Sustainable Diplomacy and Intercultural Dialogue

Led by Costas M. Constantinou

Jan 2007 – Dec 2008

Conditions for Sustainable Diplomacy

A two-day conference has been organised by PRIO Cyprus Centre at Ledra Palace, Nicosia, in December 2007 and a workshop followed at Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University in May 2008 on the theme of sustainable diplomacy. These meetings explored the terms and conditions under which sustainable forms of diplomacy are being or can be pursued, and the extent to which these forms can enhance global security, or at least minimise global insecurity. The term sustainability gained prominence in environmental debates following the Report of the Brundtland Commission in 1987, but has since acquired a more general cultural meaning. Specifically, it is used to denote long-term vision and enlightened self-interest, coming to terms with the increasing global interconnectedness and the complexity that this entails, and becoming aware of how one’s ‘neutral’ daily activities can inadvertently affect others, now or in the future.

In this project, the term sustainable diplomacy is used to refer to mediatory action that displays sensitivity to the above and to that end promotes the cooperative spirit and prolongs the duration of the diplomatic encounter, including sustained effort and experimentation in the creation of mutual interests and resolution of bilateral or global problems. The main project assumption is that the durability and non-disposability of the diplomatic process does have an overall positive impact in the pursuit of global security, as shown through case studies and specific diplomatic initiatives.

The pursuit of sustainable diplomacy should not be limited only to relationships that are conventionally designated as diplomatic. It involves the extension of diplomatic space to a variety of global relationships beyond the formal interstate ones. What needs to be discussed, in more detail, is the contribution of non-state actors in exploiting a wide range of channels, processes and institutions, unavailable or less accessible to states, thus reaching results traditional interstate practice cannot reach, especially with regard to fostering disalienation, mediation of estrangement, decolonisation, peacebuilding, solidarity, justice, etc.

Sustainable diplomacy seeks to restore a disposition of reflexive praxis, whereby the diplomat is not merely concerned with the advocacy of policy and promotion of fixed ‘national interests’ but rather, as Bruno Latour puts it, ‘imposes on the very ones who sent him [a] fundamental doubt about their own requirements’ and advises on where and how far these need to be modified. In effect, the pursuit of sustainable diplomacy opens up a debate that challenges the essentialist inside/outside binary, suggesting that diplomatic praxis is meaningless and unsustainable unless it addresses both the domestic and the foreign, both the Self and the Other at the same time. This reflexive disposition is something that is invariably argued for or shown through a variety of examples in the research of the contributors which look at the elements of diplomatic culture, post 9/11 US diplomacy, diplomatic practice within the EU, ‘paradiplomacy’ or the diplomacy of subnational actors, NGO activity in Afganistan and Aceh, the lessons of Ostopolitik, ways of dealing with North Korea and Iran, and diplomatic exclusion and alienation in Africa.

Project leaders: Costas M. Constantinou and James Der Derian

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