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Innovation in Diplomacy

19 November 2012 -

Event description

Conference output: Diplomatic Competences 2022

The International Conference on Innovation in Diplomacy focused both on new innovation areas such as e-diplomacy and on innovation in traditional diplomatic functions (e.g. protocol, consular affairs). The leading innovators in diplomacy, alongside practitioners and researchers provided a reality check of the promises, successes, and failures of innovation in diplomacy over the last 20 years. What has and has not worked and why? The Conference addressed innovation in diplomacy from different international perspectives: the United States, BRICS, the European Union, and small states.



Innovation is a necessity for modern diplomacy. Diplomats have to adapt to a fast-changing international political environment. In addition, pressed by financial crises, many diplomatic services have to do more with less.

At the same time, the need for innovation is faced with numerous challenges and limitations. Diplomacy is a very traditional, hierarchical, and secretive profession. Its culture is shaped by avoiding errors and being cautious about change. In many cases, the key for the success of an innovative project lies in addressing these aspects of diplomatic professional culture.

This dynamic between the need to innovate and the challenges faced by innovation created the background for the Conference on Innovation in Diplomacy which has been organised on the occasion of DiploFoundation’s 10th birthday and 20 years of e-diplomacy activities in Malta.

The conference has also been extended to the cyberspace through twitter. The excerpts from the online contributions are available here.


Innovation Conference group photo




Monday, 19th November 2012


08.45 – 9.15

Meet in the hotel lobby for a short walk to the conference venue


09.15 – 9.45

Conference introduction (survey of conference topic and speakers, introduction of Diplo)

10.00 – 10.40


DiploFoundation – 10 Years of Innovation in Diplomacy

Welcome Address by Dr Jovan Kurbalija, Director of DiploFoundation

Opening Address by Hon. Michael Frendo, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Malta

Dominique Hempel Rodas, Senior Advisor, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland

10.40 – 11.00

Coffee break / conference photo

11.00 – 12.30





E-diplomacy: the integration of the Internet in diplomatic activities

How can we integrate social media into the organisation of diplomatic services? How can we reconcile the discrete nature of our diplomatic culture with the openness of online communication? What steps are needed to introduce social media into the activities of the diplomatic services?

Richard Boly, Director of eDipomacy at the US State Department, and leader of one of the most advanced projects in the field of e-diplomacy will share the State Department’s practical experience in implementing e-diplomacy activities.

Anders Norsker, Chief of the Information Services Department at the International Telecommunication Union, has been conceptualising and managing the most advanced application of e-participation in international organisations. He will present how the ITU deals with challenges of e-diplomacy like procedural challenges and translation.

Moderated by Dr Jovan Kurbalija and Pete Cranston. 

12.30 – 14.00

Lunch break

14.00 – 15.00

Exploring innovation in foreign policy and diplomacy: opportunities and limitations

Two highly experienced and distinguished diplomatic practitioners will exchange ideas on change in diplomacy

Professor Dietrich Kappeler, Honorary President of DiploFoundation. Professor Kappeler is a former Swiss diplomat and trainer of thousands of diplomats in the four diplomatic academies he has established. He will review innovation in diplomacy over the last 50 years based on his rich practical and academic experience. He will indicate areas where innovation was possible in the past and can be expected in the future.

Dr Alex Sceberras Trigona, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malta and a current lecturer in diplomacy and international law. Dr Trigona will discuss the link between innovation in diplomacy and foreign policy.

15.00 – 15.20

  Coffee Break

15.20 – 16.00

Adaptive diplomacy

Dr Aldo Matteucci, former Deputy Secretary General of the European Free Trade Association and Swiss trade diplomat, will present the main characteristics of adaptive diplomacy. In the complex world of international relations progress is likely to emerge from repeated and opportunistic trial and error, rather than theory or grand strategy. Diplomats need to be empowered to observe and deal with diversity and change.

Close analysis of the facts on the ground is based on broader knowledge of fields from linguistics, behavioural economics, social psychology, consciousness (bounded rationality), complex emergent systems and evolution, which train the diplomat to recognize and build on small positive differences. More than a set of recipes, adaptive diplomacy is an attitude which views uncertainty as inherent, but also as a welcome source of opportunities to be explored creatively, if cautiously.

16.00 – 16.40

Implicit communication: the unsaid in an age of transparency

We live in an age of supposed transparency characterised by smart communications-technology, an ethos of openness and an inclination towards divulgence. Does this mean that implicit communication has breathed its last and that we will no longer have recourse to understated, coded or otherwise covert messages?

Dr Biljana Scott, Oxford University & DiploFoundation will outline an innovative way of training diplomats in the art of the unsaid. In so far as diplomacy may be defined as ‘the art of letting the other party have your own way’, it seems imperative that diplomats should master the unsaid rather than be mastered by it.

16.40 – 17.15

Reflections on change and innovation in diplomacy

18.30 – 22.30

Cultural Tour and Dinner Reception


Tuesday, 20th November 2012

9.00 –10.30

Innovation in e-diplomacy

Multilateral diplomacy has undergone profound changes over the last few decades. The session will analyse the impact of the entrance of the Internet into multilateral conferences worldwide. The Internet enables participation without requiring a physical presence. Increasingly, conferences are followed remotely. In some fields, such as Internet governance and climate change, there is considerable experience with remote participation. This session will also focus on the procedural changes and innovation in modus operandi of multilateral diplomacy.

