Cover page

Title page


An increasing number of former leaders have demonstrated that they both seek and possess extended diplomatic afterlives. Breaking free of an exclusive association with the statecentric system, a hybrid form of actor – both insider and freelance diplomat – has emerged. From Nelson Mandela to Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, to Tony Blair and Mikhail Gorbachev, these highly empowered individuals increasingly work to make a difference on the global stage by capitalizing on their celebrity status while building on their embedded club attributes and connections.

The methods deployed through their initiatives may still be hierarchical but are more inclusive as well as harmonious with the increasingly dispersed nature of authority. The agenda privileged by these networks covers an extended domain, including poverty alleviation, health and disease control, and crisis prevention; much of the work involved has shifted beyond the recognized power centers.

The concept grounding this book is that the contributions of these former leaders need to be recognized and examined seriously as operational boundary-spanners. The growing literature on ideational and policy networks highlights the contribution of nongovernmental organizations, especially functions taken on by civil-society organi­zations and business groups. The role of hyper-empowered individuals generally, and former leaders more specifically, however, remains unexamined, notwithstanding their unique set of advantages in terms of global projection.

If this innovative cluster has taken on numerous new roles and responsibilities in the twenty-first century, however, their activities are not uncontested. Ex-leaders use their diplomatic afterlife as a form of rehabilitation or compensation for political unpopularity and policy failure when they were in office. Moreover, some major former leaders can be criticized for mixing public goods and private material benefits. The image of policy-directed and norm entrepreneurism in the international arena blends with the perception that this form of activity can be both opportunistic and lacking accountability in practice.

The course from the initial idea to the completion of this book spanned two visiting appointments, my selection as Canada–US Fulbright Research Chair, Center on Public Diplomacy, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, Los Angeles in 2009 and my appointment as Senior Fellow, Centre for Global Cooperation Research (CGCR), Duisburg, Germany in 2014. My research as Fulbright Chair related to the role of norm entrepreneurs, and my focus at CGCR dealt with the ascendancy of informality in global governance: topics that underscored the wider context of the Diplomatic Afterlives project. My targeted focus on the connections/disconnects between conventional and unconventional diplomacy was stimulated by my time as Associate Director and Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). This interest was embellished in turn by my academic activities at the Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo and the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

In my attempt to forge a nexus between intellectual analysis and global practice, I have benefited from a highly stimulating and productive relationship with Jorge Heine and Ramesh Thakur, with whom I co-edited the ambitious Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy in 2013, after four and a half years of sustained research. Among the larger group of scholars and practitioners I have benefited from interacting with over the years have been Brian Hocking, Iver Neumann, Vincent Pouliot, Sharon Pardo, Michael Hawes, Geoff Pigman, Bill Maley, Sir Nicholas Bayne, John Kirton, Daniel Drache, Greg Chin, and Alan Alexandroff.

Eric Helleiner, Gerry Boychuk, Will Coleman, and Bessma Momani, to name just a few, have made the Department of Political Science a congenial academic home. I benefited from interacting with, among others, Geoff Wiseman at USC, and Dirk Messner, Silke Weinlich, Markus Böckenförde, and Abou Jeng at CGCR.

Throughout the research and writing process I am grateful to have worked with a number of talented research assistants. At USC, where I taught a course on uncon­ventional diplomacy, Danielle Kelton did some first-rate preliminary research. At CIGI and BSIA, Tahnee Prior supplemented this research process in an impressive fashion, as did Andy Chater, Dan Herman, Asif Farooq, Amanda Sadowski, Ryan Hilimoniuk, and Jasmine Bélanger-Gulick at the University of Waterloo.

The catalyst for this book has been Louise Knight at Polity Press, who enthusiastically championed this project from the outset. I have very much appreciated her work in guiding the book to completion, along with the editorial team with David Winters initially and then Pascal Porcheron managing the project.

My final thanks, as in my entire repertoire of writings, are to my partner Sarah Maddocks. Although always interested in where my intellectual enthusiasms are taking me, she made sure that a balance existed between thinking about Diplomatic Afterlives and the practice of everyday life. It is to her I dedicate this book.

“I got out of politics early enough to have a second act in life. Why shouldn't a politician be able to do that?”

Tony Blair, December 2009, in an interview with the Sunday Times.