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DOI, Digital Objetc Identifier 10.4185/RLCS-2017-1195en | ISSN 1138 - 5820 | RLCS, 72-2017 | Audio-visual explanation of the author |

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How to cite this article in bibliograhies / References

JL Manfredi Sánchez, JM Herranz de la Casa, LM Calvo Rubio (2017): “Transparency and Diplomacy: new social demands and professional routines”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 72, pp. 832 a 848.
http://www.revistalatinacs.org/072paper/1195/45en.html
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-2017-1195en

Transparency and Diplomacy: new social demands and professional routines

JL Manfredi Sánchez [CV] [o Orcid] [ gGS] Full Professor. Faculty of Journalism. Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)
juan.manfredi@uclm.es
JM Herranz de la Casa [CV] [o Orcid] [g GS] Doctor Staff Professor. Faculty of Journalism. Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)
Josemaria.herranz@uclm.es
LM Calvo Rubio [CV] [o Orcid] [g GS] Doctorate student. Faculty of Journalism. Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha (Spain)
Luismauricio.calvo@alu.uclm.es


Abstract
Introduction. The effects of transparency in diplomacy are analysed. Methodology. Three levels of information management in professional diplomacy are considered, and thereafter how the demand of transparency affects its development and achievement. A descriptive analysis assesses the level of transparency based on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) principles. The article features the tensions delivered to diplomatic activity and shows evidences of wide range of international actors. Results and conclusions. The results indicate no single model can be validated to assess transparency in diplomatic professional activity because it is linked to values, uses and political culture of each actor involved. Transparency is not only a legal paradigm, but a culture that allows accountability adapted to the characteristics of global affairs.

Keywords
Diplomacy; transparency; globalization; international communication; citizenship.

Contents
1. Introduction. 2 Methods. 3. Diplomacy and transparency. 3.1. Three levels of management of diplomatic information. 3.2. The growing demand for transparency in diplomacy. 3.3. Risk of transparency in diplomacy. 4. Results. 5. List of references.

Translation by Juan Luis Manfredi-Sánchez (Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha) and
Yuhanny Henares (Academic translator, Universitat de Barcelona)

 [ Research ] [ Funded ] 
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1. Introduction

Global matters are in the political, mediatic and citizen agenda. The interest has grown as these matters have an impact in national politics: the control of frontiers and migrations, imports and protectionism, social mobilizations and protest, actions against the climate change, inequality, migrations and urban agglomeration, pandemics or the use of digital technologies (US Department of State, 2015). Likewise, new actors of the international society compete in the public arena for the legitimacy, attraction and collaboration/ competence (Mogensen, 2017). In short, we find a global scenario with more actors, more interests and more instruments of power. Diplomacy in the network is organized under three principles: transparency, instantness and interaction in real time (Manfredi, 2016).

In parallel, transparency in decision making processes, assessment of public policies and management of public information have been naturalized (Villoria, 2016). The development of citizen rights requires access to information, therefore the State needs to provide instruments that ensure said citizen activity. Through non-governmental organizations (Transparency International, Access Info, Sunlight Foundation) and institutions (Inter-American Court of Human Rights, national councils of transparency), the diffusion of public information has been articulated and the right of citizens accompanying it has been built (Guichot, 2014). The demand of transparency has been extended towards private organizations in the form of accountability, normative compliance (Gimeno, 2016), reputability (Cachinero, 2017) and corporative responsibility (Den Hond, Rehbein, De Bakker and Kooijmans-van Lankveld, 2014).

The sum of structural changes encourages to investigate what is the impact of transparency in foreign politics, specifically, in diplomacy. Currently, it is reflected as a set of regulations instead of a culture that affects the diplomatic activity. It is discussed how to conjugate the demand of further transparency and informative instantness with the timing, cessions and discretion a multilateral negotiation need. In the democratic systems, this process accelerates even more because political leaders are demanded to use the social media to explain events and not only limit exclusively to parliamentary uses. This trend has increased the value of strategic communication in the institutional communication (Canel, 2007).

This transformation generates tensions within the governments themselves and these with their allies as well, whereas every actor considers different degrees of information as it affects their main interests. Transparency is not an absolute value, but asymmetrical, conditioned by the own values, uses and political culture (Lord, 2006).

