Persuasion, the essence of diplomacy

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Kurbalija, Jovan
Meerts, Paul
Vella, George
Kappeler, Dietrich
Liebich, Andre
Scott, Biljana
Jazbec, Milan
Matteucci, Aldo
Rana, Kishan S.
Camilleri, Victor
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DiploFoundation; Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies
This book starts with Prof. Kappeler’s explanation of why persuasion is the essence of diplomacy. In the keynote text, Dr George Vella, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta, argues that persuasion is central not only to diplomacy but also to society in general. He highlights three aspects of persuasion. First is the high importance of trust for persuasion: trust creates the context in which persuasion can be used. Second is the relevance of persuasion for small states: while for major powers persuasion could be an option, for small states it is the main, very often the only, tool they can use in international affairs. Third, Dr Vella stresses the limits of computers in persuasion. Persuasion is one of the areas of human activity where, in spite of technology, the direct input of people will remain essential. The book is then organised in four main sections: persuasion in history, persuasion in theory, persuasion in practice, and interviews with practitioners of diplomacy. Persuasion in history - Dr Paul Meerts discusses persuasion in the context of the Vienna Congress (1814–1815), one of the most successful diplomatic events in history. The Vienna Congress created long-lasting peace and set the basic rules of multilateral diplomacy and protocol. Dr Meerts’s paper focuses on how the Vienna Congress addressed one of the main challenges of any negotiations: the more actors you have around the table, the less effective those negotiations are. The Congress created a delicate balance between inclusion and exclusion. It was inclusive inasmuch that all players at the time were invited to Vienna, but it was exclusive as actors had different roles divided in circles and committees. The core circle included the five great powers (France, Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain). Other circles gradually expanded, to the outermost circle, which had close to 200 representatives including dukes and other local rulers. Committees focused on specific issues and were open to all players. For those who were not present at the negotiating table, a space for persuasion was created in the lively Viennese social life. The question of exclusion/inclusion remains as relevant today as it was two centuries ago. Legitimacy can be achieved only through inclusion of not only of 193 UN member states, but also of other increasingly relevant stakeholders. At the same time, efficient negotiations can include a limited number of actors; according to our research and simulations, say, 12–15 as a maximum. Some attempts to address this ‘efficiency’ problem through various Gs (G8, G20) are criticised for their exclusivity and lack of legitimacy. Global policy-making is searching for the winning participatory formula. Can e-participation address this eternal dilemma of diplomacy and achieve both inclusion and efficiency? Professor Andre Liebich approaches the potential and limits of persuasion through the analysis of the use of coercion in political life. Two concepts – persuasion and coercion – are usually seen in binary way (as Dr Vella indicates in his article ‘persuaion is winning over by argument; coercion is subjecting by compulsion’). Prof. Liebich situates this interplay between coercion and persuasion in the analysis of how China and the Soviet Union reacted to the need for transition. He starts with two events in 1989: Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall. China used force; the Soviet Union did not. He focuses on Gorbachev’s role in these events by relying on views of two classic authors (Vilfredo Pareto and Niccolò Machiavelli) on coercion and political methods, including persuasion. Prof. Liebich’s contribution provides an analysis of the interplay between coercion and persuasion by following Gorbachev’s blended approach of not using force (Berlin) and using it (Vilnius and Baku). From a distance of 20 years, this article provides a realistic, evidence-based reflection on coercion and persuasion. Persuasion in theory - Dr Biljana Scott’s article on framing an argument introduces the linguistic and rhetoric aspects of persuasion. The way in which we frame an issue largely determines how that issue will be understood and acted upon. By dissecting Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech of December 2010, Dr Scott illustrates the main techniques for framing an argument. ‘This speech can be seen as epitomising the exercise of framing, given the implausible task of using a peace prize as a venue in which to advocate war.’ Dr Scott’s analysis of Obama’s speech starts with the use of logic in the framing of the argument, followed by the importance of storytelling, and concludes with the interplay between reason and emotion. Dr Milan Jazbec, a practitioner and researcher in diplomacy, positions a discussion on persuasion in the sociology of diplomacy. Social context determines both diplomacy and persuasion. Dr Jazbec makes a distinction between pressure and persuasion. In a rather counter-intuitive view to dominant discourse, he argues that genuine persuasion cannot be public. As soon as it becomes public, it immediately becomes pressure. Effective persuasion requires a certain level of secrecy in order to create an open, trusting, and reliable atmosphere among negotiators. Persuasion is much more effective when actors do not have to play to the gallery back home (high publicity) but instead concentrate on the interlocutor on the other side of the table. Dr Jazbec concludes that high interdependence in the Internet era creates a context which makes more space for diplomacy and persuasion than the use of force. At the same time, the high relevance