The Network of Embassies

In this globalized world, ability to lobby and influence is all too important. No, I am not talking about individuals. Rather the context is national. A simple metric to assess the efficacy of international relations is the number of embassies that a country has overseas. This is not a straightforward exercise. This website provides country wise embassy listing from where a massive data compilation work ensued. Here is the result:

PS: It must be mentioned that we have not considered all countries for this analysis due to lack of data on small countries.

The world can be grouped in several categories and G-7 emerged as the most powerful when viewed from international relations point of view. The seven countries comprising US, UK, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and Canada together have an astounding 1,109 embassies all over the world yielding an average of 158 embassies per country! Together, they account for nearly half of global GDP, 37% of global trade and just 12% of world population. While the usual suspect is US to be having the largest number of embassies, I was proven wrong. And the top slot went to surprisingly Germany with 181 embassies, though the country accounted only for 5% of global GDP and just 1% of world population. US and UK followed with 172 embassies while Canada was at the bottom of the G-7 table with 123 embassies.

The next powerful group emerged to be BRICS comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa with average number of embassies at 140, not too far from G-7. As a block, BRICS account for 22% global GDP, 19% of global trade and an astounding 50% of world population. Here I was right about the usual suspect of China leading the league table at 162 embassies followed by India at 156. Brazil bottomed the table at 118 embassies.

An expanded form of G-7 is the G-20 with 20 leading nations drawn from OECD and emerging markets. They have an average of 131 embassies per country and account for 80% of world GDP, 67% of trade and 71% of total population, by far the most powerful group in economic terms. Germany leads the table (as expected now) and Mexico trails with just 77 embassies.

Europe, with 27 countries, post a decent average of 115 embassies per country with Germany being at the top. As a block, they account for 27% of GDP, 37% of trade and 11% of population. Several small countries in Europe has impressive embassy penetration. Examples include Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Greece, Czech, Poland, Finland, Romania, and Norway. All these counties have embassies ranging from 169(Netherlands) to 100 (Norway), a significant feat for countries that account for just under 1% of GDP, Trade and Population!.

Asia Pacific comprising 17 countries suffers from a poor average of 82 embassies per country though they account for 30% of GDP and Trade and a significant 62% of world population. With China leading the table, North Korea is the underdog with just 30 embassies.

South America with 8 countries post an average of 70 embassies per country and is low on their share of GDP (6%), Trade (6%) and Population (3%). While Brazil is at the top, Bolivia is at the bottom. Middle East and Africa is the least active region in terms of international relations. Though as a block it is as big as G-20, with 21 countries, at just 70 embassies per country it has a poor embassy penetration. Egypt tops the table at 122 embassies and Bahrain bottoms the list at 25 embassies. As we guessed, its share in global GDP (5%) and trade (7%) is quite low though it accounts for 12% of world population.

You need on ground presence to advocate points of view and garner international support. The best tool is to have embassy presence and active work carried by them. The poor embassy penetration by Middle East, South America and Asia Pacific can lie at the root of many misconceptions about external image of these blocks as regions gripped by terrorism, civil wars, and poverty. Alternatively, the strong embassy penetration of G-7 can present a picture of stability, tranquility and advancement. Netherlands can be an astounding example with 169 embassies, nearly that of US, though it accounts for only 1.1% of GDP, 3.7% of trade and just 0.3% of world population compared to US that accounts for 23% of GDP, 12% of trade and 5% of population.

Its time to lobby on ground!

The author thanks Jenivivu Lasrado, Rakesh Khanna, and Karthik Ramesh for data assistance


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