Two specific fields mainly affect the design of diplomacy under the paradigm of transparency. The first epistemological level is built in the relationship with informative media and other communication instruments. The use of diplomacy mediated through conventional journalism is known, an intermediated diplomacy that promotes actions with third parties and public diplomacy that administers influence (Gilboa, 2001). At this level, there is daily scrutiny therefore new methods and procedures are needed for strategic communication. The presence in Twitter of a prime Minister or an Ambassador is no longer news, but his capacity to respond to crisis, persuade journalists or interact with publics.

The second level is the consolidation of the digital environment as specific field of influence where interests are advocated. Digitalization of international political communication and the aggregations of new actors “have affected the public agenda, activism and the political participation in the international arena” (Manfredi, 2014: 343). For Del Fresno, Daly and Segado (2016), the new influencers on social media are disseminators of information, connectors that related different nodes of the network, or leaders that have the capacity to act on their own. When applied to the diplomatic field, it is convenient to know whether the international actor is aiming for diffusion and propaganda, creation of relational capital or if unilateral imposition is preferred instead.

In this context, the purpose of this article is the demonstration of two hypotheses:

Diplomacy faces three levels of information management that cannot assimilate the principles of transparency with the same naturalness than other areas of the public administration. Accountability needs to adapt to the particularity of global matters.

Transparency generates new risks for the diplomatic profession. There is an asymmetry in the conceptualization and management of information in front of new actors of the international society that use opacity in their own benefit.

The paper reviews recent bibliography, explores the uses and behaviours of international leaders, indicates practices of the Chancellor’s Office, points out strains in the system and announces new problems of study. Avenues of research open in the following fields: use of Twitter as amplifier of the foreign policy of President Trump, the mode of negotiation in international treaties to win social legitimacy (TTIP and CETA), limits of privacy in social networks or the political economy of alliances against digital crime.


Methods
The study of diplomacy has found in the international political communication a framework of interpretation of reality and the behaviour of its actors. But the Westphalian nation-State is not alone in the international arena. The communication beyond the own boundaries is the backbone of the form, function and illusion of participating in an active manner in the positioning process by whom do not have competences of their own assigned by the international right (Hocking, 2006). The multiplicity of sources of legitimation, participation and communication confirm the theory of a network diplomacy that uses guerrilla techniques to place its messages and mediate its preferences (Copeland, 2009). Every actor with the capacity to perform in the international sphere participates in fact inside and outside of conventional circles of diplomatic, political and communicative action. Anker (2017) analyses how multinational companies (Pepsi, Coca Cola or Vodafone) supported the riots of the Arab Spring to align their corporate values with the demand for democracy. Scherer and Palazzo (2011) describe said activities as being characteristic of political agents of globalization.

In the public field, the interest for participating and offering the best possible vision of themselves to public opinion has led to the creation of offices with this specific purpose (London First, 2017), commissioners (Royal Decree 998/2012, dated June 28, creates the High Commissioner of the Government for Spain Brand), teams dedicated to digital diplomacy (@FranceDiplo), the development of new exchange programmes (Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme) or the promotion of the country image through large sports events (Jarvie, Murray and Macdonald, 2017). Each one designs its strategy of information, education and entertaining aiming at the exercise of influence over a foreign public. The international political communication generates contexts and meanings that work as foundation to the awareness of the cause, despite of being the support to a treaty, the advocacy of human rights, measures for migration control or the promotion of international business (Macnamara, 2011).

In the place of international communication, the debate about the CNN effect was left behind. Television and international politics get a feedback both in the design of operations as well as in determining which are the critical matters for the public opinion. Due to this reason, diplomacy in the digital field is booming. This conjecture can be found in the work of Castells (2008:13), when he says that “relations of power, that is, relations that constitute the foundations of every society, besides the processes that challenge the institutionalized relations of power, are determined and decided more and more in the field of communication”.

Internet and the new media promote diplomacy in real time, which is a condition alienated from its historical behaviour (Seib, 2012). The real time reduces reflection, affects privacy of communications and transforms the professional competences of the diplomat. The intensive use of applications characteristic of Internet and the new media with the purpose of reaching conventional diplomatic objectives affect the relationship with the international press, the catalogue of consular services and the management of influence.

