3 Pillars of Smart Diplomacy 

There are three pillars that define how diplomacy will evolve in this century beyond its traditional diplomacy practice (Smart Diplomacy).  We have identified these three pillars for effective Smart Diplomacy as: Digital Capabilities, Multi-Stakeholder Diplomacy, and Feminist Diplomacy.

Digital Capabilities:

Digital capabilities are crucial to capitalising on the soft and hard powers countries possess. The far reach of online platforms makes them valuable tools for reaching a global audience in policy communications. Increasingly, people tend to use online channels as their main sources of information to gain knowledge about various subjects.

Thus, these channels are increasingly impacting the perceptions, perspectives, and behaviours of people worldwide. Governments and their affiliates can use online platforms not only to reach audiences for their cultural and trade offerings, but also to detect security threats, as digital capabilities prepare nations to protect their economic and military resources against cyberattacks.

In addition, these capabilities are reinvigorating traditional diplomacy between state officials, as they allow for the efficient use of time during meetings and in communications with counterparts and colleagues in different countries without the need to physically travel. Gradually, more countries will make use of cyberspace and allocate resources to digital diplomacy to take on the presented opportunities rather than being deterred by their potential risks.

Feminist Diplomacy:

Until 1946, women were excluded from the British diplomatic service on the grounds that they would not be taken seriously by foreign governments and would create insurmountable administrative difficulties, particularly in relation to their marital status. At present, feminist diplomacy remains an unpopular concept among diplomats in many parts of the world, but countries are increasingly inclined to adhere to the trends of modern diplomacy in which men and women are represented equally based on merit and standing.

Feminist Diplomacy reflects a whole society rather than simply men’s status and views of world affairs. Last year, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström announced that her government would pursue a “feminist foreign policy,” which has received a fair share of skepticism comparable to men’s dismissals of suffragettes campaigning for the right to vote in Great Britain a century ago. The 21st  century is the century for the social, political, and economic empowerment of women around the world, and this will be manifested in diplomacy. The exclusion of the views and perspectives of women in foreign policy will gradually become more unacceptable, and the movement started by Foreign Minister Wallström will spread across the globe in this century due to its morality and pragmatism.

The Future of Diplomatic Undertaking

24th November 2016 

6 Mitre Passage, Peninsula Square London SE10 0BU


Professor Joseph Nye introduced the concept of Smart Power as a combination of coercive and soft power to achieve goals in international relations, arguing that neither soft nor hard power alone could produce effective foreign policy. Nye defined soft power as “the ability to affect others through the co-optive means of framing the agenda, persuading, and eliciting positive attraction in order to obtain preferred outcomes.” Hard power, on the other hand, is the use of economic and military means to influence other parties. While hard power by itself has failed to transform Iraq or Afghanistan into democratic, stable, and prosperous countries, at the same time, soft power alone cannot remove the Taliban regime in Afghanistan or defeat the Islamic State in Iraq.

Therefore, a combination of the two presents a viable strategy, as demonstrated in Iran’s recent nuclear program deal (although it may still be premature to assess the deal’s success). The main challenge for diplomacy is to translate smart power into effective leverage in both bilateral relations as well as the larger international arena. Diplomacy is an evolving process that is continuously changing to adapt to international relations dynamics.


  • Hugh Elliott, Director of Communication, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Derek Wyatt, Founder of Oxford Internet Institute and Former member of Parliament

  • Dr Corneliu Bjola, Professor of Diplomatic Studies, University of Oxford

  • Vibeke Brask Thomsen, Founder and Director of GenderHopes

  • Robert Capurro, CEO, Canning House

  • Professor Adrian Kendry, Former NATO Senior Defence Economist and Advisor to the 12th NATO Secretary General



Stakeholder Diplomacy:

Diplomacy is increasingly a multi-stakeholder process that involves a variety of actors apart from the state. Although in many parts of the world, these stakeholders are part of the state system, gradually more stakeholders are acting independently from the state. These actors, including non-governmental organisations, private companies, academics, charities, and the media, often independently engage with their counterparts as well as other global stakeholders, which can play a considerable role in shaping a nation’s foreign relations.

In countries where these stakeholders fall under the umbrella of the state system, the framework of action is pre-defined and the possibility of taking initiative is limited. However, independent agents can define their own raison d’être and identify countries, actors, and ways of engagement to create additional opportunities for their respective countries. Independence triggers stakeholders’ entrepreneurialism in global engagement and leads countries to increased opportunities.

Smart Diplomacy Forum

The Smart Diplomacy Forum is a continuation of our series of events addressing the trends and patterns of diplomacy in the 21st century. Every year, tens of senior diplomats and experts contribute to our discussion groups and meeting from which we extract the patterns and trends that are shaping diplomacy in this century.

The forum is an experts’ consultation on the different pillars and the concept of Smart Diplomacy