The word diplomacy originated from the Greek word diploma, which was the letter of credence that certified an ambassador's power to negotiate and serve as the direct representative of the holders of political power. Many theories describe diplomacy as the art of negotiations between various countries. Although it is the dialogue among nations and more precisely a dialogue among agents of nations or diplomats, diplomacy is also a key concept in the study of international relations.
Scholars see diplomacy as foreign policy and as the process of negotiation and deliberation that brings peace and cooperation among nations. But diplomacy cannot be studied only as a foreign policy as its close connection with international relations brings more connotations. Diplomacy includes a number of international activities that do not necessarily envisage a process of cooperation. Those activities could be espionage, economic intervention or even deterrence and threat. Therefore, the dialogue among nations becomes a broad concept. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries diplomacy often comes under the form of membership in international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) or the World Trade Organization (WTO). Membership in international organizations, however, is only one of the various types of diplomacy, precisely multilateral diplomacy.
In ancient Greece the people who took care of the representation of their lands to other cities were called presbeis or presbeutes, which means important person or leading person. Diplomats are the agents of nations who carry out the process of negotiation and deliberation. They are individual people working for a collective agency who interact over time. Their role is the product of a historical tradition of norms, negotiation and representation. Many scholars consider the work of the diplomats as a hard-bargaining process, while others assume that shared norms among diplomats can result in informal methods of persuasion.
Bilateral diplomacy covers relations between two countries. It is the basic form of diplomacy, probably the most ancient one, which allows countries to create a network of external relations. There are authors who consider bilateral diplomacy as classic diplomacy or the diplomacy of the past in contrast with multilateral diplomacy, which is seen as the more modern form of diplomatic relations. But the choice is not between either multilateral or bilateral diplomacy, because both forms co-exist and while making multilateral diplomacy the bilateral talks or contacts are inevitable. Even more, countries may use international forums and centers, such as New York, where the headquarters of the UN is located, for both UN-related work as well as for bilateral contacts with countries where they do not have permanent representations.
Multilateral diplomacy, on the other hand, starts as congress diplomacy. The dawn of the modern multilateral negotiations is seen to be the series of congresses which followed the Treaty of Vienna of 1815. The number of international actors involved in multilateral diplomacy is always more than two. Multilateral talks do not exclude bilateral or other types of negotiations. Interaction between bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, thus, becomes an important condition for the creation a new pattern of political behavior.
Shuttle diplomacy is a term which describes the role of an intermediary between two disputing sides. Shuttle diplomacy avoids face-to-face contact between the two disputing countries and thus contributes for reducing the tension of the conflict. The term was first used to describe the work of United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who facilitated the cessation of hostilities following the Yom Kippur War between Israel and a coalition of Arab states in 1973.
Economic diplomacy is an important component of international relations as it goes beyond the commercial relations, part of the traditional understanding of diplomatic relations. Economic diplomacy covers foreign trade, external investments, bilateral and multilateral economic negotiations, technology exchanges, financial flows and aid. It helps to understand how modern states conduct their external economic relations in the twenty first century.
Public diplomacy is another interesting type of the contemporaneous diplomatic relations. The modern meaning of the term public diplomacy received an important role in 1965 when Edmund Gullion, dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, established an Edward R. Murrow Center of Public Diplomacy. The target of public diplomacy is the public opinion in other countries. Governments use strategies and policies to influence the public opinion in other countries, create a good image of its own country and carry out its own policy via public communications media dealings with a wide range of non-governmental bodies.