The new media, mobile devices and technologies create more global campaigns in terms of audience and cheaper regarding their production. Castelló, Etter and Årup Nielsen (2016) describe the legitimacy strategies used by corporations through open digital platforms, not monopolized, but available for collaboration. It is not a simple task, since there is a gap between these digital media and conventional ones, both in framing as well as the reception of audiences (Qin, 2015). If communication is now digital, there is sense in that the natural extension of diplomacy towards the digital sphere occurs (Manfredi, 2014).

This paper is a descriptive analysis. The degree of transparency of information used for the consecution of diplomatic goals is the axis of our study. We are interested in knowing how is the information administered and communicated to different publics. We analyse the dimensions of transparency in the exercise of diplomacy and how it has transformed some practices.

There is not a legal corpus of transparency in diplomatic matters, therefore we need to turn to other indicators of activity. We are interested here in the idea of transparency developed by the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which links it with the principles of participation, accountability and technological innovation. The OGP alliance encourages national plans in more than 75 countries in favour of transparency, citizen participation and the improvement of governance. We will use its foundations to understand the behaviour of actors and to think about the level of transparency reached, because we consider they are more adequate to categorize the impact on diplomacy as it depends on national political culture and tradition before compared legislation. The principles entail values, proposals, platforms, not regulations. Here we favour understanding transparency as a culture, and not only as a legal paradigm.

Regarding contents, the text does not value political objectives of mentioned examples, but the impact and how they are interpreted in the conceptual framework of informative transparency. The issue is in knowing whether they contribute to achieving objectives of foreign policies or if they hinder them.

The research is structured as follows. Firstly, the three levels of diplomatic information management suggested in the first hypothesis are studied. Secrecy, reserved or public nature of information suggest scenarios of strategic communication and specific relations with journalists and social networks. There is attention on different actors, their activity and their relationship with diplomatic messages. Then, we analyse how it affects the demand for transparency in an activity of complex nature such as diplomacy. A professional activity that is typical of governors, born in a framework of confidentiality and it becomes transparent due to the transformations of the environment. We should ask ourselves how and how much transparency can a multilateral meeting, a negotiation or a commercial agreement stand.

Lastly, the tensions belonging to the diplomatic profession and the management of transparency are described. The text is completed with the sample of the main diplomatic practical contributions designed and executed by international actors. The circle is wrapped up with the main conclusions and a series of future challenges for research.

3. Diplomacy and transparency

Diplomacy consists in the management and execution of international relations by acknowledged States and, in a broader sense, by actors with capacity to perform in the international sphere. This task is based on a series of rules, regulations, customs and usages that have moulded international relations (Berridge, 2015). From a historic perspective, diplomacy was an activity reserved for managers and political elites, because the public opinion didn’t show excessive interest in the management of international affairs. The quote of Harold Nicolson (1939) is known: “In the days of the old diplomacy it would have been regarded as an act of unthinkable vulgarity to appeal to the common people upon any issue of international policy”. But this breach between international politics and local activity has changed.

Diplomacy is an activity that uses strategic communication in the process of construction of international reality. A flow of information and knowledge that comprise the diplomatic heritage in this matter has been constituted (Kurbalija, 1999). Corneliu Bjola (2015) understands diplomacy as a form of knowledge, of revelation of international events through facts that happen in a non-continuous or non-lineal manner, which are not predictable. Reactions are learnt and imitated. Media, mostly global television, have accelerated the mimesis process at macro-scale. In citizens, the intensive use of technological devices repeats the effect at micro-scale.

The new acquired knowledge creates epistemic conditions for the international community which learns -and unlearns- to create new cognitive maps. Cultural diplomacy was the first agreed activity for the friendly exchange of information, customs and cultural goods and services. Educative and intellectual activities connect societies, not governments, so they create previous international trust needed before governmental relations (Rivera, 2015). Now, the perversion of the cultural and informative use is the extension of propaganda, which purpose is to influence in the foreign public opinion without express recognition from the government. The growth of transparency has not reduced the effect of propaganda in societies with lower indexes of social trust. The design of an international communication articulated through a channel of international television, social network campaigns, specific contents for YouTube and the display of new audiovisual formats has turned the Russian propaganda in the driving force of this activity (Estrella, 2016).

