Posted on behalf of Jovan Kurbalija
Late last night UNESCO elected a new secretary general, Bulgarian diplomat Irina Bokova. After six rounds of voting she won against Egyptian cultural minister Farouk Hosny who was considered to be the favourite for the post. The voting was an anti-climax after a long campaign lasting for months, and involving a wide variety of diplomatic techniques that we label “Candidature Diplomacy”.
Candidature Diplomacy is not very visible to outsiders. It is not studied or researched. But it exits. It involves certain techniques. It takes a lot of time for effective candidature diplomacy, especially for those placed in multilateral centres. It poses many management challenges for diplomatic services.
Candidature Diplomacy puts pressure on diplomatic services, especially in the main centres of multilateral diplomacy (New York, Geneva) where most “candidature swapping” takes place. Lobbying for candidates involves many aspects, including a country’s prestige, the personalities involved, and can act as an extension of national political dynamics. The higher the level of a post in an international organisation, the more political the candidature process becomes. Lobbying is very often an extension of national politics either by trying to promote prominent members of ruling national elites, to remove them from national politics, or both. It makes Candidature Diplomacy a particularly delicate activity and sometimes a nightmare for diplomats.
How does Candidature Diplomacy work? Every year hundreds of positions in international organisations are open. In most cases, since every vote counts in an election in the UN and other international bodies, every country is involved in this process.
Countries are asked to both provide support and ask other countries for support. Lobbying takes place simultaneously through different channels; in New York and Geneva, in bilateral missions, and through direct contacts between ministers and senior officials. It makes Candidature Diplomacy a considerable management challenge for all countries, not only for small diplomatic services. How does a country avoid obligations to support to several candidates from different countries for one post? Who to support? Is it possible to swap requests for support?
In a way Candidature Diplomacy is a serious test for the management capabilities of diplomatic services. It is also a field where ICT can help by providing practical and simple solutions (by creating candidature databases).