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Is ‘digital’ changing ‘diplomacy’?

Published on 22 July 2010
Updated on 05 April 2024

A recent article in the New York Times, Digital Diplomacy details the digital diplomacy of ‘Jared Cohen, the youngest member of the State Department’s policy planning staff, and Alec Ross, the first senior adviser for innovation to the secretary of state’. The article chronicles some of their work from Twitter to Google Apps, from Mountain View, California and Washington, D.C. to Iran. It makes an interesting read of practical applications of today’s digital diplomacy.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, David Lidington, Minister for Europe, London, of the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) says: ‘I’d like to receive your views and questions about Britain’s policies on Europe. It seems sensible to do this through my blog.’ Public Diplomacy as a two-way street seems to be gaining strength through online techniques as well.

Now that ‘Digital Diplomacy’ starts to make access and inclusion a reality, some think that Diplomacy is too important to be left only to ‘diplomats’, who are generally understood to be officials of a State’s foreign service. Diplomacy is the core of international policy processes, addressing problems through negotiations and compromise. Traditional ‘diplomats’ are one very important part of this type of diplomacy. But the field is increasingly influenced by other government officials and non-state actors.

Becoming a diplomat is no longer only a matter of training for an elite diplomatic corps, it is the daily experience of thousands of people involved in global policy. It is matter of re-defining the term. IG is a good example of this change. In the IGF and ICANN policy processes, for example, new frameworks are being designed by a wide variety of players, including traditional diplomats. Lowering the entry threshold in global policy processes – including diplomacy – is one way to empower people, increase inclusiveness and give global policy processes more legitimacy. The multistakeholder IGF process in particular is preparing and involving professionals from all areas to ensure that the international IG policy processes take advantage of all possible resources. (See www.intgoveforum.org).

For other digital diplomacy techniques, also read about Richard Boly’s e-diplomacy and Diplopedia at Applying social software to digital diplomacy at the U.S. State Department.

Please share your thoughts and resources on digital diplomacy with us here…

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