International political communication is one of the fundamental issues for the study of contemporary diplomacy. According to the Vienna Convention about Diplomatic Relations (1961), the gathering of information about local events through lawful means and its broadcasting, and the promotion of friendly relations are two of the basic functions of the diplomatic activity, together with the representation of the State, protection of interests and negotiation before governments.  It is convenient to study what effects does transparency have in the exercise of these functions.

3.1. Three levels of management of diplomatic information

Strategic communication is comprised on handling information and the management of knowledge through instruments that mould reality and give format to practices and international uses. It is organized in three levels, depending on the role of the sender in its relationship with foreign publics and audience the message is addressed to.
Security and intelligence affairs constitute confidential information. It is not shared because it comprises the capacity to perform abroad, explains military capacities, generates significative competitive advantages and ensures the reliability of sources. At this point, there has barely been a voluntary cession of information. This first level fits in the modern diplomatic tradition, linked to the creation of the State and protector of the great interests. Colson (2008) considers that the paradigm of negotiation is the secret, the only way to protect the own interests. At the same time, the negotiation is successful when the secrets of third parties are discovered. It is thought as a game that sums zero.

Often, in the European construction there are quotes about the need to share information regarding security and defence. The initiatives promoted with these purpose among secret services have not been successful. Technology, on the other hand, has allowed the increase of massive filtrations, either through Wikileaks or through the documents of the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed by Edward Snowden. In this category, the excess of honesty of President Donald Trump is surprising when he uses the Twitter channel to share confidential information about his meetings. It is an anomalous use because it disorientates his own work teams. The contents of the meeting held between Donald Trump and Sergei Lavrov, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, was denied in press conference, confirmed by interested parties and Tweeted by Trump himself in just a few hours (Trump ‘shared classified information with Russia’, 2007).

Currently, intelligence has dedicated efforts in the economic area as method to gather and analyse information related with internationalization of economy and business. There is a double use in the sense that it promotes competitiveness such as the gestation of alliances to get contracts, tenders, clients. Okano-Heijmans (2011) has described the economic aspects of the foreign politics, mainly those of occidental countries. These have understood the weight of the economic and commercial activity before the current tax crisis, the increase of competence, the emergence of State capitalism, the demand of transparency in multilateral organizations or the review of policies oriented to concrete results.

Following the principles of Open Government Partnership, the intelligence function cannot be governed by the transparency criteria of administration. However, it is feasible to elaborate a regulation that facilitates the public accountability and mechanism working as counterweight. The ex post evaluation and justification of actions bring risks of arbitrariness, unless the offences against the effective compliance of laws or acquired commitments are articulated.
The information elaborated by diplomatic professionals is usually of reserved nature. Work routines include verbal notes or reports delivered by missions abroad to the Ministry headquarters. After reading the numerous diplomatic channels disseminate by Wikileaks, these are revealed as instruments to understand the reality of a country, the status of local economy, the capacity of a government to perform or the emergence of new political leaders that is convenient to keep in mind (Bergareche, 2012).

Marcus Holmes (2015: 24) mentions personal relationships, the bureaucratic route, the individual contact, the cognitive capacity or intercultural communication as part of the routines. In these cases, the compendium of knowledge created by the diplomat about the terrain is of reserved nature. Escobar (2016: 46) believes that “in the political field, and in some matters, confidentiality will always be necessary to guarantee the own capacity of interlocution and action of the diplomat”. Reserve is more and more complex because network diplomacy requires contact with digital professionals, work areas with opposed interests, open technologies and other work dynamics.

Richard Haass (2010), president of the Council on Foreign Relations, considers that trust is not sustained only on transparency of private conversations: “Secrecy provides a context for candor. It means that people can share their honest impressions, they can make recommendations even if the recommendations might be controversial if they ever saw the light of day”. For Camilleri (2011), reserve builds trust between parties, because otherwise it will reduce honesty, the reach of comments, quality of information gathered by diplomats directly from the sources and send to the Ministry itself.