of pressure for transparency and openness in modern society may limit the space for genuine persuasion. Dr Aldo Matteucci explores further the relevance of social context for persuasion. Since persuasion leads to change, we should look into the mechanisms of change in society. Change is a social phenomenon. Change occurs when the intentionalities of individuals transmute into ‘collective intentionalities’. In this process, enablers play a key role. Enablers emerge in a wide variety of forms from invention (the wheel, horse-riding) to social processes (educating women leads towards a drop in fertility). Persuasion is an important enabler of social change. Social media is an example where persuasion evolves from the individual to the collective. Through social media and crowd sourcing, collective intentionality can emerge. New forms of social, instead of individual, persuasion will emerge. The key criterion for their success is whether they facilitate adaptation to the fast pace of change in modern society. Persuasion in practice - Ambassador Kishan Rana indicates the cultivation of relations and the credibility of diplomats as the basis for persuasion in diplomacy. He provides an initial taxonomy of the type of relations that diplomats should cultivate. When it comes to credibility, Ambassador Rana presents the main ways of developing and maintaining credibility in diplomatic relations. The more credible the diplomat, the more likely it is that their persuasion with local interlocutors will be successful. Ambassador Victor Camilleri argues that the essence of diplomacy is a search for a point of convergence. Persuasion is one of the methods through which a point of convergence can be reached. He gives central relevance in diplomacy to the firm grasp of the essential points of negotiation, including assessment of balance of force. This article analyses persuasion in multilateral diplomacy through a case study of the Maltese initiative on the ‘Common heritage of mankind’. Ambassador Petru Dumitriu provides a reality check on persuasion in diplomacy. Nowadays, in multilateral conferences, oratory is no longer needed. A successful speech is a short speech. ‘The chairperson will usually praise the short intervention rather than the smart ones.’ Even if diplomats manage to squeeze a persuasive speech into 2–5 minutes, the audience is often missing. Attention in multilateral conferences is a very scarce commodity. If any persuasive message comes through, it is often filtered through précis writers and adopted conclusions which keep track of what was meaningful for the organisation and cast the rest into oblivion. Ambassador Dumitriu concludes his text with a few precepts for fair and effective persuasion. Interviews on persuasion in practice - Dr Joe Borg highlights inclusion and trust-building as common elements of persuasion in his diverse negotiation experiences as both Maltese Minister of Foreign Affairs and EU Commissioner. In the negotiations of Malta’s EU accession, the key task was to involve in the accession process as wide a stratum of Maltese society as possible. The success of this process related mainly to the high level of ownership of the negotiations by civil society, professional groups, and the population in general. Inspired by the successful inclusive negotiations in Malta, Dr Borg used a similar approach as the EU Commissioner in charge of negotiation of the Integrated Maritime Policy. From the very beginning he involved a network of stakeholders with an interest in fisheries issues (e.g. fisherman, environmental groups, and port authorities). Inclusion, a high level of transparency, and fairness led towards a high level of trust that created the context needed for successful persuasion. Dr Alex Sceberras Trigona stresses that not only persuasion but also resisting persuasion is highly important for small states, which tend to be seen as the ‘diplomatic prey’ of great powers. He analyses three examples of successful persuasion from Maltese diplomatic history. First were the negotiations on Maltese neutrality, which required a lot of persuasion of two major Cold War powers and numerous regional players in the Mediterranean. Second was Malta’s successful lobbying for membership at the United Nations Security Council (1983/1984). The third example is bilateral negotiations with the United Kingdom for the removal of unexploded ordinances in 1984. Dr Trigonaexplains how these three instances used a wide range of persuasive and diplomatic tools. Future research In this book we have tried to make an initial mapping of the issue of persuasion and diplomacy by addressing it from different perspectives (historical, theoretical, and practical). The more we dug into the issues of persuasion, the more we realised its relevance and its complexity. We have encountered some recurring questions throughout our discussions. • Is persuasion the essence of diplomacy or simply a way of achieving convergence in negotiations? • Does persuasion imply a change in the mental state of the persuaded side? • Is persuasion more a social than a rhetorical phenomenon? • What are the decisive factors of persuasion (e.g. argument, emotion, rhetorical skill, the structure of incentives such as awards and penalties, social context)? • Do historical considerations play an important role in the process? • What are the techniques for identifying and resisting persuasion? • What are the borderlines between persuasion and related disciplines: rhetoric, manipulation, propaganda, public diplomacy? • Can persuasion be taught? • Is persuasion a gender-sensitive talent and skill? • What is the importance of trust and empathy in persuasion? • What cultural differences are experienced in the use of persuasion? • Can persuasion be done in public? • Are the requirements of our time for short speeches (the twitterisation of our communication) going to affect persuasion? • Will persuasion change in the Internet era? Will it be easier or more difficult to persuade via the Internet?