Home Diplomatic Pouch Dealing with new stakeholders: a matter of co-creation

Dealing with new stakeholders: a matter of co-creation

Dr. Huub Ruel.
Article series on The New Diplomat / Part 1

By Dr. Huub Ruël and Irene Felius.

These are interesting and challenging times for diplomacy in general and the diplomat in particular. It is an open door to state that the world of diplomacy, international relations and international business is experiencing major changes such as a global economic power shift to Asia, an emerging multi-polar international system with shifting power coalitions, collaboration efforts to face global challenges such as climate change and sustainability, emerging societal dynamics such as the rise of populism, violent conflicts around the world, international terrorism, technological progress, cyber security, cyber intelligence, social media driven information and news overload, and the increased role and power of international businesses and NGOs, just to mention a few.

This dynamic context has consequences for today’s and tomorrow’s diplomat. The new diplomat needs to be able to operate in this context and add value to the governments, societies and citizens he or she is serving. The competences of the new diplomat are different from those of the ‘traditional’ diplomat and the career paths of the new diplomat will be different as well. Many countries around the world are preparing their diplomatic corps, those employed at foreign posts and the related policies and practices, for this dynamic context.

In a series of articles, I will address the challenges that the new diplomat is facing, the competences that will be needed as well as the facilitation of tomorrow’s diplomat.

This first article addresses the issue of the relatively new stakeholders in the international arena that the new diplomat needs to deal with. Key questions for diplomats are how to deal with these stakeholders and how to add value in the context of and with new stakeholders in the international diplomacy arena.

For the new diplomat, it will mean that he or she will have to understand the competence of co-creation, adding value in collaboration rather than solely.

Three of those relatively new stakeholders that diplomats will have to deal with are multinational corporations (MNCs), international NGOs and the public.

The role and power of MNCs in today’s global economy cannot be easily underestimated. Especially due to globalization, a single nation state has limited powers in many cases to deal with MNCs. On top of that, governments around the world fully acknowledge that MNCs are the necessary partners in dealing with global challenges such as climate change. Diplomats will need to be able to understand the language of MNCs and their perspectives on the global economy. Finally, the fact that ties between business and government in many countries are close implies that diplomats need to be able to understand those ties and the impact of those ties.

International NGOs are in many cases important agenda-setting actors. Supported by their sponsors, in many cases citizens around the world, they are able to investigate and to raise societal awareness. That some governments decide to forbid international NGOs to have a representation in their countries is telling in terms of the power international NGOs are perceived to have. Diplomats need to be able to build relationships with NGOs, understand their perspectives and agendas and again the impact NGOs can have on the society diplomats represent.

The public has become a more prominent stakeholder than ever. Although diplomats are representatives of states, governments and their citizens and therefore by nature have to deal with the public’s opinion, it seems that in developed nations more than before, the public does not easily accept the authority of their governments and elected leaders. The distrust between politicians and citizens has become an important issue for diplomats since it results in hard to predict consequences. The recent outcomes of referenda and elections in developed nations have shocked governments and societies. For today’s and tomorrow’s diplomats, it means that he or she has to deeply sense the public opinion, to understand what is beneath rather than what is on the surface and to understand the complexity of societies of their home countries as well as of their host countries.

In order to be effective in such a dynamic and more intensified international arena, co-creation is a core competence for diplomats. As explained above, the nation state and its representatives have seen new stakeholders entering the stage. They all have their interests and agendas. To be able to align stakeholders, to contribute to coalitions of stakeholders and to serve national interests in collaboration with other stakeholders is a highly-qualified competence that the new diplomat needs to have. In co-creation lies the power for diplomats to create value.


About the authors:

Dr. Huub Ruël, Phd, is a Professor of International Hospitality Business at Hotelschool The Hague/The Hague Hospitality Business School.

Irene Felius BSc. is a research assistant / project team member at the University of Twente









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