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What is Compassionate Diplomacy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2017
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Compassionate diplomacy is a type of foreign relations which relies on winning hearts and minds with the provision of needed services. Several countries around the world are well known for practicing compassionate diplomacy, such as the United States through the Peace Corps. The intended goal is to improve quality of life for people in developing nations while also fostering a positive image of the country sponsoring the compassionate diplomacy.

Any number of things could be considered compassionate diplomacy, as long as they are sponsored by a government, rather than an organization. Many organizations also contribute to compassionate diplomacy missions, or work in other countries with the goal of creating positive relations.

One of the most well known forms of compassionate diplomacy is medical diplomacy. In this case, the diplomatic mission consists of doctors, nurses, medical technicians, and support staff. These medical personnel perform needed medical services in the host country, and they may also offer medical training. Providing medical training is an important part of medical diplomacy, since it ensures that a better standard of medical care will continue to prevail after the medical team leaves.

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Another type of compassionate diplomacy involves construction projects. The team might build bridges, install infrastructure for electric systems, contribute to the construction of schools and hospitals, or pave roads, among many other things. The donation of time and supplies to construction indicates a genuine desire for infrastructure improvement in the host country, and it is often well received by countries which lack the ability to carry out these tasks on their own.

Sending out disaster teams is also an aspect of compassionate diplomacy. When a government sends out official representatives to deal with a disaster, it is a heartfelt offering of condolences and support to the impacted nation. When a disaster team works in a developing country, it may also offer expertise and technology which are not readily available in the host country. This expertise can help the country return to normal much more quickly than it would otherwise.

Some critics consider compassionate diplomacy and foreign aid “soft diplomacy,” since no treaties are facilitated by compassionate diplomacy teams. However, supporters argue that compassionate diplomacy benefits foreign relations in general by creating a positive and healthy image. It also draws in the entire populace of the host nation, rather than just those in power, making a treaty or agreement much more likely to succeed in the long term. In addition, compassionate diplomacy is a basic demonstration of the widely held human value of compassion and charity, with a healthy dose of empowerment through training and education.

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