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The Art of Parliamentary Diplomacy in Foreign Policy

The emerging parliamentary diplomacy is a form of diplomacy that is becoming more prevalent in the art of diplomacy. It complements traditional diplomacy in political practices and daily governance, adding more value to the foreign affairs of a country overall. Internationally,  parliaments engage in international affairs directly and openly as respected and relevant participators or actors. 

The national parliament of every country has a team of experts or a working committee who deal with foreign affairs.  The speakers in national parliaments interact with foreign officials and engage directly with international organizations. Parliamentary diplomacy is faster, more adaptable, and more flexible than traditional diplomacy and plays a crucial role in shaping bilateral and multilateral ties between countries. 

What Is Parliamentary Diplomacy?

Parliamentary diplomacy is a specific type of public diplomacy. It is distinct from conventional government-to-diplomacy and also different from the people-to-people, non-state diplomacy. This includes profile advancement, advocacy, and relation-building between states. Based on this, two international parliamentary bodies were established in the history of diplomacy, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in 1889 and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in 1911. 

Parliamentary Diplomacy is defined as, 

Parliamentary diplomacy is a distinct type of diplomacy that has increased the role of parliaments in international relations and foreign affairs issues.  It conducts dialogue, fosters international cooperation, and influences the decision-making of the state’s foreign policy. Unlike traditional diplomacy, parliamentary diplomacy offers a transparent and inclusive approach that makes the elected representatives accountable to their board. The skills and abilities of conflict resolution, mediation, and peaceful resolution can be sourced from the parliamentarians. This is also known as legislative diplomacy. 

Instrument Used By Parliamentary Diplomacy

There are two instruments used by parliamentary diplomacy to view the role of parliamentarians in foreign policy; institutional diplomacy and the lobbying/diplomatic impact.

1. Institutional Diplomacy

The role of the national parliament is significant during the process of cooperation with other parties. The different bilateral agreement regulates the competence of the parliament more precisely. For instance, parliament as the noble legislative body holds a meeting with foreign officials, ratifies international agreements, and establishes a mutual committee on the particular agenda. The speaker of parliament with his expertise in cooperation and exchange attends international meetings and discusses important issues related to world peace and security. Furthermore, Temporary or Permanent Delegations and Inter-Parliamentary Relations at intergovernmental organizations play an active role in parliamentary diplomacy and represent parliament in international relations. 

For example, the parliament of Albania has a permanent delegation in the NATO, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation

(BSEC), Mediterranean Conference, The Assembly of the Western European Union, the Center European Initiative, The Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie, and The Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly (EMPA) 

2. Lobbying

After the institutional competence, lobby or diplomatic impact is very significant in parliamentary diplomacy. The Assembly of the Republic of Albania uses lobbying for the recognition of Kosovo state. The Albanian Parliament Foreign Policy Committee raised its voice and presented it to all international institutions. The Speaker of the Albanian Parliament ran the campaign activity and ratified the Declaration “ On The State of Kosovo” in 2007. 

Albanian Parliament also obtained the status of candidate by lobbying in 2013 after receiving a negative response. It is essential to mention that parliamentary diplomacy is related to public diplomacy and public opinion, and civil societies play an important role in making the decisions of parliament and how to perform in external affairs. 

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Functions of Parliamentary Diplomacy

The concept of Parliamentary Diplomacy states that members of the National Assembly or the legislators who participate in the sessions can promote diplomatic activity and cooperation between states and the international level. Parliamentary diplomacy performs the following functions;

  • Strengthen bilateral and multilateral relations
  • Assists in mediation and conflict resolution
  • Promote democracy and human rights 
  • Advance national interest
  • Facilitates public discussions

1) Strengthen Bilateral and Multilateral Relations

Parliamentary diplomacy strengthens the relationships between states through inter-parliamentary cooperation, exchanges, and dialogue.  This practice of diplomacy contributes to collaboration, building understanding and trust among nations.

2) Assists in Mediation and Conflict Resolution

Parliamentarians play an important role in building peace among nations. They act as facilitators and impartial mediators, conduct dialogues and peaceful talks between conflicting states, and provide solutions towards peace. The independence and impartiality of parliamentary diplomats make them appropriate mediators in peace processes. 

3) Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Parliamentary diplomacy promotes democratic principles, advocacy of human rights, and the rule of law. Parliamentary diplomats play an important role in establishing standards of global human rights through involvement with international parliamentary institutions.  

4) Advance National Interest

Parliamentary diplomacy promotes national interest at international forums such as the United Nations (UN), and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It advances security cooperation through multilateral engagement based on common goals and shared principles. Parliamentary diplomats play a crucial role in maintaining international peace and security. 

5) Facilitate Public Discussion

Parliamentary diplomacy facilitates communication channels, and public discussions, and conducts fact-finding missions between conflicting parties. Discussions ensure the democratic nature of diplomacy and promote political dialogues to smooth misunderstandings between conflicting parties. 

