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The Art of Quiet Diplomacy: Soft Power, Loud Impact

In the world of diplomacy, there is no universal answer to the question, what is the best form of diplomacy? There are different situations with different circumstances that demand different but appropriate types of diplomacy. Diplomacy aims to conduct negotiations between states over conflicting interests and build peace in the international geopolitical arena. However, just like public diplomacy, quiet diplomacy is also a type of diplomacy playing a significant role in providing middle-grounds to conflicting parties and resolving disputes through discreet and confidential channels. These specifications make it different from the other forms of diplomacy. 

What is Quiet Diplomacy?

Quiet diplomacy is a form of diplomacy in which one state makes efforts to impact the behavior and decisions of other states through covert negotiations and conduct of actions. This means quiet diplomacy relies upon back doors or backchanneling rather than open or public talks. It may also involve strategic partnership and deal-making with more benefits than penalties. Quiet Diplomacy brings soft power by indirectly influencing the state’s leaders by holding meetings with civil society representatives.

Mostly small states use quiet diplomacy as they do not have larger economic or military power to intimidate other states. But larger states such as China and the US also use quiet diplomacy to impact smaller nations through soft power. 

Options for Quiet Diplomacy

The following are the options that provide a brief overview of quiet diplomatic activities for conflict prevention and peace-building. 

  • Good offices
  • Facilitation
  • Mediation
  • Conciliation
  • International Adjudication

1) Good Offices

Good offices are the prominent option in conducting peace resolutions between the conflicting parties. It is said that it has been brought about to initiate negotiations by the consent of parties, provide a safe environment, encourage the exchange of information, transmit messages between parties, and propose solutions for negotiations and peacebuilding.

2) Facilitation 

Facilitation was conducted between the conflicting parties before the conflict dynamics emerged. It allows states to start and maintain their dialogue process and interpret peaceful options about international norms. According to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM), which can act independently, quickly, and impartially, advocates a law-based strategy, and can rely on participating States for support and additional credibility, it appears to be the most successful quiet diplomacy in history.

3) Mediation

Mediation is an ad hoc and voluntary tool for peaceful conflict resolution and prevention. It is a non-violent, non-coercive form of third-party intervention as a mediator to impact, change, modify, resolve, or influence the conflicting parties and make a way toward peace. Mediators should be impartial, and acceptable, and a neutral third party helps in settling.

4) Conciliation

Conciliation is an option of quiet diplomacy which refers to a person or a group of people assisting the disputing parties to resolve their dispute/ conflict. It is different from mediation as it aims to reconcile or conciliate the objectives of each party by seeking concessions. The conciliator helps the parties to make a set of objectives, then encourages them to present themselves at the table of dialogue and make the middle ground for both parties. 

5) International Adjudication

International adjudication is the process of resolving international disputes by “the referral of the dispute to an impartial third-party tribunal – normally either an arbitral tribunal or an international court” for an obligatory decision, usually based on international law. International adjudication generally involves an enforceable obligation for the disputing parties to accept the ruling of the third party as the settlement of the dispute.

Also Read: The Uses of Diplomatic Instruments In Diplomatic Missions

How Presidents Used Quiet Diplomacy?

The following are the case studies of quiet diplomacy which will mention the significance of quiet diplomacy in international relations; 

1) Carter Administration and the Case of Argentina

The US Carter administration used quiet diplomacy in the case of Argentina when public condemnation was lacking by the Carter officials for the atrocities of the military regime in Argentina. However, the quiet diplomacy played a successful role, out of the public eye, and aided in ending the human rights abuses by the Argentina regime.  It was mentioned in the declassified documents that Carter and some of his officials, mainly Patricia Derian, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights were devoted to integrating human rights into the official foreign policy. They actively fought against implicit and explicit messages sent to foreign governments regarding whether the US focusing on human rights was more than just political rhetoric. 

Carter used quiet diplomacy to engrave a foreign policy emphasizing human rights that would reconcile various factions inside and outside of the US territory and government. According to some congress members and the NGO community, foreign policy based on human rights must be implemented entirely, without any amendments or other considerations related to national security and foreign policy. However, the decrease in the number of political prisoners detained in Argentina in the time of Carter’s Administration shows the success of the strategy of quiet diplomacy contrary to public perception and its significant impact on the Argentina military regime.

2) Bush Administration and South America

In 2007, President George W. Bush visited South American nations to expand its impact and counter the influence of the left-wing Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez. He offered some kind of aid to them and said at the press conference in Uruguay; 

“I would call our diplomacy quiet and effective diplomacy — diplomacy all aimed at helping people, aimed at elevating the human condition, aimed at expressing the great compassion of the American people.” 

The main agenda behind the visit never came in the limelight, but it was clear that South American nations should partner with the United States rather than Venezuelan Chavez. 

Limitations of Quiet Diplomacy

Despite the several successes of quiet diplomacy, it has some limitations which should not be overstated. The following are; 

  1. Quiet diplomacy lacks transparency. As it takes place behind doors, it has restricted public scrutiny, leading to less accountability. 
  1. Quiet diplomacy limits civil participation. It includes specific groups of diplomats and NGOs that may not entertain the public’s interest in broader horizons. 
  1. The secrecy of quiet diplomacy leads to undemocratic practices and decisions and lacks openness and a democratic legacy of the negotiated efforts and outcomes. 
  1. Quiet diplomacy involves short-term objectives with immediate problem-solving. This provides temporary relief and lacks long-term outcomes. 

Also read: The Challenges of Diplomacy 

Learn About Quiet Diplomacy With the Best Diplomats

Quiet diplomacy navigates the problems of the geopolitical complex. In the times of public diplomacy, quiet diplomacy is overstated, but it is as effective as the other forms of diplomacy. Diplomatic engagement between states happens through quiet diplomacy that leads to conflict resolutions even sometimes before their full escalation. Best Diplomats is an international diplomatic organization organizing diplomatic conferences worldwide to attract the attention of the youth towards geopolitical issues. Register Yourself With the Best Diplomats! 


Concludingly, quiet diplomacy is a kind of diplomacy and is an effective strategy in the course of diplomatic engagements and international relations. It is mainly focused on back-door diplomacy which includes discreet and confidential negotiations that allow the diplomats to make peace-building decisions for the complicated geopolitical complex. Compared to the other forms of diplomacy such as public diplomacy, people can see the outcomes, but quiet diplomacy takes place quietly, offers tangible results, and avoids escalating disputes. Quiet diplomacy fosters mutual understanding, builds bridges between nations, and resolves conflict under the meaningful negotiations that occur silently in the spoken world. 


What does quiet diplomacy mean?

Quiet diplomacy refers to finding peace resolutions by taking the key actors from the limelight. It includes reconciliation and mediation confidentially and discreetly through back channels. 

How does diplomacy affect international relations? 

Diplomacy aims to impact the behavior of other countries to achieve their national interests. It can be performed through many channels, i.e. open and close, for instance through public and quiet diplomacy. 

What are the stages of diplomacy? 

In the arena of international relations, the first stage of the diplomatic process includes preparation, then discussion and negotiation, after the successful negotiations, parties prepare drafts, and treaties, and sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).  Further, it involves the implementation of the agreed negotiations, and the last stage is the evaluation of the success and failures of those set middle-ground agendas. 

Oleksandra Mamchii

Working as a academic lead at Best Diplomats.

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