Foreign ministries are doubly challenged as they not only are confronted with the changes of their domestic environment, but they also have to navigate the international arena which is another stage of frequent upheavals. As a consequence, the German Federal Foreign Office has ventured on a path of continuing reforms that have led to new structures in the organisation, human resources management and the use of new technologies. Compared to former ages, the German foreign ministry has turned into a complex, multifaceted bureaucratic apparatus with fluid borderlines, recognisably more of the same nature as German society as a whole.
Publication date: 25 March 2020