60. Information technology in diplomacy

10 May

Information technology in diplomacy

1. Technological advances have in recent times have led to dramatic changes in communication in the area of international relations. Clearly, current diplomacy is now re-sized to allow for the application of essential and effective tools, such as those provided by the information technology.

2. The exercise of “conventional” diplomacy through electronic means is called “digital diplomacy” (or “e-diplomacy”). The UK and the USA are leaders in this field; the former has a “Digital Diplomacy Department” in its Foreign Office while the latter has an “e-Diplomacy Office” in the State Department.

3. Digital diplomacy must be understood and embraced as a tool of communication and information relevant to the foreign service. However, it has to be regularly and comprehensively updated in tune with new technologies and also with the needs of the foreign service itself.

4. Exchanges of information between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions are normally conducted increasingly by email. However, email communication has issues that require special privacy and can also be easily breached by unauthorised persons.

5. The electronic media significantly affect not only the presentations themselves, but also in the way information is archived, allowing quick and efficient classification and also facilitating rapid and consistent access. Above all, these media today are essential to the effectiveness of monitoring and rapid reporting.

6. This electronic form of communication and also the information provided through it has its own risks. Therefore it is essential to implement a security system for the purpose of having the effective confidentiality in the information provided or required and also to ensure that it could be stored securely.

7. It is worthy to note that the violation of the confidentiality of the electronic information can lead to criminalisation since it is regarded as a breach of national or international law or both.

8. As part of the implementation and development of electronic media, the foreign ministries (as well as embassies and consulates) have established modern internet portals (websites) that maintain a constant flow of up-to-date information targeted to their own officials and foreign nationals, and to promote trade and tourism, among others.

9. “Intranet” systems (particular link between computers) allow, among other benefits, a comprehensive and effective communication between the Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions in their country. Such initiatives are often framed in the “e-government projects” and the modernisation programmes of the foreign ministries.

10. “Instant media” have a significant role in this area, especially the “chats” and social media networks like Facebook, Skype and Twitter, which are used both by the foreign ministries to disseminate and receive data. Through these means, “virtual” communication can coordinate activities that once could only be made by physical time-consuming means.

11. Despite the persuasive impact of new media, they cannot be expected to replace private negotiations and personal exchanges. It is impossible to conclude agreements on a large scale through electronic chat rooms or in video conferences. Nevertheless, such agreements would be unsustainable without the aid, understanding and support of a changed world interconnected and empowered by information technology.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama


59. Arbitration and diplomatic protection of investment

10 May

Arbitration and diplomatic protection of investment

1. In the field of international business, private investment abroad has historically enjoyed the diplomatic protection of the State of its nationality. However, today it is considered that such protection does not provide foreign investors sufficient legal guarantees especially when they operate in countries with little legal or political stability or both.

2. However, diplomatic protection remains an essential instrument for the international protection of the individual, essentially in the field of human rights.

3. It is common for companies located abroad, when circumstances so warrant, to seek the protection (or assistance) of the diplomatic and consular missions of the country of origin of the company, or its owners, with regard to investment in the host nation. It should be noted, however, that there generally exist many treaties in this field incorporating direct methods of arbitration that a foreign company or investor can “trigger,” when the circumstances require, against the respective host State. But such treaties may also contain clauses that prevent resort to diplomatic protection.

4. In addition, it must be taken into account that the signatory states of the WTO and free trade agreements can go to arbitration based on procedures they establish. Another mechanism used for settling such disputes is that of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

5. The requirements for the implementation of international action of diplomatic protection are:

a)      Establishment of “the criterion of effective nationality.” A State cannot protect its national if it the national is guilty of wrongdoing. However, a State can make statements on behalf of companies holding the nationality of the applicant.

b)      No action of a State shall be admissible if the individual has not previously exhausted all remedies provided by the laws of the State concerned.

c)      An act that harms the compatriot should be unlawful in relation to international law (denial of justice, unjustified delay in its administration, or judgment against the law). Furthermore, another condition is the “right conduct” (“clean hands”) by the compatriot, i.e., the compatriot has not caused by his own behaviour the alleged damage.

6. With regard to commercial arbitration, it is evident that with rising frequency it is gaining ground as a flexible, fast, reliable and effective resolution of commercial disputes. Progress is evident in this field, especially in the Americas, where arbitration features within the constitution of several countries, through the incorporation of universal and regional treaties relating to arbitration and by the adoption of new laws or reform of existing laws that govern them.

7. This evolutionary process has been instrumental to the point that virtually all Latin American countries have conducted or have gone to international arbitration.

