SUPPORT US

In The Media

In defence of diplomacy: Canada can, and must do better

Embassy
August 21, 2013

The world is beset by a host of daunting, seemingly intractable problems, ranging from climate change and environmental collapse to diminishing biodiversity and pandemic disease.  These profound threats, unlike political violence or religious extremism, afflict everyone on the planet.

Many citizens, alarmed by the declining quality of their lives, have become cynical and dismayed as the downward spiral accelerates. National governments, frequently captured by special interests or trapped in old ways of operating, have failed to act remedially.

Bereft of creative alternatives, when faced with trouble the first instinct of many decision makers has been to reach for the gun.

Since the post-9/11 advent of the Global War on Terror, in many Western countries policy has become an instrument of war. Fears have been conjured and insecurity instilled, thus undercutting support for fundamentally different approaches to the construction of world order. Right wing think tanks have reliably provided ideological grist for the defence-industrial mill. The consequences have been calamitous, not only in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, but on the home front, where privacy has been invaded, rights and freedoms circumscribed and inequality exacerbated. Society is increasingly militarized and the armed forces have become dominant national institutions.

There is, however, another way forward. That alternative proceeds from the conviction that because long-term, equitable and sustainable development has become the basis for security in the age of globalization, diplomacy must replace defence at the centre of international policy.

In other words, in an increasingly heterpolar world, security is not a martial art.

Defence is about armed force, while diplomacy is about soft power - persuasion and influence. The military is both too sharp, and too dull an instrument with which to treat the 21st century’s complex transnational issues. Hunger and poverty are not amenable to the application of hard power; they cannot be defeated by expeditionary interventions, drone strikes or special operations.

Diplomacy, however marginalized and misunderstood, warrants a closer look. Today it matters more than ever, but diplomacy is in serious disrepair. Rigid, disconnected and convention-ridden, the world’s second oldest profession is underperforming and faces a crisis of relevance and effectiveness, related mainly to its inability to change and adapt. In part as a result, diplomacy’s brand is decidedly negative, associated mainly with weakness, appeasement and caving in to power.

Like the familiar cartoon caricatures of dandies and dames in pin stripes and pearls, both the image and the archetypes are inaccurate. That said, if diplomacy is achieve its potential as a non-violent approach to the management of international relations through dialogue, negotiation and compromise, then radical reform will be required.

These observations resonate with particular clarity in Canada. With its multicultural cities and large diaspora populations, and given the importance of trade, foreign investment, immigration, travel and tourism, this country is in many respects the globalization nation.

That said, although once widely admired for innovative initiatives and internationalist activism, Canada’s diplomatic performance has in recent years been abysmal, associated now with the failure to deliver election to the UN Security Council and attracting Fossil of the Year awards. All three elements of Canada’s diplomatic ecosystem are on life support:

  • Foreign ministry. Canada has not undertaken a serious organizational reappraisal since the ill-fated separation/re-integration of the foreign and trade ministries 2004-06. Reminiscent of that disastrous exercise, last spring’s decision to merge DFAIT and CIDA was not shared with senior officials in either department until a few hours prior to its announcement. Whatever its virtues as regards the goal of policy coherence, news of the unanticipated amalgamation arrived at a time when DFAIT was still reeling under the impact of $168 million in cuts contained in the federal budget of March, 2012. This bureaucratic “double whammy” has imposed such huge managerial and administrative overheads that long-term planning has become difficult, if not impossible. A comprehensive review of DFATD’s mandate and operations, ideally geared towards the articulation of grand strategy, is essential.

  • Foreign service. The Government and the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers are embroiled in a particularly acrimonious, protracted and disruptive labour dispute. Canadian interests are suffering, especially in the business, tourism and education sectors as a result of significant delays in visa issuance. In the fiercely competitive environment, those costs will accumulate and endure. They are all the more unacceptable because the government could address the union's central issue of pay equity for a little over $3 million, which is minimal. PAFSO has launched a bad faith bargaining complaint against the employer at the Public Service Labour Relations Board, but that may take months to resolve. The legitimate grievances tabled by the foreign service should be promptly addressed and judiciously settled, either through a return to the bargaining process or recourse to unconditional and binding arbitration.

  • Diplomatic practice. From a position of international leadership a decade ago, this country is now effectively out of the game. Unprecedented control over all messaging and public communications has ended most unscripted conversations and crippled public diplomacy. Because all content must be cleared in advance by the political centre, social media tools are off-limits and even the most routine advocacy and outreach activities have been eliminated. The muzzling of public servants means that confidence, trust and respect, the bedrocks of diplomacy, are no longer in place. That situation is unsustainable and must change.

As globalized political economy with underused diplomatic capacity and even larger potential, this country has much to offer the rest of the world. 

In the name of relevance, effectiveness and the national interest, immediate action is required to restore Canada’s diplomatic ecosystem.

Educator, analyst and consultant Daryl Copeland is the author of Guerrilla Diplomacy, Senior Fellow at the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a former Canadian diplomat. Follow him on Twitter @guerrilladiplo.


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS
 
UPCOMING EVENTS


No events are scheduled at this time.


SEARCH
EXPERTS IN THE MEDIA

Global Times: BRICS summit displays the potential of a new future

by Editorial Staff (feat. Swaran Singh), WSFA 12, June 24, 2022

Oil's Dive Won't Bring Any Immediate Relief on Inflation

by Alex Longley, Elizabeth low, and Barbara Powell (feat. Amrita Sen), BNNBloomberg, June 24, 2022

China To Tout Its Governance Model At BRICS Summit

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), The Asean Post, June 23, 2022

Soutien aux victimes d’inconduites sexuelles dans l’armée

by Rude Dejardins (feat. Charlotte Duval-Lantoine), ICI Radio Canada, June 23, 2022

Defence: $4.9 billion for radars against Russian bombs

by Editorial Staff (feat. Rob Huebert), Archynews, June 23, 2022

The Hans Island “Peace” Agreement between Canada, Denmark, and Greenland

by Elin Hofverberg (feat. Natalie Loukavecha), Library of Congress, June 22, 2022

What the future holds for western Canadian oil producers

by Gabriel Friedman (feat. Kevin Birn), Beaumont News, June 22, 2022

At BRICS summit, China sets stage to tout its governance model

by Liam Gibson (feat. Stephen Nagy), Aljazeera, June 22, 2022

Crude oil price: there are no changes to the fundamentals

by Faith Maina (feat. Amrita Sen), Invezz, June 22, 2022

Few details as Liberals promise billions to upgrade North American defences

by Lee Berthiaume (feat. Andrea Charron), National Newswatch, June 20, 2022

Defence Minister Anita Anand to make announcement on continental defence

by Steven Chase (feat. Rob Huebert), The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2022

Table pancanadienne des politiques

by Alain Gravel (feat. Jean-Christophe Boucher), ICI Radio Canada, June 18, 2022

Russia Ukraine conflict

by Gloria Macarenko (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC Radio One, June 17, 2022

New privacy Bill to introduce rules for personal data, AI use

by Shaye Ganam (feat. Tom Keenan), 680 CHED, June 17, 2022


LATEST TWEETS

HEAD OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9

 

OTTAWA OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6

 

Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]
Web: cgai.ca

 

Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.

 

© 2002-2022 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001

 


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email