Why a White Paper?

A White Paper as guarantee of diplomatic effectiveness

In the past, several initiatives have been launched to intensify the cooperation links between the countries of the Euro-Arab zone. All too often they have petered out or become bogged down faced with the magnitude of the challenges. The Foundation for the Promotion of a Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Dialogue (FDMEA) is convinced that only an innovative approach which integrates the most promising diplomatic developments, whilst authorizing civil societies to fully carry out the role that is theirs, will make it possible to relaunch the dialogue to which the peoples of the region aspire today. Taking diplomatic developments into account International relations and mutual relations between governments are the principal object of diplomacy. Diplomacy is usually the area of responsibility of professional diplomats, that is to say, agents of the state. The diplomat’s task consists of reconciling the respective interests of each of the states which he represents and of solving the problems which can arise between two or several states, without having recourse to force. Thus diplomacy is generally considered to be the art of negotiation between governments or other entities in conflict with one another.

However, this traditional view of things has evolved over recent decades with the emergence of new actors who now also intervene in the field of intergovernmental relations. One generally speaks of non-state-actors. This “new diplomacy” refers to actions undertaken at non-governmental level through informal and unofficial contacts between private citizens or groups of individuals and representatives of non-governmental organizations. These are grouped together under the English diplomatic term “track 2 diplomacy”. Very often they pursue the same goals as traditional diplomacy referred to under the term “track 1 diplomacy” which acts through government channels.

“Track 2” diplomacy does not replace “track 1” diplomacy, but it does complement it more and more frequently. It operates with the idea of assisting the official actors, i.e. the diplomats or other governmental actors, by helping them to solve various problems or even conflicts through solutions negotiated outside the framework of the demands and constraints of official positions.

This division of tasks can prove useful in the management of complex problems or in the case of old disputes. Nowadays, analysts speak of “track 1.5” diplomacy, in which a system of allocation of tasks is used to resolve a difference (or conflict) between, on the one hand, the official actors and, on the other hand, the unofficial actors.

Allowing civil society to fully play its role

At a national level the concerns of civil society are perceived by public opinion to be the expression of aspirations which are not fully taken into account, or at best only in an unsatisfactory measure, in the conduct of public policies. In order that public policies address these concerns, the latter must be brought to the attention of the governing bodies by a process of mediation positioned between the needs and expectations of civil society and public authorities. However, the functions of civil society do not operate only in this sense. They are also aimed at citizens in order to encourage them to take an active interest in these issues. In this scheme, a tripartite form of relations between governors and governed comes into play by means of a mediation between those that govern, civil society and private citizens.

The same applies in the context of intergovernmental issues. Having recourse to a White Paper witha view to promoting Euro-Arab cooperation constitutes the application of this principle of tripartite action between governments and the governed of different states through prior consultation (as a form of mediation) with the populations concerned.

This is also an extension of the concept of “track 1 / track 1.5 / track 2”: in a way, civil society acts as the “missing link” between the common aspirations of the populations and the intergovernmental policies of the states. Tripartition is to be understood as a new organization of areas of responsibility between these different bodies. It is based on the idea that while diplomatic action tends towards creating new, mutual relations between two or more states, such action should imply that the civil societies and citizens concerned define or, at least, express beforehand their needs and expectations with respect to the development of such relations.  In Arab countries, “the arabellion”, the men and women who were, still are, and will remain at the forefront of the fight for the dignity of their fellow citizens, must, in particular, be given a hearing. This is the sine qua non of new Euro-Arab cooperation.

Consequently, having recourse to the expression of the views of civil society to facilitate the emergence of relations that address expectations of the populations becomes an indispensable prerequisite for all diplomatic cooperation. To restrict future Euro-Arab cooperation solely to traditional diplomacy (“track 1 diplomacy”), without the prior consultation/cooperation of civil society, would constitute a “diplomatic deficit”.

It is in this context that FDMEA advocates a White Paper on Euro-Arab cooperation. FDMEA considers such a White Paper to be an essential stage in the process, implying as it does the prior consultation/cooperation of all the populations of all the countries involved in the negotiations. In this scheme of things the role of civil society is not so much to complement or replace dialogue between governments as to constitute the first step in the process and to render such dialogue possible. Above and beyond its function as a complementary organ or support to “track 1.5” diplomacy, civil society becomes an essential ancillary factor in this cooperation and contributes to the development of a total and inclusive diplomacy.