Network Diplomacy
Nov 28, 2017

“A military cannot be engaged in the world unless it is present in the world, and this includes building and sustaining strong relationships with allies, partners, other militaries and multilateral institutions. These cooperative relationships enhance knowledge, understanding and interoperability, allow for the exchange of best practices, and ultimately contribute significantly to success on operations. This kind of continuous global military engagement is often referred to as defence diplomacy.” – Ronald Peter Barston, Modern Diplomacy

Diplomacy has been defined as “the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of states. It usually refers to international diplomacy and the conduct of international relations.” Traditional diplomatic tasks are expressed in the Vienna Conventions as: representing, protecting, negotiating, ascertaining, and promoting, while a general statement of the purpose for diplomacy could be, as Jorge Heine wrote in From Club to Network Diplomacy: “the projection of the diplomat's country into the host nation.”

In his paper on Security Sector Reform, Wolfgang Koerner described defence diplomacy as the peaceful application of resources from across the spectrum of defence, to achieve positive outcomes in the development of a bilateral and multilateral relationships to further a country’s international agenda. 

To be effective, Defence diplomacy must be developed and implemented in close coordination with the whole-of-government effort to ensure coherence and focus across national interests and objectives. Through an integrated approach, defence diplomacy becomes network diplomacy – linking the implementation of foreign policy objectives to those of the defence sector. When coordinated and exploited as a network, it can be a dynamic instrument of government, through harmonising dimensions of both soft and hard power on any given issue.

Canada’s Defence Diplomacy
Canada’s Defence Policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged, (SSE) highlights that Defence diplomacy is critical to successful global engagement and better understanding of our complex world. Through direct, daily contact with the military leadership of countries around the world, the Canadian Armed Forces’ network of Canadian Defence Attachés (CDA) helps develop a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the perspectives and motivations of global actors and regional security dynamics. 

Defence representation at Canada’s diplomatic missions enhances local engagement on a range of issues related to security and defence, and provides support to Canadian foreign policy and trade priorities. Perhaps most importantly, as noted in the Defence Policy, CDAs build and sustain relationships that facilitate operational cooperation and communication, including in times of crisis. They also cultivate partnerships that signal Canada’s commitment to work together with allies, partners, and the broader international community to address common security challenges and contribute meaningfully to global security and stability.

International Engagement
Strategically, Defence engagement is the use of our people and assets to prevent conflict, build stability, gain influence, build strategic relationships with key countries and international organisations and work closely with other nations’ forces, both to operate together and to collaborate together on developing our capabilities and equipment. 

Defence engagement is a tool to project influence, promote our prosperity, protect our people and enable the nation to respond to threats and crises when they emerge. It also strengthens our position in the broader international community through active interaction in various forums, events and activities, both overseas and here in Canada. It is planned and directed from within National Defence Headquarters and supports SSE objectives.

Canada’s Defence engagement activities are grouped into three thematic areas that complement our strategic aims.

Key Leader Engagement. KLE uses inward and outward visits by Ministers and senior military officers and civilians to build strategic relationships, alliances and coalitions, ensuring cooperation, burden-sharing and interoperability. 

Targeted International Engagement. IE includes a wide range of targeted programmes of engagement or specific events. These engagements support national objectives aimed at interoperability, cooperation agreements, arms control or counter-proliferation initiatives, and promoting Canadian industry. This engagement is enabled by bilateral Defence Cooperation Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding, and includes: international personnel exchanges, ship and aircraft visits, training and exercises, regional defence forums, outreach, confidence and security building measures, and non-proliferation activities.

Network Engagement. As part of our overseas international engagement network, our CDAs and diplomats deploy around the world to build enduring relationships. Canada’s new Defence Policy specifically directs DND and the Canadian Armed Forces to undertake defence engagement in order to achieve meaningful relationships with international partners. 

14 Mar –  Empire des Enfants visit HMCS Summerside and the HMCS Moncton for a tour of the ships in Dakar, Africa on Neptune Trident. (Photo: Corporal Ryan Moulton)

The benefits of global engagement include building greater situational awareness through cooperation; enhancing interoperability and operational effectiveness; extending mobility and reach through logistics and diplomatic arrangements; reinforcing the capacity of partners; promoting defence materiel cooperation and export opportunities for Canadian industry; and exchanging lessons learned and best practices.

Agents of Defence Diplomacy
Diplomacy and military force have operated in close proximity throughout recorded history. The origins of today’s Defence diplomacy lie in a form of military diplomacy extant since ancient times and revived in the early 1800s. By the late 19th century, the global practice of assigning defence attachés to embassies had become a normal occurrence.

As Canada’s leading edge of Defence engagement and critical sensors for the Department (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces, Attachés are deployed into complex relationship situations that include geo­political, economic, or technological issues and require engagement with a vast number of players (military and non-military, government and non-government) in the host country. 

The Attaché must be a generalist who has acquired knowledge and skills that make him or her a master of managing relationships and Network Engagement. 

Network Engagement seeks to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture enduring Defence and Military relationships with other nations to support Canada’s strategic defence interests. 

Network engagement is undertaken by several organizations within DND and the Canadian Armed Forces, which have been given the sole mandate of connecting with foreign national defence and military organizations in order to support Canada’s Defence Diplomacy mandate. 

Canada’s National Military Representatives to NATO and the UN, the Canadian Defence Liaison Staffs in Washington and London, and the Directorate of Foreign Liaison, fulfill the traditional “defence attaché” role as recognized by international conventions and agreements, although each has a specifically assigned mandate unique to their circumstance. What is common, is that these organizations provide enduring connections at the center of this global network.
Strategic Effect
Defence diplomacy is the means to build and maintain alliances and partnerships, secure influence and help understanding of the international defence and security environment. Defence diplomacy is facilitated by Canada’s global network of attachés, liaison and exchange officers and is supported by a targeted programme of activities both overseas and in Canada. Defence engagement the way we achieve the strategic outcome of building influence globally and keeping Canada and our interests secure.

The Defence Attachés at the center of this global network enable defence diplomacy and support myriad organizations that execute defence engagement on behalf of Canada. 

Col Acton Kilby, Director,  Directorate of Foreign Liaison (DFL)