Multilateral diplomats in the early twenty-first century

Authored by: Yolanda Kemp Spies

Routledge Handbook of International Organization

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  June  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415501439
eBook ISBN: 9780203405345
Adobe ISBN: 9781134112982


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Individual agency has always been crucial in the bedrock institution of international society. Not surprisingly, classical diplomatic literature displays a preoccupation with profiling of the ‘ideal diplomat’ (Berridge et al. 2001: 2; Sofer 1988: 207). Profiling presupposes that specific characteristics, skills and knowledge are sought in candidates for the profession, but until well into the twentieth century, formal diplomatic training was the exception rather than the rule. Diplomacy was historically an elitist endeavour, premised on the assumption that ideal diplomats were a breed apart, rather than a professionally trained corps. This changed when the vast socio-political changes that transformed the international system of the twentieth century made diplomacy more diversified, less Eurocentric and more representative of a heterogeneous international society. In the process, merit-based recruitment and career-specific training became a necessity. Taking into account the prevalence of multilateral diplomacy at the start of the twenty-first century, profiling of multilateral diplomats per se is important because it sheds light on the contemporary evolution of diplomacy. From a practical perspective, it assists with recruitment and curriculum design for the continuous training of these specialized diplomats.

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