8. The major legal barriers that have traditionally prevented arbitration from becoming the most effective to resolve international commercial disputes in Latin America have now been suppressed. The process has finally found a solution consonant with the legal bodies of countries around the world, especially those most familiar with the practice of this effective dispute settlement procedure.


Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

58. Challenges to diplomatic representation

15 Apr

Challenges to diplomatic representation

 1. The international prestige of the country depends increasingly on the coherence of its foreign policy and the proper attitude of its officials in the foreign service, particularly their loyalty and their ability and talent to safeguard and promote the interests of their nation.

2. It is clear that a thorough knowledge of international relations coupled with prudence and consistency also generates authority and the necessary strength to defend the interests of the state itself.

3. The new international calls for a multidisciplinary approach to address contemporary challenges where coordination problems require diplomacy and strategy underpinned by internal consensus. An effective diplomacy requires clear and precise goals, in addition to the skilful use of modern means of communication and objective perception of the current international issues.

4. The State, by the same sense of responsibility, consonant with the public trust given to it by its citizens, should be represented abroad by its “more worthy” citizens who also are required to have proper training and experience in diplomacy, and also skills essential to ensure effective management.

5. Thus, a State can project an adequate and reliable image by effectively facilitating the understanding of the idiosyncrasies, culture and levels of social development of its nationals, essential for obtaining certain foreign policy objectives in the current era of knowledge and global information.

6. Aptly, the efforts of the economic thrust and trade today form an essential part of the diplomatic activity of a considerable number of countries, especially regarding trade promotion, to channel foreign investment into the country and also to provide protection and assistance of their nationals abroad in these fields.

7. In practical terms, to perform his tasks properly, the head of a diplomatic mission should be properly informed about the state of relations between the State he represents and the receiving State (or international organisation), and the results his State intends to derive from such relationships as a whole. Regarding specific issues, the mission must at least be provided with the general instructions that will guide all its actions in each particular case.

8. A streamlined foreign policy must be implemented with a highly professional foreign service accustomed to working with a consistent sense, and in accordance with strategic guidelines set out by the government. Those persons working in the foreign service must continue to develop themselves professionally and must inculcate qualities of discipline, order and persistence.

9. The safeguarding and promoting the interests of the country abroad and also its international image and prestige are delegated responsibilities of the foreign service. Without a duly established professional diplomacy, the diplomatic staff of a foreign mission tends to be an unpredictable diversity, with obvious consequences. These include the limited ability to effectively take advantage of opportunities and to adequately address the risks posed by the new international environment.

10. Modern diplomacy must keep in mind that mankind lives in the third wave, advocated by Alvin Toffler, in which the future is built from the resources of knowledge, human intelligence and technology.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

57. Diplomatic assistance and protection

4 Apr

Diplomatic assistance and protection

1. In contemporary international relations, actions that most often challenge diplomatic and consular representatives are undoubtedly those that relate to the protection function. These are particularly with respect the responsibility to care and protect their nationals residing temporarily or permanently in the receiving State, as established by international legal instruments and domestic legislation.

2. The protection function of diplomatic representatives includes the responsibility to safeguard, promote and protect the interests and rights of the State they represent.

3. Significantly, the interests of a State must not to be confused with those of its nationals. Part of the obligations of the ambassador is to ensure respect for the dignity of the country he represents and this takes precedence over those of its nationals, whether individuals or businesses. Thus, no State may be obliged to defend the interests of an individual or a community to the detriment of the interests of the country as a whole.

4. Protection is recorded as a vital role in the diplomatic mission in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Such protection is exercised both in the defence of the sending State and of its nationals, and also of the ships and aircraft flying the flag of the sending State.

5. A diplomatic mission may also protect the interests of those States and their nationals, ships and aircraft, for which the sending State has assumed international representation in the receiving State, as specified in the aforementioned Vienna Convention.

6. Historically, non-nationals were extended protection by certain diplomatic missions when in the receiving State there was no diplomatic representation of their State or of their nationality.

7. As a diplomatic function, the exercise of protection by the respective State means that is usually done by a permanent diplomatic mission, but also by special missions or through direct diplomacy with the appropriate authorities. The protection would be excluded as a diplomatic role when performed by other means with various possible international authorities, either from its inception, as well as a continuation of a first performance started by a diplomatic mission.

8. Consular protection, as reflected in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, is not limited only to extreme cases. It covers a variety of services offered to compatriots, such as the tasks of guidance, providing information and making representations to local authorities.

9. For the implementation of international action to protection nationals the action in the receiving State that harms the fellow countrymen should be unlawful in relation to international law, such as denial of justice, undue delay in its administration, or sentence against the law.

