Associate professor, PhD at the Department of Diplomatic Service and Communication of the Faculty of International Relation of YSU

Diplomats can underestimate their potential impact in contributing to the self-confidence and success of civil society. The inherent resources and assets at their disposal are potentially significant. The following are some of the resources and assets diplomats have drawn from in the support for civil society we describe in the chapter and case-studies which follow.

IMMUNITY: the unique asset of diplomatic immunity can be employed and virtually shared in ways which benefit individuals and groups pursuing democratic development goals and reforms.

Nota bene: Host countries can’t withdraw immunity, but several have expelled diplomats for alleged interference in internal affairs. The excuses are often that they had supported specific political or partisan outcomes rather than democracy development in general. Intimidation is a frequent recourse of authoritarian regimes, including against the families of diplomats.

Examples: There is an extensive record of democratic governments’ diplomats preventing punitive state violence by their mere presence at the scene.

In Kiev, in 2004, representatives of the French Embassy and the European Commission arrived at the home of the youth leader just as police were about to arrest democratic activists present. The police retreated. In Nepal, in 2005, threatened dissidents had been granted visas by resident Embassies; diplomats of asylum countries accompanied them to the airport and to departure gates to block their seizure by the authorities. […]

THE SURRPORT OF HOME AUTHORITYIES; such support from their own authorities in sending capitals provides diplomats with effective leverage, the ability to link benefits to behaviour, and in extremis, the opportunity to recommend the imposition of sanctions.

Nota bene: Diplomatic relations are reciprocal. As benefits are a two-way street, their leverage can work as much in favour of greater freedom of action for diplomats in support of civil society as it can as a weapon against them by local authorities. Diplomats can urge their own capitals to facilitate or discourage access for visiting host country officials seeking potentially advantageous business or other partners, and home-state cooperation programmes and connections. Diplomats also promote crucial support from home authorities when their own nationals come under attack abroad.

Negative leverage in the form of sanctions is a powerful tool, but it may be true that the possibility of sanctions can sometimes be a greater influence on behaviour than the finality of sanctions themselves.

Many episodes requiring the support and even intervention of diplomats develop rapidly. It is essential that officers in the field be able to respond to the requirements without worry that their actions will be second-guessed at headquarters, and their careers affected negatively. This is a powerful argument for training foreign service officers in democracy support and human rights beforehand.

But once on an assignment, multi-tasked diplomats are often stressed under the burden of the variety of reporting and representational requirements. There can be a tendency of senior managers discouraging democracy development activity in favour of more apparently immediate bureaucratic sanctions. This argues for clear and explicit corporate support from Headquarters for human rights and democracy defence as core priorities of the country programs.

Examples: The leaders of authoritarian states generally still want the status and positive exposure of international travel, not to mention business partnerships sought by industry and economic interests at home. This enables democratic Embassies to condition their support for such media, political and business contacts on moderation of anti-democratic behaviour. […]

INFLUENCE; in the new paradigm of public diplomacy, diplomats are more conscious of representing their society to the host society. The reputation of the society they project locally, its experience, values, and capacities to help, are deployable assets. The experience gained by democracies which have only recently emerged from repressive conditions has special value. The effect of public diplomacy is obviously reinforced where there is local popular respect for the sending country’s institutions, achievements and governance and for the way people live, which also adds credibility to the force of example in dialogue with local authorities on democratic development.

Examples: Countries in transition benefit from the examples of those with which they wish to strike closer relationship. The most applicable examples can often be those of countries with recent comparable experience in democratization. As a Czech Ambassador expressed his country’s interest in democracy support, "We were grateful for the help we received from the West in 1980s. So it should be a priority in our foreign policy to help.”[…] 

small amount of post funding can be precious to start-up reform groups and NGOs. While most democracy development financial support is provided through NGOs and institutions, small-grant seed money for grassroots organizations from discretely-administered and easily disbursed post funds can have swift direct positive effect.

Examples: In 2002-03, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs established its "Transformation Policy Unit and Fund” to enable Embassies to support democratization, human rights, and transition-related projects in countries with repressive regimes. Most of these projects are deliberately small to enable disbursement directly to local civil society actors without the local government’s scrutiny and involvement.[…]

SOLIDARITY is a valued asset at all phases of democratic development. NGOs and democratic reformers and activists value the solidarity of mentors with prior experience in democratic reform. Solidarity in democratic assistance programs among like-minded missions and international NGOs multiplies impact and minimizes duplication. Solidarity also enhances political messaging through witnessing trials, joint demarches on human rights and other issues, and reduces the ability of authoritarian regimes to play the commercial interests of partners off against each other.

Examples: In the transitional countries of Europe building up to and following the great changes of 1989, mentoring by successive reformers to the self-confidence and effectiveness of catalytic groups in civil society – Solidarnosc mentored Czechoslovakian and Hungarian reformers in the late 1980s; Slovakian reformers helped Croatians, Serbs, and Ukrainians in 2000-2004, the Serbian youth movement Otpor aided Pora in Ukraine in 2004. Many of these efforts were facilitated or channelled by diplomats from the countries which had undergone the earlier reforms, a pattern which has been apparent in Latin America and which now characterizes the foreign policies of many newer democracies in their relationships throughout the world.[…]

LEGITIMACY; Many democratic activists would agree with Francis Fukuyama that "in today’s world, the only serious form of legitimacy is democracy.” Diplomats can draw for support from a variety of basic international agreements. Examples include the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. These set out the international norms which diplomats of democratic countries can legitimately claim to represent. 

Repressive jurisdictions may well maintain these texts are not internationally binding and that such activities amount to interference in international sovereign matters by foreign representatives. But international norms on human rights are increasingly conditioning behaviour and limiting the number of countries which insist on the primacy of national sovereignty, in part because specially mandated regional and other transnational authorities monitor performance.

Examples: The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representatives on Human Rights, and on Torture, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights defenders in Africa, the African Union itself, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the OAS, the OSCE, the Commonwealth of Nations, and "La Francophonie” are examples of certifying bodies diplomatic representatives can point to for validation of the legitimacy of their own efforts at democracy development support. […]
2694 reads | 26.10.2013

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