Parliamentary Diplomacy in Designing Foreign Policy

For a long time, foreign policymaking has been exclusively centered on executive government. This foreign policy is considered to be more monopolistic and founded on the centralism culture which arises from the idea that urgency, secrecy, and expertise are important for dealing with a state’s external affairs. Hence, due to the special nature of the field, public opinion has given less attention to foreign policy making by the foreign policy bureaucrats. The conventional trend was that secretive and urgent decisions were required for a foreign policy that may not cater to public opinions and debates.

Considering current international trends and affairs have a significant impact on the lives of citizens, public opinion, trust, and acceptance have become prominent requirements of foreign policy in a democratic state. 

The development of democratic norms, regimes, and institutions has increased public involvement in both internal as well as external affairs of a state. So, people are involved in the mechanism through the parliament ( elected representatives). However, there is a direct involvement of parliament in the democratic doctrines. Furthermore, the role of parliament in foreign policy-making has also resulted from globalization. As the world has become more complicated and multifaceted, not just the executive can make decisions anymore rather there are multi-stakeholders in the making of foreign policy. 

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Parliamentary Diplomacy In Action

1) EU Parliamentary Diplomacy

The European Parliament (EP) has varying and wide competencies in foreign policies, extending from official powers’ approval of the international treaties and legislation impacting the EU  to a merely advisory role on particular aspects of common security and foreign policy. Under the idea of parliamentary diplomacy, the European Parliament practices diplomacy and conducts several activities in countries outside the EU.  An extensive network of parliamentary bodies shapes European parliament diplomacy.  Inter-parliamentary delegations, Committees, and delegations maintain contact with external actors and conduct many debates with international guests. For example, the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) invites speakers from the parliament of third countries and their foreign ministers (in the last term, 39 foreign ministers). 

Furthermore, they discuss the sensitive issues related to violations of human rights and give public statements. EP diplomats interact directly with the political partners and create channels of communication with local partners. They can solve the political issues of third countries and smooth the electoral process.

2) United States Parliamentary Diplomacy

Parliamentary diplomacy plays an important role in U.S. foreign policy, as the executive and the legislative branches participate in foreign policy decision-making.  Commissioners have promoted the establishment of parliamentary assemblies for local organizations worldwide.  The US has advanced its interest through the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly,  which provides engagement opportunities to parliamentarians from OSCE member countries.

The establishment of NATO is an example of interparliamentary cooperation in the spectrum of international security. The creation of national Parliamentary Associations and the actions of the Conference of Members of Parliament from NATO countries have played a huge role in public support for NATO and a sense of unity among its members.

3) Western Balkans Parliamentary Diplomacy

Parliaments of the Western Balkan States (Bosnia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, and Herzegovina) ratify international agreements under parliamentary diplomacy. Their president and speakers consult with committees of foreign affairs in their regular activities. They promote interparliamentary cooperation by hosting delegations to several global parliamentary bodies and bilateral parliamentary groups. 

They contribute to cultural, public, and economic diplomacy. Alongside the interparliamentary cooperation among themselves. They also cooperate with the European Parliament which is the key to success in parliamentary diplomacy and the integration process. 

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Parliamentary diplomacy has gained the limelight in the world of diplomacy by increasing the role of parliaments in foreign policy decision-making. Parliamentary diplomacy effectively solves regional issues and promotes international peace and security. Best Diplomats is an international diplomatic organization conducting international conferences worldwide to make youth learn about the art of diplomacy and decision-making. Register Yourself With the Best Diplomats!

Conclusion

Parliamentary diplomacy is broadly recognized in foreign policy-making to foster communication and dialogue and promote confidence-building and mutual understanding among nations to solve a range of global issues and challenges.  The importance of parliamentary Diplomacy in

maintaining and advancing global security and peace is also acknowledged and advocated by the international governmental organization, the United Nations. The Resolutions 65/123 and 65/283 of UNGA ( United Nations General Assembly) are examples of strengthening the role of parliamentary diplomacy in mediation, national reconciliation, and conflict prevention.   Parliamentary diplomacy offers cooperation and transparency and has become essential for the states to increase the participation of parliaments in external activities.

FAQs

What is the role of parliamentary diplomacy in international relations?

Parliamentary diplomacy plays a crucial role in maintaining global peace and security by promoting national interests at international forums through parliamentary assemblies of inter-governmental organizations, for example, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe. 

What are the advantages of parliamentary diplomacy?

The advantages of parliamentary diplomacy include conducting negotiations, facilitating public discussion forums, and creating additional channels of communication to bring peace between conflicting parties. It also protects human rights and advances democratic principles.

How is parliamentary diplomacy different from traditional diplomacy?

Traditional diplomacy or the national foreign policy was practiced by the diplomats only but parliamentary diplomacy involves executive, and parliamentary bodies to carry out diplomacy and have an impact in making effective foreign policy. 

What is the role of the US Congress in parliamentary diplomacy?

Under parliamentary diplomacy, the US Congress prioritizes policies, holds officials accountable, and provides a strong democratic foundation for peacebuilding, cooperation, and promotion of human rights. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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