10. In addition, there should be established “the standard of effective nationality,” that is, there must be a genuine relationship between the individual and the State concerned. A State cannot protect one of its nationals if the person also has the nationality of the State in which he/she is guilty of wrongdoing.

11. A State through it diplomatic mission may also make statements or representations on behalf of companies registered in the said State of if the owners are its nationals.  Any exercise of protection will be acceptable if prior to the particular claim the companies have not exhausted all remedies offered by the law of the State against which a particular claim is filed.

12. A diplomatic representative can visit imprisoned nationals and may ensure their proper legal defence or request clarification from the local authorities, within the limits permitted by international law.

13. Legal protection is part of the international responsibility of States. International law establishes three forms of reparation for the national upon being cleared of all instituted charges. These are: restitution, compensation and satisfaction.

14. Obviously, a State cannot protect its nationals against the application of the law of another State if this application is made under equal conditions for all inhabitants of that country.

15. It is important to note that because of the complexity and importance, improvisations and mistakes that may occur during the protection exercise, unpredictable damage and other consequences may result to the detriment of relations between the concerned States.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

56. The Charge d’Affaires

22 Mar

The Charge d’Affaires

1. In the absence of a head of mission from the country of post, the mission appoints a charge d’affaires, a term used for preserving the tradition of using French for certain aspects of diplomacy.

2. In the field of diplomatic law there are two categories of charge d’affaires. These are the “ad hoc” and the “ad interim (a.i)”

3. The charge d’affaires ad hoc is a “permanent” head of mission unlike the charge d’affaires ad interim who, obviously, is a “temporary” head of mission.

4. A charge d’affaires ad hoc is appointed when the sending State desires to maintain a mission lower in category than a normal embassy for an extended period either for political reasons or protocol. This official is accredited by a letter signed by the Foreign Minister of the sending country to be delivered in a simple ceremony by the official to the Foreign Minister of the receiving State for accreditation. However, before the official travels to the receiving State, the sending State must first obtain the agrément from the former.

5. The diplomatic mission accredits a charge d’affaires a.i. temporarily in the receiving State or international organisation by sending a diplomatic note to the Foreign Ministry of the receiving State (or to the executive head of the international organisation). Due to the principle “non potest legatus delegare,” the charge d’affaires a.i. cannot transfer the position to another official in the mission.

6. On the return of the ambassador, the position of charge d’affaires a.i.is terminated, and the usual practice is for the mission to send a diplomatic note to the Foreign Ministry of the receiving State informing of the ambassador’s presence at post.

7. The charge d’affaires a.i. is a member of the diplomatic staff of the mission who occupies the position of head of the Mission during the ambassador’s temporary absence, whether for vacation or official travel, or in the period between the final departure of the ambassador and the presentation of credentials of his successor. In certain cases, a charge d’affaires a.i. may also be appointed when the ambassador is absent for a lengthy period due to illness, even though he is not away from the host State.

8. This type of charge d’affaires, despite its interim nature, may perform functions for long periods, especially when the sending State has “called home” the ambassador for an undetermined period (to express displeasure or because of significant disagreement with the receiving State) among other reasons.

9. For countries with a rigorous diplomatic service, the position of charge d’affaires a.i. is usually performed by the official of the Mission holding the rank just below the level of ambassador, by the career official with the highest ranking in the mission. However, there have been cases of governments appointing “politically loyal” officials in missions to such positions even though they might not have held the highest ranking.

10. A military attaché is not usually appointed to the position as charge d’affaires a.i.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

55. External Action of the State

6 Mar

External Action of the State

1. Progress and effectiveness in the rules and procedures applied in the external action of the State have been the result of an ongoing evolutionary process in the field of international relations.

2. Its principles represent the accumulated experience of successive generations of notable writers and eminent foreign policy implementers (professional diplomats) who have managed to demonstrate the advantages of consensus versus confrontation in preserving and promoting national interests as they implement the foreign policy of their country.

3. What differentiates diplomacy from other forms of external action is the use of negotiation and other peaceful means as opposed to the use of force as an instrument of foreign policy.

4. The emergence of open diplomacy, breaking the “myth of state secrets,” has created a scenario that allows the participation of various factors that influence the formulation and monitoring of the actions of the foreign policy, such as the public and the media. The latter now have an essential role in the “new” practice of public diplomacy. No doubt, enlightened and convinced public opinion can help to strengthen the State’s foreign policy and its diplomatic skills.

5. The international projection of a country is determined, inter alia, by the quality of its diplomacy, the proper selection of representatives abroad and the strengthening and professionalization of the officials in the foreign service (and the Foreign Ministry).

