On 13 September 2006 RUSI's Transatlantic Programme hosted ,in conjunction with the UK Ministry of Defence, a one-day conference on Defence Diplomacy.
Defence Diplomacy emerged during the late 1990s as an increasingly important tool for enhancing regional security, building confidence amongst allies and advancing broader national and multilateral strategic and foreign policy objectives. As well as such traditional Defence Diplomacy activities as ship visits and military personnel exchanges, national defence ministries have been called upon to play an enhanced role in conflict prevention and resolution, counter-proliferation, political outreach and defence and security sector reform.
Since the Strategic Defence Review (SDR) of 1998, the UK has treated Defence Diplomacy as a specific Ministry of Defence mission, creating a permanent office through which to co-ordinate and lead cross-government efforts in this area. At NATO, a sustained effort in multilateral defence diplomacy has been pursued through the Partnership for Peace and Mediterranean Dialogue programmes. The United States has pursued prominent defence diplomacy efforts in Latin America. The People’s Republic of China has led a multilateral Asian defence diplomacy initiative through the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation.
Defence diplomacy continues to be given a relatively low profile in mainstream defence and security discourse, despite the increasing importance attached to it by national governments and international organisations. Specialist academics have conducted some conceptual analyses and there have been a number of studies of specific defence diplomacy initiatives, especially in conflict prevention. There has been very little comparative discussion of national and multilateral efforts in this dynamic policy area. This conference aimed to rectify this situation, looking at an important component of defence policy.