In the mid-nineteenth century, upon receiving his first telegram, Lord Palmerston is reported to have exclaimed, ‘My God, this is the end of diplomacy!’ More recently, in the 1990s, after using the Internet, US diplomat Zbignew Brzezinski made the same prediction. Diplomacy is not only alive and well, but since the election of Barak Obama to the US Presidency, it’s thriving. Although both prophecies fell well short of the mark, we have seen numerous incremental changes to the way diplomacy is conducted and most of these changes can be attributed to the Internet.
Today, the Internet is used for gathering and sharing information, negotiating, communicating, and other diplomatic functions. A growing number of diplomatic services use Web 2.0 tools. Some have established virtual embassies. Even ‘corridor diplomacy’ – strongly linked to traditional diplomacy – is increasingly supplemented by SMS and Twitter. The Internet has opened up two-way channels of communication, providing a tool that allows individuals and organisations worldwide to influence global policy.
E-diplomacy is very much in its infancy, and, like any young child, has more questions than answers. These range from simple, relatively straightforward questions: 'Should diplomats blog?' to very complex questions seeking deeper understanding of the social and political implications of e-diplomacy: ‘How do Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), including the Internet, impact the way in which diplomatic services are organised and function?’
Those of us interested in e-diplomacy need a forum to share our views, to expand our knowledge, and to connect with others who have similar interests. This website aims to provide precisely that. In conjunction with a series of events and conferences in diplomatic centres around the world, we hope to create a vibrant space for discussion and exchange for practitioners and everyone interested in the subject. And we invite you to join us.
DiploFoundation’s fifteen years of experience in the field of e-diplomacy provides a solid basis and background for this event: