A collaborative essay by Global Diplomatic Forum and Wright Thomas International (September 13, 2017)


 In my November 2015 essay, “Smart Diplomacy and the Future of Diplomatic Undertaking,” published in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, I introduced a new form of diplomacy combining the soft and hard power ideas of smart power with the “employment of new technologies, public and private partnerships, as well as diaspora networks at the center of diplomacy.” This strategic re-envisioning of power as it applies to international relations is what I termed Smart Diplomacy. Smart Diplomacy and non-traditional security partnerships (NTSPs) are currently two separate concepts, but there is a strong argument for NTSPs as logical extensions of Smart Diplomacy. This essay is a follow-up piece to my 2015 publication, written in partnership with my colleagues at Wright Thomas International. In it we highlight the ways in which embracing forward-leaning concepts that underpin Smart Diplomacy are the future of effective analysis and action within the security realm. The three pillars of Smart Diplomacy provide points for strategic interconnectivity within security, and can be powerful tools when utilised in concert with one another. -Younes El Ghazi

Smart diplomacy + NTSP.jpg

A Refresher on smart diplomacy


 Smart Diplomacy is differentiated by its strategic combination of coercive and soft powers, which incorporates modern technologies and public-private partnerships to achieve international goals. In the 2015 article, I (Younes) identified three pillars of Smart Diplomacy that represent critical components of the translation of smart power into effective leverage. The pillars included (1) Digital Capabilities; (2) Multi-Stakeholder Diplomacy; and (3) Feminist Diplomacy. All three of these pillars represent factors critical to the process of translating smart power into effective leverage in both bilateral relations as well as the larger international arena.

One area identified as being particularly likely to benefit from Smart Diplomacy is that of post-conflict reconstruction, where failings in transition from conflict to stability are rooted in the lack of involvement of the mostly female victims, and the absence of stakeholder engagement that

facilitates building trust. As described, Smart Diplomacy is the natural next step in the evolution of a diplomacy that aims to increase security and prosperity. Because of Smart Diplomacy’s “far-reaching, efficient, and representative” model, it offers strategic advantages over earlier diplomatic frameworks. Globalization has fundamentally altered civilization, inextricably

intertwining global citizens, governments, and economies. By adapting to this new reality, the realm of international diplomacy would be more effectively and efficiently capable of achieving shared security and prosperity.


In the context of international security, a non-traditional partnership is an arrangement of mutual utility among entities that generally do not have intersecting missions, goals, or functions. The value in establishing these non-traditional arrangements is to creatively leverage the collective strengths of each participating entity toward a meaningful outcome for security.

Non-traditional security partnerships (NTSPs) are equally relevant and useful tools in the diplomacy realm. The basic concept is that any entity with a stake in a certain outcome would be wise to identify others who have a stake in that same outcome, and to work together, drawing from their different sectors’ toolboxes to find methods of achieving the stated goal.

By increasing the pool from which to draw ideas and resources, there is a dilution of individual risk and mutual benefit from the combination of minds and experiences that exist at various levels of engagement. NTSPs recognize that a primary reliance on economic or military force is not always necessary, or even effective, in producing desirable outcomes. Rather, by strategically and carefully combining resources of the private and public sectors, individual strengths are better able to be leveraged.



There are many ways in which Smart Diplomacy and NTSPs complement each other, but there are some challenges to integrating the two concepts. One of the most significant challenges is that this strategic re-envisioning requires challenging norms and the complacency that can come with entrenched ways of thinking about security. Cooperation and creativity are important in creating the larger vision of security-impacting factors, including the identification of stakeholders who might not typically be considered. Although there is a learning curve in challenging the mind to think differently, a willingness to engage in dialogue will go a long way in making this work more efficient, and it will be buoyed by positive outcomes.

The greatest argument for the utilization of NTSPs and Smart Diplomacy in concert is that they ultimately will work in the best interest of all actors. These concepts incentivize innovative problem-solving and promote flexibility, which drives solutions targeted at specific systemic inefficiencies. The synthesis of these concepts has the potential to drastically shape how international and intranational actors behave and engage with each other, which can have long-term ramifications. Given this, the three pillars put forth in the original article hold increasing relevance for the capacity to address security, as follows.