Guerrilla diplomacy

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Guerrilla diplomacy is both a method of diplomacy and an alternative approach to international relations designed for the globalization age.

Guerrilla diplomacy is situated at the far end of a diplomatic spectrum that features traditional diplomacy at one end and public diplomacy near the centre. Examples could include various activities undertaken by Sergio Vieira de Mello on behalf of the United Nations in Cambodia, former Yugoslavia and East Timor, 1991–2002; Ambassador Ken Taylor's actions during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979; Swedish Diplomat Raoul Wallenberg's efforts to save lives during World War II; and Canadian Fisheries Minister Brian Tobin's public display, from a barge in the East River opposite UN headquarters, of undersized fishing nets seized from a Spanish trawler during the "cod war" in 1994. In 2018, it was effectively applied in the UK in the Windrush scandal to guide the strategy employed by Guy Hewitt and fellow Caribbean Community high commissioners in London to transform the Windrush issue into a national concern in Britain and bring about a major policy u-turn.[1][2]

Guerrilla diplomacy's doctrine and methods have been articulated by Daryl Copeland, described by Jeremy Kinsman as a "forceful agent of urgently needed change" in a book published in 2009 by Lynne Rienner.


Guerrilla diplomacy is a light and supple approach to the practice of diplomacy and an alternative doctrine of statecraft. Its techniques have been described by Professor Nicholas Cull as "essential to navigating the diplomatic rapids of the twenty-first century", and its analysis as a "milestone" in "diplomacy's current revolution" by Simon Anholt.

GD responds to the marginalization of dialogue, negotiation, and collaboration as tools of international relations and arises from the conviction that while diplomacy matters today more than ever, it is in crisis and has been sidelined as a result of the militarization of international policy which has been carried forward from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror. It was designed in response to the challenges of the globalization age, and is at home in that transformed operating environment. Guerrilla Diplomacy places maximum value on innovation and on creating and sustaining an atmosphere of confidence, trust and respect.


Guerrilla diplomacy operates using methods distinct from those employed in traditional diplomacy and moves contemporary thinking on public diplomacy and soft power towards new frontiers. GD takes full account of the challenges to development and security that are embedded in globalization, and is designed to address the range of global issues, ranging from pandemic disease to climate change to resource scarcity, which are rooted in science and driven by technology. Copeland discusses the importance of this connection between science and diplomacy in his article for the journal Science & Diplomacy, entitled “Bridging the Chasm: Why Science and Technology Must Become Priorities for Diplomacy and International Policy.”[3] It is based on meaningful exchange in two directions, in that messages are transmitted outwards, to interlocutors in the field, and are also fed back into the policy development process. At its best, therefore, GD results in altered behavior and outcomes in both receiving and sending states.

Guerrilla diplomacy highlights the importance of abstract thinking, advanced problem-solving skills and rapid-adaptive cognition. It pushes diplomatic practice into more distant, less state-centric places, from shanty towns to conflict zones. The effectiveness of GD turns on the collection of tactical and strategic intelligence, on the development of alternative networks, and on the production of demonstrable results by boring deep into the interstices of power and navigating pathways inaccessible to others. Success at these endeavours may involve relying on technology, and especially the new media as a force multiplier, on taking a less formal approach to representation, and, perhaps most importantly, on thinking creatively, listening carefully and analyzing rigorously.

The guerrilla diplomat is cross-culturally literate and capable, swimming with ease in the sea of the people rather than flopping around like a fish out of water when outside the embassy walls. Ever inventive and prepared to improvise in order to achieve objectives, the guerrilla diplomat’s ears will be to the ground, and eyes on the horizon — or tree line, or rooftops, or whatever is required to get the job done. Yet the guerrilla diplomat's playbook will be informed more by an appreciation of the unconventional and an irregular interpretation of the principles of public relations than by any reading of the doctrine of people’s war.

Comfort with risk, an affinity for outreach and a serious interest in people — in what they do and how they think about the world — are integral to the GD territory. The guerrilla diplomat will suffocate if confined to organizational silos and drown if buried under layers of bureaucratic overburden. Standard operating procedures, awaiting instructions and doing things “by the book” may at times be necessary, but will rarely be sufficient in resolving the complex problems which characterize the sorts of fast-paced, high-risk environments best suited to GD.

In political communications generally, and for guerrilla diplomacy in particular, the how is at least as important as the what. The guerrilla diplomat is resilient, maximizing self-reliance while minimizing need for the usual investment in plant, infrastructure and logistical support. Cautious introverts and ambitious careerists need not apply. Nor the reckless or insensitive: guerrilla diplomats have the street smarts to avoid alienating either their hosts — or their home government colleagues.[citation needed]

Key Concepts[edit]

ACTE — a de-territorialized world order model designed to replace the Cold War-era. First, Second and Third World formulation by capturing the essential elements of the globalization age. The new model may be applied to individuals, groups, neighbourhoods, cities, countries and/or regions. It consists of the:

A or advancing, world, which controls the wealth and whose economic and political advantage is growing;

C or contingent world, whose prospects are uncertain and will be determined by future developments, which could tip in either direction;

T or tertiary world, characterized by endemic poverty and whose relative position is subservient or dependent;

E or excluded world, which is for the most part outside of globalization’s matrix.

Diplomatic ecosystem — an organic, multi-tiered, interdependent diplomatic whole consisting of the foreign ministry and foreign service; individual diplomats; departments and agencies of government with international policy responsibilities or content; and non-state actors.

Geodiplomatics — a systematic, non-violent and communications-based approach to the effective management of the world’s strategic nexuses.

Global political economy of knowledge — a collaborative, heuristic and virtual store of the world's information and expertise, accessible principally through the new media, which pervades, supports and reinforces critical productive, transnational and power relationships, including the digital divide, on the ground.

Guerrilla diplomacy — a cross-cultural, enabled and grassroots approach to diplomatic practice characterized by autonomy, agility, adaptability and resilience; a premium on intelligence gathering and analysis; access to global political economy of knowledge; the ability to act with souplesse.

Heteropolarity - an emerging world system in which competing states or groups of states derive their relative power and influence from dissimilar sources - social, economic, political, military, cultural. The disparate vectors which empower these heterogeneous poles are difficult to compare or measure; stability in the age of globalization will therefore depend largely upon the diplomatic functions of knowledge-driven problem solving and complex balancing.

Representational footprint — the physical evidence, or lack thereof, of diplomatic presence and infrastructure.

Souplesse — the ability to connect with the global political economy of knowledge for the remedial application of scientific and technological capacity in order to engage specific threats and challenges, typically in support of security and development.


  1. ^ "Winning the Windrush Battle". Chatham House. Retrieved 2018-06-11.
  2. ^ "Windrush Scandal". CNN. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  3. ^ Copeland, Daryl (July 29, 2015). "Bridging the Chasm: Why Science and Technology Must Become Priorities for Diplomacy and International Policy". Science and Diplomacy.

External links[edit]