Wales seems to be emerging as a nation that is taking sustainability seriously. There is a great track record on sustainable matters. But further, there is the idea of Wales setting an example, within the UK and maybe beyond. For example, after attending the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development, the Welsh environment minister said:
“It is clear that smaller countries, like Wales, can show a lead and set examples in how to create sustainable places and practices. In Wales, we now have the opportunity to further demonstrate this by creating our own groundbreaking legislation on sustainable development.”
While the same article in which this quote appeared suggested that a lot remains to be done before “groundbreaking” environmental legislation is achieved in practice, I think there is a point here worthy of further exploration.
There seems to be a real chance for Wales to become a diplomatic actor: Wales: a Para-Diplomat in Sustainability?
The term paradiplomacy describes a situation in which regional actors develop international relations and become international actors.
In “A dictionary of diplomacy” Berridge and James see paradiplomacy largely as a lobby function. A 2008 Clingendeal paper goes further and describes paradiplomacy as consisting of three layers: the first one focuses on economic issues and is largely aimed at attracting foreign investment (the same function that Berridge and James point to), the second is cooperation (cultural, educational, technical, technological, …), and the third layer is political and focuses on the expression of a distinct identity.
Interestingly, the regions often cited as paradiplomatic actors are Quebec, Flanders, Catalonia and the Basque Country. It almost seems like Wales is not on the diplomatic map yet. But especially with regards to the last function the forging of an international identity that than could lead to greater activities in the other layers of paradiplomacy, Wales has a great option with regards to sustainable development.Berridge, G. R. and James, Alan. A Dictionary of Diplomacy. 2nd edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 199.