E-diplomacy panel on
Diplomatic Reporting in the Internet Era after WikiLeaks
[New] Consult Ambassador Victor Camilleri's background paper, Aldo Matteucci's proposal on How to use Wikis for Diplomatic Reporting, Ambassador Kishan Rana's background material on Feedback in Diplomatic Reporting, and Ambassador Nabil Fahmy's reflections on Diplomatic Reporting and Media Coverage of Events.
Date: 9 February 2011 (13.00 CET)
Dr Jovan Kurbalija, DiploFoundation, and Mr Marc Finaud, GCSP
Background: Diplomatic Reporting
Information is the lifeblood of the diplomatic services with diplomats, like veins and arteries, reporting from their posts back to their home countries. These diplomatic reports, or cables, as they're more commonly known, keep information flowing; they help co-ordinate activities and prepare the groundwork for decisions.
Since the ancient Egyptian Tal-Amarna diplomacy right up until the present day, diplomatic reports have been at the heart of diplomacy. They very often determine the internal chemistry of diplomatic services. Diplomats try to establish their positions and gain peer-recognition through the quality of their reports.
While reporting remains an intellectual activity requiring good judgment, good cognitive skills, and a good writing style, it, too, has been affected by the Internet. What should be reported? How should diplomats integrate into their cables what has already been published by journalists, bloggers, and other providers of information? It is enough merely to provide a link and comment on someone else's account of the situation? How will WikiLeaks affect diplomatic reporting? With so much information available, how can the key points be distilled into concise reports? These and other questions will be answered during the e-diplomacy panel.
After the deluge: WikiLeaks and Diplomatic Reporting
Now that the WikiLeaks hype has settled, it is a good time to look objectively at its impact and consider what we can learn. The exposure of US diplomatic cables has revealed a highly professional diplomatic service.
American diplomats write good policy analysis, clearly distinguishing facts and judgments. The reports are concise, and well-written with good humour. The early criticism that the cables covered too many 'trivial' matters is not valid: these matters reflect reality in many countries. A description of the palace of one of Ben Ali's relatives (with tigers as pets) is more powerful than a statistical analysis showing the Gini-index of Tunis society.
A collateral 'advantage' of Cablegate is that the world stands reassured that one of the main global powers has a highly professional and reliable diplomatic service. One can challenge concrete foreign policy decisions, but it is clear that American diplomacy is based on informed and rational decision-making. In times of crisis, when issues of trust in official structures abound, this can help.
From Jovan Kurbalija's blog.