• Robin M. Blake Lecturer in the Department of Political Sciences, University of Pretoria
  • Yolanda K. Spies Senior research fellow at the Chair in African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, University of Johannesburg


Since the end of the Cold War, the practice of defence diplomacy has received much attention, as has the proactive prevention of conflict. However, the preventive diplomacy of defence forces – something that is implied in the literature – has been less well articulated. This article addresses the theoretical lacuna by means of a pivotal qualification: the conceptual demarcation is narrowed down to non-coercive defence diplomacy (NCDD). NCDD is based on the principles of transparency, reputation and integrity and, per definition, it eschews violence or the threat thereof. It is therefore an exclusive subset of the wide range of international defence cooperation (generically referred to as ‘defence diplomacy’) in which defence forces engage. When NCDD activities are synchronised with the early stages of conflict development, the escalation of conflict is avoided. This is because NCDD requires of defence forces to conduct their cooperative international relations in a manner that promotes confidence and trust: essential elements of security that are integral to sustainable peace. Within the realm of diplomatic statecraft, the potential agency of defence forces in the prevention of conflict therefore warrants more strategic attention. It is especially required in Africa, where stable peace remains elusive and post-colonial military influence in intra- and inter-state politics has been mostly problematic.