Chapter 7

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Diplomatic System

Brian Hocking

The ministry of foreign affairs (MFA) has come to assume a central reference point for both the study and practice of diplomacy. During the evolution of state-based diplomacy, national governments have developed a set of tools for interaction with their external environments and for the implementation of their international policy objectives. This is represented in the form of what is termed in this chapter, the "national diplomatic system" (NDS). Traditionally, this system has been equated with the MFA and has often, misleadingly, been regarded as synonymous with it. But whatever form the NDS has assumed, it is increasingly apparent that it is becoming more complex as a result of domestic and international factors. This results in seemingly paradoxical tendencies. On the one hand, pressures flowing from the global environment place a premium on sound policy advice and effective overseas representation. On the other, the MFA's credentials as the logical point of interface within the international system are questioned as the constitution of "foreignness" itself seems harder to grasp in a rapidly changing and integrated world. Against this background, the chapter explores the nature and functions of the MFA and its place in the changing NDS.

Glossary exercises

Takeā€“home messages

Answering the book's "big" questions



Counterfactual reasoning exercises

Guide to further reading

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