Richard BolyDirector of eDiplomacy at the US State Department

Anders Norsker, Chief of the Information Services Department at the International Telecommunication Union

Liz Galvez, former UK diplomat and lecturer in Public Diplomacy

Pete Cranston, and DiploFoundation

10.30 – 10.50

Coffee Break

10.50 – 11.30

 Innovation in bilateral diplomacy

Bilateral diplomacy is a basic building block for any country in the management of its external relations. What are the key new ideas and methods that have been applied in this field in the past 20 years? Can innovation be a key differentiator for achieving excellence in foreign ministries?

Ambassador Kishan Rana is a former Indian diplomat and one of the leading scholars in the field of diplomatic studies. His recent publications include: Bilateral Diplomacy, The 21st Century Ambassador: Plenipotentiary to Chief Executive, 21st Century Diplomacy: A Practical Guide. He will provide a survey of current thinking and practice in the field of bilateral diplomacy.

11.30 – 12.00

Innovation in protocol and etiquette

Protocol has always been a vital part of diplomacy. It provides the formal context for contacts among states’ representatives. On the other hand, modern communication systems are very informal. For example, the traditional salutation – Your Excellency – may sound odd in an e-mail or in tweets, let alone the more archaic salutations of Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.  As a deeply embedded ritual, protocol changes slowly. Yet, the changes and shifts are still noticeable.

Olaph Terribile, lecturer in protocol and etiquette and former Head of State Protocol for Malta, will discuss how to bridge the gap between formal diplomatic exchange and informal Internet communication.

12.00 – 12.30

Innovation in diplomatic reporting

The session will examine innovation in diplomatic reporting, especially in view of the emergence of the Internet. How should diplomats integrate into their cables what has already been published by journalists, bloggers, and other providers of information? It is enough merely to provide a link and comment on someone else’s account of the situation? With so much information available, how can the key points be distilled into concise reports? These and other questions will be answered during the e-diplomacy panel. 

Ambassador Victor Camilleri, Ambassador of Malta to Libya has 40 years of diplomatic experiences in all major multilateral and bilateral posts. He will reflect on incremental changes in the practice of diplomatic reporting and information management in diplomatic services.

12.30 – 13.30

   Lunch break

13.30 – 14.10

Innovation in linking academic research and diplomatic practice

There is a certain level of complementarity between diplomatic practice and academic research. Very frequently, the potential of this complementarity is not fully used and the gap between academic research and practice becomes more evident. This relationship is increasingly critical in a time when there is a need for more reflection on how world affairs are developing. The session offers one possible scenario for interplay between research and practice through presenting a case study on the Asia-Europe Public Diplomacy Initiative, a project that has emanated from a multinational comparative research project mapping and analysing perceptions of Asia in Europe (2010–2012) and vice versa (2004–ongoing). The research design reflects practical use – the project traced mutual imagery and perceptions in most popular news media, as well as among key national stakeholders (political, business, civil society and media ‘elites’) and the general public. Systematic rigorous methods employed not only validated comparison across research elements, countries, regions and continents, but produced rich findings now to be translated into practice.  These will be used as a base for a set of training and awareness building activities on public diplomacy for diplomats and other actors involved in Asia-Europe relations. This case study presents how pioneering research can assist in developing a more informed, innovative and effective diplomatic scene. 

Dr Natalia Chaban, Jean Monnet Chair in European Identity and Culture & Deputy Director of the National Centre for Research on Europe, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

Dr Tereza Horejsova, DiploFoundation will discuss the approach to research that should be useful for practising diplomats.

14.10 – 14.40

Experience of Innovation in Diplomatic Services

European Union: In the midst of the crisis, can a new European diplomacy emerge?

Lots has been said and written about the changes brought to the EU’s diplomatic machinery by the Lisbon Treaty. The birth of the EEAS (European External Action Service), as an inter-institutional foreign service filled with personnel from the Commission and member states, has proved to be an important change. Nevertheless, the real challenge for the EU is to know whether it can adapt its diplomatic gear and diplomatic agenda to the needs of the crisis situation it is facing. Institutional changes are only a starter. They provide the background. But what about the real challenges?

Richard Werly, European Affairs correspondent of Le Temps, will help discuss whether the EU diplomatic service really able to cope with the changes brought on by the financial crisis and the digital age.

14.40 – 15.00

Coffee break

15.00 – 15.30

Impact of Arab Spring on changes in Arab Diplomacy

The Arab world is going through profound social and political changes. Arab countries are trying to find their new role in regional and global political settings. Their diplomatic services are faced with new challenges.  

Ambassador Dr. Walid M. Abdulnasser, Director General for Policy Planning and Crisis Management, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, will discuss how Arab diplomatic services are adjusting to the changing political scene. What innovations can be seen in their internal organisations and structures?

15.30 – 16.00

   Innovation in Economic Diplomacy: Switzerland and G20

   Professor Raymond Saner, Diplomatic Dialogue – Geneva

16.00 – 17.00

   Conference Summary: Innovation in Diplomacy till 2020