The public-facing diplomacy of Chile’s Foreign Ministry

Orthodox views on diplomacy have held sway in Chile for decades. But times are changing at the foreign ministry. Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola has shown that she understands what’s at stake.

Diplomacy has been a serious tool of statecraft for centuries, mostly conducted by elites. However, at the start of the 21st century a new form of diplomacy emerged, which takes people into account, offers space for public participation, and even encourages more interaction.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the way in which the first talks took place were examples of this approach. On one side of the negotiating table were the Ukrainians, wearing rather informal attire. The ravages of the invasion were noticeable in their faces. Opposite them sat the Russians – with ties and dark suits, reflections of the 20th century.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky negotiates based on reason, emotion and senses, employing arguments beyond geopolitics. This strategy is a faithful reflection of the humanization of diplomacy, transforming the differences between countries, their religious, political, and economic conflicts into a call to exercise public duties in good faith, closer to persons.

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In Chile, we have experienced a similar change. Foreign Minister Antonia Urrejola represents a positive break with the past form of doing foreign policy. Obviously, the comparison with former Foreign Minister Andrés Allamand facilitates the analysis, but beyond the obvious, the Foreign Ministry has clearly approached the public.

It has facilitated a citizen dialog which, together with the ministry’s traditional objectives, has integrated other aims, such as inclusion, human rights and the environment, culture, and social integration. The first official visit of President Gabriel Boric confirmed this; culture, society and human rights were part of his agenda on his trip to Argentina.

These changes in no way represent an abandonment of the ministry’s natural concern for political and economic relations. Crucially, during these last two months we witnessed the trial in The Hague regarding the Silala river dispute with Bolivia, but the case has not absorbed the ministry’s entire attention. Other relevant issues like the accession to the Escazú agreement have been handled too.

Bringing the international relations of our country closer to the public, making these issues a State policy, is Urrejola’s work. It is no coincidence that our Foreign Ministry today is much more open; we finally see fewer dark suits and ties, and more dialog and vivid colors.

If diplomacy is the art of strengthening relations between States, then Teatinos 180 follows that line, strengthening global and lasting ties, with the public involved and engaged in the challenges this decade of the 21st century demands us to overcome.

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