More than 40 diplomats, computer specialists and academics addressed the impact of the Internet on the changing landscape in which diplomacy operates (geo-politics, economy), the emergence of new Internet topics on diplomatic agendas (cybersecurity, data protection), and the use of new digital tools for diplomatic activities (digital archives, social media). The event was organised in the framework of the Joint Swiss-Serbian Chairmanships of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) by the following partner institutions:

Report from the Vienna Cyber Diplomacy Day (26th June 2015)

See: Photo album from the event

The Vienna Cyber Diplomacy Day was hosted in the historical setting of the Hofburg Palace, an ideal venue for discussions on tradition and innovation in diplomacy. In Vienna, 200 years ago, diplomats gathered for the Congress of Vienna, one of the most successful events in the history of diplomacy.

The spirit of the palace reminded participants of the high importance of balancing the core function of diplomacy (reaching peace through negotiations) and the use of technology in diplomacy. The Internet is the latest in the long line of inventions that have impacted diplomacy, starting with the telegraph, then the telephone and satellites, to name a few.

More than 40 diplomats, computer specialists and academics addressed the impact of the Internet on the changing landscape in which diplomacy operates (geo-politics, economy), the emergence of new Internet topics on diplomatic agendas (cybersecurity, data protection), and the use of new digital tools for diplomatic activities (digital archives, social media). The event was organised in the framework of the Joint Swiss-Serbian Chairmanships of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) by the following partner institutions:

The Ambassadors of Serbia and Switzerland set the stage for discussions in their welcoming remarks.

Serbian Ambassador Vuk Zugic stressed that the event should link virtual reality to the practical implications of cyber-politics. For example, the discussion on cybersecurity was supplemented by the practical demonstration of the 3D printer, the first presentation of this type in the framework of the OSCE activities. A small piece of history in a historical venue!

Swiss Ambassador Thomas Greminger highlighted that effective cyber policy requires the involvement of a wide range of actors from business, to academia and civil society. Whatever cyber policy we adopt, its implementation will depend on Internet companies and ultimately, us, as users.

Ambassador Hans Winkler, Director of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna, listed the four main areas of impact of the Internet on diplomacy: facilitating participation of new actors in diplomacy, such as civil society and business, more involvement of public diplomatic negotiations, and new forms of communication.

He provided a brief analysis of the implications of technology in three recent negotiations, including: the Iran nuclear negotiations, various trade negotiations, and the Greek financial crisis negotiations. All three examples have an interesting interplay between traditional diplomacy (secrecy, discretion) and Internet-driven diplomacy (public participation, transparency). The main challenge for diplomacy will be to strike the right balance between well-proven traditional approaches and new ones.

The panel ‘One Internet – different policy approaches’ addressed cyber issues from the following perspectives: technological (Professor Dr A Min Tjoa), security (Ben Hiller) and human rights (Andreas Krisch). Each presenter started with a summary of their perspectives, followed by a very engaging discussion on building alternate bridges between different perspectives.

The message that echoed throughout discussions was that policy silos are inevitable in dealing with highly complex policy issues. While we cannot remove these policy silos, we should find ways to build cross-silo fertilisation. For example, OSCE security discussions should take human rights and technological perspectives into consideration. The OSCE, with its comprehensive approach, could provide an interesting policy innovation in this field, which could foster more effective discussions in other digital policy forums.

In addition, it was stressed that the complexity of cyber policy should not be allowed to lead to paralysis. There is always a space where concrete and practical measures can be made. OSCE confidence building measures are one example where, in spite of policy differences, some practical steps have been made to address cybersecurity challenges.

In the discussions, participants commented on the wide range of issues, including

  • What is an impact of the Internet on legitimacy and democracy?
  • Does the Internet ‘loud voices’ (blog, twitter) represent prevailing political views in societies worldwide?
  • How to establish an effective balance in digital anonymity between risks (security) and human rights (freedom of opinion)?
  • Does online privacy contribute to the freedom of opinion?
  • To what extent can technical tools ensure the protection of human rights online?

 

The Vienna Cyber Diplomacy Day concluded with a practical presentation by CyberLab that included

  • a tour of the DarkNet (Bjoern Christian Wolf, Research Fellow at DiploFoundation),
  • a presentation of cyber fraud, the use and misuse of Bitcoin (Dr Edgar R Weippl, Science Director of SBA Research and Assistant Professors, Vienna Univeristy of Technology),
  • the way digital archives preserve institutional memory in the Internet era (Hannes Kulovits, Head of Digital Archives at the Austrian State Archieves). and
  • a presentation of 3D printer (Roger Bieber and Johann Stockinger, Austrian Computer Society).

 

The event showed the high relevance of cyber issues in diplomacy and, more specifically, in the activities of the OSCE.

The Cyber Diplomacy Day was conceptualised and moderated by Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation & Head of Geneva Internet Platform. Please let us know if you would like to receive regular updates on our cyber diplomacy activities.


 

For further discussion on the impact of the Internet on diplomacy you can consult the following resources:

1.    Online Courses

21st Century Diplomacy | Cybersecurity | E-Diplomacy | Introduction to Internet Governance | Infrastructure and Critical Internet Resources | Privacy and Personal Data Protection

2.     Books, articles and web-resources

 

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