Diplo Foundation is ten years old. More importantly, the Innovation in Diplomacy Conference this week in Malta, Diplo’s birthplace, is firmly focused on the next ten years. It might not be terribly polite to sing Diplo’s praises in this blog, but I am an alien in the community, since my only experience of diplomacy comes from working as a communication advisor – and latterly eDiplomacy tutor. So I feel comfortable putting this conference into the context of the last 10 years.
Innovation is in Diplo’s DNA. It was born out of a research project into the potential of what were then new ICTs. 2002, those were the days. We had just begun to put away our noisy dial-up modems – in Europe and the US, at least; blogging was something rather strange, and very new; mobile phones were a joke – the size of bricks; and neither Facebook nor Twitter had entered consciousness. Diplo’s early innovation was in its new platform for online learning, developed in-house and incorporating ground-breaking features, such as the use of hypertext as a way to analyse and discuss text. Following the ICT thread took Diplo into the 2003 & 2005 World Summits on the Information Society, which spawned the Internet Governance processes, whose agenda is coming centre stage arouind issues of security, privacy and control of this now-essential infrastructure, and in which Diplo has always played a central role. Central to Diplo’s growth and evolution has been an exceptional group of very experienced diplomats who make up the teaching faculty.
So as an alien I am apprehensive and excited about the next two days of debate and discussion. Influential and leading specialists in their field will be sharing how they see the world of diplomacy is changing, how the roles of diplomats will have to continue to evolve in changing circumstances and how their comparative value can be validated. And this at a time when the relevance of diplomats is under threat. For example, in international, multi-stakeholder governance processes such as Internet Governance or Climate Change, in which all the players converse or argue publicly and directly using social and other media, at warp speed, what is the added value of skilled, knowledgeable, well-connected intermediaries or gatekeepers? We will be attempting to identify trends, evaluate forces for change and begin to shape what capacity MFAs and diplomats will need to develop over the next five to ten years.
So wish Diplo Happy Birthday, wish us luck, and join in the comment here as we report on the conversations.