Friday 29 May 2020 | 18:24 | SYDNEY
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Global Diplomacy Index – Introduction

The Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index visualises the diplomatic networks of all G20 and OECD nations, allowing users to view and compare some of the most significant diplomatic networks in the world. The Index covers 42 nations — the 19 nations that are members of the G20 and the 34 OECD member nations (11 nations are members of both organisations).

In all, the Index identifies almost 6000 diplomatic posts in around 660 cities. Posts are classified by type: embassy or high commission, consulate-general, consulate, permanent mission or delegation to multilateral organisations, or other representation type, including delegations to countries where there is no formal diplomatic relationship.

The size of a country’s diplomatic network is of course only one indicator of the effectiveness of its diplomacy. Resources are an issue, both in terms of staff size and funding. The international financial crisis of 2008 has led to funding pressures and austerity budgets for governments both in the developed and developing world. As a consequence, many ministries of foreign affairs have been forced to implement significant changes to their workforces and the arrangement of their diplomatic networks. According to our research over the past six years, around half of the developed nations in the OECD have reduced their diplomatic footprint over the past decade.

One of the ways in which ministries of foreign affairs can achieve savings is by reducing the number of their home-based staff posted abroad. These postings are costly in comparison with basing staff at ministry headquarters in the capital. The following chart shows how the proportion of staff posted abroad varies from ministry to ministry.* Caution should be taken in assessing these comparisons, as the composition of ministries also varies; development, trade, immigration and passports functions are not always incorporated within every ministry:



Another method for achieving savings is to increase the use of staff engaged locally (LES) in the country of the post, replacing the more expensive home-based staff positions at diplomatic posts abroad. The following chart shows how the numbers of locally-engaged staff as a proportion of total staff (including LES) varies from ministry to ministry; again, caution should be taken with comparisons due to the different structures of the various ministries:*



Ministries of foreign affairs have tackled the resources issue in other ways. In the five years since 2010, the UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office, for example, has been required to cut £100m from its annual spending and nearly 10% from its UK-origin staff count. It has restructured its workforce to achieve efficiencies, and shifted resources from Afghanistan, Iraq and some of its largest European posts to address needs in such places as Ukraine and West Africa.     

Countries such as Australia, Canada, the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands are adapting to budget constraints by resource sharing at certain posts. For example, Switzerland shares premises and costs with the Netherlands in Oman, with Austria in Los Angeles, and similar plans are underway for Nigeria and Angola. Canada and the UK announced plans in 2012 for a number of resource-sharing arrangements, and Canada and Australia already have a reciprocal arrangement for representing each others’ interests in Asia and the Americas.

Resource constraints aside, the twenty-first century has seen other significant transformations in diplomacy, with the rise of digital communications, and increasing security threats to embassies. Yet despite these challenges, the Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index shows that nations continue to make significant investments in maintaining their networks of diplomatic missions.


Note on methodology: The Lowy Institute Global Diplomacy Index comprises information gathered from ministries of foreign affairs, their websites, annual reports and other material. Data collection commenced in February 2015 and continued throughout the year. The data presented in the Index is the latest available information presented by those sources. A more complete description of the methodology for the study is available here.

* The dataset for these measures is a subset of the 42 OECD and G20 nations. Data was not available for, or from, all nations. Data presented here is based on a mix of headcount and full-time-equivalent staff numbers, as it was not possible to identify counting method in every case.