Is Traditional Diplomacy Redundant Against the Work of International Relations?

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa, CEO of Grassroot Diplomat, opens questions about the differences between diplomacy and international relations in our modern age. 
See what she means in her latest Founder's Blog.

Phot Credit: Moiggi

Phot Credit: Moiggi

As I continue to quietly work in the background on my new upcoming books, I’ve struggled a lot with terminologies in which people use ‘diplomacy’ and ‘international relations’ so interchangeably. The more I discuss with my fellow practitioners, the more I realise that very few people seem to differentiate the two term as absolute without clinging on to academic theories that overlap one another.

I know I’ll be getting into some hot water for simply bringing this topic up. In the past, I’ve had traditional diplomats quietly whisper that the title of “diplomat” should be protected for those who officially serve their countries at a government level. More conservative diplomats have argued that any form of diplomacy beyond state-to-state craft is simply activities of human interaction that has nothing to do with formal diplomacy. Folks working outside of governments are keen to reiterate that international relation activities open more dialogue between conflicting parties than any formal statecraft diplomacy (hello, Palestine and Israel!), and people-to-people communication is critical to the continuity of peace and stability.

Regardless of these arguments, I’m starting to see why I’m constantly feeling frustrated with how diplomacy is practiced on the ground because I’m using an ‘international relations’ lens on the whole system. From time to time, I look at Grassroot Diplomat’s organisational mission with dismay because I still feel as though the mission doesn’t completely encapsulate what I want the organisation to do or be.

Our Board agreed that our mission is to “modernise the practices of diplomacy for a fast-changing environment.” Now I’m thinking – does that mean we work on soft power international relations issues and not diplomacy at all?

More and more, we are seeing ‘diplomacy’ being used to describe people-to-people activities. Sports diplomacy, fashion diplomacy, water diplomacy, food diplomacy etc. – self-explanatory examples of how various activities bring people together without race, prejudice or nationalism, but are these really a form of ‘diplomacy’ or ‘international relations’? And if diplomacy is supposed to establish international relations, doesn’t that make diplomacy itself redundant once a connection has been secured? Surely then, it falls on to the responsibility of ordinary citizens to uphold international relations on the ground.


I would love to hear your comments and gain a broad sense of what you feel is the difference between diplomacy versus international relations. Click on the 'Comments' below to share your opinion.


Serving you with love and hope, I look forward to hearing from you.

Talyn Rahman-Figueroa
CEO, Grassroot Diplomat