diplomacy foreign policy politics

Equifinality & Foreign Policy

Equifinality is the theory there are an infinite number of directions to get to the same end point. We take a look at its implementation with foreign policy.

Equifinality is the theory there are an infinite number of directions to get to the same end point. We take a look at its implementation with foreign policy.

Global pandemic aside, the next most pressing thing within any Governments Foreign Policy direction is the approach to securing a positive future for ‘national interests’. This turn of phrase is consistently referenced in key communications from State’s most commonly when a new party comes into power. It’s not just a code phrase, but a key way of informing citizens that the Government is focused on positive growth for a country.

Dig a little deeper, and generally, national interests refer to energy security and security. Historically this has referred to petrochemicals and intervening (or interfering) in other countries to ensure democratic stability, avoid financial decline, or to eradicate disease and illness to help another country be successful. Where there is normal criticism of Governments who take this tact on intervening in other countries affairs, equifinality can be a sound methodology for considering how to behave & work through options on how to behave and act.

Governments are always pro-their-own decision making, and for good reason. They have been elected, and we elect in no small part for sound decision making and protecting the nation we live in. But it’s worth considering if Government’s do always consider if the first direction of travel, is the correct one for the situation being dealt with or if actions are being taken for a long-term outcome. In the latter, we all understand that the long term is far different to the short term. Dominoes can fall in any direction after the first action, hence considering “should we make this decision” or “do we know how this decision will be viewed by the receiving country and citizens”, can be invaluable questions to ask. Recently in a Bussola Institute webinar, ‘Is COVID-19 responsible for facilitating extremism and terrorism?’, equifinality was raised, for there is no certainty to any outcome in a pandemic regarding the effects on extremism and terrorism and the actors who take part. It’s crucial for Government’s to act with an understanding, how they believe the outcomes of actions shall manifest, may not transpire.

A global population has been locked down into societal isolation, and the effect on violent non-state actors, and potential actors, may have been serious. Countries in conflict may now need an abundance of soft power from the wealthier states who intervene. Where military support may have been the first move for Governments pre-pandemic, maybe now vaccine support or education regarding social distancing and hygiene to avoid and epidemic erupting into a pandemic, is a valuable method of Foreign Policy. Where hard power has assumed the leading part of foreign policy for decades, or centuries, we may be entering a time in human history where analysing equifinality is vital, for the future is currently unknown, and the pandemic has changed the way the world behaves.


Bussola Institute: https://www.bussolainstitute.org/

JSTOR: https://www.jstor.org/stable/i20684607?refreqid=excelsior%3Ae3401aea0ffc34d35fec685e2b366f99

Oxford Academic: https://academic.oup.com/isr/article/21/3/373/4959061

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