The impact of technologies, due to its immediacy and visibility, has transformed the professional activity of the diplomat. The informative product of the status of the situation is not elaborated in the same way when global television offers broadcasts live over protests in the Tahir Square of El Cairo, in the Ukrainian Maidan or the streets of Hong Kong. The report the diplomat elaborates is different: barely informs novelties, but instead interprets, offers a long-term vision, links events to the purpose of the mission abroad. Tom Fletcher (2016), former Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Lebanon, speaks about “naked diplomacy” because it made objectives, means and instruments transparent. The nakedness affects both professional and public life. Diplomats cannot build their digital activity over the idea that “it is a personal opinion”. López (2015) explains the case of the Spanish diplomat Juan Carlos Gafo (@jcgafo), who resigned from his job position due to publishing a breaking news political comment. Gafo apologized, but has not returned to the social networks with a public profile.

In this new scenario, the support in digital strategies outstands (blog and Twitter) as preferred vehicles of communications. This requires from the diplomat, the acquisition of new competences adapted to the digital environment and with ta strong communicative activity to conjugate the demand of transparent information in real time with the diplomatic negotiation. For Adler-Nissen (2016):

The personalization and popularization of diplomacy linked with the emergence of the new technologies of information and the claiming of further transparency in the world politics has caused that the diplomatic agenda is more and more visible; therefore, additional and creative skills are needed as diplomats interact in a more proactive and informal manner with a broader range of transnational publics. (p. 101)

Among diplomats, there outstands Carl Bildt in his time as Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden (2006-2014), whose blog is active since 2005; Alexander Stubb, kept the Twitter account under personal management and a podcast program during his time as prime Minister of Finland (2014-2015); the president of the Republic of Iran Hassan Rouhani (2013-), who used social networks to comment the negotiations of Geneva, or the Vatican diplomacy under the Papacy of Francis (2013-), who leaders the number of followers in the Twitter social network. The digital leadership generates an umbrella effect: when the leader participates, the rest of actors of first level follow the trail. The real participation is more effective than the message itself. A post of the blog of Bildt or a tweet of Francis gets farther and to a more diverse public than the use of conventional channels of international communication.

Table 1. Personal account of global leaders with more followers (2016)


Account

Country

Followers

@barackobama

United States

78 Million

@pontifex

Vatican

31 Million

@narendramodi

India

24 Million

@realdonaldtrump

United States

13 Million

@rt_erdorgan

Turkey

9 Million

Source: Twiplomacy (2016)

In the field of ministries, the presence on social networks has boosted. Since 2015, there are records of more than 4.000 profiles on social networks linked to embassies, Foreign Affairs Ministries and other institutions of similar nature (Twiplomacy Study, 2015)

The approach of the digital activity responds to the principle of Technology and Innovation of the Open Government Partnerships. It makes the diplomatic activity transparent and provides updated information in open formats based on common use technologies. Due to its instrumental nature, it orientates transparency and accountability. On social networks, the diplomat has the opportunity of explaining objectives of his work, the diplomat has the opportunity to explain objectives of his work, accept errors or stablish alliances (Archetti, 2012). This idea of acknowledging the assigned task is consistent with the Spanish experience. The digitalization of processes and operations in embassies and consulates has been targeted towards the improvement of assistant services to citizens abroad, reduction of costs, renewal of consular services and the relationship with the administration. The ambassador, Consuelo Femenía (2016) explains the dimension of the change from her experience in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of the Government of Spain:

Whomever does not explain the nature of his activity may lose his social legitimacy. The diplomat finds himself in a suitable position to convey his communication, not only inside his system as has been done until now – that is, towards his headquarters – but outside, towards potentially interested publics, making the ambassador (representative with capacity to negotiate and link to his State) an “ambassador” (representative with the capacity to explain, persuade and attract in a more open context). (p. 21)

This innovation represents a change in the way of organizing relations with administered parties.

Instruments shared with other legitimate actors create international treaties and agreements that are of public nature indeed (Cornago, 2013). The 14 points of Wilson as background of open diplomacy and advertisement of agreements are recurrent. They are instrument of diplomatic communications that are born as public documents with the purpose of being diffused.

Statements, summits, conferences, multilateral, unregulated instruments and the promotion of country brand or territory brand are of public nature. They impact the public opinion and contribute to the discussion of international affairs in domestic key. Meerts (2015) says that in this point non-State actors have a special relevance, as individuals, non-governmental organizations or regional governments. Their activity in conferences comprises more transparent negotiations and, perhaps, less autonomy during their course.

