Tereza Horejsova   16 Nov 2012   E-Diplomacy

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The core mission of diplomacy is still the same, but traditional diplomacy adjusts significantly. Can it bring peace and harmonious relations in the modern world? These and other questions have been discussed at a High-Level of Geneva E-diplomacy day.

Ambassador Alexandre Fasel, the Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the UN, stressed that E-diplomacy has not much to do with technology. You do not have to buy people who organize the technology. You do not need any training for this, you just set up your password! What we should be seeking, according to Ambassador Fasel, is a bottom-up approach driven by diplomats who realize their needs with using e-tools to cope with the tempo of today’s communication. Another lesson from e-diplomacy is: you do not need any strategy for it. Take the modern tools to do what we you do anyway as a foreign policy output – for that, really, no strategy is needed. Keep it simple.

Richard Boly from the eDiplomacy Department at the US State Department reminded us that their e-diplomacy efforst actually started with a number of failure, including one of wasting a lot of funds for a useless information system platform.  The internal collaboration and analytics tools can be done with a limited budget. Your friends in the IT department will help you do your job. Richard Boly stressed the need to create an environment where people want to work. Please do let your people use them. By blocking some collaborative tools, you may say bye to the best and brightest people you have. They will go somewhere else because you do not create a good working environment.

5% of the trees in Central Park, NYC

Anders Norsker from ITU agreed that e-solutions, again, are not about technology. They are about changing ourselves, about changing our work practices. Anders continued to promote the principle of remote participation. He provided a compelling example of the business case for remote-participation, based on the recent, ground-breaking, meeting of a High Level UN Council, chaired by Ban Ki Moon, which was done using remote participation because of Hurricane Sandy. In the process significant amounts of carbon was saved through delegates not flying. Another striking example was the ITU strategy of reducing paper consumption at meetings. At one recent International Conference the saving in paper was the equivalent of 5% of the tress in Central Park, NYC. However, besides its pluses, there are challenges. For instance, it is very easy to forget about the remote participants while you are in a meeting. Therefore it is about a cultural change in a way. Another very practical challenge is interpretation – but how do you provide the same facilities to the remote participants, i.e. being able to ask a question in their language? What do you do when you lose a connection to a remote participant? Do you stop the meeting? What about immunities and privileges?

Even with all that complexity, Norskers' takeway for the audience is, 'just do it, and do it fast!'

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