T05P06 - Challenges in Global Policy Making: The ‘Practice Turn’ in the New Diplomacy

Topic : Policy Formulation, Administration and Policymakers

Panel Chair : richard higgott - richard.higgott@warwick.ac.uk

Panel Second Chair : Caterina Carta - ccarta@vub.ac.be

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

As policy problems become increasingly trans-sovereign in both nature and resolution in the 21st century, the traditional divide between domestic policy-making and diplomacy becomes increasingly blurred.  One major aspect of this blurring has been the development of a sharp ‘practice turn’ in diplomacy. 


This panel offers the opportunity to open up new vistas for public policy.  The panel will identify the growing interest in taking ‘practice’ as a privileged unit of analysis in the study of internationalised policy processes.  This is in contrast to the traditional privileging of agents and structures in International Relations.  Diplomacy is no longer simply a narrow foreign policy practice of the modern state system. Rather it is now a wider and flexible set of human practices and policy behaviour that are adapting to the conditions of the globalized era. Diplomats are no longer members of an exclusive separate elite.  They are public servants trained in a wide variety of both generic and specific managerial and administrative skills and practices to be used in the resolution of complex policy problems both at home and abroad. As is well understood, new actors have emerged both from within and outside of the apparatus of the state to presage a plural trans-border policy environment. 


These new diplomatic practices, as well as traditional practices extend to cultural and science diplomacy. Understanding the new practices is essential if we are to mediate between the universalism of science and the particularism of cultural—a clash which can threaten the very basis of a cooperative contemporary policy making process.  In essence then modern diplomacy is no longer a matter of great events and great people (usually men) negotiating agreements and making treaties.  It is also about embedded, or nested, practices and interactions of an everyday technical, social, practical and ritualized kind.  The modern practice of diplomacy consists of socialized patterns of policy making transcending the sometimes overly exaggerated divide between structures and agents.  


Nowhere are these hybrid policy processes better observed than in modern day science and cultural diplomacy (SCD). Indeed the empirical narrative of SCD reflects an importance for the role of non-state actors beyond that found in almost any other issue-area of diplomacy. We need to see diplomacy as a foundational, but hybrid institution of modern policy making developing new practices and procedures in contemporary trans-sovereign policymaking. This proposition is recognized by states as they enhance capabilities among non-traditional diplomatic actors in the policy process.  These may be official actors such as mayors, judges and regulators, but also non-state actors like philanthropic foundations, think tanks and individual experts The panel is keen to review proposals that focus on the major domains of security and economic diplomacy but especially papers on the growing interest in science and cultural diplomacy as vehicles for addressing the ‘grand global policy challenges’ identified by the UN and the EU.

Call for papers

This panel offers the opportunity to open up new vistas for public policy.  It focuses on two elements of contemporary diplomacy as public policy.  Firstly, drawing on the growing body of literature on global public policy and innovative work in international relations the panel is interested in papers that look at the emerging  ‘practice turn’ in the scholarly study of diplomacy at both a theoretical and policy level. Secondly, the panel is especially interested in receiving submissions that focus on the growing role of science and cultural diplomacy in the contemporary era.   Science and cultural diplomacy are an increasing area of activity of the major players in international public policy, notably the USA, the major European powers and increasingly China.  Of late the European Union has tried to establish itself as a more coherent and major actor in these domains of global public policy in its own right


In addition to theoretical papers the panel therefore welcomes papers that look empirically and comparatively at the public policies and diplomatic practices of major players (both state and non-state) in those policy areas not traditionally covered by the international relations community and not traditionally covered by an analytical approach traversing national borders emphasizing the ‘practice turn’ in diplomatic studies as a logical extension to the policy process.  The panel welcomes papers in all areas of science and cultural diplomacy: for example environmental, energy and health diplomacy on the one hand and the role of state sponsored, philanthropic, educational and/or cultural organisations in both the formal and informal policy processes on the other.   The kinds of non-state actors in these processes could include bodies such as the IPCC, ICSU, the British Council, the Confucius Institutes, the Fulbright Scheme, the Ford or Bill and Melinda Gates Foundations, the Asia Europe Foundation, think tanks, scientific associations; international exchanges in arts and heritage, and other such quasi-diplomatic bodies that clearly impact the contemporary policy process.

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