This capacity of impacting in publics, without mediation of governments or media, explains the booming of the international communication strategy of non-State actors, who have multiplied the possibilities of the public diplomacy (Manfredi-Sánchez, Herranz de la Casa and Seoane Pérez, 2016), and corporative diplomacy, which learn the diplomatic uses for the defence of its interests. In this field, multinational companies, cities, nations without State, social organizations, social movements, individuals or technology companies act and influence in the international construction without fulfilling pre-requisites established by the diplomatic custom.

Participation in diplomatic processes (frontier control, stablishing digital standards, foreign trade, the compliance with international regulation, protection of supply chain) is a concurrent fact (Manheim, 1994; Gonesh and Melissen, 2005). Power disperses in different levels of action and communication, that are structured around the creation of conceptual frameworks that defend an ideological positioning and a specific speech. The diffusion of ideas elaborated by think tanks is especially worth mentioning, which degree of transparency is on public debate. Think tanks are institutions that generate knowledge through applied research, midpoint between the academy and the political arena. They are the instrumental development of political parties, ideologies, interest or power groups, that fund this type of knowledge communities for the production of research documents and conducting studies. The purpose is to disseminate knowledge accessible to legislator and public opinion, through the specialized journalism or the massive diffusion through digital solutions. In practice, they are mediation spaces for elites of the academy, politics, business, journalism and the diplomatic world (Medvetz, 2012) Papers, meetings, publications, conferences and other instruments of discreet nature influence in the way public policies are designed, decisions are made political actions are interpreted. The offer of expert knowledge seduces decision makers (Rich, 2004).

Security and defence has captured the instrumental development of the public nature of agreements. Transparency has led to a certain degree of collaboration to reduce differences, increase social trust and among institutions, as well as the construction of joint interest projects (Cottey and Forster, 2004).

As Nye (2003) says, non-State actors of public and private nature use their capacities to organize agenda according to values through instruments such as corporative diplomacy, social responsibility or influence in debate. Hence, its strategy fits the participation principle of the Open Government Partnership. It consists in the mobilization of citizens through themselves or the channels they consider for the improvement of the public debate, the progress of governance and the integration of accountability in the mission of organizations.

In essence, authors drink from the work of Karl Deutsch. Uncertainty, tension or fear condition the perception of reality, impoverishes the judgement capacity of individuals and favours manipulation (Deutsch, 1978). The correct metaphor of nerves connecting politics, society and government is today the last refinement of diplomacy, which has integrated the international political communication, public and digital diplomacy in the daily management.

3.2. The growing demand for transparency in diplomacy

Transparency is the foundation of renewal of political systems in contemporary democracies. It has turned into a mandate by international institutions because transparency levers the neutrality of administration, promotes control systems and creates barriers to corruption (Villoria, 2000). In this sense, the number of laws of transparency have grown, as well as the access to information, governance of public administration, managing of data, assessment of public policies, publication of data in open format and other innovation measures are in the agenda of reform and transformation of public management of the XXI century. Transparency and accountability suggest new horizons in the management of information of public nature (Manfredi, 2017).

Transparency articulates the idea of democracy, efficacy and institutional framework (Longo, 2010). Public authorities respond before citizens, who informed, make duly decisions. Directives account for their management and their capacities, according to the mandate they have received. Institutionalization refers to the equal opportunities, creation of trust and social capital as well as the reduction of arbitrariness.

Transparency has effect in three levels of action (Diamond and Morlino, 2004). The first one is procedural, result of the aggregate of guidelines and regulations that explain the functioning of institutions. The second consists in contents, that is, real, solid and consistent information that is disseminated. It is measured here the use of informative services that go from the abstraction to intelligible informative products for the average citizen. Results represent the third step: transparency favours traceability of decisions and assigning self and other’s responsibilities.

Two factors converge in matter of diplomacy that explain the effects of transparency in the three levels mentioned.

