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Multilateral diplomacy

Feb 26,2018 - Last updated at Feb 26,2018

Multilateral diplomacy is the collective diplomatic and political action of three parties or more. The United Nations is the largest of them all. Yet, there are international organisations that do not include all countries of the world, such as the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The phenomenon of creating regional organisations exists among developed as well as developing countries, or a mixture of both. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the North Atlantic Free Trade Organisation are basically rich-countries arrangements. UNCTAD, the Organisation of Islamic Countries and the African Union are predominantly composed of developing economies. Others fall in between, like the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, etc.

The analysis of multilateral diplomacy is fully detailed in the Arabic version of the book “Multilateral Diplomacy” by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the political scientist and current foreign minister of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Sayyed Mohammad Sajjadpour, a political scientist and diplomat.

The book was given to me by a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Amman to read and comment at a reception held on the national day of Iran. I could not even begin to read the book or comment on it. So, I had to withdraw from committing such misbehaviour. 

Now that I read a good part of the book, I found it to be purely academic, and can serve as a support reading or even a textbook for students of political science or international law.

Between pages 545 and 599, the book discusses the evolution of multilateral diplomacy on the question of disarmament. It starts as early as 1868 at the time of the St Petersburg Declaration and then goes to the Hague Convention of 1899 signed to prevent the use of chemical weapons in war.

I was waiting with anticipation to read the part about the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. It was not what I thought it would be. Both authors set the introduction to this study by referring to the US’ use of atomic weapons against Japan, not once but twice, at the end of World War II. The whole world was in panic and countries during the post-World War II era hurried to limit the use of such weapons, especially after the Soviet Union revealed its ability to develop and detonate such weapons.

Yet, the book does not mention the P5+1 negotiations to limit Iran’s atomic prowess, except in the introduction. I could not help but feel let down.

However, the book is thematic, well-organised and reads very well on a subject of great importance. The continuous reference in it to the UN charter and the evolution of ideas leading to the text and the disputes which arose about it, is what makes this book a very useful historical reference.

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