1st Edition

Small Countries, Big Diplomacy
Laos in the UN, ASEAN and MRC

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after October 15, 2021
ISBN 9780367646004
October 15, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
168 Pages 8 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

This book shows how small countries use "big" diplomacy to advance national interests and global agendas. Using the case of Laos, it explores how a small land-locked developing state maneuvered among the big players and championed causes of international concern at three of the world’s important global institutions – the United Nations (UN), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Recounting the geographical and historical origins behind Laos’ diplomacy, the book traces the journey of the country, surrounded by its five larger neighbors China, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, and influenced by superpower rivalries, from the Cold War to the post-Cold War eras. The book is written from an integrated perspective of a French-educated Lao diplomat with over 40 years of experience in various senior roles in the Lao government, leading the country at the UN and ASEAN; and the theoretical knowledge and experience of an American-trained Lao political scientist and international civil servant who has worked for the Lao government and the international secretariats of the UN and MRC. These different perspectives bridge not only the theory-practice divide but also the government insider-outsider schism.

The book concludes with "seven rules for small state diplomacy" that should prove useful for diplomats, statespersons, policymakers and international civil servants alike. It will also be of interest to scholars and experts in the fields of international relations and foreign policies of Laos, the Mekong, and Asia in general.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Do small states matter in global institutions?

1. The origins of Laos’ brand of diplomacy: Geographical, historical and ideational

2. Navigating the Cold War

3. Shaping global issues and policies at the United Nations

4. Embracing and leading ASEAN

5. Leveraging the Mekong River Commission to advance national and international agendas

6. Conclusion: Seven rules for small state diplomacy

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Alounkeo Kittikhoun served as Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the UN for the Lao Government. Educated in Laos and France’s Université Panthéon Sorbonne, he officially led multilateral and bilateral negotiations in the UN and ASEAN for many years, and participated in international meetings and conferences in over 50 countries.  

Anoulak Kittikhoun is the Chief Strategy and Partnership Officer of the Mekong River Commission, and has worked for the Lao Government, the UN Secretariat Headquarters, and taught at Brooklyn College of New York. Educated in Laos, the Australian National University and the City University of New York, he is the first Tedx Speaker in Laos and has facilitated and spoken at international conferences, missions, and expert group meetings in over 30 countries.


“It is widely recognised that the best diplomats are reasonable and humane sceptics and that the main formative influence in diplomatic theory is common sense. But how does this old wisdom apply to small states of today and what should the representatives of small states do to be good diplomats? This book provides the key answers tested in practice. Both Alounkeo (father) and Anoulak (son) Kittikhoun are respected and experienced practitioners of diplomacy. Their book offers invaluable advice based on real experience that will serve well diplomats of small states in all parts of the world."

Danilo Türk, former President of Slovenia and former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

“This rare and valuable book puts Laos on the mental mapping of world affairs, too often thought to be one of big country preferences. Readers can learn to appreciate how strenuous an effort it has been for a small and land-locked country to have established a footprint in sustainable development goals championed by the United Nations, particularly that in the Mekong River system. Most highly recommended.”

Zha Daojiong, Professor, Peking University, China.

“Expertly and perceptively analyzes how Laos has successfully punched well above its weight in championing causes of international concern at a number of the world’s pre-eminent global institutions including the United Nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Mekong River Commission.  An added bonus is the well-balanced perspective of Anoulak Kittikhoun, who is from Laos but is very much an internationalist leading the water diplomatic efforts in the Mekong for many years. A genuine must read for diplomats, academics, international policy makers, and anyone with an interest in international relations, diplomacy, the Mekong and Asia generally.” 

Richard Kyle Paisley, Director of Global Transboundary International Waters Governance Initiative, University of British Columbia, Canada.