A column in yesterday’s Miami Herald (Oppenheimer, Oct. 13, 2013) introduced a term that was new to me, but it got me thinking. It seems “sub-national diplomacy” is a much-discussed concept as some city and state governments, here and abroad, have entered into formal agreements directly with other nations. Normally, these relations are of course conducted through the federal government.
Since I argue in my book that nations (foreign as well as ours) can promote their own interests through consuls posted in a large number of communities throughout the United States, I see how this approach to citizen diplomacy can/should be the seed-bed for the higher constructs of sub-national diplomacy.
Let’s say, for instance, that the City of New Orleans is seeking bids for an elaborate dam-system and wants to encourage the nation of Utopia (I always use fictitious countries) to submit a proposal, because of its successful solutions for its own river-problems. The first point of influence should logically be the local Utopian consul. The chances of success greatly increase when the person making that initial connection understands the functions of a foreign consul and knows how to use specific tools of citizen diplomacy in all consular interactions.
In that context, it seems to me there’s little, if any, divide between sub-national and citizen diplomacy.