New Diplomacy for New Times

Written on March 21, 2011 by Diego Sánchez de la Cruz in Americas, Foreign Policy, Master in International Relations (MIR)

By Diego Sánchez de la Cruz, Master in International Relations Candidate at IE* 

Seven months ago, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez restored diplomatic ties between both countries after years of tensions. However, just months before this agreement took place, President Chávez had hinted at war in case Santos became Colombia’s new President… How was it possible that both countries engaged again in friendly relations after such bi-lateral frictions? How was President Santos able to find common ground with the same man who had called him a “mobster” and a “warlord” just weeks before?

 Most likely, it was thanks to the realist and pragmatic approach taken by President Santos that made this turnaround possible. After inviting Chávez to celebrate a meeting in Colombia, both leaders eventually came together during the summer of 2010. The individual tension between Uribe and Chávez was obviously higher, as differences had become personal, so the election of Santos helped make this reserved reconciliation possible.

 Also, Colombian authorities encouraged the creation of five separate “working tables” that would bring together experts from both countries in order to advance cooperation in areas such as trade, energy… By de-centralizing discussions through multiple channels, the bi-lateral relations were no longer defined simply by disagreements on fundamental issues such as democracy, the rule of law and the fight against terrorism.

 This joint effort is a reminder of the “détente” strategy that the Nixon Administration once favored as its approach to foreign policy. By easing the very strained bi-lateral relations between both nations, both countries are better off. Also, this agreement between Colombia and Venezuela, which is still working well today, is the best proof that, in the era of globalization and Wikileaks, diplomacy cannot be simply understood as a one-dimensional game where only one channel is considered. Different authors have pointed out the existance of different alternatives to “old school” diplomacy:

–  Track II Diplomacy. One or both countries appoint different scholars, activists or public figures as their representatives for bi-lateral working groups. Track II Diplomacy allows for complex issues to be discussed more openly, bringing up greater opportunities of agreement for both parties. The previous case with Colombia and Venezuela is a good example.

–  Shuttle Diplomacy. Henry Kissinger championed this approach in the late 60s and early 70s. In Shuttle Diplomacy, a third party serves as an intermediary among different leaders, avoiding their direct contact. This helps bring together different states or actors who may refuse to engage in a standard international negotiation. 

–  Public-Private Diplomacy. The best example of this category is one of the world’s most influential annual meetings: the World Economic Forum, which is held every year in the Davos, Switzerland. However, the WEF is not a political meeting or an economic summit: it is both things at the same time. Nelson Mandela has credited his participation in the Forum for giving him an updated view of what his economic policy for South Africa should be.

–  Facebook Diplomacy. An International NGO like GlobCal International is the best example of how social media can help push diplomacy forward in the 21st century.

 At the end of the day, while cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism are still very fragile, both Colombia and Venezuela are better off now than before this effort began. This approach to diplomacy is not a matter of realism, liberalism or constructivism: it is a matter of using smart power to push international relations forward. The options for updating our concept of diplomacy are many: it will be up to global leaders to make use of them.


A Reader March 21, 2011 - 10:05 pm

You might want to dig into your example of social media use. I don’t think GlobCal really exists except in someone’s mind. Have you looked into the organization? Can you cite any of their activities? There aren’t any. If anything, Globcal is an example of how social media can be abused to dupe people into believing that they are a part of something but really they are not.

CLAUDIA A March 9, 2012 - 6:12 pm

Diego, realmente la violencia se ha incrementado en el pais, con la famosa DIPLOMACIA, que para lo unico que sirvio es para darle mas poder a los grupos terroristas de Colombia que pasan de Venezuela a Colombia para secuestrar y matar. LAS BOMBAS Y MINAS QUIEBRA PATAS SE INCREMENTARON Y ESTAN MATANDO A LA POBLACION MAS INDEFENSA QUE SON NUESTROS CAMPESINOS..DIGAMOS LA VERDAD !

David Rockefeller April 26, 2012 - 3:07 pm

I see that peoples concepts are different as time advances. Above someone who wants to hide their identity calling themselves ‘A Reader’ rushes quick to judgement about the existence of the organization Globcal International, I assure you that they do exist despite not having a physical business location they are a group of people located in various countries, that unite and work online, there are over 2000 Globcal members (I am one of them), over 100 of them are ambassadors online and there are 1000 involved in their training program.

Its a new concept but I am sure there are others out there that exist only online and have no physical location or are registered with any authority, the simple union and collaborative efforts of a group of real people is enough to designate them as an entity. The Globcal effort promotes goodwill and the works of others, it seems that ‘A Reader’ is set on rigid challenges and spoiling the free work of caring people that help others make the world better.

Shera Frew January 11, 2016 - 8:27 am

Useful piece ! BTW , if someone are wanting to merge PDF or PNG files , my kids discovered a tool here http://goo.gl/69zLVt

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