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State, Non State Actors in Public Diplomacy

by on April 12, 2014

State, Non State Actors in Public Diplomacy


The notion of public diplomacy has been closely associated with foreign policy, and definitions still appear unclear although the general consensus among theorists and analysts is that diplomacy has often been about state pursuit.


With globalization on the rise, the number of political players is also peaking, the friction that globalization is creating is causing these new civil society players to embark on new journeys of political, economic, religious and social journeys in the pursuit of increasing legitimacy, credibility and sovereignty in the global arena.


Bearing in mind that the topic of ‘non state actors’ and its sphere is so broad, it is best to narrow down the types of players according to popularity, legitimacy and more importantly their effectiveness in either; promoting new or restoring ideals and representing the people’s interests before international institutions.


It is the notion of democracy that has encouraged the emergence of these new actors because originally and traditionally, public diplomacy has always been carried out by states as they have the sovereign power to formulate policies. Now because of the level of freedom and the amount of acquired legitimacy that some of these organisations have, redefining the concept of ‘public diplomacy’ has to be revised as it no longer applies to one arm of the body of politics (state institutions) but the degree of their legitimacy allows them to exercise a certain amount of power. How much power is debatable but their effectiveness will certainly be analysed.


In this present day, because of the presence of these actors and their movements, those such as the ‘occupywallstreet’ ‘UK Trade unions’ and ‘those in the ‘Arab Spring’ their purpose and ongoing presence almost and constantly forces political institutions to reconsider their functions in order to remain accountable and ensure that their credibility is intact and that the confidence of the citizens is not lost. So it then becomes ‘exposure vs. reassurance; firstly, exposure by non-state actors and finally the reassurance made by ‘state actors’ and this is what public diplomacy has become today.


The existence and expansion of non-state actors seems to be transforming politics. This transformation has of course been instigated by globalization, the impact of new technologies and the increasing utilization of new communication tools via social networking, and a rise of a powerful civil society.


The idea that these actors are numerous is plausible but the question is how qualitative are their operations. Indeed they are increasing their autonomy and are beginning to create new policies and mandates. For instance the benefits that multinational corporations come with tend to be embraced by politicians since they tend to give leeway to the propositions that MNC’s make, Furthermore, some NGO’S have proven to be as effective as states as they have demonstrated their functionalities through contributions in humanitarian catastrophes. A perfect example is the Haiti earthquake of 2010; World vision, the Christian aid organisation and 4 other organisations contributed towards the rebuilding of lost and damaged shelter, the distribution of bottled water and water supplies including various other social services, tangibles & intangibles, all collectively equalling to over £1billion dollars separate from internal & external governmental agencies that were also on the support wagon to rebuild Haiti.

Furthermore, the demonstration of the adjustment of security boarders and parameters by international terrorist groups such as the AL QAEDA, AL Shabaab; a more specific and recent example being an attack on Nairobi’s premiere shopping Centre on September 21, 2013 resulting in 67 deaths. When observing the capabilities and effects of these actors mentioned above it can be assumed that in a sense they attain a certain degree of ‘Political Authority’ from their capacity to advocate human rights, setting new political, economic, social and religious agendas and finally forming new regulations in whatever sphere of Politics & International Relations, whether that be social movements, fundamental or extremist religious groups, think tanks and many more social & advocacy organizations.



It must be assumed that the state remains sovereign and holds onto majority of the power, certainly an amount of a larger degree than any inferior players in politics could attain. In most cases this cannot be altered and in theory shouldn’t. However, these non-state actors that are operating in conjunction with states have and are constantly introducing new kinds of diplomatic relations and functions and therefore different approaches should be taken to accommodate the varying natures of the political scenarios that will arise in the near enough future as they sometimes offer insight and expertise that enable them to surpass the capabilities of states. Whether they will become as powerful as states is highly unlikely unless of course they receive a greater level of autonomy, political authority and most certainly economic and or military might which in this post-cold war era is merely impossible.




JAMES PAMMENT, NEW PUBLIC DIPLOMACY IN THE 21st CENTURY (A comparative study of policy & practice) 2013


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