What can we learn from the new diplomacy?

Reading George Pascoe-Watson’s account of the changes in the Foreign Office led me to thinking about relationships and power. In summary, it seems that due to the decline of UK military might the FO is on a relational offensive to make numerous strategic partnerships to act in concert when world events require a supranational voice. So far, so good and many of us will welcome the downgrading of armed diplomacy in favour of a more consensual form. However, there is a niggle in the back of my mind and it is this: Is there still a latent British superiority that informs our approach to international relationships? If the only reason to get involved is to ‘get our way’ then perhaps we are still a bit too big for our boots. We all know that relationships can be easily manipulated by the more savvy especially when the receiver of this new attention is in awe of their new suitor. Let’s hope that the FO team are as good at listening as they are at sharing. For we in the UK have much to learn about working cross-culturally and understanding the realpolitik of emerging nations. True relationships require the hard yards of respect, time and understanding- building a platform for sharing expertise and experience. The outcomes may be very different from pre-conceived ideas but they have much more chance of being mutually beneficial than hastily-arranged diplomatic trysts. So, FO staff, do your jobs well and we will all be much the better off.


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