Dominion - Foreign Relations

Foreign Relations

Initially, the Foreign Office of the United Kingdom conducted the foreign relations of the Dominions. A Dominions section was created within the Colonial Office for this purpose in 1907. Canada set up its own Department of External Affairs in June 1909, but diplomatic relations with other governments continued to operate through the governors-general, Dominion High Commissioners in London (first appointed by Canada in 1880; Australia followed only in 1910), and British legations abroad. Britain deemed her declaration of war against Germany in August 1914 to extend to all territories of the Empire without the need for consultation, occasioning some displeasure in Canadian official circles and contributing to a brief anti-British insurrection by Afrikaner militants in South Africa later that year. A Canadian War Mission in Washington, D.C., dealt with supply matters from February 1918 to March 1921.

Although the Dominions had had no formal voice in declaring war, each became a separate signatory of the June 1919 peace Treaty of Versailles, which had been negotiated by a British-led united Empire delegation. In September 1922, Dominion reluctance to support British military action against Turkey influenced Britain's decision to seek a compromise settlement. Diplomatic autonomy soon followed, with the U.S.-Canadian Halibut Treaty (March 1923) marking the first time an international agreement had been entirely negotiated and concluded independently by a Dominion. The Dominions Section of the Colonial Office was upgraded in June 1926 to a separate Dominions Office; however, initially, this office was held by the same person that held the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies.

The principle of Dominion equality with Britain and independence in foreign relations was formally recognised by the Balfour Declaration, adopted at the Imperial Conference of November 1926. Canada's first permanent diplomatic mission to a foreign country opened in Washington, D.C., in 1927. In 1928, Canada obtained the appointment of a British high commissioner in Ottawa, separating the administrative and diplomatic functions of the governor-general and ending the latter's anomalous role as the representative of the British government in relations between the two countries. The Dominions Office was given a separate secretary of state in June 1930, though this was entirely for domestic political reasons given the need to relieve the burden on one ill minister whilst moving another away from unemployment policy. The Balfour Declaration was enshrined in the Statute of Westminster 1931 when it was adopted by the British Parliament and subsequently ratified by the Dominion legislatures.

Britain's declaration of hostilities against Nazi Germany on 3 September 1939 tested the issue. Most took the view that the declaration did not commit the Dominions. Ireland chose to remain neutral. At the other extreme, the conservative Australian government of the day, led by Robert Menzies, took the view that, since Australia had not adopted the Statute of Westminster, it was legally bound by the UK declaration of war—which had also been the view at the outbreak of World War I—though this was contentious within Australia. Between these two extremes, New Zealand declared that as Britain was or would be at war, so it was too. This was, however, a matter of political choice rather than legal necessity. Canada issued its own declaration of war after a recall of Parliament, as did South Africa after a delay of several days (South Africa on September 6, Canada on September 10). Ireland, which had negotiated the removal of British forces from its territory the year before, chose to remain neutral throughout the war. There were soon signs of growing independence from the other Dominions: Australia opened a diplomatic mission in the US in 1940, as did New Zealand in 1941, and Canada's mission in Washington gained embassy status in 1943.

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Foreign Relations

Foreign relations refers to the ongoing management of relationships between a public policy administrative organization of a state and other entities external to its authority or influence. The primary goal of such organisations is therefore to create, develop and manage foreign policy and therefore describes relationships as seen from the self-interested perspective of the state when viewing the international milieu.

The term foreign evolved during the mid-13th century CE from ferren, foreyne "out of doors," based on the Old French forain "outer, external, outdoor; remote" reflecting the sense of "not in one's own land" first attested in the late 14th century CE. Spelling in English altered in the 17th century, perhaps by influence of reign and sovereign, both associated at the time with the most common office of monarch that determined foreign policy, a set of diplomatic goals that seeks to outline how a country will interact with other countries of the world.

The idea of long-term management of relationships only evolved with the development of a professional diplomatic corps that managed diplomacy, a term attested since 1711, which was "pertaining to documents, texts, charters, and treaties" as the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or nations.

In the 18th century, due to extreme turbulence in European diplomacy and ongoing cultural, social, economic, political and military conflicts, the practice of diplomacy was often fragmented by the necessity to deal with isolated issues, termed "affairs", and therefore while domestic management of such issues was termed civil affairs (peasant riots, treasury shortfalls, and court intrigues), the term foreign affairs was applied to the management of temporary issues outside the sovereign realm. This term remained in widespread use in the English-speaking states into the 20th century, and remains the name of departments in several states that manage foreign relations. Although originally intended to describe short term management of specific concern, these departments now manage all day-to-day long-term international relations among states within the international system their nation participates in.

Foreign relations are governed by several conditions within which they exist:

  • Chronological - foreign relations may be operational and ongoing where other nations are concerned, or project-based and temporary where non-state international agents are concerned; they may relate to factors of historical or future considerations
  • Contextualised - foreign relations may be particularly affected by pertaining to regional, economic or common goal oriented international organisational issues, etc.
  • Environmental - foreign relations may develop to be cooperative, adversarial, predatory, altruistic, mentoring, parasitic, etc.
  • Dynamic - Contain a degree of dependence or interdependence; a colony would have a static relationship with the colonizer
  • Oriented - foreign relationships are ideally based on commitment to common goals, but can be dysfunctional, and even destructive

Organisations such as the Council of Foreign Relations in the USA are sometimes employed by government foreign relations organisations to develop foreign policy proposals as alternatives to existing policy, or to provide analytical assessments of evolving relationships.

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