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DiploNews – Issue 19 – 10 April 2000

DiploNews – Issue 19 – April 10, 2000

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Continuation of DiploNews

Following an experimental phase last autumn, we are going to continue with regular issues of the online newsletter "DiploNews". Today is an excellent time to resume. The year of 1999 was preoccupied with the Y2K problem, and therefore quite dull and non-innovative, IT-wise. The year 2000 has begun with fresh dynamics. The Internet is readily available to us, and it is up to us to find the best ways to utilise it. The potential is enormous – but actual achievements are still limited, especially on the international scale.

Inevitably, the Internet is gradually becoming part of the life of diplomats. Not only as a tool that they use in their work, but also as a topic of more and more discussions on the diplomatic level. Three recent events, on the bilateral, regional and international levels, illustrate this development.

On the BILATERAL level, the most indicative development was the recent visit of Egyptian President Mubarak to the USA. In his speech to the Internet Corridor of Northern Virginia, President Mubarak addressed a variety of issues related to international aspects of the Internet such as transfer of technology and preservation of cultural heritage. He also addressed the question of IT and diplomacy, saying: "The challenge is to allow for room for the new changes, accommodating the new online communities and the transnational networks. For this reason, I inaugurated in Virginia today the domain names of all our more than one hundred embassies abroad in a signal that virtual diplomacy is now the tool to conduct international affairs the information age."

On the REGIONAL level, the key development was the latest EU Summit in Portugal which was described by some commentators as a "cyber" summit. The EU adopted a very comprehensive plan for boosting its competitiveness in the field of IT and the Internet ( URL ).
Accordingly, on April 10 and 11, 2000, a conference on Knowledge and Information Society will be held in Lisbon, to allow "European Ministers, the European Commission, and specialists and representatives of companies to discuss a co-ordinate and global European Policy for the Knowledge and Information Society. The conclusions of this two-days conference will be inserted in the eEurope Action Plan, to be presented at the European Council in June 2000." ( URL )

On the GLOBAL level we can examine the report of the Secretary General in preparation for the Millennium Summit. The report is interesting for several reasons. First, it has a strong IT-emphasis. Second, the report is written in language more familiar to those in the IT field than the traditional UN circles. Third, out of the report's four concrete proposals, three are directly IT-related: a) a volunteer corps, called the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS), to train groups in developing countries in the uses and opportunities of Internet and information technology; b) a Health InterNetwork, to establish 10,000 online sites in hospitals and clinics in developing countries to provide access to up-to-date medical information (supported by the WebMD Foundation, WHO, the United Nations Foundation and other partners); c) a disaster response initiative, "First on the Ground", which will provide mobile and satellite telephones as well as microwave links for humanitarian relief workers in areas affected by natural disasters and emergencies (to be led by the communications company Ericsson, with United Nations partners and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies). ( URL )

These developments seem to indicate that in the future, diplomats, especially those involved in multilateral diplomacy, will be discussing more and more Internet-related issues.

DiploKnowledge – Second International Conference on Knowledge and Diplomacy (11-13 February 2000)

In February 2000 a number of leading experts in the field of diplomatic studies gathered in Malta to discuss knowledge and diplomacy. The two main areas of focus for discussion were language and diplomacy, and knowledge management in international organisations. We hope to enhance our on-going research in this field with further discussion among conference participants and others. In addition, we are preparing a volume of conference proceedings for publication. At the same time, we are working on applying our research in practical ways, such as developing software for ministries of foreign affairs and international organisations.

Audio files of the conference presentations are available on the conference website.

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