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date: 25 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The exponential growth in the complexity of human exchange has led to two major developments in the protected world of the diplomat: the entry into intergovernmental business of most other government departments (and some non-governmental ones); and the heightening of the short-term political sensitivity of overseas business. Both these factors have brought the head of government into closer daily control of foreign affairs and subtracted from the foreign ministry’s exclusivity. Professional diplomats, reporting to the foreign minister, no longer find it possible to coordinate the total interface with other states’ representatives or to claim a monopoly on the handling or interpreting of external factors in their country’s set of interests. This article examines the standard structures of foreign ministries; the relevance of diplomacy to modern international transactions; where diplomacy ends and technical intergovernmental interface begins; how foreign ministries are responding to the need for cross-government teamwork; and what twenty-first-century systems are being devised, under political direction, as the best ways to coordinate the very complicated set of foreign policy requirements that a nation state confronts. In doing so, it points out how carefully governments must plan their investment in foreign policy and diplomatic capability, and how necessary it is for systems to adapt to global change.

Keywords: foreign policy, intergovernmental business, foreign affairs, foreign ministry, diplomats, diplomacy

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