This chapter looks at one method to study ministries of foreign affairs (MFA s), namely ethnography. Ethnography can be combined with other methods. It consists in watching and observing what diplomats do, and wondering about why they do it, the way they do it and what effects stem from whether they do it this way or not. The chapter discusses how a researcher may get to study MFA s (field access), what they have to know about the field and themselves in order to do this in an optimal way (situatedness) and how they transform observations into notes and notes into text (techniques). In conclusion, the chapter offers some reflections on the ethics of being an ethnographer of MFAs.
This analysis discusses the first hurdle for consular diplomacy in the digital age: the communicative challenge. Providing information and assistance to nationals abroad is a major challenge, and governments are well advised to go about this activity in a more citizen-centric fashion. It is therefore important for ministries of foreign affairs (MFA s) to acquire a deeper understanding of their nationals’ communicative behaviour. Greater control in a fragmented, digital communication environment is required and implies the co-ordination of offline and online channels. Framing consular services in market terms and identifying citizens as customers, however, would go against government interests. MFA s would do well to view consular assistance as part of their growing diplomatic engagement with domestic society. This analysis of policy and practice suggests that there are good reasons to articulate existing links between consular assistance and wider foreign and security policy, rather than seeing ‘consular’ work as a self-contained activity.
As a small, open, advanced economy, Denmark has a lot at stake in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. However, the speed of emerging technologies and massive influence of multinational tech companies challenge traditional governance structures and diplomatic services around the world, creating a ‘diplomatic deficit’. That is why Denmark became the first country to appoint a Tech Ambassador and elevate technological trends to a foreign and security policy priority in mid-2017. This practitioner’s piece lays out the underlying reasoning behind engaging with the tech industry, the first-hand experiences from the initiative and some hard-won lessons before turning to the future perspectives. TechPlomacy is a political initiative with a global mandate to represent the Danish government vis-à-vis the tech industry with offices in Copenhagen, Silicon Valley and Beijing. The authors argue for new forms of coalition building engaging industry, governments and institutions in addressing the opportunities and risks of technology.
As the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic came into focus in early 2020, diplomats in MFA s worldwide were faced with the prospect of a significant disruption to one of the more ubiquitous rituals of their jobs: the face-to-face meeting. This chapter critically analyses what is lost, and what is gained, when diplomats are deprived of a crucial habitualised practice that is, for many, the foundational activity that describes what it is to be a diplomat, and forced to conduct their interactions virtually through digital technology. Drawing upon anthropology, sociology and political science, this chapter situates face-to-face diplomacy as a ritualised behaviour that allows diplomats to build trust and, in the most successful cases, transform identities. It then turns to the prospects of replicating this process online and analyses the extent to which virtual interaction may serve as a sufficient proxy for physical co-present interaction. It concludes with reflections on the ramifications of the continued pervasiveness of digital technology in diplomacy, with recommendations for MFA s as they navigate the promises and drawbacks of these technologies.