Freelance Diplomats

by Peter Spiro

Just bumped into Independent Diplomat, “The Diplomatic Advisory Group,” while casting around.   Along with the Public International Law & Policy Group, this seems to part of what may be the growing phenomenon of private contractor diplomacy, of the non-profit kind.  I first noticed the phenomenon in the context of small island states and their use of the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD — Philippe Sands and James Cameron) for multilateral negotiations.  In that case, FIELD had a substantive agenda, and AOSIS gave it the ideal vehicle literally to sit at the negotiating table.

PILPG and Independent Diplomat, by contrast, appear interested only in assisting states and other entities that may have trouble doing it on their own, legal services for states and would-be states.  Independent Diplomat describes itself as consisting of “experienced former diplomats, international lawyers and other experts in international relations. They have no allegiance or affiliation to other governments or institutions. ID’s advice is impartial and disinterested.”  It looks like a serious outfit, if a big-name board is any measure. (More on the group here.)

Not quite sure what to make of this, other than it would have been unlikely 25 years ago, for the very reason that mere citizenship in another country would have implied “allegiance or affiliation” to another government.  Perhaps it’s a move back to the 19th century tradition of non-national diplomats, French aristocrats representing Russia, for example.

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