On one hand, national politics have been globalized and governments are obliged to explain what kind of decisions are made in international institutions and how affect citizen’s everyday life. Diplomacy has entered a phase of continuous scrutiny that is linked with the procedural level. In practice, the revelation of the status of negotiations or starting points does not entail a greater level of transparency in the sense that negotiation is an open process. Here, the confusion between transparency and negotiation has promoted demagogy and has prejudiced the creation of trust among parties.

The plan of the Free Trade Treaty between the European Union and United States shows difficulties of a negotiation style based on the exchange of documents among the parties, but not accessible neither of them to public opinion. The European Commission explains that its obligation is to inform governments of the Member States and the European Parliament, whereas euro-congressmen have access to documents. Likewise, the mandate of negotiation has been made public, that is, the instructions given to the Commission by the Council. However, numerous pressure groups, euro-congressmen ad national representatives opposing to the Treaty, as well as journalists and academics brand it as dark and lacking legitimacy (Llaudes, 2016). This tension does not have an easy solution when, moreover, United States has its own legitimacy and interests in negotiations.

In the institutional place, the processes of creation of public politics in matters of exterior politics have facilitated the access of new actors so that the scope of contents is broadened and the management of results is transformed. The international campaign to forbid the anti-personnel mines, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, lobbies or international televisions are recurrent examples. The use of media and social networks have affected the form of organization, communication and participation instruments, capacity of impact in great audiences and validations of demands. The Global Summit against Sexual Violence held in London in 2014 is an example of this new approach towards multilateral negotiations about transnational affairs. A procedural transparency is not pursued, but instead another one oriented towards results. The summit, patronized by the actress Angelina Jolie, gathered 125 countries, non-governmental organizations, activists, victims of this violence, journalists and academics.

On the other hand, the demand of transparency and accountability of management and public policies has increased. The citizen demand of objective information and access to documentation for scrutiny has peaked. As a result, there is access to the publication of disaggregated budged numbers, definition of processes of election and renewal of positions and terms of offices (merits, political stability, responsibility, work reports, accountability), the capacity to formulate and implement foreign politics (effectiveness of the mandate, enunciation and fulfilment of a purpose, communication), as well as the establishment of relationships with the society (interaction with citizens in the diplomacy in the network), among other functions and attributions.

In the diplomatic field, the debate is quite rich (Cornago, 2013). Some authors consider that diplomacy cannot be kept at the margin of demands of transparency that go through the open society. It would be the end of the secret diplomacy (Colson, 2009), but not negotiations. The case of Iran with the Geneve group demonstrates that discretion in matters of security, defence and economic relations generates trust between parties.

The use of technologies for the prevention of conflicts, the improvement of intelligence and the early detection of crisis contributes to the construction of said scenario (Kalev Leetaru, 2017). However, some authors are more sceptical. Transparency in diplomacy, as a consequence of filtrations, has lost interest. Wikileaks and other similar events do not affect the development of those political negotiations that are not registered (Roberts, 2011). Thus, the newspaper The New York Times (What Happened to Transparency?, 2014) reported that Wikileaks has caused an undesired consequence: the procedures for the diffusion of public documents has been hardened. In the same sense, the Committee to Protect Journalists (Downie and Rafsky, 2013) pronounced when indicating that the regulation of transparency was against the promotion of a culture of transparency, more complete and adequate for the exercise of journalism.

Regarding journalism, transparency in international affairs has affected relationships between journalists and diplomats, military and intelligence agents. The treatment of information has different objectives for each one of these groups. These work with secrets. Silence and discretion are virtues. However, journalists need to produce verified and objective information. Journalists need to demonstrate, every time, the quality of informative sources, the validity of findings and the solvency of stories. The verification of stories has turned into an express mandate for the recovery of credibility of journalism. The public scrutiny about the diplomatic profession also extends towards the international journalism. This means to give space to all interest parties, which may include interviewing “enemies” and “others”. Likewise, the journalistic quality is measured through the credibility of sources and accuracy of work.

3.3. Risk of transparency in diplomacy

Transparency is not an absolute value, but a set of tools that favour the good governance in public matters. Due to this reason, three risks that emanate from the bad management of information, the excess of transparency or the lack of protection of relevant data are identified.

