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DiploNews – Issue 24 – 22 August 2000

DiploNews – Issue 24 – August 22, 2000

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British Foreign Policy Centre Report on Diplomacy for the Information Society

The London Times reported on May 17 that the Foreign Policy Centre, an "influential Blairite think-tank", recently issued a report proposing radical changes to British diplomacy. The basis of the report, called Going Public: Diplomacy for the Information Society, is the need today to reach the public of foreign countries rather than only their diplomats and governments. The report proposes that the foreign service needs to adopt new methods, learning from the private sector, even if these methods are radically different from traditional diplomacy. For example: "One way of freeing up extra resources for high-volume work would be to create regional hubs which support 'virtual' posts in low-priority countries." Traditional ambassadors are to be replaced with computers, professionals from other fields such as business and advertising, and locally recruited ambassadors, where this would seem more effective. The Times reports that proposals were not well received by diplomats.

You can visit the Foreign Policy Centre website.

Book Review: A Better United Nations for the New Millennium

Dr Stephen Calleya, International Relations Analyst at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, provides a very positive review of a new book by Kamal Idris and Michael Bartolo: A Better United Nations for the New Millennium. "This book", Calleya writes, "offers an in-depth analysis of what measures need to be introduced in order to have a more effective and relevant United Nations in the post-Cold War World. The authors of this study go much further than simply advancing theoretical solutions to the challenges confronting the United Nations. They actually provide a blueprint of a forward-looking UN system." Calleya recommends that "this study should be read by all policy-makers dealing directly and indirectly with UN affairs. It should also serve as a background study upon which discussions at the forthcoming UN General Assembly can be set. The theoretical and empirical analysis put forward make this book a must for students of international relations and anyone who is interested in achieving a better understanding of international organisations."

To read the entire review, visit this webpage.

The Economist: What the Internet Cannot Do

The August 19th -25th 2000 edition of The Economist examines the extent to which the Internet has, to date, lived up to expectations. The article points out that the Internet, like other new technologies historically, generated a lot of unrealistic excitement about an end to war and conflict, greater equality, and solutions to various world problems. Based on the assumption that wars are caused simply by the failure of different nations and people to understand each other, new communications technologies have always been greeted with hopes of reducing conflict. But none of them have done so; nor, says The Economist, will the Internet. Studies have shown that so far the Internet has not reduced energy consumption and pollution. Although shopping online may reduce pollution, few people have replaced shopping in the real world with online shopping: they now do both. Furthermore, computers and related hardware use significant amounts of energy. As to reducing inequality, although the cost of a PC and Internet connection is rapidly falling, The Economist points out that "the poor are not shunning the Internet because they cannot afford it: the problem is that they lack the skills to exploit it effectively. So it is difficult to see how connecting the poor to the Internet will improve their finances. It would make more sense to aim for universal literacy than universal Internet access."

The article does recognise some improvements related to the Internet. For example, the unregulated nature of the Internet may give more power to individual citizens and promote democracy. "As democratic governments rarely fight each other, that might promote peace." Inequality may be reduced in some ways: information technology workers in developing countries may be able to work for western companies over the Internet, earning western salaries. The article concludes that although it is difficult to predict the extent of changes the Internet may bring, "The Internet is not the first technology to have been hailed as a panacea-and it will certainly not be the last."

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