Summary of A Diplomat's View

Summary of

A Diplomat's View

By Cameron R. Hume

This Article Summary written by: Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Hume, Cameron R. "A Diplomat's View." Peacemaking in International Conflict: Methods and Techniques. Eds. I. William Zartman and J. Lewis Rasmussen. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997. 319-336.

Cameron Hume has had a long and varied diplomatic career. He is currently Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. Hume identifies significant changes in the modern international scene, and describes correspondingly new, experimental approaches to diplomacy. He discusses the role of the UN Security Council, and uses of impartial third parties, regional organizations of states, and force and sanctions.

The role of the major powers in the international community is shrinking, as those states take narrower views of their national interests. The rule against interfering in another sovereign state's domestic affairs is being relaxed. In addition, diplomats, who typically prefer to act collectively, are increasingly turning to the UN to coordinate and legitimate international actions and interventions. These changes have prompted the adoption of new diplomatic approaches. The role of the UN secretary-general has been enhanced, and the number of UN sanctioned enforcement measures has increased. States are acting in coalitions more often. And the UN has assisted states in their domestic affairs, by monitoring elections, establishing judicial systems, and training police.

The UN Security Council plays an important role in modern diplomacy. Hume says, "the Security Council is diplomacy's emergency room."(p. 321) Situations that are urgent or cannot be addressed elsewhere are taken up by the Security Council. The modern Security Council sees less ideological debate, and has become more of a decision-making body. The Council does its work through closed, informal consultations of the whole body. "Members exchange views on reports submitted by the secretary-general, ask the secretariat for updates, receive briefings from key officials, negotiate decisions to be made by the council, and prepare for formal meetings."(p. 322) The modern Council also keeps nonmembers better informed of its actions by publishing advance copies of the agendas for its informal meetings, holding regular briefings, and consulting nations that have contributed peacekeeping troops before making decisions of such operations. The Council has also sent members on fact-finding missions to crisis spots. "The council acts by granting authority for the secretary-general to act on its behalf or by conferring legitimacy on action by states."(p. 323)

Most current African conflicts are internal conflicts, which must be resolved primarily by the parties involved. Diplomatic interventions have been collective, and impartial. In particular, Secretary General Boutros-Ghali has made increased use of special representatives. Special representatives may perform a variety of tasks including researching and monitoring conflicts situations, directing peacekeeping forces, coordinating relief efforts and other actors, facilitating political dialogue, communicating directly with the public, assisting in or leading the peace process, and monitoring local elections and local police activity. Hume concludes that "special representatives must be impartial among the parties to a conflict; committed to dialogue as an alternative to force; and able to coordinate efforts to this end made by governments, international organizations, humanitarian-relief agencies, and NGOs."(p. 326)

Another new diplomatic approach is the use of regional organizations of states to conduct conflict interventions and support mediation. State organizations such as the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and NATO have all engaged in conflict interventions in cooperation with the UN. Ad hoc coalitions have also been formed to address specific situations.

A third diplomatic approach involves the use of sanctions and force. Sanctions may take the form of arms embargoes, comprehensive economic embargoes, or targeted bans on travel, cultural exchanges, sporting events, or financial transfers. Sanctions are slow acting, difficult to implement, and may have unintended consequences. Force may be used to maintain no-fly zones, heavy-weapons exclusion zones, or to establish and defend safe zones. The UN has neither the inherent right nor the capacity to use exercise force on its own. It relies on member states to contribute military resources and cooperate in their direction.

Conflicts in Yugoslavia have given rise to five different approaches to organizing complex, multiform negotiations. Regional groups may negotiate a comprehensive plan. The UN may coordinate efforts through its special representatives, mediators, or peace operations directors. UN or regional groups may convene an international conference to work political and technical aspects of the conflict situation. Influential nations may form an ad hoc contact group, to approach the conflicting parties with peace proposals. Alternatively, a group of group of key representatives may be formed to address the parties. Other modern diplomatic approaches to conflict resolution include holding elections to allow people to decide their own fate, and convening international war crimes tribunals to restore justice and deter future abuses.

Modern diplomacy faces a number of challenges as it works to resolve conflicts. States are less susceptible to being influenced through their international connections. Diplomacy was traditionally an exercise in relations between equal sovereign states. The increase in non-state actors clashes with the traditional diplomatic paradigm. "At times nondiplomats, such as church leaders, academics, or former officials may be in a better position to act."(p. 336) Today's diplomats must strive to bring conflicting parties of all sorts into dialogue, and to help them create a common vision of their options and future. Modern diplomats must also learn to coordinate multiple conflict resolution efforts by a variety of actors at a variety of institutional levels.