32. Diplomatic responsibility of information gathering

24 May

Diplomatic responsibility of information gathering

1. In the field of international relations one of the first obligations of those responsible for external actions of States is to have efficient and appropriate mechanisms in order to be informed so as to produce timely reports. In this context, the diplomatic missions can be considered privileged and protected observation posts established under the relevant international legal instruments.

2. An essential role of the diplomatic mission is the responsibility to obtain as much information conveniently available in both host States and in international bodies. This enables the sending State to act with full knowledge on the initiatives and negotiation strategies of other governments. The professionalization of this work includes the systematisation of the information provided electronically, ensuring their ready availability and classification, analysis, updating and improvement.

3. In the search for information, diplomacy can collide with the secrecy surrounding certain matters of state and also with sometimes with the desire to influence people’s behaviour through persuasion. The diplomat usually pays special attention to properly and objectively interpret the “signals” under observation, especially those that concern the interests or somehow threaten the State he represents.

4. A diplomat should avoid distorting the truth since he does not want to run the risk of diplomats from other States doubting his word. Even though “lying” may be well organised and the diplomat can always issue a “denial,” his credibility and respectability will be questioned.

5. The diplomatic role of monitoring and reporting was established by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Such monitoring and reporting should be centred on the host State’s economic reality, politics (internal and external), social, scientific, technological and cultural development, and on other relevant events occurred in that State, including administrative and legislative reforms.

6. The nature of such management requires that information is properly verified in terms of content and the sources of information, before being forwarded to the Foreign Ministry. With regard to the confidential information, it is essential to have specific and autonomous systems to channel it properly. These include encrypted transmissions, couriers and diplomatic bags, as stated in the Vienna Convention.

7. With regard to information gathering, the exercise in the era of “secret diplomacy” in the past was very different from today. Diplomatic missions were regarded as centres of espionage and intrigue. This is confirmed by the fact that in 1653 the England passed a law forbidding Members of Parliament to speak with foreign diplomats, and its breach was punished with the loss of his seat. At that time the international goals of the States were not like today; the limits allowed by later established international conventions now govern their excesses and empower the international community to act accordingly, within the framework of rights and duties of States.

8. Although these actions are proscribed in the course of the current open diplomacy, recent history has recorded cases of diplomats (and international civil servants) declared “persona non grata.” This is one of the defence mechanisms applied by States and justified by accusations of espionage and also of interference in the internal politics of the receiving State. Host States have also applied this measure against diplomats who have used their privileged status to commit acts deemed illegal and whose personal and public behaviour and professional conduct conflict with the rules of international coexistence.

 © by Odeen Ishmael

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