6. Effective diplomatic representation requires special qualities such as being a genuine representative of the country by being faithfully committed to defending the fundamental interests of the nation. The representation is also required to be equipped with the vocation of service which shall provide, as appropriate, adequate protection of nationals abroad.

7. Most importantly, it must be properly trained to carry out negotiations (at various levels) and, equally essential, to promote and develop of economic, trade, cultural and scientific relations. It must also have the skills for monitoring and reporting within the limits permitted by international law.

8. In assuming responsibility in a foreign post, a diplomat is required to follow the faithful observance of principles, rules and procedures that provide consistency and respectability in conducting his activities. This will assist in consolidating affinities, overcoming differences and encouraging cooperation.

9. The duties of the head of a diplomatic mission include the establishment of management controls that are intended to ensure that officials under his charge faithfully discharge their responsibilities. He may be required to produce annual management plans which should clearly define the objectives and actions as well as programmes on every aspect of their responsibility and jurisdiction. These will allow both the Mission and Foreign Ministry to coordinate easily with each other with respect to the former’s programme.

10. Effective diplomacy requires clear and precise goals and adequate perception of the current international context as well as consistent knowledge of the interests of the nation and how to comply effectively with the obligation to safeguard and promote them.

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama

54. Challenges of today’s diplomatic language

20 Feb

Challenges of today’s diplomatic language

1. Diplomacy is an instrument of performance in promoting the foreign policy of the State. It is an activity whose efficacy, since ancient times, has required an intelligent, thorough and timely action on the part of the diplomatic agents.

2. In no way diplomacy could be a simple free exchange of friendly words and procedures. Much more than that, it is essentially the application of intelligence and tact to the conduct of relations among States. Consequently, the diplomat must be an effective negotiator and, according to contemporary requirements, an effective commercial developer, among other functions inherent in his responsibilities.

3. Unlike other communication systems, the network of diplomacy by its nature cannot be neutral in the service of the respective interests, skills and even occasional rivalries. In this context, it is clear that a genuine representative of a State, acting professionally, cannot compromise in any way on the very existence of his nation.

4. In practical terms, effective diplomatic communication involves interpretation of messages and words, and even of the “signs” and gestures. The diplomat has to be able to understand the meaning of the interruption of communication, silence and withdrawal of the other party in a discussion, and even the exaggeration of his compliments.

5. The so-called “professional language of diplomacy” is basically a cautious form of expression that gives the opportunity for the diplomat to remain calm and unruffled when that proceeding is in the interest of his State. This language has proved to be the only tool that allows, through cautious gradations, a properly formulated serious warning to his counterparts without using unnecessary threatening words.

6. An agreed “diplomatic style” of communication is used in oral and written presentations of that character. For centuries, in a gradual process, the exercise professional diplomacy has been creating expressions, idioms and literary terms required to interact properly, not only in the diplomatic task, but also in diverse international settings.

7. There is always the need for tact in the execution of diplomacy by using a number of conventional phrases in diplomatic communication. Thus, when a president, a foreign minister or head of diplomatic mission informs another that his government “cannot remain indifferent” to certain international controversy, it is clear he means that his government will intervene in that dispute. If his letter or speech uses phrases such as “the government of my country is disturbed,” or “view with grave concern,” then it is obvious that the government he represents intends to take an aggressive stance in that particular case.

8. By cautious gradations, the diplomat can properly make an important caveat in speaking with a representative of another State on very serious security matters. There are even times when he can raise his voice without being impolite and non-conciliatory. If he says, “My government would be inclined to carefully reconsider its position,” this means that friendship is about to break. When he says “the government of my country feels obliged to express reservations with respect to . . .” a particular situation, he actually means that “the government of his country will not allow” that situation to continue.

9. The expression “in that case my government will be forced to consider its own interests” or “to declare itself free of commitments” means that the other side must expect a deterioration in the relationship. If a foreign government is put on notice that a certain action on its part would be considered “as an unfriendly act,” that government must interpret the words as an unspoken threat to action, a fact recognized by the international community. In that sense, when a government says it “is compelled to decline all responsibility for the consequences,” this means it is about to cause an incident that will lead to action of enforcement. And if a government asks, in terms of the most exquisite politeness, for an answer, for example, “before noon on the tenth day,” its communication is then considered an ultimatum.

10. There is no doubt that diplomatic language is correct and successful when used carefully and selectively. If this procedure is neglected, it can aggravate and even generate new levels of “unforeseeable consequences.”

Editor’s Note: Credits to Amb. Manuel Morales Lama