The key to successful diplomatic activity is trust in the process and in those with whom the diplomat is negotiating. Without mutual trust, diplomats will be hesitant to share their interests or listen to one another. The perception that a diplomat lies for his or hes country is a falsehood. However, it is widely understood that political factors (particularly matters related to national security) may call for withholding of information. Nonetheless, diplomats not only expect, but depend upon the accuracy and authenticity of information or messages pertinent to their negotiations or discussions. Ultimately, trust is the cause and effect of long-term working relationships at the U.N.
Longevity of relationships among diplomats at the U.N. plays an important role in the way the United Nations functions. In order to establish long-term relationships, diplomats must be personable, trustworthy and approachable. Personal integrity is one of the most valued characteristics of any diplomat and is an essential ingredient to a fruitful working relationship at the United Nations.
Also, diplomats seek consistency in their relationships to retain credibility. Consistency is not always easy to achieve if the foreign ministry decides to unilaterally change the national position on issues or concerns. In addition, the negotiation process at the United Nations is designed to bring about changes in national positions so consensus-building can occur. Therefore, consistency pertains more to the approach of a diplomat in negotiations than to their steadfastness on a particular position or policy.
The process of consensus-building involves a lot of bargaining so that the interests of all countries at the U.N. are minimally met in agreements. For better or worse, reciprocity motivates decisions and is a major criterion on which most relationships and agreements at the U.N. are based. Frequently, the relationships between countries (and in most cases, between diplomats) will outweigh the outcome of any particular issue. For instance, in negotiations, diplomats will often accede to an unfavorable decision on one issue so that they might obtain leverage on another current or future concern. This “logrolling” of issues is a predominant activity at the United Nations.
The U.N. rules of procedure prescribe how diplomacy is conducted at the United Nations. These rules are particularly important in the United Nations setting because they facilitate the participation of all governments, on equal footing, in multilateral diplomacy. The rules determine who may address the Assembly and when, the powers and functions of the elected officers, and how decisions can be taken or postponed. They regulate diplomatic behaviour to ensure civil discourse among governments while facilitating the deliberations towards an agreement.
In the final analysis, all U.N. diplomats strive to advance or protect their national interests while fostering consensus amidst a vast array of conflicting and competing positions and views. Although it may take many years to find common ground, diplomatic success is best measured by the actions of governments that conform with recommendations and decisions made at the United Nations.
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