The first risk consists in the absence of standards for actors of the international society. Democratic and authoritarian governments, insurgent groups and terrorists, activists for human rights, European institutions, organized mafia, smugglers of illicit or central banks manage different degrees of revelation of information or parliamentary control. In the game of transparency, democracies offer more elements of control and balance than its competitors. The status of the Free Trade Treaty can be criticized because there is access to the European part of information. However, the funding sources of international terrorism are unknown, the routes for white slave traffic, payments out of interest to a pressure group so that an idea is moved on social networks or the real number of migration movements. In the field of security, we must consider how much information is shared with allies or how part public-private partnerships are created for managing security in the line of what is suggested by James Stavridis (quoted by Lillie, 2012).

The risk is described like this: the functioning of the democratic systems and open societies requires a degree of transparency in the management of international information that does not compete other actors. This asymmetry grants advantage to whom are disposed to not complying with international regulations. The construction of trust among parties is not simple. Above the negotiations between Europe and the United States are mentioned as well as the one of the Genève group with Iran. Not all parties are willing to facilitate the same degree of information, allow the entrance of observers, give access to interest groups or allow that journalists do their job. This is the asymmetry.

The second risk is the management of trust. In the internal field, trust consists in the collaboration between the parts of the international system. That is, intelligence and espionage, commercial information, security and defence and other actives. In the external plane, institutions and representation systems present low indexes of social trust. A certain degree of authoritarianism is tolerated in the name of stability (Foa and Mounk, 2016). The election of partners and allies’ influences in the execution of diplomatic projects, as well as in the legitimacy of decisions made. When lack of trust grows, the capacity of influence and defence of democratic values is reduced.

The risk is as follows: the loss of social trust leads to the election of allies that do not share a vision of international relations. Reduces the capacity of public leadership before the challenges of the global governance (climate change, protection of digital rights or management of global public health). Likewise, the low internal trust prejudices communication among institutions of democracy.

The third risk is about the effective control of communications. Here, we are interested about the impact of filtrations. The ones disseminated by WikiLeaks damaged the informers before as well as the collaborators of the United Stated intelligence that the own United States interests abroad. Through the publication in detail of meetings or reunions, activists have been identified. In non-democratic countries, this announcement is very dangerous. The hearing system exposed by Edward Snowden creates a status that generates mistrust among allies and undermines the honest dialog.

4. Results

This paper suggests two hypotheses about the impact of transparency in the exercise of diplomacy.

Hypothesis 1 is confirmed. The use of principles of Open Government Partnership contribute to understanding that transparency in diplomacy is not only measured through publication and diffusion of the notes elaborated by diplomatic professionals, but also by the degree of participation and social openness, the use of technological innovations and accountability. Summits and multilateral meetings, as well as the use of social networks increase the traceability of diplomatic information and is not focused, solely, in the diffusion of documents that could be confidential or that could prejudice the security of sources. The balance between the levels of information is achieved with a procedural transparency, of contents and results, depending on the type of international politics or citizen demand.

Hypothesis 2 is evidenced. The diversity of actors that operate in the international arena cause the absence of standards. The risk of asymmetry affects the public communication, either due to the lack of trust, the malicious use of information of public nature or because the accountability is denied. The epistemic community is global, but with unequal access to sources and resources. Therefore, transparent diplomacy is not the only tool of strategic communication. Both cultural diplomacy and propaganda are part of the puzzle.

In short, the article confirms that transparency in diplomatic matters requires an analysis from different perspectives. A single model of assessment of public policies cannot be validated, instead it is necessary to gather new indicators, promote good practices and instruments for integrity and the traceability of information, reduce risks and institutionalize learning of transparency.


*Funded research. This research is encompassed in the project "Public Communication: power, right and message", reference ComPublic, research group of Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in its convocation of 2017.


Start of research: October 2016.
End of research: May 2017.

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How to cite this article in bibliographies / References

JL Manfredi Sánchez, JM Herranz de la Casa, LM Calvo Rubio (2017): “Transparency and Diplomacy: new social demands and professional routines”. Revista Latina de Comunicación Social, 72, pp. 832 a 848.
http://www.revistalatinacs.org/072paper/1195/45en.html
DOI: 10.4185/RLCS-2017-1195en

Article received on 19 March 2017. Accepted on 15 July.
Published on 23 July 2017.

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